Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

22 posts from November 2007

Yum yum...eating corn at the debates

The Republican presidential candidates were recently asked about farm subsidies.

Watch the video here:

Global Development Matters

The Center for Global Development recently launched a new website - Global Development Matters.  The site features short videos about trade, microcredit, HIV, health and many others.  Be sure to check it out and watch the 3 minute trade video here:

   

Have you raised hunger awareness on PBS yet today?

David_beckmann_pbs

No? Well no worries, because for that we have Bread for the World President and Rev. David Beckmann, who had the opportunity to herald the release of the 2008 Hunger Report this past weekend with an appearance on Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. You can watch the video of his interview here!

The brief piece touches on everything from farm bill reform to how hard it is for many working families in our country to keep food on the table.

 

 

Bringing up issues of hunger and poverty in 2008 congressional elections


day 121: i voted!
Photo Originally uploaded by snowdeal

Post by Carlos Navarro - New Mexico BFW State Coordinator

The news of the pending resignation of Sen. Trent Lott this morning means that there will be at least six vacancies in the U.S. Senate in the 2008 election.  Also announcing their retirements are Sens. Larry Craig of Idaho, John Warner of Virginia, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Wayne Allard of Colorado and Pete Domenici of New Mexico.

Sen. Domenici's departure will have a significant domino effect on the state's delegation in the U.S. House, as Reps. Heather Wilson, Steve Pearce and Tom Udall will be leaving their seats to run for the vacant Senate post.  There could be defections from the House in the other states with a Senate vacancy, with members of Congress like Rep. Mark Udall in Colorado, and possibly Tom Davis of Virginia and Chip Pickering of Mississippi, pondering a move to the other side of Capitol Hill.

And according to Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report, Reps. Deborah Pryce and Ralph Regula of Ohio, Jim Ramstad of Minnesota, Rick Renzi of Arizona, Ray Lahood of Illinois and Terry Everett of Alabama are leaving the House at the end of their current terms.

But what does this mean for Bread for the World members?  Like every election, the open seats give us an opportunity to raise the issue of hunger and poverty before the congressional candidates (just as as The ONE campaign is doing with the presidential candidates with its ONE Vote 08 initiative).  And even if we don't have an open seat in our congressional district or our state, we can still bring up the issues of hunger and poverty to the incumbents and their challengers.

Here are a list of possible actions for the upcoming elections:

1) Find out who is running in the primaries.
2) Read about the candidate's positions on the issues in the newspaper or monitor television and radio coverage.
3) Try to make contact with the candidates, either personally, through a letter, or through their campaigns. Sometimes the campaign website has an address where you can reach the candidate or a top aide.  Or find out if the candidates are taking part in any public forums, debates or call-in shows. It's important to know where they stand on hunger and poverty-related issues. A good place to start is the Millennium Development Goals, which will be the subject of our Offering of Letters in 2008.  Or you can bring up the subject of  food insecurity in our own country. But just as important is to let them know about the work of our organization. Name recognition is going to be very important when this candidate is already in office.
4.) Vote in the primary and the general elections

And keep in mind that Bread for the World is a non-partisan organization, so focus on the issues themselves and as much as possible please avoid taking an openly partisan approach to your election activism.

The average U.S. senator spends up to 70% of his or her food budget...

Hornofplenty ...doing things besides passing a farm bill.  The rest is used to stall debate on said bill before he or she can go home and have (one would hope) nine servings of fruit and vegetables over Thanksgiving.

Which is too bad, because this article that just popped up over on the front page at Yahoo News has a lot to say about issues affected by the farm bill: nutrition, obesity, rural development, and much more.

Many Americans Can't Afford to Eat Right

One quote gets especially close to the issue:

"Americans typically spend 15 percent of their food budget on fruits and vegetables but based on our price survey, low-income families would have to spend 40 to 70 percent of their budget on fruits and vegetables," Cassady said. "We really need to rethink what kind of educational campaigns, what kind of advice we need to give low-income families. The food stamp allocation could and probably should be increased and the government can do even better bringing in more farmers' markets and very low-cost sources of fruit and vegetables."

