Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

10 posts from August 2007

Who labors on this Labor Day?

Sewer_workers For most Americans, Labor Day means celebrating a day with no work.  We enjoy our three day weekend, perhaps we travel out of town or hit the beach to escape the heat.  While most of us enjoy this time, many workers in our nation do not have the luxury of a three day week. 

In today's Washington Post, E.J. Dionne excellently expounds on the fact that too many Americans who work day in and day out (oftentimes at multiple jobs) cannot "get by" in the "Land of Opportunity", no matter where we put the "federal poverty level". You can bet that almost all of them will have to work this weekend. 

This Labor Day, Iet us remember the workers of the world, the labor movements who tirelessly rally for equality and justice and the hard work of those who may not have the luxury of a "day off."

(Flickr Photo: Working in the Sewers by schani)


Give me an L! Give me a T! Give me an E!

What's that spell?  Media activism!

Or in other words, have you written a letter to the editor (LTE) of your local newspaper or college newspaper today?  A couple weeks ago, our office here in Texas, with the help of the Sustainable Food Center, had an Op-Ed published in the Austin American-Statesman titled "Keep Farm Bill Reform on the Table."  You can read it here.  While it was definitely exciting to have something of that length and substance run in the paper during such a crucial time, what was even more energizing was having Bread for the World activists write LTEs as follow-up, especially since two of them were published! (you can read both letters at the bottom of the page here).

And believe you me, not only were the Statesman's 200,000 readers absorbing the affirmation, passion, and knowledge in those letters, but Congressional members see them too.  Every time an article or letter or Op-Ed is published in their district/state with their name on it, they see it, and they take notice.  Because they work for you!

As already mentioned, now is a crucial time for letters like this.  The Senate will most likely be taking up the farm bill in October, and we have high hopes that broad reform that will benefit farmers of modest means and poor and hungry people domestically and internationally is a good possibility.  You don't need an Op-Ed to write a letter in response to, either.  If you're unsure of what to say, you can contact us for talking points for an LTE and/or a sample letter to write to your senators today!  The timing will work out great for when the bill comes up in a month or so.  Also, if you're a member of the Bread for the World Facebook group, the sample letter is posted in the discussion board there.

So - you're done reading this...take 5 minutes NOW and write a letter to both of your senators!  Submit a letter to your local paper!  Your voice counts, and it matters - Thank you in advance! 

Food Fight!

Ever wonder what happens when a Twinkie steals the farm bill from an apple? Okay, maybe not... but these guys did:

Go Apple!

Would you turn down $45 mil if you knew it was hurting the poor?


CARE, the well-known and respected development organization, says, "You betcha."  CARE made international headlines last week when they chose to reject a form of US food aid commonly known as monetization.  The NY Times took a stab and explaining the way this type of food aid works:

Under the system, the United States government buys the goods from American agribusinesses, ships them overseas, mostly on American-flagged carriers, and then donates them to the aid groups as an indirect form of financing. The groups sell the products on the market in poor countries and use the money to finance their antipoverty programs. It amounts to about $180 million a year.

Experts agree that this type of food aid undermines local producers and its not an efficient use of resources.  We applaud CARE for their bold decision!  We can also act boldly by advocating for fairness in our food aid policy under the 2007 farm bill.  Instead of using food that is shipped directly from the US to feed people in emergency situation, we believe there should be flexibility to use cash purchases to buy food directly from local and regional producers.  In fact, the Bush Administration supports this change and asked for 25% of food aid resources to be available for this purpose in the 2007 farm bill.  Let's hope that the Senate adopts this important reform when they consider the bill in a few weeks.

Read more about CARE's decision here.

St. Francis of Assisi and the ONE Vote 08 Campaign

By Elaine VanCleave and Carlos Navarro

"Preach the Gospel every day, and if necessary use words,"  Sen. Tom Daschle told participants packed into St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, at the launch of the ONE Vote 08 rally in the nation's capital on a pleasant afternoon in June. 

In case you didn't recognize that statement, it came from one of the most quotable personalities in history, St. Francis of Assisi.

St_francis And it's true that politicians and other public figures are fond of quoting St. Francis.  But Sen. Daschle's decision to bring the venerable saint into this event is much appreciated.  Many of us often get caught in the "mechanics" of social justice and forget that our motivation is to do the work in the light of the Gospel.

There is another saying from St. Francis that applies in this case: "It is no use walking to preach unless our walking is our preaching." 

Which brings us to the rally itself.  It has been almost three months since ONE launched the ONE Vote 08 campaign with the purpose of ensuring that all the candidates (whether Democrat, Republican or independent) make global health and extreme poverty foreign policy priorities of their campaigns in the 2008 presidential election. And thanks to ONE activists around the country, almost everywhere a candidate has spoken during the past few weeks, he or she has had to discuss how to address the problem of global poverty (See ONE blog).

