44 posts categorized "2014 Offering of Letters"
Bill Clark of Philabundance, a Philadelphia-area food bank, makes the case to participants of a workshop that the government has long had the ability to address hunger as a social crisis. (Stephen Padre)
[This story originally appeared in the May edition of Bread for the World's newsletter.]
"We [as a nation] have done very little to end hunger," declared Bill Clark, executive director of Philabundance, a food bank serving the Philadelphia area. "The problem next week is the same problem we were facing last week. We really haven’t done anything, and we haven’t been engaged in any way to actually end hunger. But I believe we can do that, and some of these large movements that we've seen historically give me faith that we can."
Clark was one of three local anti-hunger leaders and activists who addressed 62 hunger advocates in Southeastern Pennsylvania March 29 at Villanova University. The advocates gathered for a day of information, inspiration, and being equipped for activism at a workshop organized by Bread for the World.
Clark spoke to participants, who included dozens of students from area colleges and seminaries, about his work assisting the nearly 1 million people in the Delaware Valley who face hunger every day. He provided a national context for his work in the area by explaining that the federal government and social movements have each played key roles in ending other societal ills such as slavery and child labor.
He and the other two speakers, who presented in the short, information-intensive style of the popular TED Talks, were at the workshop as examples of local practitioners, people who are fighting hunger in local communities day-byday. Clark spoke about the success of Philabundance’s new nonprofit grocery store, Fare and Square, in Chester, Pa., a former food desert.
A fourth speaker at the workshop, Bread's director of government relations, Eric Mitchell, provided a national perspective on ending hunger in his talk, titled "Why Do Elections Matter?"
"I like to call elections marching orders," said Mitchell. "It's constituents telling their member of Congress, 'When you go to D.C., you better vote on this issue and that issue.'" He explained to advocates that all elections, even midterm elections, like the ones approaching in 2014, can and do have long-lasting effects because of who gets elected to Congress and how they vote.
Following these speakers, which provided different aspects of fighting hunger, advocates received training on carrying out a letter-writing event in their church or on their campus as part of Bread's Offering of Letters campaign. Bread offers workshops similar to the one at Villanova for Bread’s biggest church- and campus-based legislative campaign every year to provide background on the campaign's topic and to hone the advocacy skills of advocates.
Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters focuses on reforming the U.S. government's programs that provide food aid overseas, which provided yet another perspective, an international one, to the workshop's participants.
In small-group discussions, which occurred between speakers throughout the day, advocates wrestled with the truth that hunger is not well-known in communities where it exists. They agreed that it is crucial to emphasize reality-based, compelling stories told by those directly experiencing hunger and poverty. One participant noted, "We need to bridge the gap between people who have stories about hunger and those who have the mental space to campaign."
To see if there is a workshop scheduled near you (or to request one), contact your Bread regional organizer, who can also assist you with organizing an Offering of Letters.
While the suffering of children who do not receive adequate nutrition during the first 1000 days of their lives cannot be overstated, malnutrition is a problem that can also impact a nation’s economic productivity and even our global economy. One out of four children under the age of five is stunted – that’s a quarter of our global population. The good news is we have solutions that work, but the question remains: will we implement policies and fund programs that we know can make a difference?
This is the focus of a recent article in The Atlantic by Roger Thurow, author of the new book The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, and senior fellow for global agriculture and food policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
In a moving excerpt from the article 1,000 Days: The Period That Decides the Health and Wealth of the World, Thurow writes:
“For me, the human face of these numbers is a boy I first met during the Ethiopian famine of 2003, when international food aid was keeping 14 million people alive. Hagirso was five years old and weighed just 27 pounds when his father, Tesfaye Ketema, carried him into an emergency feeding tent. Tesfaye explained that his son, who was sickly and weak and stunted, had been malnourished since birth and was the most vulnerable in the family when the famine hit. Hagirso miraculously survived, but his early malnourishment and the subsequent famine exacted a tremendous toll. When I visited him 10 years later, in April 2013, Hagirso was 15 and barely four feet tall. Tesfaye said his son was often sick and wasn’t strong enough to do much work on the small family farm. Hagirso was in school, but only in the first grade. The day I visited, he and his much-younger classmates were studying the alphabet and pronouncing vowel-consonant combinations: ba, be, bi, bo, bu. There, in that classroom, was confirmation of all the statistics on the cost of malnutrition and stunting: lost education, lost work, lost wages, lost opportunity.”
