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Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, Bishop of Joliet
Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, Bishop of Joliet

Every year on this fourth Thursday of November, we gather together to express our gratitude for the food on our table and the richness we have in our lives.

It is an annual acknowledgment of the bounty of God’s creation – its soil and seeds, its rain and sun, and, of course, its farmers who since the beginning have carried out God’s command to “cultivate and keep” the land. (Genesis 2:15)

This year, I ask that you take a few minutes to consider the situation of some of our brethren farmers, not only the ones who raised your turkey, but the many farmers living in poor countries who depend on only a few acres of usually very poor, water-deprived soil for their very survival.

Their challenges can be immense.

In too many places, topsoil is disappearing, blown away by the wind as it once was in the U.S. during the Dust Bowl years.

Traditional ways of farming have stopped working as a changing climate alters patterns of rainfall, pest infestation and crop disease. Seeds that have worked for generations suddenly no longer grow.

Small farmers in much of Africa, Central America and parts of Asia are facing these devastating variations and no longer can count on the land to feed their families.  

We can all be thankful that we live in a country with an immense bounty, along with a legacy of generosity and compassion.

This is reflected in U.S.’s foreign aid pro-grams
such as Food for eace,
which for more than 60 years has provided emergency food assistance from
America’s bounty to those facing droughts, floods, typhoons, earthquakes and the like.

Indeed, the Food for Peace program is central in our country’s response to the 81 million people now needing emergency food assistance in 45 countries, four of which are in imminent danger of famine.  

The Food for Peace program also supports development programs that help the poorest farmers end the cycle of hunger.

Among other things, these programs focus on improving soil quality, stopping runoff and replenishing local water resources using conservation methods.

Through Catholic Relief Services programs, with Food for Peace support, barren landscapes in places such as Ethiopia, Niger, Lesotho, Honduras and Nicaragua have been transformed to lush, green areas.

This boosts agricultural production and insulates farmers from drought.  

In Malawi, for instance, in communities where streams and wells historically have dried up for months out of the year, CRS’ Food for Peace-supported program has made water available year-round, allowing these communities to irrigate crops.

Even in the middle of a historic drought last year, these villages did not need any outside help. 

Many poor farmers around the world now are able to grow their share of the bounty that this world provides, and are thankful for American generosity in helping them get there. Many more still need our help in bringing new life to their farmland.

Let’s keep up this good work by telling your members of Congress to support programs such as Food for Peace.

Keeping Food for Peace adequately funded will allow people in many countries to celebrate Thanksgiving with us.

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