Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

357 posts categorized "Global Hunger"

A New Occupation in Greece: Hunger

'Assos, Kephalonia, Greece' photo (c) 2012, Paul Wilkinson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

By Jon Gromek

I recall my Yiayia (Greek for "grandmother") telling me stories as a child of what it was like growing up in Greece under Axis occupation during World War II. Food was scarce; life was harsh.

Almost all the food that was grown and collected had to be given to the occupying soldiers, leaving very little for the villagers on the island. Many throughout Greece developed “starvation recipes” which were invented as ways to stay alive—grinding chickpeas when there was no ground coffee, collecting breadcrumbs in a jar to have something extra at the end of the week, and even hunting stray cats and dogs on the streets for food. Others, like my Yiayia, took to breaking curfew at night and smuggling what food they could to the neediest of families, risking their lives while doing so. Time has passed, but in recent years a new occupation has taken hold in Greece, bringing about another wave of hunger and poverty among the country's poor and middle class: austerity.

I recently had a chance to travel back to Greece to visit family. I was prepared for a lot to have changed since my last visit six years ago, but was unprepared for what I saw and learned. 

Traditional charities that have long helped families make ends meet, like food banks and soup kitchens, have been strained under austerity. Now, up to 90 percent of families in the poorest parts of Greece are dependent on food assistance to keep them afloat. According to the Greek Orthodox Church, faith-based ministries now feed an estimated 55,000 people a day in Athens alone and the need is still growing. My aunt and uncle, both public school teachers in Athens, told me of the all-too-often occurrence of children going to school hungry—some close to starving.  UNICEF recently estimated that nearly 600,000 children (1 in 3) live under the poverty line in Greece and more than half that number lack basic daily nutritional needs. 

In many ways, Greece’s attempts to get its fiscal house in order have been on the backs of hungry and poor people. We see in Greece what we know at Bread for the World: private charity cannot fill the gap in responding to the needs of those who are hungry. If recent proposed cuts to SNAP take effect and the sequester continues we will see more and more families and children go hungry and be robbed of opportunity—just like an entire generation in Greece. 

When I reflect on what my Yiayia risked her life and fought for in the dark of night those many years ago, it certainly was not this; it was for a world where all have enough and all are fed.  In the coming weeks, urge your members of Congress to protect SNAP and replace the sequester with a balanced approach. Congress needs to hear from you about the world you want to see for the next generation.

Jon Gromek is regional organizer, central hub, at Bread for the World.

Cuts Cost Lives: Nutrition Funding in Danger

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Khato Rana plays with her daughter Rita, 2, at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal. The facility, run by Nepali NGO Rural Women's Development Unity Center (RUWDUC), restores malnourished children back to health (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

That four in 10 Nepali children are stunted because of malnutrition is outrageous. We have the knowledge to solve widespread malnutrition — but will we?

The 2013 Offering of Letters video "Malnutrition is Everywhere" shows targeted investments in nutrition work. The short video, shot at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home (NRH) in Dhangadhi, Nepal tells a story of hope. Nutrition interventions result in positive outcomes for mothers and their children in the first 1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2.

“Within a month or so, you can see the change in a child,"said Pinky Singh Rana, board member at the Rural Women’s Development Unity Center. "You can see the positive attitude of the mothers in how seeing a child who had almost died overcoming that. It’s really a such a satisfying feeling for us also.”

The NRH and organizations like it are saving lives and helping children reach their full potential with support from U.S. development assistance. Each year, 3 million children die from causes related to malnutrition and 165 million suffer from its consequences. Food aid, currently in danger of severe cuts, not only mitigates and prevents hunger but also shows that our nation values children all over the world—something Christians strongly believe. 

Food aid does more than just save lives; it's an investment in a stable and peaceful future. In the briefing paper "Sustaining U.S. Leadership and Investments in Scaling Up Maternal and Child Nutrition," senior foreign policy analyst Scott Bleggi writes, “There is solid evidence that demonstrates that improving nutrition – particularly early in life, in the 1,000 days between a women’s pregnancy and a child’s second birthday, has a profound impact on a country’s long-term economic development and stability.”

Progress on improving nutrition for vulnerable children like those in Nepal would be undermined if proposals to slash food aid become law. In the House version of the farm bill, food aid would be cut by $2.5 billion dollars. The Senate version would reform the food aid program, making it more flexible and able to reach more vulnerable mothers and infants in the first 1,000 days.

Sequestration is also chipping away at global anti-hunger programs. This year has already seen a $1 billion cut to poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) because of these automatic across-the-board cuts. A recent appropriations bill approved in the House would further slash PFDA by a devastating 26 percent.

Our nation’s leaders have an opportunity to make history with small investments in anti-hunger programs – PFDA comprises less than 1 percent of the federal budget.  Reforms to food aid could save even more lives. But, Congress needs motivation. They need to hear from their constituents that investing in human lives is a priority. During the month of August, reach out to your members of Congress and let them know that cuts can and do cost lives.

