Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

33 posts categorized "Hunger Report"

Making Hunger Data Speak

Seminary student Becca Rhodes gives a presentation during a Vizathon in San Francisco, Calif. Robin Stephenson/Bread for the World.

By Robin Stephenson

The view of a sun-bathed San Francisco Bay from the 12th floor of the Macys.com office building was stunning, but I hardly noticed it. I was enthralled with what was happening inside – a group of very talented volunteers turning lists of numbers into meaningful information about hidden hunger.

On Saturday, 75 data scientists, enthusiasts, and storytellers volunteered their time at a vizathon in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, Calif. Bread for the World Institute, in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), HelpMeViz.com, and Living Data, sponsored the bi-coastal event.

Participants came to expose hidden hunger - the nutritional deficiencies that can cause serious health problems in children who don’t show visible signs of hunger. The goal of a vizathon is to translate data – in this case, from Malawi and Ethiopia - into a visual element that makes it easier to understand a complex issue.

Building greater awareness about hidden hunger – elusive, but no less destructive to human potential - is an important part of Bread's effort to end hunger by 2030. Globally, 24.7 percent of children suffer from stunting. Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of blindness in children.

“A lot of fascinating questions were raised,” said Derek Schwabe after the successful event. Schwabe, a research associate at Bread’s Institute, explained that Saturday was just the first step in building a final visualization tool that will accompany the 2016 Hunger Report, which will focus on hunger as a public health issue. "We will continue to find creative ways to tell that story,” he said. (See last year’s visualization on missing data and gender here).

17730196554_2b368ac042_kNihar Bhatt, an event facilitator and participant, is a data visualization expert at Macys.com and accustomed to teasing  information out of numbers – but not like this. Instead of using predictive analysis as a marketing tool, Bhatt asked the data if micronutrient deficiencies and the share of food eaten were correlated. Using the data set on Malawi, he was surprised he didn’t find a direct correlation. “That was my hypothesis, but the data I looked at didn’t show that,” he told participants during a presentation on his project at the end of the day.

Being a data professional was not a prerequisite for participation in the vizathon. Varied backgrounds and approaches lead to richer visualizations.

Becca Rhodes is not a data scientist; she is pursuing a Masters of Divinity at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Like Bhatt, she explored the connections between food sources and micronutrient deficiencies. However, Rhodes started by looking at words instead of numbers. “Since I’m not a data person, I thought this is what I could contribute,” she said.

By reading reports about Ethiopia, she learned that drought and floods most often contributed to crop loss -  and ultimately to seed loss. “That led me to my next question,” she said. “What kind of seeds are needed for the future?” Rhodes concluded that agricultural solutions to nutrient deficiencies must be specifically designed within the Ethiopian context.


The diversity of talent and perspective, as groups huddled around computers on a sunny San Francisco day, was inspiring. These very smart people selflessly gave of their knowledge and skills. None are hunger experts by profession, but by the end of the day, all contributed to what we know about hidden hunger.

Photo Insets: Nihar Bhatt (center photo). Vizathon participants. San Francisco, Calif. Robin Stephenson/Bread for the World.

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

Building Resilience for Women Farmers Through Trade

AGOA will help women farmers, like Anna Gaye from Senegal, increase economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest prevalence of food insecurity.

By Robin Stephenson

Give a woman a fish, and she will feed her family for a day, but teach a woman to fish, and her family will never hunger. Give her access to a market, and her community will prosper.

Last week, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a trade preference bill, passed out of the Senate. If made law, the bill is one more piece of the puzzle to help women farmers – and their male counterparts – in their efforts to feed both their families and communities in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest prevalence of food insecurity in the world.

Boosting the earning power of women as food producers to increase gender equality is a theme in the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger. Women are the primary agents the world relies upon to end hunger. They are also critical to a nation’s economic growth.

AGOA was established in 2000 to spur market-led growth in sub-Saharan Africa by providing duty-free access to American markets. In the past 15 years, AGOA has boosted energy and apparel exports, contributing to job creation. The current legislation expires at the end of September. 

