David Beckmann on WFPrize background

DES MOINES — At a time when the country seems so divided, David Beckmann offers a ray of hope.

Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, a faith-based hunger advocacy organization, said the country and the world are making progress in the war on hunger and that the effort has strong bipartisan support.

“I think this is God at work. This is sacred,” said Beckmann, a minister and economist.

Beckmann made his comments Oct. 14 during the 2019 Iowa Hunger Summit, which is associated with the World Food Prize. Beckmann received the World Food Prize in 2010.

USDA statistics indicate that in 2018, about 11% of U.S. households struggled with hunger, marking the seventh consecutive year of decline in that figure. And a report by Bread for the World released this fall pushes the goal of eliminating hunger in the world by 2030, stressing that hunger and poverty rates have been cut nearly in half in the last 30 years.

That has happened because governments have funded food programs, because private industry in many cases understands the importance of the issue, and because there has been a strong push by charitable organizations and society, Beckmann said.

Domestically, Beckmann said aid programs have grown as a result of bipartisan support in Congress.

That has not always been easy. The country is divided politically and President Donald Trump had proposed to cut food programs by a third. Congress did not follow the president’s lead on this issue, Beckmann said.

“That debate is over for now,” he said.

There are still important issues related to hunger, Beckmann added. One is the effort to end global child malnutrition. That remains a challenge, although support in Congress has been bipartisan so far.

Another issue is the presidential election.

“This is definitely a crucial election,” Beckmann said. “For hungry people there is a huge amount at stake” because Trump has made it clear he doesn’t support hunger programs or related items such as refugee programs.

He is optimistic, though. There is more that unites the country than divides it, Beckmann said. And the fight against poverty and hunger, he believes, is one of those things that unites people.

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Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.