Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

170 posts categorized "Maternal and Child Nutrition"

Voices of Hunger: My First WIC Office Visit

WIC_in_Virginia

A mother talks to a WIC nutrition counselor outside of a farmers market in Martinsburg, West Virginia. (Photo: USDA)

By Amanda Bornfree

A couple of weeks after I found out my husband and I were expecting our first child, we lost our health insurance. We were disappointed, as is to be expected. I had been excited about going forth with my prenatal check-ups with a doctor I had chosen for her directness, serious demeanor, and expertise.

Due to our sudden shift in income, we now qualified for Medicaid and I was eligible for WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) benefits. The doctor who I had imagined would deliver our baby did not accept Medicaid. I had to look elsewhere.

A caseworker contacted me and invited me to a WIC clinic. I was a little nervous. I didn’t know what to expect and, ultimately, I wanted what would be best for my little baby. I thought, would I find it there? I didn’t want to stress.

When I arrived at the clinic, I was greeted by a sweet woman with sandy brown hair and a light voice. She was my caseworker. After filling out important paperwork, she went over my options for doctors and midwives. She spoke of each professional with respect and honesty. She shared with me the various options I could choose from. I was a little surprised that I had choices. Once I selected the professional I wanted to visit, my caseworker picked up the phone and made my first appointment. I wanted to open my arms and embrace her. But my first WIC appointment wasn’t over with yet.

“Are you taking prenatal vitamins?” she asked.

Yes, I nodded.

She pulled out a pamphlet about the nutrition that I needed as a pregnant woman. She talked me through it, and answered all of my questions. She then informed me of the WIC monthly vouchers. I would be able to receive foods with essential nutrients for my body and my baby.

Finding out that I could use some vouchers at farmers markets made me smile.  I remember thinking, my baby and I are just as important as the family that is fortunate enough to frequent farmers markets. Though I’ve never believed that I was less than anyone, I was indeed vulnerable—I was pregnant for the first time and my household income had plummeted. The assistance I received made me feel loved and important. It gave my husband and I more faith in our belief that everything was going to be alright. And that faith fed our 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.

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

Does Investing in Women and Girls Mean Leaving Boys Behind?

Children_in_malawi
Photo: Schoolchildren in Malawi. (Racine Tucker-Hamilton/Bread for the World)

By Racine Tucker-Hamilton

As a woman who is the mother of two sons, I’m often torn between my strong belief in empowering women and girls and raising boys. My personal conflict was very evident last week while attending the Social Good Summit (SGS).

Many of the sessions focused specifically on females: "Women Editors Take on the Intersection of Print, Digital and Social Good," "Connecting Girls Around the World," and "Women, Social Media and an End to Poverty.

As I was sitting through these sessions I kept thinking, where are boys and men in these conversations? Then finally, America Ferrera, an actress, producer, and activist, brought it up. She and fellow actress Alexis Bledel had recently returned from a trip to Honduras where they learned how women and girls are improving nutrition and fighting poverty in developing countries. The trip was organized by the ONE campaign and captured in this video.

Ferrera was a guest on the SGS panel "Women, Social Media and an End to Poverty." She told the audience that, in her experience, investing in women and girls doesn’t mean leaving boys behind.

“From what we saw [in Latin America], boys are raised by their mothers and the mothers will see that those boys have education and a different outlook toward women’s roles in society,” said Ferrera.

Her comments reminded me of my visit to a southern Malawi village last year, where I saw men playing an important role in improving nutrition for women and children. Kennedy Mbereko is one of those men. He’s well known in the Jombo village, where he serves as a member of a care group for a Catholic Relief Services project called Wellness and Agriculture for Life Advancement (WALA). Kennedy visits the homes of malnourished children and then documents their progress and growth.

While his notes and journals are central to his job, his presence alone makes a difference in a community where nutrition may be viewed as a ‘women’s-only issue.’ Mbereko is helping to break down barriers and engage other men in the area—including the village leader—around the issue of malnutrition.  

During Ferrera's panel discussion at the SGS, she also told the audience that we need more men to embrace and support the issues of improving nutrition and ending poverty in their communities.

“We need enlightened men to help change the minds of men who may not see the important role that women play in poverty eradication.”

There’s no question that women and girls must be at the table when determining the best ways to combat malnutrition and poverty, but we have to remember to save a seat for boys and men.

Racine Tucker-Hamilton is Bread for the World's media relations manager.

