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166 posts categorized "Maternal and Child Nutrition"

Celebrating 5th Birthdays and Beyond

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Bread for the World President David Beckmann, at approximately age 5. To see the complete #5thbday photo gallery, visit 5thbdayandbeyond.org. (Photo courtesy of David Beckmann)

By Beth Ann Saracco

If you are on Facebook, and follow Bread for the World President David Beckmann, you may have noticed he recently updated his profile picture to a photo of himself as a young boy. The change commemorates the 5th Birthday and Beyond celebration, which recognizes the significant progress that has been achieved in child survival over the past 25 years, and the many contributions the United States has made in reaching this milestone.

Thanks in large part to bipartisan support from members of Congress, current and past U.S. administrations, private-sector partners, nongovernmental organizations (including Bread for the World), and other multilateral organizations and donor nations, the number of deaths of children under five has dropped by half since 1990. In the past twelve years alone, 700,000 fewer children have died from pneumonia, 300,000 fewer children from malaria, and 100,000 fewer children from AIDS.

As we celebrate these significant gains, we also reflect on the role Bread for the World has played, throughout its own 40-year history, to significantly improve child survival. In the last 25 years alone, Bread for the World has helped craft and pass major legislation that has reduced child mortality, including a bill that established the international Child Survival Fund. Each year, this fund helps immunize more than 100 million children in the developing world; since its establishment, the number of children dying daily from malnutrition and preventable diseases has fallen by 50 percent.  

In 1999, Bread for the World led the creation of the Jubilee Campaign, which was part of a worldwide movement that successfully urged Congress to forgive the debts of some of the world’s poorest countries. As a result, relief has reduced the debts of 36 of the world’s poorest countries by 90 percent. Many of these countries have been able to reinvest and expand basic education and health services.

In the new millennium, Bread for the World and its partners successfully advocated for the establishment of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which provided a new, innovative way of administering U.S. foreign aid. Through its unique approach focused on good governance, accountability, and poverty reduction, MCC has supported nearly 40 countries with more than $8.5 billion in aid, ranging from food-security programs and health initiatives to water and sanitation projects.

Most recently, thanks in part to analysis from Bread for the World Institute, we are pushing to improve the nutritional quality of U.S. food aid. In addition, through the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Civil Society Network, which supports civil society alliances at the country level, we are learning about the opportunities and challenges of scaling up nutrition in some of the countries most affected by malnutrition. This is helping inform our advocacy and our push for greater investments in maternal and child nutrition programs.

Working with a number of U.S. civil society partners, our advocacy efforts helped encourage and shape the U.S. Agency for International Development’s new nutrition strategy, which will better integrate and coordinate nutrition and nutrition-related programs across U.S. development assistance programs. Since we know the many links that exist between child survival and the right nutrition and care during the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday, these efforts will translate into even more mothers and children living longer, healthier, more productive lives.

Proudly, Bread for the World joins with other partners in recognizing the 5th Birthday and Beyond celebration, and extends particular gratitude to Congress and the administration for their continued support of vital programs that promote child survival and wellbeing. Together, we are working to ensure that all children not only survive to their fifth birthdays, but thrive well beyond them.

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

Bread Helps Win Important Nutrition Victories

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Dabora Nyibol prepares sorghum for her family at her home in South Sudan. A new nutrition strategy for the U.S. Agency for International Development will help ensure that people like Nyibol in poor countries will receive better nutrition from the assistance they receive from U.S. food-aid programs. (Stephen H. Padre)

May was a good month for nutrition.

At the Chicago Council Global Food Security 2014 event May 22 in Washington, D.C., National Security Advisor Susan Rice delivered on a promise by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to launch the agency's first-ever global nutrition strategy. The release of the strategy came just one year after being announced at an event cohosted by Bread for the World and Concern Worldwide.

Bread has been an active participant in the development of the strategy, along with other institutions that share a concern over nutrition, including advocacy and operational partners of USAID.

