Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

172 posts categorized "Maternal and Child Nutrition"

Cutting WIC Not the Right Formula for Healthy Moms and Babies

Gromek_hospital_resizedBy Jon Gromek

You might not know it by looking at me now, but I was two months premature when I was born, barely weighing three pounds. My birth and the weeks that followed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit must have been a harrowing time for my parents, especially my mom.  It took some time, but I eventually grew strong, gained weight, and became a healthy child—and eventually a healthy adult. One of the things I credit to my recovery was the healthy food I received both before and after I was born. My parents thankfully had the resources to make sure I had all the nutrition I needed, yet because of the sequester’s 5.3 percent cut to the WIC program, more than 600,000 moms and babies are going to find those resources harder to come by. 

I recently got to sit down with some of the staff at the “Moms-2-Be” program in Columbus, Ohio.  Moms-2-Be (M2B) is a unique program designed to help pregnant women who live in Weinland Park /near Eastside of Columbus have healthy pregnancies, deliveries, and babies. 

The Weinland Park neighborhood has the highest density of poverty in all of Franklin County and, until recently, an alarmingly high infant mortality rate. For the moms who reside in the neighborhood, WIC is one the best resources they have to help their babies.  The sequester means that more than 18,000 Ohio moms like the ones in Moms-2-Be in Weinland Park are going to have a harder time beating the odds and giving their babies what they need to grow and develop.  Staff told stories of the struggles moms will go through to make ends meet and the tough choices they will have to make to be sure their children are fed.  Sometimes that means cutting formula with water to make it last or having to graduate their babies to solid food long before they are ready. 

With Mother’s Day around the corner, take a moment to reflect on everything that moms do to fight for their children. This Mother’s Day, tell Congress to stand up for mothers and children. Email Congress right now and tell your senators and representative to stop these cuts and instead enact a balanced, responsible budget deal that protects our mothers, our children, and our economy. Mothers protect us. Make sure Congress protects them.

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

Photo: Jon Gromek, as a newborn, being held by his mother, Angie Vrettos-Gromek. (Photo courtesy of Jon Gromek)

Choose Mothers Over Inconvenienced Travelers

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By Alice Walker Duff

How will you honor your mother this Mother’s Day? What will you do to let your mom, grandmas, aunties, and mentors know that you learned their lessons of love and care for others?

This Mother's Day, honor your mom, and all the amazing women in your life, by telling Congress to stand up for mothers. Congress can act quickly and decisively—its members recently fixed flight delays caused by sequestration cuts. But nutrition and other programs that help moms in the United States and around the world are still on the chopping block.

There’s only one way to fix this and protect mothers and children from harmful cuts!

Email Congress right now and tell your senators and representative to stop these cuts and instead enact a balanced, responsible budget deal that protects our mothers, our children, and our economy. As a thank you, we will send a free e-card to any of the women in your life. We will let them know that you honor them by standing with mothers everywhere!

Mothers protect us. Make sure Congress protects them! Email Congress now and celebrate Mother's Day in a way that makes a difference. Together, we can make sure that mothers and children in the United States and around the world have the nutrition they need to thrive.

Thank you for joining me in standing with mothers everywhere.

Alice Walker-Duff is Bread for the World's managing director.

Conversations That Matter

Tohomina Akter attempts to feed her daughter Adia, 17 months, in Char Baria village, Barisal, Bangladesh, on Thursday, April 19, 2012. Tohomina finished 7th grade and hopes she can help educate her daughter to be a doctor. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Mary Pat Brennan

Do conversations matter? Do my conversations matter? Do yours? If conversations are about connecting with others then the morning conversation with my housemate over coffee, the Skype chat with my daughter, and the small talk I make on the elevator all matter, even if only to me and perhaps one other person.

But some conversations matter more than others. Some have the power to inform and plant seeds for the future–and even contribute to making the world a better place.

When we discuss maternal and child nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday, we’re having a conversation that could change the world.  According to information in Bread for the World Institute’s 2013 Hunger Report , “[h]unger during this time is catastrophic, because the resulting physical and cognitive damage is lifelong and irreversible.”

