Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

65 posts categorized "1,000 Days"

Lenten Reflections: Growing and Thriving

Twin babies preemies

Photo: Pat Donahoo's twin daughters, courtesy of Pat Donahoo.

Monday, March 25

By Pat Donahoo

Babies! Whether it is mom, dad, grandparents, aunts or uncles, we all get so excited about babies. When we hear the news of expectant parents we throw parties and buy gifts and start planning what the life of the child will look like. We think about bright eyes and chubby cheeks and smiling, happy faces.

I planned all of those things for my first pregnancy, too. Then, at seven months along, I began to have problems with my health. In spite of a blizzard outside, I was sent to the hospital for tests. A quick x-ray (before the day of sonograms) showed that there were, in fact, two babies. Oh no! I need a second crib and a second car seat and twice as many clothes and bottles and diapers…..Well, at least I had two months to prepare.

40daysTen hours after my x-ray, in the middle of the blizzard, I went into labor. The doctor said not to wait, to get to the hospital immediately because the babies were coming too soon and we needed to be certain to get there before they were delivered. They arrived two hours later—about 12 hours from the time I found out there were two of them. They lost weight, had breathing problems, had to be fed intravenously. It was 16 days before I was permitted to hold them in my arms.
 
Scary? Challenging? Yes. But within a year they had each gone from weighing just three pounds to falling within normal development range. Because they had to be on oxygen those first few weeks of their lives they had to be tested for possible vision problems later. But, after those initial challenges they grew and developed normally and there were no residual difficulties.

How can preemie babies thrive? Why is it that some babies go full term and still struggle? The truth is there are a whole host of reasons. One of those reasons can be addressed: nutrition during the 1,000-day period from the start of a woman's pregnancy through her child's second birthday. I was blessed to have nutritious food, vitamins, and excellent medical care during my pregnancy. When this unexpected challenge came along my daughters were healthy enough to be able to overcome those early difficulties. How different might the outcome have been without that safety net? If they survived, they might still have had physical or learning challenges. Full-term babies without the proper care face those same challenges.

During this time of Lent, as we journey toward the cross we may travel in despair, or we may remember the rest of the story and the hope that the events at the cross birth. As we face this challenge of child nutrition, will we give in to despair or recognize the hope that lies in the fact that we can do something about it?

Pat Donahoo is executive director at Disciples Women.

Lenten Reflections: What Makes a Champion?

Three-year-old Mary plays near her house in Kamuli, Uganda. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Friday, March 21

By Amanda Bornfree

There’s a stillness that comes over me during the season of Lent. This stillness is soft yet strong, and each day, the stillness becomes stronger.

During this Lenten season, my attention is not only focused on my own spiritual growth and that of my community, but also on the growth of the 1,000 days movement. How does one become a champion for maternal and child nutrition? How does one become a stronger advocate for such an important cause?  What makes a person willing to stand up? These are the thoughts I have during moments of prayer and reflection. I know there’s not one answer.

40-for-1000_logo_blogIs it purpose coupled with perseverance? Does one become a champion by chance, or is it strictly a calling? Is a champion’s stance enhanced through experience, or from study and research? Is a champion someone who has landed at the intersection of compassion and courage? Perhaps a champion is someone who believes in moral rights and defends them? Or maybe a champion is someone who just does what needs to be done—someone with a good heart and common sense? Is it clearly our duty as Christians to be champions? Is it in our nature as Christians to be champions?

As the questions and thoughts come, I return to the stillness with my heart wide open. I’m not anticipating that any particular answer will come, or even any answer at all. I’m simply preparing myself to be moved by the Holy Spirit, to be open to playing the role that’s needed in order to shine light on the 1,000 days movement and to fight hunger and malnutrition.

I ask that you, too, during your moments of stillness, look inside yourself and become a champion for maternal and child nutrition. As a woman of faith, I believe it is in our nature to be champions for this cause.

Amanda Bornfree is a member of Bread for the World and a consultant in the church relations department.

Beckmann Testifies Before Congress, Asks for Increased Funding for Nutrition

Khato Rana plays with her daughter Rita, 2, at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal. The facility, run by Nepali NGO RUWDUC (Rural Women's Development Unity Center), restores malnourished children back to health. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

The United States has exhibited great leadership in the areas of global development, food security, and nutrition, but more must be done, said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, during testimony given Tuesday before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State/Foreign Operations.

