Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

5 posts from May 2008

Food Crisis to be discussed in Rome Next Week

2990afgat190 Jacques Diouf, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), called a global summit late in 2007 to provide an opportunity for world leaders to discuss the food crisis. Reuters reports today that Diouf asserts that "It's time for action." Diouf noted that "[the hunger crisis] is not an issue like HIV/AIDS where you need some research breakthrough. People know what to do."

Reuters affirms that a combination of factors, including poor harvests, low stocks, and rising demand have combined to produce rises in food commodity prices - a highly unanticipated event. A recent report from the FAO notes that food prices will remain high over the next ten years, even if modest decline occurs. Currently, there are 850 million people in the world suffering from hunger, and this crisis expects to push 100 million more people into hunger and food insecurity.

As the World Bank pledges $1.2 Billion in loans and grant financing to combat this crisis, delegates from 151 countries will gather in Rome from Tuesday to Thursday of next week to discuss poverty and hunger-related issues. However, Rueters notes that underlying issues including free trade, biofuels, and genetically modified organisms will reveal divisions among countries during this event.

Josette Sheeran, head of the World Food Program (based in Rome) stated that the crisis should be seen as "a wake up call to act now to defeat the plague of hunger once and for all."

As these world leaders meet to discuss the crisis, you can engage in the discussion with your faith community by joining Bread for the World's Recipe for Hope campaign. By signing up here, you will have access to educational resources as well as opportunities to engage your church, school group, family, and friends in discussions that seek to inspire your elected officials to act on behalf of the hungry and poor in the world. If you would like more information on legislation and opportunities to respond to the rise in global food prices, contact your local Bread for the World office.

Calling all Justice Gardeners

Planting seeds in Senator Inouye’s office.

The challenge of making hunger and poverty history requires the use of our voices, and there is no better way to use them, than to sit down with your local congressional member’s office and plant a mustard seed. 

On a recent field trip to the beautiful islands of Hawaii, myself and four other local Bread activists sat down with one of the legislative assistants in Sen. Inouye’s Honolulu office for a chat about global and domestic hunger, the Global Poverty Act (S. 2433) and how to get the Senator’s attention through our letter writing.  We left feeling energized and positive.  This process not only helped us educate the Senator’s office about our concerns, it gave us the sense that the Senator actually cares for what his constituents think and say. 

Setting up the meeting was very easy.  We simply called and made an appointment with the legislative aid in Honolulu.  She took notes while we talked that she will pass on to the D.C. office.  That means our voices will travel from Honolulu directly to Washington D.C. where the policies that affect hunger are made.  Given that Senator Inouye is on both Appropriations and the Foreign Operations/State Department subcommittee (the department where poverty-focused development assistance is managed), his knowledge of these issues is essential to moving the dollars in the U.S. budget to helping the most vulnerable.

One of the most poignant things we learned was how important it was for Sen. Inouye to hear from his constituents.  The Senator, we were told, prefers to hear from his constituents in Hawaii more than from national lobbyists.  Letters are an important way for a Senator, so far away, to hear from the people who voted him into office.  But not surprisingly, the letters that mean the most are those hand written personal letters that show the writer understands and cares about the issue.  Form letters or dictated letters that are all the same have less of an impact.  We were told that it was quality not quantity that made the biggest difference. Check out Communicating with Congress.

It only takes a few minutes to write a personal letter.  Three sentences!  First, state your motivation: I’m writing because I’m speaking for those unable to speak up.  Next, write out the “ask” :  Please increase the funding for Poverty-/Focused Development Assistance by $5 billion for FY09 and co-sponsor the Global Poverty Act.  And finally, add a fact (unfortunately, there many to choose from): 28,000 children under the age of 5 die every day from preventable causes, half are hunger related. 

Mustard seeds are tiny, but “. . . when it is sown, it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Mark 4:32)..  By having the compassion for those in need and using our tools of voice or simply writing a tiny letter, we can watch that plant grow and those braches can provide the life sustaining food for so many in need, changing the structures that have left them in the scorching sun.   After visiting Sen. Inouye’s office, I felt as if our group had planted just one seed.  By taking an hour from our busy day, we educated the Senator’s office and by building that face to face relationship, may indeed see our plant grow.  I challenge all you gardeners of justice, to follow our example.  Make a call to the legislative assistant in your home district.  Plant a seed and watch it grow. 

Recipe for Hope: Respond to the Hunger Crisis

Zambiangirlinblue You can make a difference in the global hunger crisis.

It's in the news nearly every day: Food prices are soaring worldwide. More low-income people in the United States are making trips to food banks, whose stocks are quickly depleting. In developing countries, for the world's poorest people—who spend up to 80 percent of their income to buy food—the situation is even more devastating. 


