Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

41 posts from March 2011

Nourish Starved Bodies, Feed Hungry Minds

Lutacho, Kenya—The women farmers at the foot of the Lugulu Hills paused from the preparation of their fields for the planting season and looked forward to the harvest.

What, I asked them, would they do with a bountiful yield of maize, if they are so blessed?

“I will sell my surplus and buy a great cow to give milk for my family,” answered Agnes.

“I will use it as food for my family and to pay for education,” said Esther.

Beatrice volunteered, “Feed my family, send them to school.”

“I want to pay school fees and have enough food for my family,” said Leonida.

These goals were identical to those articulated by dozens of other farmers in western Kenya I’ve spoken with over the past several weeks. The two most common, almost unanimous, goals I heard are ending family hunger and providing education for the children.

As the answers came rushing forward in those fields below Mount Elgon near the Kenya-Uganda border, I thought they sounded familiar. And they were. Think back to almost two years ago, when Barack Obama delivered his inaugural address.

“To the people of poor nations,” he said, “we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow, to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.”

Nourish starved bodies. Feed hungry minds.

Feed my family. Pay school fees.

They are the same priorities, whether poetically expressed by the president of the most powerful nation or humbly offered by a poor smallholder farmer in Africa.

The link between these expressions of ambition and hope is Feed the Future, the presidential initiative to reverse the international neglect of agriculture development that has evolved from those 30 words on Inauguration Day. Feed the Future seeks to create the conditions for the world’s poor smallholder farmers, particularly in Africa, to be as productive as possible, to feed themselves and their communities and hopefully have surpluses to boost their incomes, which can mean better education for their children. Poor smallholder farmers just like Agnes and Esther and Beatrice and Leonida.

Nourish starved bodies. Feed hungry minds.

And not by handouts of free food or free custom-built schools or free donations of books. Listen to the farmers; they want to provide these things themselves for their families, by making their farming profitable. They want to feed their families themselves. They want to be able to afford the school fees for their children, for primary and secondary school and college.

It’s in their own words. Feed our families. Educate our children.

Are those goals any different from what any American citizen wants, be they farmer or factory worker or computer scientists or professor or journalist? Those are the basic elements of providing for your family, no matter who you are or where you live.

And yet, Feed the Future and other programs of the administration that seek to promote agriculture development are under threat by the budget cutters in Congress. Members of Congress and all those in the electorate who want to whack all foreign spending should listen to the poor farmers of the world who would benefit from increased spending on agriculture development. “Feed our families. Educate our children.”

Can there be better goals, nobler aspirations, of American foreign aid? And besides, there’s absolutely nothing foreign about those goals.

Roger Thurow’s blog post appears courtesy of the Global Food for Thought blog. Thurow, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent, is a senior fellow for Global Agriculture and Food Policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.


Lenten Devotions: Day Ten

Friday, March 18

Sudan hand, cross I say with passionate aggression

when is the church going to rise up

and make their confession 

when are the elders going to tear off their clothes with ashes and sackcloth and make intercession is it not now the time to take back possession

we cannot be blinded or partially sighted to think if a part of the body is infected we will not be affected

it is lying down in the hospital bed

that through your arms you will receive the insulin of redemption and the mysterious remedy of purification in all the continuous procedures the dialysis of sanctification

this is the gift of salvation

Brianna Aird is organizing intern at Bread for the World.

Hunger in the News: Early Childhood Poverty has Long, Harmful Reach


Early Childhood Poverty has Long, Harmful Reach. New findings by two of the most-respected researchers in the country demonstrate that the kinds of budget cuts currently being considered at the federal and state levels–like cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income working families–would have harmful long-term consequences for young children in low-income families.

Report: Poverty isn’t Permanent. Living in poverty isn't necessarily a permanent condition, a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates. [UPI]

Solving Hunger Requires More than Just Food. Hunger is a serious problem in America, but the remedy is not simply providing calories. [Huffington Post]

Rising Food Prices Could Drive Up Rates of Hunger. The U.S. is too vulnerable to rising food and oil prices, and strong policy decisions are needed to steer the economy through the prolonged price spikes. [CNN Radio]

Washington’s Best Kept Billion-Dollar Secret. Governors and mayors around the U.S. are learning to their great surprise that as much as $1 billion available for public food and nutrition programs is going untapped at a time when record numbers of Americans, and especially children, struggle with hunger. [Huffington Post]

Child Hunger Ends Here. Al Roker and his Today Show colleague Natalie Morales are working on an upcoming online special that tells the story of several families across the country facing hunger under different circumstances. [KUSA-NBC Colorado]

Lenten Devotions: Day Nine

Thursday, March 17

 We continue following the story of Jesus’ final hours, as recorded in the Gospel of Mark, with Mark 14:53-61 (NRSV).

Crucifix in sand They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire.

Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” But even on this point their testimony did not agree.

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But he was silent and did not answer.

Are there words or phrases that impact you in this passage?

Consider how you respond to false testimony against you. What thoughts and emotions arise in you when you are wrongfully accused?

Consider Jesus’ silence. How does it relate to your response?

