Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Africa Can Inspire America in Fighting Hunger

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The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets. Kenyan Farmer. (ACDI/VOCA)

A few minutes ago, Bread for the World President David Beckmann addressed the 13th U.S.-Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, one of the official events leading to the historic U.S.-Africa Summit next week.

He focused his speech on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and its role in opening the continent’s economies and building free markets. Since 1981, Bread has maintained a long-standing focus on African development. We helped to pass the first AGOA legislation in 2000 and have been actively involved in AGOA ever since.

Beckmann in particular addressed broader efforts to fight hunger and poverty worldwide, and how African countries can inspire the United States in this effort. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

 I want to talk about AGOA in the context of the world’s remarkable progress against hunger and poverty.

The number of people in extreme poverty in the world in 2015 will be roughly half what it was in 1990. This progress against material misery is unprecedented.   I’m a preacher, so I see this great liberation as an exodus—an example of our loving God moving in our history.

Africa’s economic and political progress is an important part of this story.  The percentage of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa in extreme poverty has dropped from about 60 percent in 1990 to less than 50 percent today. The fraction of the African population that suffers from hunger has dropped from one-third to one-quarter.

Africans are often surprised to learn that many people in the United States still struggle with poverty and hunger.  It’s not nearly as severe as poverty and hunger in Africa. But ironically, we have not managed to reduce poverty and hunger in the United States since 1990.  So shifting from an aid-dominated relationship to a mutually advantageous business relationship is not only good for Africa. It is also politically important in this country that our relationship with Africa is visibly good for workers and consumers here. 

Let me suggest that Africa’s progress can also be an inspiration for the United States.  Many Americans have become discouraged about the possibility of reducing hunger and poverty. They are willing to help out at a local soup kitchen, but they no longer believe that it is possible to change laws and systems in ways that will dramatically reduce poverty.

What you have done in much of Africa to overcome huge problems demonstrates the feasibility of economic progress for the rest of the world.  Indeed, the nations of the world are converging around the goal of ending extreme poverty and hunger in all countries, including this country, by the year 2030.

The launch of AGOA 15 years ago was a significant step forward in Africa’s development, and 15 years from now we’ll look back the new partnership between Africa and the United States as another step forward toward the end of extreme poverty and hunger in both Africa and the United States.

World Prayers for August 3-9: Canada and the United States

14406614634_1f61e5a88a_hThis is a new weekly prayer series that appears each Friday on the Bread Blog.

One aspect of Bread for the World’s new Bread Rising campaign is prayer (the campaign is asking Bread members to pray, act, and give). Staff of Bread for the World in Washington, D.C., gather every Friday morning for prayer, and as part of our participation in the Bread Rising campaign, we will be praying for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.
 
We will be following the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, a list compiled by the World Council of Churches that enables Christians around the world to journey in prayer through every region of the world, affirming our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing their challenges and sharing their gifts.
 
We will especially be lifting up in prayer the challenges related to hunger and poverty that the people of each week’s countries face. In prayer, God’s story and our own story connect—and we and the world are transformed. In a prayer common to all of us—the Lord’s Prayer/the Our Father—we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This line from this prayer can also be a prayer for the end of hunger.
 
We invite you to join Bread staff in our prayers for the world’s countries to end hunger. And we encourage you to share with us your prayers for the featured countries of the week or for the end of hunger in general.

For the week of August 3 to 9, we will be praying for Canada and the United States.

Lord, You know that we can do nothing tangible to bend US policy in support of impoverished people living in the United States without your assistance. We beg You, Lord, O gracious God, to give of your supernatural power and strength that we might do better on their behalf. We ask that you send your Holy Spirit of comfort and peace to those who bare the unbearable strain of suffering from poverty. We ask for your Holy privilege to aid and assist them. Make us conscience of the fact that we are all children of God, all be us living in incarceration amid our nation’s wheat fields or huddled in homeless shelters in our cities. These things we pray in the precious name of our savior Jesus Christ. Amen

  • United States: In 2012, the official poverty rate was 15.0 percent. There were 46.5 million people in poverty (source:  U.S. Census Bureau).
  • Canada: 9.4 % live below the low income cut-off (source:  World Factbook).

Photo:  Prayer at the Bread for the World 2014 National Gathering in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

 

A Migrant’s Tale: Not From Here nor From There

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Arnulfo and his mother.  (Courtesy Arnulfo Moreno)


By Arnulfo Moreno

“This is to certify that on the 15th of June there was born a girl named Ana Maria Canata.” As I look at my mom’s birth certificate, I know she understands that feeling of never belonging.

