Sean Callahan Tells House Subcommittee Programs for the Poor Need Support
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 9, 2013 – Sean Callahan, Catholic Relief Services’ Chief Operating Officer, is urging Congress to increase funding to the U.S. government’s international food security programs — Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole Food for Education — in order to respond to growing needs.
In testimony prepared for the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, Callahan calls for 2014 fiscal year spending of at least $1.5 billion on the Food for Peace program – with a minimum of $450 million of these funds dedicated to development – and $250 million on the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program.
Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole feed the poor, encourage school attendance, and help farmers develop better methods and strategies to grow the food they need to survive, and thrive.
Noting recent proposals to reform the Food for Peace program, Callahan reiterates the commitment of CRS – the largest American provider of food assistance around the world — to improving the system in ways that benefit the people it serves. In particular, he notes the need to increase the availability of cash resources in Food for Peace, and allow the use of local purchase programs that advance development goals within Food for Peace.
But Callahan says in any reform effort, it is important to maintain certain aspects of the program, “like a multiyear authorization, a dedicated, robust, and predictable level of funding for development programs, and management by professionals with the kind of expertise found in USAID’s Office of Food for Peace.”
Callahan says that though the $1.5 billion figure for Food for Peace is more than the 2012 appropriation and will probably exceed the final 2013 figure, “The demands on these programs, and their importance to the poor and vulnerable served by them, more than justify this increase.” He cites the conflicts in Syria and Mali as unanticipated emergencies requiring additional Food for Peace funding.
“The Food for Peace program demonstrates the exceptional nature of American generosity and is a tangible example of our deep moral commitment to help those most in need,” Callahan says, emphasizing that the rising price of food assistance – from an average of $224.35 per metric ton in 2005 to $516.75 in 2011 – is another reason the increase is needed.
Callahan highlights the importance of development programming, stressing the need to have a minimum of $450 million dedicated to that work – and not be vulnerable to transfer for emergency response. He notes that development programs not only feed people, but also help them grow more resilient, able to withstand emergencies so they will need less aid in the future.
He points to a CRS program in Malawi funded by Food for Peace called Wellness and Agriculture for Life Advancement (WALA). Started in 2009, WALA has helped 200,000 households with a variety of agriculture and counseling programs.
“In 2012, southern Malawi was hit by drought, leaving 1.76 million people in need of emergency food assistance,” Callahan says. “CRS found that participants in the WALA program were more equipped to cope with the impacts of this drought than non-participants.”
Some had stored enough food to last for 12 months, many able to double their production because of new irrigation systems and drought-resistant seeds, thanks to WALA.
“Reducing funding for development programs will only exacerbate the challenges of reaching those who face chronic hunger, and deny them the opportunity and dignity of providing food for their own families,” Callahan says in support of maintaining the $450 million level.
Calling for $250 million for McGovern Dole that supports Food for Education programs, Callahan points to Mali where CRS is implementing this program, distributing more than 5 million meals, vitamins and medications to over 46,000 children in 120 schools over three years.
“The program has helped to increase school enrollment for girls by 41% and for boys by 22%,” he says.
Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community. The agency provides assistance to people in nearly 100 countries and territories based on need, regardless of race, nationality or creed. For more information, please visit crs.org or crsespanol.org.