Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

15 posts from June 2011

VIDEO: To Educate a Girl

One of the Millennium Development Goals aims for universal primary education for all children by 2015. Although there's been progress, it doesn't look like we're going to meet that goal: More than 70 million primary school-aged children do not go to school, and 55 percent of them are girls.

A variety of economic and social factors keep girls from getting an education. In some places, girls are seen as more useful to their families when they're working around the home or selling goods in the market. In others, the family can't afford school fees for more than a few children, so only the boys go to school.

It's a fact that women disproportionately suffer from hunger and poverty, and a lack of education only makes that scenario more likely. This film takes a look at what it takes to educate a girl.

This story is part of our Wednesday ViewChange video series.

Lobby Day Success

Cecilia Wangeci met with Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY-02) during Bread for the World's 2011 Lobby Day. (Photo by Jim Stipe)

The numbers are coming in: 295 people participated in our Lobby Day last week, visiting 57 offices in the Senate and 106 in the House. Bread activists talked about forming a circle of protection around federal programs that help poor and hungry people in the United States and around the world. There were 230 attempted meetings, 168 scheduled meetings, and a number of impromptu meetings. Thank you to everyone who participated. Don't forget: You can keep the momentum going by writing your member of Congress.

More than 25 Maryland residents met with James Ulwick (in checkered shirt), a staffer for Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). (Photo by Jim Stipe)

Daniel Doyle of Pennsylvania speaks during a meeting with a staffer in the office of Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA). (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl)

Stephen Copley (left to right), Zach Schmidt, Christine Melendez, and Elizabeth Henry pray outside Sen. Mark Pryor's (D-AR) office before meeting him on Lobby Day. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl)

Sara Acosta's Lessons from the 2011 Gathering

David Beckmann speaks during Bread for the World's 2011 Gathering. (Photo by Rick Reinhard)

Sara Acosta, an AmeriCorps VISTA in North Carolina, recently wrote on her blog about the lessons she learned at Bread for the World's 2011 Gathering. From discretionary government funding to church/state separation, she covers it all, including a reflection on foreign assistance (the focus of our 2011 Offering of Letters):

A common argument against domestic and foreign social programs (including foreign aid) is that we need to take care of ourselves before we take care of others. Why do we consider ourselves (Americans) a separate tribe from the rest of the world? We could answer that a thousand different ways, but my point is this: when you start thinking of yourself as a global citizen, foreign aid doesn’t seem so foreign because “ourselves” and “others” become the same people.

Helping Zambian potato farmers through federal foreign aid is just as important as supporting the federal and state tax bases that provide for WIC [Women, Infant and Children] and your local school district. You may not know that Zambian farmer or the mother using WIC, but you do know the kids in your local school district. Strangers are just as important as friends regardless of your relationship with them.

Read more at Acosta's blog and see more pictures from the Gathering on Bread's Flickr stream.


VIDEO: Good Fortune

Silva Adhiambo is a midwife living in Kibera, notorious as the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya. To outsiders' eyes, her neighborhood isn't much of a home. But it's her home and it's where she runs her business. Now, the United Nations and the Kenyan government are in partnership to relocate people in Kibera as part of a slum upgrading program. It's a massive foreign assistance project that Adhiambo doesn't support.

"If they demolish these houses and evict us, I won't have a place for these women to give birth," says Adhiambo. "That's the problem with leaving Kibera - it will be like losing my job."

This video is a short taste of the documentary "Good Fortune" and raises thought-provoking questions about the tension between foreign assistance and the people this money helps. Does foreign assistance reach the people it's meant to reach? Who's accountable for the money? How effective is foreign assistance? It's these questions that led us here at Bread for the World to make reform of U.S. foreign assistance the centerpiece of our 2011 Offering of Letters. Foreign aid is necessary, but it can be done better, and one way is to take into account the needs of people like Adhiambo.

(The documentary's director offered this update on Adhiambo's life in a June 2010 website post.)

This story is part of our Wednesday ViewChange video series.

