Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

42 posts from October 2007

Millennium Campaign Director Speaks in Oregon about Millennium Development Goals

By Mike Hiland
Bread for the World activist in Portland

The Millennium Development Goals were agreed upon by the international community back in 2000. The goals include measurable and achievable targets on reducing global poverty, and improving access to education, water and other benchmarks. When those goals were conceived, the countries of the world envisioned achieving them by 2015.


Now that we're at the halfway point (or a little beyond), many people are wondering how far we've come toward attaining these goals.  The UN Millennium Campaign has some answers in a detailed report

In the meantime, Salil Shetty, director of the Millennium Campaign, spoke to us at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Portland about the progress we are making towards these goals. (Thanks to St. Luke member Lisa Wenwick for organizing this event). 

Mr. Shetty described these goals as a shared commitment between rich and poor countries. Some significant progress is being made, particularly in developing country reforms in democracy, but a lot more work still needs to be done. The developed countries are falling short of the pledges they made in aid and debt forgiveness. Another key goal is reducing developed country agricultural subsidies and opening our markets to trade (the farm bill).

The positive developments include a one-third reduction in extreme poverty since 1990, and if this trend continues we will meet the goal in poverty reduction. Even in sub-Saharan Africa the number of poor has leveled off and the poverty rate has started a small decline, but we are still not on track to meet the goal here. Progress is being made in education and child mortality. We are falling short of the goals in reducing maternal mortality, the proportion of under weight children, improving basic sanitation and in the fight against AIDS.

He mentioned that the most important thing we can be doing is to demand that our leaders keep their word and meet our commitments in aid, debt forgiveness and disease prevention. He cited the key work being done by groups like The One Campaign, Bread for the World and Jubilee. Writing letters and getting the word out so more people will write letters, this was in effect our assignment and our challenge.

Mr. Shetty quoted from Bono saying:

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.

He closed by saying that we are the first generation that can end poverty, we are running out of time and excuses. All I can add to that is- now lets get to work.

(Note: Salil Shetty is pictured above with Mike Hiland and Carol Welch)

A New Guiness Record for Standing Up Against Poverty!

43_million Many of us participated in the Millennium Campaign's Stand Up Against Poverty effort on Oct. 16-17. 

The goal was to beat last year's Guiness World Record of 23.5 million.

Guess what? We beat that record and then some. 

According to the Millennium Campaign, 43.7 million people around the world stood up against poverty this year.  "The largest numbers of people who took part in this mobilization came from developing countries," said the Millennium Campaign. Read full news release

If you're one of the 43.7 million who stood up, our work has just begun.  Some progress has been made toward  meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals, but much more is needed.  Read progress report for MDGs at halfway point.

Final Score in Markup: David Letterman 17, Kid on Food Stamps 4

Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee was presented with a choice during its committee markup on the Farm Bill. An amendment was sponsored by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), a man I really admire for his integrity and passion on the issue of hunger. The amendment would have put $1.6 billion over 5 years into reducing hunger through the Food Stamp Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The improvements would help to update an antiquated benefit calculation that has depleted the purchasing power of Food Stamps, and restore food to the nation’s food banks that are facing shortages.

Better yet, it would be cost-neutral, because it would have paid for these improvements by reigning in federal payments to landowners and farmers who happen to own land that was producing certain crops decades ago. In recent years, landowners like David Letterman have received these "direct payments," even when crop prices have been at historically high levels.

I'll be the first to recognize that there are many smaller farmers who count on direct payments to make an honest living. I'm from Oregon, and there are lots of small wheat farmers in the eastern part of the state that receive a just few thousand dollars in direct payments. However, the committee proposal earmarks $26 Billion over five years for direct payments, and much of this goes to large landowners who simply don't need it. And at $1.6 Billion, Senator Lugar's proposal would trim back just 6% of this payment program. Since this is developing rapidly, I haven’t seen the specific language of the amendment, but I bet you a milkshake that this adjustment is not aimed smaller farmers.

Seventeen Senators now have to look their constituents in the eyes and tell them that they chose the interests of a few select landowners over a policy that would result in fewer kids going hungry.

Four Senators stood up for what’s right. Kudos, Senators Lugar, McConnell, Brown, and Casey.

If you're as upset as me, here's the number for the capitol switchboard: 1-800-826-3688 - The ayes and nays listed below... A vote on the Farm Bill may come up in the Senate within the next week, so there’s still time for the Senate to do the right thing. 

