Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

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.


World Cup 2014: Playing for a Better Future

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.

Wednesday, July 9: Netherlands v. Argentina

Robin Van Persie (Wikimedia Commons)

The Netherlands and Argentina meet today to determine the second team to play in the World Cup finals. Top scorer for Argentina and established futbol veteran, Lionel Messi, and the renowned striker for the Netherlands, Robin van Persie, are sure to be head turners throughout the match. Yet while both will be fighting to be the World Cup Champions, both are also making significant contributions to the fight against hunger and poverty worldwide.

Van Persie is an avid supporter of the New Street League and was a large proponent of the launch of the organization’s website. This charity is dedicated to changing lives through football, specifically for young children who are affected by hunger and poverty. Van Persie’s involvement in this organization is an essential part of his commitment to address issues that affect current generations to create a better world for future generations.

Within previous posts, we have discussed the generosity of Messi and his philanthropy. He has taken several initiatives to support the end of hunger and poverty in Argentina. Recently, Messi was initiated as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador to highlight the challenges faced by children and to fight for children’s rights. Messi brings his efforts to ensure that no child suffers from hunger to places around the world.

World Cup athletes who are also dedicated to changing lives give everyone, especially children affected by hunger and poverty, an opportunity to see how big dreams can make even bigger changes to benefit the lives of many. The work of athletes like Van Persie and Messi in the movement to end hunger is an indication of the significant progress these football stars make in their communities.

Double Your Impact and Help Protect Food Aid

By Woody Clinard

5367305116_01837af8af_zRight now, 1.3 million people are displaced after fleeing violence in South Sudan. Thousands upon thousands of children are struggling just to find their next meal. It’s absolutely heartbreaking, and Congress is poised to make it even worse.

We need to do something. That’s why a group of us have committed to match every dollar raised for Bread for the World until July 15, up to $50,000.

I’ve been involved with Bread for more than 17 years, and I’ve seen what our community can do when we come together to fight for what’s right. Truth be told, I’m usually a private person, but I’m speaking out because today – right now – is an important moment in the fight to end hunger. There is a bill in Congress that would make it harder to send food and other life-saving support to countries in crisis. The proposal in Congress would take food away from millions of the world’s hungriest people, many of them young children. I’m shocked and angry, and I bet you are too.

But the good news is that Bread for the World is working hard to protect food aid and other life-saving programs. Just last month, we won an important victory when the House voted to appropriate $10 million for the purchase of food aid closer to the place of need, allowing our food-aid dollars to be spent more efficiently and reach more people. By lobbying Congress, organizing our communities, and developing effective policy solutions, we are making a big difference for those who need us most.

Join me in giving what you can to Bread for the World. For the next six days, every $1 you give will yield $2 so that Bread for the World can advocate for programs that help end hunger at home and abroad.

I’m immensely proud of the work that Bread for the World has done in the years that I’ve been involved with them. Like many of you, I’ve donated, volunteered, and contacted my members of Congress. But now more than ever, we need to step up for the ones who need us most. Our faith calls us to action, and collectively we can make a difference. 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.

Woody Clinard is a Bread for the World member from Winston-Salem, NC.

Photo: Liberian girl (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).


World Cup 2014: Using Football to Climb Out of Poverty

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.

Tuesday July 8: Germany v. Brazil

640px-Dani_Alves-_Scotland_vs_Brazil_Mar10Fighting for a spot in the 2014 World Cup finals, the home team of Brazil will battle it out with Germany for the first time since defeating them in the 2002 World Cup. Although both teams are legendary in the world of football, their experience of hunger is a study in contrasts.

While nearly all of Germany’s players come from upper- and middle-class family backgrounds, nearly all of Brazil’s players have used football to climb out of poverty. This is the story for Brazil’s offensive right back, Dani Alves. The son of a melon farmer, Alves spent his youth working as a farmer, trader, and waiter before rising to football stardom. By partnering with charities that deal with health, housing, and education, Alves has helped prevent other children from experiencing the same disparity that he faced as a child. 

