Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

69 posts categorized "Food Aid"

You Did It: More Food, Less Shipping

14731995009_ec22ec26b9_kBy Robin Stephenson

This week, faithful advocacy won out over special interests in a modern-day David and Goliath story. Using messages of faith as virtual slingshots aimed at Congress, Bread members across the country told lawmakers to prioritize food for hungry people over profit for shipping conglomerates - and they listened.

This week, in the final days of the 113th Congress, lawmakers passed a bill funding the Coast Guard for 2015 that rolled back proposals to increase subsidies to the world’s largest shipping companies to ship U.S. food aid.

Last spring, a provision was quietly slipped into a Coast Guard bill that the House passed, which called for an increase in the amount of food aid required to be shipped on U.S. vessels.

Bread advocates with the help of Bread organizers responded quickly by targeting key members on the Senate Commerce Committee, the committee that considered the legislation next.

Jon Gromek, a Bread regional organizer whose territory includes West Virginia, supported advocates as they engaged with Sen. Jay Rockefeller. He chairs the Senate Commerce Committee. Committee chairs are important advocacy targets because they are also the gatekeepers that can either allow or prevent bills from moving forward. West Virginia advocates made it clear to Sen. Rockefeller that feeding people was a moral issue.

“Nuns called Senator Rockefeller, echoing the call of faith leaders across the state who wrote to him on food aid reform,” Gromek said.

In Indiana, another member of the Commerce Committee heard from anti-hunger advocates. “Bread activists spent two hours on a Thursday morning before a critical committee vote to ensure Senator Dan Coats voted by proxy,” Gromek said. “His vote was a critical swing ‘yea’ to positively advance food-aid reform.”

Advocates also spoke up on the other side of the country. David Gist, who organizes in California, said persistence and teamwork was key to their efforts.

“The Bay Area Bread team lobbied Sen. Barbara Boxer to the point that Senate staffers became as adept as Bread members at articulating our talking points,” Gist said. Sen. Boxer is also a member of the Commerce Committee.

“A number of churches, unable to confirm local lobby meetings, chose to hand deliver their Offerings of Letters and used these drop-by visits,” Gist added.  “In short, California advocates were relentless!”

From his base in Bread for the World’s Chicago office, organizer Zach Schmidt helped faith leaders in Illinois and Missouri get a message out. Schmidt organized sign-on letters that garnered hundreds of signatures by faith leaders.

In St. Louis, two more committee members were targeted through local media. “A diverse trio of leaders wrote an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in May, urging Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill to reject a provision that would have harmed hungry people,” Schmidt said.  

Meeting congressional staffers locally is another tactic Schmidt encouraged advocates to use.

“And most recently,” Schmidt said, “a group of leaders, led by Rev. Dr. Doyle Sager, met with staff from the senators’ offices to discuss this issue.” Sager is senior pastor at First Baptist Church, Jefferson, Mo.

All of this advocacy happened as part of Bread’s 2014 Offering of Letters: Reforming U.S. Food Aid. Next year’s Offering of Letters will focus on a different topic.

Bread will continue to work on food-aid reform and urge Congress to pass the Food for Peace Reform Act next year. For now, as this campaign and year draw to a close, let’s take a moment and celebrate the power of the faithful voice and the victories advocacy has won for people who are hungry.

“This is the fruit of faithful, persistent advocacy,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in a statement to the press yesterday.

Learn more: U.S. Food Aid Reform

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior reigonal organizer at Bread for the World

Photo: (Bread for the World)

Being Free of Hunger and Poverty is a Human Right

FreedompicBy Will Coupe

Bread for the World celebrates today the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the rights it set out. As a voice for and with people who are marginalized, we hold these rights closely and believe in the worth and dignity of all human beings.

Ensuring that all people have the right to live free of hunger and poverty is the reason Bread supports anti-poverty programs like the earned income tax credit (EITC), child tax credit (CTC), international food aid, and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

The UDHR grew out of the Four Freedoms adopted by the Allied powers as basic war aims during World War II. The Four Freedoms are freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

The freedoms were based on a State of the Union address delivered by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941. FDR proposed that these freedoms were fundamental freedoms which everyone in the world ought to enjoy.

A major emphasis in FDR’s speech, coming during the Great Depression, is the freedom from want, which establishes a minimum entitlement to food, clothing, and housing. FDR began his speech with "freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world."

Article 25 in the UDHR recognizes the freedom from want and reads partially as “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing…”

FDR’s speech became the inspiration for the much-heralded “Freedom from Want” oil painting by Norman Rockwell. The painting, also known as “The Thanksgiving Picture” or “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” depicts a family around a dinner table preparing to share a holiday meal.