Improving maternal and child nutrition has been a major part of Bread's non-legislative advocacy efforts for the past three years. The USAID strategy comes after Bread’s successful efforts to clarify exactly where nutrition programs are funded within the federal budget, to persuade the administration to identify a high-level spokesperson for nutrition in the U.S. government (USAID administrator Raj Shah was named), and to help win needed reforms in U.S. food aid policies and programs. Also, the 2014 farm bill authorized changes that will increase the efficiency of food-aid programs and delivery, allow greater flexibility to purchase food for distribution closer to where it is needed, and provide additional options for using new specialized food products that have been fortified with vitamins and minerals.

"The fact that USAID has developed an agency-wide nutrition strategy is another sign of U.S. leadership in efforts to scale up maternal and child nutrition globally," said Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute. “It reflects a strong commitment to augment the effectiveness of its programs, especially those in the Feed the Future Initiative, and to hold itself accountable to improving nutrition, particularly in the critical 1,000-day window of opportunity between pregnancy and age 2."

Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food-security initiative that connects federal government agencies and departments that have hunger-related programs and the 19 partner countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean that are in the initiative.

According to the strategy, undernutrition contributed to 3.1 million (45 percent of all) preventable child deaths in 2011. That same year, stunting impacted more than 165 million people worldwide—including 52 million children under five. The USAID nutrition strategy recognizes the essential role that nutrition plays in human development and the devastating personal, social, and economic impacts of chronic malnutrition on an individual, a community, and a country.

The strategy will support commitments the United States made as part of the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact agreed at last year’s Nutrition for Growth Summit, including reaching 500 million pregnant women and children under two by 2020; averting 20 million additional cases of stunting by 2020 (a World Health Assembly milestone); and preventing 1.7 million deaths by 2020 through efforts to reduce stunting, increase breastfeeding, improve zinc supplementation, and boost coverage of treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

"In the year since announcing the strategy, USAID has engaged a broad set of stakeholders, resulting in a stronger finished product and more effective, efficient implementation," added Lateef. "This has also laid the groundwork for the forthcoming 'whole-of-government' plan from the Obama administration. We look forward to continued cross-agency coordination to help improve nutritional outcomes for women and children around the world."

[This article originally appeared in the June edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.]

Nutritional Guidance from...Lobbyists?

'Potatoes' photo (c) 2011, jamonation - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Let's pretend, for a moment, that you're the parent of a two-year-old, and you want to make sure you're buying your toddler the most nutritious food possible, so she will grow healthy and strong. You're looking for advice. Whom would you turn to? Maybe a doctor? A nutritionist? Or a lobbyist?

Most people would pick the doctor or nutritionist, but it seems that some members of Congress would be inclined to go with the lobbyist.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee are currently embroiled in a debate about the nutritional value of one of America's favorite foods—the white potato.

Potato growers have recently voiced outrage over the exclusion of the white potato from the approved list of food that can be bought with Women Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program benefits. WIC provides healthy food to pregnant women and young children, allowing families to buy certain items deemed nutritious by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Milk and fruit are on the list, as are vegetables—save for white potatoes. USDA guidelines exclude white potatoes from WIC because, according to its dietary data, no Americans, rich or poor, are eating too few white potatoes in any form—in fact, we are eating too many. Potato growers maintain, as anyone with a financial stake in selling more potatoes might do, that white spuds are a nutritional powerhouse that should be available to WIC beneficiaries. 

Today, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee sided with potato growers, voting during its agriculture appropriations committee markup process to examine the issue more closely but, in the meantime, add white potatoes to the list of approved WIC foods.

Allowing a powerful special interest to have any say in determining guidelines for federal child nutrition programs sets a dangerous precedent. The move opens the door for lobbyists and special interests to begin promoting their foods. Luckily, there is still time to fix it! You can still contact your senators and tell them that the WIC foods program must address the nutritional needs of children, not the interests of the most powerful lobbies.

New York Times food writer Mark Bittman has written a piece on the potato battle, and what seems to be a trend toward members of Congress throwing science out the window and considering the profits and needs of special interests, to the detriment of children. It doesn't stop with Congress caving to the demands of potato growers—a recent House bill proposed allowing schools to ignore healthy eating guidelines for school lunches if they find that ridding their cafeterias of junk means they're making less money from food sales.

This week, a large group of national, state, and local organizations penned a sign-on letter to Congress, asking them to continue to let science-based decisions govern federal nutrition programs, whether deciding what foods can be purchased with WIC benefits, or what nutritional guidelines school lunches should follow. Hopefully, members of Congress will realize that science, not special interests, should be determining what is considered the most nutritious food for growing children.