My grandmother, my mother’s mother, Pillar Sanchez, didn’t have a normal childhood. Spain had been ravaged by a civil war while she was a teenager. Families were torn apart, children lost their parents or were shipped overseas against their will. Pillar had been forced, as many young women were, to work at makeshift hospitals, cleaning bandages, assisting in amputations, and sweeping up the pieces of soldiers that littered the floor.

Soon after the war was over she managed to get work at the Spanish embassy as “the help,” cooking, cleaning, sewing, whatever was needed. In 1945, she was brought over to the United States by a group of ambassadors. Despite the change of scenery, Pillar’s life stayed the same. Since she did not speak English and since the embassy kept her passport under lock and key, she did not have much contact with the outside world.

Fate intervened. My grandmother met my grandfather, Adalberto Canata, at an embassy banquet. Adalberto was the military attaché for Paraguay and a West Point graduate. Pillar was an embassy servant. As she was setting the table for the banquet, he fell in love.

Six months later they were married and shortly after had my mom. Life was good. Then in 1954, Alfredo Stroessner took power in Paraguay and declared himself dictator. My grandfather was going to lead a coup and wanted to take Pillar and my mother with him. Pillar had seen enough war for a lifetime and didn’t want my mom to go through that, so they stayed in DC while my grandfather left for Paraguay. The coup failed but my grandfather’s popularity in Paraguay prevented Stroessner from killing him. Adalberto would spend the rest of his life under house arrest. Pillar would never see him again.

Pillar was now an immigrant single mother working in the United States. Despite how hard she worked, she could not adequately care for my mom, so she sent her to Spain with another embassy worker. My mom was 2 years old. The worker told Pillar that little Ana Maria cried almost the entire time she was on the plane. My mother still has a fear of airplanes.

My grandmother would send for my mother many times but would then have to send her back to Spain to live with her family due to economic conditions. This instability in my mom’s life made it hard for her to have roots in Spain or in the United States either one. At age 23, my mother finally decided to stay in the United States. Even though she was born a citizen, she has always felt like a foreigner. Here she met my father, Jose Arnulfo Moreno, himself an immigrant from El Salvador. Here they raised their family.

Pillar eventually saved enough money and retired in Spain. My mom would visit her there and Adalberto in Paraguay. I only met them when I was a year old. They have both since passed away.

*

Arnulfo recently wrote about hunger and poverty as the motivation for his father’s journey to the United States. Migration stories are usually more complex than we assume. Today,  hunger, poverty, and violence are the root causes driving children and their families to flee Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. You can help change the narrative. 

Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators! Simply say: I urge you to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Please pass legislation that addresses the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America that are forcing them to leave.

Arnulfo Moreno is the media relations specialist at Bread for the World.

 

Africa Leaders Summit Coming to Washington, D.C. Aug 4-6

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A woman in Lusaka, Zambia, carries water from the well to her house. (Margaret W. Nea)

The White House will host a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit next week in Washington, D.C.  Bread for the World will urge the administration, Congress, and Africa's leaders to redouble their efforts to end hunger in Africa and around the world, encouraging support of three pieces of legislation that would make food aid more effective, enable farmers to grow more food, and open more trade options. 

“Progress in Africa shows that we can end extreme hunger and poverty worldwide in our time,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “We celebrate the impressive progress by African nations but much more needs to be done to end hunger in Africa and worldwide."

 In a statement to the press, “Bread for the World Urges Redoubling of Efforts to End Hunger in Africa” released today, Beckmann outlined three key pieces of legislation for ending hunger in Africa:

S.2421, or the Corker-Coons bill, recently introduced in the Senate. It will be the first time that the U.S. food aid program will be extensively reformed and will make the program more effective.

The Feed the Future initiative.This program launched in 2010 and is already enabling smaller farmers in Africa to grow more food. Bread for the World urges Congress to pass legislation authorizing this successful program into law.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Passed in 2000, this act needs to be reauthorized next year. The next phase of AGOA should aim to increase, as it has, trade opportunities for African farmers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.

To participate in the events virtually, follow @bread4theworld on our Twitter feed and the event hashtags: #USAfricaSummit and #TheAfricaWeWant. Using social media, you can join the conversation and remind decision-makers that ending hunger in Africa and around the globe matters to people of faith.

