Thank You, Congress, for the Food

Angela Rupchock-Schafer | January 21, 2014

The Enriquez family harvests garlic in Trascerros New Frontier, Honduras. Photo: Nancy Vásquez

The Enriquez family harvests garlic in Trascerros New Frontier, Honduras. Photo: Nancy Vásquez

It’s pretty easy to hate on Congress lately. Its approval ratings are at lows that haven’t been seen since, well, forever. It seems every other story out of Washington D.C. is about dysfunction and gridlock over legislation.  But I’m not here to bash Congress today, but to celebrate something they have done right.  Congress is continuing in a long and life-saving history of bi-partisan support for international food aid programs.  And, in the process, helping make that aid more efficient and capable of helping even more vulnerable people around the world.

I was taught to thank someone when they deserve it. So here goes.  I want to send a very sincere thank you to the Chairs Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Rep. Harold Rogers, Sen. Mark Pryor, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Rep. Kay Granger and Rep. Robert Aderholt and Ranking Members Sen. Richard Shelby, Rep. Nita Lowey, Sen. Roy Blunt, Rep. Sam Farr, and Sen. Lindsey Graham on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and relevant subcommittees.

Why are these members of Congress so deserving of thanks? Because they included a reform to international food aid in the FY 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act that will help increase the number of people the U.S. can reach with the Food for Peace program. Food for Peace means exactly what its title suggests: the U.S. helping families and communities feed themselves and become empowered for peace.

As Norman Borlaug said, “If you desire peace, cultivate justice, but at the same time cultivate the fields to produce more bread; otherwise there will be no peace.” International food aid programs like these have usually enjoyed robust bi-partisan support as a way to promote peace around the globe and I’m ecstatic to see that tradition continued here. It is in our economic self-interest as a country, not to mention the morally right thing to do.

As debate continues on the Farm Bill I think it’s vital that we remember decades of bi-partisan support for hunger and poverty-fighting programs have helped lift economies that were formerly mired in poverty into some of our largest trading partners today. There is still so much we can do to modernize food aid, make it a more efficient and cost-effective use of tax payer money and still help so many in desperate need around the globe. I won’t hit you with the specifics, but suffice to say the answers are there and what we need are members of Congress wise enough to act on them. (You can learn more here.)

When I told my husband I was going to write a blog post today about the FY 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act his eyes glazed over immediately. I think that is perhaps the normal reaction. But I wish it wasn’t so. We need, as a country, to be more fully engaged with our elected officials. We need to thank them when we think they’ve done the right thing. We need to gently prod them, call their offices, write letters to the editor, when we think they are looking at an issue or policy the wrong way. We need to stop rolling our eyes at their antics and instead hold them accountable for their actions. We need to work together again and get stuff done.

We need, in short, to thank them today for what they’ve done right… and work hard to make sure we have a reason to thank them tomorrow. The Farm Bill and decisions about SNAP funding levels await. I, for one, am ready to make my calls. Are you?

Angela Rupchock-Schafer, Social Media Manager, CWS