Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

7 posts from February 2011

Hunger in the News: Food Prices Could Reach 2008 Levels


Food Prices Could Reach 2008 Level: USDA. U.S. consumers could see food costs spiking to levels seen during the food crisis of 2008, as higher commodity and energy prices force companies to raise prices on products lining grocery store shelves, the Agriculture Department said. [Reuters]

USAID Releases Billions for Treatment of TB and AIDS. USAID has released money to fund HIV and tuberculosis projects in Nairobi and the Coast region for the next five years. [AllAfrica.com]

USAID Tied to Spread of HIV-Specific Criminalization in Africa. The sudden up-tick in HIV-specific laws in African countries has been tied directly to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). [The Michigan Messenger]


Child Poverty Increasing in Illinois. The percentage of kids living below the federal poverty line in the state is up—from 17 percent to nearly 19 percent between 2008 and 2009, reaching 590,000 kids by the end of that year. [Progress Illinois]

Climate Change

U.S. Says a Binding Climate Deal ‘Not on Cards’ This Year. A legally binding accord to combat climate change “is not on the cards” at a December summit, because developing countries such as China, Brazil and India won’t commit to it, according to U.S. negotiator Todd Stern. [Bloomberg]

From Chiapas to the United States and Back

Text by Dulce Gamboa
Photographs by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

It has been almost 10 years since Marvin Garcia returned to Mexico from the United States. Garcia, 52, is originally from Guatemala but is now a naturalized Mexican citizen. He owns and farms a small parcel of land at Santa Fe, a sustainable community developed by Agros International in Comitan, located in Mexico’s Chiapas state.

Marvin Garcia, 52, worked in the United States without papers several times because of a lack of opportunities and jobs where he lives in Chiapas, Mexico. With the help of Agros, a U.S. nonprofit, Garcia was able to buy land in his hometown when he returned from the United States.

Agros helps poor small-scale farmers buy fertile land with loans that carry a very low interest rate. Borrowers have up to 10 years to repay their loans. Agros also provides technical assistance to help farmers make the land as productive as possible.

Garcia is a resilient man who is partially blind from cataracts. It is too painful for him to open his right eye. Using just one eye is especially hard during harvest season. He said once, “I think that the corn I am scorching is right in front of me, but it’s not.” He was making fun of himself but he was also sad.

He has overcome a lot of obstacles over the years--from fleeing to Mexico as a Guatemalan refugee, to crossing the U.S. border through the deserts of Arizona. And even with one eye, Garcia continues to fight for a better life for his six-member family.

Garcia moved to the United States because of the lack of opportunities and sources of income at home. He wanted to pursue his dream of someday building a house. Between 1998 and 2000, Garcia crossed the U.S.-Mexican border four times. Leaving his family behind was not easy, and he remembers this as a bitter and difficult time.

Marvin and his son Jesús, 4, eat a breakfast of tortilla and beans before heading to the field for the day. 

Garcia worked in Florida, growing and picking tomatoes. For months, he ate nothing but one apple a day so he could save money. He managed to set aside almost an entire year’s salary ($12,000) to build his house. Garcia estimates that earning that much money in Mexico would have taken him seven to eight years, always assuming good harvests. After enduring separation from his family, Garcia now owns a modest house with a latrine.

For years, Garcia tried to buy land in Chiapas, but the federal government repeatedly denied his application. He finally got involved with Agros in 2007, and a year later he obtained his land at Santa Fe. His life was transformed. As he explains, “It’s not the same to rent or borrow land to grow for selling or self-consumption.”

After two years of becoming part of the Santa Fe community, Garcia is certain that with hard work, he can make his land productive enough to repay his loan from Agros within the allotted 10 years. He feels very proud of being able to purchase the land, where he grows corn and lime.

Garcia harvests corn, mushrooms, coffee and limes among other products.

Garcia does not have plans to migrate to the United States again, because his future in Mexico is now brighter. He has his land to work. Within a few years, he may be able to save the $1,500 he needs for cataract surgery. He is a role model in his community.

