Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

38 posts from April 2012

Postcard from Nepal: A Lift from Mom


Neelum Chand carries her son, Shuvam, 1, through the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home (NRH) in Dhangadhi, Nepal, after lunch on Sunday, April 29, 2012. The NRH, a project of the Rural Women's Development and Unity Centre, a Nepali NGO, works to restore malnourished children to health. Forty-one percent of Nepali children under age 5 are short for their age (stunted), according to the preliminary 2011 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey. Stunting is an indicator of malnutrition, and ensuring children are properly nourished in the 1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2 are vital to a child's development. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

A Promise for Eliya: Protecting Funding for Children and Families Abroad



The circle of protection isn’t just a symbol for retired Pastor Jim Anderson; it is a promise to a friend who is an HIV positive AIDS orphan living a continent away. Now, the circle of protection is my promise too.

Earlier this year, Christians in Portland, OR, braved a rainy day to show support for the circle of protection.  Pastor Anderson carried a sign that had a circle around a picture of a young boy from Tanzania named Eliya. 

The day before Portland's Offering of Letters workshop, I received an email from Jim. He said he was extremely jet lagged, having just returned from Tanzania, but he would like a minute to address our members.

Jim told us the story of Eliya.  Globally funded anti-retroviral (ARV) medicines and nutritious supplements such as plumpy nut have saved Eliya’s life.  He told us about the compassionate care-givers in a Catholic-run program helping children like Eliya.  From them he learned that his own tax dollars helped provide global funds keeping these children alive and flourishing.  He also learned that potential cuts were very worrisome for the care givers who saw the lives that were daily affected.  In his blog post, Jim writes,

“I was thrilled to be able to assure Father Vincent that he did not battle alone. In America there are battalions of caring people who write letters to their senators and representatives, urging that they work to maintain a circle of protection around programs that make up the U.S. contribution to poverty-focused development assistance, including the Global Fund, PEPFAR, and other programs aimed at reduction of disease, malnutrition, and poverty.”

The Senate Agriculture Committee considers amendments this week on food aid in the Farm Bill.   Now Eliya is in my circle thanks to Pastor Jim, and I will be advocating for a circle of protection around lifesaving food aid.  If you have a member of Congress on the Committee, your voice is particularly important, so please take three minutes to call your member for Elyia or another picture and another story in your circle.

Call your member of Congress at 1-800-326-4941, or click here to send them a quick email.

Robin-stephensonRobin Stephenson is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.



Photo caption: Eliya (left) and Rev. Jim Anderson (right) sit together in Dodoma, Tanzania.

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Postcard from Bangladesh: Healthy Kids


Kaleda Begum holds her friend's child Adia Akter (left), 17 months, and  her own daughter, Akkee (right), 18 months, in Char Baria village, Barisal, Bangladesh, on Thursday, April 19, 2012. These children are healthy and overall the rate of stunting fell among Bangladeshi children from 51 percent to 43 percent between 2004 and 2007, according to USAID. However, more than 10 million children under age 5 suffer from malnutrition in Bangladesh. It's an issue being addressed by the Bangladeshi government and donor partners incuding the United States. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

International Food Aid: Gifts of the Helpers


120426-foodaidRead Luke 5:17-20. This Gospel story offers a vivid image of group members working together to help their friend. God calls us into such community.

Genesis makes it clear from the beginning of creation that God intends for us to have helpers. God says of Adam, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). The biblical story continues as a description of the relationship between God and the people of God. It is a community, not an individual, who is called to the Promised Land. And God blesses community.

In Matthew, Jesus promises the disciples, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there amI in the midst of them.” In the community described in our passage, a collection of people combined their resources and skills to get the paralytic man to the place where he could receive what he needed.

Consider the many gifts people in the story likely offered: resources such as a ladder and tools to get through the roof, creativity, strength to carry the man, and even the willingness of the homeowner to have a hole put in the roof.

