Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

70 posts categorized "1,000 Days"

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

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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.

Voices of Hunger: How WIC Supported My Decision to Breastfeed

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A lactation consultant discusses proper breastfeeding techniques with parents at the Dallas Community Baby Café, held at a city WIC office. (Photo: USDA)

By Amanda Bornfree

Even before my first visit to a WIC office, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my baby. I had only read a little on the importance of breastfeeding, but it was enough for me to realize that I wanted the best for my little one. Breastfeeding offers a host of benefits for both mother and baby. A breastfed baby is less likely to catch pneumonia, develop asthma and allergies, experience diarrhea or constipation, become jaundiced, or die from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). A mother who breastfeeds is less likely to have postpartum depression and develop certain cancers, and is more likely to shed her “baby weight." I was in. Sign me up. I was going to breastfeed.

In the waiting room of the WIC office that I visited monthly for my vouchers while pregnant with my first child, there were various wall posters that promoted breastfeeding. It was encouraging to see them. There were posters in both English and Spanish, catering to the diverse demographics of my Chicago neighborhood. The posters displayed information regarding hunger cues from infants, charts that compared infant formula to breast milk, and also the standard FAQ in regard to breastfeeding.

When I spoke with WIC employees they made a point to share facts about the benefits of breastfeeding, and that made me excited about the great nutrients that my body was developing. I learned that if I chose to breastfeed, I could continue to receive vouchers for up to a year after the birth of my baby, if I continued to qualify for the program—if I decided to formula-feed, the maximum amount of time would be six months. If I chose to formula-feed my baby, my vouchers would also have fewer food items on them, in order to make up for the cost of formula. WIC vouchers supply a certain amount of formula for babies, but not enough to cover the total cost of all of the food an infant needs. Breast milk, on the other hand, is not only better for the baby, but free. Wow!

It was at a WIC office that I was first introduced to the role of a breastfeeding counselor. During one of my visits, a WIC employee told me that if I had any questions about breastfeeding, or any difficulty with breastfeeding, there were breastfeeding counselors that I could call for advice. My eyes widened as she explained the details of WIC's breastfeeding program: “Once you give birth, if you are breastfeeding, we have a form that you can give to your doctor to fill out to receive a free breast pump," she said. "You have to be covered by the state to qualify. Since you’re on Medicaid, you do qualify. This will make it much easier for you to return to work or look for a job and continue to breastfeed your baby.”

Once again, I knew that WIC had my back. I knew that they truly cared and had the resources to help mothers during this critical time.

When I think of how devastating it would be to lose the circle of protection around WIC, my heart sinks. I was fortunate enough to know a little about the benefits of breastfeeding prior to visiting my local WIC office, but plenty of women are introduced to these benefits at a WIC office. I had decided that I would breastfeed prior to visiting WIC, but plenty of women have come to that decision because of WIC.

Once my daughter was nine months old, I became a breastfeeding peer counselor myself, through AmeriCorps. I wanted to do for others what was done for me–I wanted to educate and promote the facts about breast milk, and support women on their breastfeeding journeys.

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

Voices of Hunger: My First WIC Office Visit

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A mother talks to a WIC nutrition counselor outside of a farmers market in Martinsburg, West Virginia. (Photo: USDA)

By Amanda Bornfree

A couple of weeks after I found out my husband and I were expecting our first child, we lost our health insurance. We were disappointed, as is to be expected. I had been excited about going forth with my prenatal check-ups with a doctor I had chosen for her directness, serious demeanor, and expertise.

Due to our sudden shift in income, we now qualified for Medicaid and I was eligible for WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) benefits. The doctor who I had imagined would deliver our baby did not accept Medicaid. I had to look elsewhere.

A caseworker contacted me and invited me to a WIC clinic. I was a little nervous. I didn’t know what to expect and, ultimately, I wanted what would be best for my little baby. I thought, would I find it there? I didn’t want to stress.

When I arrived at the clinic, I was greeted by a sweet woman with sandy brown hair and a light voice. She was my caseworker. After filling out important paperwork, she went over my options for doctors and midwives. She spoke of each professional with respect and honesty. She shared with me the various options I could choose from. I was a little surprised that I had choices. Once I selected the professional I wanted to visit, my caseworker picked up the phone and made my first appointment. I wanted to open my arms and embrace her. But my first WIC appointment wasn’t over with yet.

“Are you taking prenatal vitamins?” she asked.

Yes, I nodded.

She pulled out a pamphlet about the nutrition that I needed as a pregnant woman. She talked me through it, and answered all of my questions. She then informed me of the WIC monthly vouchers. I would be able to receive foods with essential nutrients for my body and my baby.

Finding out that I could use some vouchers at farmers markets made me smile.  I remember thinking, my baby and I are just as important as the family that is fortunate enough to frequent farmers markets. Though I’ve never believed that I was less than anyone, I was indeed vulnerable—I was pregnant for the first time and my household income had plummeted. The assistance I received made me feel loved and important. It gave my husband and I more faith in our belief that everything was going to be alright. And that faith fed our determination to succeed.