Hunger in the News: Food Crisis Warnings


U.N. Warns of Food Crisis. World governments aren't doing enough to boost food production as market speculation and climate issues raise security concerns, a U.N. official said. [UPI]

Small-Scale Farms Could Abate World Hunger. Small-scale "eco-farming" could double food production in many of the world's poorest regions and also help fight climate change, according to a United Nations report. [AFP]

Crisis in Japan: Here’s How to Help. Americans are always generous when others are in need. For those looking for ways to help the people in Japan who are suffering from Friday's devastating earthquake and the tsunamis it generated. [NPR]

Japan Earthquake: Aid Flows in from across the World. A large number of countries have mobilised aid to assist Japanese relief efforts following last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami. [Guardian]

U.S. Delivers Aid in Disaster-Stricken Japan. The U.S. military is mobilizing humanitarian relief efforts in Japan, after the government there requested foreign assistance to help those in need. [VOA News]

Child Mortality Expert Rates Nigeria’s Nutritional Value Low. [A] recent study rated children from the northern part of the country as the worst hit by malnutrition. [allafrica.com]


High Food Insecurity in Asheville. Nearly everyone in Asheville, it seems, knows someone who has gone through or is currently facing food hardships. [Asheville Citizen-Times]

San Diego County Works to Improve Food Program For Poor. San Diego county supervisors will listen to recommendations from the community on how to improve the food stamp program, now known as Cal Fresh. [KPBS]


Lenten Devotions: Day Eight

Wednesday, March 16

WIC, grafitti We are aware of the social illnesses of our times.

We need to feed the hungry and also address those systems that stop the development of all peoples;

We need to care for those who are poor and also address the systems that keep people dependent and without dignity;

We need to be attentive personally and as communities to the physical needs of the planet and also address locally and globally the systems that exploit Mother Earth;

We need to welcome the immigrant and also address the system that keeps families apart.

We invite you to prayerfully consider how you are responding to the social illnesses of our times. Where is God calling you to address human suffering? Share your thoughts by responding to this post.

Sister Margaret Mary Kimmins, OSF, is Catholic church relations associate at Bread for the World.

Lenten Devotions: Day Seven

Tuesday, March 15

Barbed wire With your hands open before you, ponder for a few moments the last time you felt betrayed. Was it a surprise or had you had this eerie sense that you were vulnerable? Was it disguised as a loving gesture or overtly aggressive? How did you feel? What was your physical reaction? Are your hands tense now?

Think then about how Jesus responded to his betrayal and then arrest. Do you think he was surprised by the event or just the timing? What do his words “as though I were a bandit?” and “But let the scriptures be filled” say about his heart and the hearts of those who betrayed and arrested him?

Closing prayer: Jesus, I am repulsed by the idea of betrayal, but humbled by the knowledge of how often I have betrayed you and others. I know that at times I have masked something as a loving gesture when my sinful nature was yearning for power and control. Help me to be faithful to you and to those with whom I interact.

Nancy Rhodes is vice president for finance and administration at Bread for the World.

Lenten Devotions: Day Six

Monday, March 14

We continue following the story of Jesus’ final hours, as recorded in the Gospel of Mark, with Mark 14:43-52 (NRSV).

Door latch Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the 12, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.

Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him.

But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” All of them deserted him and fled.

A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

Are there words or phrases that impact you in this passage?

What might Jesus have been thinking and feeling in this moment? The disciples? Whose experience is closer to your own?

Lenten Devotions: Day Five

Sunday, March 13

On Sundays, our Sabbath day of rest, we invite you to find refreshment through quiet reflection and prayerful breathing.

Lenten Devotions: Day FiveEach week, we will offer a simple exercise to help facilitate this process, and we invite you to try these or your own. You may just want to sit in silence. Whatever you choose, we hope you will share your experience with us, and we welcome your own ideas, by which we will all be enriched. 

Find a quiet place where you can listen to your breathing. Let your inward and outward breaths become a soothing rhythm.

Breathe in God’s Spirit, and breathe out your burden. Breathe God’s life into your lungs, and breathe out the anxieties within you.

Lenten Devotions: Day Four

Saturday, March 12

On Saturdays we invite you to write a short reflection on your experience of Lent. Consider what your reflection might sound like and where it is similar or different from the thoughts below.

Kids in Sudan / Photo courtesy of Margie Nea“And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, ‘O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.’” --Matthew 26:39

“Space: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

As a fan of Star Trek, these words represented an hour of great adventure for me.

I can imagine Jesus may have felt he was doing the same. He was entering a strange new world where it appears he did not really want to go. It was the world of pain and suffering.

He realized, however, that if new life and a new civilization were to be realized, he would have to go to the cross. He forgot about his will and accepted God’s will. He did it for us. Like Jesus, if we want new life and a new civilization, we just may have to experience a little pain and suffering for others.

In every aspect of his life, Jesus went a little further than most. He went a little further in speaking up for poor people. He went a little further in challenging the systems of his day. And he went a lot further in showing us how to love—and he has given us the power to do the same. What an adventure.

Bishop Don diXon Williams is racial/ethnic outreach associate for Bread for the World.

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