Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Discussion of Food Aid on Central and Second Street

Google Maps tells us the location of Sen. Tom Udall's Albuquerque office
There was a discussion about U.S. food aid policy at 219 Central NW (Suite 210)  in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Tuesday, August 12. The participants in this dialogue were two local volunteers for New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps, one for Bread for the World, and a local aide to Sen. Tom Udall (as well as an intern from the senator's Washington office).

Oxfam USA and Bread for the World have both put a strong emphasis on reforming food aid to make the assistance more responsive to the needs of the recipients (as opposed to have a big chunk of the money go to intermediaries). Bread for the World members brought this issue to Capitol Hill in June, while Oxfam Action Corps volunteers have made the request to the House and Senate during visits to Washington the past several springs. Here is a link to the petition drive from 2013.

NM Oxfam on Caiptol Hill, 2014
Urging Sen. Udall to Cosponsor  S2421
So the requests that Jasmine McBeath and Amanda Dezan from New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps and Ellen Buelow from Bread for the World made to Sen. Udall were not much different that those that have been brought to the senator in meetings with his aides in Washington. Xochitl Campos was the staff representative from Sen. Udall's office who met with the three advocates.

Both Bread for the World and Oxfam USA are seeking Senate supporters for  Senate Bill 2421 (Food for Peace Reform), a bipartisan initiative that provides needed flexibility to deliver food aid, making the program more efficient. So this was one of the requests that was presented to Ms. Campos.

Before the meeting, Jasmine (who is a national advisor of Oxfam Action Corps) outlined two other related requests from  from Oxfam Action Corps (two issues that Bread has supported).
  • Sen. Udall's support for effective poverty-fighting assistance (including  $1 billion for the Feed the Future program) and 
  • His co-sponsorship of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act [HR 2638 and S1271]. The bill currently has eight Senate cosponsors Republicans Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Democrats Christopher coons of Delaware, Elizabeth Warren of Masschusetts, Benjamin Carder of Maryland, and Jon Tester of Montana. (The House version obtained 47 co-sponsors and passed 390-0 in 2012).
The Aug. 12 meeting (photo: NM Oxfam Action Corps)
Ellen's Report
And Ellen wrote a short report about the meeting which also included one of the senator's interns from the Washington office. Below are some excerpts. (Note: Xochitl Campos replaced the staff member who had originally been assigned to meet with Oxfam. The meeting with Ms. Campos lasted about 10 minutes).

"The intern remembered  our New Mexico delegation that attended Senator Udall’s coffee with constituents on June 10...Jasmine chaired the meeting. Xochitl mainly asked questions about Oxfam and their local causes. I was able to include a personal story working with refugee students from Somalia. Sen, Udall is on the African subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee...My story was about teens who have stunted growth because of malnutrition. I brought up Bread’s agenda on the need for expedient aid and using local resources (build the local economy) 9 million more people could be fed with money now going to shipping companies. Xochitl consistently told us that she would pass the information to staffers in Washington...Oxfam left a folder of their material that will be sent to the DC office. Xochitl did not bring up any concerns. I really enjoyed being with Jasmine and Amanda! Thanks for the opportunity!"

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