For additional background from Bread for the World Institute, read:  "The Push Up Decade: CADDP" and "A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond."

To learn more, watch the video from Voice of America below. VOA’s Vincent Makori talks to Faustine Wabwire, Senior Foreign Assistance Policy Analyst at Bread for the World, about the expectations of the U.S.-Africa Summit, feeding the future, and reaching the goal of ending hunger by 2030.

Elections and Building the Political Will to End Hunger

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Bread for the World member Derick Daily talks about hunger and poverty with staff of Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark), in Washington D.C., on June 10, 2014. (Rick Reinhard)

By Robin Stephenson

Members of Congress will leave behind a lot of unfinished business when they head to their home states and districts for August recess at the end of the week. Anti-hunger advocates should send them back to Washington, D.C., in November with clear orders to get to work on ending hunger.

This is an election year and all 435 members of the House and 33 senators are running for reelection. There will be many public events where anti-hunger advocates can talk to their elected or soon-to-be elected officials about hunger and poverty.  Bread for the World has created a set of resources to help advocates start a conversation. These  include a guide to speaking up about hunger at Town Halls and updated voting records so you know how your members of Congress have voted on issues of hunger and poverty.

If outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning loss earlier this year taught elected officials anything, it’s that they can’t ignore district concerns. Bread wants to help end hunger by 2030. To do that, we need to help build the political will to make hunger a national priority by 2017.  “All politics are local,” said Bread for the World’s director of government relations Eric Mitchell during last month’s national webinar and conference call.  “There won't be pressure to change anything unless they hear from local constituents.” And there is plenty to talk about.

The United States is poised to make huge strides in improving food aid that does more than just feed people in a crisis but helps build resilience so they can weather the next storm. Urging lawmakers to cosponsor The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) will help build the political will to reform U.S. food aid. Furthermore, Congress should be reminded that faithful advocates oppose provisions that would decrease food aid by increasing transportation costs by shipping more food from the United States.

At public events, we must get members of Congress talking about how they will address the root causes that are driving millions of children to flee Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Lawmakers are focused on the border between the United States and Mexico and not on the source of the problem. Congress should allocate funds in the 2015 budget for programs that can help alleviate hunger and poverty in Central America. However, appropriators are proposing to cut poverty-focused development assistance.

Recent data reports the job market is finally improving, yet more than 3 million long-term unemployed are left without emergency unemployment benefits. The end of the recession has not reached all Americans. Safety net programs to alleviate hunger for low-income families are still the first items on the chopping block. Prioritizing a jobs agenda will make ending hunger in America possible.

“We are not advocating electing one party or another,” said director of organizing LaVida Davis. “As people of faith, our task is to change the conversation and make ending hunger a priority for our elected officials.”

Hunger affects all of us. Making hunger an election issue is how we can build the political will to end it.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.

Summer Vacation Means—for Some—Meals Missed

Summer-Food-Program-Infographic

By Kimberly Burge

Kids out of school.  Unstructured days. For many people, summer vacation elicits memories and a picture of freedom and carefree times. For children who depend on food assistance at lunch during the school year, summer vacation can also bring hunger.

Of the 20.6 million schoolchildren receiving food assistance at lunch, 18 million do not receive summer meals. While there are 99,000 schools operating the National School Lunch Program, only 35,500 Summer Food Service Program sites operate nationwide. That leaves a critical gap for too many months of the year. To read more about summer hunger from the PBS Newshour, see “Why summer is the hungriest season for some U.S. kids.”

Children also continue to struggle in poverty. Last week, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 25th edition of Kids Count, an annual report that features the latest data on child well-being for every state, the District of Columbia and the nation. The report found that 22 percent of U.S. children currently live in poverty. That number has grown in recent years, due to the economic recession and the weak labor market, especially for those without a college or high school degree.

From 1990 to 2000, the official child poverty rate had declined from 21 percent to 16 percent. The robust economy contributed to that drop. But, Kids Count finds, so did an expansion of policies designed to “make work pay”—things like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and food stamps (SNAP), important programs for which Bread members advocate, along with child care subsidies and health insurance for children.  According to the report, “[These] policies supplemented low wages and reduced work expenses, contributing to the decline in child poverty. However, these gains began to unravel in the early 2000s because of a lackluster economy.”

You can read the findings from Kids Count and see where your state falls in child poverty rates here.