Hundreds Attend National Gathering 2011

Frank Thomas

Rev. Dr. Frank Thomas, pastor of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, Memphis, TN, preached at the opening plenary session of Bread for the World's National Gathering 2011, Saturday, June 11, at American University. View more photos from the National Gathering on Flickr »

They came from across the country and around the world. New York high school students and nutrition professors from Ghana. Grassroots activists and policy wonks. Faith leaders and the president of the World Bank. More than 600 participants attended events in conjunction with Bread for the World’s National Gathering 2011, Lobby Day, and the meeting “1,000 Days to Scale Up Nutrition for Mothers & Children: Building Political Commitment.”

Over four days, attendees worshiped together, heard from experts and fellow activists, told their own stories and those of Bread, and organized to change the politics of hunger.

On Monday, June 13, Bread joined forces with Concern Worldwide, the Irish development organization, to sponsor the 1,000 Days meeting to build energy and commitment toward improving maternal and child nutrition worldwide. At the opening plenary, video welcome addresses were shown from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, addressed the afternoon session, and New York Times columnist and food activist Mark Bittman delivered the dinner keynote address.

Representatives of Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Ghana, Niger, Bangladesh, and Guatemala filled the meeting rooms.

Events culminated on Tuesday with Lobby Day, when participants traveled to Capitol Hill to ask their members of Congress to form a circle of protection around funding for programs that help hungry and poor people. The difficult budget environment right now made these visits vitally important.

“If we can maintain U.S. efforts to reduce poverty and hunger in this tough economy and political environment, we could see substantial progress against hunger and poverty in our country and worldwide in the years ahead,” said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “But with Congress focused on cutting the deficit, it’s crucial that we protect funding for programs focused on hunger and poor people and make sure our government dollars are used effectively.”

Many participants attended these events for the first time. Diane Clarke of Davis, CA, was one.

“For years, I’ve had a conviction that, of all the issues Christians should care about, hunger is the one we can all get behind,” said Clarke. “Bread for the World had been in my conscience. I went to the website to learn more. I didn’t know it was an advocacy organization.”

She quickly signed up to attend National Gathering 2011 to learn just what an advocacy organization does.

Others are repeat attendees. Carlos Navarro, from Albuquerque, NM, has attended 10-12 National Gatherings—he can’t quite remember the exact number.

“I’m really committed to Bread and believe we can make a difference in this work,” he said. “I come to the Gathering to reconnect with other activists.”

Navarro was also excited to see so many new activists from a new generation attending this year’s events, including Bread’s Hunger Justice Leaders. After a dozen such Gatherings and in tough economic and political times, he still finds reasons to hope.

“In the face of everything that feels so difficult, we have people coming together in a circle of protection,” he said. “That’s a powerful symbolic statement. We’re sending out a positive message, not just a lament.”

National Gathering 2011 photo

Rebekah Richey of Altamonte Springs, FL, and Jenny Millkey of Palmetto, GA, celebrate during Bread for the World's National Gathering 2011, Saturday, June 11, at American University. view more photos from the National Gathering on Flickr »

Bread and the Beauty Queen

Miss Chicago Like hundreds of Bread activists, Tanya Auguste returned home after Bread’s National Gathering 2011 last week to put her passion and advocacy to work. Auguste is a delegate for the Miss Black Illinois USA Pageant 2012 and is using Bread for the World as her platform. Her goal is to increase awareness in the African-American community about global hunger and poverty.

Last month, Auguste represented Bread at a Haiti benefit concert held at the Haitian Church of God in Chicago. During the event, she shared information about Bread and invited the audience to watch the 2011 Offering of Letters video, which features a Haitian woman named Rosemene Charles. Auguste hoped the video would create an immediate call to action in the audience.

“The concert allowed me to introduce the idea of using our collective Christian voices to make political changes in hopes of eradicating hunger and poverty,” said Auguste.

