Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

125 posts categorized "Millennium Development Goals"

More than 900 million People Suffer from Chronic Hunger


120312-janesabbiGlobally, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen by 400 million since 1990. This is mostly the result of much hard work by poor people themselves, but U.S. foreign assistance has played an important role. 

Still, more than 900 million people around the world suffer from chronic hunger. These numbers are daunting, but U.S. poverty-focused foreign assistance saves lives and helps improve conditions for millions more by giving people the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty.

Funding for these programs comprises only 0.6 percent of the U.S. federal budget. Yet this small amount of money is crucial. Each year, U.S. poverty-focused assistance:

  • can save more than 1 million lives by focusing on adequate nutrition during the 1,000-day window from pregnancy to age 2.
  • provides medications that prevent more than 114,000 infants from being born with HIV, and provides counseling to more than 33 million people affected with HIV since 2004.
  • saves 3 million lives through immunization.
  • helps bring safe drinking water sources to poor communities, impacting 1.3 billion people over the last decade.

These programs don’t provide long-term handouts, but they fight systemic poverty and provide a chance for people to thrive. For example, a U.S.-funded project in Honduras successfully raised participating farmers’ purchasing power by 87 percent, compared to an 11 percent increase for non-participating farmers.

Funding these programs is not only the right thing to do, it also demonstrates U.S. leadership, protects our own national security and economic future, and helps create a more stable world by counteracting the desperation that can lead to political unrest, conflict, and extremism. These programs address the root causes of poverty, which helps ensure new markets for U.S. goods and services.

Check back on the Bread Blog every day this week for tips, stories, and resources on conducting an Offering of Letters at your church or community around poverty-focused foreign assistance.

Photo caption: Jane Sabbi farms some of her 12 acres of land in Kamuli, Uganda. This mother of seven children is a client of VEDCO, a Ugandan NGO that helps people improve agricultural practices and grow more nutritious food. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Molly-marshMolly Marsh is managing editor at Bread for the World.



+Send an email to Congress now and ask them to protect funding for poverty-focused foreign assistance.

+Learn more about the mini-campaign on poverty-focused foreign assistance for the 2012 Offering of Letters.

Hunger Resources: MDG's. Poverty in America. Food Stamps.

Photo by Flickr user Gerald Perera.

In this next installment of hunger resources, I've gathered a collection of articles on the Millennium Development Goals, U.S. poverty, Africa, and more. Got any hunger resources of your own? Share them in the comments section below.

  • Meditations and Devotions on the Millennium Development Goals, (Faith in Action - UMC).
    “[This] 232-page book is a collaboration of some 150 people from around the world addressing the eight MDGs.  The eight goals are to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empowerment of women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.”
  • The Americans No One Wants to Talk About, (The Washington Post):
    “…Many Americans are being overlooked in this bipartisan conspiracy of economic abstraction. A significant and growing portion of the population lives in poverty. In 2007, the rate was 12.5 percent. By 2010, it was 15.1 percent. The share of Americans in extreme poverty — with an income less than half the poverty line — is the highest in the 35 years that the Census Bureau has kept such records.”
  • Improved Nutrition, Agricultural Development Helps Bring Hondurans Out of Poverty and Hunger, (U.S. Department of State):
    “As part of the USAID ACCESSO initiative that targets 18,000 poor rural households in Honduras, the Diaz family was given assistance in the form of training, fertilizer, seed, and irrigation that allowed them to grow better and more nutritious food for their family. It also allowed them to produce a surplus that can be sold to generate income. Thanks to this, Mr. Diaz did not need to leave his family in search of work in the city, or abroad.”
  • Africa Begins to Rise Above Aid, (IPS News):
    “Currently, at least a third of African countries receive aid that is equivalent to less than 10 percent of their tax revenue. They include Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Libya. This is a significant change from years of high dependency on aid.”
  • State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority, (United for a Fair Economy):
    “A major demographic shift is underway in the United States. According to the 2010 Census, White babies now make up a little less than 50 percent of all babies in the country. By 2030, the majority of U.S. residents under 18 will be youth of color. And by 2042, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other non-Whites will collectively comprise the majority of the U.S. population. For the first time since Colonial days, the United States will be a majority-minority country.
  • How US Policies Fueled Mexico’s Great Migration, (The Nation):
    “Roberto Ortega tried to make a living slaughtering pigs in Veracruz, Mexico. 'In my town, Las Choapas, after I killed a pig, I would cut it up to sell the meat,' he recalls. But in the late 1990s, after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) opened up Mexican markets to massive pork imports from US companies like Smithfield Foods, Ortega and other small-scale butchers in Mexico were devastated by the drop in prices. 'Whatever I could do to make money, I did,' Ortega explains. 'But I could never make enough for us to survive.' In 1999 he came to the United States, where he again slaughtered pigs for a living. This time, though, he did it as a worker in the world’s largest pork slaughterhouse, in Tar Heel, North Carolina.”

