Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

5 posts from February 2009

Ofrenda de Cartas de 2009

2009 Offering of Letters video

Lent 2009: Listen, Pray, Take Action!

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on February 25. In this time of preparation before Easter, believers can commemorate Jesus Christ through prayer and almsgiving.

Matthew 25:31-46 describes Jesus separating the sheep from the goats, saying to them, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” When one of the followers asks Jesus when they had done such things for the Lord, Jesus replies, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Let’s learn from this passage that we can serve the Lord by serving those who are suffering around us, and let’s put this lesson into practice during Lent. Bread’s website provides the Lenten prayer resources that will help us do this. A scripture reading, prayer, and action are presented for each of the five weeks of Lent and Holy Week. You can download the Lenten Prayers for Hungry People in pdf or order free copies online for your home, church, or organization.

You can also access other Lenten resources about hunger at this website.

Hope you all have a wonderful week.


Flowers for my Fair (Trade) Valentine

How are you celebrating heart day?  Perhaps your sweetheart would appreciate a box of chocolates and a dozen roses.  But stop and consider this: Valentine's Day also provides you a great opportunity to put the concept of fair trade into practice.  When you make your purchase decision, make sure that the product has fair trade certification.  This primarily ensures that the grower of the cocoa, sugar and flowers were paid a fair price for their products.

So instead of buying the commercial brand of boxed chocolates, you might consider purchasing the special products offered on this day by these popular providers of fair trade chocolate DivineEqual Exchange or SERRV.   


What about flowers? Most of us are already aware about fairly traded chocolates, coffee and tea, but fair-trade flowers are not as widely known.  Fair-trade flowers have only been available in the U.S. since August 2007, due primarily to the efforts of Transfair USA.

For flower farmers, fair trade certification means more than just a fair wage.  It requires that farms provide employee benefits including 12 weeks maternity leave and child care. Read more  about the growers.

But the wages are important too. Did you know that for every fair-trade flower sold by the Hoja Verde flower farm in Ecuador, the cooperative is able send one more child to school?  Most fair-trade flowers come from three countries: Ecuador, Colombia and Kenya.  See list of producers

Where can you buy Fair Trade flowers? Here is a partial list of online retailers and supermarket chains nationwide.

The concept of fair-trade flowers is catching on rapidly.  For Alaina Paradise, who owns Albuquerque-based One World Flowers, this was a very busy week.  "Valentine's Day has been absolutely outstanding for business," said Ms. Paradise, whose company ran out of inventory a few days before Feb. 14.

Ms. Paradise, who started her local operation in March 2008 as a licensee of Transfair, offers a wide variety of bouquets and other products to her customers. 

"We're excited because this holiday is making such an impact on the farms," she said. "When the farms are doing well, they're able to employ more people and sustain the fair-trade business model.

So as you consider what to give your sweetheart this Valentine's day, also keep in mind the countless workers who labored growing the products that the two of you will enjoy together on this special day.

"Foundation of a Tighter Community"

President Obama is making a visit today to Fort Myers, the county seat and commercial center of Lee County, Florida. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, Lee County lost the highest percentage of jobs (8.8 percent) from June 2007 to June 2008 of all the counties in the US and its unemployment rate soared from 3.5 percent in March 2007 to 9.8 percent in November. Two months ago, the median home price in the Fort Myers area dropped to $106,900, compared to a peak of $322,300 in December 2005. Lee County is clearly one of the communities most afflicted by the recession, and as such, crime is on the rise and more people are going hungry.
There is an article from New York Times that gives a telling description of the pain experienced from the current economic crisis, with many ties to the issue of hunger.
It was encouraging to read about a group that formed in the Lehigh community called “Team Rescue”, which brings together churches, nonprofit groups, business owners, and representatives in an effort to fight the recession in an organized way as one community. Hunger is one of the chief concerns for the group, as organizations offering food have seen demand increase by as much as 75 percent in the last year. It’s no longer just the chronic poor who are seeking help.

Here’s a quote from the article that I found insightful: “Team Rescue, of which Faith Lutheran is a member, considers itself successful, not just because it has helped more families but also because organizers believe that the links they are forming will be the foundation of a tighter community.”

If we manage to work together in this time of difficulty, we can hope to create a new basis for cooperation and community engagement.

As Bread President Rev. Beckmann noted in a statement today, “Speed is of the essence” in providing support to the neediest families. “Investments in programs that put money in the hands of low-income people- like SNAP (food stamps) and unemployment benefits- generate more in economic stimulus than they cost.” Let’s hope that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by the senate today will meet the needs of hungry families soon.

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