After the group achieved its goal, Jesus recognized their faith, not simply the faith of the paralytic. And so it is with our nations. When we in the United States and other countries combine our resources, we can help people around the world who do not have enough food.

Molly-marshMolly Marsh is managing editor at Bread for the World.



Photo caption: Martha Togdbba of Kpaytno, Liberia, grows vegetables, including tomatoes and chili peppers. She irrigates her small farm with water from a nearby stream that she walks back and forth to with a watering can. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

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Postcard from Bangladesh: The Payra River


Ferries wait to transport people across the Payra River in southern Bangladesh, about six miles north of the Bay of Bengal, on Saturday, April 21, 2012. This area was devastated by Cyclone Sidr in 2007, the latest in a series of natural disasters that often hit the country due to its unique location. Bangladesh, inhabited by 150 million people in a land mass the size of Wisconsin, is in the largest river delta in the world. It could be the country with the most people to be negatively affected by climate change, which exacerbates threats to food security, according to a 2010 USAID report. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

Postcard from Bangladesh: Front-Line Health Workers

Mukul Begum, a shasthya shebika (community health worker) for BRAC, stands in front of her home in Barisal, Bangladesh. Begum delivers basic health care, counseling, and treatment to people in her community.

Text by Molly Marsh / Photos by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

BARISAL, BANGLADESH---Mukul Begum reaches into a plastic jar for tuberculosis medicine and brings it to 70-year-old Amjed Ali Sikder, who sits on a bench outside her front door. She pours a glass of water from a clear pitcher, watching closely as he puts the pill in his mouth and swallows it. Satisfied, she gives him the water.

Begum, 37, is a shasthya shebika, one of about 80,000 health workers trained by BRAC, an international nongovernmental organization, to deliver basic health care, counseling, and treatment to people in their communities. BRAC’s social, health, and economic empowerment programs operate in each of Bangladesh’s 64 districts, reaching about 110 million people.

Shasthya shebikas such as Begum are the engines of BRAC’s work—in 2010, they treated 1,650,673 people, the vast majority in rural areas where medical information and care is limited.

For five years, Begum—a formidable but jolly woman—has made door-to-door visits to counsel people in Barisal, a district of Bangladesh, about safe sanitation, basic hygiene, and nutrition. She currently looks after 263 households; 2 percent of these receive what BRAC calls “Directly Observed Treatment Short-Course.” In other words, if Sikder hadn’t come to her house to take his medicine, she would have gone to his to make sure he took it.

People in the community also visit Begum’s house, a low concrete building that sits under a thick canopy of coconut trees, for help with a variety of ailments. Begum listens and then reaches for a shasthya shebika’s constant companion—a small blue plastic bowl that holds medicine for fever, dysentery, diarrhea, gastric ulcers, skin diseases, and allergic reactions. It also contains home pregnancy tests and pills for calcium, vitamin B, and birth control.

Begum purchases the medicine from her local BRAC office, which she can then sell to her patients at a slight profit. She also receives money when pregnant mothers deliver their babies in a hospital or when patients complete treatment—for example, she’ll receive 500 taka (about $6.50) when Sikdar finishes his 6-month treatment for tuberculosis.

Before they embark on their caregiving, shasthya shebikas receive 15 days of training at a BRAC learning center on health basics and communicable diseases. They also gather for refresher classes once a month, in which they and shasthya kormis (health supervisors) review training themes and discuss issues that have arisen in their communities. Shasthya shebikas also meet once a month with a BRAC manager to report their activities.

It’s a role Begum seems to enjoy. “In the community, people believe I’m a doctor,” she said through a translator. She stands in her front doorway; behind her a clothesline stretches down the hallway, filled with colorful clothes. To the left of her house sits a small shack with items for sale, including toilet paper, candy, bread, and snacks.

BRAC’s main health program, called Essential Health Care, targets poor people—especially women and children—with medical care using seven different components. They include programs that focus on malaria, tuberculosis, and vision problems, and on the needs of pregnant mothers, infants, and children.

