Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Quote of the Day: Malala Yousafzai

Lott Carey Mission School in Brewerville, Liberia where student Catherine Jones, 14, wants to be a pediatrician. In many countries, gender inequality persists and and women continue to face discrimination in access to education. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

“We are stronger than those who oppress us, who seek to silence us. We are stronger than the enemies of education. We are stronger than fear, hatred, violence and poverty.”

 - Malala Yousafzai quoted in The Washington Post article, “Helping girls worldwide requires a united stand,” July 13, 2014.

Malala Yousafzai  was 15 years old when she was shot by the Taliban for promoting girls’ education in Pakistan. Now a global education advocate and co-founder of the Malala Fund, she is spending her birthday in Nigeria this week to refocus attention on more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April, who have yet to return to their families. Malala turned 17 years old on July 12.

Lack of access to education is a barrier to achieving women’s access to economic opportunity.  Since 2000, the Millennium Development Goals created a framework galvanizing support from around the world to cut hunger in half by 2015. The third goal in the framework identifies gender equality and economic empowerment of women as a critical step in the exodus from global hunger.  To learn more about women as the missing link to ending hunger read “A Global Development Agenda:  Toward 2015 and Beyond,” a briefing paper by Faustine Wabwire, senior foreign assistance policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute.

Hunger in the News: War on Poverty, Unaccompanied Minors, Hunger in South Sudan, and Overhauling Criminal Justice

A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

“War on poverty’ remains incomplete after half century, say advocates,” by Robert Dilday, APB News/Herald.  “Fifty years after the nation marshaled its forces to eradicate poverty, about 46 million Americans are still numbered among the poor. That has to change, say Christians engaged in the issue

“This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps,” by By Darlena Cunha, The Washington Post.  “That’s the funny thing about being poor. Everyone has an opinion on it, and everyone feels entitled to share. “

“COMMENTARY: Christians worship a child who fled violence in his home country” by Gay Clark Jennings, Religion News Service.  “The baby Jesus survived Herod’s massacre because his parents took him across a border to a land where he was safe. Just like parents in Central America who are sending their children away, Mary and Joseph took great risks so their son could survive.”

“Poverty, violence fuel exodus of youths from Honduras to U.S,” by Alfredo Corchado, Dallas News. “Like many, Maynor Serrano yearns to escape to the U.S., where he has relatives. ‘It’s tough to live without hope,’ he said. ‘If it’s not there, you go look for it.”

“Misery stalks South Sudan refugees in camps,” by Jenny Vaughan, AFP.  “Nyayoul Gach was first driven from her home in South Sudan because of violence, but escaped into Ethiopia because of hunger, unable to feed her five children who were rapidly wasting away.”

“US sending $22 million more to aid South Sudan,” by Deb Ricchmann, AP. “The U.S. announced on Thursday an additional $22 million in humanitarian assistance to refugees and people displaced by the violence in South Sudan.”

Rand Paul, Cory Booker team up for justice,” by Seung Min Kim, Politico. “The duo of high-profile, first-term senators — one a New Jersey Democrat who came to Capitol Hill on Twitter-fueled national fame, the other a Kentucky Republican mulling a presidential bid in 2016 — will roll out legislation that comprehensively overhauls the U.S. criminal justice system.”

Strong June Jobs Report Masks Woes of Long-Term Unemployed,” by Rob Garver,The Fiscal Times.  “There is one segment of the population, though, that has not been sharing equally in the gains: the long-term jobless. The share of the unemployed who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more fell to 32.8 percent, but remains extremely high by historic standards.”

“Global Poverty Levels Halved But More Africans In Extreme Poverty Than In 1990: UN Report,” by Avaneesh Pandey, International Business Times.  “While the world has managed to slash the number of poor people by half in the last 20 years, more people in sub-Saharan Africa now live in a state of extreme poverty and hunger than ever before, according to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals report published Monday.”


World Cup 2014: Football that Empowers Girls

World Cup Banner

Bread for the World's World Cup series will use the occasion of the Cup to focus on the great advances many of the participating countries and players have made in fighting hunger and poverty. Each day, until the end of the tournament, we will highlight a country, or an individual player, that is making a difference.