The bill passed by the Senate extends the trade policy for 10 years and includes improvements to increase agricultural exports. U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) introduced an amendment that will strengthen the trade capacity of smallholder women farmers. Only about three percent of AGOA exports are agricultural, according to the Brookings Institution.

An estimated 80 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture for their livelihood; 30 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 70 percent of employment comes from agriculture. Creating opportunity in markets can spur greater economic growth and reduce poverty.

Over half the farmers in the region are women, but historically they have had unequal access to resources. The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates if women had the same access as male farmers to resources, agricultural output could increase by up to 4 percent in developing countries. Gender inequality impedes a country’s potential to compete and prosper in a global economy. 

Feed the Future is a U.S.-led initiative that addresses the agency of women farmers. The program aims to increase gender equality and bolster food security in developing countries. (The future of the program also depends on congressional action). In 2013 alone, seven million smallholder farmers increased crop production and provided nutritious food to 12.5 million children with the help of Feed the Future.

AGOA builds on the work of Feed the Future and can open up markets and new opportunities for women farmers to sell their excess product. The House must vote on the bill next.

Women can and are overcoming hunger and poverty in their communities when given the opportunity. Increasing women’s agency as food producers is the first step in creating food security. Getting them to market will complete the journey.

Read Bread for the World’s press release:  U.S.-Africa Trade Legislation Passes in Senate.

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

Women's History Month: To End Hunger, Women's Empowerment Must Prevail


By Bread Staff

Today concludes the Bread Blog posts celebrating Women’s History Month. It is fitting that it comes a few days after a Capitol Hill briefing on the 2015 Hunger Report When Women Flourish… We Can End Hunger.

Chisholm’s words are apt considering that discrimination is a significant roadblock to women’s empowerment. Because women are key to ending hunger by 2030, their empowerment is vital to the process.

“There is substantial evidence that educating girls, improving women’s health outcomes, and increasing their incomes pays huge dividends for their children, for their families, for their communities and for their countries, said Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute, during Friday's briefing.

The Hunger Report looks at discrimination as a cause of persistent hunger and makes policy and program recommendations in order to empower women both in the United States and around the world. Increasing women’s earning potential by boosting bargaining power, reducing gender inequality in unpaid work, increasing women’s political representation, and eliminating the wage gap between male and female labor directly contributes to ending hunger.

These issues were discussed during the briefing, which was hosted by the offices of U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Karen Bass (D-CA), Bread for the World Institute and the African American on the Hill.

Panelists included Margaret Enis Spears, director of the office of markets, partnerships and innovations, U.S. Agency for International Development; Ambassador Amina S. Ali, permanent representative, The African Union Mission to the United States; Shari Berenbach, president and CEO, United States African Development Foundation, and Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, associate for National African American Church Engagement at Bread for the World.

The Hunger Report recommends that in order to improve women’s empowerment and end extreme hunger and poverty worldwide, women should have more economic bargaining power. If women had more control of their income and assets, their bargaining power in both the household and the market economy would increase, as well as their ability to feed and provide for themselves and their children.

According to U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates, if women in Africa and elsewhere had the same access to agricultural resources as men, they could grow 20 to 30 percent more food. This could move roughly 150 million people of out hunger and poverty!

To achieve this, the U.S. government must increase its investments in agricultural-development programs like Feed the Future. And it should place a stronger emphasis on programming that supports women smallholder farmers when it implements projects. 

For more information on the integral role women play in ending hunger and poverty, make sure to read When Women Flourish… We Can End Hunger and also visit Bread Blog.


One More River to Cross

Thousands march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Asha G. Smith for Bread for the World.

By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith

More than 61,000 people made their way to Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday on March 8. I was one of them. I wanted to be there to recognize that historic moment in 1965 that resulted in voting rights for all in the United States. It was a moment that I’ll not soon forget.