Tell President Obama to Address Poverty

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As part of the 2013 Offering of Letters campaign, Bread for the World is petitioning the President to make ending hunger a priority. (Robin Stephenson).

Ignoring poverty won’t make it go away, but if one were to listen to our nation’s leaders, you might think that is their plan.

Allotting only 26 percent of his presidency addressing poverty—ranking last among all presidents since John F. Kennedy, according to the Washington Times—President Obama has not yet proposed a comprehensive strategy to alleviate growing poverty. We are petitioning the president to show leadership on this issue.

A recent Kids Count report by the Annie E. Casey foundation shows that child poverty is on the rise. In 2011, 23 percent of children lived in poverty—an increase of 3 million since 2005. Poverty, especially child poverty, impedes the future potential that can move our nation forward. As Christians we know that there is enough of everything to go around, from food to shelter, but what there is not enough of is political will. We are called to a vision where all have a place at the table.

We need to remind President Obama of his promise, made during the last election campaign, to earnestly address hunger and poverty. With enough pressure, we can show that there is a large constituency of people who want to take hunger out of the shadows. We can start the conversation.

Tell President Obama to make ending hunger a top priority of his administration. Add your name to this petition and ask others to join you and talk poverty.

Failure Is Not an Option: A Migration Story

Stephenson Family to AZ

The Stephenson family in 1938, somewhere in Arizona, where they lived for a while picking cotton on their way west.  (Family photo courtesy of Robin Stephenson).

By Robin Stephenson

My dad was a born a migrant. He likes to talk about the storm that was raging the night of his birth, but there was an even greater urgency than finding shelter from pounding rain that evening: hunger was pushing his family west. In an abandoned shack, having gone without food for several days, my grandmother gave birth. My dad was born on the migrant journey.

In the zeitgeist of the 1940s, migrants were considered lazy and shiftless. An exodus of the hungry fled one of the country’s greatest disasters—the Dust Bowl. Leaving all they knew behind, they were called “Oakies, ” often in hushed tones and with a contempt that implied their fate was their fault. Stirred by years of poor farm policy and practice, the dust storms left in their wake farms in Oklahoma and neighboring states that could no longer employ or support the population that once produced agricultural abundance. Having lost almost everything, families pulled together what little was left, piled into any transportation that could move them forward and headed west—not because they wanted to but because they had to. 

The migrant’s story, whether set in Oklahoma in 1938 or Oaxaca in 2013, shares a common thread:  lack of choice. The human drive to survive is unstoppable, even in the face of enormous odds. A journey fraught with danger and derision is no deterrent. 

In a recent interview with Truthout, U.C. Berkeley physician and anthropologist Dr. Seth M. Holmes talks about the migrant journey he researched for Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farm Workers in the United States. For 18 months, Holmes traveled and lived with a group of families escaping poverty from Oaxaca, Mexico—another once-fertile land gone fallow because of bad policy. Asked how migrants see their options, Holmes says: 

"[W]hen you actually do interviews and do research with immigrants who are crossing from Mexico into the U.S., they do not experience this as a choice. There were several times, and in the book I write about someone telling me 'there’s no other option for us.'"

This week, the House of Representatives have a choice that migrants don’t: they can choose to move an immigration bill forward. If crafted with an understanding of the root causes that drive migration, this bill could be an important step in ending hunger both here and abroad. A special conference with House Republicans is taking place tomorrow, Wednesday July 10, and likely will mark a critical turning point in comprehensive immigration reform. 

Today, I think of the word “Oakie” as a badge of honor.  I come from survivors. Being born in a storm is a great story, but being born into hunger is not.

It’s time for a new narrative and your voice can urge your Representative to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform.  As the House takes up this issue, it needs to know that a faithful constituency is paying attention. Call your representative at 800-826-3688, or email him or her today.

Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national lead for social media and regional organizer, Western hub.

Hope for Immigration Reform: The National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference

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Rev Luis Cortés, president and founder of Esperanza, speaking at Bread for the World's National Gathering last month. (Joe Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Theresa Martin

More than 3.5 million unauthorized immigrants in America live below the poverty line. Many of them flee hunger in their home countries only to arrive in the United States and find themselves struggling to feed themselves and their families yet again. In a country where 33 million tons of food is wasted each year, and roughly 75 percent of our farm workers are migrants, how is it that so many immigrants go hungry? “For I was hungry and you gave me food… I was a stranger and you welcomed me”—have we forgotten Jesus’ words?

