Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

34 posts from September 2011

Call Congress Today and Protect Foreign Assistance for Hungry People

A Bangladeshi boy carries one of his family's goats. Call Congress today to protect funding for lifesaving poverty-focused foreign assistance. (Photo by Todd Post)

Today, anti-hunger activists from across the United States are mobilizing for a national call-in day. Bread for the World will unite with other organizations to ensure that the phones of Congress ring all day with a single, unified message: Protect funding for lifesaving poverty-focused foreign assistance.

Congress is making budget decisions right now that will impact millions of lives around the world. One of those decisions has to do with the amount of funding our government devotes to programs that alleviate poverty and hunger in developing countries. Even though this funding accounts for less than 1 percent of the federal budget, it is in extreme danger.

The budget deal members of Congress passed in August requires limits to the overall amount Congress can spend. For the first time, international assistance—which includes poverty-focused foreign assistance—must compete with defense, homeland security, and other national security accounts to pay for these lifesaving programs. That means aid to small farmers or nutrition programs for mothers and children are competing with military spending for federal dollars in the fiscal year 2012 budget.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted on this funding and supported much higher levels than the House. As the appropriations bills go to the Senate floor, we need your voice to defend the higher Senate numbers so that lifesaving funding can continue to reach the people who need it most.

Call Congress today. Urge your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators to support the higher Senate numbers in the final appropriations bill for poverty-focused development assistance. Use our toll-free number to call the Capitol switchboard today: 1-800-826-3688. Ask for your member of Congress and your senators. Please make your call by Monday at 5 p.m. EST.

Thank you for your voice—we need every one of you!

+Call Congress TODAY at 1-800-826-3688.

Monica Mills is director of government relations at Bread for the World.


+PLUS! Help Spread the Word!

Expand this message by posting an update on Facebook or Twitter. Here are some sample posts that you can copy and paste:

110926_calltocongress_face Facebook:  

  • URGENT: We need your help TODAY! Congress will soon vote on whether or not to fund lifesaving poverty-focused foreign assistance. In a time of such deep need, Congress must support the most vulnerable. Please call your member of Congress now at 1-800-826-3688. http://ow.ly/6EUFv
  • Hungry people need your help! Tell your member of Congress to support poverty-focused foreign assistance in the final appropriations bill. Call today! 1-800-826-3688. http://ow.ly/6EUFv
  • Join other hunger activists in taking action today! A crucial vote in Congress on the final appropriations bill will happen soon. Call your member of Congress and tell them to support poverty-focused foreign assistance now! 1-800-826-3688. http://ow.ly/6EUFv

110926_calltocongress_twitt Twitter:

  • URGENT! Call Congress today to keep lifesaving foreign assistance in the federal budget: 1-800-826-3688 http://ow.ly/6EUKc #cutscostlives
  • Hungry people need your help! Call Congress and tell them to keep poverty-focused aid in the final appropriations bill. 1-800-826-3688 http://ow.ly/6EUKc #cutscostlives

Are You Smarter Than a Fourth Grader on Foreign Aid?

How many of these facts about foreign aid do you know?

  • Just 1 percent of our national budget goes to development assistance that's focused on alleviating poverty.
  • 95 percent of the world’s customers live outside of the United States.
  • U.S. exports counted for a big part of our economic growth last year, and half of our exports went to developing countries.
  • Every 10 percent increase in exports equals a 7 percent increase in jobs in the United States.

Psalm 8:2 reads, “out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength,” and that is indeed the case with this fantastic video (above) created by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. It’s refreshing to see kids say some plain simple facts about the effects of foreign aid. It takes a lot to capture people's attention, especially in our new media world with Twitter and Facebook constantly shouting facts at you, and a 24-hour news cycle of endless stories, opinions, and punditry. So it was the simplicity of this video that really made me take a second look.