Beckmann asked the committee to continue its bipartisan support for food security, agriculture, and nutrition—especially in the critical period from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through a child’s second birthday, also known as the 1,000-day window of opportunity. High-level political leadership by the U.S. through initiatives such as Feed the Future, the 1,000 Days Partnership, and Child Survival Call to Action has increased awareness of the importance of maternal and child nutrition around the world, but more importantly, spurred other countries to action. But, Beckmann cautioned that such actions must be accompanied by an increase in funding, as well as important reforms to the U.S. foreign aid system, such as more local procurement, a more efficient food aid system, and greater transparency and accountability. He specifically suggested raising U.S. funding for nutrition from $95 million, in the fiscal year 2013 budget, to $200 million in FY 2014.

“The U.S. government has …encouraged the world to use new knowledge about how best to reduce the carnage of child malnutrition,” he said. “We now have clear evidence, for example, that available dollars should go first to improving nutrition in pregnant women, new mothers, and young children in the critical 1,000-day window of opportunity. This will reduce preventable child deaths and lock in the potential of every child by giving them a good start to life.”

Beckmann’s testimony comes at a time when both a shrinking international affairs budget and the series of across-the-board cuts known as sequestration threaten funding for poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA). Many important international nutrition, food security, development, and humanitarian programs fall under the umbrella of PFDA. These programs build secure, healthy, and productive nations at a fiscal cost of less than one percent of the federal budget.  Beckmann cautioned that the sequester, if not replaced with a more balanced plan, will slash $1.1. billion from PFDA this year alone.

“Some cuts kill,” Beckmann said, before explaining that sequestration will deprive 600,000 malnourished children of life-altering and live-saving nutritional assistance, deny 1 million poor farmers of agricultural assistance, and will stop 5 million people from receiving lifesaving medical interventions.

“As a Christian preacher, allow me to say that our nation’s efforts to help reduce hunger, poverty, and disease around the world are important to Almighty God,” Beckmann said. “I’m convinced that God loves me, all of us, and everybody—including the millions of families around the world who struggle to feed their children.”

Lenten Reflections: The Poor Will Always Be With You?

Tohomina_washing_pots
Tohomina Akter washes pots and dishes in a pond near her home on the morning of Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Char Baria village, Barisal, Bangladesh. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Tuesday, March 19

By Inez Torres Davis

"The poor will always be with you."

These words have bothered me for much of my Christian life.  To me, it infers God’s limits as well as our own. It is possible for us Christians to miss the mark, but is it possible for God to be unable to get us to be inspired enough to end poverty? Of course, these are idle thoughts, not intended to be idolatrous, but reflective of the struggle I have had for decades with the seeming inevitability of  hunger and poverty. The poor will always be with you?

Years ago, while at Bible college, I was inspired as I sat and read this passage. I gained perspective by remembering the edicts:  Who is speaking? Who is being spoken to? What is the context in which these words were said?

Jesus was speaking to Judas.

40-for-1000_logo_blogJudas was the fellow who handled the finances (what finances there were) attached to Jesus and his entourage.  The suggestion may be made that Judas’ desire to overturn Rome and establish the new and improved Kingdom of Israel was as pointed as his ability to make sure cash was available to him for his handling of the expenses. This was likely not a system of economic cooperation he used, so it is legitimate to wonder if Judas would have really given that money to feed the hungry had he been given it.

The poor will always be with you, (Judas).

So, maybe, just maybe, Jesus was not addressing the inevitability of poverty as much as he was describing poverty as it relates to greedy folk? The kind of people who want more, more, more!  More money. More power or control.  People like Judas, who was able to exchange Jesus for some idea of grandeur and thirty pieces of silver.

At least 80 percent of humanity lives on less than $10 a day. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children, age 5 and under, die each day due to poverty. And the number would be much higher if older children were included in that figure. These dear children “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world.”  Today, 2.6 billion people around the world do not have access to adequate sanitation and about 885 million people do not have access to clean water. 

So, the children die from treatable diseases without an anointing. But the money for the ointment that could have been pressed to their skin went somewhere else.  It did not feed their bellies or eliminate their suffering or prepare them for burial, it went elsewhere.  Where did it go? 

The poor will always be with you, (Judas).