“My commitment to charity work, especially with the neediest, allows me to give back some of the warmth and positivity that I receive on a daily basis,” wrote Alves on his website. Through individual efforts such as his, and collective efforts such as the Zero Hunger Initiative and The Organic Law of Food and Nutritional Security, Brazil has been slowly rising out of extreme poverty.

Despite having a comparatively privileged upbringing, Germany’s players have also encountered hunger. When discussing why he engages with charity work, German captain Philipp Lahm confessed that he was “shaken” by his visit to South Africa in 2007 to see the country that would host the 2010 World Cup and the poverty he saw there.

"I grew up in Munich with all the advantages that a good environment and family backing can give a child. I had a great start to life and got support all along the road to success as a professional footballer. Now I want to help others who haven’t been as lucky as I have." Soon after his trip, Lahm founded the Philipp Lahm Foundation which supports initiatives in both Germany and South Africa.

While each individual may differ in their personal experience with hunger, it is still a collective problem. Alves and Lahm show us that no matter what our socioeconomic backgrounds may be, we can all be part of the solution.

Photo:  Dani Alves (Wikimedia Commons).

Lobby Day is 'the coolest'

Libby capitol 2By Libby McDermott

As a Young Adult Volunteer [a program of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)] in Boston, I have gotten to do a lot of cool things: working with some amazing organizations, nonprofits, and farms; going to movie showings and panel discussions on a regular basis; and learning how to make things like applesauce, noodles, and chicken stock from scratch. Working with Bread for the World and getting to participate in and help with Lobby Day, aka the happiest and most chaotic day of the year for Bread staffers, was probably the coolest.

I flew into D.C. for the National Gathering and Lobby Day, June 9 and 10, along with hundreds of other Christians from all different backgrounds and denominations. I had the opportunity to meet wonderful people from all over the country and made some great connections with fellow Presbyterians.

What sets Bread apart from other nonprofit and social-justice, political-advocacy organizations is faith– it’s the source and reason for their power. There were political analysts and people from Washington who are knowledgeable and have influence, but that’s not who resonated with or moved the crowd. Speakers who shared their powerful testimony of being a young, undocumented American or being a returning citizen trying to get a job or a buy a house after being released from prison really got to the heart of why we do this work of political advocacy. Even when – especially when – the goal of ending hunger and poverty seems daunting and impossible, we are reminded that we are not alone and that we can do these things together in faith.

On Lobby Day, we heard great speeches about the day’s topics – immigration reform and food-aid reform – and why as Christians it’s important to be a voice for the voiceless. I couldn’t decide if it was a political briefing with a lot of Scripture or a sermon with a lot of specific numbers. Then it was game time. We split into regions, then states, then districts to plan the visits with our senators and representatives. I was in charge of the Massachusetts delegation, about ten in total. We planned who was going to say what, grabbed lunch, and got on the shuttle to Capitol Hill. The energy in the room and on the shuttle bus was pretty palpable; everyone was excited, nervous, and ready to go.

As we were riding on the van, it hit me – on streets full of charter buses and tourists, here we are, a group of Christians, all different kinds, from all over the country, coming together because our faith demands that we act when we see injustice, poverty, and hunger in the world, and that’s exactly what we were doing. It felt empowering, exciting, and important. One of or mottoes of the day was, “If you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can move Congress,” and that’s exactly what we were going to do.

We met with aides from Sen. Ed Markey's, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's, and Rep. Katherine Clark’s offices. We had great conversations with them all explaining why food aid and immigration reform are so necessary and why we care so much about the oppressed and the hungry. We even got to speak with Rep. Clark and take a picture with her.

At the end of the long day there was a reception to honor retiring members of Congress who have championed issues of ending hunger and poverty, usually because their faith, rather than political party, demands that they do so. Lobby Day ended with a worship service where people shared where they experienced God during the day and in their lobby visits. People raised up all of the hard work of the staff, the community among the members, the feeling of accomplishment and civic responsibility after meeting with Congresspeople and advocating for people who can’t pay for lobbyists.

I left feeling exhausted but inspired and committed to this work of fighting injustice, and encouraged and grateful to be working with such a wonderful staff and to join my voice with this great cloud of witnesses on Capitol Hill.

