Food assistance reform needed

Families around the world are starving, and the United States is very generous, spending about  $1.4 billion a year to help countries fighting poverty and starvation. Farmers grow crops in America and ship them to countries in need. Obama is taking a hard stance on the issue, proposing to end the way in which we give food aid, but continuing to contribute in more beneficial ways. The president’s proposal would reach 17 million more people each year with food and support their economies by promoting and buying from local farmers.

According to supporters of the current food aid operations, the system is streamlined and beneficial to recipients. Advocate groups in the United States have argued that the current system creates U.S. jobs and helps the economy. However, the process seems like it would be more costly and less favorable for recipients in the long run. The focus should be on promoting self-sustainability to farmers in aided countries, not solely promoting the U.S. economy. Farmers should be taught how to raise their own food and feed their families, stimulating their own economies and lifting the veil of poverty. Focusing on American agriculture is selfish when discussing the needs of countries with widespread deaths due to starvation.

Shipping costs are an added factor as well as a dependency on America’s agricultural businesses. Oxfam International, a worldwide organization dedicated to eradicating poverty, has said that food aid reform is necessary. According to the group, a large percentage of aid is spent on shipping costs, wiping out a large chunk of money that could be used in other ways to help hungry families. Gawain Kripke, director of policy and research for Oxfam, was quoted in the New York Times, saying, “The current food aid program is not mission driven or about poor people. It’s about moving product.” The process of shipping goods overseas often taking several months, prevents families from getting fresh, healthy foods when they need them.

Agriculture lobby groups prevented similar measures to Obama’s from taking place in previous administrations. President Bush tried to set congruous plans in motion but was heavily opposed by agribusiness and shipping groups, preventing many hungry families from getting food.

The current food aid system is inadequate and needs to be reformed. Taxpayer money would be better spent, along with promoting economic freedom and perseverance in hungry countries. Obama’s plan will bring many families the necessary nutrients to survive and leave them with livelihoods that are likely to survive for many generations with the proper resources. It isn’t a matter of business; it’s a matter of human lives.

Class of 2014

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