Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

48 posts from March 2014

Working to End Maternal and Child Hunger Year-round

Mother_daughterBy Kristen Youngblood Archer

“I fall, I stand still… I trudge on. I gain a little… I get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon. Every struggle is a victory.” – Helen Keller

Today is March 31, the official end to National Women’s History Month. Like so many other months that have been assigned an issue of national or international importance, this month was dedicated in the late 1970s, around International Women’s Day, for the purpose of celebrating the achievements and contributions women have made to society, science, government, and our world at large.

The trouble with these months is that, well, they end. Once they’re over, we’re on to the next month or issue, and have forgotten all of the great things we learned, celebrated, and promised to do in the month prior.

At Bread for the World, we like to look at these important months as a time not only to celebrate, but to reflect on what has been done among specific communities of people to end hunger, and what more there is to accomplish. While these designated months (African-American History Month, Older Americans Month, Hispanic Heritage Month) serve as official rallying cries, we must pursue relevant issues and challenges throughout the year if we are to effect lasting change.

While Women’s History Month ends today, poverty, malnutrition, and hunger among women and children around the world continues. There’s still work to do.

With this in mind, Bread for the World has just completed two new “Hunger by the Numbers’ analyses on women and children.

The international analysis takes a look at the important role women play in development and ending hunger worldwide, particularly with regards to nutrition in the first 1,000 days from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday. The domestic analysis highlights some key issues brought to light in the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. From wages to childcare, this document evaluates some of the main factors that contribute to the hardships of workers in the United States.

We hope these analyses will not only provide valuable information, but that they will encourage us to keep working to end hunger among women and children all year long.

Kristen Youngblood Archer is Bread for the World's media relations manager.

Photo: A mother and daughter in Nicaragua shell peas from their garden. (Margaret W. Nea)

Lenten Devotions: "Islands"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

'Atoll Island' photo (c) 2008, Christina Spicuzza - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

March 31, 2014

"So they gathered up the driftwood made it watertight
And drifted rudderless to the horizon
I'm confused and I'm scared he said
and we got no land in sight
But I've got you dear to keep my eyes on...
 
We're on our way to the last island
Don't look back don't think twice
Oh we're on our way to the last island
Something to call our own won't that be nice
 
I'm on my way to the last island
Gonna find my piece of paradise
Oh I'm on my way to the last island
Something to call my own
won't that be nice."

"The Last Island," by Peter Mayer and Roger Guth

Today is the day the church celebrates the life of priest and poet John Donne. Perhaps his most popular words are about the inter-connectedness of all people: his best-known phrase, "No man is an island," gives testimony to the fact that we are all related to one another.

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less. As well as if a promontory were. As well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee." John Donne wrote in "Meditation XVII."

I think Peter's song "The Last Island" is not something that is prescriptive—in other words, something that we should attempt to follow or emulate. Rather, it is "descriptive" of the desire to have one's own island, "a piece of paradise."

So, today we have the opportunity to contrast community versus isolation. I am most grateful for organizations that foster community as opposed to the tide of "having my way."

Blessings to you today as you celebrate being connected and related to one another.

Lenten Devotions: "Mud In Your Eye"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

Xrayvision600

Fourth Sunday in Lent
Laetare Sunday
March 30, 2014

"Dirty Hands, Dirty Feet
I'm over my head it's made a mess of me
But it keeps a coming back to the
Holy road means crashing you and me
You've gotta walk through
the muddy water to come clean."

Lyrics from "Dirty Hands, Dirty Feet," by Peter Mayer

"As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, saying to him "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see" (John 9:1-7).

So, let's get this straight— in order for Jesus to heal the blind man, he mixes up a salve of saliva and holy ground to make mud and then spreads it on his eyes. The blind man is then instructed to "Go wash in the pool of Siloam." The blind man (or more appropriately, the "former blind man") came back "able to see."

I tried to check out the origination of the phrase, "Here's mud in your eye." But, most of the websites had all sorts of extraneous derivations of the phrase. However, I can't help but think that it has something to do with this incident in the Gospel of John. Jesus, like the Prophet Elisha, does something that would initially seem to compound the problem as opposed to alleviate it. I also wonder why Jesus didn't just say, "SEE!" and the blind man would miraculously have vision. What did it mean for Jesus to "get his hands dirty?"

What did it mean for the man to have a "muddy compress" applied to his non-seeing eyes?

The crazy advertisement at the top of the page used to appear in all the comic books that I would devour as a young boy. I think I probably spent more time fantasizing about having x-ray vision than I did about any of the characters in the comic books. Just imagine how it would be to have the ability to see through walls and other barriers.

