Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

379 posts categorized "Global Hunger"

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)

Urgent: Tell Senators to Pass the Global Food Security Act

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By Eric Mitchell

Thanks to your calls, letters, and emails, the House of Representatives just passed the Global Food Security Act late last night. The Senate has two days left to pass this bill into law.

People told us Congress was too gridlocked to pass this bill, but we proved them wrong. As people of faith, we spoke up with a united voice and convinced Democrats and Republicans alike to authorize Feed the Future, the program under this law. Last year, this program reached 12.5 million children.

Feed the Future is improving the lives of millions of people around the world, ensuring that young children receive the proper nourishment that enables them to grow and thrive. It also gives smallholder farmers access to new tools and technologies that improve yields and boost incomes.

If the Senate can pass the Global Food Security Act (S. 2909) in the next two days, Feed the Future will become law. We need the Senate to vote on this bill before leaving for the holidays. With only a couple of days left in the 113th Congress, we need you to act now!

Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. senators today. Urge your senator to pass the Global Food Security Act (S. 2909)!

God is moving in our time to end hunger, and the legislation Congress considers is a part of that movement. You are a part of this movement! A bill that once appeared blocked by gridlock is so close to becoming law. Call your senators today, and push S. 2909 over the finish line.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at 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 

 

A Potentially Deadly Question: What Will Syrian Refugees Do With No Money to Buy Food?

By Beth Ann Saracco

“I ask the U.N. not to leave us. We need food, diesel, and clothes…Soon it will start to snow. What do we do?”

These questions and this desperate plea were voiced by Aisha, a Syrian refugee, in an article by The Associated Press, who painted a picture of a dire situation coming together for people like her who have fled their war-torn country. Recently “60 Minutes” covered the Syrian refugee crisis and how essentials like access to food could soon dry up.                              

On Monday, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) announced it would suspend its food voucher program due to a severe cash shortfall, a decision that will leave nearly 1.7 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey struggling to pay for food. Prior to the program’s suspension, the WFP was providing refugees with $15 to $45 monthly voucher cards to purchase food in local markets. The suspension couldn’t have come at a worse time – as winter approaches. 

The demand for humanitarian aid around the world is unprecedented at the moment. In fact, the United Nations has declared “Level 3” humanitarian emergencies – the highest U.N. classification for the most severe, large-scale humanitarian crises – in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and West Africa.

 The WFP made the decision to suspend the Syrian refugee program due to the complex nature of the Syrian crisis and a shortfall in funding from pledges not received. At a pledging conference earlier this year in Kuwait, more than $2 billion was pledged by donor countries, but only about 40 percent has been committed, leaving a shortfall for this month of $64 million. Refugee operations in Kuwait cost approximately $35 million a week.

To fill the gap, the WFP is calling on major donor countries like the United States and Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain to make good on their pledges.  While the U.S. has met a large portion of its commitment, it needs to place this issue at the top of its diplomatic agenda and use its leadership to urge other nations to meet their own pledging commitments.

Furthermore, Congress needs to take action and pass President Obama’s Ebola supplemental request of $6.2 billion. The request is critical because the money supports the International Disaster Assistance account which funds not only the U.S. response to Ebola overseas, but also some of the U.S. contribution to the WFP. We urge Bread for the World members to call Congress and ask their senators and representative to pass President Obama’s Ebola supplemental request and include funding for the International Disaster Assistance account.

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

Former Bread Staffer Gyude Moore Takes On Liberia's Roads as Public Works Minister

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Gyude Moore. (Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson

Former Bread for the World staffer and board member Gyude Moore is paving the way for a more food-secure Liberia. Bread is pleased to learn that Moore, a native of Liberia, was confirmed today as the West African nation’s new Minister of Public Works. 

Leading the government agency responsible for fixing Liberia’s road system, Moore faces a daunting, but not insurmountable task. The nation is still recovering from a 14-year civil war – recovery that is now complicated by the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

The Ebola virus, affecting several West African countries, is expected to leave a full-blown food crisis in its wake. More than 3,000 Liberians have died from Ebola, leaving harvests endangered, markets disrupted, and food prices high. Increased food insecurity adds urgency to fixing Liberia’s highways and byways, conduits to move life-saving resources throughout the country. The deplorable state of roads makes reaching quarantined communities with food and health services unnecessarily difficult and time consuming.

