Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Hunger in the News: Aid Shortages, Women Farmers, National Food Policy, Lame Duck

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

Iraq, Syria Face Chronic Aid Shortages,” by Ayesha Tanzeem, Voice of America.  “The United Nations says Iraq, Syria face a chronic shortage of aid funding despite the massive scale of the humanitarian crisis in the region.”

Women Feeding the World: Planet Forward Salon Searches for Solutions,” by Emma Shorr, Food Tank. "[W]omen are more affected by climate change in developing countries than men, and that women are also the solution to addressing serious issues such as nutritional deficiencies, food insecurity, hunger, and poverty."

How a national food policy could save millions of American lives,” by By Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Ricardo Salvador and Olivier De Schutter, The Washington Post. “A national food policy would invest resources to guarantee that “[a]ll Americans have access to healthful food” and “[t]he food industry [as the largest sector of our economy] pays a fair wage to those it employs,” among other things.”

As Lame-Duck Session Begins, Congress to Focus on Approps, Ebola, and Islamic State,” by Billy House and Rachel Roubein, National Journal. “[A]n omnibus spending bill, or some other more-temporary measure, must be taken up by this outgoing House and Senate to extend government funding beyond Dec. 11 and keep agencies operating.

“Is Food Insecurity Really on the Decline?” by Steve Holt, Take Part. “Gallup’s latest poll says it is, but antihunger advocates warn that poverty is still a persistent problem.”

Philippines Struggles to Recover a Year After Typhoon Haiyan Tragedy,” by Mong Palatino, The Diplomat.  “A year has passed since super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) wreaked destruction in the central part of the Philippine islands.”

Center for Rural Affairs: EITC effective ‘rural program’,” The Grand Island Independent. “The Center for Rural Affairs has released a new report that examines the impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) on rural and small town America.”

Feed the Future Acts Introduced in Congress

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Feed the Future is helping increase opportunities for smallholder farmers like Alice Monigo in Uganda by providing trainings for women. (CNFA/Feed the Future)


New legislation in Congress, if passed, would give the U.S. government the tools and resources it needs to better fight chronic hunger and malnutrition as well to expand and better coordinate U.S. investments in improving global food security.

On Sept. 18, H.R. 5656 was introduced by Reps. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) and Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) in the House. S. 2909 was introduced by Sens. Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and John Boozman (R-Ark.) in the Senate. These bills would permanently codify and authorize this comprehensive approach to global food security, ensuring the initiative continues beyond the current administration.

Background

Feed the Future was created at the end of the George W. Bush administration and early in the Obama administration as the U.S.’s response to the rapid rise in global food prices that occurred from 2007 until 2009. Since its creation in 2010, Feed the Future has achieved impressive results in its 19 focus countries, helping more than seven million small farmers increase crop production and providing nutritious foods to more than 12.5 million children in 2013 alone.

While the program has been funded by Congress in annual appropriations legislation, without official authorization, the future of this program remains in the balance.

Gains for Farmers

“We are delighted to see bipartisan legislation introduced in both the House and Senate,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “This proves that ending hunger is not a partisan endeavor but a priority that should be held by everyone.”

By authorizing Feed the Future, further gains will be made in improving the livelihoods of small-holder farmers, strengthening maternal and child nutrition, and building capacity for long-term agricultural growth. While there are differences between the House and Senate bills, they are considerably alike in purpose. Specifically, both bills would require the administration to develop a whole-of-government strategy to address global food insecurity and malnutrition. This strategy is designed to help hungry nations around the world develop smart, long-term, country-specific agriculture policies and to ensure these nations independently meet the nutrition needs of their people.

Both bills stress the importance of good nutrition, especially during the critical 1,000-day window from a woman’s pregnancy until her child’s second birthday. This helps to reduce stunting, life-long poor health, impaired cognitive and physical development, and diminished productivity. There is a strong emphasis in the bills on working with local farmers to improve their techniques, helping to stabilize food production and improve self-sufficiency.

Both bills also focus strongly on women’s economic empowerment, a significant component, considering that women are often heads of households and small-holder farmers, making them especially vulnerable to food insecurity. By further engaging women, Feed the Future aims to increase women’s farm yields and total food output and close the significant 20 to 30 percent yield gap that currently exists between male and female farmers.

“Eliminating barriers for women farmers will not only help to sustain their long-term economic prosperity, but will also help to improve their children’s nutrition, health, and lifelong potential,” added Beckmann.

This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's November online newsletter.

World Prayers for Nov. 9-15: Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe

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Saint Michel of Nkembo Church, Libreville, Gabon. Photo by Vincent.vaquin from Wikimedia Commons

This is a weekly prayer series that appears 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. In this blog series, we will be providing a prayer for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.
 
