Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

14 posts from March 2008

Seeking a Space for Global Poverty in the Public Discourse

CandidatesblogIn this busy electoral season, there are ample opportunties to attend presidential and congressional candidate forums and debates.  If you're lucky, there will be a competitive congressional elections in your district in 2008. (We in New Mexico have three seats in the House and one in the Senate up for grabs!).   

The fact that the forums are being held does not guarantee that the issue of global poverty will be among the questions presented to the candidates.  Often, it is up to us Bread for the World members and like-minded allies to ask the questions. 

On March 8, I attended a forum sponsored by the Democratic Women of New Mexico, featuring four of the five Democrats competing in the June 3 primary to replace Rep. Heather Wilson (who resigned to run for the open U.S. Senate seat).  The candidates were asked very important questions regarding education and the No Child Left Behind program, the U.S. involvement in Iraq, and the fight for water rights in the west. 

But the forum seemed incomplete without the question that I consider as important as all those others:
"Would the candidates support increasing the percentage of poverty-focused development assistance?" Or "What can the U.S. could do to help move us closer to meeting the Millennium Development Goals ?"

Because time was limited, there was no opportunity for questions from the public.  Fortunately, I came prepared for that eventuality. I brought my trusty tape recorder and Bread for the World hand-outs about this year's Offering of Letters, and sought each of the four candidates during a break.  They were more than willing to answer the questions and all asked for more information. Read more about what they said Bread for the World-New Mexico blog.

What's more important, none of the four candidates knew much about Bread for the World, although they had heard about The ONE Campaign.  This was my opportunity to make the connection, to begin a relationship that will be helpful on Lobby Day and on all other occasions when a Bread-supported issues come before Congress.  It's very possible that any of these candidates could be occupying the office on Capitol Hill reserved for the New Mexico First Congressional District. 

Now I think I'll go to the Bernalillo County Republican website to see if the two candidates seeking the Republican nomination will hold a forum soon.  I'll be sure to bring my tape recorder and more Bread hand-outs and ONE white bands.

"...and on that farm he read the newspaper..."


The farm bill and its related issues continue to make headlines, welcome news that awareness is still being generated about how much hunger, nutrition and real, everyday people are affected by this critically important piece of legislation.

The unwelcome news is that the farm bill and these issues are still in the news because in its current form the bill is directly (negatively) exacerbating the global food economy as well as American families' abilities to keep enough, nutritious food on the table in the coming years (not what we need while already headed for recession).

First up - the writers of this New York Times article forgot to check last week's Op-Eds, because they fail to fully explain what they mean when they say "farmers are flourishing."  In the context of this article, they mean that farmers who receive commodity payments (i.e. for only growing corn, wheat, soy, rice and/or cotton) are flourishing due to the spike in world prices/demand for these commodities and the fact that they still are paid hand over fist by the farm bill for growing just these things.  Millions of small and specialty farmers in this country are left out.

As the Washington Post rightly points out in a perfectly timed editorial today, there is no reason billions of dollars should continue to go to these large farmers in such a boon time when millions of poor and hungry families could use boosts in the nutrition programs to help them cope with the rising costs of basic food needs.  If you're a regular reader of this blog/Bread materials, you'll know that the Senate already DID approve caps on commodity payments, etc, but they were stopped short by the actions of Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, etc, as the editorial also points out.

Finally, none other than Bread for the World President David Beckmann also had an Op-Ed published in the Washington Times on Thursday.  He highlights in powerful language all that could be done to improve the farm bill still and that Congress has it within its power to see some of these economically pragmatic (and stimulating) and morally just decisions done the right way.

Fired up about the injustices and opportunities still before Congress on the farm bill after reading all of that?  Read what actions you can take HERE.

P.S. On a more personal note, I'm struck by this quote from the New York Times article on grain shortages: 

“Everyone wants to eat like an American on this globe,” said Daniel W. Basse of the AgResource Company, a Chicago consultancy. “But if they do, we’re going to need another two or three globes to grow it all.”

Last time I checked, for those who can manage we have a bit of an over-eating problem in this country.  Our portions and the kinds of things we eat proportionally to what we should be eating are grotesque, by and large - either in the restaurant or in the home.  I'm not holding anything against Mr. Basse here.  In truth, he's actually pointing out that we (as Americans) in our bounty set a bar for the rest of the world that's impossible to emulate from a resource standpoint.  Even though we're a world of plenty, the 'American Dream' of a two-car garage and Golden Corrals at every intersection is entirely unsustainable for 6 billion people - and unnecessary for us all to live healthy, "normal" lives and still share the planet equitably.

Interested in an estimate of your "global footprint"?  Click here for a fascinating test of "how many Earths we would need" if we all lived like you.  Last time I checked, I think I was at about 4.5.  Ouch!

How to Lose a Trip to D.C. in 10 Days

Quick answer: By not applying to be a Hunger Justice Leader!



Longer-ish answer: Good morning, gentle readers.  This is your friendly reminder that coming up in a week and a half (***MARCH 15***), the deadline - for applying to come to Washington, DC this summer for an exciting, expenses paid gathering and training - will come and go.  And we don't want you to miss it! 

If you're between the ages of 18 and 35, this will be a great opportunity, if selected, to deepen and enhance your commitment to activism and hunger issues, all while connecting, engaging and worshiping with your peers and premier experts on said issues and policies and such.

And while 10 days is a good amount of time, the application does need a personal statement and a recommendation, so start to... APPLY TODAY!

(P.S. Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey not included.)

Way Down in the Hole...Wheat

A few articles popped up this weekend related to hunger and nutrition, both domestically and abroad.  All are worth reading, reflecting and commenting on, so let's get started, beginning with the local and working our way outwards.

My Forbidden Fruits (and Vegetables) - This Op-Ed is currently the most emailed article of the day over at the New York Times...and with good reason.  Written by a farmer, it outlines the vast lapses in logic of the American commodity support system from the vantage point of a small farmer...and many like him around the country...how growers of produce are not only not supported, but lose their payments for their commodity crops if they even try to diversify!  And much more - I know you may be sick of 'farm bill-ness' after all we've gone through in the past year - but this directly affects your local farmer's markets...and your dinner plate!



Paging Mr. Prez...

Free Lunch Isn't Cool, So Some Students Go Hungry - As lower-income students in this country move beyond elementary school to the more social-status conscious confines of middle school and beyond...school systems are finding that some students will just as soon go without so as not to appear unable to 'provide for themselves' amongst their peers.  The article also highlights approaches some school systems are taking to combat the trend - students who eat are obviously healthier, but also learn better.

You know what else isn't cool?  35 million people - including 13 million children - going hungry in the U.S.

(Also, bonus points for whoever can tell me who that is in the picture above and why it relates)


Finally, Soaring Food Prices Putting U.S. Emergency Aid in Peril - an article highlighting the effects that the biofuel movement, upward mobility by millions in China and India, and other factors are having on the world's ability to provide food aid to crisis areas of hunger, peril and starvation.  In some cases, extremely difficult decisions are going to be made soon about where to cut back and reduce aid, even as  hunger threatens to increase in these areas. 

Unfortunately it won't let me embed this one, but for video goodness on the same story, the BBC has it covered on YouTube.


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