Shasthya shebikas are critical to each of these efforts, in many cases receiving additional training to be able to diagnose and treat malaria, for example, or identify vision problems. Begum and others are the front line of care in their communities—not just in dispensing medicine but also referring people to clinics when ailments are beyond their expertise.

Molly Marsh is managing editor and Laura Elizabeth Pohl is multimedia manager at Bread for the World. You can follow Laura on Twitter at @lauraepohl.

Resource: Facts about International Food Aid Programs


Funding for poverty-focused foreign assistance comprises just 0.6 percent of the U.S. federal budget, yet these programs save millions of lives and help improve conditions for millions more by giving people the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty.

Poverty-focused foreign assistance programs fight systemic poverty and provide a chance for people to thrive. With the help of poverty-focused foreign assistance:

  • The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen by 400 million since 1990.
  • In 2010, 46.5 million of the world’s most vulnerable people and children received emergency food aid.
  • In 2010, 5 million schoolchildren received school lunches through the McGovern-Dole School Feeding Program.
  • More than 1.3 billion people have gained access to better sanitation since 2000.
  • 3 million lives a year are saved through immunization programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
  • U.S. funding for medication helps prevent more than 114,000 infants from being born with HIV each year. Additionally, more than 33 million people affected with HIV since 2004 have received counseling.
  • More than 1 million lives could be saved each year by funding programs that focus on adequate nutrition during the 1,000-day window from pregnancy to age 2.
  • A recent U.S.-funded project in Honduras successfully raised participating farmers’ purchasing power by 87 percent, compared to an 11 percent increase for non-participating farmers. Protecting poverty-focused foreign assistance ensures our national security:
  • Research shows that for every 5 percent drop in income growth in a developing country, the likelihood of violent conflict or war within the next year increases by 10 percent.
  • Poverty-focused foreign assistance is an important, strategic investment that saves our country from costly interventions later. As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has stated, “development is far cheaper than sending in soldiers.”

Protecting poverty-focused foreign assistance programs bolsters our nation’s economy and helps build markets for U.S. goods and services:

  • These programs expand our future trade capacity—50 percent of U.S. exports go to emerging markets, and one in five U.S. jobs are tied to trade.
  • For every 10 percent increase in U.S. exports, there is a 7 percent decrease in the U.S unemployment rate.
  • By enabling the most vulnerable people around the world to get out of poverty, we are ensuring future markets for U.S. goods and services and a brighter economic future for Americans.

Molly-marshMolly Marsh is managing editor at Bread for the World.



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A Nun and a Policy Analyst Discuss the House Proposed Budget and Catholic Social teaching

Amelia Kegan (left) and Sister Mary Margaret Kimmins (right) together at the Bread for the World Washington, DC office. Photo by Jeannie Choi.

At Bread for the World, we employ a diverse group of individuals from various backgrounds. Often, this creates cause for robust dialogue on current events. We thought we’d let you  peek into one of these very exchanges – this time between Amelia Kegan, senior policy analyst in our government relations department, and Sister Margaret Mary Kimmins, OSF who manages Bread’s relations with Catholic churches in our church relations department. The two discussed the recent comments made by Rep. Paul Ryan about the House proposed budget, Catholic social teaching, and its implications on U.S. budget policy.

Check out their exchange below, and weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments section!

Amelia: Last month, the House of Representatives passed a budget resolution, and its author, Congressman Ryan, recently spoke about how that budget fits with Catholic social teaching. At Bread, we’ve been pretty critical of that budget because it has some fairly extreme cuts to programs to poor and vulnerable populations and fails to create a circle of protection around those programs. Sister Margaret, how does Catholic social teaching inform your view of this budget? How and why is it different from Chairman Ryan’s view?

Sister Margaret Mary: Catholic social teaching is integral to how we act on our values and on our mission. One of the basic principles of Catholic social teaching is the principle of human dignity. Every person, regardless of race, sex, age, religion, health, or other differences is worthy of respect. It’s not what you do or what you have that establishes this respect. It’s simply by being human that establishes this dignity. It’s the Catholic view that human dignity is not a means. It’s always an end. So we don’t separate any group from what they need to live.

