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Outdated Aid Regulations Cause Delay
As debates about the farm bill and its implications for international food aid continues in the United States, those in critical need find themselves left even more vulnerable by ineffective aid regulations and spending that is both burdensome to taxpayers and wasteful of resources and lives.

It has been a month since Super-Typhoon Haiyan wreaked devastation across the Visayas in the Philippines. Around 14 million were impacted while 4 million were displaced and are without homes. Moreover, while the Philippine authorities are feeding 1.4 million people a day, the government is being blamed for not doing more. The logistics of delivering aid in the Philippines are further complicated by geographical constraints that must be surmounted like the fact that the nation is made up of 7,107 islands.

The reality on the ground means that ineffective aid is a waste of money and an indefensible waste of lives if it is not delivered to those who need it when they need it. The antiquated rules written by Congress in the 1950s limit our abilities to assist those in need simply for the formality of enforcing regulations. Congress, in fact, has the power to waive these regulations and can do so immediately to reach more people in need without any additional costs to taxpayers.

The troglodytic regulations currently in place requires the majority of U.S. food aid to be shipped on U.S. ships from preferred U.S. growers. As such, the food aid being delivered to the typhoon survivors has to be shipped more than 11,000 nautical miles to the Philippines, even though there are local food suppliers much closer to the crisis with the ability to provide supplies at a much lower cost.

As it stands, the current rules prevent aid agencies like the World Food Program from purchasing food from the closest and most cost-effective sellers. Moreover, these regulations cause delays in delivering aid because of red tape, sometimes taking four to six months to reach its final port after being shipped from the United States. Even worse, food aid is often monetized. When nutritional items are purchased from domestic American farmers and then sold abroad in places where food could be purchased locally, damage local economies can be damaged.

Currently, the money spent on food aid is being wasted. Of monies spent, 37% goes to food and 53% is spent on shipping, markups for shipping regulations, markups for preferred American growers and overhead. Special interest rules like this cost the American taxpayers more than $491 million dollars per year.

Fifty-three cents out of every dollar we spend on basic grains for food aid ends up in the pockets of middlemen as a result of red tape and regulations. To put this further into perspective, for the same price of food aid to Ethiopia we can ship 2,200 tons of wheat from the U.S. or purchase 5,400 tons of wheat from local growers.

Both tax payers and those waiting desperately for aid to survive certainly deserve more. If the United States were to deliver aid more effectively by scrapping outdated regulations, the U.S. could respond 14 weeks faster and reach up to 17.1 million more people without any additional costs to tax payers and without unnecessarily losing any additional lives.

Nina Verfaillie
Feature Writer

Sources: The Guardian, Oxfam America
Photo: SierraClub.Typepad.com

fight_hunger_fist

Abolishing hunger for 842 million people worldwide may seem like a daunting goal. After all, according to the World Food Program, hunger accounts for more deaths annually than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. However, both research and reality have shown that measurable progress can be made, often with simple initiatives and small donations.

For those individuals, organizations and governmental bodies that need encouragement in their efforts to end world hunger, here is some good news:

1. The number of hungry people in the world (842 million currently) has dropped by 156 million in the last 20 years.

There is still much work to be done, but these figures are important, in part because they show that hunger is not an insurmountable problem. A concerted effort by the international community against hunger will have impact.

2. Compared to other global initiatives undertaken by the United States, ending hunger worldwide is relatively inexpensive.

According to the UN, feeding the 66 million children throughout the world who go to school hungry each day would cost the United States $3.2 billion. In comparison, $751 billion was spent on the Iraq War and $700 billion on the Wall Street rescue plan.

3. There are also easy, inexpensive ways for people to contribute to the cause individually.

Many relief organizations have programs that are capable of providing substantial aid to the world’s hungry for minimal financial donations. For example, the World Food Program, with a donation of just one dollar, is able to provide four children with nutritious meals. Donations – made with a mouse click – are easy, cheap and have an almost immediate impact.

4. Often, eliminating hunger within a community can be as simple as educating people about sustainable agricultural methods and equipping them to practice those methods.

Once people are trained to cultivate their own food, the problem of hunger is solved in both the long-term and the short-term. Promoting sustainable agricultural practices in developing nations is a primary initiative of U.S. Agency for International Development’s campaign against hunger.

Though hunger is a huge problem in our modern world, solutions do exist. And these solutions can be practiced by anyone – from individuals donating a dollar online to the developed world committing additional funds and efforts to the fight against hunger.

– Matt Berg

Sources: World Food Program-stats, World Food Program-donate, United Nations, USAID
Photo: Spectator

breast_cancer_charity_run
Happen to be in training for that 5K fun run or a marathon for breast cancer research this fall? Running, jogging, power walking and biking are all meaningful activities that strengthen the body and the mind, and helps in the quest to look exceedingly fit in the cocktail dress come Friday night. What if there was a way to convert such health-conscious weekly toils into global humanitarianism?