The extensive studies cited in the article also point out the much higher prevalence of convenience stores in rural areas than grocery stores, a fact also underlined in this year's Offering of Letters video from Bread for the World.

A thought for a potentially effective and meaningful advocacy tool - is your senator holding a town hall meeting during the Thanksgiving recess?  If not that, are you able to set up a meeting at his or her office in your area?  If so, bring a basket or bag of fruits and vegetables along and let them know how the stats in the above article effect your state...and how both you and they can be thankful to even have that produce to show and tell.  Other thoughts?  Share them below!

And then tell them to get back to work on the farm bill before Christmas.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Read This Article Before the Tryptophan Kicks In

Thanksgiving










Happy Thanksgiving Eve…Eve! I’m sure it’s celebrated somewhere.

However, for 35 million people in our own country struggling to get food on the table, you can bet it’s not. While the nation’s food pantries and food banks will be harvesting the good will of many millions of other generous and kindhearted Americans on Thursday to make sure all can have a turkey on the table, the days before and the days after will be back to “making ends meet” (if that) for the nation’s hungry and food insecure citizens.

This isn’t meant as guilt-trip time, but rather a primer for a potent and challenging Op-Ed that appeared this past weekend in the Washington Post - When the Handouts Keep Coming, the Food Lines Never End.

The author, a former food bank director, poses tough and necessary questions about the fundamental motivations and uses for our charity in a nation of both plenty and hunger. His most challenging stance for people will be whether we as a country involved in hunger relief (from individuals to food banks) are really in the business of…well, putting ourselves out of business. Are we actually out to end hunger and empower people?

Reading this article actually reminded me in a lot of ways of the story of how Bread for the World was started – when a group of pastors in New York City had fired up their congregations to raise more money and food for their parish pantries. They noticed that they were succeeding in getting a lot more people fed…but the lines themselves weren’t getting any shorter. That’s when Art Simon, along with the others who joined in those early days, began Bread for the World to work on “building fences at the top of the cliff rather than always driving ambulances at the bottom.” To compliment good and necessary charity with all-important advocacy so that true systemic and social justice can be achieved. To wit, from the article:

Food banks are a dominant institution in this country, and they assert their power at the local and state levels by commanding the attention of people of good will who want to address hunger. Their ability to attract volunteers and to raise money approaches that of major hospitals and universities. While none of this is inherently wrong, it does distract the public and policymakers from the task of harnessing the political will needed to end hunger in the United States.

The risk is that the multibillion-dollar system of food banking has become such a pervasive force in the anti-hunger world, and so tied to its donors and its volunteers, that it cannot step back and ask if this is the best way to end hunger, food insecurity and their root cause, poverty.

All that to say, those quotes and the article in whole should provide plenty of fodder (or stuffing, if you will) for some vibrant debate in the comment section below or over your dinner table on Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving and many blessings to you all!

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"To support the poor without devoting ourselves to eliminating the causes of their poverty is neither justice nor patience. Ministry without advocacy is no ministry at all. It simply perpetuates a sinful system." Sister Joan Chittister.

Working Harder for Working Families

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Bread for the World Institute released the 2008 Hunger Report on the web today. You can download it here. The report - Working Harder for Working Families - examines economic justice in our nation.  As Todd Post writes on Institute Notes blog, we've done a great job in advocating for programs to alleviate hunger, yet working families still struggle to put food and basic resources on the table.

Todd continues:

It is outrageous to think that a parent can work his or her tail off and still not be able to get their family above the poverty line.... It doesn’t have to be this way. Political choices allow it to happen, for example, by choosing not to raise the minimum wage while costs of living are rising, by enabling corporations to prosper via tax cuts and failing to enforce labor laws, leading to the easy exploitation of workers, by deregulating financial industries that allow predators like payday lenders and sub prime mortgage lenders to strip whatever little wealth poor families have, and watching this occur and doing nothing to stop it. Political choices enable injustice, but they can also right injustice.