Chris-MatthewsChris Matthews is the librarian at Bread for the World Institute.


My First Visit to Lobby Congress for the 1,000 Days Movement

120224-capitol hill
Photo by Flickr user VinothChandar

Earlier this month Bread for the World hosted more than 50 religious leaders from around the country to help strengthen the advocacy voice of the church in the 1,000 Days Movement. Representing a variety of national church partners including Catholic, evangelical, mainline Protestant and traditionally African-American denominations, participants included bishops, leaders from religious women’s organizations, and advocacy and development experts. The participants attended meetings with high-level U.S. government officials including USAID Administrator Raj Shah and Lois Quam, executive director of the Global Health Initiative. The group also met with two members of Congress, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Nita Lowey (D-NY). Claudette Reid, coordinator for women’s ministries, Reformed Church in America, has these reflections on her visit to Rep. Lowey’s office:

This was my first visit to Capitol Hill, so I didn't know what to expect. One thing was for certain: I was a bit apprehensive. I can’t explain why exactly -- perhaps it was because I knew visiting Rep. Nita Lowey was an important visit. We only had a few minutes to persuade one of our key leaders that protecting funding for proper nutrition is the key to saving lives and could also assist her in being an effective steward of her budget.

We arrived at the Capitol a bit early so it gave us time to huddle in the cafeteria and review our talking points, which was extremely helpful, especially since the others decided that I should lead off the discussion. Me? Were they crazy? Did this stellar group of advocates---veteran lobbyists--- temporarily lose their collective minds in asking this neophyte to frame this discussion?

Our short walk from the cafeteria to the congresswoman's office was a blur. All I can recall is being nervous and worried that I was going to make a fool of myself. We arrived at the congresswoman’s office and after the usual pleasantries and introductions, my colleagues all looked at me with the non-verbal command to "go ahead." 

I can't remember everything I said, but I know I began by sharing our collective thanks/gratitude for everything that the congresswoman was already doing on behalf of women and girls and marginalized peoples both locally and globally. Then our group launched into our presentation on the importance of reinforcing our commitment as people of faith to bring awareness and sensitivity to the plight of those who cannot speak for themselves. 

Our presence at this meeting was a continuing response to the exhortation to take care of the "least of these" -- a moral and religious responsibility and privilege -- as we partner with Christ. Staff representative Erin Kolodjeski was quite gracious and engaging. She entertained our comments and questions and emphasized that faith communities like ours are key to the work that they are trying to accomplish. We bring life to the data and statistics they already have in abundance. 

By the time our time had come to a close, I realized that I had just completed my first 'lobbying' experience, and the earth did not fall in, and my nervousness had disappeared. I’m ready for my next round!

Claudette-reidClaudette Reid is coordinator for women’s ministries at the Reformed Church in America.

Church Leaders Aim to Improve Nutrition for Mothers and Children

Bolivian mother and child. Photo by Margaret W. Nea.

On February 1, after months of planning, everything was in place. More than 50 religious leaders from denominations and relief organizations around the country filled Bread for the World’s boardroom in Washington, DC. The goal? To build the advocacy voice of church leaders for improved nutrition for mothers and children, especially during the crucial 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. (Learn more about the 1,000 Days movement here.)

Bread president David Beckmann greeted the attendees, who included bishops, presidents of denominational women’s organizations, advocacy staff from around the country, and representatives of denominational relief and development agencies. Organizations represented included the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the National Association of Evangelicals, and Church Women United, among others.

