Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

28 posts categorized "Film and Photography"

Photography as an Act of Advocacy

Nia T. Photo
"Hope" is one of the photos featured in a Camden, N.J. Witnesses to Hunger exhibit held at a local gallery on Sept. 19, 2013. Of the work, photographer and Witnesses advocate Nia T writes, "'Hunger lives here and so does hope.' I like that saying. That’s something. That’s deep. It means that they’re helping. They’re helping the environment. They’re helping the community." (Photo by Nia T/Witnesses to Hunger)

Denver resident Robin Dickinson and her family rely on two main sources for food: their garden and their SNAP benefits. In November, when across-the-board cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program took effect, Dickinson also saw her garden's yield diminish because of frost. Dickinson took a picture of one of her withered tomato plants; the shot is included in the photo project "Hunger Through My Lens," sponsored by Hunger Free Colorado.

"It seemed especially cruel that SNAP benefits were cut at the same time winter frost killed off the last of our tomatoes," Dickinson wrote in the photo’s caption.

The "Hunger Through My Lens" project gives cameras to SNAP recipients and asks them to document their experiences with hunger. The photos drive home the importance of anti-hunger efforts in ways that statistics often can't: it's one thing to hear about food deserts, but quite another to see one woman's photo collage of beautiful bananas in a grocery store in an affluent neighborhood juxtaposed with bruised, expensive produce at a corner bodega. "Hunger Through My Lens" has received quite a bit of media attention lately, but it isn't the first program of its kind.

Barbie Izquierdo, whose story was featured in the documentary A Place at the Table and Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, became engaged in anti-hunger work through Drexel University’s Witnesses to Hunger program. Izquierdo was given a cell phone with a camera, and asked to document her life through photos of the hunger and poverty in her Philadelphia neighborhood. Izquierdo is a nationally recognized speaker on hunger, lobbies on Capitol Hill in support of anti-hunger programs, and has reached millions through her documentary appearance, but her path to advocacy started, in part, with those photos.

Last year, at a time when the SNAP program was facing especially devastating cuts, the Witnesses program in Camden, N.J., held a gallery show to display some of the photographs taken by project participants. Bread for the World organizer Larry Hollar wrote about the participatory advocacy project and the photos on display, and how they conveyed not defeat at that crucial time, but hope for a world without hunger.

This month, in observance of National Nutrition Month, Feeding America is calling on people to show their support for nutrition through photography—it's holding a Photo-A-Day challenge. Feeding America is asking participants to snap a pic each day, based on a different words or phrase ("hungry," "fresh," "on a budget") and share those photos on social media sites. It's yet another way for people who care about ending hunger and malnutrition—and, in some cases, are dealing with hunger and malnutrition themselves—to use the power of the lens to bring attention to these important issues.

Bringing Good News of Great Joy with Bread Christmas Cards

Christmas Card
Bread for the World 2012 Christmas card image. (Nurun Nahar Nargish/Drik/Majority World)

By Vince Mezzera

Reconnecting with friends and family. Reminding people that you care. Spreading holiday cheer. Bread for the World members know that sending our Christmas cards can accomplish all of these things, while also delivering the good news that a world without hunger is possible.

Geneva Butz of Philadelphia says there are several reasons she has used Bread for the World Christmas cards in recent years. “First of all, they are very attractive,” says Butz, who ordered this year’s new shepherd boy design. Beyond that, Butz says it is a way to introduce her friends to Bread, "especially at the holidays when people are focusing on the needs of others around the world.” 

Long-time Bread supporters George and Kammy Young of Knoxville, Tenn., selected a previous year’s design. “When we were deciding what to use for Christmas cards to send to the clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee, we first thought of Bread,” George Young says. “We loved the cards available, and especially were grateful for the women's theme” of the mother praying design.

Some Bread members plan to spread the Christmas cards beyond their usual lists of friends and family. Margaret Smith of Dallas, Texas, also sends Bread’s cards to her members of Congress.  Smith says she wants to “support the wonderful work that Bread for the World does,” adding, “I am a JustFaith graduate and a RESULTS global group leader; both organizations are partners with Bread and share the same goals.” 

For Smith, the cards offer a way to connect the people in her life to her passion for ending hunger. “Almost everyone who will get a card knows that I am a champion for the end of hunger and poverty," she says. "I want the card to remind them of the importance of this goal.”

Good news, indeed.

