Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

3 posts from October 2009

Lobbying in Los Angeles for Foreign Aid Reform

USAID delivery Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/chucksimmins/ / CC BY 2.0

By Cameron Shaw, Bread for the World Organizing Intern

On Monday, I went on my first lobby visit as part of my internship with Bread for the World. The purpose was to convince Senator Dianne Feinstein to co sponsor S. 1524, the Foreign Assistance Reform and Revitalization Act. Two Bread staff members (Holly and Sonia), 5 community leaders (Wanda, Jane, Wayne, Vickie and Connie) and I met with one of her staff for about forty-five minutes to discuss the bill. This was an urgent meeting, because the bill was due to be marked up the next day. A markup is when the committee gets together to analyze a bill and make changes.

We set the stage by telling personal stories. Wanda recounted how aid had lifted her family out of poverty during the Depression. Thanks to the aid, they went from barely subsisting on beans to eating balanced meals. I discussed my experiences during my semester abroad in Senegal.  I pointed out that very little money can have a huge impact on the lives of the poor. Jane told us about her friend who had been badly injured in a bombing on the UN. She argued that having opportunities and basic necessities will reduce violence.  Wayne, a Lutheran preacher, shared his experiences aiding displaced Colombian women and children. According to him, aid is most effective when it is targeted at women.

Next we told her staff about the bill - S. 1524. Jane, a member of the South Coast Interfaith Council, facilitated the meeting.  She highlighted the good points of the bill. The bill updates our foreign aid laws, encouraging establishing some new agencies, strengthening old ones, and demanding that foreign aid information be made public. It establishes a Council on Research and Evaluation of Foreign Assistance (CORE), whose function is to evaluate US foreign aid. Additionally, USAID does not have enough staff or resources to do their job adequately. Thus, this bill creates a Bureau for Policy and Strategic Planning within USAID that focuses on U.S. development policy and researches the effectiveness of development aid. Most importantly, it increases transparency by requiring the President to make all information on US foreign assistance public.

Finally, we pressed the staff about why the Senator had not yet cosponsored such a non- controversial piece of legislation. The staff member told us that she was waiting for the markup. We later found out that the bill’s markup had been postponed for a week. To wrap the meeting up, we gave the senator's office 7 hand written letters from Sonia, her students, and me.

If I took anything away from the meeting, it was importance of organization. Having a designated facilitator really helped push the meeting forward. The twenty minutes before the meeting in which we asked each other “what part of the bill is most important to you? What part do you want to discuss?”  were essential. Each person spoke about his or her passion rather than just another segment.

Cameron Shaw is a senior at Pomona College.  She is interning this fall with Bread for the World's Pasadena Regional Office.

A Busy Two Days in Birmingham for David Beckmann

By Elaine VanCleave

On the morning of Sept 23, 2009, Bread for the World's president David Beckmann and other faith leaders organized a procession in full clerical regalia through the streets of Pittsburgh as part of the Faith Leaders Summit held as a precursor to the G20 meetings in that city.

Rev. Beckmann reflected on the significance of the morning’s activities later that evening at a presentation entitled Exodus from Hunger at Birmingham Southern College (BSC) in Birmingham, AL. The BFW president was a featured speaker during BSC’s Dialogue on Food week. 

Beckmann BhmHis presentation followed a student organized Hunger Banquet, where diners experienced the inequalities of global hunger. Beckmann’s inspirational message resulted in 65 letters to Rep. Spencer Bachus, a leader on global poverty and hunger issues.

Alabama Bread for the World members organized several additional opportunities for Rev. Beckmann to speak while in Birmingham.  Beckmann began September 24 with an appearance on Fox 6’s Good Day Alabama with host Rick Journey. 

Then, he was off to Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Homewood for an informal breakfast meeting with the social justice ministry committee.  

From there, Beckmann attended and spoke at a lunch at Independent Presbyterian Church for members of the Alabama Faith Council, a group of Alabama faith leaders.

Beckmann concluded his visit to Birmingham at Our Lady of the Valley Church in Shelby County where he spoke to Just Faith graduates and current students.

Throughout Beckmann’s two-day Alabama blitz, he spoke of Bread for the World’s efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of US foreign assistance as a way to eliminate poverty in God’s world.  “The sighs of people who can’t feed their children are holy. God Almighty is with people who are struggling.  As citizens in a democracy, we can participate in what God is doing,” he said.

(The author is a Bread for the World activist in Birmingham, Ala.)

Birmingham Holds Hunger Banquet, Stands Up Against Poverty to Help Set Guinness Record

On Sunday, October 18, more than 150 diners in Birmingham, Ala., got a taste of global food inequity at a “hunger banquet” hosted by Rogue Tavern and supported by local celebrities and businesses.

Bhm-stand2 Organized by local leaders of national anti-poverty groups Bread for the World, Care, and the ONE Campaign, the hunger banquet was the Birmingham groups’ unique way to observe the fourth annual, worldwide “Stand Up, Take Action, End Poverty Now!” mobilization on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Diners at the Birmingham hunger banquet, along with millions of people around the world, literally stood up and called on world leaders to eradicate extreme poverty.

Coordinators for the global “Stand Up” effort announced that its 173  million participants around the world broke the Guinness World record for greatest number of human beings ever mobilized on the planet. 

To highlight the scope of global hunger, the Rogue Tavern was transformed into three worlds, divided according to the global distribution of wealth. Diners were seated according to tickets distributed randomly at the entrance:

  • Fifteen percent of the diners received a gourmet meal prepared by Chef Haller Magee of Satterfield's, at white cloth, candle-lit tables, served by celebrity waiters Scott Register and Joel Pryor, and serenaded by a violinist.
  • Thirty-five percent of the diners sat at tables of rustic, all-weather furniture after serving themselves rice and beans from a buffet line.
  • The remaining fifty percent of the attendees ate white rice while sitting on benches or burlap coffee bags on the floor of an area decorated with hay bales and trees to resemble the outdoors.

The message behind the hunger banquet was well-received by participants—even those who were not served a high-end meal. “I really needed that,” said Live 100.5’s Scott Register, who waited on the 15 percent of diners lucky enough to get a gourmet meal.

Bhm-stand3 The experience was “very sobering, and makes you count your blessings,” he said. In addition to the meal, banqueters learned about global hunger and poverty and made the “Stand Up” pledge to support the Millennium Development Goals, a global pact to cut in half global hunger, poverty, and disease by 2015.

Many attendees took immediate action with their cell phones by calling Senator Richard Shelby and asking him to support the Global Food Security Act, S. 384. Looking beyond the tragic reality of global hunger, Dr. Suzanne Martin of Samford University said she was struck by “the groundswell of hope within the international community that we can eradicate extreme poverty in this generation.” 

Martin, a volunteer with Bread for the World, led the Stand Up pledge in Birmingham for the fourth consecutive year. “Standing up and speaking words of hope is an energizing and convicting way to recommit to doing all we can do,” she said.

Food for the event was provided by Satterfield's, Cantina, Jim ‘n Nick's, and California Pizza Kitchen at Riverchase Galleria.  

Bhm-stand4 Although some banqueters ate better than others, everyone heard Jon Poor play acoustic guitar and sing as people arrived. Servants in Faith and Technology (SIFAT) students from countries around the world closed the evening with an a capella performance.  The Banquet was emceed by former Magic 96.5 WMJJ-FM radio personality and local actress Jil Friday. 

Submitted by Elaine VanCleave

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