Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

16 posts from December 2007

Coffee and child nutrition

The other day I came across a very interesting article debating the merits of using coffee to provide basic nutritients to children in some communities in Chiapas, one of the poorest states in Mexico.  The article, entitled U.S, Mexican companies join forces to bring fortified coffee to malnourished kids in Chiapas, describes a program to add folic acid and other nutrients to coffee consumed by elementary school children in Chiapas. Supporters of this concept say that fortifying a product that children already consume is the easiest way to provide the nutrients to youngsters that they would otherwise not receive through their daily diet.  Mexico has already made some effort to add nutrition to the diets of its population by fortifying tortillas.  (That link was the google-translated version. Here is the original article in Spanish)

Having spent my childhood in Mexico, I know that many children drink coffee in that country.  In most cases it's cafe con leche, which is at least one-half milk and one-half coffee.  (This product may be familiar to many of us who consume lattes at the popular corner coffee shops).  In many poor communities, milk may not be available, so the coffee is made primarily with water.

Critics say children should not be encouraged to drink coffee.  "It doesn't seem like a good idea, given that coffee isn't an adequate drink for children," said the Chiapas health department.

Regardless of the merits of using coffee or other means to provide nutrients to kids, the bottom line is that enhancing nutrition for children  (and adults) should be a priority of all societies.

Make Economic Justice an Issue this Christmas by Matthew Hulstein

At this time of year, we all sense the coming of Christmas with every passing day.  But as each day passes, another 30,000 people die from abject poverty.  One billion people around the world live on less than one dollar a day, and nearly 854,000,000 people are so impoverished that they cannot afford to feed themselves.  These heartbreaking numbers stand in tragic contrast to the mad shopping sprees here in the US.  Many of us, myself included, have failed to assume the responsibilities to which our wealth is attached.  My Christian faith tells me that Christmas is about Jesus Christ, and that it is impossible to be in good standing with Christ without being in good standing with my fellow man.  St. James explains in his epistle that one cannot tell a brother or sister in need “God bless you” without doing something to relieve that person’s position.

As each day passes, two major events come ever closer.  The first is Christmas—a time of giving and re-evaluating what’s important in life.  Second are the Iowa caucuses.  We should make personal choices to re-channel our energy and money towards helping those in need, but we should also encourage our politicians to address the structural injustices which cause poverty.  Of our entire national budget, only four-tenths of one percent is spent on foreign poverty-focused relief.  That is one of the lowest percentages of foreign aid of any developed country.  Also, unjust trade and labor laws continually exploit the world’s poor to feed our ravenous consumerism.  Many of the gifts we give our loved ones are actually manufactured in sweatshops in the developing world.  Instead of paying workers fair wages, many corporations pump millions of dollars into mind-numbing advertising campaigns to convince us to senselessly buy even more.

Here in Iowa, we have the rare opportunity to shape presidential campaigns.  Ask the candidates about poverty and economic justice.  Many people in my community are searching for a candidate whose faith shapes his or her politics.  Next to honoring God, caring for the poor and the oppressed is the most prevalent charge in the Bible.  Also, don’t be afraid to call or write your congressman.  You might even try calling up a corporation’s headquarters and asking where a product came from.

This holiday season, I hope you will make positive choices to help those in need, both when it comes time to shop for Christmas presents and when it comes time to shop for presidential candidates.  Do not let another day pass—another 30,000 people pass—without recommitting yourself in the fight against poverty personally and politically.  To learn more about what you can do, visit www.bread.org.

- Matthew Hulstein is a student leader at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA.  This piece was originally submitted as a letter to the editor to his local paper.

2015? How are we doing?

The Guardian recently summarized a report on progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.  While nations are likely to meet the goal for reducing extreme poverty, hunger is likely to persist at current levels.  Progress in sub-Saharan Africa is "slow and patchy" according to the report

I found a good video on the MDGs over at the Global Development Matters Blog.  The video was produced by GOOD Magazine.  Check it out:

Prayer for Peace by Fr. John Dear

Thank you, God of peace, for announcing the coming of peace on earth and for coming among us to make peace. Thank you for siding with the homeless, the refugee, the marginalized, the immigrant, the outsider, the disenfranchised, the imprisoned, the enemy. Thank you for being good news for the poor and the oppressed.

Thank you for your incarnation in the nonviolent Jesus, for showing us the Way, the Truth, the Life of Peace. Thank you for loving us so much, for bringing your universal, unconditional, nonviolent love into the world. Thank you for teaching us how to live, how to love, how to serve, how to pray, how to make peace, how to show compassion, how to practice nonviolence, how to resist empire, how to suffer, and how to die.

Thank you for calling us away from violence, injustice and empire into the new life of nonviolence, justice, community and resurrection.

Most of all, thank you for teaching us how to be human. Alas, so many of us want to play god that we've become inhuman. You, God of peace, on the other hand, let go of your divinity to share our humanity, and in the process, teach us how to be Godly.

Dear God, we celebrate the birth of the nonviolent Jesus, his life and love, his teachings and works, his steadfast resistance, and his suffering, death and resurrection. We celebrate the most nonviolent life in human history, the greatest peacemaker the world has ever seen.
We celebrate how his life and love continue to disarm, heal, and transform us all.

This Christmas, give us the grace to imitate his life, to become new people of creative nonviolence like him. Help us to become practitioners of peace, contemplatives of peace, teachers of peace, apostles of peace, prophets of peace. Help us abolish systemic injustice, resist empire, end war, dismantle weapons, and study war no more, that we might reverence life and creation as he did.

