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Hunger Knows No Borders
Tom Vilsack U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
This weekend I was in Italy with agriculture secretaries and ministers from the Group of Eight (G8) countries for the first-ever Agriculture Ministerial in G8 history. What brought the world’s wealthiest countries together for this meeting is a shared commitment to eliminating hunger and making sure food gets into the hands of those who need it most.
The global recession and financial crisis have pushed more and more people to seek assistance feeding their families. Last year's food riots demonstrate that food insecurity threatens the health of vulnerable populations and puts our nation's economic and national security at risk. Global leadership on this issue is more important than ever as we face the reality of a world population that’s growing by 79 million people each year, a rate that may in our lifetimes challenge our capacity to produce enough food. Committing to food security is both our moral obligation and a key strategy in promoting economic development and global stability.
America’s proud food aid legacy began after World War II and today we remain the world’s largest food aid supplier. Over the past 10 years, the U.S. has supplied roughly 55 percent of total food assistance, and America is on track to provide more than $5.5 billion to fight global hunger in 2008 and 2009. This is a remarkable achievement made possible by the U.S. agricultural community, the work of private voluntary organizations and U.S. commodity and industry groups, and our citizens' longstanding commitment to sharing America’s bounty with those less fortunate. Every sector of the U.S. economy — from farmers to processors, truckers, distributors, shippers, and many others — deserves credit for America’s leadership on this important issue.
As the world’s richest nations met to develop strategies to tackle food insecurity and partnerships to deal with future food emergencies, I wanted the world’s hungry to know that President Obama is taking action on the pledge he made in his inaugural address: “To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.”
Earlier this month, President Obama met in London with leaders of the Group of Twenty to establish a coordinated response to the international economic crisis. At that meeting he announced that he would ask Congress to double U.S. financial support for agricultural development in poor countries to $1 billion in 2010. A week later, at the International Food Aid Conference in Kansas City, I announced an additional $80 million to fund four more McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition projects in Africa that will feed 655,000 children. The McGovern-Dole program is an innovative idea authored by anti-hunger leaders Bob Dole and George McGovern that combines food aid and educational development. To date the program has provided meals to more than 22 million children in 41 countries and boosted school attendance by an estimated 14 percent overall, and by 17 percent for girls. I am committed to increasing funding for this important program to ensure that millions more children have access to healthy food and an education.
Why are these actions important? With his request to Congress, President Obama has demonstrated a commitment to arresting the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger now enveloping more than one billion of the world’s people. The President’s action will help developing countries boost the productivity of their land and build prosperity among their rural poor.
The scourges of malnutrition and hunger know no borders. At this weekend’s G8 agriculture meeting, we worked to tackle this critical issue together. As I told my counterparts in Italy, and have told our citizens at home, President Obama and I are committed to - and taking action to achieve — a food supply that is safe, sufficient and nutritious for people around the world.
(Tom Vilsack is the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.)