Continue reading "Conversations That Matter" »

Beckmann Testifies Before Congress, Asks for Increased Funding for Nutrition

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

The United States has exhibited great leadership in the areas of global development, food security, and nutrition, but more must be done, said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, during testimony given Tuesday before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State/Foreign Operations.

Beckmann asked the committee to continue its bipartisan support for food security, agriculture, and nutrition—especially in the critical period from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through a child’s second birthday, also known as the 1,000-day window of opportunity. High-level political leadership by the U.S. through initiatives such as Feed the Future, the 1,000 Days Partnership, and Child Survival Call to Action has increased awareness of the importance of maternal and child nutrition around the world, but more importantly, spurred other countries to action. But, Beckmann cautioned that such actions must be accompanied by an increase in funding, as well as important reforms to the U.S. foreign aid system, such as more local procurement, a more efficient food aid system, and greater transparency and accountability. He specifically suggested raising U.S. funding for nutrition from $95 million, in the fiscal year 2013 budget, to $200 million in FY 2014.

“The U.S. government has …encouraged the world to use new knowledge about how best to reduce the carnage of child malnutrition,” he said. “We now have clear evidence, for example, that available dollars should go first to improving nutrition in pregnant women, new mothers, and young children in the critical 1,000-day window of opportunity. This will reduce preventable child deaths and lock in the potential of every child by giving them a good start to life.”

Beckmann’s testimony comes at a time when both a shrinking international affairs budget and the series of across-the-board cuts known as sequestration threaten funding for poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA). Many important international nutrition, food security, development, and humanitarian programs fall under the umbrella of PFDA. These programs build secure, healthy, and productive nations at a fiscal cost of less than one percent of the federal budget.  Beckmann cautioned that the sequester, if not replaced with a more balanced plan, will slash $1.1. billion from PFDA this year alone.

“Some cuts kill,” Beckmann said, before explaining that sequestration will deprive 600,000 malnourished children of life-altering and live-saving nutritional assistance, deny 1 million poor farmers of agricultural assistance, and will stop 5 million people from receiving lifesaving medical interventions.

“As a Christian preacher, allow me to say that our nation’s efforts to help reduce hunger, poverty, and disease around the world are important to Almighty God,” Beckmann said. “I’m convinced that God loves me, all of us, and everybody—including the millions of families around the world who struggle to feed their children.”

What Is Worse Than Cancelled White House Tours?

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Infographic courtesy of InterAction

By Nina Keehan

Many Americans have heard that the White House recently cancelled its public tours as a result of budget cuts from the sequester, leaving thousands of eager ticket holders disappointed. This is a bummer—especially if you’re a middle schooler on spring break.

But let's put this in perspective.  While these shuttered tours might get a ton of publicity from the media, they are certainly not the worst the sequester has to offer—not even close.

Some of the cuts will cost lives.

A new infographic produced by InterAction reveals the horrifying impact sequestration will have on people helped by foreign assistance programs worldwide. Poverty-focused development assistance will be cut by 5 percent, if the sequester is allowed to stand. Five percent might not seem like much, until you look at this:

Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.

Lenten Reflections: The 1,000-Day Window of Opportunity

7 neelam and shuvam

Neelum Chand carries her son, Shuvam, 1, through the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home (NRH) in Dhangadhi, Nepal. The NRH, a project of the Rural Women's Development and Unity Center, a Nepali NGO, works to restore malnourished children to health. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Lisa Bos

Many people have a Lenten tradition of giving up something for the 40 days of Lent as a way to show penance. Often, it is a vice or a luxury—something that helps a person make a sacrifice, but may also have the added benefit of a few lost pounds or a little extra money in a bank account.  Among my friends, common trends are giving up a food or drink: getting rid of that daily Starbucks coffee, forgoing dinners out, or committing to not eating any sweets.

40-for-1000_logo_blogIt’s easy to forget how much these things are luxuries, both for those living in poverty in the United States and around the world.  That Starbucks coffee? Most people in the developing world live on less than the cost of that one coffee every day. Millions of children have never had a birthday cake or a candy bar. Hunger is a part of the daily life and struggle of nearly a billion people around the world.