For some, this call for advocacy was personal. Lucy Sullivan, director of the 1,000 Days partnership, told the group she was a “1,000-days baby”— she and her mother were able to get proper nutrition during the 1,000-day window because they  had access to the critically important Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). As a result, Lucy is 5’10” and significantly taller than her immigrant mother. We also heard from Raj Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), about his childhood visits to relatives in India. He was known as the “giant cousin” from the United States — no doubt because of the access to nutrition he had growing up in the United States.

Malnutrition’s impact on children is shocking. Without proper nutrients, children can experience permanent damage: shorter heights, weaker immune functions, impaired vision, and underdeveloped brains. All of this leaves them more vulnerable to illness and less prepared for school. Malnutrition can also result in lower earnings — up to 10 percent — over the course of their lifetimes. And what’s worse, the cycle continues with underweight mothers giving birth to underweight babies, and baby girls growing up to become underweight mothers giving birth to underweight babies.

Under the leadership of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. government has taken steps to improve nutrition through development assistance — especially in the two flagship programs the Global Health Initiative and Feed the Future. When our group met with leaders from the State Department and USAID on February 1,they asked tough questions about continued nutrition funding and pushed for effective coordination of programs on the ground and across departments in the United States.

We must continue to put pressure on our government to improve nutrition for women and children during the critical 1,000-day window, in the United States and abroad. To do that, we need to spread the word. Denominational women have created “Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement” and are pledging as groups and as individuals to have 1,000 conversations in 1,000 days about maternal and child nutrition.

Won’t you join the conversation? Visit our webpage to learn more. Or send me an email and let’s have a conversation!

Nancy-nealNancy Neal is associate for denominational women's organizational relations at Bread for the World.


David Beckmann: Finding Our Political Will to End Hunger

120216-heatherandson[Editors' note: This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post]

In recent weeks, President Barack Obama, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich all talked about poverty -- which was very unusual, as political leaders of both parties generally avoid talking about poor people.

At the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama explained how his Christian faith inspires his commitment to fairness and to opportunity for poor people in our country and around the world. No matter what side of the aisle you sit on, he was right about the connection between Christian faith and justice for poor people.

Governor Romney says he misspoke when he said he's not concerned about the very poor -- but I think he was right about one point. The social safety net in this country is helping many hungry and poor people make ends meet in this terrible economy.

Programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) expand automatically when poverty increases. In 2009 and 2010, Congress and the president strengthened SNAP, child nutrition programs, and tax credits for working poor people. Bread for the World churches and members across the country helped achieve those changes.

Speaker Gingrich also spoke about poverty in the last two weeks. He said we shouldn't be satisfied with a safety net for poor people -- that what they need is a trampoline to help them get out of poverty. While Gingrich doesn't say much about how he would help people get out of poverty, he's right that we should aim to overcome hunger and poverty.

Last year conservatives in the House of Representatives pushed for deep cuts to all programs focused on poor people in our country and around the world. Their budget proposed to cut $4.5 trillion in government spending over 10 years, with two-thirds of those cuts directed to poverty-focused programs (mainly Medicaid and SNAP).

In their first appropriations bill, the House voted to cut 700,000 people from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and to end food aid rations for about 14 million of the world's poorest people. No Republican in the House or Senate dissented from those decisions, and Democrats were talking mainly about protecting the middle class.

This led Bread for the World and other faith-based groups to urge Congress and the administration to form a circle of protection around poverty-focused programs -- domestic and international. People of faith across the country joined suit by contacting their members of Congress. Remarkably, we made it through 2011 without any major cuts to programs focused on hungry and poor people. We maintained the safety net in this country, and it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do.

Census data show that hunger and food insecurity surged in 2008, but it did not increase further in 2009 and 2010 even though unemployment and poverty continued to increase. This is because programs such as SNAP and WIC have expanded to meet the increased need. We also maintained U.S. assistance to poor countries. World hunger also surged in 2008, and although it is still unconscionably high, it stabilized somewhat in 2009 and 2010 -- largely because of international assistance.

Ironically, we have not had a president since Lyndon B. Johnson who made reducing poverty one of his top five priorities. We have never had a president who made reducing poverty in the world one of his top 20 priorities. One-fourth of all Americans are in religious services every week, but we don't insist that our presidents make opportunity for poor people a priority.

