Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

5 posts from June 2008

The Price of Hunger

Check out this video by American News Project.  It features Bread staffer - Brian Duss.

Congressman Carson's Concern for Global Hunger

On Tuesday, June 17, over 200 Bread for the World members met with their congressional representatives.  David Miner, the Chair of Bread's Board of Directors, met with Congressman Andre Carson from Indiana's 7th district.  The congressman serves on the House Finance Committee.  During a hearing on Wednesday, June 18, he mentioned his visit with David and other members of Bread for the World:

I am pleased that the Administration sought significant increases in the U.S. contribution to the IDA and for the African Development Fund.  We must target these crucial multilateral resources towards fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic, combating global climate change, stabilizing weakened governments and addressing the global food crisis.

Yesterday, I met with David Miner, Chair of the Board of Directors for Bread for the World and a highly respected member of the Indianapolis community.  He highlighted the severity of the world food crisis and how imperative it is that we give weight to this problem in examining how global assistance through the IDA is directed.  He said that the current high food prices represent a significant setback and that at this point, he doesn’t think the world community has fully realized the impact of this. 

I could not agree with him more and I would add that during my recent trip to Haiti, I was deeply moved by those I saw suffering from extreme poverty and hunger.  In a world with such wealth and resources, we must aggressively fight to make sure the resources we devote to foreign assistance can truly bring about the substantive structural changes within governments to help those living at the margins of society.

It's great when we see visible examples of our advocacy efforts!

Cutting world hunger as a US policy by Pierre de Vries

Pierre de Vries is a member of Bread for the World's Board of Directors. He is a Research Fellow at the Economic Policy Research Center of the University of Washington, and a Senior Adjunct Fellow of the Silicon Flatirons Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is also a technology advisor to the Washington DC law firm of Harris Wiltshire & Grannis.  This post originally appeared on his blog. 

There are two groups who think harder about allocating scarce resources than the rest of us: professional economists, and poor people. Recently an eminent collection of economists concluded that helping poor people was the best way to use scarce resources to solve the world's biggest problems.

The challenge of the “Copenhagen Consensus” was as follows: Imagine you had $75bn to donate to worthwhile causes. Where should we start?

The most effective action we could take, according to eight leading economists, including five Nobel Prize winners, was to combat malnutrition in the 140 million children who are undernourished.

Providing vitamin A capsules and a course of zinc supplements for 80% of the children who lack essential vitamins would cost just $60 million per year, and yield benefits of more than $1 billion per year. This means that each $1 spent on this program creates benefits worth more than $17 in the form of better health, fewer deaths, and increased future earnings

Explaining why this project came out on top of the list, Nobel Laureate Douglass C. North said that “it has immediate and important consequences for improving the wellbeing of poor people around the world - that's why it should be our number one priority.” As soaring food prices put tens of millions of people at risk of hunger, vitamin supplements for children are critical to protect vulnerable populations.

The remaining priorities of the Copenhagen Consensus include opening agricultural markets; disease control; expanded immunization of children; increased education, especially for women and girls; and community-based nutrition promotion.

These priorities come as no surprise. In 2000, the United States joined all countries in the world in committing to the Millennium Development Goals to improve life for the world's poorest people by 2015; these goals include all the priorities identified by the elite cadre of economists at the Copenhagen Consensus. We are now half-way to 2015, and running behind schedule; we need to strengthen the United States' commitment to meeting these goals.

We should re-commit to cutting hunger and poverty by making it an official goal of U.S. policy. We must modernize and streamline U.S. assistance to ensure the maximum benefit reaches those in greatest need. According to Bread for the World, 12 departments, 25 agencies, and almost 60 government offices plan and implement U.S. global development policies and programs—hardly a model of seamless efficiency.

Last year Congress passed the Global Poverty Act, a bill introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Rep. Adam Smith, and co-sponsored by Representatives Brian Baird, Norm Dicks, Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen, Jim McDermott, and Dave Reichert. The legislation aims to focus U.S. efforts to meet the most pressing Millennium Development Goal: cutting in half by 2015 the number of people living on less than $1 a day. The Global Poverty Act would also require a coordinated strategy to achieve this goal through U.S. aid, debt relief, and trade policies. The strategy would emphasize cooperation with other countries, international institutions, faith-based groups, and the private sector.

Senator Maria Cantwell was one of the original sponsors of the companion bill in the Senate, and Sen. Patty Murray is a co-sponsor. The Global Poverty Act now has 21 co-sponsors in the Senate. Senators Murray and Cantwell should use their influence on Capitol Hill to garner additional support for the bill.

America needs wise and active partners in every country to build a safe and prosperous world. Healthy and flourishing people in Africa will not only use our software, ride in our planes, and buy wheat from the Palouse; they will also help us write software, produce goods we need, and enrich our intertwined cultures. Alleviating hunger and poverty in the developing world is part of building a better America, as well as being the most cost-effective way to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

Catching up

Img_8398 Wow! I'm very sorry for the 2 week gap in posting on Bread Blog.  Let's just say we got caught up with recent events - Hunger Justice Leaders Training and Lobby Day.  I wish we had live blogged from each session during the training, but many of us were too busy with other tasks or details.  Luckily, some Hunger Justice Leaders stepped up to the plate and they mentioned the training on their blogs. 

Anne Edison-Albright from Westmont, NJ (soon relocating to Slovakia for an internship) posted about the opening worship.  She will post her notes from the whole event soon.  Stay tuned to her blog - Leaves from a Lutheran notebook.

Ben Wideman from Pasadena, CA has some pictures from the weekend, including the image above of our California group after a lobby visit with Senator Boxer's office.  We met with an aide from the office to discuss increasing poverty focused development assistance by $5 billion for FY 2009.  It was amazing to see this group lobby.  A few days prior, many of them expressed their fears and concerns about meeting with congressional offices.  It was incredible to watch them step up to the challenge and nail the meetings.  I was moved by their stories of visiting or living in the developing world.  Many in our delegation represented their home countries - stories of parents and grandparents who emigrated to the US to ensure a better life for their families and children.  This group is not only passionate, but they deeply understand the value of seeking justice by speaking out to some of the most powerful people in our nation.

Laura Mac's livejournal has some great reflections on the whole experience of the training and Lobby Day.  She writes:

All in all, I feel like I was really invested in during this conference. I learned so much about how our democracy works, I learned about poverty and hunger in the US, about the downfalls of food stamps, and how I really do have a say in my government as a US citizen (what a blessing!). I am determined to encourage others to be active citizens, too (hence my commitment to Bread advocacy for the next year or so). I think I am going to work on getting Justice Matters to do some lobbying in the coming semester among other things. It'll be good to move beyond awareness into practical and effective action.


David Beckmann's Speech in Rome

Leaders from around the world converged in Rome this week to participate in a three-day summit addressing the current global hunger crisis. At the summit, sponsored by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), world leaders pledged to ease trade restrictions and boost agricultural production, particularly for "smallholder" farmers in the developing world. (Full text of final declaration)

Pledges are fine, but David reminded conference participants on Thursday that "...conferences and reports are not enough to build the necessary political will." Listen and read:

Audio of speech (MP3)
Text of speech (PDF)

PS - We're glad to have friends like Oxfam.

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