We intended to write this blog post several weeks ago but time got away from us.


Anyway, we think it is still very timely to share fond memories of the rally.  After all, we played hooky from the Bread for the World National Gathering just so we could go to this event.

On that day, St. Mark's was bursting at the seams, not only with people but with a level of energy that we can only describe as "electric hope." And why not? Several key high-level operatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties were present, not only to endore the goals of ONE Vote 08 but to lead the effort in making global poverty and disease a key topic of discussion during the presidential campaigns.

There were other celebrities and very important people at the rally, including the actress Connie Britton, who once starred in the TV sitcom Spin City, and more recently as the mom in the drama Friday Night Lights.

Conniebritton Ms Britton reminded us, in this time of fierce partisan politics, that ending hunger and poverty are American values that unify us all.  She described ONE Vote as "an opportunity to deepen the unifying process of our elections."  She said, as Americans, "in whatever party, we can unite with each other and with people around the world in our dedication to a world without hunger, without poverty, without these treatable and preventable diseases, and without suffering.  These are American values that can truly make us proud as voters."

Pastor Brian McLaren's remarks were especially moving, particularly his comments about the transforming experience of meeting face to face the people whom we help.  He said, "Something happens when you actually encounter people and they stop being a statistic and start being a neighbor."  Wow! How often do we quote grim statistics when speaking about ONE? The figures are staggering, can be quite overwhelming, and sometimes, even paralyzing. 

Jointone1_2 But, in that very room, just moments before Pastor McLaren (pictured at left) spoke, the African Children's Choir had performed. This spirited group of children are all orphans from Central Africa, children who represent the statistics.  When the pastor spoke, we thought of these children, who are indeed our neighbors, as the reason why we will follow his lead and ask our presidential candidates "again and again.  What are you going to do for our neighbors?"

That’s what The ONE Campaign is all about: to move our society to take common responsibility for solving the problems of global poverty and disease. St. Francis said it so eloquently: Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.   

[Note: The picture of the statue of St. Francis was taken outside the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Rancho de Taos, N.M.)

We will miss you, Erin!

Tomorrow is Erin Luchenbill’s last day at Bread. She and her husband, Tim, are moving to Michigan. Erin has been our Campus Organizer for the last five and a half years, working with students across the country to build an advocacy movement against hunger. She is a great colleague and friend, and an inspiration to all of us. Erin was also the founder of Campus Bread, so we thought it would be fitting to post a tribute to her today from her fellow bloggers.*

Erin and I traveled together for the first time in March 2005.  We went to Berkeley for the COOL/Idealist Conference.  It was super fun to chill in Berkeley – eat crepes, hang out at a campus pub and connect with campus activists around the country.  I learned so much from Erin during that short trip and have continued to enjoy our travel time together.  I will always remember our last trip out to a local campus near the beach in Los Angeles.  The professor forgot about our visit, so we went to the beach instead, dipped our feet in the ocean and ate yummy food!  Erin – I am so grateful that our time has overlapped at Bread.  May the next path of life fill you with joy.  We will miss you!

Holly Hight
Faith Outreach Organizer

Erin's infectious energy and passionate pursuit of justice will be sorely missed.  Her sense of fun and gift of creativity weren't just assets to her job as campus organizer, but moreover they informed how she dealt with all people - which is what the job of campus organizer is all about: people.  Erin will be missed first and foremost because she's a "people conduit" - she makes people feel empowered, excited and engaged in doing something meaningful with their voices and passions for other people and she's always looking for new avenues to do it through.  Without Erin, there is no 'Bread Blog' or outreach to "emerging leaders" or...I could keep going!  She's been a great example to learn from, a great colleague, and a friend above all - to all she works with.  Godspeed, Erin.

Seth Wispelwey
Texas/Oklahoma Region

She looks like a college student!!!  That is a great qualification to have when working with college students but that is just superficial – Erin brought SO MUCH more to her position as college organizer for Bread.  I was privileged to work with her as we launched three campus chapters of BFW in Birmingham.  Our first big project, though, was a BFW/ONE event at Samford University in Fall 2004.  (I’ve been told that this event, that attracted 300 area college students, was the very first grassroots-organized ONE event in the country!)  One of the best lessons Erin taught me was to NOT call college students “kids”!!! I still slip up now and then but will always remember her thoughtful explanation as to why “kids” was not an appreciated term.
Good luck, Erin!!! We, I especially, will really miss you!