Working to End Maternal and Child Hunger Year-round

Mother_daughterBy Kristen Youngblood Archer

“I fall, I stand still… I trudge on. I gain a little… I get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon. Every struggle is a victory.” – Helen Keller

Today is March 31, the official end to National Women’s History Month. Like so many other months that have been assigned an issue of national or international importance, this month was dedicated in the late 1970s, around International Women’s Day, for the purpose of celebrating the achievements and contributions women have made to society, science, government, and our world at large.

The trouble with these months is that, well, they end. Once they’re over, we’re on to the next month or issue, and have forgotten all of the great things we learned, celebrated, and promised to do in the month prior.

At Bread for the World, we like to look at these important months as a time not only to celebrate, but to reflect on what has been done among specific communities of people to end hunger, and what more there is to accomplish. While these designated months (African-American History Month, Older Americans Month, Hispanic Heritage Month) serve as official rallying cries, we must pursue relevant issues and challenges throughout the year if we are to effect lasting change.

While Women’s History Month ends today, poverty, malnutrition, and hunger among women and children around the world continues. There’s still work to do.

With this in mind, Bread for the World has just completed two new “Hunger by the Numbers’ analyses on women and children.

The international analysis takes a look at the important role women play in development and ending hunger worldwide, particularly with regards to nutrition in the first 1,000 days from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday. The domestic analysis highlights some key issues brought to light in the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. From wages to childcare, this document evaluates some of the main factors that contribute to the hardships of workers in the United States.

We hope these analyses will not only provide valuable information, but that they will encourage us to keep working to end hunger among women and children all year long.

Kristen Youngblood Archer is Bread for the World's media relations manager.

Photo: A mother and daughter in Nicaragua shell peas from their garden. (Margaret W. Nea)

Today: Congressional Hearing on 1,000 Days


Children at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal, receive their 4 a.m. milk feeding on Monday, April 30, 2102. This Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal, in the western part of the country, is run by RUWDUC (Rural Women's Development Unity Corporation), a Nepali NGO. The Dhangadhi facility serves up to 10 malnourished children at a time for up to 60 days; mothers stay with their child. All services are free. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Beth Ann Saracco

Thanks to a growing body of research, and the advocacy efforts of Bread for the World members and others throughout the world, Congress is beginning to recognize the importance of global maternal and child nutrition. Our legislators are paying particular attention to nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through her child’s second birthday.

Last year, funding for global nutrition efforts were increased to $115 million, up from the previous year’s funding level of $95 million. That’s nearly a 22 percent increase in funding. Congress is starting to get it. And for good reason— every $1 invested in nutrition generates as much as $138 in better health and increased productivity.

And today, in the House of Representatives, the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations is holding a hearing, “The First One Thousand Days: Development Aid Programs to Bolster Health and Nutrition.” The subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-4),  and ranking member, Karen Bass (D-CA-37), are holding this hearing to learn more about the health and nutritional needs of women and children during the 1,000-day period. The hearing will also address the role of faith-based organizations in partnering with governments and other non-governmental organizations to promote the 1,000 Days movement, and adequate maternal and child nutrition.

Be sure to tune into the hearing at 3 p.m. ET,  on Tuesday, March25,  to hear testimony from witnesses who have seen firsthand the importance of maternal and child health and nutrition during the first 1,000 Days. Tweet at Rep. Chris Smith (@RepChrisSmith) and Ranking Member Bass (@RepKarenBass), and thank them for their interest in this important issue and for holding this hearing. 

To learn more about the growing 1,000 Days movement, and to become part of the momentum, download Bread for the World's 1,000 Days toolkit. You can also visit Bread for the World’s 1,000 Days Movement page and “like” the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement Facebook page to receive the latest updates. 

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

Breaking the HIV-Hunger Trap

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Around the world, more than 400 million children live in extreme poverty and many suffer from malnutrition and illness. In countries hit hardest by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, this combination can be fatal. (Mariella Furrer/Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation)

This article originally appeared on the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation blog.