Inez Torres Davis is director for justice at Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Lenten Reflections: Looking Through a Different Lens

Child_eating_egg

By Barbara Anderson

I have never had to worry about having enough food—or enough of anything, for that matter. I have been very blessed.  However, sometimes God gives you the opportunity to look through a different lens and your perspective changes. Sixteen years ago, my husband Phil and I were in the process of adopting a baby girl from China. The period of time when we were waiting to be notified that a child had been selected for us was difficult. It was a hard time for me because I had no control over the situation.  I had to place my baby girl in God’s hands. 

While waiting, I would pray for the birth mother carrying my daughter, pray that she had access to good food and was healthy. I prayed for my daughter’s birth, that it would go smoothly and things would be OK. I prayed that my baby girl would have milk and food until we arrived in China to bring her home. I prayed for her health, that someone was watching over her. I prayed she was growing at a healthy rate and was not hungry when she went to bed at night. 

Finally, the day came when we arrived in China to bring our precious miracle home. When she was placed in my arms and I could hold her and see her, I knew that God had heard and answered my prayers. Our daughter, Carrie, had beautiful chubby cheeks and was happy and healthy.

Upon arriving home we visited our pediatrician, who confirmed that Carrie was one of the healthiest babies she had seen coming from an orphanage oversees. For many babies around the world, this is not the case. They do not have access to good food and nutrition. Their birth mothers did not have access to good medical care, vitamins, or nutritious food. 

40-for-1000_logo_blogAccording to Bread for the World, “Globally, more than one-third of child deaths are attributable to undernutrition.” In a world of technology and plenty, why can’t we put an end to world hunger?  We need to work together, through the Bread for the World and the 1,000 Days Movement, to improve maternal and child nutrition so that precious lives can be saved.

During this time of Lenten reflection, ask God what he is calling you to do so that all women and children have access to education, medical care, good nutrition, and a chance at a happy and healthy future, just like my daughter Carrie and your loved ones.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of All Hands In, an Arlington, Mass., ministry working on issues of human trafficking. She is also a past president of the American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

Lenten Reflections: Along the Way of Grief

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Inez Torres Davis (l) with a Bread for the World delegation to Africa. (Bread for the World)

Tuesday, March 12

By Inez Torres Davis

Come with me to a poor, urban neighborhood in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It's 2011, and I'm with a delegation from Bread for the World. We are headed up a sharp stairway that stops and starts in unexpected places. We carry food along this uneven, broken way, this Via Dolorosa.

Soon, I surrender my bag of powdered milk because the stair heights range from three to 18 inches. This is our second-to-last day in Africa and after all of the walking of the past 10 days, my troubled foot requires the cane I brought with me, just in case. Still, the help of my fellow pilgrims is what is getting me up these stairs, this way of grief, in stifling heat. 

40-for-1000_logo_blogWe are taking this food to two families. The food is for their graciousness in allowing a bunch of well-meaning U.S. Christians to learn from them the way of the cross. We are only visiting one family because the other family has had a death. A four year old under-nourished little boy died last night in Dar es Salaam. He died because his little, weak body could not endure chicken pox. Chicken pox is a deadly disease along this way.

This house where death has visited is on our way to the second. As we reach this house a woman’s sharp and painful wailing dissects us and great grief wraps itself around our legs, our minds, and our hearts. We stop outside her door in an African heat that seems to increase exponentially with her suffering. We suffer with her. We pray. We furtively look into one another’s eyes as we leave the food that we brought for this family on this way of sorrow.

By the time we get to the second house we realize our catalog of questions for them has shattered. We have inhaled enough of the poverty to make our chests hurt. We have ingested enough of the sorrow and we have grown heavy with knowing.  We have already learned enough. We are more than a little numb.

But I want to describe this space to you; at least, I will try. I am standing at one entrance of what is perhaps an 18x18 foot cement building. I stand at one end of a very narrow hall that opens on both sides, dividing the space further. Wide halls are not needed—there are no fat people living here, and those who can't walk don’t use wheelchairs.  Multiple households live here.  Sixteen people call this space, divided into five or six quarters, home. 

There is a communal cooking ring in the narrow hall. Blankets hang across six doors. As we hand the food—which now looks, to us, like not nearly enough to address such a great need—to the mother of the second household, she thanks us profusely. 

I need you to see this woman. I need you to see her children. We must all do more! Please, carry this story beyond the borders of this page!  Please know that we must make sure that funding for USAID, Feed the Future, and the 1,000 Days Movement continues. But we must also be bold enough, and inspired enough, to see the gospel as it is preached along this way of suffering. For the hope of the resurrection, we must ask!