Elaine VanCleave
BFW Volunteer District Organizer
Birmingham, AL

From the moment I arrived at this office, Erin has been incredibly supportive. Whatever my questions, from how to schedule an appointment on Outlook to how I should organize a presentation, Erin has always been willing to stop what she is doing to help me. I will also miss our morning chats about our shared appreciation for colorful socks, Harry Potter, and Word of the Day emails. Her energy and enthusiasm are contagious. Erin, as you move on, I look forward to hearing about your new adventures, ideas, and ever-expanding lexicon! 

Miriam Straus,
Organizing Assistant
Washington DC

Because I work at the University of New Mexico, I have had many opportunities to interact with student organizations and campus ministry groups.  My involvement in hunger-related forums and Bread for the World activities on UNM's campus has been much easier because of Erin's support.  Not only could I count on her to send the materials I needed, but she was always there when I needed a second opinion about a proposal or  project. For example, she helped us organize an Offering of Letters at the Student Union building in 2005 and sent a lot of helpful information for our Hunger Awareness Week in 2007. And thanks to Erin's assistance, we were able to send three young people to Bread for the World National Gatherings in 2005 and 2007.

Carlos Navarro
BFW State Coordinator
New Mexico

“Like a wink and a smile…”
Erin Luchenbill’s smile crinkles deep into her eyes, drawing you into her mirth and sharing the simplest joys.  From the day I started here at Bread for the World I’ve felt embraced by that smile, welcomed with a sincerity of heart. I have been blessed time and time again to be challenged by her passions and encouraged by her faithfulness.  All the best wherever life takes you, sweet Erin!

Diana Smith
International Policy Intern
Washington, DC

A kind spirit, a welcoming face, a fellow chocoholic and book aficionado – there is so much to love about Erin.  She will be truly missed.

Dana Olson
Development Associate
Washington, DC

When I think of Erin, I think of gentle strength.

Sister Margaret Mary Kimmons
Religious Community Outreach
Washington, DC

*Some of the titles we nearly used for this post:

Everything's Going A-Rye

Flour Power Loses Some Oomph... But We Will Rise Again!

Who Will Post Post-Erin?

Erin Rolls Out

Campus Bread Loses its Butter

Breadblog Loses a Cog - and We're Agog!

Elaine Goes to a ONE-Themed Birthday Party

There are all kinds of celebrations of life. Weddings. Wedding Showers. Bachelor Parties. Graduation Parties. Baby Showers. Birthday parties. Quinceañeras.  You name it.

Imagine using these festive occasions to commemorate The ONE Campaign! 

Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger offers a great example.  The organization developed a program to encourage young people to combine the joyous occasion of their bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah with an action to create awareness about hunger and poverty"Taken together, these two things (the tragedy of hunger and the happiness  of a bar/bat mitzvah) represent the joy and sorrow of life. Both deserve your family's attention," says Mazon.   

And one couple in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., who is very committed to The ONE Campaign used the occasion of their nuptials this past July to hold a ONE-themed wedding.

This brings us to the ONE-themed birthday party that was held in Birmingham, Ala., this summer, in which our good friend Elaine VanCleave was privileged to have participated.  You Know Elaine. She's blogged here before and will blog here again.

Onebirthday2It is quite evident that Elaine encountered a raucous crowd at this event,.  Just look at this picture!   [What ever are they doing?  Using a ONE band as a garter?]   

Read Elaine's account on the ONE blog about how this party came about.   

So the next time you have a celebration of life, perhaps you might consider a ONE-themed party of some kind.  Who says you can't have a great time while bringing attention to our  efforts to end global poverty and disease and to support the Millennium Development Goals?

Engaging a candidate on behalf of ONE

Megan Marsh and Andrea Bateman, Bread for the World members and ONE volunteers from Colorado Springs, traveled to the beautiful mountain resort of Aspen on August 9 to attend a speech by presidential candidate John Edwards. Below is Megan's account, along with some pictures and captions.


By Megan Marsh

Andrea and I drove all the way up to Aspen to hear former senator John Edwards address an audience at the Aspen Institute. We arrived early and got to sit in the second row.

Afterwards, Mr. Edwards told us that he liked our shirts and has lots to say about what ONE is vocal about. He claimed to be the ONE campaign's biggest supporter out of all the candidates...

I think that remains to be seen, but thanks for the photo op, senator!!

MeganAndreaHe mainly spoke about domestic issues such as universal health care and eliminating tax breaks for the extremely rich. He did speak a little bit about trade and how we need to look at who it is benefiting - the multinational corporations at the expense of the middle and working class American.

I tried to ask him how he would make trade more fair for those who live in the developing world.

