Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

14 posts from March 2008

Emergency Appeal: World Food Program


The front pages of today's LA Times featured an article about the World Food Program.  With the rising cost of food and fuel, the program is struggling to meet its goals - delivering food aid to those struggling to survive.  The program feeds at least 73 million people in 80 nations.  They have sent appeal letters to donor nations asking for funds. 

Institute Notes featured this issue in a February blog post.  Our foreign aid policy analyst, Charles Uphaus, writes:

The impact [of the food crisis] is already being felt around the world. Food riots have broken out in Morocco, Yemen, Mexico, Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal and Uzbekistan. Pakistan has reintroduced rationing for the first time in two decades. Russia has frozen the price of milk, bread, eggs and cooking oil for six months. Thailand is also planning a freeze on food staples. After protests around Indonesia, Jakarta has increased public food subsidies. India has banned the export of rice except the high-quality basmati variety.

Read more about food aid from Bread for the World Institute.

Watch this video of Josette Sheran, director of WFP, as she talks about hunger:

Developing a constituency for global development

Today's Global Development Matters blog features a to-do list for foreign assistance reform.  The blog also links up to video of a speech by Henrietta Fore - the USAID Director and Administrator of Foreign Assistance.  Check it out:

The Global Poverty Act will move us toward better coordination of our foreign assistance.  It calls on the president to develop a comprehensive plan for development, which includes ways to coordinate our aid delivery.  You can read more about foreign aid reform on Institute Notes.

Does Microcredit work? Under what Circumstances?

Is Hunger a Crime?

In an editorial by Joel Berg, executive director of New York City's Coalition Against Hunger, Berg called attention to New York State's announcement to continue New York City's policy of finger-imaging food stamp applicants. According to city officials, this policy is necessary to prevent fraud, and has no additional negative consequences for legitimate applicants. In his editorial, however, Joel Berg shows that both these statements are false, and in fact, the opposite is true. According to Berg, the Department of Agriculture has not found any study showing that finger-imaging reduces fraud. On the other hand, they have expressed concerns that finger-imaging discourages the poor from applying for food stamps. According to the Urban Institute, 1 in every 23 eligible applicants do not apply for food stamps solely because of the finger-imaging requirement. On the other hand, the city found only 31 cases of fraud from the approximately 1.1 million people receiving food stamps in 2006. This means that the city denies food aid to 1 person out of every 23 eligible applicants for the sake of preventing fraud in 1 out of 34,991 cases. Moreover, the city spends $800,000 a year just to keep the finger-imaging system running. Considering that the system has caught only 31 frauds in one year, this amounts to $25,806 per person caught. Thus, Berg clearly shows that the logic behind finger-imaging is flawed and ineffective. He brings up important questions for us to consider - Is hunger a crime? Should the poor be criminalized? Or are there more effective ways of addressing systemic hunger and poverty?

For the full article in Spanish, click here

Share Your Story and Get Published!

Socialcausediet_art_2 Here is a unique opportunity for anyone who has an amazing, humorous, or otherwise inspiring story to tell about a satisfying act of service. Author Gail Perry Johnston—with new publisher, Cupola Press—is requesting submissions for a book called, The Social Cause Diet: Finding A Service That Feeds Your Soul. In addition to all the direct service stories that are likely to fill this book, it would be great to share you own story of how advocating to make our laws more fair and compassionate to people in need has enriched your life.

The Social Cause Diet will feature everyday people who give of their time and efforts within the context of an established social service. Many people are willing to give of themselves but they do not know where to begin or realize that their interests and abilities match those of an existing organization. The range of stories collected in The Social Cause Diet will reveal that there are achievable, accessible, and satisfying ways for everyone to give.

Go to SocialCauseDiet.com for more information and to see how to submit your story.

Poverty Scoreboard 2007: Rating Members of Congress

In a study recently released by the Shriver Center, researchers created a "Poverty Scoreboard" that measures how every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives voted on a number of key poverty-related proposed legislation in 2007. Because the causes and effects of poverty can vary greatly, they included a wide range of bills, including those that address affordable housing, budget and taxes, civil rights, prisoner reentry, early and higher education, health care, immigrants, labor, and rural poverty. Importantly, they found that many states with high percentages of people living in poverty have Congressional delegations that, on average, have performed poorly in fighting poverty. In contrast, much fewer Congressional delegations from states with high percentages of people living in poverty have actually performed well in fighting poverty. This shows that there is a clear correlation between Congressional votes and rates of poverty. Senators and Congressmen who vote to support poverty-related legislation have been quite successful - they come from states with lower rates of poverty. Thus, this report may be very important to look at with the upcoming November election in mind. Click here to see how your member of congress scores.