Libby McDermott is an intern in the organizing department at Bread for the World and a participant in the Presbyterian young adult volunteer program.  This blog post originally appeared in Food and Faith, a blog of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Photo:  Libby McDermott in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., June 10, 2014. (Courtesy of Libby McDermott).

Congress Recommends Cuts to Poverty-Focused Development Assistance Funding

FY15 Funding Recommendations No L.HHS

Recently, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees passed their annual funding legislation for the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other related agencies, known as the State-Foreign Operations (SFOPs) bill.  

Each year, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees meet to determine funding levels for vital programs that affect hungry people here in the United States and abroad. On the international front, Bread for the World specifically follows the parts of the budget known as poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) accounts, which includes funding for various programs related to food and nutrition security, global health, basic education, water and sanitation, maternal and child care, refugee assistance, and emergency humanitarian response, to name just a few. 

While the House and Senate decided to recommend the same overall funding level for PFDA programs ($21.9 billion), this funding is slightly lower than current levels ($22.3 billion). Both the House and Senate made recommendations to cut global health programs, which includes funding for maternal and child health, nutrition, family planning, vaccines for malaria, tuberculosis, and tropical diseases, and HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.

The Senate specifically approved a $100 million cut to Feed the Future. In the House, a 21 percent cut to International Organizations and Programs was also made. Funding in this account is used to support U.S contributions to international organizations like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Development Program.

Thanks in large part to Bread for the World members and their advocacy efforts, we have helped prevent even more severe cuts from being recommended, but we continue to call on Congress to provide additional funding for PFDA programs before finalizing funding levels for the next fiscal year.

Additional resources will help us support humanitarian aid efforts in places in conflict like Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Looking beyond emergency aid, we hope to not backtrack on the many investments we have made to long-term development programs over the years, such as with child survival.

These programs save lives. Due in part to American commitments, the number of deaths of children under five has dropped by half since 1990. In the past 12 years alone, 700,000 fewer children have died from pneumonia, 300,000 fewer children from malaria, and 100,000 fewer children from AIDS.

As these children grow into adults, their survival has the potential to translate into even greater stories of improved economic and social well-being, with benefits felt far beyond their households and country borders—even back on American shores. Congress must continue its vital role in ensuring this becomes a reality by increasing PFDA funding levels in the upcoming fiscal year.  


Hunger in the News: Poverty Drives Child Migration, Food Aid Rations Cut in Africa, Summer Food

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

"DHS: Violence, poverty, is driving children to flee Central America to U.S.," by Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, Jens Manuel Krogstad, and Mark Hugo Lopez, The Pew Center. "Of the thousands of unaccompanied children apprehended at the U.S. border in recent months, many can be attributed to poverty and regional violence in three Central American countries, a new U.S. Department of Homeland Security document finds."

"UN Forced to Cut Food Rations to African Refugees," by Kells Hetherington, Voice of America. “The cuts are ‘threatening to worsen already unacceptable levels of acute malnutrition, stunting and anemia, particularly in children,’ the WFP and refugee agency UNHCR said in a joint statement.”

"Programs Target Poverty in Obama's Five 'Promise Zones'," by Kelly McEvers, All Things Considered, NPR. "Persistent interracial poverty is a complicated problem. There are a lot of big forces that are perpetuating it."

"Bipartisan bill would extend unemployment insurance," by Cristina Marcos, The Hill. "Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) have introduced a bill that would extend unemployment insurance for five months."

“Sen. Patty Murray's plan to reduce summer childhood hunger” by David Sarasohn, The Oregonian.  “Twenty-one million kids get free or reduced-price school lunches, but summer food programs reach only three million of them.”

“What Kept Food Security from Improving After the Recession?“ by Alisha Coleman-Jensen, USDA, Food Assistance Branch, Economic Research Service.  “The association of food insecurity with unemployment, inflation, and the relative price of food are explored in our recent ERS report.”

“Cyclists pedal for hunger in central Neb.” By Ellen Mortensen,  Kearny Hub.  “I listened to a speaker back in the early ’90s who said every time you take a breath, someone dies of hunger. I saw all the agriculture in our state, and it really bothered me that here we are with all this food and people are dying of hunger. I knew I had to do something about it,”


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