Moore is ready for the challenge. “Ebola has re-emphasized the need for these roads as they are the major connection between rural communities and health facilities,” he wrote in an email to Bread after his confirmation. “I am excited about the opportunity of expanding these roads into parts of the country that are yet without roads.”

Roads-Liberia1Liberia has 66,000 miles of roads, but less than 7 percent are paved. USAID reports, “it is cheaper, by volume, to ship rice the 7,500 miles from Thailand to Monrovia than it is from Gbarnga, a leading agricultural community just over 100 miles away.”

Although the resource-rich nation remains one of the poorest, Liberia has made steady economic progress through hard work and strategic partnerships.

“Our road infrastructure development is a critical portion of our poverty reduction and development strategy,” Moore said in the email.  “This is especially true for our farm to market-feeder road programs.”

The West often takes roads for granted, but for fragile post-conflict countries like Liberia, an impassable thoroughfare is a roadblock keeping agricultural products from markets with dire consequences for farmer’s livelihoods.

Agriculture accounts for 61 percent of Liberia’s GDP, and strengthening the industry is a key component in overcoming high rates of hunger and malnutrition. Investments from U.S.-funded Feed the Future and companion programs are critical to Liberia’s efforts to build agricultural resiliency. Feed the Future takes into account the entire agricultural value chain – all inputs required to move a product from farm to consumer.

Earlier this year, Feed the Future helped farmers produce a rice surplus in Lofa County. But surpluses won’t lead to economic self-sufficiency if farmers can’t reach a market to sell them. Passable roads are an important link in the agriculture value chain.

Moore’s days as a grassroots organizer may seem like a lifetime ago, but he has never forgotten them. “In essence, I never really left Bread,” he said in the email, “because even in this role, I’m doing the same things we did at Bread, except now in a different capacity.”

Read more about Moore’s path back to Liberia in this 2012 Bread for the World interview

You can support legislation to make Feed the Future permanent by contacting your member of Congress today and urging them to cosponsor the Global Food Security Act of 2014.

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

Inset photo:  Liberian road. (USAID)

The Gender Matrix

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Reprinted from the Hewlett Foundation Blog: Work in Progress. Bread for the World Institute is a Hewlett Foundation grantee. 

By Alfonsina Peñaloza

In the movie The Matrix, the main character, Neo, is offered two pills: a red one, which will show him the painful truth of life outside the Matrix; and a blue one, which will erase all memory of what has occurred and send him back to blissful ignorance within it. Sometimes I feel that trying to understand gender and development issues, we’re all Neo, working inexorably towards our own moments of choice. A word of caution: once you look at the world through the lens of gender-based differences in power and opportunity, you can never unsee it.

Today, Bread for the World Institute launched its flagship 2015 Hunger Report. This year’s edition focuses on women’s economic empowerment, tackling issues that are at the forefront of gender and development. Poverty affects women differently than men. Working conditions, discrimination, and social norms mean women and the work they perform (both within and outside the economy) are less valued then men and their work. Women experience more poverty in terms of income, and are also more impoverished in other ways—education, health, time.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the burden of domestic work. Women and girls are usually responsible for what is sometimes called reproductive work, such as taking care of family, cooking, and cleaning. More women have joined the workforce, but men have not stepped up at home, so overall women work more and get paid less. The upshot is that many women (particularly in low-income countries) work double shifts, one of which one is unpaid.

Bread for the World Institute's report also highlights the importance of collective action. A critical element of empowerment is voice, and women who advocate collectively for their rights are more likely to be heard.

Perhaps most important, the 2014 Hunger Report draws a very clear picture: Women are missing from economic data. We just don’t know how and how much women are contributing to the economy, since most of their work is undervalued, invisible in the statistics, or both. This is not a data gap like many others we worry about in global development; it’s a reflection of systemic gender-bias, and it prevents sound policy-making.

To accompany the report, Bread for the World Institute launched a powerful visualization tool to illustrate how women are missing from data.

The tool allows you to search by country, region and five main indicator categories: public life, human rights, health, education and economic participation. Each indicator – such as mortality rate or wage gap- is represented by a pixel, and all the pixels together make up the picture of a woman. The more data available, the clearer the image. The conclusion is stark: in most cases we can’t see the women, and so the visualization imparts a powerful message: without the data, women can’t be seen. And if they can’t be seen, how can women have a voice and a seat at the table where economic decisions are made?

