Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

13 posts from January 2008

Time is right for a Letter to the Editor

From Shawnda Hines, Bread for the World Media Associate:
Friends, during the next seven days, newspapers across the country will publish their opinion of the president’s last State of the Union address. More importantly, editors will want to hear what their readers think. This is a prime opportunity to get a letter to the editor published: a prime opportunity to call attention to our nation’s privilege and moral obligation to the world’s poorest people. And if your letter gets printed, not only will your neighbors read it—so will your members of Congress.

In his speech, President Bush devoted time to America’s efforts to fight global poverty, hunger and disease (see excerpt from his speech below). His remarks are right on target. As Bread for the World President David Beckmann said in his response statement to the speech, “One of the great legacies of this Administration will be its commitment to the continent of Africa particularly in the field of health. Reducing poverty and disease around the world has been one issue on which Republicans and Democrats have worked together.”

But words don’t change lives. To make the targets set in the Millennium Development Goals, America must put our money where our mouth is. We need more, and we need better poverty-focused development assistance—the very focus of Bread for the World’s 2008 Offering of Letters.

On February 4, President Bush will send Congress his budget request for fiscal year 2009. In the weeks that follow, members of Congress will begin the process of passing the 2009 federal budget. (On that day, we will also issue a statement and analysis of this year’s budget.)

I invite you to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper this week about the need for more and better poverty-focused development assistance. Of course, it is of utmost importance that your letter be written in your own words. No one likes a form letter—including opinion editors. But here are a few points to help you formulate your own opinion and call for action by your elected leaders:

- In his State of the Union speech, President Bush spoke about our nation’s leadership in the fight against global poverty. Yet a billion people in the world live on less than $1 per day. [Check Bread’s Web site for more facts on global hunger and poverty]
- America is generous, but we can and must do more. Only half of one percent of our federal budget is dedicated to poverty-focused development assistance—long-term investments in things like education, agriculture, nutrition, clean water and the prevention of AIDS and malaria.
- An additional $5 billion will help the United States keep our commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals: cutting hunger and extreme poverty in half, reducing child mortality by two-thirds and meeting other specific goals that will help millions of poor families build a better future.
- The Senate should approve S. 2433, the Global Poverty Act, which will better coordinate U.S. policies and programs for the most effective effort to fight poverty and hunger around the world.
- If you know that your Senator or Representative sits on a Budget or Appropriations Committee, or if they have a particularly critical role to play in the budget debate, be sure mention that in your letter.

Detailed tips for writing and submitting letters to the editor can be found on Bread’s Web site. (www.bread.org)

And the answer is....

Yes, the President did highlight (albeit briefly) the fight against global poverty and AIDS during his State of the Union.  He called on Congress to:

1) fully fund the Millennium Challenge Account,

2) reform U.S. food aid by allowing a portion of assistance to be purchased in developing countries themselves

3) work towards a successful completion to the Doha "Development" round of trade talks at the WTO.

He also repeated his proposal to double our investments in PEPFAR and U.S. Global AIDS programs.

Below is an excerpt from the transcript of the State of the Union, and here's a link to Bread for the World's response:

Remarks of President George W. Bush - January 28, 2008


“....America is leading the fight against global poverty, with strong education initiatives and humanitarian assistance. We have also changed the way we deliver aid by launching the Millennium Challenge Account. This program strengthens democracy, transparency, and the rule of law in developing nations, and I ask you to fully fund this important initiative.

America is leading the fight against global hunger. Today, more than half the world’s food aid comes from the United States. And tonight, I ask the Congress to support an innovative proposal to provide food assistance by purchasing crops directly from farmers in the developing world, so we can build up local agriculture and help break the cycle of famine.

America is leading the fight against disease. With your help, we are working to cut by half the number of malaria-related deaths in 15 African nations. And our Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is treating 1.4 million people. We can bring healing and hope to many more. So I ask you to maintain the principles that have changed behavior and made this program a success. And I call on you to double our initial commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS by approving an additional $30 billion over the next 5 years.”

Will poverty be a priority in the State of the Union Address?

Asma posted about tonight's State of the Union Address over at Institute Notes.  She writes:

Tonight President Bush will deliver his last State of the Union (SOTU for short) address. As is usual at this time each year, rumors abound as to what will be in the speech. Will this particular SOTU focus on his legacy? How ambitious will be the agenda he lays out for the coming 12 months?