Amelia: So, how does the House proposed budget violate some of the basic concepts of Catholic social teaching?

Sister Margaret Mary: There are two significant pieces of Catholic social teaching: charity and justice. Everyone is deserving of both. In the House passed budget, it explains the concept of charity without the concept of justice. Neither one — charity or justice — is the total responsibility of the church. This budget seems to put everything of the charity on the churches.

Congressman Ryan talks about subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is certainly a part of Catholic social teaching that teaches us how we need to act. But solidarity is being at one with all of humanity, and needs to go hand-in-hand with Catholic social teaching. That’s the principle of human equality, and is part of what we teach our children—to be fair.

Amelia: Should our governmental leaders take cues from Catholic Social teaching when they are not even Catholics?

Sister Margaret Mary: Catholic social teaching is for everyone. It comes from scripture and tradition, but it’s broader than that. Fairness and human dignity are values that everyone has; they’re not exclusively Catholic. Catholic social teaching shows us that each one of us is sacred. We carry the spirit of Jesus within us. The principle of the common good requires establishing social structures that preserve the good of the community. Absence of any concern for or sensitivity of the common good is a sure sign of a society in need of help.

Some in Congress talk about how programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps), unemployment insurance, the EITC, and WIC other similar programs create government dependence, but a community is interdependent. We’re not looking at independence or dependence. We’re related to each other and interdependent in the human community. In this budget, the House of Representatives seems to be legislating for some small percentage of abuse. We shouldn’t be legislating for abuse; it’s morally wrong. We should be legislating for dignity.

Amelia: At Bread, we recognize that our long-term deficit situation is of serious concern. Congress must put the country on a fiscally sustainable path. Those in Congress who support the House passed budget argue that these cuts are necessary to address our deficits, while we at Bread have argued for a more balanced approach. What does the Catholic faith have to teach us about these types of decisions?

Sister Margaret Mary: Catholic Social teaching includes the principle of preferential treatment for the poor and vulnerable, and we must adhere to that principle if the good of all is to prevail. We are called to political responsibility as faithful citizens.

What do you think about these decisions, Amelia?

Amelia: Most economists and most in Congress agree about the need to address our long-term deficits and debt and that doing so will require some very tough decisions. However, whether to cut programs for the poor should not be a tough decision. I’m mystified that we’re even having these conversations about whether we should cut SNAP by $133 billion and potentially throw 8 to 10 million people off the program. I’m amazed that when the House Agriculture Committee is asked to find an additional $33 billion in savings, they take every penny of it from SNAP. I’m astounded that the Ways and Means Committee just passed recommendations that would mean one million families could no longer claim the Child Tax Credit, affecting millions of children primarily in low-income immigrant families. And we’re hearing all of these attacks upon poor and vulnerable families struggling to put food on the table at a time when we have 2.8 million children living on less than $2 a day. I often ask myself, how can this be? How can we amplify the level of outrage about the fact that these cuts are even on the table?

Sister Margaret Mary: I agree with you. I would like Congress to take 30 minutes or an hour of quiet and imagine having little or no access to food or health care or transportation, education, housing. If you don’t have access to what you need to live in dignity and if you don’t have access to the funds that enable you to live, it’s frightening. What we’re lacking is imagination to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes. How many people have said to members of Congress, this is not right? We have a poverty of imagination. We have to act together in this. We have to act together in faith.

Amelia: Thanks for this conversation, Sister Margaret.

Sister Margaret Mary: My pleasure!

Amelia Kegan is senior policy advisor at Bread for the World, and Sister Margaret Mary Kimmins, OSF is Catholic Church relations person at Bread for the World.

