President of Bread for the World Calls for Change in Politics of Hunger
September 13, 2010
The U.S. has not made sustained progress against poverty since the 1960s and early 1970s when the poverty rate was cut in half, said anti-hunger and poverty advocate David Beckmann at a luncheon Sept. 13.
"If countries as different as Bangladesh, Brazil and Britain can reduce poverty, it’s clearly possible in the USA," said Beckmann, an economist and ordained Lutheran minister who has been president of Bread for the World since 1991. "As a nation, we have opportunities to moderate what the economy is doing to hungry and poor people."
He said influencing politics is the key.
"In August, Congress provided needed financial support to state governments, partly to reduce teacher lay-offs, but they decided to pay for it by trimming future funding for food stamps by $12 billion," Beckmann said. "Congress is coming back into session today, and the Child Nutrition Act expires on Sept. 30. This is a clear opportunity for Congress and the people to reduce hunger among children."
Beckmann outlined three hunger issues that he wants the Obama administration to work on:
• Helping poor farmers produce more food and specifically tackling malnutrition among children.
"The Obama administration, to their great credit, is leading an international response to the increase in world hunger," he said. "They are using a relatively small amount of U.S. money to leverage much bigger investments from other nations around the world. But Congress is not now on track to approve the funding the president has requested," he said.
• Making foreign aid a more effective way to reduce poverty.
"The administration is moving forward with reform, but slowly, and they may merge development programs more fully into programs that serve on own short-term interests," he said. "This is bad idea."
• Giving tax credits to poor working families.
"I know a young mother who is working two part-time jobs," Beckmann said. "She has a 3-year-old boy. She used her tax rebate last year to start training as a dental hygienist. But the tax provisions that helped her last year need to be renewed," he said.
"We do not now have enough political oomph to achieve the changes for hungry and poor people that we should," Beckmann said. "So I am calling on people, especially people who believe in God, to help change the politics of hunger. "
Beckmann was named a World Food Prize laureate in June. Considered the Nobel Prize equivalent for food and agriculture, the prize was established in 1986 and recognizes the efforts of non-governmental organizations in mobilizing and empowering people to end hunger around the world.
— Hope Katz Gibbs, firstname.lastname@example.org