Kimberly Burge is the interim associate online editor for Bread for the World.

Action Alert: Senate Voting Tomorrow on Unaccompanied Children


Poverty, hunger, and violence have caused a surge in child migration to the United States from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Arnulfo Moreno

My papa, Jose Arnulfo Moreno Machado, left El Salvador to escape the violence during the civil war, and to search for a better opportunity to provide for his mother and younger siblings. He was an unaccompanied child when he crossed Central America into the United States. Today the civil war has ended but violence continues to ravage my father's homeland due to gangs, the drug trade, hunger, and poverty. Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children, just like my dad years ago, are again making the perilous trip to the United States.

The Senate is about to vote on a bill to help address the crisis of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border. This bill, S. 2648, includes $300 million for the State Department to help address the root causes that drive these children to flee their home countries, including hunger, poverty, and violence.

Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. senators in the next 48 hours and urge them to pass S. 2648, the emergency supplemental bill. The vote could be as early as tomorrow, and unfortunately, we still don't have the votes to pass it.

Can you take a couple minutes right now to urge your U.S. senators to vote yes on S. 2648?

There’s not much time! Congress has until Friday before they leave town for the August recess. The situation is urgent. Please call 1-800-826-3688 or email now.


Arnulfo Moreno is the media relations specialist at Bread for the World.

Seeing Hunger - and Christ - on Children's Faces in Guatemala


Last year Bread's multimedia manager Joseph Molieri travelled to Guatemala where he saw hunger and solutions to hunger up close. He filmed Catarina Pascual Jimenez,and tells her story in the short video, Food for the Future.

By Joseph Molieri

Reading the news stories of a surge in child migration from Guatemala does not surprise me. Last year I was there, and I saw the devastation that hunger can cause. 

In Guatemala City, the street life is alive with the calls of vendors selling their wares, congested streets, and bustling pedestrians. I took a taxi to a rural region just north of Huehuetenango, about a 200-mile drive from Guatemala City, where life was slower but harder. We had come to Guatemala to observe the impact of food-security programs, which are partially funded through grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and to gather stories for Bread’s Offering of Letters in these western highlands of Guatemala. 

As we traveled farther into the countryside, a palpable feeling of coldness grew stronger.  About halfway into the trip, we pulled over and got out to stretch for a few minutes. The indigenous locals walking by glanced nervously at us before pulling their children to the other side of the road. Roberto, my driver, said this area saw a lot of fighting during the civil war. I knew this, but I was only beginning to see and feel it. 

For many years, the indigenous Mayan population in Guatemala has lived in extreme poverty, exacerbated by a political system at times designed to disenfranchise them.  The Mayans have also experienced exclusion from development and wealth. Guatemala has made headlines in recent weeks as the country with the worst malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere and one of the hotspots where children are leaving to migrate to the United States. During my visit, I began to get a glimpse of why this might be.

At our destination I met Catarina Pascual Jimenez, a mother of four children. Her oldest son, Antonio, now 17, left when he was 15 to work as a migrant laborer. Opportunities and access to nutritious food are severely limited in her remote village. Her youngest children, Roni and Shelia, given their age at 17 months, would become two more statistics of malnourishment and stunting without the USAID program.

As we met with more mothers, we heard similar stories. These women and children had a small opportunity to overcome hunger because of the USAID nutrition program. However, for this one village with the program, there were countless more without it, where children might suffer all their lives as a result of malnutrition.  The issues these women face, like many others in Latin America, are not isolated incidents of a poor economy but rather the result from years of political unrest, bad policies both from their own government as well as neighboring countries, and racial discrimination. 

Matthew 25 asks me when I saw Christ hungry. I saw hunger in Guatemala.  I also saw that when we invest in programs and give people a hand up, we not only live out the Gospel call to “do for one of the least of these” but we alleviate conditions that cause people to migrate for survival. I called my member of Congress, and I invite you to join me.  Children like those I met are desperate and coming to the United States on dangerous journeys because they are hungry. We cannot turn our back on them. What we can do is try to change the circumstances they are fleeing.

*

Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators! Simply say: I urge you to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Please pass legislation that addresses the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America that are forcing them to leave.

Joseph Molieri is the multimedia manager at Bread for the World

Hunger in the News: UN Warns of Hunger Catastrophe, Child Poverty Rates on Rise, the Social Crisis of Mass Incarceration

A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

“UN warns of ‘hunger catastrophe’ for South Sudanese children,” UN News Centre.  “Two United Nations humanitarian agencies today called for action to stop a potential famine in South Sudan which they said is being allowed to happen, just as it occurred in Somalia and the Horn of Africa three years ago.”