True, the children are probably scripted, but I appreciate this easy introduction to the important issues of foreign aid. Watch the video above, and read more about foreign aid and what poverty-focused development assistance can do for our country and the global community. 


Washington, DC, Has Third-Highest Poverty Rate

Today the U.S. Census Bureau released its state poverty data. Sadly, more than 46 million Americans live in poverty, and our nation’s capital has the third-highest poverty rate in the country, at 19.2 percent. What's worse is more than 30 percent of Washington, DC’s children live in poverty, and about one-third are hungry and live in homes where they don’t get enough to eat.

I know a lot about hunger--I can recite hunger statistics with the same smoothness a songstress can belt out a tune.  I know that around the world, the pain of hunger is felt more by black and brown children. I know a lot about hunger because I get paid to know about hunger--it’s my job. I know a group of high school boys who also know a lot about hunger in the nation’s capital, and they’re doing something about it.

Watch their video above. (Video may take some time to load.)

Racine Tucker-Hamilton is media relations manager at Bread for the World.

TAKE ACTION: Hungry People Need Our Help

110922_calltoday New farming technologies like improved seeds help small-scale farmer in Kenya. Ask Congress to protect poverty-focused development assistance programs like this. (Photo courtesy of ACDI/VOCA)

As you know, Congress passed a debt deal in August that enabled our country to avoid defaulting on its bills.

Under the deal, development assistance that is focused on alleviating poverty—such as aid to small farmers so they can feed their families, and nutrition programs for mothers and children in poor countries—will now have to compete with military spending for federal dollars in the fiscal year 2012 budget. Poverty-focused development assistance could bear the brunt of the budget cuts under the new spending plan, set to start October 1, 2011.

Hungry and poor people in developing countries urgently need your help. The Senate Appropriations Committee is about to decide funding levels for poverty-focused development programs within the international affairs budget. There is no question that these programs are important, strategic investments that save us from costly interventions later on. As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently said, “Development is far cheaper than sending in soldiers.”

We must tell senators on this committee to protect these programs and prevent them from bearing disproportionate cuts. If your senator sits on this committee, please call him or her today. (Click here to find out of your senator sits on this committee.) Your call, along with hundreds of other Bread for the World members, can help millions of people who rely on poverty-focused development assistance so their families have food, better health, and better nutrition.

Call your senators today. Urge him or her to protect poverty-focused development assistance. Inequitable cuts now would limit our ability to assist the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, put us on the sidelines in influencing rapidly transforming regions of the world, and signal a dramatic decline of U.S. leadership in promoting a more stable world.

Use our toll-free number to call the Capitol switchboard now at 1-800-826-3688 and ask for your senators. Please make your call by today.

Thank you for your strong voice for hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.

President Obama: Global Challenges Require Global Responses

110922_presOglobal David Kpan, a cocoa farmer in Liberia, is also the principal and a teacher at his local school. The Millenium Development Goals include a goal for universal primary education. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl)

President Obama addressed the United Nations today at the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, focusing most of his speech on his administration's efforts to improve foreign relations in light of global changes from the past decade, such as globalization and the Arab Spring. In his speech, the president specifically noted the Millenium Development Goals as a top priority and commitment for the White House:

We have fully embraced the Millennium Development Goals. And we address our priorities here, in this institution -- for instance, through the Security Council meeting that I will chair tomorrow on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and through the issues that I will discuss today.

But this was only the beginning, the president said. He continued to insist that progress would only happen if every member of the global community participated in fighting hunger, injustice, and poverty:

Some of our actions have yielded progress. Some have laid the groundwork for progress in the future. But make no mistake: This cannot solely be America's endeavor. Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone. We have sought -- in word and deed -- a new era of engagement with the world. And now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.

It is clear to us at Bread that the U.S. government must continue its comprehensive review of our nation's global development policy. This statement by President Obama is a great first step. As the United States continues to lead the way in providing aid and development to struggling people, other nations will be similarly inspired to "take their share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."

