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U.S. food-aid programs crucial to nations in need, U.S. national security

A large coalition of maritime and agricultural organizations, companies and associations - including American Maritime Officers and American Maritime Officers Service - sent the following letter dated April 5 to Congressmen Robert Aderholt (R-AL), chairman of the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Agriculture, and Sanford Bishop (D-GA), ranking member on the subcommittee.

As drought and conflict persist around the world, 2017 has brought an unprecedented need for food assistance globally. American farmers, fishing families, manufacturers, the maritime industry and Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs) are proud to partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide food and tools, which help alleviate hunger and malnutrition in those regions and countries with the greatest need. The undersigned organizations write in support for continuing at least current levels of funding for the Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Programs in FY2018.

According to the World Food Program, 795 million people, or one in nine, are currently suffering from chronic hunger, while one in three suffer from malnutrition daily. This year alone, USAID's Famine Early Warning Systems Network projects that 70 million people will need emergency food assistance in 45 countries, and four of those countries - Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen - could suffer famine. In 2016, conflict and the El Niño caused a 40% increase in acute food insecurity compared to 2015. This year, all signs point to similar and potentially greater levels of need.

America is the largest donor of food assistance in the world, and proudly displays "from the American people" on Food for Peace donations. From 2010 to 2015, Food for Peace benefitted 52 million people in 50 countries annually. This program has not only proven vital to recipients, but also to U.S. national security. In a letter to House and Senate leadership on February 27, over 120 generals and admirals showed their support for USAID funding as it helps in "preventing conflict." Importantly, past recipient countries have "graduated" from receiving assistance to donating assistance; those countries include South Korea, France, Belgium, Austria, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus, Turkey, and Poland - and all have since become trading partners.

The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program provides millions of children access to education, and thus increases the likelihood of attending school and retaining information, by serving a meal - often the only meal those children will receive that day - every school day. Since its inception in 2003 it has reached over 44 million children in 40 countries, and in addition to serving children, also serves infants and pregnant and nursing women. In a June 2016 report to Congress entitled "The Global Effort to Reduce Child Hunger and Increase School Attendance," USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service outlined successful projects that provided technical assistance, created a sustainable program, educated girls, improved literacy and increased health and dietary practices in local communities, while also supplying meals daily. According to the 2013 World Food Program report, "State of School Feeding Worldwide," the United States contributed 60% of the overall global investment in school feeding programs. Again, to provide relief in critical times and to help in "preventing conflict," McGovern-Dole remains a critical tool for feeding and educating the future leaders of the most vulnerable countries.

With recent trends moving toward an increase in food assistance needs and global security threats, now is the time for America to continue our leadership role in the world by showing full support for Food for Peace, a program that has touched 3 billion lives in over 150 countries since 1954, and the McGovern-Dole School Feeding Program, which fosters knowledge through food. We urge you to maintain at least FY2016 funding levels for both Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole for FY2018.

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