Now is the time for the US to change its approach to food security

By Hugh Evans, Michele Sullivan 07 July 2016

U.S. food security programs Food for Peace and Feed the Future work together to promote aquaculture in Bangladesh. The Global Food Security Act aims to reduce the number of individuals facing food insecurity and malnutrition across the globe. Photo by: USAID / CC BY-NC

This spring a bipartisan group of members of Congress worked on a landmark bill that could save millions of lives around the world and help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. The Global Food Security Act, sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith and Betty McCollum, and Sens. Johnny Isakson and Bob Casey, will reduce the number of individuals facing food insecurity and malnutrition across the globe. This impressive effort deserves to be heralded.

The Global Food Security Act will help more of the world's poorest get enough food to eat without costing U.S. taxpayers a penny more. The bill will guarantee two years of funding for U.S. food security investments.

This funding is primarily channeled through a program called Feed the Future, which has already reached 7 million small-scale farmers and improved nutrition for 12.5 million children. In addition, the bill locks in two years of funding for International Development Assistance, which helps the United States respond to natural and manmade disasters. The Global Food Security Act will also improve coordination between different parts of the government so that there is less waste and more oversight.

A basic human right

After this bill becomes law, it will demonstrate the U.S. commitment to delivering food and nutrition security — a basic human right — to people such as Beseautu Mofida from Ethiopia. Married for half of her life, 30-year-old Mofida became the sole breadwinner for her family when her husband was paralyzed in a car accident. Mofida knew her children were poorly fed and had difficulty concentrating in school, but she lacked opportunities to increase her income in her rural village. U.S. food security programs helped Mofida and her family learn poultry management skills, such as preparing homemade feed.

Now, Mofida and her children have access to eggs and are able to sell them to earn household income. By sharing produce and insights on poultry management with her neighbors, Mofida has become a community leader. Passing the Global Food Security Act will allow other women such as Mofida in some of the poorest parts of the world gain better access to food and nutrition security.

We live in a world in which one in nine people are chronically hungry and cannot reliably access sufficient, nutritious food. Nearly half of the deaths in children under five are caused by malnutrition — a jarring 3.1 million lives lost each year. Food and nutrition security would enable millions of people to lead healthy and productive lives. It would increase economic stability and gender equality. It is a vital step toward eliminating extreme poverty, especially for the most globally disenfranchised populations — women and children.

Women and children encompass the majority those struggling with food insecurity and malnutrition. Children who are underfed during crucial stages of development are more likely to experience stunting, delays in cognitive and physical developmental, poor health and decreased productivity. Studies show that if women were given the same access to resources as men, it could reduce the number of individuals battling hunger by 150 million.

Sustainability and stability

We need sustainable options to feed the growing global population, especially in the most vulnerable regions. The Global Food Security Act would help fill this gap, by providing the resources, knowledge and infrastructure to help developing country leaders to create sustainable agricultural systems and stable economies.

The Global Food Security Act will improve food and nutrition security for millions of individuals worldwide by taking a comprehensive and strategic approach to U.S. foreign assistance programs focusing on hunger. The legislation will provide country-specific resources and knowledge to empower small scale farmers to grow food for themselves and their communities. It places an emphasis on engaging women in an effort to increase farm yields and agricultural output and provides a path to economic empowerment and prosperity. Finally, the bill would improve upon existing monitoring and evaluation techniques to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of aid.

Over the past two years the Caterpillar Foundation and Global Citizen have worked tirelessly to ensure that this bill becomes law. We’ve joined an all-star team of partners including CARE, InterAction, the ONE Campaign and Bread for the World to help pass the Global Food Security Act.

The act is a true example of how global citizens, civil society and policymakers from both sides of the political aisle can come together to make the world a stronger and better place. The legislation is also a shining representation of what a 21st century aid strategy, with the U.S. working alongside governments from around the world, can look like. Let’s get this bill on the books and get vital nutrition to those who need it the most.

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About the authors

Hugh evans
Hugh Evans

At 14, Hugh Evans spent the night in a Manila slum. The harsh realities of his hosts' lives motivated Evans to challenge the status quo of extreme poverty. Following a trip to South Africa in 2002 as World Vision's inaugural Youth Ambassador, Evans worked on the Make Poverty History campaign and helped stage the Make Poverty History Concert, fronted by Pearl Jam and Bono. In 2012, he co-founded Global Citizen, and with it, the Global Citizen Festival.

Michele sullivan headshot
Michele Sullivan

Michele Sullivan joined Caterpillar in 1988. She has held various leadership positions within the company and with other organizations over the years and has recently served as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. She took over leadership of the Caterpillar Foundation in 2011.

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