As I was returning from having crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I heard a call to make way for a 1965 participant who was in a wheelchair. I flung my arms open and started to make my way through the pressing crowd to usher this elder, this African-American stateswoman, across the bridge. What an amazing honor to serve for a moment this great woman of faith who had already served me and our nation 50 years ago. She soon offered her thanks. I told her that all the thanks go to her and people like her.

People like me and my children to have a better quality of life today because of the bridges crossed by Ms. Ruby Shuttlesworth and 1965 foot soldiers.  The problem: We have more rivers to cross, and therefore more bridges to build. 20150308_215628selma3

Unfortunately, African-American women still struggle to put food on the table and still live in poverty. Hunger and poverty are still putting more and more African-American women and children at risk of poor nutrition. A principle cause of hunger is the inability to buy nutritious food. Economic empowerment still has to be a priority.

Bread's new fact sheet, Hunger by the Numbers in the African-American Community, informs us of the following:

 • More than one in three African-American children live in poverty. One in five children in our country as a whole live in poverty.

• More than one in four African-American households struggled to put food on the table in 2013.

• 32.6 percent of African-American households with children were food-insecure. 19.5 percent of all U.S. households with children were food-insecure.

Your leadership is needed to ensure that our children are fed. Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Congress must also protect SNAP - our largest child nutrition program - from cuts in the budget. And please pray with Bread to end hunger.

Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith is Bread for the World’s national senior associate for African-American and African church engagement.

Photo: Angelique Walker-Smith, left, and Ruby Shuttlesworth, right, at the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Ala. Ava Bester for Bread for the World.

What Comes After the Millennium Development Goals?

Women’s empowerment is the focus of this year’s Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger.  Stephan Bachenheimer/World Bank.

By Robin Stephenson

In 2000, governments across the globe agreed to make ending hunger a priority. They established measurable goals and a common framework that would drive policy decisions and ultimately cut extreme poverty in half by 2015.

Like me, you may have first heard about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through your church.

In 2008, as part of its Offering of Letters workshop, my church’s advocacy committee set up eight stations in our sanctuary to teach us about the hunger-reducing goals. After learning about each MDG, our task was to write our members of Congress and urge them to act.

The first station was a pedestal with a bowl of rice on it. As I let the individual grains sift through my fingers, I reflected on a question written there: Can we cut extreme poverty in half?

I’ll admit that I was more of a skeptic than an optimist. Extreme poverty means living on $1.25 a day. In 1990, that was the wage that 43 percent of the world earned each day. The question seemed overwhelming and the solution impossible.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

By 2010, the number of people who lived on $1.25 a day dropped to roughly 21 percent. In other words, we achieved the first goal and cut extreme poverty in half five years before the 2015 deadline!

Still, nearly 1 billion people continue to live on $1.25 a day. There is more work to do, but the MDGs expire in a little over 300 days.

Overall, the strategy was a success, and we have learned some surprising things. The world can and will galvanize around a plan to end hunger. We increase our impact when we have a shared strategy. By defining measurable goals, we now have data–even missing data–that can better inform a path forward.

Even when results were less than stellar, we gained valuable information. For example, women’s empowerment has been slow and uneven. In areas where the MDG framework helped empower women, progress against hunger is accelerated.

Fouzia Abdikadir Dahir, a Mandela Washington Fellow and native of Kenya, is one of those empowered leaders transforming her community.

Dahir founded the Northwestern Organization for Social Empowerment in her country. She contributed to this year’s Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger. “Being a pastoral woman from this region who has made it this far,” she writes, “I plan to use every opportunity to advocate for the rights of these women and girls.”

Now the question is what happens next. After another round of consultations with the world’s governments, the answer is coming in the form of a new framework: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs, expected to be adopted at a summit this coming September in New York, will set international development priorities through 2030. The suggested 17 goals aim to do more than halve extreme poverty – but end it.

Can we end hunger by 2030? After seeing what the world did in 15 short years, my answer is an emphatic yes!

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030.