Data

(As an aside: This tool was created at a hackathon, and initially set out to visualize data on women’s economic empowerment. It ended up taking a much more novel approach by visualizing the absence of data, rather than the data itself. It cost the organization no money other than the costs of organizing the hackathon—a great example of how innovation and creativity can go a long way in the face of limited resources.)

Bread for the World Institute has always included women in their reports. After all, the role that women play as caregivers and farmers puts them at the center of the hunger issue. However, this year’s report doesn’t just include women as research subjects; rather, it examines the social constructs and the gender biases in policies that hold women back, and impede development. You could even say that Bread for the World Institute has come to their moment of choice and decided to take the red pill, applying a gender lens to their work and seeing for the first time behind the “Gender Matrix.” Like Neo waking up to his revolution, there is no going back.

Alfonsina Peñaloza is a program officer in the global development and population program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

 

World Bank President Praises Bread at Annual New York City Gala

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World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim speaking at an annual World Bank meeting (photo courtesy of The World Bank).

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Earlier this week, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, lauded the work of Bread for the World and its goal of ending hunger by 2030 at the 11th Annual Gala to End Hunger in New York City. However, he made it clear that numerous forces such as climate change, especially extreme weather events, will make achieving the goal a challenging one.  

Kim said scientists are predicting that about 40 percent of the arable land in Africa will be gone by 2040. At the same time, the demand for food will increase as the world’s population continues to grow.

“If the predictions are correct about what is going to happen with agriculture, we are in big trouble on the hunger front,” he said. “Setting a target of 2030 is great.  “It will force us to look at all the interconnected aspects of our life and the world today to get to that target.”

He made his remarks during an interview conducted by Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, at the gala. The event was hosted by Bread for the World, Bread for the World Institute, and the Alliance to End Hunger.

Kim suggested that one way to solve the agriculture issue is to implement climate-smart strategies, such as alternatively growing rice during wet and dry seasons. That, he said, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow down the process of arable land loss in Africa.

Kim urged Bread and its allies to continue their work, especially convincing U.S. legislators on the need to stamp out food insecurity here and abroad. He said he’s worried that the issue of food insecurity will only grow worse as extreme weather events intensify.

“These events always cut hardest on the poorest people,” he said. “What do we know about Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone? Twenty-five percent to as high as 40 percent of farmers have stopped working. They are eating their seed corn. We are looking at potential famine in these counties on top of the Ebola outbreak.”

For its part, Kim said the World Bank is looking into creating financial instruments that could help alleviate the impact of famine in poor countries. He said the notion of ending hunger by 2030 is a plausible goal as long as there is an understanding that it needs to be confronted on multiple fronts.

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

Anna Gaye: A Farmer's Story

By Robin Stephenson

Your calls and emails helped move the Global Food Security Act of 2014 over the first hurdle yesterday. H.R. 5656 passed out of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Now we encourage the Senate to do the same and hope to see both chambers vote on a final bill before they leave for the holiday recess in early December.

Anna Gaye’s story illustrates how the initiative is working to end hunger.

In 2013, President Obama met with Gaye and other farmers in Mampatim, Senegal who are decreasing food insecurity in their communities with the help of U.S. foreign assistance. Gaye is part of a 600-member farming cooperative that has been aided by USAID’s Feed the Future initiative. Gaye wrote about the meeting for USAID

First, I demonstrated a traditional method of rice processing. I tried not to smile as he took the heavy ram from my hands and started pounding the pestle himself. “That’s painful!” the president said through his translator, examining his hands a minute later. 

“That’s what women lived with every day before our partnership with Feed the Future,” I said.

That partnership brought, among other benefits, a portable, electric rice mill, which was also on display. The mill takes only 20 minutes to separate 40 kilograms of rice, which previously would take an entire day. The president was curious as to who actually owned the machine, and I explained our group manages it for our common use. 

The mill, I explained, was very important to our progress. My fellow farmers and I were initially reluctant to grow more rice since the task of having to pound so much more would be huge. Our acquisition of the milling machines changed all that. We were free from the drudgery of the pestle.  

The time saved also gives us more time to engage in commercial activities, such as the production and sale of palm oil and nutritious rice porridge made ​​with peanuts, not to mention time to prepare for the next growing season. 