Thirty-seven million Americans continue to live in poverty. As American citizens, we should be evaluating our representatives to see if they care about this important issue as much as we do. If we vote on poverty, perhaps our members of congress will too.

Clap Your Hands Say YEAH!

Cusatrack062 Last week, many of you probably received action alerts from us and/or the ONE Campaign asking you to call your senators (If you don't get the alerts, sign up here!).  The ask was to urge them to save vital foreign assistance funding that was in danger of being dramatically cut and in case you didn't hear already, the results of your calls and the Senate vote are in and I'm here to report:

Very, Very Good News!

Early Friday morning of last week, the Senate decided overwhelmingly to restore the $4.1 Billion shortfall in the International Affairs Budget - which recommends funding levels for federal programs including effective anti-poverty efforts. The "Biden-Lugar Amendment" (S. Amdt 4245) passed 73-23 with overwhelming bipartisan support! (See how your senators voted here)

Happy_african_kidsSo here's what happened... Earlier last week, we asked you to called to support the Feinstein (D-CA) - Smith (R-OR) amendment to restore $2.6 billion to the International Affairs function of the FY09 budget resolution. Shortly after calls started to flood in (there were nearly a thousand calls from Bread supporters alone), we learned that Senators Biden (D-DE) and Lugar (R-IN) had decided to do even better and sponsor an amendment that brought the International Affairs back to the level of the president's request of $39.8 billion - a $4.1 Billion increase. So we turned our attention to the Biden-Lugar amendment which contained this bigger increase--and that amendment passed.

Happy_crowdBottom line: we couldn't have done this without you. This victory signals the power of grassroots demands for building a more just world. Moreover, this is an important first step in Bread for the World's campaign to increase poverty-focused development assistance by $5 billion next year.

Yet our work is not done. The budget resolution is just a spending blueprint and does not dictate the details of how this money should be spent. However the budget does send an important signal to appropriators who will be making these final decisions, and last Friday's vote shows the broad support these programs have.

Let's build on this momentum. Can you write a letter to the editor?
Over the next few days, your local papers may run stories about the federal budget. We need to make sure the story focuses on what the budget resolution could mean for reducing poverty and giving hope to millions of our brothers and sisters around the world.

Lte We also want to thank the senators that voted in favor of the amendment, and call those into account who did not. We have sample talking points if you need help getting started (see the 'comment' under this post), but your letter is always more likely to get published if it is original and comes from the heart. Please consider writing one, and if you have any questions, you can e-mail or call Shawnda Hines, Grassroots Media Associate at Bread, at shines@bread.org or at 888-752-7323 x2.

Thank you again for your passion for working to end hunger in our time.

Everything Must Change

Blog_photo_2Best-selling Emergent Christian author Brian McLaren stopped by our DC office recently to discuss his new book Everything Must Change.

In the book, he asks two central questions: what are the world’s top crises and what does the life and teaching of Jesus tell us about those crises? Not surprisingly, hunger, malnutrition, and poverty are at the top of the list. In the book, Brian lays out an incredible theory about how these global crises intersect and shows how the message of Jesus is ultimately the guide to helping us “change everything.”

Brian is hosting some incredible interactive events across the country with the release of this book. Check them out at www.deepshift.org.

You can also hear his interview on the most recent edition of breadcast.

And, there’s still time to enter our contest to win a limited edition Bread for the World iPod Nano! Give us your feedback on the podcast today by emailing breadcast@bread.org. The winner will be announced on the next edition of breadcast.

This is Your Brain on Mud...Any Questions?


Ok, maybe not 'brain' per se, but there's something undeniably "internal organ-ish" about the continents and countries in that picture, courtesy of World Mapper, a really neat website that (fake word alert) mishes and mashes the globe as we know it to illustrate a certain subject of interest. 