I recently had the opportunity, along with immigration advocates from across the country, to attend the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference, hosted by Esperanza, an organization that works to support Latino communities in the United States. Both Democratic and Republican leaders spoke to the topic of immigration reform, and attendees had the opportunity to lobby members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

Continue reading "Hope for Immigration Reform: The National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference" »

Hear Rev. Dr. James Forbes Speak Near You

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Rev. Dr. James Forbes speaking at Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

When the Rev. Dr. James Forbes was a child, his family’s Raleigh, N.C., dinner table was a place not only where meals were shared, but where accomplishments were celebrated and compassion encouraged. After saying grace, the family members ate and talked about how they could best extend kindness and love to each other and the members of their community. “If we had been faithful in caring and sharing then we had the sense that justice and peace had a chance in the world,” Rev. Forbes, senior minister emeritus of the Riverside Church in New York City and president of the Healing of the Nations Foundation, said in a recent sermon.

During Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, “A Place at the Table,” Rev. Forbes offered words to fortify advocates working to ensure that all families can gather around dinner tables filled with compassion, love, and nutritious food. Now, Rev. Forbes, who is often called "the preacher’s preacher," is traveling the country, conveying God’s message that we can end hunger.

In the coming months, he will be preaching in churches across the nation and leading homiletics workshops for ministers, pastors, and others who also preach to end hunger. Click here to see if Rev. Forbes is coming to a church near you and to obtain registration information.

Double Your Impact: Protecting Food Aid and WIC

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At Bread for the World, ending malnutrition is an essential part of the work to end hunger at home and abroad.

Globally, an estimated 165 million children under the age of five are stunted. Inadequate nutrition during the 1,000 day-window from a woman's pregnancy through her child’s second birthday impairs development. Research shows that adults who did not receive adequate nutrition as children can lose up to 10 percent of their lifetime earnings. In the United States, child poverty rates are on the rise, yet the WIC program, proven to lower infant mortality rates and improve school performance, is in danger of losing funding because of sequestration. When a nation’s children begin their lives with challenges created by malnutrition and hunger, it becomes more difficult to make good on the promise of a prosperous future.

But faithful advocacy has the power to change the future.

To advance the millennium development goals of eradicating hunger and extreme poverty while also reducing child mortality and malnutrition, food aid with improved nutrition that targets vulnerable mothers and children must be central to development programs—and it must be properly funded. Yet, unless Congress acts to end sequestration it is estimated that more than 571 thousand children could lose food interventions that can prevent the irreversible damage caused by malnutrition.

God’s kingdom is without borders; nutrition during the first 1,000 days matters as much if you live in Bangladesh or Baltimore. The WIC program provides nearly 9 million pregnant or nursing mothers and vulnerable children access to adequate nutrition, education, and health care referrals.  As sequestration continues, it will erode the effectiveness of the program.  Congress must replace the automatic cuts with a balanced plan that includes revenues.

Both chambers of Congress are working on spending bills, and the House numbers assume sequestration is here to stay. And unlike the provision in sequestration whereby cuts are split evenly between defense and non-defense programs in the budget, the House proposal moves all cuts to non-defense programs. A unified and faithful chorus of voices must again tell Congress that the federal budget cannot be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable.

Being faithful advocates during one of the most polarized political periods in history, with a constant barrage of proposals to cut programs for poor and hungry, is difficult, but we know that your advocacy on behalf of hungry and poor people works. Even with $2.7 trillion in deficit reduction already enacted, programs that help hungry and poor people have been largely protected. Calls and emails helped stop a recent proposal to cut the SNAP program by $20.5 billion, protecting the program at current levels, for now.

These victories and the challenges ahead in the journey to end hunger are possible because of the engagement and support of Bread for the World members. Please consider joining our summer effort to help hungry people by making a gift to Bread. Because of a few generous donors, between now and July 12 your donation will be doubled!

Immigrant Farm Workers and Hunger

Migrant workers load cucumbers into a truck in Blackwater, Virginia, on the farm of Ricky Horton and Sherilyn Shepard on Monday, July 25, 2011. Almost three-fourths of all U.S. hired farm workers are immigrants, most of them unauthorized. The U.S. food system—particularly fruit and vegetable production—depends on immigrants more than any other sector of the U.S. economy. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Kiara Ortiz

How can someone live and work on a farm and suffer from hunger? It doesn’t make sense. And yet this sad irony is a reality for many immigrant farm workers in the United States.

Nearly three-fourths of U.S. farm workers are immigrants, many working in the U.S. without authorization and filling low-wage jobs that citizens are reluctant to take. Yet immigrant farm workers, who are so vital to the U.S. food system, disproportionately suffer from hunger and poverty

Immigrants come to America in search of a better life, but are often exploited on farms. Pressure from immigration enforcement, low wages, inconsistent work schedules, and other inequalities can shatter their dreams.  These workers are vital to the economy of this nation—a path to citizenship allowing these workers and their families access to federal anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs,  such as SNAP and EITC, is an important first step in immigration reform.

During Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, I had the privilege of sitting in on the Immigration as a Hunger and Poverty Issue workshop. I was lucky enough to hear Lucas Benitez tell his story. Benitez is originally from Mexico but lives in a small town in Florida called Immokalee, an area where many Mexican, Guatemalan, and Haitian immigrants live. As an activist in Florida, and the co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, he shared his experiences and struggles as an immigrant working in the fields of Immokalee.

“We live—no, we survive—off the work we do in the fields,” he said. “We work hard to put food on everyone’s table but our own. Why does it have to be that way?”

Why should immigrant farm workers be paid less money just because they are “desperate” for the wages? Wages should be based on work ethic and competency—immigrants, regardless of their status, should receive equal and fair pay for their hard work to provide food for our tables.

Our country stands against cruel and unusual punishment—it’s a value outlined in our Constitution. So, how can we stand by as  immigrants endure strenuous labor conditions, day in and day out, producing food, but not earning enough to feed themselves?

When advocates unite, we can change things. We live in a country built on the ideals of freedom and equality, yet we continue to allow immigrant farm workers to be dehumanized and mistreated. It’s time to stop being complacent about this. The current system that perpetuates hunger both here and abroad can, and must, change. We need to fight for fair and equal pay, better working conditions, a legal means of being in the United States for those who require it, and respect for all farm workers.

Kiara Ortiz is a sophomore at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. She is a media relations intern at Bread for the World.

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Act Now! The Senate is expected to vote on a bipartisan immigration reform bill this week! Tell your U.S. senators to  1) support any amendment that addresses the root causes of undocumented immigration, such as extreme poverty in countries of origin; and 2) oppose any amendments that would make it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to earn a path to citizenship or would prohibit authorized immigrants and their citizen family members from receiving needed assistance such as WIC, SNAP, and EITC benefits. Call toll-free at 800-826-3688, or send an email today.

Pushing Immigration Reform Into the 21st Century

Santiago Cruz

Santiago Cruz, in the Mexico countryside, December 12, 2010.  (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

In the short documentary Stay, Santiago Cruz and his wife, Victoria, talk about being pushed into a difficult decision: continue to languish in deep poverty or migrate.

Deciding to escape hunger and poverty is not difficult, but the price is often painful. Santiago left Victoria and his children behind in Oaxaca, Mexico, and faced the uncertainty and peril of migration—their only hope for a better life. Most undocumented immigrants live precarious and vulnerable lives.

Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters aims for the political will to ensure a place at the table for all God's children. This mandate provides important guidance about immigration. As the Senate debates, and perhaps votes, on comprehensive immigration reform this week (S 744), we see an opportunity to alleviate hunger, both in this country and abroad. 

Simply put, immigration is a hunger issue. And hunger is an immigration issue.

Half of all laborers harvesting U.S. crops are undocumented; they are often exploited and face some of the highest rates of poverty in the United States—as much as 35 percent, far above the national rate. It is important to remember that these are working individuals who contribute to the economy of this nation. Immigration reform should provide a path to citizenship for these individuals, and it should allow their families to access programs like SNAP and EITC.

The current system, which perpetuates hunger here and abroad can, and must, change.

A holistic approach to immigration would also alleviate the poverty abroad that pushes families like Santiago’s to choose migration. The Senate debate and bill have thus far failed to consider why people leave their homelands. Fewer people will feel compelled to migrate if poverty were reduced in their home countries.

Santiago was eventually able to return and stay in Oaxaca after he and Victoria were given a hand up by a Mexican nonprofit partnered with Catholic Relief Services. CEDICAM helped them with sustainable farming techniques, which provided enough food and money for them to stay together.

Bread for the World Institute has extensively researched the relationship between poverty and immigration, and we will urge Congress to craft legislation that reforms our immigration system in ways that help end hunger.

Watch the award winning documentary Stay on YouTube and share it with your friends.

Anti-Hunger Champion Sen. Frank Lautenberg Dies

Frank_Lautenberg,_official_portrait,_resizeWe are deeply saddened by the passing of five-term New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. Our prayers and condolences go out to his family, staff, and our Bread for the World members in his home state. 

Sen. Lautenberg passed away this morning at the age of 89.

During his service in Congress, Lautenberg served on critical committees with jurisdiction over policies that affect poor and hungry people. In 2007, he authored a bipartisan amendment with Sen. Richard Lugar that would have reformed the farm bill and increased investment in nutrition programs. More recently, we are grateful for the senator’s commitment to protect the most vulnerable, as displayed during his floor vote in support of the Gillibrand amendment to the 2012 farm bill—an amendment that would have restored a $4.1 billion cut in SNAP funding included in the Senate bill.

The late senator also served on the Senate Appropriations Committee, where he was a member of the State Foreign Operations Subcommittee. 

Photo: Sen. Lautenberg’s official senate portrait.

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