By Rev. David Beckmann
David Beckmann, a Lutheran pastor and economist, is one of the foremost U.S. advocates for hungry and poor people. He has been president of Bread for the World since 1991, leading large-scale and successful campaigns to strengthen U.S. political commitment to overcome hunger and poverty in the country and globally. Bread for the World is partnering with the Council on its upcoming Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security.
Tomorrow, President Barack Obama will deliver a historic address on hunger at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security. Since the early days of his administration, the president has articulated a vision of a world without hunger. His administration arrived amid a global food price crisis, during which hundreds of millions of people either fell deeper into poverty or experienced it for the first time.
The irony was that many of them were farmers. At a time when farmers should have been harvesting the benefits of higher food prices, most in the developing world were going hungry. President Obama said during his inaugural address, “To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.” It must be recognized that his administration has worked to make this a reality.
President Obama’s personal leadership at the 2009 G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, resulted in $22 billion in commitments from the U.S. and other countries for the three-year L’Aquila Food Security Initiative. Feed the Future (the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative) and U.S. contributions to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program make up this country’s commitment. At the G8 Summit this weekend, G8 country and African leaders will evaluate the progress made over the last three years and reaffirm their commitment to continue the L’Aquila work.
We have not seen political leadership like this on the issue of global hunger in a long time—if ever. I hope President Obama’s speech is a rallying cry to the American people that ending hunger as we know it is feasible—and in our lifetime. I hope he takes credit for the important steps his administration has taken to make U.S. development foreign assistance more effective: to redefine partnerships that support country-led plans, to focus on women and girls, to reverse the decades of neglect regarding agriculture in developing countries, and to understand and underscore that malnutrition, particularly in the 1,000-day window between pregnancy and age two, undermines all our development efforts because of the irreversible physical and cognitive damage it causes and that maternal and child nutrition must be a priority investment.
As civil society, it is up to us to support this bold vision. Hunger is not a partisan issue, but it will require political will and working across party lines to deliver on this bold vision. The president’s speech is a starting point to build a bridge across the aisle, across our communities, to articulate the important role that the United States can play in moving toward a world in which no child is born into hunger.