2018: Challenges Ahead for Food Security at Home and Abroad

January 29, 2018

Tony Hall, Executive Director Emeritus, Alliance to End Hunger

As this new year begins, the Alliance to End Hunger finds itself in a place where poor and hungry people in the US and abroad are increasingly dependent on our ability to fulfill our mission – to build the public and political will to end hunger. I need to be frank with you, 2018 could prove to be one of the most challenging years we have faced in a long time. We need to call upon our conviction and resolve to meet these challenges head-on for the sake of people counting on us and our collective work.

As we witness the current political discourse, it is easy to see that poverty and hunger are not anywhere close to priorities for our elected officials, or the public as a whole. We face an uphill battle in our push to build the will to end hunger at home and abroad. Unfortunately, this is also a time that is witnessing increasing hunger around the world for the first time in a decade.

Last fall, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – in collaboration with the World Food Program, UNICEF, WHO, and IFAD – released a dire report stating that the number of chronically undernourished people in the world increased from 777 million to 815 million. Further, in a report released by IRIN News, $22.5 billion will be needed to fund required aid in 2018. Shortfalls could force WFP operations to shutter in some places. Famine continues to threaten people in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Nigeria, with perilous situations in Ethiopia, the DRC, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

In this global context, the Alliance to End Hunger will be focusing in 2018 on building the will to support policies and programs dedicated to alleviating suffering caused by hunger worldwide.  The Global Food Security Act will need to be reauthorized this year. This act supports a whole-of-government strategy to tackle food insecurity around the world. The bill had wide-reaching bipartisan support the first time around, but we need to keep pressure on policymakers to make sure they know how important this legislation is. We are also keeping our eyes on the Farm Bill, which is gaining attention as the date to renew the legislation is fast approaching. The McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program, various agricultural R&D programs, and other aspects relevant to international food security are authorized through the Farm Bill. Finally, we are coordinating closely with anti-hunger advocacy groups from around the world through the SDG2 Advocacy Hub.  This network is working to build collaborative worldwide efforts to reach “zero hunger,” and continues to grow and strengthen.

While global hunger issues are certainly alarming, we are also facing very real threats to food security in our own country. Following the recent tax reform legislation that was passed into law, we could now find ourselves facing tough conversations about where cuts need to be made to make up for revenue shortfalls. Some members of Congress, including the Speaker of the House, have made it known that they are interested in exploring “entitlement reform.” This has the potential to lead to dangerous proposals that could affect anti-hunger programs such as SNAP, WIC, TEFAP, TANF, and other programs essential to keep many vulnerable families out of poverty. This is simply unacceptable.

The Alliance, its members, and partners, are watching developments closely. We continue to work closely with advocacy coalitions focused on federal food security programs. In addition to advocacy activities, we are ramping up our collaborative work with Hunger Free Communities across the country. HFCs are front-line fighters against food insecurity in their locales, and will be playing increasingly essential roles as uncertainty around food security policy reigns supreme in Washington. Our AmeriCorps VISTA program is helping HFCs address pressing hunger concerns in their communities.

The fact of the matter is we need everyone’s help to fulfill our mission. We  cannot hope to put poverty and at the top of the priority list for elected officials if we are not working from the ground up to reveal these issues to be as critical as they are. Millions of vulnerable men, women, and children are counting on us.