Calculate the cost of malnutrition globally and the bill is estimated to run about $1.4 – 2.1 trillion a year. Targeting nutrition and nutrition education to mothers and infants in the first 1000 days is a cost-effective solution with proven results.
U.S. food aid — the focus of Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters — is one vehicle that allows the United States to play its part in decreasing global malnutrition. With smart policy changes that address a modern understanding of the long-term effects of hunger, we can provide food that is more nutritious, especially to women and children in the critical 1,000-day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday.
The future is at stake – malnutrition strips opportunity from the Hagirsos of the world. What he might have been able to contribute to his family, his village, his country, and the world has been compromised because of hunger. We cannot change what happened to Hagirso, but we can make a difference for the millions of other children around the world .
After learning more about what's at stake, take action by writing to your members of Congress and urging them to pass much-needed reform to our food-aid programs. Recent food-aid improvements are also in danger of being reversed. Learn more about how you can take urgent action here.
By Derick Dailey and Ericka Elion
Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.”
Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”
Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery.
Nehemiah 5 tells the story of Jewish farmers faced with a crisis—one of social, economic, and political proportions. These farmers were forced to deal with widespread famine due to crop scarcity and greed on behalf of the ruler. People lacked enough food to eat, the government imposed excessive taxes on the poorest, and, consequently, the poor were forced into a system of debt as they borrowed money from those in power to satisfy the government’s demand.
Today, our society is faced with a similar crisis; one of social, economic, and political weight, but also one that has moral implications. Today, there is a persistent poverty of consciousness and spiritual conviction, driven by the overwhelming realities of our time: low wages or no wages, setbacks and cut backs, discrimination, hatred, and political gridlock. Our children are subjected to slavery, both literal and figurative. They are oppressed, suppressed, and held bondage by poverty, and then stigmatized when they seek help by attempting to access the social safety net.
Ask yourself, is God pleased with such atrocity?
Much like Nehemiah’s stories, people across the world have stories of personal testimony that serve as tools of transformation.
This year, the focus of Bread for the World's Offering of Letters is food-aid reform. Included in the Offering on Letters kit is the powerful story of Catarina, a woman whose young children have been able to thrive because of U.S. food aid. Bread for the World members Chang Park has shared his story of receiving U.S. food aid as a child growing up in Korea. These stories combine to form a collective body of spiritual tools which people of faith can lean on and learn from.
As we fight to reform food aid in the coming months, we long to hear your stories of triumph and trial, of overcoming and overreaching, stories of challenge and championing. Share your story with us in the comments, and with your member of Congress by writing a personal letter. Tell your senators and representative why we must work to help people in times of crisis and ensure that all are fed. Or, host an Offering of Letters workshop, and engage your congregation or campus in this response to hunger and suffering in the world.
Doing justice is about prophetic vision anchored in love for every neighbor, and compassion and mercy to the oppressor and the oppressed. Advocacy allows justice to be within reach for everyone. You can do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God and share your voice and story to help usher in God’s holy work of ending hunger.
Derick Dailey is a graduate student at Yale University, and a Bread for the World member. Ericka Elion is the ECC-Covenant World Relief fellow at Bread for the World and a MDiv/MNA student at North Park Theological Seminary.
To learn more about Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid," visit www.bread.org/ol, and watch the recording of our recent Google Hangout on food-aid reform.
