Opinion | Opinion

AJWS launches ‘Reverse Hunger’ campaign to help end the global food crisis

New York, NY; October 17, 2011—Building on its legacy of advancing global justice, American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an international development and human rights organization, unveiled its new Reverse Hunger campaign today. The campaign seeks to rally the American Jewish community to challenge and change a critical factor contributing to global hunger — U.S. food aid policy.

Developing countries struck by famine and natural disasters depend on the U.S. government for food aid, but, according to AJWS, the government’s current food aid policy prevents the U.S. from saving as many lives as it could.

Reverse Hunger takes particular aim at a piece of U.S. food aid policy that requires that the country’s food donations be purchased, processed and transported by American companies. Under this guideline, it can take several months for food to reach hungry people abroad. And once that aid arrives, the influx of U.S. food into local markets often undercuts local farmers, undermining local agriculture rather than strengthening it to promote long-term food security.

AJWS seeks to mobilize the Jewish community to use the upcoming debate on the U.S. Farm Bill to reform this misguided system that not only delays the arrival of lifesaving food, but also perpetuates a cycle of dependence.

“With more than 900 million people worldwide chronically afflicted with hunger, the current global food crisis has reached unacceptable proportions,” said AJWS President Ruth Messinger. “For decades, AJWS has empowered activists in the developing world to improve food security in their own communities. But, some aspects of U.S. policy weaken their efforts. With Congress preparing to debate the Farm Bill in 2012, we have the opportunity to reform food aid so that it helps turn back the tide of food insecurity.”

AJWS’s Reverse Hunger campaign calls on Congress to pass a Farm Bill that: (1) promotes a flexible, localized approach to food aid, as opposed to a “one-size-fits-all” model; and (2) prioritizes locally and regionally purchased food aid wherever possible.

AJWS believes that by reforming U.S. food aid policy, developing nations will have a chance to strengthen their ability to grow food for their own citizens—preparing them for future emergencies.

“Our Jewish texts and teachings obligate us to challenge the injustice of hunger and champion the right to food,” said Messinger. “A strong, unified Jewish voice in support of ending the global food crisis, starting with the U.S. Farm Bill, is critical. Together we can create a food system that reflects our community’s vision and values.”

In partnership with several Jewish organizations, AJWS is promoting a “Jewish Petition for a Just Farm Bill” that it hopes thousands will sign in advance of the 2012 Farm Bill debate to show Congress the Jewish community’s commitment to reforming food aid and promoting a new vision for our agriculture policy at home and abroad. Individuals can sign onto the petition here: www.ajws.org/reversehunger. More information on the campaign and the organization’s first campaign event, Global Hunger Shabbat, can be found here: www.ajws.org/hunger/ghs.