To view all five of Bread for the World’s available Christmas card designs, visit www.bread.org/cards

Vince Mezzera is Bread for the World’s resource specialist for members and churches.

The Story of the “Shepherd Boy”

Shepherd in the fields

By Minju Zukowski

“Shepherd Boy” is the name of the photograph that graces Bread for the World’s 2013 Christmas cards. As in previous years, Bread for the World members were given an opportunity to help select this year’s Christmas card image— they overwhelmingly voted for this photo, which brings to mind the shepherd who first heard the good news of Jesus’ birth. But who exactly is the boy in the photo and who is the photographer who captured this image?

The photographer’s name is Shehab Uddin — a freelance photographer from Bangladesh who is currently pursuing his doctorate in visual arts. He also teaches classes in photography at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.

Through photography, Uddin aims to not only capture the stories of people in poverty, but to connect those stories with his own life and the lives of others. To make it not just “their story” but “our story,” he says.

So what is the story of the “Shepherd Boy” photo? Uddin shot the photo on the island of Dhal Char, which is south of Bangladesh, a place that he says could “disappear in a short period of time from the map,” due to global warming. He wanted to portray the liveliness and beauty of the island so that it would always be remembered. Uddin says that the village “felt like home because it was similar to how I grew up. I was not a stranger there. I still miss that life.”

The young man in the photo is named Hashem. He lives on the island with his family. Uddin was struck by the interaction between Hashem and the lamb he carried—they weren’t just boy and pet, but friends.

Uddin said the lamb looks as if it’s a statue. This stillness made him feel that if he were to go back to Dhal Char, he would find this exact same moment again. “The child could be myself,” he said.

We thank Uddin for capturing this beautiful image and wish him the best of luck as he continues on his mission to show the beauty and dignity of people from all walks of life around the world.

Minju Zukowski is a communications intern at Bread for the World.

A pack of 10 Bread for the World Christmas cards and envelopes is just $15, shipping included. Order the 2013 card featuring Uddin’s “Shepherd Boy” photo, or cards from previous years, at www.bread.org/store.

Photo: “Shepherd Boy,” the image used for Bread for the World’s 2013 Christmas cards. Photo by Shehab Uddin/Majority World.

WATCH: "Why Poverty?" Documentaries Now Online

Still haven't seen the films of the "Why Poverty?" global documentary project? You can now watch full-length versions of all eight docs on both the Why Poverty? website and YouTube channel

The Why Poverty? films (which were commissioned by the international non-profit STEPS, the same group behind the Why Democracy? project) are all themed around poverty, wealth, and inequality.  The films, originally broadcast around the world in November and December, include "Poor Us: An Animated History," a myth-busting look at the history of poverty, and "Land Rush," (above), a look at how a proposed commercial sugar cane operation in Mali threatens small-scale rice farmers—and their ability to feed their communities.

The Why Poverty? films aren't pushing for any single, specific solution to global poverty, but the filmmakers do hope that the documentaries will inspire those who watch them to ask questions about hunger and poverty and why it persists. Learn more about the origins of the project at whypoverty.net.

World AIDS Day 2012: Esperança's Hope

Esperança would not be alive today were it not for second-line ARV medication for HIV, activists, community health projects, PEPFAR foreign assistance funds, and hope. (Photos by Rebecca J. Vander Meulen)

By Rebecca J. Vander Meulen

Thuli was standing in front of us, telling us that she “should” have been dead—but that she was alive, thanks to anti-HIV antiretroviral medication. While others were crying tears of joy, I left the celebration banquet sobbing with anger and jealousy. I rejoiced in Thuli’s health, but I was angry that she probably would have already lost her life if she had been living in Mozambique instead of South Africa.

The year was 2004, and antiretrovirals, or ARVs, were not yet widely available here. What was the prescription for most Mozambicans who were recently diagnosed with HIV? A healthy diet (not an easy task for the average subsistence farmer), treatment of opportunistic infections, and hope.   Many people told me they’d rather die not knowing their status than find out they were living with HIV and “die early” from the associated despair and shame. Hope, while potentially a useful supplement to medication, seemed to me to be a sorry substitute for it.

One evening this October, a woman was admitted to the health center in Cobue, a small village in a remote corner of Mozambique. Because of the Anglican Diocese of Niassa’s comprehensive Salt, Light, Health community health project and the many Life Team activists who work in the Cobue region, Cobue offers better health services than most communities its size.