Video: What is Bread for the World Doing About the Horn of Africa?

One of our own, Faustine Wabwire, foreign affairs policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute, appeared on Voice of America in Focus to talk about the famine in the Horn of Africa, and how Bread for the World constituents can impact this crisis. In particular, Wabwire explains the importance of the General Assembly of the United Nations, which is happening in New York City from Tuesday, September 13 to Thursday, September 22:

We are hoping that the meeting of the UN Generally Assembly in New York this week can create more attention that we focus on protecting poverty-focused development assistance because these few dollars have been proven to make an impact in the lives of vulnerable people around the world.

We are participating in some of the policy meetings in the UN General Assembly. We are focusing very specifically on maternal and child nutrition. As we know, Somalia has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world, so it’s very important for us to protect these programs that can [enable] us to address malnutrition, because we know malnutrition causes lifelong negative developmental consequences.

Watch the video of Faustine Wabwire above and share your own thoughts in the comments section below.

The Future of Foreign Aid on the Kojo Nnamdi Show

Today, on the  Kojo Nnamdi Show, the topic of conversation was the future of foreign aid, and the guests included Jim Kolbe, Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network co-chair, and Paul O’Brien, Vice President for Policy and Campaigns at Oxfam America. This was a very timely discussion considering the current political climate over the budget; furthermore, this week marks one year since President Obama issued the first ever Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development (PPD). The directive elevated development to one of the key pillars of foreign policy, along with defense and diplomacy, and put a strong emphasis on reforming how we do aid and development.

So how are things looking one year later, and where are we headed? Those were the questions Kolbe and O'Brien discussed on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. Both believed that the PPD, as well as the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, were major policy frameworks that ensured that the foreign affairs budget is spent wisely and that American tax dollars are used most effectively to serve our interests in an increasingly interconnected world. In the year since these documents were released, Kolbe and O’Brien said that we have seen progress. O’Brien noted that the Partnership for Growth initiative is seeing major success; for example, Ghana’s growth rate, one of the PFG countries, is currently at 18 percent. O’Brien and Kolbe also referenced better cross-agency coordination since the release of the PPD and increased transparency from the State Department and USAID with the launch of the Foreign Assistance Dashboard--an easy-to-understand website that allows visitors to track U.S. government foreign assistance investments.

That said, both Kolbe and O’Brien emphasized that a rewrite of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) was a crucial part of reform. O’Brien agreed with Kojo in that the piece of legislation is now widely regarded as an obstacle and needs to be brought into the 21 century. Kolbe pointed out that the world has changed drastically since the FAA was written, and it is not useful for us to just keep tacking things onto it rather than fixing the law as a whole. Earlier this month, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) released his Global Partnerships Act as a working draft of an FAA rewrite. O’Brien and Kolbe were hopeful that Congress would start work on it, though neither saw much possibility for passage in this Congress.

+Listen to the full interview here.

Mary Deering is outreach associate for the Modernizing Foreign Aid Network.

Whose Plate is it Anyway?

110919-hsphfoodplateWhat was your most recent meal? Mine was a turkey reuben sandwich on rye and a glass of water. Now think about your meal and consider it against the “healthy eating plate” created by nutrition experts at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). I didn’t do so well with my lunch, but after having seen this diagram, I’m going to shoot for a healthier, more balanced plate—which is exactly what the HSPH is hoping for by releasing this diagram.

Presented as a counterpoint to the USDA’s similar chart, “My Plate,” the HSPH claims that its healthy eating plate is a better blueprint for eating a balanced diet, free of “the influence of powerful agricultural interests, which is not the recipe for healthy eating,” says Walter Willet, professor of epidemiology and nutrition and chair of the department of nutrition at HSPH. While the USDA plate includes starchy vegetables such as potatoes, doesn’t differentiate between whole grains and plain grains, and encourages drinking dairy at every meal, the HSPH plate specifies eating whole grains, includes healthy oils as a meal staple, and encourages drinking water at every meal. The HSPH also explains the importance of avoiding starchy vegetables, sugary juices, and red meat in their additional content.