Sunday, July 13: Germany v. Argentina

512px-Mario_Götze,_Germany_national_football_team_(02)The final match of the World Cup between Germany and Argentina has fans on edge. Thousands are watching and asking: Who will be the champions of the 2014 World Cup?  While Germany delivered a stunning victory over Brazil in the semi-finals, Argentina enters the match with a total of nine wins. This final game promises to be not only intense, but also a chance to highlight the determination and hard work of both teams.

German midfielder Mario Götze brought not only his passion for football to Brazil, but also his heart to empower women and girls. As a devoted ambassador for Plan, an international children’s charity, Götze has supported typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines and malaria education campaigns in Sierra Leone.

At the advent of the 2014 World Cup, Götze became the spokesperson for Plan’s “Children need fans!” initiative. The goal of the project is to use soccer to combat extreme poverty, social injustice, and violence against women in Brazilian society.

“Football plays a huge role for boys and for girls in this country. But there are also many grievances: Many girls are challenged with traditional gender roles, often discriminated against, and exposed to violence and drugs,” says Götze. "The girls’ football projects of Plan International reassure girls in northeastern Brazil and give them through education the chance at a better future."

According to research compiled by the Bread for the World Institute, increased gender equality results in increased economic and agricultural productivity. The empowerment of women was linked to 55 percent of hunger reduction between 1970 and 1995. The strides that Götze and other World Cup athletes have taken in regard to gender equality demonstrates that the fight against hunger unites both men and women.

The commitment so many World Cup players have for improving the quality of life in their homelands and around the world is an inspiration. Their support of organizations that combat hunger and poverty show the potential of their fans, friends, and fellow athletes to rally in the movement toward a hunger-free world.

Photo:  German midfielder Mario Götze. (Steindy via Wikimedia Commons)


World Cup 2014: Football and Activism Fueled By Faith

World Cup Banner

Bread for the World's World Cup series will use the occasion of the Cup to focus on the great advances many of the participating countries and players have made in fighting hunger and poverty. Each day, until the end of the tournament, we will highlight a country, or an individual player, that is making a difference.

Saturday, July 12: Netherlands v. Brazil

David_Luiz_ConfedCup2013Champions17The playoff game for third place between Brazil and the Netherlands will be the last battle for both teams before returning home as contenders in the World Cup. Evenly matched at three wins and five draws, the result of this match is a coin toss. But with the support of the fans, it is no doubt that the athletes will still give their all to win. Even as the stadium lights go out and the fans, coaches, and other teams return home, several athletes will continue working on the next big fight against hunger and poverty in their home nations.

Brazil’s favorite defender, David Luiz, is no stranger to hunger as it almost took his football dreams away from him. Although it is hard to believe now, as a child Luiz was considered too small to be a football player. After being picked up by the Sao Paulo Football Club at 9 years old, he was dropped at 14 because his malnourished body was not growing. Despite this rejection, Luiz’s determination and faith propelled him to leave home for north-east Brazil to try to play for Vitória.

“My family has always been religious,” Luiz explained in an interview with FourFourTwo Magazine. “My glory is all His. I have all my blessings because He has given them. He guides our hearts and without Him I wouldn’t have left poverty nor got all the good things I have today.”

Luiz is not afraid to use his football stardom to speak out about his faith and to make a difference. In April, Luiz became the Brazilian Goodwill Ambassador for UNAIDS. Reaching out to young people, he hopes to stop discrimination and raise awareness.

“My faith in Jesus gives me strength to keep on going out onto the field and to do my best," said Luiz told BBC. “But I also want to inspire others — that is what God inspires me to do.”

Luiz’s faith acts as a driving force behind his capabilities on and off the field. Football stars like Luiz who give back to their communities also encourage their team mates and fans to do the same. The work of these athletes to bring attention to the struggles and achievements taken toward a hunger-free society continues their passion beyond sport. While many countries still have a long way to go in ending hunger, they are making a great impact through faith and the contributions of advocates like David Luiz.

