Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

74 posts categorized "Food Aid"

Let's Keep the Momentum on Food-Aid Reform Going This Year

6857095344_0fc0364cc3_k
Indian women and children bundle grain stalks after the harvest. Margaret W. Nea/Bread for the World.

By David Gist, Jon Gromek, and Zach Schmidt

The purpose of U.S. international food aid is to provide food to people who need it, so let’s do it well.

Bread for the World members wrote letters, made phone calls and met with their members of Congress last year as part of the annual Offering of Letters. They urged senators and representatives across the country to reform U.S. food aid so we could help more hungry people overseas and better utilize U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Our efforts paid off. Modest reforms were included in the 2014 farm bill, and as a result of our persistent advocacy, we won important victories that ensure more food aid will reach the people who need it. That’s good news! But more work remains to be done, and as people of faith, we continue to call on Congress to reform U.S. food aid to help our brothers and sisters around the world.

It’s a message that’s worth repeating. Greater flexibility in food-aid policies would allow more food to be purchased closer to where it’s needed, helping millions more people receive life-saving food aid up to two months faster. Not only that, but purchasing food locally means our government helps farmers and their communities around the world become self-sufficient and, therefore, less likely to need U.S. aid in the future.

So, more food to more hungry people at no extra cost. Faster delivery. Food that’s more nutritious and culturally appropriate. And local farmers and local economies getting stronger. In the fight against hunger, food-aid reform is a no-brainer. We just need a few more members of Congress to join the movement.

So where are we in 2015? Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading supporter of food-aid reform, recently introduced the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015. This bill would make the kinds of reforms Bread has been advocating for possible and is a positive sign that Congress wants to address food-aid reform this year. We will likely see other approaches to food-aid reform in the coming weeks and months, and Bread policy analysts stand ready to follow these developments closely.

Stay tuned! Your voice is needed as we continue to pray and advocate for food-aid reform and for a world in which everybody has enough to eat.

David Gist, Jon Gromek, and Zach Schmidt are regional organizers at Bread for the World.

 

Rick Steves and the Whirling Dervish

Steves and Murray
Rick Steves talks to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), about food-aid reform during the 2014 annual Bread for the World Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Robin Stephenson

Can we turn our faith into action and become conduits of God’s love as leaders in our communities?

Travel writer and Bread for the World member Rick Steves thinks so. Steves talked about the importance of advocacy as an act of faith during the Faith Action Network (FAN) annual fundraising dinner in Seattle, Wash., last November.

Advocacy goes beyond models of charity. For Steves, it is the implementation of God’s love to address structural poverty. It is an extension of stewardship that considers community and neighbor. "We are so richly blessed," Steves said. "I think if we are honest with our faith, we take that stewardship seriously."

Steves used the image of a Whirling Dervish to show how people of faith can be tools of God.

“He plants one foot in community - his home - and his other foot goes around the world, acknowledging the beautiful diversity of God’s great creation," Steves said. "He raises one hand up to God to accept the love of his maker, the other hand, like the spout of a tea kettle, goes down and showers God’s love on his great creation as he whirls - one foot in his home with his loved one, the other celebrating the diversity in his community.”

Steves’ worldview is shaped by his faith and travel. He said that one of the reasons he values travel is that he can view his own country from a distance but also see the different ways communities across the globe deal with similar challenges. “We can learn from other people's experiences, we can share notes,” he said.

Whirling_DervishesSteves’ book, Travel as a Political Act explores how travel can connect people and engender a mutual understanding. Travel opens our eyes because it exposes the similarities and diversities of various approaches to living. Sometimes what we see is gross inequality. But for Steves, that pushes him to engage his elected officials - the leaders who make policies that affect vulnerable people around the world.

Last year, Steves spoke out about a policy provision in a Coast Guard Reauthorization bill that would have increased the percentage of food aid required to be shipped on U.S. vessels from 50 to 75 percent. If passed, it would have reduced the reach of food-aid programs by 2 million people annually. Steves sees short-term profit over feeding hungry people as a problem of perspective.