A Jar of Conversations

Memory-Jar---Notes (2)by Amanda Bornfree.

I entered her office.

Instead of a jar of candy, she had a jar of pretty strips of paper.

She offered me one.  I pulled one out.

There were words on it:

“Where there is hunger and poverty, there is almost always poor access to maternal and child health care.”

And then we had a conversation about the 1,000 Days.

The 1,000 Days Jar is a useful tool for starting conversations about the 1,000 Days movement.  It’s practical, creative, and fairly easy to make. Having conversations about the importance of maternal and child nutrition during the 1,000 day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday can be challenging at times. A 1,000 Days Jar can introduce the issue of maternal and child nutrition to those unfamiliar with it, or spark new conversations surrounding the 1,000 Days Movement.

What You Need:

  1. Computer and printer OR time and good penmanship
  2. Recycled colored paper
  3. Scissors or paper cutter
  4. A medium-sized jar of your liking, preferably a mason jar
  5. A location for the jar, such as an office desk, coffee table, etc.
  6. An informational list of nutritional facts and reasons why the 1,000 Days is important (provided below).

Steps:

  1. If using a computer, cut and paste the provided list to a document. If using pen and paper, write the list out by hand.
  2. If using a computer, print out the list.
  3. Cut out each statement.
  4. Fold each statement in half and put them in the jar.
  5. Place the jar in your location of choice.

 Suggestions:

These suggestions may inspire more conversations on how to make a difference for the many women and children who don't get the proper nutrition during the critical window of 1,000 Days.

1. Create the 1,000 Days Jar with:

  • Fellow church members during Sunday school
  • Friends and family who don’t know about the 1,000 Days Movement
  • Preteens and teenagers in your family
  • The youth director at your church

2. Step it up:

  • Either with a group or on your own, make jars for gifts and give them to friends, family members, or colleagues
  • Add Bible verses and/or spiritual quotes about hunger to The 1,000 Days Jar
  • Visit the Thousand Days website and check out their resources. Add additional facts to the Jar.

Continue reading "A Jar of Conversations" »

Why 1,000 Days?

ITD blog 8.27.12
In early 2011, Desire came to Omoana House, a rehabiliation center in Njeru, Uganda, as a malnourished young girl. But with proper healthcare and feeding – including nutrition supplements provided by USAID, she has grown healthy. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

by Inez Torres Davis.

Nutrition for the pregnant woman and her child through the age of two years is such a critical window of opportunity. Women with our own children or women who have never given birth, but have participated in nurturing children “get” how critical this is. And, maybe it’s easier for us to have these conversations for this reason, but I would really like to see men of faith step up for this one and make the commitment to have these conversations!

The 1,000 Days Movement addresses the need for those who “have” to be sure that child-bearing women, women who are pregnant, and infants from birth to two years of age receive the nutritional diet they require to avoid life-threatening physical and mental health issues such as stunting, protein deficiency, and cyclical starvation. Cyclical starvation is when the body has a hunger season each year in which important nutrients are completely lacking from their diets thus providing short term and long term health problems and in many cases, death.

While visiting three countries in Africa with Bread for the World in 2011, I saw the raw and measurable difference nutritionally caring for pregnant women and infants makes in the life of a community as well as in the life of a child. One Malawi village had not had a single case of cholera since learning how to secure clean water, sanitation, and create supplemental nutrient-rich feedings for pregnant women and babies. Dozens of Zambian infants are receiving healthy starts in health clinics and through the campaign for non-HIV positive mothers to nurse their babies.

Here in the United States, programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the food stamp program) provide a nutritionally sound base for children who would otherwise suffer the debilitating effects of malnutrition. Dollar for dollar supporting the nutrition of pregnant women and babies is money “best” spent whether it is spent domestically or as international development aid.

The call of the gospel is the call to be present with the disenfranchised. I can’t think of a more disenfranchised or disempowered person than the infant born to a malnourished woman. Simply put? This is the work of the gospel. Start to share this good news!

 

Ineztorres-davis-230wInez Torres Davis is director for justice at Women of the ELCA.

Can You Make It Through the Month?

 Spent. 8.24.12

(image courtesy Urban Ministries of Durham)

by Robin Stephenson

Simulating poverty does not give one the lived experience of poverty, but it can begin to expose the truth about choices—or lack thereof—that people working low-wage jobs face every day.