Photo: David Luiz. (Tânia Rêgo via Wikimedia Commons)

Jannah's Story: 'I Survived A Refugee Camp'

JanahBy "Jannah"

I remember it like it was yesterday: I was 21 years old living in a refugee camp after a devastating famine in my home country, Eritrea. My father, my husband, and my son were all killed during the war, but I survived and found my way to Sudan with my friend Selam. It was hot that summer — at least 100 degrees most days — and it didn't rain for months. Leaving the camp meant risking your life, so we spent our days sitting in the dry, hot dirt waiting for any help that would come our way.

People grew weak and died every single day — children, mothers, fathers. I watched my friend Selam die in my arms.

Our only food was aid that came on a truck: rice with some water and maybe beans in a can. It wasn't a lot, but that food was all we had and the only way I survived. And I remember that it came from the United States.

Now, the U.S. Congress could take away even those small portions from millions of people trapped in crisis like I was. Please give whatever you can to support Bread for the World’s campaign to fight these changes.

The days in the camp are past now, but the memories stick with me. Very few people here in the United States understand what we refugees endured, what it’s like to feel less than human. What it’s like to starve.

No one should have to live like that. I don't want any more mothers to lose their children, and I don't want any more women like Selam to die. More than anything in the world, I want to help people like those who survived with me in the camps.

Organizations like Bread for the World are working to do just that by protecting and improving food aid, but for real change to happen, we need thousands of people to come together. I’m sharing my story with you today in hopes you'll be one of them.

Please donate today to help end hunger all over the world. If you give now, your gift will go even further. A group of Bread members has promised to match your gift dollar-for-dollar. Someday I hope I will be able to give myself, but until then, I'm counting on people like you. Let's all come together to protect God's children by lending our voices, our votes, and yes, our earnings to efforts that make a difference for hungry families.

Jannah is an Eritrean refugee living in the United States (Names changed to protect privacy).

If you give right now, a generous donor will match your gift, so every $1 turns into $2. Don't miss this opportunity to help Bread in its mission to end hunger.

Photo: Jannah today, years after leaving Sudan. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

Journey Around the World in Prayer With Bread

Woman prays during Bread for the World's 2014 National Gathering on June 9-10 in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

This is a new weekly prayer series that will appear each Friday on the Bread Blog.

One aspect of Bread for the World’s new Bread Rising campaign is prayer (the campaign is asking Bread members to pray, act, and give). Staff of Bread for the World in Washington, D.C., gather every Friday morning for prayer, and as part of our participation in the Bread Rising campaign, we will be praying for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.
We will be following the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, a list compiled by the World Council of Churches that enables Christians around the world to journey in prayer through every region of the world, affirming our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing their challenges and sharing their gifts.
We will especially be lifting up in prayer the challenges related to hunger and poverty that the people of each week’s countries face. In prayer, God’s story and our own story connect—and we and the world are transformed. In a prayer common to all of us—the Lord’s Prayer/the Our Father—we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This line from this prayer can also be a prayer for the end of hunger.
We invite you to join Bread staff in our prayers for the world’s countries to end hunger. And we encourage you to share with us your prayers for the featured countries of the week or for the end of hunger in general.
For the week of July 13-19, we will be praying for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Panama:

Lord, we pray for these Central American countries, where hunger and poverty persist and force people to leave their lands for an opportunity at a better life. We pray for the unaccompanied children who leave these countries and come to our country, where they don’t know the language, don’t have family, and are met by people who have forgotten your message of love and welcome. We pray for the families that have to make the agonizing decision to send their children away. May your love console and protect them. Amen.

Percentage of the population below the poverty line in these countries:

Costa Rica 24.8% (2011 est.)
El Salvador 36.5% (2010 est.)
Nicaragua 42.5% (2009 est.)
Panama 26% (2012 est.)

Source: The World Factbook of the CIA

CNN’s 'Why Won’t Washington Work' Spotlights Food-Aid Inefficiencies

11468858775_8d91cb856b_zBread for the World has worked for many years to call for better ways to get life-saving food to hungry people around the globe through U.S. food aid. Now major media outlets are catching on to the problem as well.   

