Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

19 posts from September 2007

Ideas worth spreading....

Each year, thousands come together for the TED Conference - a gathering devoted to discussion of ideas.  As an organization that is committed to acheiving the Millennium Development Goals, I was particularly interested in TED's theme talks on Africa.  The following two women stood out to me as amazing story-tellers. 

Jacqueline Novogratz discusses the use of capital and investors must listen to the needs of local people.  Watch here.

I also had a chance to listen to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (pictured above) who is the former Finance Minister of Nigeria.  Her discussion of aid effectiveness and its impact on her family is incredibly moving.  Watch here.

Let's fast together!

Drop the Debt
Originally uploaded by Clav

Jubilee USA is urging people to pray and fast as a witness to global poverty and injustice.  From Sept 6-Oct 15, join hundreds of people around the country in this action.

Sign up here and see who else is fasting!

Are you participating in the Rolling Fast?  We want to hear from you! Post in a comment about why you decided to engage in this action.

The Beatitudes, Faith and Politicians

As I was reading the latest edition of Sister Joan Chittister's column From Where I Stand, which is published in the The National Catholic Reporter, I noticed that she quoted an organization that I much respect.  You guessed it: Bread for the World.

It's really great when you see someone outside the organization makes references to Bread's anti-hunger lobbying efforts or its well-respected reports.  It's even better when that reference comes from someone whose opinion you very much respect.   

Here's what Sister Joan said:

If "feeding the hungry" is a basic, we're slipping, no matter how much we congratulate ourselves on our virtue. According to Bread for the World, a faith-based movement seeking justice for the world's hungry, over 35 million people -- including 12.4 million children -- live in hunger in the United States. They skip meals regularly or, when they eat, eat too little. Some of them go without food, the report says, for entire days.

Let me put it in context.  In her column, Sister Joan was discussing how the subject of faith often becomes more of an election strategy in political campaigns.  We tend to embrace candidates who talk about being "religious," but don't question whether they are truly committeed to religious principles, i.e. the basic Gospel values of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving drink to the thirsty, housing the homeless and other basic human rights.

I urge you to read the entire piece Click here   I found it really worthwhile, and I think you will too.

MDG Yeah You Know Me

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...but do you know them? 

This year, Bread for the World and other organizations like the Millennium Campaign took stock of where we are as a country and world in achieving the MDGs (the Millennium Development Goals).  The reason this year was especially important is because we are now halfway to where we should be in meeting the goals that were set in 2000 if millions are to be liberated from extreme poverty, chronic hunger and more by 2015.

To read the UN report and a good summary of how we (the U.S. and 188 other member nations of the UN) are doing as we pass halfway point, read this fantastic article that simply and effectively breaks down each of the 8 goals and where and how progress has been made around the world.

Topping it all off, keep an eye out in the coming months for the rolling out of Bread for the World's 2008 Offering of Letters Campaign, where we will push our elected leaders to fund poverty focused development assistance programs in the U.S. budget at high-enough levels that we can do our part as a country in realizing these vital goals.  You can even write them a letter today to start encouraging them to think about these priorities now!

One last concrete way to get the ball rolling on MDG awareness - STAND UP!  Click on that link to learn how you and those in your church or school can join millions around the world in standing up in unity against poverty!

Extra! Extra! Student Lobby Day this Month in Washington, DC on the Farm Bill!

This just in from our friends at Oxfam America - if you want to go, the info is below!  Senators and representatives constantly say that they a.) want to hear more from young people and b.) that students are voices that they pay special attention to.  Your voice matters!


National Student Lobby day: Students United for a fair Farm Bill

Who are we lobbying?
Our Senators on September 21, 2007! Call your senators using the Capitol Switchboard: 202 224 3121

Who is doing the lobbying?
You! Along with other students from Oxfam America , United Students for Fair Trade, and the Student Trade Justice Campaign. We have delegations coming from George Washington, Yale, Vassar, Georgetown , University of Louisville , Furman, Drew, UCLA and other schools. Housing provided.

Make your appointments today and email your interest to Amanda Formica at aformica@gwu.edu and Jimmy Kelly at jakelly@vassar.edu by September 10 if you live outside DC and September 12 if you live in DC.

Please contact us also if you are unable to attend but are interested in leading a day of action on your campus; we will also be coordinating a national call-in on the same day.


Bread for the World members from New Mexico lobbying Congress in June 2007. 


What is the purpose of my studies?


By Ileana Garcia-Soto, Church Relations Intern at Bread and student at North Park Theological Seminary

"What is the purpose of my studies? In favor of whom do I study? Against what do I study? Against whom do I study?"

I encountered these questions while reading Pedagogy of Indignation by Paulo Freire.  As a new semester starts, we must ask ourselves these questions. Every area of study has the potential to work for change in the world. If you think that a mathematician or a biologist has nothing to offer, you are wrong.  Paulo Freire would say that we all take part in this world with what we do or not do.

