Report Says Important Congressional Decisions In 2002 Could Lead To Reductions In World Hunger

Bread for the World
Thursday, 18 April 2002

Welfare reform and foreign aid policy seen as key issues for U.S. lawmakers

"A Future with Hope," the twelfth annual report on the state of world hunger produced by Bread for the World Institute, finds that U.S. congressional decisions about the welfare program and a reassessment of U.S. relations with Africa and other poor parts of the world could lead the way to dramatic reductions in hunger, both domestically and abroad.

"The decisions Congress makes this year will affect millions of hungry people," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "Our report illustrates how these decisions could benefit people who are hungry and propel us forward toward dramatically reducing hunger."

One of the major decisions facing Congress in 2002 is the reauthorization of the welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Though TANF caseloads have dropped by 58 percent since Congress overhauled welfare in 1996, not all who have left welfare have found work. According to one study cited in the Bread for the World Institute report, only one-third of those formerly on welfare acquired full-time jobs and just 16 percent had found part-time employment.

In addition, though the number of welfare caseloads may be declining, many poor people remain mired in poverty because of inadequate job training skills or lack of education, or the work they found is not sufficient to lift them out of poverty. For example, the average wage for a working TANF recipient is $6.75 per hour, leaving millions of families below the poverty line.

A Future with Hope concludes that improvements to key portions of TANF would help hard-working families escape poverty. These improvements include:

- making poverty reduction a primary goal of the TANF program and rewarding states that reduce poverty

- boosting educational and training opportunities for TANF recipients so they are better able to escape poverty

- easing time limits and improving welfare-to-work transitions, and

- ensuring adequate funding for the program by increasing funding to keep up with inflation.

The hunger report also finds that U.S. nutrition programs, such as food stamps and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, are effective tools in the fight against hunger. In fact, according to A Future with Hope, hunger could be halved in the United States within a couple of years by investing an additional $5 billion per year in these kinds of nutrition programs for low-income people.

Internationally, A Future with Hope finds that by investing $6 billion per year, of which the U.S. share would be $1.5 billion per year, the world community can cut hunger in half by 2015, a goal set by the World Food Summit in 1996. While recession and the terrorist attacks have increased the cost of halving world hunger, the goal is still within reach.

In order to be an effective tool in the fight against hunger, the report says that the $6 billion invested by the world's richest countries needs to be targeted to foreign assistance that reduces poverty. Programs that strengthen agriculture, health care, infrastructure, microenterprise and education, as well as further debt relief, are key to helping the world's poorest countries move from poverty to promise.

Bread for the World Institute's sister organization, Bread for the World, has made poverty-focused TANF reauthorization its first legislative priority for 2001. On Thursday, April 11, 2002, Reps. Marge Roukema (R-NJ) and John Tierney (D-Mass.) introduced the Working from Poverty to Promise Act of 2002, which was developed in conjunction with Bread for the World's legislative campaign. Many of the provisions of the bill coincide with the conclusions of A Future with Hope. The bill, H.R. 4210, would make poverty reduction an explicit goal of TANF and contains provisions to help achieve that goal. The Roukema-Tierney legislation is the first bipartisan welfare bill this year.

Throughout the year, Bread for the World members will send thousands of letters to their members of Congress in support of the proposed bill. In past campaigns, BFW members have sent more than 150,000 letters annually to successfully lobby for legislation that helps hungry people in the United States and around the world.

For more information, or to contact Bread for the World, see their website at: www.bread.org

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