Since 2010, the Feed the Future initiative has been addressing the root causes that create food insecurity. Farming cooperatives and knowledge sharing have helped farmers like Gaye increase their bargaining power and therefore, their food production. In 2013, seven million small farmers increased crop production and provided nutritious food to 12.5 million children that year alone.

With results like that, it is time to make the program permanent law. This is a smart approach that recognizes that, in order to end hunger, we don't just need to make more food, but we need quality, nutritious food and systems in place to get it to the people who need it most.

Let's keep the momentum going. Call (800/826-3688) or email your representative and both your senators, and urge them to cosponsor the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 5656 and S. 2909).

To learn more read, Bill Analysis: The Global Food Security Act of 2014.

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

Rev. David Beckmann Challenges You to #ShareYourPlate

By Bread Staff

Yes, here’s proof that Rev. David Beckmann can cook – but with the help of two young anti-hunger activists, Elizabeth Quill and Margaret Hudak.

Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, answered a #ShareYourPlate challenge: a Catholic Charities, USA social media campaign to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of hunger. By sharing a cooking video, the #ShareYourPlate campaign reminds us that food is something we all share.

While preparing a taco salad, Quill and Hudak emphasized the need to advocate for programs that help people put food on their table. The girls told Beckmann of a meeting they had with their Virginia members of Congress in which they asked lawmakers to support funding for the SNAP program (formerly food stamps).

Their lobby visit illustrates how sharing a story with your member of Congress is a powerful advocacy tool. It can also help lawmakers understand the reality of hunger in states and districts far removed from their Washington, D.C. offices.

Hudak related her own experience of seeing hunger in the lunchroom at school.  She noticed some students restricted their purchases to only cereal and milk and saw others go without food entirely. “A kid can’t function through the day on milk and cereal,” she said.

Last December, Catholic Charities USA, Bread for the World, and others answered Pope Francis and Caritas Internationalis’ call for a global wave of prayer to end hunger as part of the One Family #FoodForAll campaign.

Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, created his own cooking video as a way to build on the #FoodForAll campaign. He then sent out a challenge to others to do the same before November 27 - including a special invitation to Beckmann.

Beckmann now challenges travel writer Rick Steves, community food systems expert Sharon Thornberry – and you.  Create a cooking video or post a photo at #ShareYourPlate and on your Twitter or Facebook page. Share a virtual meal and help bring awareness to the problem of hunger.

Folllow the challengers on Twitter: @DavidBeckmann, @Fr_Larry_Snyder, @RickSteves, and  @OFB_SharonT and tag @bread4theworld with your cooking video.

Act Now: Tell Congress to Cosponsor the Global Food Security Act

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Stunting dropped an estimated 9 percent over the past three years in Ethiopia with the United States’ help through Feed the Future. An estimated 160,000 children are growing up stronger and healthier. (Nena Terrell/USAID)


By Ryan Quinn

Next week, many of us will be fortunate enough to gather around tables piled high with turkey, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. In expressing our gratitude for the abundance before us, we can also call to mind the role we can play in ending hunger at home and around the world.

Sometimes that means service, like volunteering in a soup kitchen. But right now we have the opportunity to make a huge difference for hungry people with one simple action: Urge your members of Congress to cosponsor the Global Food Security Act today!

Right now, more than 800 million people around the world are hungry, and approximately 1 in 4 children under age five is stunted due to poor nutrition, leaving them with serious complications that can last their entire lives.

But this problem is solvable. Tomorrow, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will vote on legislation that would dramatically reduce world hunger, and it needs your support.

The Global Food Security Act would put in place the Feed the Future framework. This is a smart approach that recognizes that, in order to end hunger, we don't just need to make more food, but we need quality, nutritious food and systems in place to get it to the people who need it most.

The Feed the Future program would work on a local level to empower small farmers, growing the local economy while feeding hungry people. A true win-win.

Feed the Future can save lives. But it's important to act right now. The bill is about to go before powerful congressional committees that can push it forward or stall it indefinitely. We need an immediate and powerful show of support. Will you speak out now?

Call (800/826-3688) or email your representative and both your senators, and urge them to cosponsor the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 5656 and S. 2909). Your advocacy today could make a lifesaving difference for a hungry child.

To learn more read, Bill Analysis: The Global Food Security Act of 2014.

Ryan Quinn is the senior international policy analyst at Bread for the World.

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