Inez Torres Davis is director for justice at Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Lenten Reflections: Preparation, Meditation, and Potential

Head-start-lunchtime

By Jayce Hafner

I watched the toddlers shyly advance into the room, peeking out from behind their mothers' winter coats, their faces changing when they saw the stack of books and educational toys laid out on the floor. The children released their parents' hands and rushed toward the play area, quickly sorting through the book pile or trying out the various toys strategically positioned to catch their attention. These children were now officially engaged in Reading, Rhyming and Readiness, a Literacy Volunteers of America program where I volunteered throughout high school.

I loved playing with the toddlers because of their creative spontaneity and their desire to learn. They sat rapt throughout our story hours, constructed new works of art during our craft periods, and conjured up all manner of magical and inventive characters in our free play sessions. Each component of the program nurtured a different aspect of the children’s minds, and all the activities stimulated their desire to learn.

Still, perhaps the most significant activity of Reading, Rhyming and Readiness was snack time, when children received a balanced meal to help nurture their bodies and minds. The program leader realized the important role of nutrition in sustaining the toddlers’ energy for work and play, and empowering these children in their physical and mental development. Eating a healthy meal may be a small act, but it is one that has an enormous impact on the rest of a child’s day, and, over time, a child’s life. 

40-for-1000_logo_blogUnfortunately, many families cannot provide regular, balanced meals for their children. The toddlers who attended my program often came from low-income families, with a single mother or both parents constantly working just to make ends meet. Other children were newly arrived immigrants, having recently completed a long and arduous journey from their homeland. Although parents want to provide nutritious meals for their children, life circumstances sometimes thwart the noblest efforts. Reading, Rhyming, and Readiness grants these children one balanced meal per week, and while this gesture is helpful, it is not nearly sufficient for the toddlers.

The Declaration of Independence upholds the “right to life,” and people of faith have a calling to help safeguard society’s access to basic amenities, like clean water, education, and nutritious food. We have both a patriotic and a faithful duty to ensure that our nation’s children are not inhibited in their development, or lacking in the basic building blocks for a successful life. The gift of nutritious food not only satisfies a child’s immediate hunger, but also prepares that child to fulfill his or her own calling in the world.  Lent is a time of preparation and meditation, and it seems appropriate that we use this season to reflect on ways in which we can best prepare the children of our nation, and the world, to grow to their full potential.

Jayce Hafner is the office manager for the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations.

Photo: Children in a Head Start class in Tuscon, Ariz., eat a nutritious lunch. (Jeffrey Austin)

Lenten Reflections: Welcome the Children

12 mother and daughter in dcBy Rev. Mary Jacobs

"Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." (Matthew 18:5)

From the moment I knew that I was pregnant, I adopted new habits to protect and nourish the new life within. I started eating breakfast in the mornings. Caffeine disappeared from my diet. Fruits and vegetables replaced chocolate chip cookies and candy bars. I prepared my body to be a welcoming space, so that our unborn child could receive nourishing care.

Each Sunday as I stood at Christ’s table and broke the bread and lifted the cup as pastor, I imagined how the gifts of communion transformed into grace surging through my blood to the growing child. My faith created a spiritually hospitable space where God’s love flourished.  

Hospitality of the Jesus kind speaks of creating room for the little ones whether we are the expectant parents or not. To welcome the children in our midst creates receptivity for welcoming the anointed One of God. His penchant for such radical God hospitality brought him into relationship with those who were vulnerable and voiceless, needful of care and protection.  If we are to welcome him, we must find a way to offer such nourishing generosity to the little ones. 

His welcome of the little ones, young or differently aged, put him at odds with the powers of his day. Such an embrace situated him on the road to Jerusalem and finally to a lonely hill on a brutal Friday. 

40-for-1000_logo_blogJesus beckons us to follow him into places of power to create a gracious welcome for the children.  Such hospitality calls for hearts of courage to cultivate life nurturing habits and for voices to speak for those who are vulnerable.  To welcome the child is to assure that the pregnant mother can nourish the new life within her and parents can find the resources necessary to feed the developing body and mind of the newborn and toddler.  To do this, we welcome the Christ. 

Christ, you come inviting the little ones into your arms.  How grateful we are that each child is precious to you.  Teach us your kind of hospitality that we may make this world hospitable for them.  Lead us in the way of generosity that we may offer nourishment for developing minds, growing bodies and tender spirits.  Create within us such a steadfast welcome for the children that we open wide our hearts to you.  Amen.