By Chelsea Bailey

Around the world, more than 400 million children are living in extreme poverty. Subsisting on less than U.S. $1.25 a day, these children are often plagued by malnutrition and illness. In countries hit hardest by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, that combination can be fatal.

HIV has often been referred to as the “wasting disease,” because, if  left untreated, the virus wreaks havoc on the immune system, leaving the person emaciated  and making exposure to even the most common infections deadly. Similarly, prolonged hunger and malnutrition deprive the body of essential nutrients that support the immune system, making it that much more difficult for the  body to properly defend itself against infections.

When given the choice between being able to afford food or antiretroviral medications (ARVs), many choose to have food in their stomach. Nutritionists at the World Food Programme (WFP) have dubbed this cycle the “HIV- Hunger Trap.” 

But it is possible to break the cycle. In Lesotho, many children suffer the dual challenge of living with HIV and coping with hunger. Recognizing this, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) integrates nutrition programs into all maternal, neonatal, and child health services in EGPAF-supported hospitals and health centers.

These “Nutrition Corners” are designed to improve the growth, development, and overall health of HIV-positive and HIV-exposed children.

Undernourished children do not receive enough food to lead healthy and active lives, if this condition progresses it can lead to malnutrition, a physical state that makes it difficult for the body to resist disease.

Mothers and caregivers enrolled in Nutrition Corners can attend cooking demonstrations to learn about healthy eating and food preparation using locally available fare, such as sorghum porridge, beans, peas, vegetables, and fruits. Nutrition Corners also help EGPAF identify HIV-exposed children who are still breastfeeding and HIV-positive children who are younger than 2, so they can receive optimal support for HIV prevention, care, and treatment.

Monthly growth monitoring sessions identify undernourished children with low weight-for-age and weight-for-height. Mothers, caregivers, and children with unknown HIV statuses receive HIV counseling and testing services.

Caregivers and parents whose children do not nutritionally improve in three consecutive visits are given one-on-one counseling—while the parents and caregivers who have seen improvements are invited to talk to the entire group about their positive experiences.

The Nutrition Corners are part of the larger effort by EGPAF and the  Partnership for HIV-Free Survival (PHFS) program to reduce malnutrition in Lesotho, especially among HIV-positive women and HIV-positive children. PHFS is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). [Editor's note: Bread for the World advocated, and continues to advocate for PEPFAR and also supported the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act of 2013. which extended important provisions and reporting requirements that will help strengthen the program.]

We will not be able to see the end of pediatric HIV/AIDS without strong and sustainable health systems. Integrating nutrition programs into maternal, neonatal, and child health services brings us one step closer to ensuring a viable and efficient health system that not only eliminates pediatric AIDS, but also improves the overall health of women, children, and their families.

Chelsea Bailey is media relations coordinator at Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

Addressing Global Maternal and Child Nutrition


A mother and child share a meal in rural Guatemala. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Amanda Bornfree

Where there is hunger and poverty, mothers and children are almost always disproportionately affected. The 1,000 days from pregnancy through a child’s second birthday are the most crucial for a child’s development, but many women around the world don’t have access to proper nutrition for themselves or their children. The United States plays a crucial role in the fight to eradicate maternal and child malnutrition, and our nation's continued commitment is key to ending this global scourge.

In June, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Fla.) introduced House Resolution 254, which recognizes the importance of U.S. leadership in addressing global maternal and child nutrition. Though the resolution is still active, it’s in need of more support. So far, there are 53 co-sponsors, but only six are Republicans. In order for this resolution to pass, we must make sure the resolution remains bipartisan. This means, we need YOUR help!

We’d like to encourage you—especially if you live in a Republican district—to reach out to your representative and ask her or him to co-sponsor H. Res. 254. This resolution will bolster and strengthen our government's efforts to make sure children everywhere have the nutrition they need to grow and thrive. Please use letters and/or phone calls to reach out to your representatives and ask them to support this important resolution. Share the news with your family and friends that live in Republican districts, too— they may also want to urge their representative to support the fight against global maternal and child malnutrition. Submitting letters to the editor of your local paper will also help get the word out to your community.