Ayes (4)
Lugar (R-IN)
McConnell (R-KY)

Brown (D-OH)
Casey (D-PA)

Nays (17)
Harkin (D-IA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Conrad (D-ND)
Baucus (D-MT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Nelson (D-NE)
Salazar (D-CO)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Cocharan (R-MS)
Roberts (R-KS)
Graham (R-SC)
Coleman (R-MN)
Crapo (R-ID)
Thune (R-SD)
Grassley (R-IA)

UNM Hunger Awareness Event a Success!

By Kitty Hurst
University of New Mexico student

Hunger4 After months of research, planning, and organizing, my Research Service Learning class Communication for Peace finally received its reward. Our hunger awareness event at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque was a success, with 200 surveys collected and twice as many people stopping by to pick up information, share ideas, and grab a snack.

Our project was a joint effort with the Popular Culture, Media, and Community Action class, which is one of the courses offered this semester by the American Studies Department.

Most of our class was surprised at how many people came by the tables, but I wasn’t. I knew how hard we worked to make the day a success. I knew I wasn’t the only one who spent long hours doing research, making posters and baking goodies. We had a whole team of committed people who contributed to the success of the event. It always amazes me to see what ordinary people can achieve when they work together.  See the Website we created for the class.

Hunger1_2 It was remarkable to see common myths about hunger unfold at our event. I heard many times that we shouldn’t be feeding the campus community, that students are a privileged class and don’t go hungry. People said we should go to the ghettos to find hunger and poverty.

I was happy to tell these disbelievers that hunger is pervasive in New Mexico, and that, contrary to popular opinion, there aren’t just pockets of poverty. People from all parts of town are hungry, not just those in poor neighborhoods. With the data from our surveys, we will soon have the numbers to map out hunger on campus.
One young woman told me the story of her problems with the Food Stamp Program. She is a working mother whose husband is a student at UNM. She explained how frustrating it was to stand in line six hours, waiting to turn in her food stamp application. Without any of her paperwork being filed, she was told there were too many other people in need, and that she should come back in two months. She still hasn’t received any aid.

Hers was a story I heard repeated again and again. It’s obvious there is a hunger issue in this city if so many people are willing to wait so long to apply for food stamps.

Hunger3_2 Instead of stories of frustration, others pressed us with tough questions, mostly about the gaps in hunger relief programs and our plans for a UNM community garden.

The community garden created a lot of excitement. I heard all sorts of ideas from installing compost centers on campus, to building greenhouses, to using the food grown on campus to make the Student Union Building more sustainable. Now we know the support and ideas are available to make this ambition a reality.

Networking with people from other campus and community organizations was a bonus I didn’t expect. Other activists were drawn to the event, talking eagerly of how we can work together to achieve amazing things. It was exciting to see so many people passionate about hunger issues. Many people signed our list serve, and the class is looking forward to collaborating with other groups on future projects. Students were especially enthusiastic when they heard that so many Service Learning Classes about hunger are being offered next semester.

Now when people say no one is hungry on campus, or that hunger isn’t an issue at UNM, I can reply with stories I heard first hand about six-hour food stamp lines, community members who can’t afford healthy meals, and impassioned students coming together to fight hunger.

(The author is also a staff writer for the campus newspaper The Daily Lobo)

Christians Ending Poverty in Escondido

Christians Ending Poverty in Escondido
Originally uploaded by Stand Up and Speak Out

Cory with Christians Ending Poverty and Hour Challenge blog posted about the successful Stand Up event in his community. Head on over the his blog to check it out. 

U2charist: Stand Up Against Poverty!


by Elaine VanCleave

“I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song”

U2’s nod to Psalm 40, aptly named “40”, played at a low volume over the sound system as 200 + people in Birmingham, Alabama walked down the aisles of Trinity UMC’s Wesley Hall to take communion.   Although, the Eucharist was traditional, everything else about Wednesday night’s service was contemporary and pulsing.  We did indeed “sing a new song” as we worshipped and reflected on ending hunger and poverty in God’s world.

The service began and ended with special selections by international guests from SIFAT (Servants in Faith and Technology).  All other songs were from U2’s spiritually rich songbook.