Many churches across the country collect food for hungry people, but all the food churches and food banks provide is equivalent to just 6 percent of the food federal nutrition programs provide--mainly through SNAP, WIC, and school meals. It is not enough to be personally charitable. We also need to be advocates for laws that respond to God's requirement of justice for poor people.

I think God is calling us, people who know the love of God through Jesus Christ, to provide leadership in making justice for poor people a national priority. I urge you to think ambitiously, take a stance, and protect programs that support those in need.

David-beckmannDavid Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.


Photo captionHeather Rude-Turner reads to her son Isaac in their northern Virginia home. Heather depends on EITC (earned income tax credit) to help support her family: Mark Diamond, 32; Naomi, 5; and Isaac, 3. Photograph by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

Hunger QOTD: Harry Chapin

A young girl does her school work in Karachi, Pakistan. UN Photo/John Isaac.

"What is needed is a marriage of two impulses, a coupling of the urge to do something positive with the willingness to constantly re-evaluate how effectively our actions lead to our goal -- that of ending world hunger."

--Harry Chapin, singer-songwriter and humanitarian.

Injustice and the Modern-Day Refugee

Two children share a smile in the Dakhla refugee camp in Algeria. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

It can be so easy to put from our minds the plight of the rest of the globe when life here in the States seems to get more difficult each day, between the high unemployment rate, the poor economy, and the general stress that seems to rule our lives.  However, there is a world beyond ourselves and the problems of that world are far greater than we can perceive. 

According to the European Parliament, right now there are 10 million people living in refugee camps.  These are people much like us who have no place to call home, who have gotten used to feeling displaced, without an identity, and who are some of the poorest people in the world.  The term “refugee” is rather broad, but Human Rights Education Associates define refugees as “people who are forced to flee their homes due to persecution, whether on an individual basis or as part of a mass exodus due to political, religious, military or other problems.”  How terrible it must be to be uprooted from all that you know and love, through no fault of your own, perhaps never to see your home again? 

Furthermore, horrible living conditions plague these refugee camps.  Hunger – even starvation – is prevalent among refugees, as well as the spread of disease due to a lack of effective sanitation systems as well as the large amount of people living in such close proximity. These refugee camps are scattered across the globe, located in the war-torn Middle East, as well as famine-ravaged Africa. 

Furthermore, some refugees are refused aid and amnesty from their new countries. For example, stateless refugees from Burma known as the Rohingya, are denied access to humanitarian aid because the government of Bangladesh denies them access. The Rohingya are a religious and ethnic minority, and according to  Physicians for Human Rights, they live in refugee camps, but without official refugee status. As a result, they are denied food, living in huts made of twigs and plastic next to open sewers, and many of their children suffering from malnutrition. This is just one case of many. 

Bread for the World aims to fight against injustices such as these. People of faith and conscience have a collective responsibility to look out for our fellow human beings, be they here or across the ocean. We must alert our members of Congress to the extreme poverty and hunger rampant in refugee camp. 

Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters has a mini campaign with the aim to form a circle of protection around international food aid programs that deliver humanitarian aid to those who most desperately need it.  America is a nation that despite its hardships is still quite prosperous. Let us use the resources we have been blessed with to be a blessing to those who need it most – the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the refugee.

Jael-kimballJael Kimball is a media relations intern at Bread for the World.



Think Young Christians are Apathetic and Uninformed? Think Again.

Young activists like LaToya Brown of New Haven, CT, gathered on the opening day of Bread for the World's 2011 National Gathering on Saturday, June 11, 2011, to advocate on Capitol Hill for poor and hungry people. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl.

It may catch leaders in Washington off guard, but there is a wave of young activists ready to leave their imprint on a broken world.  Many believe that young Christians are too busy living within their own protective bubbles to notice the problems of the world around them.  While this may be true for some, the vast majority of college-aged Christians I’ve met and formed friendships with are on fire with a passion unlike any I’ve ever experienced before.