With the Charity Miles iPhone application, running, biking or walking for charity is easier than ever. The app has the gestalt of physical training apps such as MapMyRun and Nike+ but with the added function of raising money for charity via remote sponsorships.

The mechanics are simple and instantaneous: download the app from the Apple Store, lace up your running shoes, launch the app, pick a charity to support, burn some asphalt and watch as your miles convert to dollars towards humanitarian efforts. Runners and walkers earn 25 cents per mile, while bikers earn 10 centers per mile for their chosen charities. The sponsorship pool for Charity Miles is up to $1,000,000.

The World Food Program (WFP) is one of the many charities taking part in this unique and universally accessible initiative. The non-profit organization works in tandem with United Nations agencies as well as other NGOs to provide food security to those marginalized peoples in refugee camps around the globe. Their mission statement involves food security as an essential organ for the body of global development.

The World Food Program reports that 66 million primary school-age children in impoverished areas attend classes hungry, but with a mere $3.2 billion the entirety of these children’s hunger could be ameliorated.

While we in the first world are running for fitness, millions of our fellow humans across the developing world are on the run for survival, whether it be for a safe haven from military shrapnel or in the desperation for food and clean water.

In response to the Syrian crisis, the WFP’s mission for October is to feed 4 million refugees despite the international community’s more urgent occupation with war. Projects of this nature are funded entirely through donations, such as those that come from crowd-funding efforts of Charity Miles.

Charity Miles marks an optimistic innovation in humanitarian efforts, smartly combining contemporary fitness technologies that instantaneously calculate the results of physical training with instantaneous funding organizations striving to better the lives of the hungry.

So get running. The two miles you run today ultimately puts food on the table for an entire refugee family in Syria.

– Malika Gumpangkum

Sources: Huffington Post1, Huffington Post2, Charity Miles, World Food Program
Photo: The Telegraph

madagascar_children
There are an estimated 852 million hungry people in the world – an astounding number. However, with some simple ideas, the number of hungry people in the world can easily be reduced.

1. Education

Even if hunger was eradicated right now, it would only be temporarily so if education is not a priority. Educated children are prepared children. A good education equips children to provide for themselves, as well as their communities, in the future. Education ensures that the steps taken in the fight against hunger are sustainable.

2. School meals 

School meal programs are one of the easiest ways to feed lots of children, since the children are all gathered in one place. It is also very cost-effective. For 25 cents per meal, the World Food Program feeds 24 million school children annually.

3. Food security programs

The World Food Program defines food security as “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Food security programs aim to meet these needs by training farmers in developing nations through agricultural methods that will provide their communities with food – both now and long-term. The World Food Program reports that it has provided 200,000 farmers with agricultural training since the beginning of its food security programs.

4. Focus on women

It is estimated that women account for 60 percent of the hungry worldwide. If a mother is not able to provide for herself, she will most likely not be able to provide for her children either. This means that hunger is continuously being inherited by children. When women are helped, entire communities are helped.

5. Raise awareness

The simple act of bringing attention to the problem of hunger goes a long way in fighting it. People can’t contribute to a cause they aren’t informed of, and as more people become aware of how hunger affects the poor around the world, more people will engage in the fight against it. It’s that simple.

6. Donate

This is one that tends to be taken for granted. Many people talk about the importance of monetary donations, but relatively few actually donate. This is unfortunate, because donations of any amount can go a long way. There are billions of people in the world that do not suffer from chronic hunger. If all of these people contribute even the tiniest amount that they can afford, hunger will be exponentially closer to being eradicated.

7. Live simply

People in developed nations put so much money towards things they don’t need, while people in the developing world struggle just to get by on a daily basis. Practicing some restraint in spending would free up money that could then be used towards eradicating hunger. This could be as simple as forgoing a cup of coffee each day.

8. Reduce food waste

Excess waste ties up resources that could be used elsewhere in the fight against hunger. It is important for people in developed countries to be mindful of those in developing nations by doing their best to consume only what they need.

9. Be involved in government

Exercise the privileges that come with living in a democratic society in the fight against hunger. Elected officials are in place to represent the voice of the people. If enough people express their concern about global hunger to elected officials, the collective voice cannot be ignored, and action must be taken.

10. Fight for livable wages

It is not enough to simply provide the world’s hungry with food. They must be equipped to provide for themselves. Otherwise, the problem of hunger is not actually solved. Many workers in developing nations are exploited by employers and are not paid nearly enough to provide food for themselves, much less their families. If global hunger is to be defeated, all people must be provided with opportunity to earn livable wages.