Photos: 1) A farmer in Guatemala (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World); 2) Farmer Jane Sebbi tending her land in Uganda (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World); and 3) A young girl eating breakfast (Margaret Nea).
Jane Sebbi, left, is a farmer with 12 acres of land in Kamuli, Uganda, and a mother of seven children. In this photo, she works in her field with her sister-in-law. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
“There is a saying that helps to explain this challenge to work for justice, not just for charity. It goes like this: 'If people are hungry you can give them some fish and they will live another day. It’s called relief. But if you not only give a fish, but teach them how to fish for themselves they will be helped to feed themselves in the future.' This is often called development. That sounds good but it can be misleading if it is not followed with the next step. There is a third part of that saying that is critical to our efforts to move beyond guilt. We must not only offer the fish (relief) and assistance in knowing how to fish themselves (development), but we must move over in the pond and give them a place to fish. Or as someone has added, we must stop polluting the pond where they fish and give them a fair price for their fish. The third step has many facets to it. It is called working for justice, fairness. Justice includes efforts to end oppression and unfair practices of what Walter Wink calls the domination system. Moving from charity to justice is difficult because it calls for careful listening, increased awareness and critical thinking about the attitudes and values that have brought us to the current crises.”
—Excerpt from Beyond Guilt: Christian Response to Suffering (p. 42) by George S. Johnson.
In Bread for the World's April e-newsletter, Todd Post, senior editor of Bread for the World Institute’s annual Hunger Report, writes about how an agricultural development program and a cow have helped Rwandan Joseline Umugwaneza move out of extreme poverty. If we are to make progress in the exodus from hunger both at home and abroad, we must address the root causes of hunger and seek solutions that break the cycles of chronic poverty and malnutrition.
U.S. food aid has played a significant role in preventing global hunger and starvation for decades. But with a few common-sense reforms, food-aid programs can help millions more, while building resilience against future crises. Food-aid reform is the focus of Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters.
No reforms matter if funding for food assistance and nutrition programs are cut. As a new appropriations cycle begins, Bread members must ask their members of Congress to adequately fund U.S. food aid. Further creating an obstacle to a more just system of food assistance is a provision in a House-passed Coast Guard reauthorization bill, which is getting very little media attention. The reauthorization bill would require 75 percent of all U.S. food aid to be shipped on U.S. vessels. The resulting increase in shipping costs would reduce funding for programs that help support U.S. humanitarian efforts. Senators, especially those on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, should remove such provision from a final bill.
Bread members spent two years advocating for improvements in the farm bill that would help end the hunger that affects too many in our world. We have come too far to allow our work to be scuttled by a provision in a Coast Guard spending bill. Funding international food assistance is essential to building food security around the world and ensuring that aid is not a handout, but a hand up.
By David Gist
My introduction to “food aid” came in the form of mangos, and took place in Nicaragua, where my wife, Wendy, and I spent six years as Presbyterian Church (USA) mission workers. Our yard was filled with mango trees, so every morning we cleaned and bagged the fruit, then went out and looked for children selling newspapers or cleaning car windows at traffic signals and gave them the mangos.
This “mango-distribution system” sounds simple, but it didn’t always go well. Have you ever seen a mango after it’s been in a plastic bag in 95 degree weather with 90 percent humidity? We soon switched from bags to baskets. But one thing was constant—whenever we delivered our “mango food aid,” the oldest child (usually a girl) would come to our car, thank us, call other children to her, distribute the mangos among them (starting with the youngest children), and return the basket. Not once did any child try to hoard them. Not once did the oldest children eat before serving the youngest.
Our experience delivering mangos reminded us that people in need take care of one another when given a chance. Additionally, while the mangos addressed an immediate need, we knew we had to go deeper to address the problem of hunger. But how do we go deeper? I pondered this question during my years in Nicaragua.
