(MCC Photo/Agnes Chen)

MCC U.S. board members, staff and friends gather in front of the Capitol prior to meeting with congressional offices to advocate for U.S. food aid reforms and development assistance.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. board members, staff and friends met with congressional offices in Washington, D.C., on June 26, to advocate for U.S. food aid reforms and international development assistance.

The opportunity arose as the board met nearby for one of its regular meetings. Using resources and suggestions provided by the MCC U.S. Washington Office staff, the board urged their members of Congress to increase funding to address extreme poverty, at a time when funding for foreign development assistance has been declining.

The board also asked members of Congress to reform U.S. international food assistance to make it more efficient and accessible to more people in need. This includes support for purchasing more food locally or regionally, rather than shipping it from the U.S., to cut delivery time, save money and provide much-needed support for the local economy.

For some of the board members, such as Milton Borntrager of Louisville, Ky., who also is chair of the MCC Great Lakes board, meeting with congressional staff was a new experience.

“I was somewhat apprehensive with my first visit to the Hill, but we were cordially received and were able to express our concerns,” Borntrager said. “I frequently respond to requests from agencies to write to legislators to address issues of concern. Meeting on the Hill with congressional staffers and presenting our concerns was like putting words into action.”

Dina González-Piña, a board member, Mennonite Brethren pastor and assistant dean at Fresno (Calif.) Pacific University, has done state-level advocacy through the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE)’s annual Latina Action Day. She said advocacy must be done on all levels. Local-level advocacy can have more immediate impacts. State-level and federal-level advocacy, she said, require more work and investment but make a larger impact.

According to MCC U.S. Executive Director J Ron Byler, the MCC U.S. commitment to advocacy is an integral part of relationships with local partners and churches around the world. MCC shares their perspectives with government officials working in areas of global health, food security and agriculture, migration and resettlement and development assistance.

“My visit to the Hill made me more aware of the important role of MCC to advocate for U.S. government policies that make for a more peaceful and just world,” Borntrager said. “I fully support MCC’s statement that as Christians, we believe loving our neighbors means their voices shape our messages to governments.”