Interview: Robert Zachritz of World Vision on Budget Cuts to Food Aid

The Congress is proposing budget cuts to international food aid as it prepares the FY 2012 budget. There is a strong push for cuts to reduce federal spending. But is cutting Food for Peace and other hunger fighting programs the right place to go? Robert Zachritz, director of advocacy for World Vision, voices his opinion.

If Congress approves these budget cuts, what will that mean to the nearly 1 billion people worldwide who suffer from hunger?

There are few places in the U.S. Government’s budget where a small amount of money can really make a big difference including saving a person’s life. American international food assistance is one of these areas.

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives passed a large and disproportionate cut of 33% to these critical life-saving programs. Even worse, about 25% of the House of Representatives voted to eliminate this life-saving program.

The average funding for international food aid from 2006-2010 has been $1.9 billion. In FY 2011, the final number was reduced to $1.5 billion. The House of Representatives in June passed a level which was $650 million less than the President’s request at $1.04 billion. The average cost of food aid has been about $6 per American per year.

Given over the last three years the average cost of food aid per beneficiary has been $40, the $650 million cut by the House of Representatives will mean that 1,625,000 will NOT receive this live-saving assistance.

It is truly a tragedy that as the global need is increasing with the rise of food prices, the House of Representatives is choosing to retreat causing the United States to no longer be a leader in the fight against global hunger. This is a penny wise but a pound foolish strategy. Hopefully, the American people will voice their concerns that this does not represent their values and Congress will change course.

Isn’t food aid one of the most relatively inexpensive items in U.S. foreign policy budget? Is this really the place where Congress can save money?

Food aid is one of the few places in the federal budget which directly saves a life for as low as $40 per person. The United States has been a leader for the last 50 years in the fight against global hunger. It is a tragedy that Congress is being short-sighted and abandoned this leadership.

Is it true that fighting hunger is one of the most cost effective solutions to the world’s problems?

Yes it is. Ronald Reagan said of food assistance to Ethiopia during his Administration that ‘A hungry child knows no politics.’ This is so true. U.S. international food aid not only represents the best of American values but also for a low price, generates good will for the American people.

How can readers voice their opinion about the proposed budget cuts to international food aid?

Americans need to contact their Representatives and Senators to express their support for these cost-effective food aid programs which save lives. At a cost of $6 per American per year, America does NOT need to lose its leadership position in the fight against global hunger.

Article first published as Interview: Robert Zachritz of World Vision on Budget Cuts to Food Aid on Blogcritics.