This particular map is "The Wretched Dollar", which "shows the proportion of all people living on less than or equal to US $1 in purchasing power parity a day." (try saying that last bit 5 times fast)

And why that particular map for today's post? (One could lose a whole afternoon checking out different categories/maps.  I did.  For example, compare the 'Physicians Working' map to the 'Malaria Deaths' map.  But wait 'til you've finished this post)

Because Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General for the United Nations, has a profoundly relevant (i.e. required reading) Op-Ed in today's Washington Post: The New Face of Hunger

In it, he takes an urgent topic that we've covered some the past couple weeks - the rising price of food globally and subsequent increase in shortages (a rather oxymoronic phrase, I admit) - and ties that in to the continued need and challenge to achieve Millennium Development Goal #1 (halving the amount of people living on less than $1/day by 2015).  He also stresses that even more people are at risk of or already falling into this kind of hunger/poverty, given the new dynamics of the world food economy.

"When people are that poor, and inflation erodes their meager earnings, they generally do one of two things: They buy less food, or they buy cheaper, less nutritious food. The result is the same -- more hunger and less chance of a healthy future."

Nowhere is that as true right now as it is in Haiti, one of the poorest countries on earth.  For some there, 'cheaper, less nutritious food' isn't a selection - it's cheaper, less nutritious...MUD.  That link will bring you to a story flaring up around areas of the blogosphere and various news outlets recently that details exactly what it sounds like.  The Haitian poor are resorting to mud pies to fill their stomachs with something...anything.  It's a devastating, direct result of rising food prices and food shortages for those living on less than $1/day.


What can you do? There are a lot of options out there.  One of the most viable is making sure that The Global Poverty Act (S. 2433) passes in the Senate and is signed into law.  It would make commitment to achieving the first MDG a matter of U.S. policy.  Find out how you can take action here to make sure that your senator is a cosponsor (and also pushing for full and increased poverty focused development assistance).

The Congressional Easter Recess is also coming up.  Having a Letter to the Editor published or scheduling a visit to your Representative/Senator's office during that time will have a potent effect in helping them see that these are much more than just statistics and impersonal dollar amounts.  Contact us if you'd like help/talking points for doing either of those things. Your personal interactions and words show that real people care and are affected.

And that mud is not an option.


A Development Method that Works?

An anti-poverty scheme invented in Brazil is starting to attract governments worldwide. In Brazil, "Bolsa Familia" offers families making less than 120 reais ($68) per head per month 95 reais on condition that their children go to school and take part in government vaccination programs. Currently, about 11 million families - a quarter of Brazil's population - receive the benefit. In addition to providing immediate help to the poor, this program aims to break the prevalent culture of dependency by ensuring that all children receive a good education. It does this by making it more profitable for children to attend school than to stay at home and work. In Alagoas, one of Brazil's poorest states, there have already been many encouraging signs. School attendance has risen both within the state and throughout the country. Furthermore, Bolsa Familia has also helped to push Alagoas' rate of economic growth above the national average, reducing income inequality. Although only 30% of Alagoas's labour force of 1.3m has a formal job, more than 1.5m of its people had a mobile phone last year. According to Aloizio Mercadante, a senator for São Paulo state, this is proof that the program has helped the poor to achieve "Chinese rates of growth." This consumption boom has in turn helped to spawn new businesses. The main concerns regarding this initiative include:

1. Fraud. The main concern is whether local governments are collecting accurate data on eligibility and enforcing the conditions. According to the World Bank, however, 70% ends up in the pockets of the poorest 20% of families.

2. Some people worry that Bolsa Familia will end up being a permanent program rather than a temporary initiative. Since the program only began in 2003, it is still too soon to tell. However, this will depend in large part on the success of Brazil's public school system.

3. Bolsa Familia is sometimes equated with straightforward vote-buying. According to the Economist, however, this does not appear to be the case.

Taking these factors into consideration, it appears that Bolsa Familia may prove to be a successful model to export and build upon. For a relatively modest outlay (0.8% of GDP), Brazil is getting a good return. The program has been implemented in many Latin American countries and New York City. It is now on its way to Cairo and Eastern Europe.

For more information, a full article can be found on: the Economist

Stay Connected

Bread for the World