As the time came to leave Nicaragua, I felt myself increasingly conflicted at ending our mission. Were we abandoning God’s call to service? But I said nothing and kept my worries to myself. Our host organization held a worship service to say goodbye to us, and at the close of the service the pastors laid hands on Wendy and me. One leader looked at me and told me he knew I felt broken inside at the prospect of finishing our mission service. He went on to tell us we had it all wrong; we were only now beginning our mission service. The pastors then commissioned us as missionaries from Nicaragua sent to the United States to speak out for all those in the developing world—to go to the seat of power and advocate to bring an end to hunger, poverty, and injustice. And with that blessing, God propelled me to Bread for the World.
Today, in 2014, we have the opportunity to improve food-distribution systems. Smart, simple changes to food-aid programs would allow food aid to benefit millions more people each year—at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. How is this possible? Buying and distributing food in the region where people need it is much cheaper and faster than paying international shipping companies to deliver U.S. food from across the ocean. Local and regional purchasing also supports small farmers in the developing world, and they are the agents who will ultimately bring an end to hunger. Food aid, like a basket of mangos, meets an immediate need, but with reform it can do so much more and go so much further.
David Gist is a regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
U.S. food assistance has been critical in helping more than 3 billion people in over 150 countries over the past five decades. Food assistance saves lives, helps people recover from crises, and breaks the cycles of chronic poverty and malnutrition.
Unfortunately, humanitarian needs and the scope of food crises continue to expand while many countries, including our own, face increasing budget constraints. In 2011 alone, 206 million people were affected by droughts, floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Globally, 870 million people are chronically food-insecure. All of this underscores the critical importance of food aid from our federal government, which has long been a leader in providing this assistance.
Food-aid reform is the focus of Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters. It is a way for many Christians in thousands of churches and other faith communities across the country to collectively voice their concerns in Congress for the neighbors in God's world who live overseas.
The U.S. government must be poised to respond in the timeliest, most effective, and cost-efficient way possible. Fortunately, in January, some initial food-aid reforms were signed into law as part of the new farm bill. But those reforms can’t have any impact if they aren’t fully funded. That means Bread is looking to Congress and the Obama administration with a few key requests in the current appropriations cycle, including:
Flexibility through local and regional purchases
Having the option to obtain food closer to where it is needed would enable our federal government's food-aid programs to save more lives as well as money. The farm bill recently authorized a permanent local and regional purchase (LRP) program at $80 million a year. This money was in the president’s most recent budget request, and Congress needs to hear from constituents to be convinced of the importance of this program.
Currently, most food aid from the United States must be in the form of food grown and purchased in the United States and shipped overseas to the place of need. Shipping goods overseas from American shores is costly in terms of time and money. The alternative practice of buying food from local and regional markets for distribution, proposed in Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters, can be both quicker and more cost effective than the current practice.
Two independent evaluations by the Government Accountability Office and a congressionally mandated study by Management Systems International found that LRP programs have an average cost savings of at least 25 percent compared to similar in-kind food-aid programs. In some cases, these savings can increase to over 50 percent, as a Cornell University study documented, along with a 62 percent gain in timeliness of delivery. The flexibility, cost effectiveness, and timeliness of such programs means that humanitarian organizations can deliver food aid more quickly and at less cost to taxpayers while supporting local markets and communities in developing countries (private relief and development organizations, including those related to U.S. churches, are the entities that actually implement the programs under contracts with the U.S. government).
Other types of flexibility
One significant provision that was included in the president’s budget was language that would provide new authority to use up to 25 percent of funding in emergencies for interventions such as local or regional procurement of food, food vouchers, or cash transfers. As the president's budget request states, this flexibility ensures that emergency food assistance would be timelier and more cost-effective, thereby improving program efficiencies and performance. Bread estimates that the 25 percent provision alone would allow the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government's main implementer of food aid, to reach approximately 2.6 million more people each year with the same level of resources.
No reforms matter if funding for food assistance and nutrition programs are cut. Because there have been more conflicts and natural disasters, the needs are actually greater, not less, and require continued U.S. leadership.