“From food aid to nutritious, locally produced food: A look at fortifying flour in Ethiopia,” by Jeff Dykstra, Devex. “Nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy and the first two years of life can’t be reversed, but they can be prevented.”

“Summer Program For Hungry Kids Gets Creative With Food Delivery,” by Pam Fessler, All Things Considered, NPR. “More than 21 million children get free or reduced priced meals during the school year. But in the summer, that number drops to only three million.”

“Child poverty rates on the rise,” by Hoai-Tran Bui, USA TODAY. “In its analysis of children's overall well-being, the 25th edition of the KIDS COUNT Data Book found that about 23% of children in 2012 are living in families below the poverty line.”

“Obama Presses Central American Leaders to Slow a Wave of Child Migrants,” by Michael D. Shear and Ashley Parker, New York Times.  “President Obama on Friday urged the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to exercise what he called their “shared responsibility” to help stem the flow of migrant children toward the United States border, but the Central American leaders said America shares some of the blame for the crisis.”

“Child migrant crisis: Churches, aid workers on front lines in Central America (+video),” by Seth Robbins, The Christian Science Monitor.  “The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras meet with President Obama on the Central American crisis today. While their focus is often police and military solutions, others are seeking ways for kids to work or attend school without fear of being killed.”

“America Is Facing Its Greatest Social Crisis In Modern History,” by Matt Ford, The Atlantic, Business Insider.  “Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850.”

“The Cold War and its aftermath,” by John Norris, Devex. “Nixon defended foreign assistance as “essential to express and achieve our national goals in the international community — a world order of peace and justice.”

House Votes to Push Millions Into Deeper Poverty

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The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book by the Anne E. Casey Foundation shows that child poverty in the United States is on the rise. (Rick Reinhard)

In a disturbing trend that prioritizes the wealthy over the most vulnerable Americans, the House today passed H.R. 4935 by a vote of 237 to 171.  Bread has dubbed it the “reverse Robin Hood” bill, which takes from the poor to give to the rich. The bill could push 12 million people—including 6 million kids--into poverty or deeper poverty while giving a tax break to households making $150,000 to $205,000.  

In a media statement today, Bread for the World president, Rev. David Beckmann said,  “It is unacceptable that we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world and have one of the highest child poverty rates among developed countries. Our policies should help lower-income working families climb out of poverty - not push them deeper into it.”

We do not expect the Senate to take up the Child Tax Credit Improvement Act of 2014.  Instead, the bill, which does not extend critical improvements to the child tax credit for millions of low-income working families, could be considered as part of a tax extenders bill after the November mid-term elections.  Tax credits, like the child tax credit (CTC) and the earned income tax credit (EITC), keep more people – including children – out of poverty each year than any other federal anti-hunger program.

Although H.R. 4935 passed, 173 members of Congress still opposed the bill, thanks to the calls Bread for the World’s anti-hunger advocates made to their representatives – including hundreds of calls this morning!  Bread is calling for any final bill on the child tax credit to include the 2009 improvements, which enable more low-income working families to receive a larger credit. Your advocacy helped build momentum and educate lawmakers that this is an issue the faith community cares about.

In 2009, Congress made the CTC available to low-income working families, enabling them to begin to receive part of the credit once earnings reached $3,000. Under the recent House-passed bill, a single mother with two children who works full-time at the minimum wage (earning about $14,500 a year) would completely lose her CTC of $1,725.

Bread for the World has long championed refundable tax credits as a way to reduce hunger in America and will continue to do so.  We encourage advocates to bring up the importance of tax credits with their legislators during the August recess and make hunger an election issue. We will also continue to keep advocates apprised as legislation moves forward this year and use every opportunity to restore the 2009 improvements.

Today’s vote was extremely disappointing, but we should use it to energize our conviction that the direction in Washington, D.C., must change. It is time to buck the trends and make ending hunger a priority.  Child poverty is far too high in the United States - in 2012, 23 percent of U.S. children lived in poor families. Congress unleashed its own version of Robin Hood on millions of children today, but we as the faith community will continue to fight for what’s right.

See here how your representative voted, and read Bread for the World’s press release “Bread for the World Disappointed with House Child Tax Credit Bill.”

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