I had been told that this woman was “not well.” The next morning, upon meeting her, these words proved to be a dramatic understatement. Infected ulcers and bed sores covered large areas of her body. These raw wounds left her unable to sit up or walk. 

Cobue’s seasoned doctor, made woozy by these oozing sores, began removing dead tissue.  A traditional midwife and the patient’s mother waved cloths to keep the flies at bay. 

Her prognosis was poor. But her name? Esperança. The Portuguese word for “hope.” And for Esperança, hope proved to be stronger than the bacteria that fought for her life.

A team of dedicated people worked for hours each day to clean Esperança’s sores. Though I imagine the process was agonizingly painful, I never heard Esperança complain or grumble. But behind Esperança’s wounds lurked an even more concerning problem: her immune system had been decimated by HIV. 

HIV works within the human body by attacking CD4 cells, which serve as commanders in the body’s defense system. Someone with a healthy immune system typically has a CD4 count of maybe 1000. A CD4 count of 350 or below indicates widespread damage to the immune system, and is a cause for significant concern. Esperança’s CD4 count was 12. 

She had first been diagnosed with HIV in 2008 and had faithfully taken her ARV medications twice a day, as instructed. But the ARVs were no longer working.

In hushed discussions with the doctor, I compassionately hoped that Esperança could at least recover to the point of being able to sit up before she died.

How rational—or naïve—I was.

Three days into her wound care, with thousands of milligrams of antibiotics circulating through her body, Esperança greeted us with glee.  Giddy, she explained that she had managed to leave her bed overnight to go to the bathroom outside.  This was something she hadn’t done in weeks. 

Esperança, already all too familiar with death (having lost her only child), now admits that death was on her mind during these days of hospitalization. But that morning, her joy of having been able to get out of bed overwhelmed her thoughts of death.

A team of efficient and dedicated people in high places got authorization from the national Ministry of Health for Esperança to begin a new regime of ARVs—a significantly more expensive set of “second-line” medications that are only available to a small proportion of Mozambicans living with HIV. 

Within days, Esperança's increasing mobility and healing sores proved that these new ARVs were effectively halting HIV’s reproduction within her body.  Esperança continued to improve, and was discharged from the hospital only a month after I’d dreamed that she’d be able to sit up before she died.

She arrived home to surprised celebration.  Friends and neighbors told her they didn’t think she’d ever step foot in Mala again.  The “Mother’s Union” women’s group surrounded her with prayers of thanksgiving.


Esperança had clung to the hope that too often eludes me. She had the courage to live beyond the facts, fully aware of the possibility of being humiliated in that hope.

William, a fisherman turned HIV technician extraordinaire, and one of Esperança’s primary caregivers, explained that “most people didn’t think she’d live to seek the weekend.” “I praise God,” he said.

Esperança has gained seven pounds in the past two weeks.

Today’s global World AIDS Day theme is "Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths.” Properly managed, HIV is no longer a death sentence.  We are still far from that reality here in Mozambique, where tens of thousands of people still die annually from AIDS-related causes. But Esperança’s life gives flesh to the vision of zero deaths.

Esperança wouldn’t be alive today without second-line ARVs. She wouldn’t be alive if her family hadn’t received treatment and teaching about HIV from Salt, Light, Health and Life Team activists. She wouldn’t be alive if her mother, her primary care-giver over the past months, had given up. She wouldn’t be alive without the daily wound care she received from a team of informally trained lay people.  She wouldn’t be alive without the thoughtful conversations between several different doctors, hundreds of miles apart. She wouldn’t be alive without the activists around the world who lobbied over the years for lower ARV prices, and the PEPFAR funds that made her medication available. But the obligatory prerequisite to all of that was her own deep hope. Esperança’s esperança.

Yes, medicines saved Esperança. But had she had any less esperança, she would never have made it to the phase where she could have received these medicines. Esperança lives today not only because of the miracle of newfangled medicines, but also because of good, old-fashioned hard work and her resilient human spirit.

I didn’t know Esperança before October. But I imagine that she must have practiced living out her name for years. Only a well-practiced "hoper" could have hoped like she did.

Rebecca J. Vander Meulen (http://rvmphotography.com) is a photographer and community development facilitator who has been based in the province of Niassa in northern Mozambique since 2003.

