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Apr 22, 2009

Hunger Awareness

An important part of Hunger Awareness is to learn about and address the underlying causes of hunger in the world. What is unique this year is that our efforts to expand and strengthen U.S. programs to end hunger have a receptive administration. Our advocacy is still urgently needed: lobbyists for every other special interest group will be seeking to pull money away from programs like development aid or food stamps, and fund their own priorities. The good news is that if we do our part, we have a good chance of achieving much or even most of what we seek.

So take a few minutes and email, call, or write a post card or note to your members of Congress. Urge them to:

  1. Approve a FY 2010 federal budget with at least the $4.2 billion for hunger and development that the Senate and House recently approved in the budget framework.
  2. Place reaching the Millennium Development Goals at the heart of our nation’s efforts to help the poorest of the poor.
  3. Take leadership to strengthen U.S. development aid later this year to help poor people lift themselves up out of extreme poverty and hunger -- key underlying causes of conflict in the world today. President Obama was a cosponsor of the Global Poverty Act as a Senator. Urge your elected officials to see that as the minimum of what we achieve this year in Congress.

The past few years have shown how modest improvements in aid from countries like ours can make a big difference. For example, 19 million children in Africa are going to school who would not have without changes we helped bring about this decade. The price tag for what we want is about equal to the cost of a week of the Iraq war. And we can help make it happen with 10 minutes of our time this week.

Tips on contacting an elected official: Many people only rarely write or e-mail their elected officials because they find it intimidating, or wonder if it makes any difference. But if we don’t do so, our point of view will be undercounted. The solution: A simple 4-6 sentence note, email, or postcard, written in 8 to 12 minutes. Begin by thinking about what approach might be most helpful to your particular member of Congress (e.g. thanks for any past leadership). Center your note on what you want your official to do. Add a reason or two and perhaps a statistic. State clearly what you want and ask for a response. If you get inspired and write more, OK. Brief is just fine.

Examples of notes to elected officials.

Dear Senator Smith,
Members of our church are discussing the economic crisis and ways government might help. I trust you see the importance of moving quickly on these problems.

I would like to see you work to strengthen financial accountability and transparency and ensure relief plans help ordinary people with their mortgages, health care, jobs, retirement and college savings, and everyday bills.

People in other countries are hurting too. Please work to add at least the $4 billion to the Intn’l Affairs budget passed by the Senate for programs addressing hunger and extreme poverty. And begin asking for passage of at least last year’s Global Poverty Act (S. 2433) to better coordinate such efforts. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, Mary L. Public

Dear Representative Jones,

The continuing Iraq War and fighting in Gaza remind us that military options have grave limits in solving conflicts. Thus, I was dismayed to see budget discussions assuming we must add tens of billions in new funding for the military, but arguing over new money for the International Affairs programs that address extreme poverty and hunger in the world -- key underlying causes of conflict.

I hope that you will work to contain military spending and expand programs that reduce violence in the world. Specifically, work for at least the $4 billion increase in poverty-related foreign aid approved by the Senate. Ask for leadership to pass at a minimum the heart of last year’s Global Poverty Act (S. 2433) to strengthen our aid. Thanks for listening. I’d appreciate a reply on what you’re doing about these concerns.

Your constituent, John Q. Citizen

Make the most of your letter: Send it to other members of Congress. And send it to a local newspaper, too! Newspapers publish letters in part by how many they receive on a particular issue. Even if your letter isn’t chosen it can help another on the issue get printed – encouraging readers to learn more and take action. We’d also love to see a copy: 1710 11th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122. For more information, see: 1-09 lpf