September 18, 2014

World Food Prize laurete decries cuts in social service programs

A World Food Prize laureate is calling efforts to cut funding to social service programs “wrong and foolish.” Reverend David Beckmann, president of the Bread for the World organization, says proposed cuts in the U.S. House would take away food aid to 14 million people around the world.

 He notes the plan comes at a time when people are starving in the Horn of Africa.

“The House has proposed a cut in humanitarian assistance in the face of famine. It just seems crazy to me,” Beckmann said. He spoke to reporters today at the World Food Prize events taking place in Des Moines. Beckmann said just six-tenths of one-percent of the U.S. budget goes to help reduce poverty and hunger around the world.

“I think we’re all aware that the U.S. government needs to reduce its deficit, but that can be done in lots of ways without making hungry people hungrier,” Beckmann said. So-called “social safety net” programs in the U.S. account for 19-percent of federal spending. Those programs include SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. One in five Americans use SNAP benefits. Beckmann said backers of the House plan to cut funding to those domestic programs by 20-percent claim they’re targeting waste, fraud and abuse.

“My argument would be let’s not cut the 20-percent of funding we’re spending on poor people,” Beckmann said. “Let’s use it better. If there’s a program that’s not working well, and there are some, then let’s move that money into the programs that are working well and not take the money away from poor people.”

Beckmann said there’s evidence that social safety net programs have worked and “kept hunger at bay” during the economic crisis. “I’m a preacher and I just think, morally, it ought to be a real high priority to keep kids in Iowa from going hungry,” Beckmann said. The Iowa-based World Food Prize is awarded annually to individuals for their efforts to fight worldwide hunger.

Beckmann won the award in 2010. This year’s recipient’s, former Ghana president John Kufuor and former president of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will be honored at a ceremony tonight at the Iowa State Capitol.

www.worldfoodprize.org