Take time today to communicate with members of Congress on behalf of expectant mothers, and advocate for policies that assure young children will receive adequate nutrition and care for healthy development. 

Rev. Mary Jacobs is the International Disciples Women’s Ministries President, Transitional Interim Regional Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Northern California and Nevada, and the proud mother of two amazing daughters.

Photo: A mother and daughter enjoy a block party in D.C. (Crista Friedli/Bread for the World)

The Importance of the Best First Food

Five_month_old_boy_in_mexico

A five-month-old boy rests on his mother's back in a small town near Comitan, Mexico. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Nina Keehan

Let's discuss one of the most basic forms of nutrition. It's the first, and most important, food in a child’s life: breast milk.

Whenever the subject of maternal and child nutrition comes up, more and more people are talking the critical 1,000-day window of opportunity, which is the period from start of a woman's pregnancy until her child's second birthday. According to a growing body of scientific evidence,  undernutrition during this time is disastrous.

"Healthy development, particularly brain development, depends on getting the right foods at this critical time," according to information in Bread for the World Institute's 2013 Hunger Report. "Hunger during this time is catastrophic, because the resulting physical and cognitive damage is lifelong and irreversible."

When the medical journal The Lancet ran a series on maternal and child undernutrition in 2008, it identified exclusive breastfeeding as one of the most successful interventions for improving child health and nutrition.

That means starting early is vital—and early means during the first 60 minutes of life. A recent Save the Children report, "Superfood for Babies," found that 95 babies would be saved every hour if they were immediately breastfed after birth. Equally impressive is the fact that infants who are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of their lives are up to 15 times less likely to die from diarrhea and respiratory infections, leading killers of young children.

Yet fewer than 40 percent of infants in developing countries are exclusively breastfed. And those low numbers are not isolated to the developing world: An article published by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that the United States has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the industrialized world, and one of the highest rates of infant mortality.

"Data from 2003 indicate that 71 percent of U.S. mothers initiate some breastfeeding, and only 36 percent report feeding any human milk to their infants at six months...." the article stated. "Those numbers stand in marked contrast to Sweden, for example, where the breastfeeding initiation rate exceeds 98 percent and the rate at six months is 72 percent.”

Infants who are exclusively breastfed have fewer dental cavities, stronger immune systems, and, research shows, fewer psychological, behavioral, and learning problems as they grow up. Mothers  in the United States also get the advantage of a savings of $1500 a year on formula and feeding supplies.

There are many mothers who cannot, or choose not, to breastfeed for a variety of valid reasons—personal, situational, and otherwise. Still, it’s important to remove barriers to breastfeeding and ensure that all mothers who have a choice in whether or not to breastfeed have all of the information on its benefits.

Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.

Lenten Reflections: Honoring Maternal and Child Healthcare Workers

Doctors from a Cuban-Haitian medical brigade treat a young woman and her child in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (UN Photo/Pasqual Gorriz)

Thursday, Feb. 14

By Amanda Bornfree 

They start their days early and usually end up staying late. With hearts filled with compassion they work with unfailing passion. They have been blessed with hands and minds that heal. Each day they feel the pain, the struggle, and the sorrow of small children, pregnant women, and mothers. Each day they see the hope and the joy of tender young life. They may miss their own meals in order to feed a child or to relieve a mother’s pain. Carrying stories that are documented on medical papers and stored in their souls, they often share a few simply to make room for more. They study and work and then do it all over again, and again, each day. They know the facts and myths surrounding maternal and child health care, and they perform the gracious acts that are part of caring for mothers and babies. They are maternal and child health care.

Community health workers, caretakers, midwives, nurses, doctors, dedicated volunteers, healers—all of them live their lives to heal.

40-for-1000_logo_blogAs we pray for the anemic pregnant mother and the malnourished 9-month-old, we must remember to pray for the workers whose hearts, minds, and hands are invested in maternal and child health care. We ask the Holy Spirit to bless them with the strength, resilience, patience, and wisdom required of those who help heal the hungry and cure the sick.

During this season of sacrifice, let’s take a moment to reflect on the work of the many selfless maternal and child healthcare workers. Today, light a candle for them. Say a prayer for them. Talk to your neighbor about them. Give one of them a hug. Thank God for them! Because they are incredibly important in making sure that every child receives the proper nutrition and care during the first 1,000 days.

And for that, we show them love and support while offering our prayers. 

Amanda Bornfree is a consultant in the church relations department at Bread for the World.

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