As a 21-year-old intern at Bread for the World, graduating in May, my possibilities seem endless.  I am idealistic, headstrong, and ready to devote my life to a cause that I believe in – and right now that cause is ending global hunger. This same passion lives in many of my friends, who fight for causes ranging from stopping sex trafficking, to ending the use of child soldiers, to volunteering in local nursing homes and homeless shelters. Lawmakers may think that the youth of this nation are apathetic, lazy kids who really don’t care about anything other than the newest video game, but they are wrong.  We want to make a difference – more than anything we yearn to show Christ’s love to the world. 

These issues keep us awake at night, and inspire us to make a difference. I am haunted by the thought of children going to bed hungry; of families working multiple jobs while struggling to make ends meet; of children facing stunting and challenges to physical development due to malnutrition; and of whole communities ravaged by drought and famine.  

Young Christians are banding together to make their voices heard – to proclaim the good news of Christ’s love but to also put it into action.  In a Reuters article, author Shane Claiborne explains that this new movement is comprised of young Christians seeking a more authentic expression of faith: "'I see an entire generation of young people who want a Christianity they can wrap their hands around.  They don’t just want to believe stuff. They’re saying if you want to know what I believe, then watch how I live.'"

I have found an authentic expression of my faith at Bread for the World where I work to advocate for poor and hungry people in near and distant places.

To my fellow young Christians, I want to challenge you to ask yourself, what is the one cause that makes you impassioned for someone other than yourself? If you haven’t found one yet, I would recommend getting involved with Bread for the World to make a lasting impact on turning the tide of hunger and poverty in America and abroad.  Participating in Bread's Offering of letters is a great way to start advocating on behalf of those less fortunate.  Everyone is called to make a difference.  Find a way to make yours.

Jael-kimballJael Kimball is media relations intern at Bread for the World.



+Find out how you can organize an Offering of Letters at your church. Find resources, stories, videos, and more at www.bread.org/OL.

Just a Tweet Away with @DavidBeckmann #WEF

Photo by Flickr user World Economic Forum

Yesterday, David Beckmann tweeted: “I’ve been invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos this year.” (Follow @DavidBeckmann on Twitter.)

Since a portion of my day is spent facilitating the @bread4theworld twitter feed, I wondered if our twitter followers, me included, know why Davos is so important. So I set out this morning to do a little online investigating and this is what I’ve learned:

  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) has taken place in Davos, Switzerland, since 1971. This year, the WEF is happening from January 25 to 29.
  • In attendance are more than just government officials, but also academics, business representatives, journalists, religious leaders and other dignitaries.  The meetings create a cross-pollination of ideas to address the world’s economic and social problems.
  • Transformational programs around poverty have been launched at past meetings, such as the Global Health Initiative (GHI), a program through which the U.S. government supports the work of Scaling Up Nutrition, a program that Bread for the World is mobilizing around in this year’s Offering of Letters.

Still, I wasn’t sure I understood why I should care about what is happening at Davos this week, so I asked my friend, Bread for the World Institute’s policy analyst Faustine Wabwire. Faustine pointed out that with competing interests in these tough economic times, global food security needs a strong voice and a renewed commitment from world leaders. “Investing in long-term development requires long-term, sustained commitment from national governments and the international donor community,” Faustine said. “As our leaders meet in Davos, we are reminding them to follow through on the commitments they have made in the fight against hunger, poverty, and disease.”

So I’ll be following @DavidBeckmann this week (and the hashtag #WEF) as he navigates the conversations with an ear toward solutions to end hunger and poverty. Be sure to follow us at @bread4theworld, where we will be posting different opportunities for you to include your voice and remind leaders that their choices can indeed make a world of difference.

Robin-stephensonRobin Stephenson is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.


Hunger QOTD: President John F. Kennedy

A view of rice fields owned by local hill tribes in Sapa, Viet Nam. Every year the world produces 356 kg of cereal per person, yet 40 million die of hunger. A more than 30 percent rise in food prices last year has taken a huge toll on the world’s poor people. UN Photo/Kibae Park.

"So long as freedom from hunger is only half achieved, so long as two-thirds of the nations have food deficits, no citizen, no nation can afford to be satisfied. We have the ability, as members of the human race, we have the means, we have the capacity to eliminate hunger from the face of the earth in our lifetime. We only need the will."

--President John F. Kennedy, World Food Congress, Washington D.C., 1963

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