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

Rural Oregon School Drops School Lunch Program

In Oregon, 27.3 percent of children were food insecure in 2012. Nationally, 15.8 million American children lived in food insecure households. (Robin Stephenson)

By Robin Stephenson

We have a problem in Oregon: We have one of the highest rates of hunger in the nation. Oregonian columnist David Sarasohn wrote that if there was a town called poverty it would be the largest city in Oregon.

That town would look a lot like Jordan Valley in rural Malheur County. The beauty of the high desert landscape belies a hidden reality of hunger and poverty; one in four residents live below the poverty line. In 2010, 24.3 percent of residents utilized food stamps, compared to 14.6 percent in the Portland metropolitan area. Malheur County has a 30.1% rate of child food insecurity - meaning kids are skipping meals.

Like jobs, resources in Jordan Valley are limited; the nearest full-service grocery store is nearly 100 miles away. Approximately 80 students are bused to school each day from remote ranches and 50 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch based on family income.

So, hearing Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) report that Jordan Valley dropped their free and reduced-price lunch program made my jaw drop. This makes no sense.

Kids learn better, graduate at higher rates, and are healthier when they have access to a nutritious lunch. There is a lot at stake here. The United States has a federal program that subsidizes school lunch, but the program is optional.

The problem is that the program isn’t working for Jordan Valley. 

Sharon Thornberry, a Bread for the World board member, sees the urban-rural hunger divide in her work as the community food systems manager at the Oregon Food Bank.  She views hunger at the community level. Thornberry says Jordan Valley exposes a policy issue that needs attention. She told OPB that the lunch program no longer works for rural communities. “I can remember them telling me in Jordan Valley that each meal cost them a dollar more than the federal reimbursement,” she said.

Economically depressed districts need full reimbursement for school lunches or other policy interventions that are specific to the circumstances rural communities face today.

Jordan Valley is not unique – rural towns across America experience higher rates of hunger and poverty.  Of course, the permanent solution to our hunger problem is a job that pays enough to support a family.  In the meantime, the school lunch program is a critical tool to combat child hunger.

I grew up in a town similar to Jordan Valley and bused to school from our small family farm. I am thankful for the free lunch I received that took the pressure off my parents during some tough economic times.  Sometimes, we all need a little help.

The program that authorizes the national school lunch program expires September 30, 2015. In the reauthorization process, members of Congress have an opportunity to strengthen the program so it works for dual communities, especially Greg Walden, who has constituents in Jordan Valley.

Learn more in this new briefing paperEnding Hunger in the United States.

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

The 2015 Hunger Report Launch in Slides

By Bread Staff

The 2015 Hunger Report was unveiled on Monday to a jam-packed room at the National Press Club. Holding the report aloft, Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, said,  “We publish these reports every year. I think this will be our most popular.”

The report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger, identifies the empowerment of women and girls as essential to ending hunger, extreme poverty, and malnutrition in the United States and around the world.

During a panel discussion, Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute, said putting women in the center of policy and program decisions is logical. “When women are empowered benefits extends beyond them,” she said.

Lateef stressed that empowerment must support women’s inclusion as decision makers in civil society. However, she added, that women too often are faced with barriers that limit their ability to engage fully in economic activity.

A key takeaway from the panel discussion was that the experts are the women who are working to overcome barriers of discrimination every day. Professionals and advocates must listen and act to remove those barriers that hinder women’s untapped potential.

“We have to be intentional about empowering women, it won’t happen on its own,” Lateef said.

Aside from Lateef, other speakers who took part in the panel discussion were Victoria Stanley, senior rural development and land specialist at the World Bank; Fouzia Dahir, executive director of the Northern Organization For Social Empowerment in Kenya; Gary Barker, co-chair of MenEngage Alliance and Andrea James, executive director of Families for Justice as Healing. The panel was moderated by Sandra Joireman, chair of Bread’s board of directors and a professor of political science at the University of Richmond.

Watch the photographic slide show above to learn about the launch and what the panelist had to say.  And then explore www.hungerreport.com to learn more about the program and policy recommendations that will build equality. 