Rev. Max Blalock of Eastlake UMC preached on the story of the Good Samaritan and asked us to reflect on the question posed to Jesus: "who is my neighbor?"  To help illustrate Jesus' very unsettling answer, Max put the story in modern terms: “ The ancient kingdom of Samaria is the present day West Bank. So if we want to imagine the scenario in present day terms, according to New Testament scholar Amy Jill-Levine: ‘the person in the ditch is an Israeli Jew, and the two people who pass him by are a rabbi and a member of the Israeli Parliament. The person who stops to help him is a member of Hamas.’’  But the challenge for many of us is not yet to get to the point of being the Good Samaritan, it is getting to the point of being the priest or the Levite and actually seeing the needs of people around us. Then we might be able to be on our way, with God's help, to actually seeing and acting to do something about the needs of our brothers and sisters living in poverty.

Dr. Suzanne Martin, program director for Leading Edge Institute, reprised her role from last year and led the group in reciting the UN Millennium Campaign’s Stand Up pledge.  232 people in Birmingham, AL stood in solidarity with the over 38.7 million people worldwide who publicly demonstrated to policy makers that governments’ promises to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and help the billion living in extreme poverty, must be kept.

Local ONE members enthusiastically remarked on Birmingham’s inaugural U2Charist: Heifer volunteer and ONE activist Gay Johnson said, “SIFAT did a great job! Max was effective! Everything was very meaningful!”  Homewood High School student Christin Mize said, “I came last night, and it was SO awesome. My friend and I are going to talk with some teachers this morning about starting a group at Homewood High! “

Bread for the World is a founding partner in ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History.

Barely Getting By in America...If At All

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I don't have anything to add in way of commentary to the link I'm about to share, other than that it's a vital, compelling read about the growing difficulty in America to "get by" with a family and a job for many, many people.   There's plenty in the article itself to comment on without any prodding, so please share your thoughts below and start a conversation!  Here's the article:  Living Paycheck to Paycheck Gets Harder

You know things are bad when Wal-Mart is starting to feel the pinch from the hardship of the poor:

"Across the nation, Americans are increasingly unable to stretch their dollars to the next payday as they juggle higher rent, food and energy bills. It's starting to affect middle-income working families as well as the poor, and has reached the point of affecting day-to-day calculations of merchants like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 7-Eleven Inc. and Family Dollar Stores Inc."

Am I dumb for buying organics?

According to Rep. Collin Peterson, the chairman of the House Ag Committee, I am dumb.  He recently said:

For whatever reason, people are willing to pay two or three times as much for something that says ‘organic’ or ‘local’. Far be it from me to understand what that’s about, but that’s reality. And if people are dumb enough to pay that much then hallelujah.

Thanks, Chairman Peterson.  As the leader of the House Agriculture Committee, shouldn't this man understand what organics and local food is all about?  I'm sorry Mr. Peterson - but I don't want the cheap, processed food that is supported by your version of the farm bill.  I prefer organic and locally grown food AND I'm willing to pay more to support MY local farmer.

Daily Justice: Cardinal Suhard

To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery.  It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist.
- Cardinal Suhard

Gratitude for Congressman Ellison's courageous vote - by Donna Neste, BFW member

10407breadfortheworld_2 Recently, Bread for the World members Lois Swenson, Dale Stuepfert, Linda Haggerty and Mike Batell joined me in meeting with Representative Keith Ellison's District Director, Brian Elliot at the Congressman's Minneapolis office. We came bearing constituent thank you notes and a large thank you poster with over 50 signatures to formally thank Representative Ellison for his courageous vote in support of the "Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment" to the Farm Bill.

This amendment would have limited commodity payments to the wealthiest producers and better targeted such payments towards farmers of modest means, while investing more in vital domestic priorities in nutrition, rural development and conservation. Though this amendment did not pass in the House, Mr. Elliot assured us that this grassroots pressure was responsible for the significant steps forward on nutrition and rural development in the bill that passed the House, as well as the modest steps taken towards the introduction of more serious payment limits. He also assured us that the components of the Fairness Amendment are not dead, as the Farm Bill will soon be debated in the Senate Agriculture Committee. The members were encouraged to call their Minnesota Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Norm Coleman, as both sit on the committee. The visitors were also able to thank Representative Ellison personally when they were surprised with a conference call from Washington with the Congressman himself.

Note: This morning, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published a letter to the editor from Donna publicly thanking Congressmen Ellison and Rep. Jim Ramstad for their votes on the Fairness Amendment.  You can read her letter (and other letters from Bread members) here.

Thanks for your powerful voice Donna!

To write your own letter to your local newspaper, visit BFW's Guide to Local Media.

Learn about the Farm Bill by visiting Bread's website

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