One of the most exciting new developments in the past year for Feed the Children has been the opening of a new office in Washington DC. Joining the ranks of its non-profit counterparts, Feed the Children created a government relations team to be a voice in Washington and to represent the millions of children and families we serve. Most of all we see the work of this team as the group to lead the charge into advocacy.
“Advocacy” means many things. At Feed the Children, advocacy educates, elevates conversations and promotes policies to address the systemic issue of hunger and poverty. We seek to be a voice for the voiceless. We seek to partner with governmental agencies already engaged in similar work both in the US and around the world.
Lobbying, or directly speaking to policy makers, is only one function of advocacy and is practiced by the two members of our advocacy team as well as myself and members of the executive team.
Bottom line—Feed the Children is and ALWAYS will be a non-partisan organization. We only take positions on specific issues that impact the communities we serve on a case-by-case basis. As a charity organization, we can’t make donations to any political party or endorse a candidate for public office.
In the last several months, we have built some very solid relationships with the Administration and members of Congress (on both sides of the political spectrum). We have significantly raised our profile, not only with government officials, but also with our nonprofit counterparts. It has given us a seat at the proverbial table and we have been widely welcomed.
A day in the life of our team in Washington is different every day—often driven by the legislative schedule and the needs of our programing offices at any given time.
Most recently, our team pounded the pavement working to protect the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), America’s largest and most effective hunger relief program. Recently, the House of Representatives voted $40 billion in cuts to the SNAP program but must be approved by the Senate and signed by the President to be signed into law. So the fight is not over. We are now encouraging members of the House and Senate to come up with a compromise bill that will reform SNAP while protecting the most vulnerable of our society. This is only one example of advocacy in action.
Additionally, our staff in Washington also works to reduce roadblocks. For example, gifts in kind donations have been freed in international customs because of the work of our D.C. team. They’ve also been in conversation with the US Department of State and Embassies to handle other international operational issues that affect our ability to serve more children. And of course, they fundraise too! They are busy researching international grants and domestic program grants that can increase our impact through federal funding.
In addressing hunger in the US and around the world, the situation we are faced with is that even if we quadrupled our revenue and service, Feed the Children couldn’t begin to solve the child hunger problem alone. The problem has to be addressed in partnership with those who work in Washington among many others. And, Feed the Children is glad to be here in Washington—especially during seasons like this one.