When I looked around the WIC clinic, I saw that I was among a community of women that cared for each other. Different generations, complexions, languages, and experiences—all of us present to keep ourselves and our families healthy. We all believed in that, whether we were there to help or to receive help. We all believed that everyone has the right to live a healthy life, and that a healthy life begins during the period from the start of a woman’s pregnancy until her child’s second birthday—the crucial 1,000 days.

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

A Jar of Conversations

Memory-Jar---Notes (2)by Amanda Bornfree.

I entered her office.

Instead of a jar of candy, she had a jar of pretty strips of paper.

She offered me one.  I pulled one out.

There were words on it:

“Where there is hunger and poverty, there is almost always poor access to maternal and child health care.”

And then we had a conversation about the 1,000 Days.

The 1,000 Days Jar is a useful tool for starting conversations about the 1,000 Days movement.  It’s practical, creative, and fairly easy to make. Having conversations about the importance of maternal and child nutrition during the 1,000 day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday can be challenging at times. A 1,000 Days Jar can introduce the issue of maternal and child nutrition to those unfamiliar with it, or spark new conversations surrounding the 1,000 Days Movement.

What You Need:

  1. Computer and printer OR time and good penmanship
  2. Recycled colored paper
  3. Scissors or paper cutter
  4. A medium-sized jar of your liking, preferably a mason jar
  5. A location for the jar, such as an office desk, coffee table, etc.
  6. An informational list of nutritional facts and reasons why the 1,000 Days is important (provided below).

Steps:

  1. If using a computer, cut and paste the provided list to a document. If using pen and paper, write the list out by hand.
  2. If using a computer, print out the list.
  3. Cut out each statement.
  4. Fold each statement in half and put them in the jar.
  5. Place the jar in your location of choice.

 Suggestions:

These suggestions may inspire more conversations on how to make a difference for the many women and children who don't get the proper nutrition during the critical window of 1,000 Days.

1. Create the 1,000 Days Jar with:

  • Fellow church members during Sunday school
  • Friends and family who don’t know about the 1,000 Days Movement
  • Preteens and teenagers in your family
  • The youth director at your church

2. Step it up:

  • Either with a group or on your own, make jars for gifts and give them to friends, family members, or colleagues
  • Add Bible verses and/or spiritual quotes about hunger to The 1,000 Days Jar
  • Visit the Thousand Days website and check out their resources. Add additional facts to the Jar.

Continue reading "A Jar of Conversations" »

Why 1,000 Days?

ITD blog 8.27.12
In early 2011, Desire came to Omoana House, a rehabiliation center in Njeru, Uganda, as a malnourished young girl. But with proper healthcare and feeding – including nutrition supplements provided by USAID, she has grown healthy. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

by Inez Torres Davis.

Nutrition for the pregnant woman and her child through the age of two years is such a critical window of opportunity. Women with our own children or women who have never given birth, but have participated in nurturing children “get” how critical this is. And, maybe it’s easier for us to have these conversations for this reason, but I would really like to see men of faith step up for this one and make the commitment to have these conversations!

The 1,000 Days Movement addresses the need for those who “have” to be sure that child-bearing women, women who are pregnant, and infants from birth to two years of age receive the nutritional diet they require to avoid life-threatening physical and mental health issues such as stunting, protein deficiency, and cyclical starvation. Cyclical starvation is when the body has a hunger season each year in which important nutrients are completely lacking from their diets thus providing short term and long term health problems and in many cases, death.

While visiting three countries in Africa with Bread for the World in 2011, I saw the raw and measurable difference nutritionally caring for pregnant women and infants makes in the life of a community as well as in the life of a child. One Malawi village had not had a single case of cholera since learning how to secure clean water, sanitation, and create supplemental nutrient-rich feedings for pregnant women and babies. Dozens of Zambian infants are receiving healthy starts in health clinics and through the campaign for non-HIV positive mothers to nurse their babies.

Here in the United States, programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the food stamp program) provide a nutritionally sound base for children who would otherwise suffer the debilitating effects of malnutrition. Dollar for dollar supporting the nutrition of pregnant women and babies is money “best” spent whether it is spent domestically or as international development aid.

The call of the gospel is the call to be present with the disenfranchised. I can’t think of a more disenfranchised or disempowered person than the infant born to a malnourished woman. Simply put? This is the work of the gospel. Start to share this good news!

 

Ineztorres-davis-230wInez Torres Davis is director for justice at Women of the ELCA.

Bread Activists on the Ground in Oklahoma

OK 8.14.12

(Photo by Margaret W. Nea)

by Keaton Andreas.

It is critical that we raise our collective voice on behalf of poor and hungry people as Congress debates funding for anti-poverty programs, which is exactly what a Bread for the World Covenant Church did this past Saturday.

Hunger was the topic of discussion this weekend at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Warr Acres, Okla. The Covenant Church hosted the forum “Fighting Hunger in Oklahoma.”

Oklahoma is the fifth hungriest state in the United States, with 47,871 families living in extreme poverty (less than $11,057 a year for a family of four) and a poverty rate for children under five of nearly 28 percent.

Continue reading "Bread Activists on the Ground in Oklahoma" »

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