I don’t say this to make anyone feel guilty, nor to make the problem of hunger seem so bad that it is insurmountable. It isn’t. Progress is being made in ensuring that children and mothers in particular have better access to healthy, nutritious food. The long-term impact of this is almost immeasurable. Children who do not get proper nutrition during the 1,000 days from pregnancy through their second birthday are at risk of having underdeveloped minds and bodies, which impacts their ability to learn, get a job, and provide for their families in the future. Undernutrition contributes to 2.6 million deaths of children under five each year.

We can make a tremendous impact on ending the cycle of hunger and poverty during the first 1,000 days of a child's life. Congress, in particular, must recognize the important role of nutrition in a safeguarding a child’s health and well-being and fund nutrition programs at a level that will reach those who are in need.  In order to make this happen, we all need to raise our voices to our legislators.

So, in addition to making a Lenten sacrifice, how about sacrificing a few minutes of your time to call or email your senators and representative and tell them to protect funding for nutrition programs both at home and abroad? We need your help to make this an issue that Congress can’t ignore. The fight against hunger and undernutrition is one that is too important to lose.

Lisa Bos is the Policy Advisor for Health, Education and WASH at World Vision US.

Lenten Reflections: Lent as Noisy, Communal, Nourishing

Tammanna_and_Joy

Tammanna Akter and her child Joy, 18 months, pose for photographs in Char Baria village, Barisal, Bangladesh, on Thursday, April 19, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Thursday, Feb. 21

By Rev. Meagan Manas

Themes of pregnancy, birth and nutrition easily correspond to the practices, rituals, and liturgical cycles of Christianity. We journey with young pregnant Mary through Advent, and rejoice at the birth of her child—even while we notice that he is born without the care that we would want for our own children. Our most common action, participating in Christ’s communion table, is at its core about eating and nourishment.  We are nourished spiritually as we literally eat together.  But can we find these themes in the season of Lent?

I didn’t grow up in a church that practiced Lent, so for a long time I understood the season as one of personal sacrifice.  "What are you giving up for Lent?" my classmates would ask me. "Chocolate? Pop?" That was the extent of our engagement in this liturgical season. Later, when I joined the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I learned about the spiritual elements of Lent. The season was not about just giving up something you really liked just for the sake of doing it; instead it was about removing obstacles standing between you and God. It was about a realization that the things that seemed so important sometimes were not. Still, the gist of Lent was personal, introspective.  We heard about Jesus in the desert—alone—for 40 days. We thought about the desert as a place for soul-searching, for looking inside, for individual growth. 

40-for-1000_logo_blogThis Lent, I am thinking about another story of 40 in the wilderness. This time it is 40 years, Moses and the Israelites wandering in the desert. This story might help us reconsider Lent.  It is not an individual, introspective story.  It is a communal story. And this wandering community, while also considering the big questions about God and their own relationships with God, is concerned with very practical needs: food and water.  Remember the manna from heaven?

This Lent, perhaps we could commit to wandering in the wilderness together. Together with women and children around the world.  And as we wander together, let us cry out for the food each woman and each child needs to get the proper nutrition—especially in that critical 1,000-day window. Maybe this year what we “give up” will be some of our time, so that we can act in solidarity with our sisters and their children everywhere.  Let us cry out through our prayers, through our letters to our representatives, through our conversations with family and friends.  Let us journey together, and let us raise our voice!

Rev. Meagan Manas is staff specialist for Justice and Peace, Presbyterian Women in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and also works part time as program coordinator for World Day of Prayer USA Committee (www.wdp-usa.org).

The Importance of the Best First Food

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A five-month-old boy rests on his mother's back in a small town near Comitan, Mexico. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Nina Keehan

Let's discuss one of the most basic forms of nutrition. It's the first, and most important, food in a child’s life: breast milk.

Whenever the subject of maternal and child nutrition comes up, more and more people are talking the critical 1,000-day window of opportunity, which is the period from start of a woman's pregnancy until her child's second birthday. According to a growing body of scientific evidence,  undernutrition during this time is disastrous.