As anyone who reads this blog could guess, my colleagues and I will be listening for what President Bush says about making progress against poverty here in the United States and around the world. If previous SOTUs are anything to go by, this is not going to feature very prominently. While President Bush used his 2003 State of the Union to launch the United States most ambitious global aids program, PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), and has lifted up the need to do more on AIDS in the United States, neither he nor his recent predecessors have used this particular platform to make the case to the Congress and the American public that the fight against poverty should be a national priority--that it is the right thing to do and it is in the country's best interest. Will tonight be different? Unlikely, but a fun way to find out is to play the Center for Global Development's State of the Union Bingo, part of their terrific Global Development Matters Campaign.

Ripples (and Blogs) of Hope

Hey hey...playing conduit today and sharing an excellent blog post on letter-writing and becoming active with Bread for the World's 2008 Campaign.  The author is actually going to be speaking in Austin at our Offering of Letters Workshop in February and has first-hand experience of the power of hand-written letters as a former senatorial aide!

Read Advocate for the Hungry over at Inspired to Action now - it's excellent content speaks for itself!  And of course we're thankful for the extra awareness in the 'internets' - this is the stuff movements are made of...voices connecting to other voices...

"Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills - against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence...Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation...

It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

Robert F. Kennedy

Nutrition Programs Under Threat!

Please call your U.S. Senator by 5:00 pm Eastern time on Friday, January 25, at 1-800-826-3688. Ask him/her to sign the dear colleague letter on farm bill nutrition funding that Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) are currently circulating. The letter urges leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to make sure the farm bill conference report includes permanent funding for nutrition programs at the higher Senate-passed levels.  (Senators Casey, Durbin and Boxer have already signed on to the letter.  If you are represented by them, feel free to thank them for their support of nutrition programs.)  Click here to let us know you called.

[Note:  This toll-free number will connect you to the Capitol switchboard, where you will ask to be connected to your senator’s office in order to leave your message.]

Your statement of support for permanent funding on the farm bill can help make great strides against hunger and poverty. Please show your support for a nutrition title that adequately and permanently funds vital needs by signing onto the letter being circulated by Senators Casey and Durbin.

Key points:
-    Over 35 million Americans- including more that 12 million children- struggle to put food on the table.
-    The new investments made in the Food Stamp Program of the Senate bill are not secure and will be taken away in 5 years. This represents a false promise to millions of vulnerable Americans who will see their benefits expand in 2008, only to have the increase taken away five years later. Please ensure that nutrition title improvements do not sunset in 2012.
-    The farm bill should include permanent funding at the Senate-passed levels for the nutrition title.

The House passed its farm bill in July; the Senate did the same in December. Representatives of each chamber will shortly begin conferencing to reconcile the two different versions and prepare a conference report that sets out the terms of the final bill.

The House farm bill provides $4.3 billion in new investments in the nutrition title, as compared to $5.4 in the Senate bill. The House increase is fully paid for across the 10-year budget window, whereas the Senate money disappears after 5 years. Though the Senate bill includes greater increases than the House, all new investments in the Senate nutrition title sunset in 2012, at which point programs revert back to 2007 spending rules--meaning the House improvements are permanent while the Senate improvements are temporary.

This budget gimmick represents a false promise to millions of vulnerable Americans who would see their food stamp benefits expand in 2008 under the Senate bill, only to have the increase taken away five years later. More than 10 million food stamp recipients would see their benefits cut in 2013 and more than 300,000 low-income people would be cut off food stamps altogether, unless Congress acts to extend the policies.

Even though your senator may not be on the conference committee, Senate members still have an important voice to urge leaders on the conference committee as well as House and Senate leaders to support permanent funding for nutrition program improvements. 

Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) have written a letter that urges the chairmen and ranking members of both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to make sure the final farm bill includes nutrition program increases at the higher levels approved by the Senate in its bill and that these increases be permanently funded, as provided for in the House bill. Senators Casey and Durbin are asking other senators to join them on this letter. Your Democratic senator’s signature is critical. Please call as soon as possible.