Through Bread, Auguste is continuing to learn about and educate her community on hunger and poverty issues. She said her motivation was piqued after meeting a 6-year-old girl named Biana Jean-Baptiste at the concert. Biana was forced to leave her parents in Haiti and move to the United States for school after the devastating January 2010 earthquake. She joined two cousins who were also relocated.  

“If nothing is done about the [current] foreign aid policies, how long will Biana and her cousins have to be away from their family? When will they be able to call Haiti home again?”

Zuri Foreman is a media relations intern at Bread for the World. Photo credit: Kristen Youngblood.

Who's the Farmer?

Women in India often spend most of their lives working on their husband's farm while never being able to own the land. Indeed, around the world, women make up an average of 43 percent of the agricultural labor force (you can learn a little more about this in our June 2011 Breadcast episode on agriculture and malnutrition in Uganda) but lack the power to improve their farms through new farming techniques and technology - all because they don't own the land. This short video looks at an organization that's attempting to change that.

This story is part of our Wednesday ViewChange video series.

A Turning Point in the Global Fight to End Child Hunger

1,000 Days meeting

U.S. Under Secretary of State Maria Otero speaks during Monday’s meeting, “1,000 Days to Scale Up Nutrition for Mothers & Children.” To her left are Tom Arnold, David Beckmann, Kevin Farrell, and David Nabarro. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl.

Monday we joined more than 350 high-level government officials, leaders of civil society organizations, and activists from all over the world to galvanize political momentum to scale up nutrition initiatives that will help save the lives of at least 1 million children annually.

During “1,000 Days to Scale Up Nutrition for Mothers & Children: Building Political Commitment,” we discussed the critical importance of proper nutrition, particularly during the 1,000 days from pregnancy to 2 years old. Conclusive evidence points to the devastating impact of malnutrition on infant and child mortality, and its irreversible, long-term effects on health and cognitive and physical development.

Monday’s meeting follows a September 2010 event in which U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and then-Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin launched the “1,000 Days” partnership at the U.N. Millennium Development Goals Summit. The partnership now includes more than 100 decision makers and experts who aim to rally resources and political commitments to end child malnutrition.

Also in 2010, a group of international organizations—as well as government and private sector leaders—endorsed Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN): A Framework for Action, a plan that outlines priorities for ending child malnutrition in more than a dozen countries with the highest levels of hunger and food insecurity. Key activities focus on good nutritional practices, including breast-feeding and proper hygiene; the provision of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients; and therapeutic feeding for malnourished children.

About 3.5 million children die every year because of undernutrition. Ninety percent of the 195 million children who experience stunted growth because of malnutrition live in just 36 countries—21 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa. In some African countries, the proportion of children whose growth has been stunted is as high as 50 percent.

In 2009, the World Bank identified 13 interventions that could be used during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life—which could save the lives of 1 million children annually. They include simple acts such as breastfeeding, hand-washing, taking vitamins, and providing malnourished children with special therapeutic foods.

We must do all we can to sustain the political commitment to address malnutrition, bolster and reinvigorate champions of this issue, and recruit new supporters. This meeting also will help us develop a shared advocacy agenda and strategy for planned follow-up events at the next U.N. General Assembly in September and G-20 Summit in November, including a focus on financing to mobilize the additional resources needed to scale up nutrition.

The coming years will be crucial for sustaining the commitment, capacities, and coordination for these efforts to succeed. The governments of countries facing the greatest malnutrition must be the main investors in efforts to scale up nutrition. But they can’t make progress without support from the other stakeholders commit­ted to improving nutrition. Now is the time.

Tom Arnold is CEO of Concern Worldwide, and David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

What We've Been Doing at the 2011 Gathering

VIDEO: 2011 Gathering Audience Thanks Bread Activists


Holly Hight thanks the stars of Bread for the World's activist videos (linked below) at the 2011 Gathering in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, June 11, 2011.


Cameron Shaw - A Bread Activist in Los Angeles

Dominic Barrett - A Bread Activist in Richmond, Va.

Tina Hayashi - A Bread Activist in Seattle

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