Bless us that we might be your beloved sons and daughters, peacemakers, people who love one another, love our neighbors, and love our nation's enemies. Bless us that we might be a new Christmas people, who, like Mary and Joseph, welcome Christ into the world, see Christ in the poor, serve Christ in the world's children, raise Christ through our nonviolent actions, and bring Christ's Christmas gift of peace on earth to fruition in our lives and work.

Help us all to honor Jesus by obeying his commandments, following his footsteps and doing what he did, that we too might incarnate your holy spirit of peace and nonviolence.

This Christmas, God of peace, bless us all over again, that we might live with a new, mature faith, that we might become peacemaking saints, that we might be instruments of your Christmas gift of peace on earth.

Bless us all, that suffering may end, that all may be healed, that all may live in peace, that all may radiate your love, that all may be one.

In the name of the nonviolent Jesus. Amen.

Farm Bill Commentary Round Up

:: the Ethicurean: Glass Half Full - Is the glass half full?  Ethicurean cites positive outcomes of the farm bill via the Sustainable Agriculture  Coalition.

:: Mulch: Farm Bill Rip-Off Passes in the Senate  Laments the possible passage of this bill aka billions of dollars to mega-farms throughout the country.  I'm wondering if Ken Cook is going to put sackcloth and ashes this holiday season. It'd make a great blog post. =)

:: Blog for Rural America - read all their posts.  Up-to-date analysis of the debate and good commentary. 
Have you found other helpful commentary on the farm bill? Feel free to post links in the comment section.

Where do we go from here?

It was good news for David Letterman today as the senate passed a status quo farm bill.  As many of you know, all reform amendments were defeated yesterday.  Grassley/Dorgan and the Klobuchar amendment would have limited payments to the wealthiest farmers.  It is clear that special interests got in the way of reform.  See how your senator voted on Grassley/Dorgan here.

Where do we go from here?  2 steps to follow-up senate action on the farm bill

1) Learn more about how your member of congress voted and why.

The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition sent out a "flip-flop" list of senators who supported Grassley/Dorgan in the past but not this time. The coalition said the senators who voted for it in 2002 and again in 2005, but not today were Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and George Voinovich, R-Ohio. The coalition also said that Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., voted for it in 2005 but not today. The following senators voted for it in 2002 but not this year: Robert Bennett, R-Utah, Jim Bunning, R-Ky., Larry Craig, R-Idaho, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, Minority Leader McConnell, Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

Read Bread Press Release: Senate Votes to Maintain Payments to Large Landowners
Check out this resource: Analysis of what happened from Bread
How would the future president vote on these amendments?  Read a post from Cindy's Anti-Poverty Blog - a Bread activist from Illinois.

2) Take Action. Get Fired Up!
  Send your senators holiday cards, either expressing your gratitude for their support of a fair farm bill or expressing your disappointment that they blocked much-needed reforms that would have benefited hungry people.

Keep calling!

With 60 votes required to pass Dorgan-Grassley, we need you to keep making those phone calls.  Every vote counts - and it will be tight.  Even if you've already made a phone call, call again.  Urge your senators to vote yes on the Dorgan-Grassley Amendment and Brown-Sununu.  Call the switchboard 1-800-826-3688 and ask for your senate offices.

Mulch blog has an excellent post with analysis on what's happening in the senate right now.  Ken Cook writes:

If these reform votes now fail because they get 59 votes or less, we'll be placing the blame squarely, and relentlessly, where it belongs--on Democrats, who talk a big game about equity, fairness, progress and making change, then once again give the subsidy lobby every legislative advantage to perpetuate the wasteful, scandalous status quo.

Let's keep working hard to make sure these amendments pass.  For talking points and background info, visit our website.

FRESH from the Senate Floor

Voting on key farm bill amendments started today.  If you are a complete political junky (like some of us here at Bread), you may be following the debate on CSPAN2.  If not, kudos to you for doing something worthwhile with your time! =)  In all seriousness, votes were taken about 20 minutes ago on the FRESH Amendment, co-sponsored by Senators Lugar and Lautenberg. 

The amendment failed by 58 votes, but 37 senators voted to pass the measure.  Honestly, we were quite stunned that 37 senators voted yes - we didn't expect nearly that many. To have this many senators vote yes is a small victory - even if the amendment failed. 

To see how your senator voted, click here

I plan on sending a thank you note to both my senators - Boxer and Feinstein.  I'm absolutely amazed that they voted in support of FRESH.  It's testament to the amazing advocacy of partner organizations, anti-hunger advocates in California and Bread for the World activists. These groups sent countless letters, made hundreds of phone calls and raised awareness in their local newspapers about the impact of the farm bill in California.  Kudos to everyone who took action!

We'll keep you posted on the outcome of Dorgan-Grassley and Brown-Sununu.  Bread sent out a press release about the FRESH Amendment vote.  Read the full release here.

It's the most wonderful time of the year...to call your senators

Breaking News ACTION ALERT! The day we've been working towards all year is upon us.  Yes, it's true: Tomorrow, Tuesday, December 11, the full Senate will take up the farm bill and vote on amendments...watch below and make the call!

Key Votes on Farm Bill Amendments

The Senate votes on the farm bill this week, one of the most vital pieces of legislation for struggling farmers and hungry people in our country and around the world.  By asking our senators for farm bill reform, we can help improve people’s lives and, in so doing, prepare a path for justice.

Call the Capitol using Bread for the World’s toll-free number

Call your senators on Mon., Dec. 10, and ask them to support:
•    The FRESH Amendment;
•    The Dorgan-Grassley Amendment
•    The Brown-Sununu Amendment; and
•    Any other amendments that help make our commodity payments fairer for all farmers and provide additional funding for the Food Stamp Program.

Click here to download this full alert for your church bulletin:
Download advent_sunday_quickline_resource.pdf

Read the full background on this action here.

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