Download a bulletin insert of this action alert for your church: Download bulletin_insert_farm_billfinal.pdf

Calling all NY artists!

Are you passionate about art and social change?  Submit your art to the "Celebration of the Arts Contest."  The celebration and announcement of winners will take place on February 23 at Starbucks in Oakhurst, New Jersey.  Submissions are $10 and all proceeds will benefit Bread for the World.  Submissions should be in the spirit of the theme: “Stone Soup Story” and poverty.

“Stone Soup” is a fable story about travelers who came upon a village with nothing but a pot. The villagers were unwilling to share any of their food with the travelers, so the travelers filled a huge pot with water and put a large stone in it. Soon the villagers became curious and wanted to try some of their soup, but the travelers told them in order to make it really delicious they needed some of their spices. And then another villager came and brought them carrots, and this continued with all of the villagers who contributed what they could. Soon the pot was filled with all sorts of delicious food and everyone was able to enjoy it together.

The theme can be interpreted broadly, and may include, but is not limited to, anything that deals with poverty, hunger, global issues, or your interpretation of the story.

Contact Ara Cook for more information: bcook@bread.org

Download a flyer about the event: Download Starbucks_Event1.pdf
Fill out the entry form: Download Starbucks_Entry_Form1.doc

Nutrition and Food Stamps

Erica Barnett from WorldChanging has a great post about food stamps, farmers' markets and WIC.  She advocates for an expansion of programs that encourage the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Many states are moving in the right direction by allowing federal benefits, like food stamps, to be used at local farmer markets. In the post, Erica refers to these benefits as a "food subsidy."  I found this phrase a bit confusing.  I primarily use the term "subsidy" to refer to the farm bill and the commodity payment programs.  This type of federal subsidy is dolled out by the government to commodity growers or landowners. 

In contrast, federal benefits, like WIC, Social Security or food stamps, provide a safety net for families.  Many individuals or families will apply for these benefits to help themselves through a hard time - unemployment, financial loss due to health care costs or an increase in rent/cost of living.  The Institute Blog has some great posts about the cost of housing and its impact on poor families in the US.  Want to learn more about domestic poverty and ways to improve our domestic policy? Check out the 2008 Hunger Report on Asset Building.    

All-expenses paid Hunger Justice Leaders Training in Washington, DC - June 14-17!

Calling all motivated 18-35 year olds!  We're really excited about this opportunity and want to make sure that you have everything you need in terms of information and resources if you're energized and intrigued by the possibility of coming to Washington, DC for a long weekend this summer.

As you'll see from following the link, the training will be a great time to substantively take your activism and passion for hunger and justice issues to the next level.  Please don't hesitate to contact us to discuss and ask any questions you want or need answered. Also, feel free to pass this information (and flyer at the link below) on to your friends and campus and young professionals groups and ministries.

We look forward to seeing you in June hopefully! 

Applications are due by MARCH 15.

Read more and apply HERE for Hunger Justice Leaders Training 2008!

(and did we mention it's all-expenses paid for those selected?!?)

New Website for Bread for the World Indiana

Welcome to Bread for the World - Indiana to our cyberspace family!  Through the hard work of Bread members Jim Runnels, David Miner and others, Bread groups in Indiana recently launched their new website in 2008. The site is pleasant and very user-friendly.  Check it out

Those of us who have been grassroots leaders with Bread for a long time remember when our principal means of communication was the telephone and the US Postal Service.  We used telephones (and I mean land lines -not cell phones) to activate quicklines and action alerts and to remind members about local activities (after they received a post card or flyer in the mail).

Pretty soon e-mail became a favored means of communication, (and a godsend to people like me who still would rather not make a phone call if I can help it).

Then we discovered other creative ways to communicate with the membership via cyberspace: The website and the blog. For a while there were only five local/state groups that had websites: Metro Detroit/Southeast Michigan, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New Orleans (incorporated into the Global Network for Justice site), and Oregon.  And there are a couple of blogs set up by Bread members.  Cathy Brechtelsbauer in South Dakota has created a South Dakota Food Stamp Challenge blog and I have created a Bread for the World New Mexico blog to complement our website.  And Elaine VanCleave in Birmingham communicates with many of her Bread and ONE Campaign volunteers via her ONEBirmingham Yahoo Group.