This was after his speech and his staffers were trying to get him out of there. He said he didn't have enough time to share everything he has to say about that, but that he does have a lot to say, and he said he is a big supporter of the ONE campaign.


"You'll notice in the first picture he's wearing a coat and tie...he quickly looked around the room and saw he was the only one in the room wearing one...you're in Colorado, senator! Lose the tie!Oneedwards3blog

"That does feel better," he said after removing it."

Read what the local media had to say about Sen. Edwards' speech:
The Aspen Times
The Aspen Daily News

Foreign Aid Polling

From the ONE blog today...

Last month, ONE enlisted the help of Peter D. Hart Research Associates and McLaughlin and Associates to conduct a bipartisan survey of likely Democratic and Republican New Hampshire primary voters. Here are some of the highlights:

*Nearly all Democrats (97%) and 70% of Republicans agree that America’s standing has suffered in recent years. In addition to a strong military, Democrats (91%) and Republicans (78%) agree that the United States also needs to improve diplomatic relations by doing more to help improve health, education and opportunities in the poorest countries around the world. Both Democrats (81%) and Republicans alike (70%) agree that reducing poverty, treating preventable diseases and improving education in poor countries around the world will help make the world safer and the United States more secure.

*Democrats and Republicans agree that America has a moral obligation as a compassionate nation to help the world’s poorest people through foreign assistance. More than nine in ten Democrats (93%) and 84% of Republicans agree that when millions of children around the world are dying from preventable diseases and hunger, we have a moral obligation to do what we can to help. Similarly, Democrats (90%) and Republicans (85%) agree that it is in keeping with the country’s values and our history of compassion to lead an effort to solve some of the most serious problems facing the world’s poorest people.

*When it comes to addressing these issues, Democrats (86%) and Republicans (67%) agree that it is important for Presidential candidates to discuss their plans for addressing global hunger and poverty issues in this campaign. Additionally, eight in ten Democrats (81%) and Republicans (80%) agree that the next president should keep the commitments made by President Bush to prevent and fight the spread of AIDS in Africa.

How Big Are Your Sneakers?

Footprint_feetHave you ever wondered what is the largest size of shoe on Earth?  According to "29 Poster Series," it's  Size 29. Imagine what size of footprint  the person who owns that foot would leave!   

Now let's put that foot in the context of the Millennium Development Goals and in particular, the Seventh Goal of attaining Environmental Sustainability.   And let's pretend that the western industrialized nations are the ones with the humongous foot.   

And then we must ask ourselves the question: "What kind of ecological footprint are we leaving?"

Then we are forced to admit that our consumption habits (or dare I say overconsumption habits) of natural resources and energy have contributed to the devastation of Mother Earth. There are many practical personal steps we can take to contribute to making our global human habitat more sustainable. Do I drive to work every day or can I take public transport or ride a bike? Have I installed energy-saving light bulbs at home? Do I buy only the produce that is grown locally? Or do I make it even more local by growing my own fruits and vegetables? Am I aware that buying water in plastic containers is very damaging to the environment?

What kind of ecological footprint are you leaving? 
Take a quiz
After you've taken the quiz, perhaps you might want to take some actions. Dr. Bruce Milne, director of the Sustainability Program at the University of New Mexico, and his assistant Mariel Tribby have created a handy kit to help you move in the direction of greater sustainability. The kit requires that you find a buddy or buddies to help you make sustainable changes in your lifestyle.   
Click here to access the kit (in .pdf format).

At a broader level, the government of South Australia has launched a wonderful campaign to measure the ecological impact of those citizens that live within its borders on Earth.  The illustrations at the top are from the campaign flyer.  Click here to download South Australia's Ecological Footprint flyer (.pdf.format)

I recently had the pleasure of spending a few minutes with one of the foremost experts on environmental sustainability and ecospirituality, Sister Paula Gonzalez, a Sister of Charity-Cincinnati.  Sister Paula and I chatted at the Center for Action and Contemplation's Great Chain of Being conference in early August.

Sister Paula is the founder of  EarthConnectiona center for learning and reflection about living lightly on Earth. The solar-heated and energy efficient office named La Casa del Sol is a revitalized chicken coop. The center has implemented a permaculture demonstration project and 16 raised garden beds that, with the help of volunteers provides fresh, organic vegetables for low-income residents in the area.

Sister Paula proudly wears her white ONE wrist band everywhere she goes, not only as a symbol of the Seventh Millennium Development Goal, but also to draw the connection that all eight Millennium Development Goals are related. The truth is that if we take seriously the concept of sustainability, then we will consume less, which means that resources can be spread out more evenly, eventually making it easier to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty, fight AIDS and other diseases, and attain basic primary education for everyone.

Click here for a slightly different version of this piece

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