A recent report on CNN highlights the inefficiencies of the current system and the costs—both in financial terms and in lives put at risk by the inflexibility. As part of a series “Why Won’t Washington Work,” CNN chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper spent time with Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) discussing food aid. Current requirements that food largely has to be purchased in the United States and then shipped on U.S. cargo carriers means that 65 percent of the money for the aid program is spent on shipping and business costs, rather than food.

This requirement also delays food delivery by months - and at critical times. “It actually takes us about three months to buy food here, and ship it, and get it to, say, the Philippines after a disaster,” Shah told CNN. “It takes two to three months to get that done.”

Shah estimates that if there were flexibility with the program and food could be purchased locally, closer to where the need is—as Bread’s Offering of Letters calls for this year—the program could feed 8 million to 10 million more people, and within days, versus months.

But political connections, rather than humanitarian concerns, are one of the things obstructing these changes to the program in Congress. Shipping companies and unions, who benefit financially from the program as it is, are opposed to any change in the current system. And they wield clout in Congress in a way that hungry people do not: According to the Center for Public Integrity, the two leading maritime unions gave more than three quarters of a million dollars to House members in the 2012 election cycle. As CNN noted, members of Congress receiving that money, Republicans and Democrats both, voted against Shah's efforts to reform the program, 83 to 29.

As CNN’s report notes, U.S. jobs and companies are important priorities. But that’s not what this money for life-saving food aid is meant for, not where it should be directed.

Even “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” knows that the shipping companies are not really the most vulnerable among us.

Photo: Lutheran Development Service distributes food to people affected by drought in Swaziland in 2004. Many distributions of U.S.food-aid items are carried out by private relief and development organizations, many of them supported by U.S. churches. (Stephen H. Padre/Bread for the World)

Elevating Hunger in the 2014 Elections

9303717422_458bed2397_bBy LaVida Davis

Summer is usually a quiet time with fewer things going on. But hunger issues don’t take a break, and July and August present good opportunities to prepare yourself and others for important work this fall in the midterm congressional elections.

To prepare yourself, start by attending Bread’s monthly conference call and webinar next Tuesday, July 15 at 4:00 p.m. ET.  This month’s call/webinar has the theme of Elevating Hunger in the 2014 Elections. You will learn ways you can raise the issues of hunger and poverty with candidates running for office. You’ll meet Bread’s new senior organizer for elections, Stephen Hill. And you’ll hear how other Bread members are engaging candidates and cultivating hunger champions this election season.

With the information you receive on the call and through the materials that Bread is producing for the 2014 elections, you’ll have what you need to equip yourself for work in the campaign leading up to the November elections. And then you’ll be prepared to help congressional candidates understand the issues of hunger and poverty.

As it has in the past, Bread is again turning to the congressional elections this year and the presidential election in 2016 as an opportune time and place to raise the issues of hunger and poverty with those who will take office and make decisions in the federal government. Bread is getting involved in these elections and is encouraging its members to engage with candidates as part of its plan to have a Congress and new president in place by 2017 who make hunger a top priority. This is a major step on the road of helping to end hunger by 2030.

Bread is using these summer months to help its members and activists get up and running for engagement with the candidates as congressional campaigns heat up. In August, candidates will be traveling around your district, campaigning hard for your vote, and that is a great time to get hunger on their agendas. 

Submit your questions for next Tuesday's call/webinar ahead of time to Tyion Miller at tmiller@bread.org. Check out our comprehensive how-to guide on the webinar conference call and register today.

LaVida Davis is the director of organizing and grassroots capacity.

Photo: Praying for immigration reform in front ot the U.S. Captiol in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World) 

Food for Peace Turns Sixty Years Old

Catarina Pascual Jiménez poses with her twins in Guatemala. Read about how a U.S.-funded nutrition program has helped her family on the 2014 Offering of Letters: Reforming U.S. Food Aid site. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

By Robin Stephenson

On this day, 60 years ago, Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Public Law 480 and created the Food for Peace program – the first permanent program in the United States to respond to global hunger. For six decades, the program has helped approximately 3 billion people in 150 countries.