As always, we encourage you to check out the resources we have on our webpage that may assist you during this process. And please contact Rev. Nancy Neal, Bread's associate for denominational women's organization relations, Beth Ann Saracco, Bread international policy analyst, or your regional Bread organizer for additional information or assistance. We’d also like to know what you hear back from your representatives —please keep us posted!

Thank you for being a supporter of the 1,000 Days movement!

Amanda Bornfree is a consultant in the church relations department at Bread for the World.

WIC: Strengthening Families for 40 years!


To learn more about WIC , and to watch more informative videos, visit the WIC at 40 website.

Parenthood is wonderful and rewarding, but raising thriving, healthy kids is a big job. Since 1974, WIC has been vital in helping parents give their children a healthy start—this year marks the program's 40th year of strengthening families.

When Chicago resident and WIC advocate Amanda Bornfree lost her health insurance shortly after learning that she was expecting her first child, WIC was a lifeline for her and her family. Her story about how WIC helped her included in the new Circle of Protection "Facts and Faces" project. She says that the program fed her determination to succeed: 

When I looked around the WIC clinic, I saw that I was among a community of women that cared for each other. Different generations, complexions, languages, and experiences—all of us present to keep ourselves and our families healthy. We all believed in that, whether we were there to help or to receive help. We all believed that everyone has the right to live a healthy life, and that a healthy life begins during the period from the start of a woman’s pregnancy until her child’s second birthday—the crucial 1,000 days.

WIC, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, helped nearly 9 million moms and kids (under age 5) get the nutrition they needed last year. But WIC does more than just provide food vouchers for low-income mothers and their children—the program also provides information on healthy eating, breastfeeding support, and referrals to health care. Families with incomes up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level ($40,409 for a family of four in 2010) can participate.

Bread for the World has campaigned to fully fund and support WIC because we know WIC is a critical tool in the mission to end hunger. Sequestration, the automatic cuts enacted as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, will continue to erode the effectiveness of the program. The recently-passed 2014 appropriations bill mitigates some of those cuts, and includes $6.7 billion for WIC, which will cover current and projected needs for low-income mothers and children. Bread for the World will monitor future spending bills, and continue to advocate for WIC to receive adequate funding—while pushing Congress to replace sequestration with a balanced approach.

The program's 40th anniversary offers an opportunity to celebrate the dedication of WIC staff, the health of thriving WIC children and their families, and also the efforts of faithful advocates who continue to urge Congress to fully fund this investment in the future of our nation.

 

Protecting Foreign Assistance

During the upheavals over the budget in recent years, Bread for the World and our partners have been successful in maintaining funding for U.S. programs that help hungry and poor people around the world. We have driven a major U.S. initiative focused specifically on hunger, and we have helped to improve the quality of U.S. foreign assistance. Bread will continue to advocate for the protection of programs that provide lifesaving food aid, help thousands of farmers learn increase their yields and incomes, and educate children.

Aid Remains Strong in Tough Budget Climate

During the George W. Bush and early Obama years, U.S. funding for programs that help reduce poverty around the world tripled to $22 billion annually, in part because of the persistent advocacy of Bread for the World members.

This poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA), which accounts for less than one percent of the federal budget, along with increased aid from industrialized nations, has supported rapid economic progress in poor countries.

Despite huge budget pressures, we have managed to protect foreign assistance programs that help poor people.

There was a tragic surge in hunger in 2008, driven by the global financial crisis and soaring prices for rice, wheat, and corn. The incoming Obama administration responded, leading the world in increasing investment in agriculture and nutrition in the most-affected countries. Bread for the World and our members rallied around this initiative, called Feed the Future.

In 2011, more than 4.3 million farmers around the world benefitted from U.S. agricultural development assistance through projects like Feed the Future.

In 2008, major research findings gave the world new knowledge about how to tackle the scourge of child malnutrition. One conclusion was that nutrition assistance should target the 1,000 days from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through her child’s second birthday. Bread for the World Institute played a leadership role in urging U.S. and international officials to incorporate this new knowledge into the global food security program. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the 1,000 Days initiative, and Bread for the World organized a network of U.S. women across Christian denominations — Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement — to support this effort.

Bread for the World Institute convened international meetings on nutrition during Bread’s 2011 and 2013 National Gatherings. At this year's meeting, Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told Bread advocates, "You form one of the greatest movements alive today—the fight to make hunger, malnutrition, and extreme poverty permanently a thing of the past."