The painting is the third in the Four Freedom series by Rockwell. The painting is an idyllic representation of family values and clearly illustrates the concept of the freedom from want. The painting, which was first published in “The Saturday Evening Post,” included a companion essay written by Carlos Bulosan, a Filipino immigrant and labor organizer.

Today’s anniversary is great cause for celebration and to reflect on the progress that has resulted from it. But at the same time, further push must continue to end hunger. Every year we produce more than enough to feed every single person in the world, yet nearly 1 billion go to bed hungry every night. This is the greatest scandal of our age. The problem is not a shortage but rather that undernourished people, who need food most, do not have access to it.

As the world’s largest donor of food aid, the United States can free up even more food resources and prioritize nutrition. A bill in the Senate, The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421), addresses reform, and we are urging senators to cosponsor the bill. Celebrate the UDHR by advocating for the right to live free of hunger and email your senator today.

Will Coupe was a fall intern in the communications department at Bread for the World.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons 

 

What We Are Thankful For

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(Bread for the World)

By Rev. David Beckmann

We have a lot to be thankful for this year at Bread for the World, and you're at the top of the list. I thank God for you.

Here are just a few examples of the incredible work you have helped accomplish this year:

We won reforms that have allowed U.S. food assistance to reach 1.5 million more hungry people. Humanitarian crises in South Sudan and Syria along with the terrifying spread of Ebola in West Africa have dramatically increased the need for food aid, so our successful campaign to increase the reach of U.S. food aid could not have come at a more critical time.

As unaccompanied children crossed the U.S. border, fleeing violence at home and often deplorable treatment in detention centers, you opened your heart. You sent more than 10,000 personalized emails to your members of Congress urging them to protect these vulnerable children while addressing the root causes of their plight in the long term. A bill has been introduced into the House (H.R. 5368) to address these concerns.

On Monday, Bread for the World Institute launched its 2015 Hunger Report: When Women Flourish ... We Can End Hunger. Because of their leading role in farming, caregiving, and child nutrition, women are the primary agents the world relies on to fight hunger.  Your support makes this research and analysis possible.

And in June, we celebrated 40 years of your faithful advocacy and victories from earlier decades. We also launched Bread Rising: A Campaign to End Hunger, the most ambitious campaign in Bread's history. More to come on this campaign in the new year.

Through your dedication and through God's amazing work, we have accomplished so much. But our work isn't finished yet. As you gather around your Thanksgiving table, I ask you to pray for people who are hungry. And to pray harder for our nation and our leaders — that we might realize the political will to end hunger.

Are you asking yourself, "What more can I do?" If you have just five minutes, please help with this urgent opportunity to make a difference for people who are hungry around the world right now: email your members of Congress, and urge them to co-sponsor the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 5656 and S. 2909), which will boost agricultural development and address malnutrition. It passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week and will be voted upon next in the full House.

Rev. David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World.

Congress Returns for Lame-Duck Session

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Feed the Future programs help families like the Aktars in Barisal, Bangladesh become food secure. There is an opportunity to authorize the program during the 2014 lame-duck session if Congress acts. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)


On Wednesday, the 113th Congress returns for its final session before the holiday break. Members are expected to work through December 11.

The short, upcoming session, commonly referred to as a lame-duck session (or a lame-duck Congress), is the work period after an election but before newly elected members replace outgoing members – those who are retiring, moving chambers, or have lost their seats during the election. For outgoing members of Congress, it is an opportunity to leave a legacy – passing important legislation that can help end hunger.

As our thoughts turn to holiday preparations of feasting and family gatherings, we should not forget those who face the season hungry. There are opportunities during the lame-duck session to address global food security, increase our ability to deliver food aid, and address the hunger causing the child refugee crisis on our southern border.

  • Appropriations: Congress cannot leave town without making some provision for government funding, which expires December 11, or it faces a government shutdown. Legislators could pass a short funding extension or start the new year off with the government fully funded.  A bill that would fund the remainder of fiscal year 2015 could come in the form of an omnibus – combining several small funding bills into a large bill requiring a single vote – or Congress could pass a straight-up extension of all programs at current funding levels, also known as a continuing resolution (CR), or a combination of the two. Congress should include funding that would address the violence, hunger, and poverty that have forced more than 68,000 children to flee their homes in Central America. 
  • The Global Food Security Act – Since 2010, Feed the Future programs have helped millions of farmers increase crop production and food security around the world. It is time to codify the program into law.  With enough pressure from constituents, bills introduced in the House and Senate (H.R. 5656/S. 2909) could be voted on and passed during the lame-duck session.
  • Food for Peace Reform Act: With multiple food crises dominating the news, there is an opportunity to build the political will to pass food-aid reform in the new year by increasing cosponsors to S.2421, The Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014.

January 2015 will usher in the 114th Congress, which will include those members who won seats in last week’s elections. If you are in a district or state with a newly elected member of Congress, now is a good time to introduce them to Bread for the World and talk to them about making ending hunger a legislative priority. Contact your regional organizer for more information on how you can set up an in-district meeting.

Congress acts when there is a tipping point of pressure from back home. By taking the time to reach out to our members of Congress now, we can help ensure a better and more prosperous 2015 for everyone. 

 

Bread Challenges the Newly Elected Congress

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Bread for the World members in front of the Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. (Bread for the World)


By David Beckmann

On Tuesday, while the Senate shifted to Republican control, 18,000 children around the world died unnecessarily. Nearly half those deaths were caused by hunger. And in the United States, 16 million children still live in families that struggle to put food on the table.

Bread for the World’s members work for justice for hungry people in the United States and around the world regardless of how power shifts between our nation’s political parties. We pray that all our nation’s leaders will work to end hunger.  

The number of people in extreme poverty in the world has been cut in half since 1990, and there has been progress in all kinds of countries, from Bangladesh to Brazil to Great Britain. If Congress and the president make opportunity for everybody a priority, we can end hunger in the United States and support continued progress toward ending hunger worldwide.

Bread for the World’s top priority for the 114th Congress will be the scheduled reauthorization of the nation’s child nutrition programs. Republicans and Democrats should work together to strengthen school and summer nutrition programs.  But House Republicans have been pushing for deep cuts in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). Churches and food banks across the country have been unable to make up for the groceries that Congress took away from hungry families last year.

Bread for the World also notes with optimism bipartisan interest in other issues important to people in poverty:

  • When Congress returns later this month, the leaders of both houses seem inclined to steer away from another budget crisis and finalize appropriations for the current fiscal year.

  • The parties should be able to work together on continued progress against world poverty–the fight against Ebola and bills to reform food aid, strengthen agriculture and nutrition in poor countries, and promote trade with Africa.

  • Leaders in both parties are calling for reforms to correct injustices in the criminal justice system that have crowded U.S. prisons and deepened the poverty of many communities.

  • Tax credits for low-wage workers reduce poverty while encouraging work.

God has made it possible in our time to virtually end hunger in our country and around the world, so Bread for the World is pushing with urgency to make hunger, poverty, and opportunity for everybody a priority for our political leaders. We will push for change over the next two years and in the next round of elections for president and Congress.

Rev. David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World.

Flipping the Equation: More Food and Less Shipping

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USAID-donated rice distribution in West Point, Liberia. (Morgana Wingard/USAID)


By Robin Stephenson

Over $9 billion dollars was spent on transporting food aid compared to $7.4 billion on actual food during a 10-year period, according to a joint investigation by USA Today and graduate students at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

With lives at stake, that ratio should shock us.

Legislation passed in the 1960s mandates food largely has to be purchased in the United States and then shipped on U.S. cargo carriers, which means 65 percent of the money is spent on transportation and business costs, rather than food. As part of Bread for the World’s 2014 Offering of Letters, people of faith have called on their members of Congress to reform outdated laws that govern our food-aid policy. 

Special interests have lobbied hard to maintain the status quo. Companies like Liberty Martine have spent $1.13 million in 2013 to fight reforms according the USA Today report.

Earlier this year, a provision was slipped into the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4005) that would increase, from 50 to 75 percent, the amount of food aid that must be shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels. The House passed the bill by voice vote. The Senate version (S. 2444) awaits mark-up in committee. We will continue to advocate for the absence of cargo preference in a final bill.

In addition to regions with chronic food insecurity, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has responded to food emergencies in Syria, South Sudan, the Philippines, and Central African Republic in 2014. Food shortages resulting from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa are expected to put more pressure on already strained resources. Making matters worse, the Medill/USA Today report says that the cost of buying and delivering food from the United States has tripled in the past 12 years – all while funding has been cut.

There is a solution in the Senate right now that could change the lopsided food-aid ratio. The Food For Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) would eliminate cargo preference. The bill would free as much as $440 million annually through greater efficiencies in delivering aid and enable U.S. food aid to reach up to nine million more people annually.

Smart food aid is about more than feeding people; it helps create stability.