“Sure, we have our economic challenges,” Steves wrote in The Seattle Times last June. “But 90 percent of humanity would love to have our crisis. Half of humanity is struggling to survive on $2 a day. When you travel, you understand that’s a real crisis.”

By speaking up in your communities and with your elected officials, advocates like you and Rick Steves, helped put a stop to the harmful provision. God’s love for humanity channeled through God’s people triumphed. That is faith in action!

A Whirling Dervish, perpetually in motion and radiating God’s love and promise out to the world, is a nice metaphor for what we do as faithful advocates. By urging our elected officials to craft programs and policies that celebrate human diversity, while acknowledging that we are one people tied together by God’s love, we most certainly do turn our faith into action.

Watch the video of Rick Steves' presentation on the Rick Steves' Europe Blog.

As the 114th Congress begins its work, we’ll need your help to ensure that food-aid reform is a priority. Bread will continue to work on this issue and urge Congress to pass legislation that helps those who need food the most to get it. Learn more: U.S. Food-Aid Reform.

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

Photo inset: Whirling Dervishes. Tomas Maltby/Wikimedia Commons.

Refugees in Jordan Face Increasing Hardship

Getting_UK-funded_food_vouchers_to_Syrian_refugees_in_Jordan_(9634944185) (1)
Syrian refugees receiving U.K.-funded food vouchers in Amman, Jordan through the U.N. World Food Program. Russell Watkins/U.K. Department for International Development via Wikimedia Commons.

By Jacob Chew

Jordan is currently host to 620,000 of the 3.8 million Syrians who have sought refuge from the ongoing conflict in the country. This is the largest ever refugee population received by Jordan, a developing country with limited economic resources and a high unemployment rate.

In January, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a report highlighting the growing challenges faced by the more than 520,000 Syrian refugees residing outside UNHCR camps in Jordan.  “Living in the Shadows: Jordan Home Visits Report 2014” found that these refugees will face increasing difficulty in sustaining themselves as the four-year civil war in Syria continues unabated into 2015.

The UNHCR report highlighted the following:

Two-thirds of Syrian refugees live below the Jordanian poverty line of U.S. $96 per month. Female-headed households face higher levels of poverty than male-headed households.

•Many Syrian families spend an average of 1.6 times their income in order to meet their needs. In order to do so, they have had to rely on their savings, sell their jewelry, borrow money from family and friends, and even pull their children out of schools in order to sustain themselves. Such strategies are unsustainable in the long term.

One in ten refugee families live in informal housing such as tents, caravans, basements, and rooftops. Almost half (47 percent) of refugee households are in living conditions regarded as bad or urgent, while 40 percent live with poor sanitary conditions.

•The Jordan government has issued most refugees with a service card that provides them with free access to public services and education. However, the influx of refugees has stretched existing public infrastructure to the seams. Overcrowded schools coupled with financial constraints resulted in only 53 percent of Syrian refugee children enrolled in school in 2014.

•Currently, UNHCR provides cash assistance to 14 percent of Syrian refugees living outside the camps. This has reduced the number of beneficiaries below the program’s poverty threshold by 20 percent. However, lack of international funding has prevented it from scaling up this program.

With no resolution to the Syrian conflict in sight and a lack of financial support for UNHCR’s work, we can expect levels of hunger and poverty among refugees to increase in the immediate future.

In the long term, competition for resources could increase tension between refugees and host communities. Continuing uncertainty and high school dropout rates could lead to the emergence of a lost generation of Syrians living in despair, which could affect peace and stability in the region.

Bread for the World members are urged to contact their members of Congress and ask them to increase funding for poverty-focused development accounts, including those that fund programs to alleviate poverty and hunger among Syrian refugees in Jordan and refugees elsewhere, and also urge Congress to pass important reforms to the food-aid system. With common sense reforms to make food-aid programs more flexible, efficient and effective, these programs could reach millions more people in Jordan and around the world.

Jacob Chew is an intern in the government relations department at Bread for the World.

The Blessing of a Grocery Store

Milk_Aisle
Ashoka Jegroo/Wikimedia Commons.

By Fito Moreno

As snow covered Washington, D.C., yesterday, I sighed. I should have done my grocery shopping on Saturday and not indulged in Netflix. After work, I had to traverse a city that falls apart after only 2 inches of snow to grab milk, bread, and cereal, and walk on poorly shoveled sidewalks to get home.

Yet the mere fact that I live in a city where I can walk to the store to get groceries would be a blessing to millions living in conflict areas such as eastern Ukraine.   

Food reserves in that part of the country are fully depleted, and infrastructure is partly destroyed, including transportation routes and city markets, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The simple task of buying a loaf of bread has become almost impossible in some areas due to the damage done by the conflict.

It is estimated that 5.2 million people are currently living in the conflict-affected area and a little over 1 million having been displaced.

The World Food Program is one of the major aid groups providing assistance to the region. It depends primarily on voluntary donations from national governments. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) gave $3 million directly to the WFP in November to assist 120,000 Ukrainians affected by conflict.

Last year, Bread advocated to ensure that food aid was more flexible. With help from our members, we halted passage of a provision in a Coast Guard Reauthorization bill that would have increased the percentage of food aid required to be shipped on U.S. vessels from 50 to 75 percent. If it had passed, it would have reduced the reach of food aid programs by 2 million people annually.

Our advocacy also helped increase funding for poverty-focused development from $24 billion to $27 billion, which specifically goes toward international disaster assistance, global health, and USAID.  

Making legislative changes on government policies might not be the sexy side of politics that trends on Twitter, but it allows us to respond efficiently to our brothers and sisters around the world when they need us most.

As I unpacked my eco-friendly grocery bag last night, I was thankful that I live in a conflict-free zone. I will continue to talk with my members of Congress to ensure families don’t go hungry because of conflict.

As the 114th Congress begins its work, we’ll need your help to ensure that food-aid reform is a priority. Bread will continue to work on this issue and urge Congress to pass legislation that helps those who need food the most to get it. Learn more: U.S. Food-Aid Reform.

Fito Moreno is acting manager of media relations and a media relations specialist at Bread for the World.

 

2014 Victories: Food Aid Reform

12090188055_0ef403936f_o
Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World

Editor’s note: Bread Blog is running a six-part series highlighting Bread for the World’s legislative wins in 2014. Today’s post looks at Food Aid Reform.

By Bread Staff

In 2014, Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters focused on reforming food aid. When we launched it, we knew that one of our biggest obstacles would be the deepening partisanship and gridlock in Congress. But through grassroots and inside-the-Beltway advocacy, we chalked up significant achievements on the road to reforming U.S. food aid, including:

• $35 million in the fiscal year 2014 budget to reduce the need to monetize food aid, or sell food aid commodities to fund development projects, reaching 200,000 more people.

• Worked with Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) to introduce the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014. This legislation would build on reforms in the fiscal year 2014 omnibus appropriations bill and 2014 farm bill.

• Halted passage of a provision in a Coast Guard Reauthorization bill that would have increased the percentage of food aid required to be shipped on U.S. vessels from 50 to 75 percent. If passed, it would have reduced the reach of food aid programs by 2 million people annually. The provision snuck through the House in 2014, but Bread members sent thousands of hand-written letters and emails and made hundreds of phone calls in opposition.  This major victory was directly attributable to Bread for the World advocacy!

“Our legislative wins aren’t always grabbing headlines, but they’re significant and affect millions of lives,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World. “This list of legislative accomplishments reminds us that sustained, faithful advocacy really works and really does bring change. We’ve got our work cut out for us in 2015, but let these successes of 2014 motivate, inspire, and energize us for the path ahead.”

Bread will continue to work on food-aid reform and urge Congress to pass the Food for Peace Reform Act next year. Learn more: U.S. Food Aid Reform

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

14221138950_575752f53c_h
(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

FGcIc4d+.jpg
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

Grassroots lobby day
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.

Stay Connected

Bread for the World