This year, world leaders committed $4.15 billion over three years to scale up direct nutrition interventions and an additional $19 billion for nutrition-sensitive programs in agriculture and other sectors. Shah is leading a review of nutrition-related programs in the U.S. government in order to use available dollars most effectively.

The number of hungry people in the world has dropped below the pre-2008 level and is continuing to decline—partly because of U.S. leadership in promoting agriculture and nutrition among the poorest countries of the world.

When President Bush decided to increase assistance to poor countries, he set up new institutions within the U.S. governmen t— the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Bread for the World helped secure congressional support, and both of these institutions have been effective.

Still, the entire U.S. foreign assistance system was badly in need of reform. In response to this, Bread helped set up the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), a foreign assistance reform coalition that has been supported by both the Hewlett and Gates foundations.

In 2009, Bread for the World's Offering of Letters campaign was a push for foreign assistance reform. When the legislation Bread supported passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Obama administration announced it would work on the issue.

The administration has since improved coordination among the government agencies that work in developing countries, and President Obama issued a directive that established international development policies and priorities for the entire government.

USAID has set up an excellent system of evaluation, and information on the aid projects of U.S. agencies is now available to the public at www.foreignassistance.gov.

"Those of us who push for more dollars for programs of assistance need to work just as hard to make sure those dollars are used well," says Bread for the World President David Beckmann. "Bread for the World's members have been willing to study up on these issues and push for both funding and effectiveness."

Singing Songs for 1,000 Days: Heatherlyn

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Heatherlyn performing at Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering (Eric Bond).

By Sara Doughton

"I think all of us are artists on some level, because I believe we’re created in the image of the Creator, to co-create this world, each with a different gift that we’re given and unique ways that God wants to manifest love, healing, wholeness, and reconciliation in the world," says singer/songwriter Heatherlyn.

For Heatherlyn, music is more than a job—it’s her calling. It's her way of responding to God’s call to do justice and love mercy in the world. Through "storydwelling" she seeks to honor and amplify individuals and communities relegated to the margins of society.

"We all have a voice, we all have a story, we all have a perspective," she says. "None of us will begin to see the ‘big picture’ without the perspective of others coming from various vantages of personality, geography, economy. Some voices have been marginalized, silenced and dishonored. This is a disgrace to the human race."

When asked to contribute an original song for the Songs for 1,000 Days CD project, a collaboration between Bread for the World Institute and Women of Faith for 1,000 Days, Heatherlyn readily agreed. However, at the time she didn’t immediately notice the connection between her own experiences and the issue of maternal and child nutrition.

"I had a difficult childhood," she says. "I was raised by a single mom, and we were on WIC for awhile. I know there were times in my life when I wasn’t exactly hungry, but our resources were limited…the subsidized, highly processed, non-nutritive foods were a huge part of my younger years. And my mom and I both have suffered a lot of health issues in our lives because of that."

While watching A Place at the Table during the 2013 National Gathering, Heatherlyn heard stories of mothers and children struggling to feed themselves, and increasingly saw how hunger, food insecurity, economic systems, and poverty intersect.  She also recognized the importance of multiple levels of support and interventions for her family.

"One of the reasons we weren’t hungry [in terms of lack of food] is because of community," Heatherlyn says. "Our faith community surrounded us. At the same time, it’s significant to note that there were government programs that we needed for awhile, but my mother didn’t seek to stay on them indefinitely. People have that sort of bias about low-income people… I was very aware of socioeconomic prejudice. But it was a both-and for us. We needed [the financial support], and we needed community. And we needed things to get better."

Community continues to play an important role in Heatherlyn’s creative vocation.  She looks forward to the unfolding of her story as an artist in connection with Bread for the World.

"I felt like all the people from Bread were incredible, really sincerely warm and an embracing presence," she says. "I felt like I was a part of Bread right away…it seems like the relationship is continuing and growing, and I’m really excited.”

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Visit the Songs for 1,000 Days web page to learn more about this project, and order a copy of the CD through Bread for the World's store.

Sara Doughton, a former intern in Bread for the World's church relations department, is a student at Yale Divinity School.

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