Matt Berg

Sources: YSA, WFPUSA, Huffington Post, World Hunger

Photo: World Food Programme

Rachel_Weisz_World_Food_Program
The World Food Program has been using food donations to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people since 1961. As the food aid arm of the United Nations, WFP has been consistent in giving food to support the social and economic development of those most in need. In more recent years, a large number of celebrities have stood up in support of the WFP’s cause. Here are five of the brightest stars that are dedicated to helping WFP end world hunger:

5. Christina Aguilera
The singer-songwriter sensation found success in 1999, and ten years later, decided to give back in a big way. In 2009, she became the spokesperson for World Hunger Relief and helped generate over $148 million in funding for WFP. In 2010, she visited Haiti where WFP set up school lunch programs.

4. Penelope Cruz
After achieving fame in Spanish cinema, Cruz spent two months in Nicaragua volunteering before becoming an international success. She joined WFP in 2005 and recorded a PSA, speaking out for over 800 million living on the edge of starvation daily.

3. Rachel Weisz
While working on her Oscar-winning role in “The Constant Gardner” in Kenya, Weisz witnessed WFP aid in action. She visited the slums where thousands of children go hungry every day and shortly after agreed to appear in a short trailer that ran in cinemas prior to screenings of the film. In 2007, she made a special Mothers Day appeal on behalf of WFP, asking that no child “inherit hunger.”

2. Drew Barrymore
Actress, director, producer, this one-woman powerhouse has been an Ambassador Against Hunger for WFP since 2007. In 2005 she made a trip to Kenya, where WFP fed nearly 500 children living in Nairobi’s Kibera Slum and returned in 2007 before being named an official Ambassador. “Feeding a child at school is such a simple thing,” Barrymore said, “but you can tell it works miracles.” In 2008, she personally donated $1 million to support WFP’s efforts in Kenya.

1. Sir Sean Connery
Legendary actor, the original James Bond, and constant contender for the title of “Most Interesting Man in the World,” Connery added WFP Partner to his long list of accolades in 2003, becoming the first film star to do so. Connery also advocates for a number of other causes, including wildlife conservation and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

– David Smith

Sources: World Food Program, Look to the Stars
Photo: Theiapolis

Somali_Refugees_Ethiopia
Somali refugees continue to arrive in Ethiopia in large droves due to poor growing conditions, food shortages, and continued conflict. While the situation is slowly improving, John Ging, Director of Operations in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, urges continued attention to the crisis and says, “I call on the international community to invest now to build the resilience of Somalis and stop the cycle of crisis they have endured far too long.”

To that end, The United Nations World Food Program, UNHCR, European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, and the government of Ethiopia have partnered to launch an aid project that provides Somali refugees with monthly cash installments in addition to food aid. Currently, 12,000 refugees are receiving monetary relief and the project plans to extend cash aid to 13,000 more by October.

Monetary relief allows Somali refugees to round out their diet with fresh produce, proteins, and dairy from the local market, providing an important supplement to the basic grains and non-perishables received from aid agencies. It also gives the refugees an opportunity to inject money into the local economy. This economic boost is helpful to the communities supporting the large number of refugee settlements.

Currently the refugees who are part of the pilot cash program receive 100 Ethiopian Birr per month, or about $5.00. The organizations backing this program are optimistic that these cash transfers will greatly alleviate the most acute suffering and make the refugee situation less of a burden. Between Ethiopia, Kenya, and Yemen, there are over 1 million Somali refugees. The cash relief program gives refugees an opportunity to regain a little agency and make decisions about what groceries to purchase while also offering much needed hunger relief.

– Zoe Meroney

Sources: World Food Program, United Nations, All Africa
Photo: UNHCR

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Hunger Program
Whenever and wherever there is a tragedy, the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) and Hunger Program (PHP) are there to help. These groups are part of the Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry of the Presbyterian Church and serve all people, regardless of ethnicity, religion or political belief.

The Presbyterian Church remains neutral with its financial backing. The organization does not support its programs with federal funding. Rather, the Disaster Assistance and Hunger Program are funded mainly by a yearly congregation offering the “One Great Hour of Sharing.” Although the PDA and PHP are run by the same organization, they each serve different functions for those in need.

The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance program focuses on bringing emergency and refugee service to communities impacted by catastrophe. If resettlement is deemed necessary, the PDA ensures that these people find homes in the United States. Staff members and volunteers work with the Action by Churches Together (ACT Alliance) and these communities to implement training and preparation strategies for future disasters and assist in home repairs and other forms of sustainable development.

The other half of this important organization, the Presbyterian Hunger Program, works to distribute healthy and “culturally appropriate” foods to people all over the world who are food insecure. The PHP raises awareness about how our everyday actions can have a global impact. According to the Hunger Program, once Americans feel connected with impoverished communities, they will begin to comprehend the causes of hunger and malnutrition.