As you start this new semester, reconnecting with friend and building new friendships, present them with these questions. Give them the opportunity to question if they are studying for the sake of studying or if there is more to that.

As you probably have noticed how we use our education is very important to me. Achieving universal primary education, Millennium Development Goal # 2, is not a small goal and the impact of meeting this goal will be great. It breaks my heart to think that children, especially girls, in many countries will not start school this semester.  Those who do have the opportunity to attend to school may not learn well because they are hungry.      

Those of us with access to higher education must rethink how we are using it. How education will ignite action today?  Your action!

Participate in the Rolling Fast for Jubilee

Organize a Stand Up Event in your community for October 17

"Fine livin' off comm-od-it-ies...."

The folks over at Environmental Working Group created this pretty slick video.  Check it out.

“I want my Deep Fried Food!”

Fruit Salad
Originally uploaded by Alromaithi

When New Jersey Middle school students returned to school this fall, they had quite the shock – no more FRENCH FRIES!  The school district had removed all deep fryers from the cafeteria kitchen.

“It wasn’t a clean transition over that, I’ll be honest,” said Patricia Johnson, the food service director, who noted that the district now offers baked fries, though not every day. “We had a lot of pouting that lasted about two or three weeks, and they got over it.”

According today’s NY Times, school districts throughout our nation are taking steps to combat childhood and youth obesity.  The national nutrition standards for schools are sub par at best.  Healthy food choices start with healthy food environments.

Learn more about obesity and hunger at BFW’s website.

John Denver and the Artistic Community's Concern about Hunger

The performing arts community has traditionally been involved in promoting human rights, environmental protection and actions to address famine, hunger and poverty. 

Folks from my generation can just barely remember Ravi Shankar and George Harrison organizing Concerts for Bangladesh to help raise funds to help refugees from that country in 1971. A decade and a half later, there was the album We Are The World, intended to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia in 1985. Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson wrote the title song for the album.

And long before Hurricane Katrina's devastating blow to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005, there was New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness, with the Neville Brothers playing a prominent role in the organization's efforts to fight poverty in New Orleans (with participation of nationally known recording artists like Linda Ronstadt and Jimmy Buffet).

Much of the recent focus has been on the Irish rock band U2 and its leader Bono (along with dozens of rock groups like Coldplay) and their efforts to end global poverty and disease. As we all know, Bono was prominent in creating The ONE Campaign.  His efforts were initially channeled through an organization he created called DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa).

Few people are aware of John Denver's involvement in the anti-hunger movement. When someone mentioned his name, I usually thought of the song Take Me Home Country Roads or the sweet ballads Today or Annie's Song or of the mild mannered grocery clerk who encounters George Burns in the movie Oh God!

But did you know that John Denver, a native New Mexican, served on President Jimmy Carter's Hunger Commission? In fact, he wrote the song I Want to Live while serving on the commission. Here is an excerpt: We are standing all together...face to face and arm in arm...We are standing on the threshold of a dream...No more hunger, no more killing...no more wasting like a way..It is simply an idea...and I know its time has come....

And did you know that John Denver also wrote a song about the plight of refugees everywhere? That song, Falling Leaves, is also one of the pieces that inspired Hank Bruce, a Bread for the World member from Rio Rancho, N.M., to write an entire book called Peace Beyond All Fear: A Tribute to John Denver's Vision. 

For Hank and his wife Tomi Jill Folk, I Want to Live, has an even deeper meaning. It is the unofficial theme song for organization they helped create called Hunger Grow Away, which uses gardening as a means to fight hunger in the U.S. and around the world

Hank's book, a collection of 15 stories based on John Denver's songs, celebrates peace, the environment and the human spirit.  The stories are inspired by the singer's music; they are not the stories behind his songs.

Hanks_cover "As we rediscovered some of the other songs and learned more of the amazing amount of work he did for peace, hunger solutions, the environment and the human condition we amassed a good collection of his work, including some that was never officially recorded, or was little heard in this country," said Hank.  "As I listened to these songs, and learned more about this genius humanitarian, stories appeared."

Click here for another blog post with slightly more details about the book.

All proceeds from the sale of the book (which retails for $19.95) will be donated to Hunger Grow Away. The book  will be available through Petals and Pages Press (a publishing company that handles Hunger Grow Away materials) on Sept. 20. Send them an e-mail if you would like to purchase a copy of the book. The book will be sold at bookstores and through Amazon.com on Oct. 1.

The release of the book will be part of a global celebration, 11 Days of Peace,  put together by We The World, a place where the many movements for social change come together in an ongoing mass public education and mobilization campaign for Peace on Earth and Peace With Earth.

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