"American Realities": A South Dakota Family's Struggle



Mary Grass, her husband Shannon Grass, and children Spirit, 14, Mystic, 12, Decimus, 5, and Helios, 3, sit on the steps on the side of their house in Thunder Butte, South Dakota. (Photo by Joakim Eskildsen)

LISTEN: The story of Mary Grass

(Audio produced by Laura Bult)

By Natasha Del Toro

Last summer, I interviewed Mary Grass at her home in Thunder Butte, South Dakota, a remote community on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. A military veteran and a skilled medical technician, Mary had applied for several jobs but wasn’t having any luck finding work. She was also taking an online course to earn a bachelor’s degree in science and health administration, hoping that would improve her chances. 

Her husband Shannon was able to find a temporary job in the nearest town, Eagle Butte, which is about 40 miles away, but transportation costs were eating up most of their income. With a lack of jobs, few housing options, and distances of up to 90 miles between communities, opportunities on the reservation are limited. The Grass family was relying on government assistance, including WIC, Medicaid, and food stamps to make ends meet, though Mary said their pantry was often bare toward the end of month.

Despite their economic hardships, Mary and her husband are trying to create a better life for their children by emphasizing the importance of education and the values and culture of the Lakota people, their Native American tribe. Mary’s eldest daughter, Spirit, who speaks Lakota and dances at local powwows, hopes to get a basketball scholarship to the University of Southern California. The family would not be able to afford tuition otherwise.

I spoke to Mary again recently. After more than a year of being unemployed and struggling, things are finally starting to turn around for the family. A new hospital in Eagle Butte brought job opportunities to those living on the reservation. Mary is now working there as a lab technician, making $18.69 an hour. She also finished her bachelor’s degree. Her husband still hasn’t been able to find work, but he stays home and watches the kids. She says they no longer rely on food stamps, but they still use Medicaid and WIC for her youngest son. Her daughter, whom she says is making top grades and has “a good head on her shoulders,” is researching scholarships and wants to join the ROTC.

Check out more stories and photos on the American Realities Kickstarter page. Eskildsen's "American Realities" photography book will be published in January 2013. The launch of a multimedia companion website will coincide with the book’s release.

Natasha Del Toro is a multimedia journalist whose work has appeared in Time Magazine, the Tampa Tribune, and on PBS' Frontline. She is the current host of PBS documentary series America Reframed.

Laura Bult is a radio journalist and producer currently working on the American Realities project.

Snapshot of a Contest Winner

Photo: “Young Girls Studying by a Kerosene Lamp at Home, in Netrokona, Bangladesh," the winning entry in Bread for the World's 2012 Christmas card photo contest. (Nurun Nahar Nargish/Drik/Majority World)

By Jaylynn Farr Munson

You may recall our Christmas card photo contest winner announcement on the Bread Blog earlier this year, but you probably don’t know the story behind the winning entry. This year, Bread for the World’s Christmas card will feature the photo “Young Girls Studying by a Kerosene Lamp at Home, in Netrokona, Bangladesh (Feb. 15, 2009)" by Nurun Nahar Nargish.

Nargish is a contributing photographer for Majority World, a photo agency that works with photographers in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. She is from a small Bangladeshi village near the Indian border, on the outskirts of the Mymemsingh District, where photography was forbidden under Islamic law. Despite opposition from other village residents, Nargish pursued photography, because she knew it was her calling. “From my very young age, I could discern the beauty lying in nature in and around my village, the simple way of rural life and rural culture," she says. "I had a strong desire to portray these aspects to others, and this desire drove me to take up a camera as a tool.”

Continue reading "Snapshot of a Contest Winner" »

African-American Voices for Africa: Behind the Scenes of Our Public Service Announcement

Screen grab from our African-American Voices for Africa PSA video. (Shot by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Laura Elizabeth Pohl

"I've got an idea," my colleague Racine Tucker-Hamilton said to me, excitement lighting up her face. "What do you think about producing a public service announcement?"

A television network had been asking Racine if we here at Bread had a PSA about our African-American Voices for Africa (AAVA) initiative, which aims to get African-Americans involved in advocating for policies that eradicate hunger, poverty, and disease in Africa. I loved Racine's idea and had seen plenty of PSAs but never produced one myself.

We both started by studying classic PSAs, like "Brain on Drugs" and "You Could Learn a Lot from a Dummy" from the '80s. We read articles about producing effective PSAs. And most importantly, we found other creative people to work with, including Robert Wesley Branch, a radio talk show host and former producer for the Discovery Channel, TLC, BET and TV One.

And so began our seven-week journey into creating a 30-second public service announcement (PSA) raising awareness about AAVA. Seven weeks might sound like a long time but it's not when you still have other work to do.

Laura Pohl videotapes interview with Bread staffer Lamont Thompson and Racine Tucker-Hamilton monitors audio. (Photo: Racine Tucker-Hamilton/Bread for the World)

We went through almost a dozen script revisions (who was it that said, "I would have written a shorter letter but I didn't have the time"?—writing short really is difficult). Our overall concept changed twice. We enlisted our New York-based colleague Derrick Boykin to narrate the piece and found an audio producer there, Natasha Del Toro, who recorded his narration for us. Two D.C.-based colleagues, Kristen Archer and Lamont Thompson, agreed to the only two speaking parts in the video. I spent hours researching music (jazz, classical, trance, rock—I listened to it all). I sifted through dozens of film clips I had previously shot in various African countries. Then I edited through the very best ones, cutting out short snippets that flowed well together, fit with our positive message and reinforced the narration. In all, there were five PSA versions before we settled on the final one.

We had such fun producing this piece. I often say the best work comes out of collaborating with smart, creative people. This is definitely the case with our PSA. Watch below and let us know what you think.

Laura Elizabeth Pohl is the multimedia manager at Bread for the World.

The Group Affect in Full Effect

Group affect 8.29.12
Bread for the World multimedia manager Laura Pohl videotapes interview with Bread staffer Lamont Thompson and Racine Tucker-Hamilton monitors audio. (Photo courtesy of Racine Tucker-Hamilton/Bread for the World)

by Racine Tucker-Hamilton

When I walk into the Bread for the World office each morning, I never know what my day will hold…literally. Earlier this week I was “holding” a microphone and monitoring audio during a video shoot.

Despite my day-to-day surprises, one thing is a constant, whatever I’m doing—writing press releases, creating  Facebook posts, or pitching to reporters—I know that my work will be part of a team effort. I am fortunate to work with a very talented communications department. Many of my team members are newsroom professionals, and they not only embrace the idea of collaborative thought and teamwork—they live by it. I know that my pitch to a reporter isn’t as compelling without the best photos or videos from our multimedia manager; my copy editor ensures that my media releases don’t include typos or errors; and our online creative unit makes sure that my message is disseminated widely with strong, reinforcing graphics.

Last October on a trip to Africa, I witnessed teamwork in full effect in a small village in southern Malawi. The women from Malawi’s Jombo village gathered for group cooking classes as part of a joint USAID and Catholic Charities project. Together, the women learned how to prepare nutritious foods and then returned to their homes to dish up healthy meals for their families. These woman understood that they can accomplish a great deal collectively, that as a team they can improve the lives of their families, especially babies and young children.

You too, are part of a team that can make a difference in the lives of hungry and poor people here in the United States and around the world. When you contact your members of Congress and tell them that you want them support legislation that helps poor people lift themselves out of poverty, you are making an impact. 

But imagine what could happen if you ask members of your church or book club or parents at your child’s school to join your efforts: your group approach would surely get the attention of your Congressional representatives.

Put the group affect in full effect.


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

Bread Film to Be Shown at United Nations Association Film Festival


Siblings Ricky Horton (left) and Sherily Shepard (right) are former tobacco farmers who now grow produce in Blackwater, VA. Screen grab from the short film "In Short Supply: Small Farmers and the Struggle to Deliver Health Food to Your Plate."

by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

I pulled the envelope out of my work mailbox, noted its thinness and thought, "A rejection from the United Nations Assocation Film Festival. Ah well."

I didn't open the letter for a few hours and when I did, what a surprise. "In Short Supply: Small Farmers and the Struggle to Deliver Healthy Food to Your Plate,” was accepted into the festival. It will be on the big screen in the San Francisco Bay Area sometime between October 18-28 (exact date TBD). Great news for Bread for the World and the three of us who collaborated on the film: Brad Horn, multimedia storyteller now working at the Washington Post; Molly Marsh, Bread's former managing editor; and me.

The film illustrates some of the uncertainties small American farmers face, from unpredictable weather to changing immigration laws. Through the stories of Ricky Horton and Sherilyn Shepard, siblings who grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables in southwestern Virginia, the short film aims to show how the American food system poses obstacles to delivering healthy foods to American homes.

You can watch the story below—and, of course, in the Bay Area this fall. Hope to see you there!

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


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