The leaders of two grassroots organizations who are being recognized in Iowa this week for their efforts to fight worldwide hunger say political activism is the key to reducing poverty.
David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, and Jo Luck, president of Heifer International, are this year’s recipients of the 2010 World Food Prize.
Beckmann says for most people, there is a disconnect between their charitable giving and political beliefs.
“We tend as a nation to be privately generous and publicly stingy,” Beckmann said. “So the same people who go to the food bank on a Saturday and work, when it comes to voting on November 2, they are going to vote for somebody who will whack funding for food stamps.”
Bread for the World is a non-partisan Christian organization that lobbies lawmakers to address issues of poverty and hunger. Beckmann claims the issue has not been a priority in Congress since the 1970s. “Here in Iowa, people know in their bones that we can produce enough food to provide for everybody,” Beckmann said. “But in our own country, one in four kids in the current economy is not always eating. This is fixable.”
Jo Luck agrees that politicians can do more in terms of financing programs that feed the hungry, but she says the effort should involve more than just providing meals. “If we keep spending money just to give them food and not thinking how to empower them to improve their own lives, we’re really wasting our own resources,” Luck said. “We’ve got to think beyond that. We have to be planning how to provide them with the resources and the education for them to take over their own lives and become self-reliant.”
Jo Luck’s organization, Heifer International, is a global poverty and hunger relief charity based in Arkansas. She and Beckmann made their comments on the Iowa Public Radio program The Exchange. They’ll be presented with their World Food Prize awards on Thursday evening during a ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol.