Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

60 posts categorized "Food Aid"

Elections and Building the Political Will to End Hunger

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Bread for the World member Derick Daily talks about hunger and poverty with staff of Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark), in Washington D.C., on June 10, 2014. (Rick Reinhard)

By Robin Stephenson

Members of Congress will leave behind a lot of unfinished business when they head to their home states and districts for August recess at the end of the week. Anti-hunger advocates should send them back to Washington, D.C., in November with clear orders to get to work on ending hunger.

This is an election year and all 435 members of the House and 33 senators are running for reelection. There will be many public events where anti-hunger advocates can talk to their elected or soon-to-be elected officials about hunger and poverty.  Bread for the World has created a set of resources to help advocates start a conversation. These  include a guide to speaking up about hunger at Town Halls and updated voting records so you know how your members of Congress have voted on issues of hunger and poverty.

If outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning loss earlier this year taught elected officials anything, it’s that they can’t ignore district concerns. Bread wants to help end hunger by 2030. To do that, we need to help build the political will to make hunger a national priority by 2017.  “All politics are local,” said Bread for the World’s director of government relations Eric Mitchell during last month’s national webinar and conference call.  “There won't be pressure to change anything unless they hear from local constituents.” And there is plenty to talk about.

The United States is poised to make huge strides in improving food aid that does more than just feed people in a crisis but helps build resilience so they can weather the next storm. Urging lawmakers to cosponsor The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) will help build the political will to reform U.S. food aid. Furthermore, Congress should be reminded that faithful advocates oppose provisions that would decrease food aid by increasing transportation costs by shipping more food from the United States.

At public events, we must get members of Congress talking about how they will address the root causes that are driving millions of children to flee Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Lawmakers are focused on the border between the United States and Mexico and not on the source of the problem. Congress should allocate funds in the 2015 budget for programs that can help alleviate hunger and poverty in Central America. However, appropriators are proposing to cut poverty-focused development assistance.

Recent data reports the job market is finally improving, yet more than 3 million long-term unemployed are left without emergency unemployment benefits. The end of the recession has not reached all Americans. Safety net programs to alleviate hunger for low-income families are still the first items on the chopping block. Prioritizing a jobs agenda will make ending hunger in America possible.

“We are not advocating electing one party or another,” said director of organizing LaVida Davis. “As people of faith, our task is to change the conversation and make ending hunger a priority for our elected officials.”

Hunger affects all of us. Making hunger an election issue is how we can build the political will to end it.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.

Seeing Hunger - and Christ - on Children's Faces in Guatemala


Last year Bread's multimedia manager Joseph Molieri travelled to Guatemala where he saw hunger and solutions to hunger up close. He filmed Catarina Pascual Jimenez,and tells her story in the short video, Food for the Future.

By Joseph Molieri

Reading the news stories of a surge in child migration from Guatemala does not surprise me. Last year I was there, and I saw the devastation that hunger can cause. 

In Guatemala City, the street life is alive with the calls of vendors selling their wares, congested streets, and bustling pedestrians. I took a taxi to a rural region just north of Huehuetenango, about a 200-mile drive from Guatemala City, where life was slower but harder. We had come to Guatemala to observe the impact of food-security programs, which are partially funded through grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and to gather stories for Bread’s Offering of Letters in these western highlands of Guatemala. 

As we traveled farther into the countryside, a palpable feeling of coldness grew stronger.  About halfway into the trip, we pulled over and got out to stretch for a few minutes. The indigenous locals walking by glanced nervously at us before pulling their children to the other side of the road. Roberto, my driver, said this area saw a lot of fighting during the civil war. I knew this, but I was only beginning to see and feel it. 

For many years, the indigenous Mayan population in Guatemala has lived in extreme poverty, exacerbated by a political system at times designed to disenfranchise them.  The Mayans have also experienced exclusion from development and wealth. Guatemala has made headlines in recent weeks as the country with the worst malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere and one of the hotspots where children are leaving to migrate to the United States. During my visit, I began to get a glimpse of why this might be.

At our destination I met Catarina Pascual Jimenez, a mother of four children. Her oldest son, Antonio, now 17, left when he was 15 to work as a migrant laborer. Opportunities and access to nutritious food are severely limited in her remote village. Her youngest children, Roni and Shelia, given their age at 17 months, would become two more statistics of malnourishment and stunting without the USAID program.

As we met with more mothers, we heard similar stories. These women and children had a small opportunity to overcome hunger because of the USAID nutrition program. However, for this one village with the program, there were countless more without it, where children might suffer all their lives as a result of malnutrition.  The issues these women face, like many others in Latin America, are not isolated incidents of a poor economy but rather the result from years of political unrest, bad policies both from their own government as well as neighboring countries, and racial discrimination. 

Matthew 25 asks me when I saw Christ hungry. I saw hunger in Guatemala.  I also saw that when we invest in programs and give people a hand up, we not only live out the Gospel call to “do for one of the least of these” but we alleviate conditions that cause people to migrate for survival. I called my member of Congress, and I invite you to join me.  Children like those I met are desperate and coming to the United States on dangerous journeys because they are hungry. We cannot turn our back on them. What we can do is try to change the circumstances they are fleeing.

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Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators! Simply say: I urge you to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Please pass legislation that addresses the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America that are forcing them to leave.

Joseph Molieri is the multimedia manager at Bread for the World

Smallholder Farmers Key to Ending Hunger—But They Need Support to Do It

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Martha Togdbba of Kpaytno, Liberia, grows vegetables, including tomatoes and chili peppers. She irrigates her small farm with water from a nearby stream that she walks back and forth to with a watering can. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson

In a recent interview with Devex, Roger Thurow says a key ingredient to global food security is the smallholder farmer. “Smallholder farmers haven’t been at the center of agriculture development efforts.” We have programs today that can change that.

Thurow is a senior fellow on global agriculture and food policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and author of The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change.

Thurow says reversing the pattern of neglect is a major challenge of our time if we want to face a food-secure future. “These smallholder farmers who have been so badly ignored and neglected by a kind of collective us… [they] are now really indispensible to our future of feeding the planet.” Deficiencies in global agriculture become even more urgent when factoring in climate change and population growth, which will put increasing pressure on global food resources in the future.

Evidence suggests that agriculture-led growth is a key to ending hunger and poverty. Faustine Wabwire writes that the missing link is women. In A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond, Wabwire, senior foreign assistance policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute, takes a closer look at the composition of smallholder farmers, the majority of which are women. In sub-Sahara Africa, women produce up to 70 percent of the food for their households and markets.  She writes, “An estimated 12 percent to 17 percent reduction in global malnutrition could come from enabling female farmers to match the yields of male farmers by allowing them equal access to resources.”

USAID has been leading the charge with a new kind of development that addresses smallholder agriculture and women as change agents. Programs like Feed the Future are already charting a course toward self-sufficiency. Investing in and reforming U.S. food aid to allow flexibility, improve nutrition, and build long-term resilience is also critical to a future free from hunger. 

Congress must make these investments a priority in their 2015 spending bills if we are to end global hunger.  However, appropriators in the Senate have approved a $100 million cut to Feed the Future in the State-Foreign Operations bill. Investments in food aid reform, although minimal, have been proposed for House and Senate Agricultural appropriation bills and pushed through with the help of persistent urging on the part of anti-hunger advocates. We will continue to support amendments that allow U.S. food aid to reach more people.

The nightly news shows us we face daunting problems: children fleeing poverty and violence in Central America, Somalia on the brink of famine, the incomprehensible human suffering of refugees in South Sudan – the list goes on. At the root of each of these crises is hunger and poverty.  Solutions that address root causes are solutions that last. Looking at smallholder farmers as the engine for poverty reduction can help end what Thurow calls a medieval affliction of our time – child malnutrition.  He asks, “Why in the fourteenth year of the 21st century are we still afflicted by all these problems?”  Why indeed.

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

Jannah's Story: 'I Survived A Refugee Camp'

JanahBy "Jannah"

I remember it like it was yesterday: I was 21 years old living in a refugee camp after a devastating famine in my home country, Eritrea. My father, my husband, and my son were all killed during the war, but I survived and found my way to Sudan with my friend Selam. It was hot that summer — at least 100 degrees most days — and it didn't rain for months. Leaving the camp meant risking your life, so we spent our days sitting in the dry, hot dirt waiting for any help that would come our way.

People grew weak and died every single day — children, mothers, fathers. I watched my friend Selam die in my arms.

Our only food was aid that came on a truck: rice with some water and maybe beans in a can. It wasn't a lot, but that food was all we had and the only way I survived. And I remember that it came from the United States.

Now, the U.S. Congress could take away even those small portions from millions of people trapped in crisis like I was. Please give whatever you can to support Bread for the World’s campaign to fight these changes.

The days in the camp are past now, but the memories stick with me. Very few people here in the United States understand what we refugees endured, what it’s like to feel less than human. What it’s like to starve.

No one should have to live like that. I don't want any more mothers to lose their children, and I don't want any more women like Selam to die. More than anything in the world, I want to help people like those who survived with me in the camps.

Organizations like Bread for the World are working to do just that by protecting and improving food aid, but for real change to happen, we need thousands of people to come together. I’m sharing my story with you today in hopes you'll be one of them.

Please donate today to help end hunger all over the world. If you give now, your gift will go even further. A group of Bread members has promised to match your gift dollar-for-dollar. Someday I hope I will be able to give myself, but until then, I'm counting on people like you. Let's all come together to protect God's children by lending our voices, our votes, and yes, our earnings to efforts that make a difference for hungry families.

Jannah is an Eritrean refugee living in the United States (Names changed to protect privacy).

If you give right now, a generous donor will match your gift, so every $1 turns into $2. Don't miss this opportunity to help Bread in its mission to end hunger.

Photo: Jannah today, years after leaving Sudan. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

CNN’s 'Why Won’t Washington Work' Spotlights Food-Aid Inefficiencies

11468858775_8d91cb856b_zBread for the World has worked for many years to call for better ways to get life-saving food to hungry people around the globe through U.S. food aid. Now major media outlets are catching on to the problem as well.   

A recent report on CNN highlights the inefficiencies of the current system and the costs—both in financial terms and in lives put at risk by the inflexibility. As part of a series “Why Won’t Washington Work,” CNN chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper spent time with Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) discussing food aid. Current requirements that food largely has to be purchased in the United States and then shipped on U.S. cargo carriers means that 65 percent of the money for the aid program is spent on shipping and business costs, rather than food.

This requirement also delays food delivery by months - and at critical times. “It actually takes us about three months to buy food here, and ship it, and get it to, say, the Philippines after a disaster,” Shah told CNN. “It takes two to three months to get that done.”

Shah estimates that if there were flexibility with the program and food could be purchased locally, closer to where the need is—as Bread’s Offering of Letters calls for this year—the program could feed 8 million to 10 million more people, and within days, versus months.

But political connections, rather than humanitarian concerns, are one of the things obstructing these changes to the program in Congress. Shipping companies and unions, who benefit financially from the program as it is, are opposed to any change in the current system. And they wield clout in Congress in a way that hungry people do not: According to the Center for Public Integrity, the two leading maritime unions gave more than three quarters of a million dollars to House members in the 2012 election cycle. As CNN noted, members of Congress receiving that money, Republicans and Democrats both, voted against Shah's efforts to reform the program, 83 to 29.

As CNN’s report notes, U.S. jobs and companies are important priorities. But that’s not what this money for life-saving food aid is meant for, not where it should be directed.

Even “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” knows that the shipping companies are not really the most vulnerable among us.

Photo: Lutheran Development Service distributes food to people affected by drought in Swaziland in 2004. Many distributions of U.S.food-aid items are carried out by private relief and development organizations, many of them supported by U.S. churches. (Stephen H. Padre/Bread for the World)

Food for Peace Turns Sixty Years Old

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Catarina Pascual Jiménez poses with her twins in Guatemala. Read about how a U.S.-funded nutrition program has helped her family on the 2014 Offering of Letters: Reforming U.S. Food Aid site. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

By Robin Stephenson

On this day, 60 years ago, Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Public Law 480 and created the Food for Peace program – the first permanent program in the United States to respond to global hunger. For six decades, the program has helped approximately 3 billion people in 150 countries.

Ganet Gelgehu is one of those people. A Food for Peace program administered by Catholic Relief Services in Gelgehu’s village of Gubeta Arjo in Ethiopia has helped turn her listless and malnourished twin sons Joseph and Isaac into the active two-year olds they should be. Drought has led to chronic food insecurity in the region. The program provides Galgehu and more than 300 mothers like her whose children are malnourished with a porridge that is easy to prepare and provides the nutrients necessary for healthy development. "When I compare my older children at this age with the twins, I see a difference," Gelgehu tells CRS’s regional information officer Sara A. Fajardo. "They were not this strong. They were not this healthy."

Gelegehu’s story also highlights how the Food for Peace program has transformed over the past 60 years. Targeting mothers and children with programs that focus on nutrition is a recent development – and one that can build long-term resilience against food insecurity. Research shows that every dollar invested in nutrition generates as much as $48 in better health and increased productivity.

Bread for the World celebrates our own milestone this year, marking 40 years of advocacy to end hunger. During that time we have advocated for the Food for Peace program and its transformation as we learn better and new ways to fight global food insecurity.

The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) recently introduced in the Senate could provide needed flexibility to deliver food aid, making the program more efficient. We are urging Bread for the World members to encourage their senators to become cosponsors of S. 2421. Today, Food for Peace faces funding challenges as Congress works on the 2015 budget.  We must continue to urge appropriators to adequately fund some of the reforms we won in the farm bill. We also must guard against provisions that would decrease food aid by increasing transportation costs by shipping more food from the United States.

So today we give thanks for the Food for Peace program on its 60th birthday—and for all the birthdays it has enabled children around the world to celebrate, like Joseph and Isaac.

 

 

Double Your Impact and Help Protect Food Aid

By Woody Clinard

5367305116_01837af8af_zRight now, 1.3 million people are displaced after fleeing violence in South Sudan. Thousands upon thousands of children are struggling just to find their next meal. It’s absolutely heartbreaking, and Congress is poised to make it even worse.

We need to do something. That’s why a group of us have committed to match every dollar raised for Bread for the World until July 15, up to $50,000.

I’ve been involved with Bread for more than 17 years, and I’ve seen what our community can do when we come together to fight for what’s right. Truth be told, I’m usually a private person, but I’m speaking out because today – right now – is an important moment in the fight to end hunger. There is a bill in Congress that would make it harder to send food and other life-saving support to countries in crisis. The proposal in Congress would take food away from millions of the world’s hungriest people, many of them young children. I’m shocked and angry, and I bet you are too.

But the good news is that Bread for the World is working hard to protect food aid and other life-saving programs. Just last month, we won an important victory when the House voted to appropriate $10 million for the purchase of food aid closer to the place of need, allowing our food-aid dollars to be spent more efficiently and reach more people. By lobbying Congress, organizing our communities, and developing effective policy solutions, we are making a big difference for those who need us most.

Join me in giving what you can to Bread for the World. For the next six days, every $1 you give will yield $2 so that Bread for the World can advocate for programs that help end hunger at home and abroad.

I’m immensely proud of the work that Bread for the World has done in the years that I’ve been involved with them. Like many of you, I’ve donated, volunteered, and contacted my members of Congress. But now more than ever, we need to step up for the ones who need us most. Our faith calls us to action, and collectively we can make a difference. Let’s all come together to protect God’s children by lending our voices, our votes, and yes, our earnings to efforts that make a difference for hungry families.

Woody Clinard is a Bread for the World member from Winston-Salem, NC.

Photo: Liberian girl (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

 

Crisis in the Horn of Africa: Give now and double your impact

Elisabeth

Photo: Elisabeth and her family upon arrival at Burbe. Story and image courtesy of World Food Program USA (@wfpusa).

By David Beckmann

Since May, more than 16,000 people have crossed the Baro River into the tiny border town of Burbe, Ethiopia. Most of the refugees are mothers and children, and far too many share stories of husbands, fathers, and brothers lost to violence in South Sudan.

"A lot of people have died. People are running in different directions. There's no food, no water," says Elisabeth Nyapal, who crossed the river with her six children and a small mattress.

Relief workers distribute meals and administer vaccines. Without them, the death count would be unthinkable.

But despite the growing need for speedy and efficient relief in times of crisis, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would direct $75 million in food-aid funding to shipping conglomerates — effectively snatching food from the mouths of 2 million hungry people.

We can't let that happen. We need to raise our collective Christian voice and say no. To make this happen, a generous group of Bread members has offered to match your gift dollar-for-dollar if you donate by July 15.

Your gift today will support Bread's education, organizing, and advocacy efforts to ensure that food aid reaches the people who need it most. Your gift will also promote policy changes that would allow relief agencies to purchase food near famine-stricken areas—saving lives in times of crisis and boosting local economies.

"For us, everything is destroyed," says Elisabeth. "We are asking the international community to help us get a better life."

Help Elisabeth and her family by supporting Bread’s efforts to make U.S. food-aid programs work more efficiently. Please donate today while your gifts will be matched. Give now and make twice the difference.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Food Aid Update: Cargo Preference Provision Absent from Senate Bill

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During Bread for the World's 2014 Lobby Day, participant Pamm McGill of Las Vegas, Nev. and Bread for the World staffer Matt Newell-Ching meet with an aide for Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.) about the importance of U.S. food aid. Washington, D.C., Tuesday, June 10, 2014 (Jim Stipe).

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)

Faith has the power to move mountains – or topple giants, as the case may be. Faithful advocates have not let special interests nor politics deter them from pushing for reforms to U.S. food aid that can help feed millions more. Today, we can celebrate yet one more victory in the exodus to end hunger: Legislation that would increase transportation costs at the expense of food aid is currently absent in the Senate’s Coast Guard bill.