Funding international food assistance is essential to building food security around the world and ensuring that aid is not a handout, but a hand up, breaking the cycles of poverty and hunger to allow for sustainable achievements in international development. Not only that, but the types of food aid distributed address nutritional needs as well, especially among vulnerable groups like children and pregnant mothers.
Take part in Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters, Reforming U.S. Food Aid, and hold a letter-writing event at your church or campus. Order your Offering of Letters kit at www.bread.org/store, or download the materials at www.bread.org/ol/2014.
[This article originally appeared in the April 2014 edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.]
Women carry their ration of food, after fleeing their homes in the village of Abyei, engulfed by heavy fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army. (UN Photo/Tim McKulka)
By Alyssa Casey
This week, the House passed a Coast Guard reauthorization bill, which includes a provision that could drastically reduce the number of hungry people that U.S. food aid can reach. The provision would significantly increase cargo-preference restrictions, rules requiring that a certain percentage of all cargo funded by the United States – including food-aid products – must be transported on American ships with American crews. The reauthorization bill would require 75 percent of all U.S. food aid to be shipped on U.S. vessels. The resulting increase in shipping costs would reduce funding for programs that help support U.S. humanitarian efforts.
Bread for the World’s 2014 Offering of Letters campaign focuses on the need to reform the federal government's food-aid programs so that funds are used more effectively and efficiently. Local and regional purchase (LRP) – the practice of buying food at or near the site of a humanitarian crisis – gives the United States flexibility in responding to crises, enabling us to act more quickly and save more lives, as we witnessed in the post-disaster Philippines earlier this year. The cargo-preference provision, however, would reduce funding for LRP—and food shipped under cargo-preference law from the United States takes an average of 14 weeks longer to reach people in need than local purchase. Buying local food mitigates the effects of disaster on the local economy and helps local farmers and vendors continue to support themselves and their families. LRP also uses tax dollars more efficiently and costs 25 to 50 percent less than food shipped from the United States—and reaches millions more. In short, this harmful provision could result in the United States spending more money on slower, less effective assistance to hungry people rocked by crisis, and the help we do provide has the potential to undercut local farmers and merchants—some of the very people U.S. food aid seeks to help.
Smart food aid is forward thinking. In 2012, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations World Food Programme (UN WFP) were able to feed more than 72,000 people in Rwanda while supporting Rwandan farmers through local purchase. This drastically reduced costs – saving $243 per metric ton on corn and $899 per metric ton on beans – and allowed food aid to be delivered months sooner than if it had been shipped from the United States.
Since 2002, the U.S. government has reduced purchase of U.S.-grown food aid from 5 metric tons in 2002, to 1.4 million tons in 2012. At the same time, all major U.S. ports have increased overall tons exported. (Source: USAID)
The cargo-preference restrictions, added shortly before the bill was passed, are based on the argument that food aid hurts exports. However, food aid accounts for only one half of one percent of all U.S. exports. Food shipped from our shores yields about 40 cents for every aid dollar spent. The small loss in export revenue becomes much less urgent in comparison to the millions of lives saved and the long-term consequences of resilience. Building resilience in developing countries often leads to future trading partners. South Korea, once a poverty-wracked recipient of U.S. food aid, is now the United States' sixth-largest goods trading partner.
Local purchase may not be the best option in every scenario. What is important is that the United States has the flexibility to respond to each scenario by choosing the method that reaches hungry people in the shortest amount of time.
Now is the time to raise your voice in support of food-aid reform. The Coast Guard bill goes to the Senate next for consideration. Bread for the World will strongly oppose any final legislation that includes cargo-preference restrictions that decrease funding for flexible food-aid programs. We must continue to let our members of Congress know that we support legislation that saves taxpayer dollars and increases efficiency, not legislation that takes food out of the mouths of the world’s hungry.