Postcard from Bangladesh: A Day in a Mother’s Life

Tohomina Akter washes pots and dishes in a pond near her home on the morning of Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Char Baria village, Barisal, in southern Bangladesh. Tohomina participates in a maternal and infant nutrition program called Nobo Jibon administered by Helen Keller International. The program stresses proper nutrition in young children.

Photographs by Laura Elizabeth Pohl / Text by Molly Marsh

BARISAL, BANGLADESH---The afternoon hours are Tohomino Akter’s favorite time of day. That’s when she can take a break from her household tasks, rest, and play with her 17-month-old daughter, Adia. Like any toddler, Adia much prefers movement.

Adia runs through the four rooms of their home, her pink sundress and plastic pink shoes contrasting against the gray tin walls. First is her parent’s bedroom, then the room where her father’s parents and brothers sleep. Then a small room that contains clothes and dishes, and finally the kitchen, a skinny corridor that opens to the outside on one end, where her mother prepares their food over a fire.

Adia stops suddenly at the front steps, looking out at the familiar faces of Char Baria, a village in the Barisal district of Bangladesh. In front of her lies Tohomino’s garden, a 25-foot square of spinach, amaranth, chili, and pepper plants, an important source of nutrients for Adia and her family. Spinach and red amarinthe are Adia’s favorites.

Tohomino planted the garden after receiving training in “Nobo Jibon,” a program administered by Helen Keller International, a nongovernmental organization that works in several Bangladesh districts. The vegetables she harvests have increased the nutrients available to her family, especially her daughter. What’s more, the extra money the family earns selling the surplus vegetables goes toward buying additional food for Adia.

In the program, Tohomino learned why a diverse, healthy diet is important, and also about the importance of breast-feeding her daughter. Tohomino attended classes for almost two months, hearing from health workers the benefits of giving Adia only breast milk during her first six months of life.

Tohomino has stuck to that schedule, introducing supplementary foods only after the initial six-month period, and she’ll continue to breast-feed Adia until she is 2.

“I did not do many things [before taking the class],” Tohomino said through a translator. “But after learning, I am keeping things clean and hygienic to prevent diseases, and cooking nutritious foods to keep me and my family healthy.”

Tohomina Akter grows amaranth, spinach, peppers and other vegetables in her garden. The vegetables are enough to feed her family and have enough left over to sell in the local market.

The neighborhood well is a 30-second walk from Tohomina Akter's home. Here she rinses vegetables with the help of Khaleda Begum (right).

Tohomina Akter prepares spinach and borboti, a long bean, in her family's kitchen as her 17-month-old daughter Adia attempts to help her.

Dry leaves fuel the fire in Tohomina Akter's kitchen.

Tohomina Akter feeds her 17-month-old daughter Adia. The nutrition programTohomina participates in stresses exclusive breast-feeding until six months and breast-feeding plus supplementary feeding from six months until 24 months.

Neighbors stop by Tohomina Akter's kitchen to talk.

Adia, 17 months, is reluctant to be washed by her mother.

Tohomina Akter cleans herself at the neighborhood well.

After washing herself and her daughter, Tohomina Akter attempts to dress a squirming daughter Adia, 17 months.

Molly Marsh is managing editor and Laura Elizabeth Pohl is multimedia manager at Bread for the World. You can follow Laura on Twitter at @lauraepohl.

Video: International Food Aid Works



When you think of food aid you likely think of Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia, not South Korea, Brazil and Germany. But the latter are all countries that once benefitted from U.S. international food aid programs and are now thriving economies.

Food aid works. These programs make up less than 1% of the U.S. federal budget and help millions around the world.

Watch the video below to learn more about these programs and how they help people from going hungry.


Laura-pohlLaura Elizabeth Pohl is multimedia manager at Bread for the World. You can follow her on Twitter at @lauraepohl.


Photo caption: Somali woman and a malnourished child exit from the medical tent after the child receives emergency medical treatment from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), an active regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations. Somalia is the country worst affected by a severe drought that has ravaged large swaths of the Horn of Africa, leaving an estimated 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. UN Photo/Stuart Price

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