In Liberia, the Ebola epidemic is destroying lives and livelihoods. Markets are disrupted and food is becoming scarce. To maintain political and economic stability, people’s basic survival needs must be met. Supporting the response by the World Food Programme, USAID had provided $6.6 million worth of U.S.-grown food aid as of last month. 

In a time where needs are great and resources are stretched thin, every dollar must count. It is time to flip the equation and make ending hunger the priority.

Act Now: Email or call your senators at 800-826-3688 and ask them to cosponsor S. 2421, the Food for Peace Reform Act.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and seneior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Recap: #WorldFoodDay Twitter Town Hall

October Webinar Recap: Elections to Lame Duck

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Congress returns to Washington, D.C. November 12.  (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson    

The halls of Congress remain relatively quiet as members are in their home districts and states during the last couple of weeks before the midterm elections. They will return to Washington, D.C., on November 12 to get back to the nation’s business. Will they bring back a new commitment to end hunger?

Stephen Hill, Bread for the World’s senior organizer for elections, says that depends on how Bread members are engaging current and potential members of Congress in the next two weeks.

Speaking to Bread for the World members during the monthly legislative update, Hill said, “Making hunger an elections issue requires advocates to build capacity, build relationships, and build for the future.”  Hill has been pioneering new practices to make hunger an election issue in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, just outside Washington, D.C.

Bread for the World believes we can end hunger by 2030 by building political will to make ending hunger a priority for our nation’s lawmakers. Sending lawmakers to Washington, D.C., with a mandate to end hunger begins on the campaign trail when voters engage them on the issues publicly.  Hill urged advocates to use the election resources designed to make hunger an issue in the next few weeks and in the next couple of years as we head toward the presidential elections of 2016.

Senior domestic policy analyst Christine Meléndez Ashley told Bread members what to expect in the post-election landscape. 

In November, Congress will return to the nation’s capital for what is referred to as a lame duck session:  the final session of the previous Congress before the newly elected 114th Congress begins work in the new year. The first order of business will be the budget, which was extended earlier in the year but expires on December 2. Congress must also pass the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act and work on a bill to renew $85 billion in tax breaks for individuals and businesses before the short session ends, which is expected to be on December 11.

Several issues that affect hungry people remain unresolved in the 113th Congress.

With two pieces of legislation affecting international hunger, Meléndez urged Bread for the World members to continue asking their members of Congress to cosponsor key bills: In the Senate, The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) would free up much-needed food-aid resources to feed millions more people in need. Also in the Senate and House is The Feed the Future Global Food Security Act of 2014 (S. 2909/ H.R. 5656) – legislation that will give the U.S. government the tools and resources it needs to better combat chronic hunger and malnutrition as well as to expand and better coordinate U.S. investments in improving global food security. Bread for the World will continue to press members on passing immigration legislation that addresses hunger both here and in sending countries.

The next national grassroots conference call and webinar is scheduled for November 18.

 

An Individual’s Connection to the World’s Hot Spots Today

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Relief supplies to Central African Republic. (USAID)


The news has seemed especially distressing recently, like the world is falling apart all at once. There are troubling reports of violence in Syria/Iraq, Gaza, South Sudan, Central African Republic, and then there's Ebola in West Africa.

What can one person — an individual American — do to create peace and calm in far-away places and in such large, complicated situations? It's easy to feel helpless in times like these.

These crises are political, military, diplomatic, humanitarian, and health in nature—or sometimes a complex situation with a few of these aspects at play at once. They are seemingly fit for only national governments to deal with on a large scale. However, individual Americans are connected to these situations every day. Our federal government is acting on our behalf, with our tax dollars, and because of the positive influence of Bread activists in the legislative process of our Congress.

In all of these countries, desperate people are at least getting food to eat, and that is partly because of Bread for the World's work on food aid from the U.S. government this year, namely through Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters: Reforming U.S. Food Aid. The U.S. is the world's largest food donor, and much of the food aid from the U.S. government is given to and distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP), part of the United Nations.

WFP reported recently that it is responding to five level-3 emergencies, the highest level on its scale of severity. There were six level-3 emergencies until recently, when Cameroon was downgraded to level 2.

"This is the first time ever that the international humanitarian community has been dealing with five humanitarian crises of this scale at the same time," said Rev. David Beckmann, Bread's president. "We must continue to advocate to Congress on behalf of the millions of people experiencing hunger and poverty during this unprecedented time of suffering."