If you have a website, blog or Yahoo group that you use to communicate with local Bread members, we'd love to hear from you.

BEAT Hunger '08 Iowa Caucus Wrap-up - by Julie Zimmer, Bread Activist

Getting Your Bread for the World & ONE Plank in the Platform, a “How-To”

Here in Iowa before the Presidential caucuses, the phone rings two or three times a day with live politicians, friends of live politicians, pre-recorded campaign speeches, invitations to campaign events and political polls. They may not visit every state with such intensity, but your turn is coming.

Because I identified myself as a "definite" caucus participator, I also received calls from three national advocacy groups asking me to present a platform resolution in my precinct caucus January 3. I consented to two and said no to the third, not because the cause isn't important but because I wanted to stay focused.


That's me (next to the woman in the white sweater with the microphone) asking Barack Obama “the question” in the new Vinton high school gym, the night Bhutto was assassinated. CNN interviewed him in their mobile news van in the parking lot right before he came on stage.  He answered that the MDG are “AMERICA’S goals” and he would double our aid. On his way out, he signed my copy of Jeffrey Sach’s book, "The End of Poverty".

As part of the Bread for the World Election Action Team (BEAT Hunger '08) and the ONE Campaign, I've been lucky enough to meet six Democratic hopefuls and one Republican face-to-face in my home town (Vinton IA, pop. 5,000) at mostly small meetings within a few blocks of my home. I have also asked each of them the same question (about their support for the Millennium Development Goals in their administration).  It turned out to be great fun, and a challenge, to get called on, and to get the signatures. By caucus night several of my friends were willing to wear ONE stickers and propose the plank in THEIR precincts.  I planned for months to caucus for the ONE campaign, so that  was an easy "yes" on presenting a resolution. Iowa is officially a State of ONE (endorsing the campaign) and my local city council was easily persuaded to sign a  proclamation as a City of ONE last fall.

Planks have two parts: first, the "because... (as in, because “As Democrats, we recognize the devastation caused by global hunger and poverty. We believe it is our moral obligation to help those in extreme poverty.) and then the "therefore"... As in, what action the party should support in the way of resolving the problem. Even though some planks are pre-written by experts in advocacy organizations, the presenter has the privilege of rewriting because his or her name goes on it, not the name of an organization.

I sent copies of the official Democratic and Republican ONE planks, and of my revised version, to Democrat and Republican friends respectively, asking them to submit a resolution (if they chose) in THEIR precincts. Several took me up on the offer. This way there will be more visible support as the resolutions go to the county platform committee and on up the line. Of course, those who submit planks are free to rewrite if they choose.

This was my first time as caucus precinct secretary. No one else wanted the job. At the precinct caucus meeting I stapled my resolutions on forms instead of recopying them, signed the forms, and handed them in — to myself. 

We followed the prescribed agenda. When the caucusing for Presidential candidates (the fun part!) finished, I called for any other resolutions to be submitted for the platform committee.

I read aloud four proposed planks from another participant and then my two. We decided not to do discussion at this stage, but followed each resolution with a simple up or down voice vote.   All but one (on another topic) were unanimously accepted, and there were only two "nays" on that one.

Volunteers were accepted for the platform committee and I volunteered for that as well. The meetings are open to anyone in the party, but only the the caucus night volunteers may vote to accept or reject.

Our platform committee meets in mid January to sift through ALL the resolutions including those from other precincts, plus any more that people want to bring that day. Some will be reworded, some combined with similar resolutions, some abandoned for lack of interest, some rejected on principle, and the results will be forwarded to the next level. I think there is another level between precinct and state, but I have never participated outside of our community.

One advantage of serving on the platform committee is being present to defend or support your own resolutions and moving them forward.  I served four years ago and the local platform committee passed my “home made” resolution about the MDGs, but the idea of eliminating poverty was so big, mind boggling and new to people that my plank disappeared at the state level. The pre-written proposals available now from ONE and Iowa Votes ONE are more likely to make it into the state platform, especially since our state government endorsed ONE.

I know the process differs in other states, but NOW is the time to get involved if you are so inclined. It isn't difficult or terribly time consuming (one or two meetings) and you will meet a lot of interesting people. 

Julie Zimmer - Vinton, Iowa

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