Magazine article U.S. Catholic

No More CARE Packages: Instead of Dumping Grain in Poverty-Stricken Regions, We Should Be Investing Cash

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

No More CARE Packages: Instead of Dumping Grain in Poverty-Stricken Regions, We Should Be Investing Cash

Article excerpt

BAGS OF WHEAT OR RICE, STAMPED "U.S.A." AND pitched onto a dockyard or piled to an impressive height on a warehouse pallet is among the imagery that typically accompanies hunger emergencies in the developing world. For decades the accepted response to such crises has inevitably included massive shipments of the four horsemen of U.S. agricultural might: soy, wheat, rice, or corn. Most Americans are proud of this evidence of U.S. generosity and international concern, and see such relief efforts as good Samaritanism on a giant scale.

One tendency among those uncomfortably afflicted by Catholic social teaching is to cast a colder eye on charity-based direct service like food aid and ask--even as we respond to social needs like hunger, homelessness, or any of the other wretched companions of global poverty--how such terrible anomalies arise in the first place. How in a world of affluence and excess, in a world awash in food, can 16,000 children still succumb to starvation each day? How can the so-called developed world move beyond merely responding to hunger disasters to preventing hunger in the first place?

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Such a vast examination of conscience is never easy. It requires that old assumptions be challenged and may make new, disquieting demands on institutional, cultural, and economic privileges that have come to be perceived as simply a "normal" part of the human condition.

One old hand at disaster response has reviewed its hunger relief policies in this manner and come to a startling conclusion. CARE International has decided that some of its efforts to mitigate global hunger have only had the net effect of promoting long-term hunger among the most vulnerable people in the world and so will no longer participate in a major U.S. food aid program, phasing it out completely by 2009 and turning down approximately $45 million in U.S. foodstuffs.

According to the somewhat convoluted dictates of this program, the federal government buys crops from American farmers, ships them abroad using mostly U.S. carriers, and hands the commodity largesse off to charitable agencies such as CARE. The charities in turn sell the crops overseas and use the proceeds to finance their antipoverty programs. …

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