Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Food Aid groups call on US goverment to fight hunger

Former US Senator George McGovern and a coalition of food aid groups are calling on the US government to renew it's fight against world hunger.

A series of proposals were sent to the Obama administration from the Senator and groups like Feed the Children, Oxfam America, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In addition to increased funding for world hunger, the group proposes starting a new cabinet position for food aid.

In her Reuters piece, Roberta Rampton obtained an interview with George McGovern where he explained the plans.

The pressing need to feed the nearly 1 billion people around the world who are chronically hungry has faded from public attention, McGovern said.

"It's back on the back-burner right now, but there's still a flame there. It's a focus now on our own domestic economic problems that transcends the focus on anything else in government," he said.

Food prices soared last year, causing riots and hoarding in some countries. But commodity prices have since plunged, and the economic crisis has preoccupied policy makers.

McGovern said the groups want Obama to create a White House Office on Global Hunger and appoint a coordinator for U.S. efforts, which have been criticized as fragmented.

The organizations are also set to recommend a shift in the type of food aid provided, balancing traditional donations of U.S.-grown commodities for emergencies with longer-term aid to help countries develop agriculture and food security.

The plan will call for more flexibility to allow emergency aid to be bought locally rather than spending extra money and time to ship it from the United States.

The idea could face strong opposition from farm groups and shipping companies who prefer food for aid is bought in the United States and transported via American carriers overseas.

McGovern, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1972, has been part of U.S. efforts to decrease hunger abroad and at home since the early 1960s when he was appointed by the Kennedy administration to coordinate food aid.

He said he first resolved to try to help tackle the problem after he was stationed in Italy during World War Two, and witnessed people on the brink of starvation.

"I saw women, young housewives, selling themselves on the street to get a few dollars to get their children fed. I saw them pawing through our garbage dump at the air base ... to get scraps of food," he said.

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