What's happening in these places

In South Sudan, the crisis ravages on as 1.8 million people have been displaced since conflict broke out between President Salva Kiir's government forces and rebels allied to his former deputy, Reik Machar. Over 10,000 people have already died. The outlook remains grim as food security may deteriorate sharply into next year. A famine is declared when at least 20 percent of households face life-threatening food shortages with an inability to handle the problem.

South Sudan has already received $1.2 billion this year from aid agencies, but an estimated $345 million more is needed to support the U.N.'s response there.

The Ebola crisis continues to deepen in West Africa as over 3,000 people have died from the infection in the region. The WFP has already reached more 180,000 people in Ebola zones with vital food assistance. Over the next 3 months, the WFP will be targeting 1.3 million people with food assistance, but it needs $107.7 million more.

Recent violence has affected nearly the entire Gaza strip. Nearly 1 in 4 people in Gaza have been displaced from their homes, but 350,000 Palestinians living in U.N. and public shelters are receiving ready-to-eat emergency rations of food on a daily basis. Food needs are increasing, and the chaos in Gaza requires U.S. aid to prevent starvation.

In Iraq, 1.2 million people are being targeted for food assistance. In August, over 190,000 people received family food parcels, which consist of food essentials, including rice, lentils, and vegetable oil.

In Syria, the conflict rages on without a solution, and humanitarian needs are increasing. Seven million Syrians are in need of food assistance. It is estimated that nearly 3,000 Syrians are fleeing every day to neighboring countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. The WFP needs approximately $35 million a week to assist over 7 million Syrians in urgent need of food assistance. 

In the Central African Republic, approximately 175,000 people are displaced and an estimated 416,000 have fled the country. The persistent violence has affected the entire population, and 1.7 million people are at risk of hunger. But so far this year, WFP has assisted nearly 1 million people.

These simultaneous crises have stretched not only the WFP, but also other international humanitarian agencies, to their limits.

"Remember that U.S. food assistance, including our country's support for the World Food Programme, is providing help and a bit of security for desperate people in these situations," said Beckmann.

This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's October online newsletter.

Congress Passes Funding Extension Before Leaving to Campaign

Elections Cover 2014 SmallBy Robin Stephenson

With little fanfare, Congress passed a continuing resolution this week to extend funding for the government through mid-December. Lawmakers now head home to campaign for midterm elections, leaving a pile of unfinished business in Washington, D.C. 

Congress will not return to the capital until November 12. Bread for the World urges advocates to use the flurry of campaign activity as an opportunity to make hunger an elections issue.

“The more advocates lift up hunger as an election issue, the more Congress will act on legislation that can end hunger by 2030,” says Amelia Kegan, deputy director of Bread for the World’s government relations department.

The funding extension passed before Congress left on recess was modified to include additional funding to arm Syrian rebels, but did not include dollars to address the poverty that is driving children to flee Latin America—primarily Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—into the United States. Lawmakers did include instructions allowing certain federal agencies to spend at higher rates to address the surge of child refugees at the border.

Congress also returns home as the World Food Program (WFP) warns of unprecedented global food emergencies and dwindling resources. WFP will cut food rations to four million Syrian refugees by 40 percent in October because of shortages. Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria, and Iraq have all been designated as level-three (the highest) humanitarian crises by WFP, straining the food aid system. 

As the world’s largest donor of food aid, the United States can free up even more food resources by increasing efficiencies without raising taxes. A bill in the Senate, The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421), addresses reform, and we are urging senators to cosponsor the bill.

On the heels of the news that 45.3 million Americans live below the poverty line, Congress must address a jobs agenda that includes work that pays a living wage.  Tax credits that help end hunger are also expiring before the end of the year.

One bright spot is that the passage of the continuing resolution yesterday to fund the government allows us to avoid a partisan showdown like we experienced last fall that shut the federal government down for more than two weeks. However, Congress left a lot of work undone.

“These are big issues they are leaving on the table, “says Kegan. “When lawmakers return, they need to address all these issues in budget decisions by December 11.” 

Kegan stresses that advocacy efforts right now will reverberate long past December. She says the elections work will play a big role in ending hunger during the 2015 session if candidates hear from voters. “ The elections,” she says, “will set the tone for next year when Congress begins work on the 2016 budget.”

The national trends both globally and domestically have been very positive. World hunger declined in 2014, and a report from UNICEF released yesterday says that child deaths have been cut in half since 1990.  As the U.S. economy rebounds, more people are returning to the labor market, and poverty rates here at home have decreased slightly, by 0.5 percent, for the first time since 2006.

Now is not the time to let up on hunger. Engage the candidates and help make hunger history.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer

 

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