Ganet Gelgehu is one of those people. A Food for Peace program administered by Catholic Relief Services in Gelgehu’s village of Gubeta Arjo in Ethiopia has helped turn her listless and malnourished twin sons Joseph and Isaac into the active two-year olds they should be. Drought has led to chronic food insecurity in the region. The program provides Galgehu and more than 300 mothers like her whose children are malnourished with a porridge that is easy to prepare and provides the nutrients necessary for healthy development. "When I compare my older children at this age with the twins, I see a difference," Gelgehu tells CRS’s regional information officer Sara A. Fajardo. "They were not this strong. They were not this healthy."

Gelegehu’s story also highlights how the Food for Peace program has transformed over the past 60 years. Targeting mothers and children with programs that focus on nutrition is a recent development – and one that can build long-term resilience against food insecurity. Research shows that every dollar invested in nutrition generates as much as $48 in better health and increased productivity.

Bread for the World celebrates our own milestone this year, marking 40 years of advocacy to end hunger. During that time we have advocated for the Food for Peace program and its transformation as we learn better and new ways to fight global food insecurity.

The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) recently introduced in the Senate could provide needed flexibility to deliver food aid, making the program more efficient. We are urging Bread for the World members to encourage their senators to become cosponsors of S. 2421. Today, Food for Peace faces funding challenges as Congress works on the 2015 budget.  We must continue to urge appropriators to adequately fund some of the reforms we won in the farm bill. We also must guard against provisions that would decrease food aid by increasing transportation costs by shipping more food from the United States.

So today we give thanks for the Food for Peace program on its 60th birthday—and for all the birthdays it has enabled children around the world to celebrate, like Joseph and Isaac.



An Immigrant's Story: Odilon Celestin

Restaurateur Odilon Celestin at his place of business in Florida. (Andrew Wainer)

The story of Haitian-born Odilon Celestin exemplifies the rags to riches narrative of many immigrants - an outcome that also benefits the communities in which they land. Andrew Wainer, senior immigration policy analyst with the Bread for the World Institute, writes about Celestin in “Harvest Haitian entrepreneurial spirit,” an article published in the Sun Sentinel last month. 

In 2001, Haitian-born Odilon Celestin arrived in Florida on a boat from the Bahamas. As an unauthorized immigrant with contacts, his work options were limited. His first job was harvesting green beans in Homestead. "I came and I didn't know people, I didn't have any friends," Celestin said. "This is how I started my life [in the United States]."

By 2003, he transitioned from agriculture to working in a bakery, eventually launching his own storefront restaurant in the Haitian enclave of North Miami. The banks turned down his loan requests, but he drew from a local nonprofit and his own savings for start-up capital.

Ten years later, Celestin received a $380,000 bank loan to open a second, larger restaurant that occupies 3,000 square feet, has capacity for 80 customers, and will have 11 employees.

For many immigrants, the driving force to succeed is the escape from poverty. Wainer has written extensively about factors that motivate people to leave their countries of origin in search of a better life. The humanitarian crisis on the southern border of the United States is a stark example of what life without hope can lead to - parents sending their children on a dangerous journey to spare them from violence and poverty.

The exodus from poverty is familiar to Christians and many Americans. For 40 years, Moses and his charges wandered the desert fleeing poverty and violence. Some of us can look a few generations back in our own family narratives and find the ancestor who arrived at Ellis Island with no more than a suitcase and a heart full of hope. For some, it is our parents who made the hard decision to leave their families to give us opportunity; for others, the story is in process.

Full of hardship and determination, the migrant’s story often concludes with success, especially when other positive conditions are present. Immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship is critical to business sustainability. Research shows that a path to citizenship will expand the U.S. economy by more than 5 percent over 20 years. Celestin’s entrepreneurial drive turned him into a job creator and resulted in an economic stimulus in his community.

In a country still struggling to rise out the Great Recession, harnessing the entrepreneurial drive of Celestin and others like him makes economic sense. Reflecting on our own narratives of exodus may instill in our hearts the Christian compassion that reminds us to hold out our hand in fellowship to others who come with nothing but hope.


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