But you have the power to be part of the solution.  JOIN THE CAMPAIGN


For six weeks, from Mother's Day through Father's Day, Bread for the World will conduct an online campaign to help hunger activists raise awareness and take action. Each week, an email from Bread will offer the ingredients for:

  • Recipe for Despair
    More information on the causes of this crisis; and a

  • Recipe for Hope
    Specific actions you can take to help end it. You can also invite your friends to join the campaign.

It's easy to feel helpless when you watch people around the world suffering for lack of food. Be part of the Recipe for Hope, and be part of the solution.




Learn more about rising food prices and the hunger crisis.

Read Bread's press release on the Recipe for Hope and invite your friends to join on Facebook.

We'll also be updating the blog during the six-week campaign with the actions we'll be urging folks to take - thank you in advance for joining!  It's quick and free to sign up, and it matters - right now.


Could You Eat on $21 a Week?

The average food stamp recipient receives $1 per meal per day. Would you like to see two members of Congress try living on that diet? The co-chairs of the Congressional Hunger Caucus did just that.

In the May edition of breadcast, we hear from Reps. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) discuss what it was like for them eat like people on food stamps for a week. And our producer, Brian Duss, discusses his own adventures on the “Food Stamp Challenge.”

When you subscribe to breadcast on iTunes or download it from our Web site you’ll also get our legislative update, music from Keith Green, and hear more about a food stamp diet from food bank director George Jones, nutritionist Tracy Fox and Mark Andersen from We Are Family Senior Outreach Network.

The Drama of Hunger

I am convinced
That if all mankind
Could only gather together
In one circle
Arms around each other's shoulders
And dance, laugh and cry
      Then much
           of the tension and burden
                      of life
           Would fall away

                 -Leonard Nimoy

How many times have we thought to ourselves that ending hunger and poverty is an insurmountable problem?  And how many times have we countered that thought by considering the possibilities if we all put our hearts and minds together to address this problem.

And then you're faced with considering a wide range of emotions.

Do you cry because the suffering is so real? Consider the example of a mother (anywhere in the world) having to choose between feeding her children and getting enough to eat. 

Do you laugh because we want to make fun of some of the situations that cause the suffering?  For example, any clown can tell you that that the amount of money we spend on some goods and services (ice cream, perfume, ocean cruises, pet services) every year far exceeds what it would cost hunger and malnutrition at the global level.

Laugh? or Cry? or Both? 

That's what the students enrolled in the class Hunger: A Theatrical Expression considered as part of a class project.  This was one of more than a dozen classes offered through the Research Service Learning Program at the University of New Mexico during the spring semester 2008.

The class involved many aspects of theater, from writing the script to designing the set and costumes to acting out the various roles that they created in a play entitled Hungry Machine.  Before the students wrote the script, they had to do extensive research to ensure that their play was not a superficial look at hunger. The looked at a wide range of resources (including several copies of the Bread for the World Institute's annual hunger reports) and held dialogues with a couple of guest speakers.  "They spent the entire first month of the semester doing research," said Anna Saggese, one of two instructors  Anna and fellow instructor Riti Sachdeva also directed the play.

Here's an excerpt from the program:

"One in three New Mexicans face food insecurities"

With this sentence, the class began a journey of discovery.  We wanted to know what food insecurity is, who feels it, what it looks like, tastes like, where it begins and how to combat it.  Through the research process, we started to unearth our personal relationships with food.  We saw how food is an integral part of family, culture, survival and saiety. We looked at a lack of food and its impact on the individual and our larger communities.

The students then proceeded to put together the play, which consisted of about 10 vignettes involving many topics related to hunger, poverty and food. Some were monologues, others involved mimes and clowns.  There was even a humorous sketch where a schoolteacher-type nun (with a German accent!) spoke about the impact of genetic engineering on the food supply.  Underlying the various topics were what the students determined were six causes or effects of hunger: gender discrimination, vulnerability of children and the elderly, population growth and consumption, poverty and powerlessness, violence and militarism, and racism and ethnocentricity. 

Here's what they said:

As we shared our writing we noticed interesting connections.  Most of our main characters are women.  A few are pregnant women.  We realize a definite connection between food and mothers.  Most of the monologues address topics that evoke a multitude of responses: anger, grief, fear, and even laughter.  This performance is testimony to our process of uncovering the very complex truths about hunger in our state and in our world.

The resulting product was a very powerful play that spoke to the audience at many levels,  with the message that hunger, while complex, is a problem that can be solved if we take time to learn about its underlying causes.  Click here for program and cast information 

To express their commitment to addressing the problem, the students in the class decided to include the opportunity for the audience to write letters as part of Bread for the World's 2008 Offering of Letters campaign, which asks Congress to increase funding for poverty-focused development assistance by at least $5 billion.

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