Although the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Hunger Program are part of a religious organization, the group maintains that it will help all types of people. By working with other organizations like, United Nations, National Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster, World Food Program, Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure that those affected by catastrophe or hunger are reached.

– Mary Penn

Sources: InterAction, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Photo: Wired

rsz_zumba
Zumba Fitness has launched, “The Great Calorie Drive”, encouraging participants to not only burn calories, but donate them as well as they dance away world hunger. Zumba is a dance fitness program based on world rhythms and choreography and is working with Feeding America and The United Nations World Food Program.

The program invites individuals to “give the world a reason to dance” and to donate calories burned to Feeding America and the World Food Program. Zumba Fitness CEO, Alberto Perlman believes hunger is one of the world’s greatest solvable problems, and they are eager to do what they can to combat it. They hope to be able to touch millions of lives through this program.

The campaign will donate the equivalent of the average amount of calories burned per class, which is around 750, to Feeding America and the World Food Program from now until June 13.  They would like to reach the goal of 2.6 billion calories, which will translate into roughly 3.5 million meals for the worlds hungry.

In order to promote the program, Zumba released a PSA featuring performing artist Lil John and multi-platinum selling artist Phillip Phillips. The PSA featured an inspirational look into how average people can make a huge difference in the lives of many while bringing us closer to eradicating a problem that effects millions of people world wide.

The program will work through a free mobile app available on smart phones. The app will direct people to their nearest Zumba class where they will check in on the phone and the calories will be automatically donated towards, “The Great Calorie Drive” . Additionally, Zumba will be offering limited edition apparel and accessories. Thirty percent of those proceeds will also go towards Feeding America and the World Food Program.

– Caitlin Zusy

Source: The Wall Street Journal
Photo: NewsWire


Upon winning an Oscar for her leading role in the film “Silver Linings Playbook”, Jennifer Lawrence fell as she ascended the stairs. While potentially embarrassing for anyone, Lawrence continued without a pause. Her charming demeanor and genuine personality were shining, so no one made any fuss about the incident. The actress’s charm is obviously authentic as Jennifer Lawrence has a proven history of charitable involvement for good causes.

While she was part of the cast in “The Hunger Games”, she and other co-stars partnered with the UN World Food Program (WFP) to raise money and awareness around the issues of global poverty and hunger. The movie itself deals with food scarcity and its subsequent social effects so the tie-in was natural.

“This partnership will help us spread the word that hunger is the world’s greatest solvable problem,” said Nancy Roman, Director of Communications of WFP. WFP is the largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide.

Jennifer Lawrence also supports Feeding America and The Thirst Project, both non-profit organizations helping people overcome issues of poverty and food/water access.

Unlike Hunger Games, or global food shortages, the US does have enough food to feed everyone, it is just a matter of getting it to the millions of low-income people who need it. This is the concern of Feeding America.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Hungergames.WFP.org, Looktothestars.org
Video: Youtube

This is truly unique – a virtual trivia game that benefits the global poor. With every participant’s correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated to a collective pool of food aid. Five correct answers means that 50 grains are donated, and so on. The more you play, the more rice can be donated to help reduce global hunger.

Freerice.com is a non-profit website that is owned and operated by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). All food aid resulting from the gaming is delivered through this UN agency. The entire project is made possible through sponsors who advertise on the site, and it is their money that is actually being used to buy the rice.

The mission of Freerice.com is two-fold:

  • Provide education to everyone for free
  • Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free

The questions themselves serve as the educational element of the site. Players can choose the category of questions they want from math, science, or even test preparation for the SATs. Questions get harder as as the game continues, forcing players to research the answers.

The website has tracked its progress, noted by grains of rice donated, since it started in 2007. 2008 was its first full year, and the site donated a total of 12,255,121,230 grains. To date, the total is 98,290,121,816 grains – feeding millions of people. WFP averages that about 400 grams of rice are needed to feed one person for a day (two meals). There are about 48 grains of rice in a gram, so by answering 40 questions correctly, a player can have the satisfaction of knowing that they have helped another person eat for a whole day.

As the game is played, and correct answers are given, a small bowel pictured on the screen fills with rice, which fills progressively to match the progress of the player. This serves to illustrate the importance of the project, and the player’s involvement in it. Best players and top group participation and impact are also posted on the site.

There is no register or sign-in for the game, and no need to do anything other than play the game with no strings attached. Freerice.com does have over a million registered gamers who are literally helping feed the world. Perhaps even greater than the immediate benefits of alleviating hunger is the residual impact of enabling people to fully function and be productive once their extreme hunger is no longer an issue.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Freerice.com