"Healthy development, particularly brain development, depends on getting the right foods at this critical time," according to information in Bread for the World Institute's 2013 Hunger Report. "Hunger during this time is catastrophic, because the resulting physical and cognitive damage is lifelong and irreversible."

When the medical journal The Lancet ran a series on maternal and child undernutrition in 2008, it identified exclusive breastfeeding as one of the most successful interventions for improving child health and nutrition.

That means starting early is vital—and early means during the first 60 minutes of life. A recent Save the Children report, "Superfood for Babies," found that 95 babies would be saved every hour if they were immediately breastfed after birth. Equally impressive is the fact that infants who are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of their lives are up to 15 times less likely to die from diarrhea and respiratory infections, leading killers of young children.

Yet fewer than 40 percent of infants in developing countries are exclusively breastfed. And those low numbers are not isolated to the developing world: An article published by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that the United States has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the industrialized world, and one of the highest rates of infant mortality.

"Data from 2003 indicate that 71 percent of U.S. mothers initiate some breastfeeding, and only 36 percent report feeding any human milk to their infants at six months...." the article stated. "Those numbers stand in marked contrast to Sweden, for example, where the breastfeeding initiation rate exceeds 98 percent and the rate at six months is 72 percent.”

Infants who are exclusively breastfed have fewer dental cavities, stronger immune systems, and, research shows, fewer psychological, behavioral, and learning problems as they grow up. Mothers  in the United States also get the advantage of a savings of $1500 a year on formula and feeding supplies.

There are many mothers who cannot, or choose not, to breastfeed for a variety of valid reasons—personal, situational, and otherwise. Still, it’s important to remove barriers to breastfeeding and ensure that all mothers who have a choice in whether or not to breastfeed have all of the information on its benefits.

Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.

Lenten Reflections: Food for Thought

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Fresh vegetables for sale at a local market in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (Racine Tucker-Hamilton)

Tuesday, Feb. 19

By Inez Torres Davis

I just finished writing a Lenten Bible Study for Bread for the World, and I'm thinking about what it means to live in a nation of plenty. And, well, I feel somewhat ashamed for planning an Easter with special foods. Food snobs take note! 

I am obese. Obesity is a problem in our nation even as many, in the United States and around the world, suffer from hunger.  The importance of different dietary elements in causing obesity remains controversial. While there are no substantial long-term studies to turn to, short-term investigations indicate that consumption of high-Glycemic Index (GI) carbohydrates may increase hunger and promote overeating relative to consumption of items with a lower GI.

40-for-1000_logo_blogSo, maybe there is a place in all of this planned consumption of sumptuous food to consider what it is that I/we really need to eat to live? How much is enough? 

Clearly, we do not live by bread alone! We live by all manner of dietary concoctions. So, I have to wonder—if I could, would I turn stones into bread as evidence that God is with me?  If you could, would you?  And, each time I bless food that, nutritionally, is not best for my obese self, am I daring stones to try and stub my toes because, after all, God is with me?

Belonging to God and living in the world is a conflict waiting to happen from the start. God is not surprised by the dilemma! But, how often do we pretend we have not succumbed to the desires of our nature while at the same time judging the politician or another neighbor for failing to acknowledge the way of the gospel in the decisions they make? 

There are no answers in this blog. Just some reflections since reflecting is one of those things we are asked to do in Lent. Consider it food for thought!

Ines Torres Davis is director for justice at Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

40 Days for 1,000 Days

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By Rev. Nancy Neal

Lent, which begins tomorrow with Ash Wednesday, is an ideal time to make your faith real by taking action to eliminate the evils of hunger and malnutrition from our world. Bread for the World has worked in collaboration with Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement to develop a series of Lenten activities around the theme of maternal and child nutrition in the 1,000-day window between pregnancy and a child's second birthday.You can find these Lenten resources on Bread for the World's website: www.bread.org/lent.

Also, a series of Lenten devotions, featuring pieces written by women in the movement, Bread activists and staff, and other people of faith will be featured on Bread Blog during Lent. We invite you to check back here throughout the Lenten period for new reflections. We also hope you will use the weekly Bible Study and the many other activities designed to enhance your Lenten devotion.

Rev. Nancy Neal is Bread for the World's associate for denominational women's organization relations.

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