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Advocacy Update: June 2023

Blake Selzer, International Policy Manager & Amira Iwuala, U.S. Policy Associate

The past several years have been incredibly consequential for food security and nutrition in the United States and around the world. We witnessed a devastating pandemic, followed by global food system disruptions, followed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and now the uncertainty of nutrition programs right here in the U.S. This year will once again prove to be critical in our collective work to end hunger and malnutrition everywhere – from the recent critical debt limit negotiations, to the typical appropriations fights, to the reauthorization of the Farm Bill – our coalition has hit the ground running to ensure that no one goes to bed hungry.

Domestic Food and Nutrition Security (Amira Iwuala, U.S. Policy Associate)

With the end of SNAP emergency allotments and other pandemic economic relief programs, as well as the continuing high costs of food, many low-income families are experiencing a hunger cliff. With Farm Bill reauthorization on the horizon and FY 2024 appropriations decisions underway, our coalition has been advocating for the protection and strengthening of federal food assistance programs that serve our nation’s most vulnerable individuals.

Last year, our diverse domestic membership engaged in an intensive collaborative process to produce our domestic Farm Bill priorities. Our coalition developed twenty-five recommendations to strengthen the Farm Bill as an anti-hunger bill. Nutrition programs in the Farm Bill include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP). SNAP is the cornerstone of our nation’s federal nutrition programs and one of the largest social safety net programs in the U.S. The Farm Bill is an opportunity to ensure that policies maintain and strengthen SNAP’s effectiveness and reach.  Further, we have endorsed legislation that expands and strengthens nutrition benefits to millions of people including children, older Americans, people with disabilities, and families with individuals who had previously served time with felony convictions.

Our advocates are also fighting for equity and cultural sensitivity to be prioritized in this year’s Farm Bill to ensure that programs adequately address the cultural and dietary needs of Native Americans. Allowing local Tribes to administer nutrition programs will ameliorate high instances of food insecurity in Native American communities by allowing Tribes to be in control of sourcing locally-grown traditional foods. Additionally, the Alliance is advocating for halal and kosher options to be available as SNAP and TEFAP foods.

The Alliance is especially concerned with child nutrition. Our advocates are fighting for robust funding and modernization of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC). This program is critical to the health and wellbeing of pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and young children and supports low-income families put nutritious foods on the table. The MODERN WIC Act would allow individuals to remotely certify their eligibility for WIC benefits and empower WIC providers to conduct remote certification of new and continuing participants through phone or video appointments. Since remote services were implemented during the pandemic, WIC has experienced a 12% increase in child participation, overturning a historic decline.[i] We urge Congress to sustain this progress, including the increased in cash value benefit for fruits and vegetables that has supported the nourishment of growing bodies and promoted healthy development.

We were deeply concerned by the recent debt ceiling agreement between the House and Administration. While default would have been catastrophic, the expansion of ineffective and bureaucratic work requirements will cause more older Americans to needlessly suffer from hunger and poverty. SNAP’s primary objective is to help people put food on the table; any attempt to turn it into an employment program—particularly when extensive research shows that work requirements actually make it much harder, not easier, for people to find and keep jobs—runs contrary to the program’s mission and intent.

In a time when food insecurity is rising and food prices remain high, we should be expanding our nation’s social safety net, not restricting it.

We are concerned about any efforts that move backwards by making it more difficult for people to access food assistance programs that were created to help those in need. We continue to ask policymakers to protect and strengthen food and nutrition programs that feed our nation’s children, mothers, seniors, military personnel and veterans. We must put people over politics and prioritize anti-hunger initiatives that will promote the access, affordability, and availability of healthy foods.

Global Food and Nutrition Security (Blake Selzer, International Policy Manager)

In March, the Biden Administration released its Fiscal Year 2024 budget, including funding for international affairs. The Alliance believes that the budget proposal calls for insufficient funding for important programs addressing global food security, including Food for Peace, McGovern-Dole Food for Education, and the Feed the Future Initiative. The Alliance to End Hunger has been and will continue to advocate for increased funding for these key programs to fight for food security and nutrition globally.

The recent budget debt ceiling agreement will result in an estimated five percent cut to critical programs at a time we are facing a global food security crisis. Furthermore, the House recently announce its funding allocations for both the Agriculture and State, Foreign Operations subcommittees, calling for further cuts of up to 30% for important food security programs, such as Food for Peace and Feed the Future. Cutting these programs to feed the world is a step in the wrong direction. The Alliance will continue to advocate for increased funding for programs to address global food security and nutrition.

This year also marks reauthorization of the Farm Bill. The Alliance has developed its international priorities for the Farm Bill. While international provisions are a small part of the Farm Bill, their importance to fighting global hunger and malnutrition is significant. In April, the Alliance, along with ten of our members, sent letters to the House and Senate Agriculture Committee leadership in support of global nutrition in the Farm Bill.

The Alliance is on Capitol Hill advocating for the reauthorization of key programs such as Food for Peace and the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program. In May, our Executive Director, Eric Mitchell, joined other leaders of NGO’s in sending a CEO letter to both the House  and Senate Agriculture Committees seeking to strengthen international food aid programs as the Committee draft the Farm Bill. We are advocating for targeted changes to these programs to increase their effectiveness and allow us to reach more people with live-saving food assistance, as well as capacity-building support to increase the resiliency of the aid recipients. Additionally, we are seeking language in the Farm Bill in support of research promoting innovation for improving agricultural production and sustainable nutritious food systems. Finally, we are advocating for inclusion of language in the Farm Bill to enhance adaptation measures for small-holder farmers and communities to help reduce the negative impact of climate change on food systems.

On June 25th the Alliance to End Hunger hosted a briefing on adaptation and agriculture in a changing climate. Among the panelists were representatives from One Acre Fund, Cargill, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and Growing Hope Globally. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA-2) and USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Mia Beers gave opening remarks. The briefing focused on the need to invest in innovation and development programs to help build the resilience of communities to cope with climate change.  Investing in development is estimated to save tenfold the funding required for humanitarian emergencies once disaster strikes.

 

[i] National WIC Association, 2023, https://www.nwica.org/press-releases/national-wic-associations-new-report-shows-increase-in-child-participation

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