Now that I have grown up (somewhat), I have met blind people who are able to "see" a great deal. Their awareness is heightened, and their senses often seem to function at levels which far exceed my capabilities. Conversely, there are other people who have 20/20 eyesight, and yet their "vision" is somewhat impaired.

During the season of Lent, it is part of our journey to catch glimpses of how God sees us: namely, as daughters and sons for whom God sent Jesus to live, die on a cross, and rise from the dead. That particular insight is life-changing.

 Today is also known as Laetare Sunday. It is a Holy "spring break" in the middle of Lent. Laetare comes from the Latin translation of Isaiah 66:10, "Laetare Jerusalem," or, "O, be Joyful, Jerusalem."

Be joyful!

"You've gotta walk through the muddy water to come clean"

Lenten Devotions: "Waterfall"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

Photo fountain 1March 28, 2013

“Waterfall drink your fill
Washing over you it spills
Night and day it’s runnin’ wild
We’re born to be a river child

Tossed about like a toy
From the badlands to good soil
We could’ve never bargained for
This mighty ride of Joy

This is Love that’s been spilled
This is grace that is willed
Every empty heart be filled
Waterfall, waterfall.”

—Lyrics from "Waterfall," by Peter Mayer, Brendan Mayer, and Adam Guth

It’s all about baptism.

A while ago, I visited Dublin’s Chester Beatty Library—a museum dedicated to ancient manuscripts—a museum dedicated to ancient manuscripts. This place was built to house texts long before the word “text” became a verb. It is really a temple for the written word. The benefactor collected sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I spent quite a bit of time just wandering around and looking at these magnificent books, scrolls, and drawings.

Just as I was leaving the building, my eye was drawn to the lovely display of water picture above.

I thought to myself, Wow, if I was in charge of church architecture, I’d want every worship space to have significant sacred space dedicated to a water feature.

For me, it’s all about baptism. It tells us who we are and whose we are. Peter calls us “river children,” for it is “love that’s been spilled, this is grace that is willed, every empty heart be filled.”

Photo: The pond in the atrium of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland. (Courtesy of Ron Glusenkamp)

EITC Can Be a Blessing on Tax Day

6869765923_307afdd67c_bBy Robin Stephenson

I’ve been thinking about my taxes lately. I’m that person who keeps important papers stuffed in my closet in a crumpled brown paper bag, which I conveniently ignore until the calendar flips to April. My dad will start calling me with reminders any day now, and I’ll make the deadline – I’ll probably file on April 15, if history holds. Taxes are important to my dad. Prior to the current recession, the deepest economic downturn post-World War II was in the early 1980s. Our family qualified for the earned income tax credit (EITC) during that time, and for a few tough years, it made all the difference.

In the early '80s, work was unpredictable and my parents worried a lot. Unemployment and instability are extremely stressful for a family. My memories of that time are reflected in the news today, which is filled with stories of families struggling to find their way through recession. Even though employment hasn’t reached pre-recession rates, Congress has failed to reinstate emergency unemployment, leaving more than 2 million unemployed Americans without a safety net. For those who had some form of work during 2013 and qualify, the EITC will provide some financial assistance.

The tax credit, instituted in 1975, is one of the principal anti-poverty programs in the U.S. budget. If a car breaks down, or there is an expense that month-to-month paychecks can’t cover, the EITC is there to help keep low-income working families from falling into debt. (Take this quiz to see how much you know about the EITC).

In 2010, when this refundable tax credit was about to expire, Bread for the World made it the focus of our Offering of Letters campaign for that year. During the Great Recession, the EITC proved to be a lifeline for many working families that still struggled in the tight economic climate. Bread for the World has advocated for the current benefit levels for this refundable tax credit to be made a permanent part of the tax code—the current benefit levels expire in 2017.

President Obama has called for an expansion in his 2015 budget proposal to include an expansion of the tax refund for childless workers. Currently, a single worker without dependents working full time at minimum wage ($15,080 annually) does not qualify for the credit. If the EITC were expanded to this group of workers, the Treasury Department estimates another half million people would be lifted out of poverty.

Bread for the World will continue push for EITC to be made permanent, and will advocate for the expansion. Since my senator, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), is now chairman of the Senate Finance Committee with jurisdiction over the tax code and sits on the Budget Committee, I feel like I have a special role to play, and I want to be sure he hears my story. I’m glad EITC was there when my family needed it.

 

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Do you have a story how EITC has helped you or your family?  Behind every statistic is a story – and telling them can move hearts and minds to action.  If you have a story of how the ongoing budget battles have affected you, we invite you to share with us through our Faces and Facts site. 

Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.

Photo: flickr user 401 K (2012)

Lenten Devotions: "Joy Cubed"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

March 27, 2014

Psalm_book"These days of winter have come to bury you
No sign of spring and no promise to carry you
No flowers blooming in your window sill
And the beat of your heart is too still...
And the beat of your heart is too still... Oh sing

Joy, joy,joy in the morning
Joy, joy in the afternoon
Joy, joy,joy for the child is born
This night the promise is given to you."

—Lyrics from "Sing Joy," by Peter Mater

My friend Irene's funeral was yesterday. About 18 of us gathered around her three adult children to celebrate her life. Irene was born in Bavaria, and was 5 years old when Hitler came to power. Her childhood was much different than those of most people I know. She liked to recite her Confirmation passage for me "auf Deutsch."

"Befiehl dem HERRN deine Wege und hoffe auf ihn; er wird's wohl machen."

"Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act."

(Psalm 37:5)

Her life wasn't an easy life, but she had deep joy in her soul and heart. Whenever I would visit her, we would talk about art, music, theology, and wood carvings. One of Bethany's Caring Visitors, Helen, calculated that she had visited Irene approximately 90 times. Caring Visitors at our church bring the sacrament to members who are homebound. Helen brought Irene joy, and I know Irene brought joy to Helen, as well.

The Psalm book at the top of the page is one that I purchased one day when Peter Mayer and I were browsing around guitar shops, bookstores, and coffee shops.

The book is open to Psalm 33, which I like to think of as some of the inspiration for Peter's song "Sing Joy."

"Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous.
Praise befits the upright. Praise the LORD with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings. Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. For the word of the LORD is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of his mouth."

Two Million Desperate for Congress to Reinstate Unemployment Insurance

'Unemployment Office' photo (c) 2011, Bytemarks - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Right now, it's OK to sound like a broken record--we have to keep telling Congress to extend emergency unemployment insurance (EUC) until they do it. At the beginning of the week, we sent out an action alert asking you to contact your senators again. The Senate is expected vote on EUC, for the third time, any day now.

More than 2 million long-term unemployed people are holding out hope that the bill will pass this time. For those who have been out of work for more than six months, the future looks bleak. Many have been telling their stories on Twitter, using the hashtag #RenewUI--Brian, a 36-year-old with a business degree is now homeless after losing his unemployment benefits. Others talk to reporters. Ricardo Gomez, a 51-year-old father of four, told CNN Money that after losing his job as a facilities specialist last year, he is desperate for any work. If Congress had not failed to reinstate EUC earlier in the year, Gomez could be receiving benefits that would help support his family as he looks for work. Instead, he is expecting an eviction notice.

Long-term unemployment, especially for older Americans, is a persistent problem--leaving people without aid only exacerbates it. In a recent video piece, CNN Money profiles Harry Thomson, who has two college degrees and 21 years of experience, but has been unable to find work in more than a year.  The mental stress only adds to financial worries for job seekers like Thomson as they struggle to stay positive. And last week, Brookings Institution released a paper outlining a trend toward increasing irrelevancy for the long-term unemployed in the labor market. Their skills deteriorate the longer they are not working, the research finds.

The last time Congress looked to reinstate EUC, it failed to pass because of a single vote. This time the bill must pass the Senate and we have to send a strong message to the House, which will take it up next, that our nation cannot continue to leave the long-term unemployed out in the cold. Please call (800-826-3688) or email your senators right now! Urge them to vote to extend unemployment insurance.

We must continue to repeat the message to Congress to reinstate EUC– more than 2 million people are waiting in desperation.

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Behind every statistic is a story – and telling them can move hearts and minds to action.  If you have a story of how the ongoing budget battles have affected you, we invite you to share with us through our Faces and Facts site.

Lenten Devotions: "I Know It In My Heart
"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

William_Blake_Lent_Lenten_Devotions
"Elohim Creating Adam," William Blake, 1792. (Wikimedia Commons)

March 26, 2014

“Only You can break down the walls that hide me away
Only You can turn the night into day
Only You can stop the darkness from over taking me
Created the land the sky and sea
I know it in my heart to be true
The answer to me is only You.”

Lyrics from "Only You," by Jim Mayer and Peter Mayer

I’ve often thought that this song could be re-mastered into a big hit on the country charts. It just has a narrative feel to it that I think country-and-western fans would appreciate.

However, when I make comments like that to my dear friend Peter Mayer, he smiles sweetly, looks at me with his sparkling eyes, and doesn’t say a word. But he sends a message that goes something like this: “Ron, keep your day job!”

