There is an African Proverb that says, “well fed people have many problems, hungry people have just one.”
Today, more than one billion people in the world are undernourished. Here in the United States 45 million people go hungry everyday. Recent increases in food prices has exacerbated the problems that hungry people face. So far, an additional 44 million people have been pushed into poverty by the increase in food prices. We who are blessed need to act and speak out on behalf of those who are hungry.
I was born in Arusha, Tanzania and I have six siblings. I consider my family to be blessed in many ways. My parents were able to clothe, feed and educate all of us. This was not the case for many of my childhood friends. Many of my classmates in both primary and secondary school came from poor families. I knew that they didn’t have enough to eat, and they weren’t able to afford their school fees or books.
For them, what we ate in school became their only meal for the day. I knew that most of them came to school mainly because that is where they next meal came from. As kids, we never bothered to ask where the food came from. Years later, I learned that the food we ate — the food that kept many of my friends in school — was donated by the U.S. government.
Today, hundreds of thousands of children are benefing from the same school feeding programs that was instrumental to my success and that of my friends. But these programs are under the threat of being cut or even stopped all together due to budget cuts in the U.S. The overall effect this would have on Tanzania — and on the chidren who depend on it — would be enormous. As statistics have shown, attendance and graduation rates for both boys and girls has increased tremendously due to school feeding programs. It would be a shame for this hard earned success to be halted by cuts in food aid.
Years after my friends and I were beneficieries of food aid from the U.S. we are now young successful professionals. Some of my friends have become teachers, other doctor’s or government officials in Tanzania. This would not have been possible if it were not for the nutritious food that we received while we were young children. This food kept my friends in school. It gave them an opportunity to prepare for their future. Cutting food aid from programs that feed millions of children around the world would be a travesty especially in the middle of a worldwide increase in food prices.
There are other solutions that could be implemented to balance the U.S. budget. Drastic cuts to poverty and development assistance is not a solution.
I urge members of Congress not to cut food aid and relegate impoverished children to a lifetime of poverty and misery.
Gabe Laizer is the Strategic Partnerships and Outreach Coordinator at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)