Garcia’s story shows that investing in Mexico’s rural development is critical to easing pressures to migrate to the United States. Santa Fe is a community of men, women, and children. It is not a village of grandparents taking care of their grandchildren because a whole generation is missing—forced to seek work far from home. Santa Fe is a community with a sense of hope and confidence that residents will be able to pay Agros back for the land where they grow tomatoes, corn, onions, papayas, and more. After decades of lack of opportunities to earn a living, the men in this community no longer think about migrating to the United States. They feel confident about being able to feed their families. Thanks to Agros and its funders, Marvin Garcia and his neighbors have the possibility of development in their own hands.  

Garcia, Jesús and their dog Chiquita walk home from the family cornfield.

Media Advocacy: Aid Matters

Merilie Robertson is a Bread activist from Canoga Park, CA.  She submitted a letter to the eidtor of the LA Times in response to the February 16 Op-Ed "Soft power bargain."  Her letter ran in the Monday, February 21, 2011 edition of the LA Times.

Aid matters

Re "A soft bargain," Opinion, Feb. 16

Micah Zenko and Rebecca R. Friedman are right about the importance of foreign assistance, which accounts for a miniscule part of the federal budget but has great potential to prevent conflict.

Certainly mistakes have been made in the administration of foreign assistance, but the U.S. Agency for International Development has been implementing reforms to make aid more efficient, transparent and accountable. More needs to be done, but this is not the time to eliminate or cut assistance. Foreign assistance empowers people to overcome poverty, hunger and disease.

Military leaders recognize how important it is to invest in development. Fighting poverty is a lot cheaper than fighting armed enemies. Congress must make foreign aid more effective, not eliminate it.

Merilie Robertson
Canoga Park


Media Advocacy: Don't cut foreign aid (update)

Update: A version of Betsy's letter was published in the Miami Herald on Sunday, February 20, 2011.  

Betsy Suero Skipp submitted this letter to the editor of the Miami Herald.  Her letter is in response to Andres Oppenheimer's editorial: "U.S. aid cuts could be 'diplomatic suicide'". Betsy Suero Skipp is a local Miami activist with Bread for the World, ONE Campaign, and USGLC.  She is also a Guardian Ad Litem for the state of Florida. 

I thank Mr. Oppenheimer for his timely article, “Aid cuts could be diplomatic suicide” (2/13/11). We must change the misleading and negative image of U.S. foreign assistance promoted by some members of congress and educate Americans about the vital role of international aid and diplomacy in making the world a healthier, safer, place. Investing in democracy, development, and diplomacy is essential for our national security, and directly serves our domestic economic interests. America’s fastest growing markets are in developing countries. Our foreign aid will fuel American jobs to through trade and new markets. 

We have to look no further than the events unfolding rapidly around the Middle East to conclude that now is not the time to reduce, much less abandon, our long-standing leadership in diplomacy and international development. Additionally, we have indisputable statistical living proof that our foreign assistance works - our tax dollars are significantly improving living conditions around the world, engendering good will toward the United States.

In September 2002, President Bush released his Administration’s National Security Strategy, for the first time elevating global development as the third “pillar” of U.S. national security, along with defense and diplomacy; some call this smart power. 

One of the best ways to fight terrorism and promote U.S. leadership is through the goals of the National Security Strategy and by fully funding the programs and initiatives that promote economic growth and poverty reduction. Examples include the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the global immunization program the GAVI Alliance, the Global Fund to end AIDS, TB and Malaria,  President Bush's Malaria Initiative, Child Survival,  Feed the Future, and other efforts that ease misery among the world’s most vulnerable, while promoting democratization and free market economies.

So what do we make of the conservative cry to cut the entire U.S. foreign aid budget? While Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is understandably alarmed by “an astronomical budget deficit which we are passing on to our grandchildren,” are we then to embrace isolationism and leave our heirs a world in which the U.S. has been reduced to the sidelines in world affairs? Or, do we give the world what it is looking for, leadership?  

We urge Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, Chairwoman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, and other members of Congress, not to be penny wise and pound foolish.

Way to go, Besty!  If you'd like to write a letter similiar to Besty's, visit Bread's website for resources about media advocacy.


Tell Congress: Don't Turn Your Back on the Poor

This post originally appeared on the Bread New Mexico Blog by Carlos Navarro.  Carlos is a member of our board of directors and pur New Mexico state coordinator.