I was recently at the Tate Britain during the month of February. My wife, Sue Ann, and I were in London to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my 50th birthday. I was able to reconnect with colleagues and friends at St. Martin-in-the Fields. We were able to go to plays, worship services, and museums.

I had it on my “list” to spend some real quality time at the Tate Britain. I met a friend there for lunch. We had a grand conversation. Upstairs in one of the galleries, I saw the painting at the top of the page. Good old William Blake. He was able to see things in such a cosmic way, which, in turn, he was able to communicate through his art.

I don’t have the ability to adequately describe how this painting touched my soul.

All I know is when I hear Peter sing “I know it in my heart to be true
, the answer to me is only You,” that I feel right and good.

Today: Congressional Hearing on 1,000 Days


Children at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal, receive their 4 a.m. milk feeding on Monday, April 30, 2102. This Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal, in the western part of the country, is run by RUWDUC (Rural Women's Development Unity Corporation), a Nepali NGO. The Dhangadhi facility serves up to 10 malnourished children at a time for up to 60 days; mothers stay with their child. All services are free. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Beth Ann Saracco

Thanks to a growing body of research, and the advocacy efforts of Bread for the World members and others throughout the world, Congress is beginning to recognize the importance of global maternal and child nutrition. Our legislators are paying particular attention to nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through her child’s second birthday.

Last year, funding for global nutrition efforts were increased to $115 million, up from the previous year’s funding level of $95 million. That’s nearly a 22 percent increase in funding. Congress is starting to get it. And for good reason— every $1 invested in nutrition generates as much as $138 in better health and increased productivity.

And today, in the House of Representatives, the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations is holding a hearing, “The First One Thousand Days: Development Aid Programs to Bolster Health and Nutrition.” The subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-4),  and ranking member, Karen Bass (D-CA-37), are holding this hearing to learn more about the health and nutritional needs of women and children during the 1,000-day period. The hearing will also address the role of faith-based organizations in partnering with governments and other non-governmental organizations to promote the 1,000 Days movement, and adequate maternal and child nutrition.

Be sure to tune into the hearing at 3 p.m. ET,  on Tuesday, March25,  to hear testimony from witnesses who have seen firsthand the importance of maternal and child health and nutrition during the first 1,000 Days. Tweet at Rep. Chris Smith (@RepChrisSmith) and Ranking Member Bass (@RepKarenBass), and thank them for their interest in this important issue and for holding this hearing. 

To learn more about the growing 1,000 Days movement, and to become part of the momentum, download Bread for the World's 1,000 Days toolkit. You can also visit Bread for the World’s 1,000 Days Movement page and “like” the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement Facebook page to receive the latest updates. 

Beth Ann Saracco is an international policy analyst at Bread for the World.

Happy 100th Birthday, Norman Borlaug

Borlaug_field"Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world," —Norman Borlaug (March 25, 1914 – September 12, 2009)

Dr. Norman Borlaug—scientist, father of the Green Revolution, and Nobel Peace Prize receipient— would've been 100 years old today.

Borlaug's work transformed modern agriculture and fed billions of people in the process. His development of high-yield, disease-resistant varieties of wheat and other crops doubled the world's food production, prevented famine across the globe, and showed the world that ending hunger is within our reach. 

In honor of Borlaug's great achievements , there will be celebrations of his life around the world today, including the unveiling of a Borlaug statue in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. The state of Iowa, Borlaug's birthplace, commissioned a 7-ft. bronze statue in his likeness to be displayed in the National Statuary Hall Collection.

Borlaug had special ties to Bread for the World, and served as an early board member of the organization. "No single person has contributed more to relieving world hunger than our friend, the late Norman Borlaug,"said Bread for the World President David Beckmann, in 2009. "Norman was truly the man who fed the world, saving up to a billion people from hunger and starvation."

The World Food Prize, which Borlaug founded, is collecting pledges from people around the world, who have vowed to continue Borlaug's work, in ways both big and small. Some have said they will  reduce their personal food waste, others have said they will work with small-scale farmers.

"Nothing could pay greater homage to the life's work of Norman Borlaug and his Green Revolution than to eradicate hunger around the world,"said Beckmann, who received the World Food Prize in 2010.

While the number of hungry people has dropped significantly over the past two decades, 842 million people continue to struggle with hunger every day. So, advocacy on any scale, whether calling your member of Congress and asking him or her to protect domestic nutrition programs, or sending handwritten letters in support of U.S. food aid reform, is an important, worthy tribute to Borlaug's legacy.

Photo: Norman Borlaug in 1964, scoring wheat plants for rust resistance in wheat breeding plots near Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, northern Mexico. (The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center/CIMMYT)

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