Just as it is important to ask people to reconsider what they eat, we should also be asking people to think about how they get the food they eat. Is healthy, nutritional food available to members of all socio-economic backgrounds in our nation? No. Should healthy eating only be available to the wealthy members of our society? No. But we continue to see reports of increased food insecurity in our nation and abroad, and cheap food generally means fatty, unhealthy food for the majority of America’s poor.

It’s important to stay educated on health and nutrition for ourselves and our families, but also to stay educated on the state of domestic and global food security, and to fight to make everyone’s plate a healthy one.

Image: The Harvard School of Public Health released this diagram of a "healthy eating plate" to guide people in nutritional eating.

The Nation Releases their Food Issue

Cover1003 If you’re looking for some good food-related reading, pick up the current issue of The Nation on newsstands nowAuthor Frances Moore Lappé opens the issue with an update on her perspectives of hunger and food since 1971, when she wrote Diet for a Small Planet. Her insights are not surprising to those who have followed hunger and food insecurity over the past 30 years:

The number of hungry people has soared to nearly 1 billion, despite strong global harvests. And for even more people, sustenance has become a health hazard—with the US diet implicated in four out of our top ten deadly diseases. Power over soil, seeds and food sales is ever more tightly held, and farmland in the global South is being snatched away from indigenous people by speculators set to profit on climbing food prices. Just four companies control at least three-quarters of international grain trade; and in the United States, by 2000, just ten corporations—with boards totaling only 138 people—had come to account for half of US food and beverage sales. Conditions for American farmworkers remain so horrific that seven Florida growers have been convicted of slavery involving more than 1,000 workers. Life expectancy of US farmworkers is forty-nine years.

That’s one current. It’s antidemocratic and deadly.

There is, however, another current, which is democratizing power and aligning farming with nature’s genius. Many call it simply “the global food movement.” In the United States it’s building on the courage of truth tellers from Upton Sinclair to Rachel Carson, and worldwide it has been gaining energy and breadth for at least four decades.

I, for one, am never satisfied with just one voice on a topic, so I appreciate the diverse symposium of authors The Nation has gathered for this issue: Raj Patel, Bridget Huber, Vandan Shiva, Michael Pollan, and more. Check it out online here. (Warning: They ask for an email sign up.)

Cover illustration by Tim Robinson, design by Milton Glaser Incorporated.

We Can't Give in to Compassion Fatigue

It was the best kind of homecoming: My former roommate who moved to Nairobi, Kenya, last year was visiting DC for a week, and she saved one evening for a long dinner with me. We caught up on all the details—life, relationships, and future plans. And then, once the plates were cleared and the laughs had ceased, I asked about work. As a regional coordinator for aid in east Africa, she has twice visited Dadaab—the largest refugee camp in Kenya. Leaning in, I asked, “What is it like?”

What she described was not very different from what I’d seen or read in the news, and yet, to hear it from a friend who had seen it with her own eyes was a sobering experience.

It’s difficult to fathom widespread famine. In fact, “compassion fatigue” is a commonly used phrase in nonprofit organizations—we are sensitive to the fact that constituents tire of the constant tug of need around the world. (Unfortunately, national leaders feel the same way.) But listening to my friend’s stories about refugees just barely making it to the camp only to wait for hours in long registration lines, and women risking attack from thugs in the desert to collect firewood for their families, solidified the news for me: This is really happening.

I hope you will join me in making a concerted effort to read these stories; to educate yourself on the complex causes of the famine; to look at the photos and see everyone as a person of dignity; to ask our members of Congress to take action on the Horn of Africa now; to protect global food security programs during the budget negotiations; and, most importantly, to pray for compassion and swift action for our brothers and sisters in the Horn of Africa.

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