The 2008 Hunger Report helps shape Bread for the World's policies in the coming years.  This report offers a number of recommendations including: expanding safety net programs like the Child Tax Credit; and helping low-income families build assets in order to purchase a home, send their children to college or invest in a small business.  Download it here.  You can also fill out the form on our website to receive a print copy in January 2008.

Farm bill stalled

Earlier this week, Senator Reid called for cloture on the farm bill.  The vote took place today and failed.  55 senators voted in favor, while 42 voted against.  Basically, it means that the farm bill debate is delayed once again.  The senate is expected to take up the bill again after the Thanksgiving recess. 

There are a few interesting rumors circulating about possible outcomes of this delay.  Some are speculating that the senate may pass a two year extension of the 2002 farm bill.  Ugh.  While others hope the senate will get its act together after the recess and pass a farm bill. 

On a more positive note, thousands of calls were made to senate offices about farm bill reform.  Thanks to everyone who made a phone call and invited others to call!  We will keep you posted about opportunities to respond to the current situation in the senate.

Food (In)security and the 2008 Elections

Calltorenewalphoto_3 As the presidential and congressional campaigns begin in earnest in a few weeks (OK, I stand corrected: the presidential discourses HAVE ALREADY begun!), what issues will the candidates address?  My guess is that global climate change, immigration, the war in Iraq, high energy prices, the economy in general and possibly even global poverty (thanks in part to The ONE Campaign's ONE Vote 08) could be the top themes in the public arena. 

But will any candidates talk about domestic hunger, i.e. food insecurity?   

The latest report from the USDA's economic research service, issued just this month, says that 11% of people in our country were food insecure, i.e., hungry, at some time during 2006.  The numbers differ little from 2005.   Says the report:

About one-third of food insecure households (4.0 percent of all U.S. households) had very low food security—meaning that the food intake of one or more adults was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food.

Click here for other articles related to this USDA report.

For us in New Mexico, the rate of food insecurity in 2006 was 16%, five percentage points above the national average, said the USDA report.  We were second in the nation to Mississippi, which had an 18.1% rate of food insecurity.

There was an even more alarming report published in the Seattle Times back in February (and republished in March), entitled Many Americans are falling deeper into depths of poverty.  The report, based on a survey conducted by McClatchy Newspapers, said the percentage of Americans living in severe poverty had reached a 32-year high as of 2005.  Poverty and food insecurity go hand in hand. The report noted that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005.  "That's 56 percent faster than the overall number of poor people grew in the same period," said the article.

Here's an excerpt:

The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.

While the McClatchy survey was based on the 2005 U.S. Census, and the USDA report on data collected in 2006, there is little evidence that things improved much between 2005 and 2007.  Can we get our presidential candidates and our candidates for the U.S. Congress to pay attention?  It won't be easy, but it's a concern that merits a discussion in the political discourse between now and November 2008.

Is that corn in your hair?

I'll save you the bother of running your fingers through your hair to brush it out.  It's there.  And you can't.

The Senate's extremely frustrating intractability on moving forward with the farm bill thus far freed me up to see King Corn late yesterday afternoon.  As you'll be able to see in the trailer below, King Corn is a documentary that essentially brings to life the first section of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, if you've read it.  A couple of guys  move to Iowa to grow just one acre of corn, and from there attempt to track just where it goes - and the answers are fascinating, surprising, disgusting, and definitely educational - sometimes all at once!   Undergirding (sometimes overtly) all of the film's events is the debate  over the way our  nation eats,  what it eats, and  how  (IF) we are really supporting  the  farmers  who  supply our  "food" supply.  I highly recommend  checking it out this weekend if you can, especially given the coinciding  farm bill debate timing.  (They even have a nice section on the relevance of their film to the farm bill on their site).

It's playing in a number of cities this fall, and you can check out if it's near you at the link above.  Watch the trailer below!  Hopefully we'll be back later with an update on if the Senate was able to pass cloture this afternoon and therefore start debate and votes on the farm bill and (hopefully) germane amendments tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

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