Alyssa Casey is a government relations intern at Bread for the World.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), recently took a trip to the Philippines to see how food-aid policy authorized in Washington D.C., is actualized in the wake of a disaster.
The Philippine Star reports Royce and eight other members House of Representatives visited the country to see how U.S. food aid has impacted the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. The typhoon, which killed more than 6,000 Filipinos in November of last year, left survivors without food and resources as they dealt with toppled towns and broken lives. U.S. food aid is a critical part of their recovery.
Royce is the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; the authority to deliver emergency food aid and develop agricultural markets falls under the umbrella of the committee. Joining Royce on the trip were seven other members: Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Randy Weber (R-Texas), Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Luke Messer (R-Ind). Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (Guam) also travelled with the delegation.
Immediately after the disaster hit, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) committed $10 million to the World Food Program, to be used to buy food near the Philippines and in neighboring countries. The flexibility to purchase food locally was critical for a speedy response to the humanitarian disaster, and helped save lives. The funds were available through a policy that allowed for a small percentage of food aid funding to be used for local and regional purchase in farm bill legislation.
In a 2013 joint op-ed published in The Hill, Royce and Rep. Elliot Engel (D-N.Y.) write,
Experience shows that buying food closer to its distribution point is faster, cheaper, and helps save lives. In recent years, a small government pilot program has experimented with “local and regional purchase” efforts. The result? Aid that costs 25-50 percent less and is delivered 11 to 14 weeks faster than under the current system.
Royce and Engel are vocal champions of food aid on Capitol Hill, and helped push forward reforms, included in the recent farm bill, that are first steps in improving U.S. food aid. One policy revision includes an increase in the funding allotted to buy food locally and also makes permanent the local and regional purchase pilot. These reforms give USAID greater flexibility in how it responds to hunger.
There is much more that the United States should do to make international food aid more cost-effective and increase its reach. Churches across the country are helping this effort by participating in Bread for the World’s 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid." The letters make a huge impact on members of Congress, and help keep reform opportunities on the top of the congressional agenda.
MSNBC host Ronan Farrow looks at U.S. food-aid policies, and the need to reform them, in the latest installment of his "The World Unseen" series. Farrow pays particular attention to shipped food aid—current policies mandate most U.S. food aid is in this form. Commodities, which are subsidized in the United States with taxpayer dollars, saturate the markets of developing countries, and undercut the very people the aid is meant to assist. “Tax payer dollars sent to help often do the opposite” Farrow reports.
Irene, a farmer in Kenya who struggles to feed her children, tells Farrow that the greatest difficulty farmers face is competing with U.S. food—a problem that originates with policy set in Washington, D.C. Agriculture, Farrow says, is the key to Kenya’s economic independence. "Buy local," a term often used in America to support stimulating local economies, also makes a lot of sense in the context of development. Buying food near the source of a crises supports economic independence and strengthens regional agricultural systems. Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters campaign urges Congress to improve the efficiency of our food aid with more dollars available to purchase local food so we can reach millions more people
Highlighted in the MSNBC report are two of the congressional champions behind food-aid reform in the farm bill: Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.-39) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.-16). As we previously reported, the farm bill authorized and made permanent a provision to use some food aid funding to buy locally—a good first step. But for those provisions to be realized, Congress must also appropriate the funding.
Bread for the World will be examining the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget, expected to be released early next week, for proposals to increase funding for flexible approaches, like local and regional purchase and cash vouchers. We also want to see this flexibility reflected in appropriations bills, which the House and Senate will release later this year. Quality also matters, and supporting policy that increases nutrition will save more lives. The first step, however, will be encouraging our members of Congress to fund the authorized reforms in the farm bill. The farm bill was a start, but much more work needs to be done.
Building the political will to modernize U.S. food aid has human stakes. Irene deserves the opportunity to take care of her family, and if U.S. policies hinder that, we have a responsibility to act. It is, as Farrow says in his segment, about giving the underdog a fighting chance.
Get updates on issues and actions to take on behalf of hungry people.