The Senate recently introduced its version of the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act (S. 2444). Thanks to your efforts, it does not take critical food-aid dollars away from hungry people to subsidize the world’s largest shipping companies. The bill now faces a vote by the Senate Commerce Committee. If it passes, it will still need to pass the full Senate and eventually be reconciled with the House version of the bill, which provides for increased subsidies to shipping companies using food-aid funds. 

The House version (H.R. 4005), which passed by a voice vote, included legislation that would increase, from 50 to 75 percent, the amount of food aid that must be shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels. As a result, the cost of shipping food aid would increase by at least $75 million, and 2 million fewer hungry people would be reached.

The work Bread for the World members have put into shining a light on the harmful provision quietly tucked into the House bill is a testament to the power of speaking with a unified moral voice. You called, emailed, and petitioned senators who were considering the harmful legislation, making it clear that they were choosing to increase hunger or profit. You wrote letters to the editor in your local papers. You went to Washington, D.C., and met with your members of Congress. And when we called on faith leaders to sign on to letters, you responded by the hundreds.

When we live out our faith and answer the call to end hunger together, everything is possible. Yes, it’s possible for just one person to slay the giant with just the right hit, but it’s easier for many of us to topple the giant together.

But the fight is far from over. Amendments to increase transportation costs could still be introduced when the full Senate deliberates on the Coast Guard bill. Continue to tell your senators not to use food aid to increase subsidies to the world’s largest shipping companies, leaving 2 million more people hungry every year. 

If you haven’t done so, please add your name to our petition and let Congress know you care about your hungry neighbor – whether they live next door or on the next continent.

The Future of Food Aid is the Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421)

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U.S. food aid is an important tool in fighting child malnutrition. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” (Matthew 14:20)

Jesus fed more than 5,000 people with a miracle by multiplying loaves and fishes. We don’t need a miracle to feed millions more who suffer from hunger. We only need to multiply our efficiency by passing the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014 (S. 2421).

Increasing efficiency means U.S. food aid can reach up to 9 million more hungry people around the world. Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) recently introduced a bill that provides needed flexibility to deliver food aid, making the program more efficient. Urge your senator to co-sponsor S. 2421 and help build momentum to pass the bill.

Senate Bill 2421 would modernize U.S. food aid by:

  • Increasing flexibility to deliver food aid in the best way possible. In many cases, that means delivering food purchased in the United States, while in other cases buying food locally would be more effective and timely. In still others, the best way to meet the nutritional needs of hungry people would be through the provision of cash transfers or food vouchers.
  • Increasing long-term resilience by ending monetization– the practice of selling food to support development programs, which is incredibly inefficient, often distorts local markets, and can undermine longer-term food-security objectives.
  • Increasing efficiency by removing cargo-preference requirements on food aid. Food aid shipped under cargo preference costs taxpayers 46 percent more, on average, than competitively awarded ocean freight shipments. This legislation will save money and provide the flexibility to ship food without anti-competitive restrictions.

Reforming U.S. food-aid policy has been a cornerstone of Bread for the World’s efforts to end global hunger as far back as 1981 and is the focus of the 2014 Offering of Letters. Food aid not only responds to natural or man-made disasters around the world, but as we learn better ways to respond to hunger, food aid becomes an important tool in building long-term food security that can end global hunger.

Recently, Bread members helped pass reforms in the 2014 farm bill that will have a huge impact in the near future if Congress funds the programs. As the House and Senate work on their 2015 agricultural appropriations bills, Bread members will need to continue urging adequate funding to shore up the reforms already passed.

The danger of slipping backwards also lurks at every corner. Special-interest lobbies are working hard to increase cargo-preference provisions, denying food aid to millions. Faithful advocates must continue to be an obstacle.

Christians know we can live in a world without hunger. The Corker-Coons legislation is part of the exodus from hunger. When a senator adds his/her name to the bill as a cosponsor, he/she indicates support for the legislation. This helps build the momentum to pass the bill in the future, and signals strong support for food aid reforms now.

In Matthew, faced with a hungry crowd, Jesus performs a miracle and creates abundance out of scarcity. This illustrates that God wants the faithful to make the best use of our bounty and gifts when confronting hunger. We don’t need a miracle to face a hungry world – we need political will and common sense policy changes.

To find out more about how U.S. food-aid reform is moving in Congress and what you can do, join us for today’s conference call and webinar at 4 p.m. ET.  Register here.

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