We are called to compassion—meaning to suffer together, but it can be hard to make a compassionate connection when paths don't cross. So when I’m invited to speak to church groups, I  emphasize personal stories, knowing that statistics don’t always engender compassion and solidarity.

A few years ago I gained greater compassion and  insight into the realities of poverty when I participated in an elaborate simulation. Even though it was imaginary, the activity made me stop and think about poverty as a time consuming and complicated condition.

Continue reading "Can You Make It Through the Month?" »

Eating on $4.30 per day

Girl-eating

A young girl enjoys breakfast at a local farmer's market. (Photo by Margaret W. Nea)

by Eric Bond

How much will you spend on food today?

For breakfast I ate two bananas (40 cents each), a handful of almonds (let’s say $1.00), a whole wheat bagel (65 cents), two eggs (21 cents each), and a cup of coffee from the corner café ($1.79). Having spent a total of $4.68, I felt thrifty, and I ate fairly well. I also broke the SNAP budget for an entire day.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) allots about $4.30 per person per day. Figuring out how to purchase 2,000 nutritious calories on that amount is a test of creativity and resources.

Try stretching those dollars when you live in a food desert, miles from a well-stocked, economical grocery store. What if you haven’t got any cooking appliances or the money to power them? What if you are working full time, earning barely enough to cover the rent?  Would you have the time and energy to search for, purchase, and cook enough food to sustain yourself on $4.30 per day? Somehow you would have to find a way.

This is reality of the farm bill—which funds SNAP.

Continue reading "Eating on $4.30 per day" »

It’s Time to Bust Myths About SNAP

Alliandandre

Alex Morris, from Bend, OR, depends on SNAP, WIC, and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system. (Photo by Brad Horn/Bread for the World)

by Christine Melendez Ashley

Misinformation about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) is far too prevalent. Sometimes it seems that I can’t check the news—or even Facebook—without reading another inaccurate claim about the program and its participants.

As a domestic policy analyst at Bread, I know that the facts tell a different story.  SNAP served more than 46 million Americans in May. Here are some hard facts about the program:

Continue reading "It’s Time to Bust Myths About SNAP" »

America's Foreign Aid Assistance ROI ...
Better than You Think

 David NTY 8.16.12

Haitians build a USAID-funded irrigation canal. A rice field is at right. From the Bread for the World Institute 2011 Hunger Report. (Photo courtesy USAID)

In a New York Times opinion piece yesterday, Rev. David Beckmann wrote about how our fate is tied to poor people around the world. He describes why Americans should care about U.S. foreign assistance and why it's a great return on investment. You can read the full story below.

Our Fate Is Linked to Helping Others

by Rev. David Beckmann

This is not the time to cut back on international development assistance. For every dollar our government spends, only less than one cent (0.6 cents) is spent on foreign aid. The return on our small foreign aid investment can be measured in the millions of people we are helping throughout the world, and in our country’s economic well-being and national security.

Continue reading "America's Foreign Aid Assistance ROI ...
Better than You Think" »

Bread Activists on the Ground in Oklahoma

OK 8.14.12

(Photo by Margaret W. Nea)

by Keaton Andreas.

It is critical that we raise our collective voice on behalf of poor and hungry people as Congress debates funding for anti-poverty programs, which is exactly what a Bread for the World Covenant Church did this past Saturday.

Hunger was the topic of discussion this weekend at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Warr Acres, Okla. The Covenant Church hosted the forum “Fighting Hunger in Oklahoma.”

Oklahoma is the fifth hungriest state in the United States, with 47,871 families living in extreme poverty (less than $11,057 a year for a family of four) and a poverty rate for children under five of nearly 28 percent.

Continue reading "Bread Activists on the Ground in Oklahoma" »

Activity for Children:
A Person Who Has No Food Has Only One Problem

8.10.12 children activity

(Photo by Flickr user cnishiyama)

by Robin Stephenson

Hunger is a frequent companion for too many children. Around the world, 178 million children under the age of 5 are stunted because of inadequate nutrition during their first 1,000 days of life. Closer to home, one in five U.S. children face hunger every day because they live in households struggling to put food on the table.

These sobering facts can be changed with enough political will, but the first step is education.

How do you teach young children in church or at home about hungry children?  Bread’s Hunger No More Web page offers several effective resources. Here’s one activity that helps children learn by doing:  

Continue reading "Activity for Children:
A Person Who Has No Food Has Only One Problem" »

Stay Connected

Bread for the World