The Gender Matrix

 Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 3.13.39 PM

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?


(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


2015 Hunger Report Released Today: When Women Flourish...We Can End Hunger


By Bread Staff

The 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger, and the companion website are available today.

The annual report will be released at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. during a 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. EST launch event. You can follow the launch on Twitter using the hashtag #HungerReport.

Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, will introduce When Women Flourish...We Can End Hunger, which shows why empowering women is vital to ending hunger and poverty. Women are the primary agents the world relies on to fight hunger. In developing countries, most women work in subsistence farming - the backbone of local food security. Women the world over feed and nourish their children.

The release will include a panel moderated by Sandra Joireman, chair of Bread for the World's board of directors. Panelists include Fouzia Dahir, executive director of the Northern Organization For Social Empowerment; Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute; Victoria Stanley, senior rural development and land specialist at the World Bank; Gary Barker, international director at Promundo-US and Andrea James, executive director of Families for Justice as Healing.

When Women Flourish...We Can End Hunger looks at discrimination as a cause of persistent hunger and makes policy and program recommendations in order to empower women both in the United States and around the world. Increasing women’s earning potential by boosting bargaining power, reducing gender inequality in unpaid work, increasing women’s political representation, and eliminating the wage gap between male and female labor directly contributes to ending hunger.

Bread for the World Institute provides policy analysis on hunger and strategies to end it. The Institute releases a hunger report each year that educates opinion leaders, policy makers, and the public about hunger in the United States and abroad.

Learn more about this year's hunger report at the companion website. The 2015 Hunger Report, and past reports, are available for purchase at Bread for the World's online store.


The Changing Story of Women

Nimna Diayte. (Stephane Tourné/USAID)

By Robin Stephenson

The narrative of women is often a story of discrimination and marginalization. The face of poverty is disproportionately female. But as we write history, we have the power to change the story by empowering women.

New models of development show investing in women increases food security.

Programs, like Feed the Future, that make women’s capabilities a central component to agriculture and nutrition investment are yielding some impressive results: Seven million small farmers increased crop production and provided nutritious food to 12.5 million children in 2013 alone.

Nimna Diayté, a mother of six from Senegal, is one of those farmers. Diayté was barely making a living farming five acres of maize. A year later, she increased her acreage to 13 and tripled her income. Feed the Future helped create a collective so that farmers in Diayté’s community could increase their bargaining power. Diayté didn’t just benefit from the farming collective; she now leads it! Her knowledge and experience are transforming her community from one of scarcity to bounty.

She writes, “[t]he Feed the Future initiative helped us help each other, leading to the formation of a federation of some 3,000 producers who last year produced and sold 13,000 tons of corn on 5,000 hectares of land to feed our families and plan for next season.”

Bread for the World recommends Congress make Feed the Future permanent law.

In developing countries, most women work in subsistence farming. When women organize to work within groups, they are better able to overcome the gender discrimination they experience as individuals. Empowering women like Nimna Diayté as agents of change in the fight against food insecurity is the theme of the 2015 Hunger Report: When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger.

The report, which will launch November 24 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., looks at discrimination as a cause of persistent hunger and makes policy and program recommendations that would empower women both in the United States and around the world. Increasing women’s earning potential by boosting bargaining power, reducing gender inequality in unpaid work, increasing women’s political representation, and eliminating the wage gap between male and female labor directly contributes to ending hunger.

Before the turn of the 19th century, women’s work in the United States was confined to the home and was often unpaid. Women's work has long been a vital force in the U.S. economy and, with fair polices, may finally be free from entrenched and interconnected racism and sexism. With the recent elections, women's voices – a historic 100 voices in Congress - are an increasing influence in U.S. politics.

The story of women is unfinished, and the conclusion depends on what we do today. However, one thing is clear: empowering women benefits everyone.

To learn more about the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger, read the executive summary. And join us Monday, November 24, 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM EST, as we live Tweet the launch with the hashtag  #Hunger Report.

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

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