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Volunteers Debra Anderson, Adam McGrath and Brandi Severns pack boxes of soup cans at the Lowcountry Food Bank Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019 in North Charleston. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

While it’s not something that gets a lot of attention here in South Carolina, I’d like to encourage readers to consider the critical importance of food security and global nutrition in the developing world, and the simple ways we can make a difference from here in Charleston.

In the Lowcountry, 1 out of every 5 children struggle with hunger, and South Carolina is ranked among the worst in the nation for food security for adults 60 and older, as well as for people ages 50-59. Also, reflecting on the rise of famines in the Near East and North Africa, there is a growing emergency for more than 52 million people who are chronically undernourished, both here and abroad. Our faith calls us time and again throughout the Bible to “feed the hungry.” We believe that God calls us to care for the poor, as a church and as a nation.

On the global side, most Americans don’t understand that our budget for global health and development in foreign assistance represents a mere 1% of the total U.S. budget. When you look at nutrition inside the global health account, the funding level is only 1% of that 1%. With this funding, more than 22 million children under the age of 5 were reached by USAID nutrition interventions in 2017 alone.

Last year, thanks in part to the leadership of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who chairs the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee on the Appropriations Committee, our Congress passed a $20 million increase in the Nutrition sub-account. With this increase, more than 200,000 more acutely malnourished children are being reached with vital nutrition interventions.

In May, however, the House of Representatives passed a version of the 2020 fiscal year budget, which flatlines the funding for the Nutrition sub-account. Soon, the Senate has the opportunity to pass its version of the budget. It could choose to continue the momentum and provide another modest increase to $175 million. This would enable the U.S. to increase nutrition interventions that prevent stunting, wasting and anemia, promote breastfeeding during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, and ensure our investments have long-term health, cognitive development and physical growth impacts on children globally.

We know Sen. Graham cares deeply about these issues, and we are sincerely grateful for his long-term commitment to global health and development, including hunger issues and nutrition funding.

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Not only is feeding the world’s most vulnerable populations to save the lives of millions the right thing to do, but it also is the smart thing to do. With leadership in addressing hunger, we lift up the brand of America worldwide, invest in stable societies, and provide a bedrock for successful and long-term health and development for poorer nations.

By advocating for those in need around the world, and encouraging our senators to increase this critical funding for global nutrition, each one of us has the opportunity to make a difference from right here in Charleston.

Jodi McCall is the pastor of Seacoast Missions, Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant, which partners with local organizations addressing food security here at home. At the upcoming “Chosen” women’s conference, attendees will be packing 2,000 backpacks for the Lowcountry Food Bank’s Backpack Buddy program and 60,000 seed packets to send to areas of need around the world through GAiN’s (Global Aid Network) PACKHOPE Seed Experience.

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