Women Last year, many of us signed a pledge to end hunger. Now we need to take action to fulfill that pledge—by adding our voices on behalf of hungry and poor people as Congress tries to deal with the FY2011 spending bill. The process we’re watching is not pretty. 

The proposed cuts will affect real people, especially those who rely on food aid and are already in dire straits.

Food aid helps people who are desperate by providing food during times of crisis and emergency.  U.S. food aid also feeds children in developing countries at their local schools—sometimes it’s the only meal that child has during the day. 

Yet some members of Congress are advocating that we cut this critical aid by 46 percent. Forty-six percent!  This would be tantamount to taking food away from 18 million of the world’s hungriest and poorest people.

And this cut in food aid is only one of the many egregious cuts being proposed that will disproportionately affect hungry and poor people.  

There is no doubt that we need to focus on reducing the federal deficit. But we cannot and should not do so in a way that harms hungry and poor people.  Our spending decisions say something really important about who we are and what we care about.  We have a moral obligation to help those in need—and these spending decisions will mean the difference between life and death. 

As members of Congress struggle with how to make their spending decisions, let them know that we can’t just sit back and watch. We must urge congressional leaders now not to abandon hungry and poor people, wherever they may be.

Please join me and sign the petition to Congress about the FY2011 spending bill. Let Congress know that it’s not okay to cut the aid we give to our hungry and poor neighbors, be they at home or abroad. We hope to get at least 5,000 signatures by March 1 so that Bread for the World can personally deliver your petitions to our congressional leaders

(This post is based on an e-mail sent by Monica Mills, Bread for the World's Director of Government Relations)

Joe Henry Keeps Hunger on the Run

Joe Henry is raising the clamor step by step.

Last week he set out from the steps of the Capitol building in Washington, DC, on The Hunger 500, a determined, rather fast-paced run to bring attention to global hunger. His destination is the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, where the Universities Fighting World Hunger network, an alliance of more than 130 schools around the globe, will gather on Feb. 25 for its annual summit. He figures he will run about 33 miles a day, which is like running a marathon plus seven miles for 17 straight days. (The distance he’ll cover is a bit more than 500 miles, but The Hunger 500 has a sharper, Indy-sounding ring to it than the Hunger 528, or whatever the total will end up being.)

It’s not a straight line he will be running through the cold and snow of February; he will be detouring to take his message to more than a dozen colleges along the way. “I want to light a fire on campuses,” he says. “I want universities to be the epicenter of the hunger fight. I hope to inspire students to be a champion for a cause that isn’t on the radar of many Americans.”

This clamor-raiser is no ordinary Joe. A tall, lanky 27-year-old athlete (basketball, long-distance running), he recently received his master’s degree in public health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has worked abroad with several humanitarian organizations, doing development work in Kenya and Guatemala and pitching in to help after the earthquake in Haiti. Last year, he attended the Universities Fighting World Hunger summit at Auburn University with about 200 students from some two dozen schools.

Continue reading "Joe Henry Keeps Hunger on the Run" »

Stay: Migration and poverty in rural Mexico

The immigration debate in the United States centers on patrolling the border with Mexico, which is the source of 60 percent of all unauthorized immigration to this country. Nevertheless, the unauthorized immigrant population here has tripled from 3.5 million people in 1990 to more than 11 million in 2010.

Why is that?

Well, border enforcement doesn't get to the root of why people leave their home countries: to escape poverty, to support their families. No border police will keep a determined mother, father, sister, or brother from finding a way to feed their kids, parents, or siblings. Did you know that in 2009, 96 percent of U.S. foreign assistance to Mexico was spent on military and drug enforcement? I was amazed when I first read that in my colleague Andrew Wainer's recent report,"Development and Migration in Rural Mexico." Bread for the World's position is that investing in rural areas of Mexico can help reduce the pressure to migrate.

This video captures the lives of Marvin Garcia Salas, 52, and Santiago Cruz, 48, men who immigrated—separately—to the United States and to Canada. They are now back home in Mexico and able to support themselves and their families with the help of organizations investing time and resources in rural areas of Mexico.

Marvin and his son Jesus


Photographs by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Santiago and his family













Photographs by Maisie Crow (pictures 2-5, 9-13) and Laura Elizabeth Pohl (pictures 1, 6-8)

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