This prayer series will follow 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 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 November 9-15, we pray for: Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe:

God our creator, you created the Earth in all of its vastness. There are places that are often unknown to us but known to you, and there are needs that are unknown to us but known to you. This week we pray for far-away places from our home in the United States: Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe.

We give thanks for Christians in these countries and people who are fighting the causes of hunger, such as HIV and AIDS and violence. We pray for an end of the suffering that hunger and these things cause. We lift up people who are involved in subsistence agriculture, that their crops may be plentiful and they have enough food to eat and clean water to drink. We pray that the leaders of these countries will use their power justly in service to all people and refrain from corrupt practices. And we pray for the just sharing of these countries’ natural resources, particularly oil, so that all the people may reap the benefits of what you have given and not just those in power or international corporations. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus, amen.

Percentage of the population of these countries living below the national poverty line (2014 figures):

Republic of Congo: 46.5
Gabon:
not available
Sao Tome and Principe:
61.7

Source: World Bank World Development Indicators as found in the upcoming 2015 Hunger Report

Tell Congress to finish the job – for the sake of the children

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By Eric Mitchell

This week, millions of Americans voted in the midterm elections. Their message was clear: Regardless of party affiliation, voters want a government that can get things done.

The government doesn’t need to wait until the new Congress is seated in January. The current Congress can do something when it returns to Washington next week, and your representative’s support will be key in whether legislation regarding refugee children is voted into law.

The Bible tells the story of Moses, who as an innocent child, fleeing for his life, was set adrift in a basket toward an uncertain future with only a prayer and his mother’s hope for his safety. Scripture also teaches us to love the stranger in our land (Leviticus19:33-34).

Earlier this year, few in Congress were paying attention to the root causes of hunger, poverty, and violence that have driven more than 68,000 Central American children to seek refuge in the United States.

But thanks to Bread for the World members like you who sent over 10,000 emails to Congress, a bill has been introduced that does exactly what we’ve been calling for.

When members of Congress return to Washington next week, they won’t be in town long.

  • Call and ask your representative to cosponsor the Security and Opportunity for Vulnerable Migrant Children Act of 2014 (H.R. 5368) to address the root causes of hunger, poverty, and violence in Central America (Capitol switchboard: 800/826-3688). You can also send an email.

Combined with strong funding for global anti-hunger programs, this bill would ensure more children grow up in safe communities with educational and employment opportunities, pursuing futures of promise. This means they would have fewer reasons to leave their home countries in the first place and could stay with their families.

The bill requires the State Department to develop a strategy to address the issues that are driving children from their home countries. It also creates an Ambassador-at-Large for Unaccompanied Migrant Children to further protect refugee children.

Please contact your U.S. representative today, and urge him/her to cosponsor H.R. 5368, the Security and Opportunity for Vulnerable Migrant Children Act of 2014.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

Bread Challenges the Newly Elected Congress

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Bread for the World members in front of the Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. (Bread for the World)


By David Beckmann

On Tuesday, while the Senate shifted to Republican control, 18,000 children around the world died unnecessarily. Nearly half those deaths were caused by hunger. And in the United States, 16 million children still live in families that struggle to put food on the table.

Bread for the World’s members work for justice for hungry people in the United States and around the world regardless of how power shifts between our nation’s political parties. We pray that all our nation’s leaders will work to end hunger.  

The number of people in extreme poverty in the world has been cut in half since 1990, and there has been progress in all kinds of countries, from Bangladesh to Brazil to Great Britain. If Congress and the president make opportunity for everybody a priority, we can end hunger in the United States and support continued progress toward ending hunger worldwide.

Bread for the World’s top priority for the 114th Congress will be the scheduled reauthorization of the nation’s child nutrition programs. Republicans and Democrats should work together to strengthen school and summer nutrition programs.  But House Republicans have been pushing for deep cuts in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). Churches and food banks across the country have been unable to make up for the groceries that Congress took away from hungry families last year.

Bread for the World also notes with optimism bipartisan interest in other issues important to people in poverty:

  • When Congress returns later this month, the leaders of both houses seem inclined to steer away from another budget crisis and finalize appropriations for the current fiscal year.

  • The parties should be able to work together on continued progress against world poverty–the fight against Ebola and bills to reform food aid, strengthen agriculture and nutrition in poor countries, and promote trade with Africa.

  • Leaders in both parties are calling for reforms to correct injustices in the criminal justice system that have crowded U.S. prisons and deepened the poverty of many communities.

  • Tax credits for low-wage workers reduce poverty while encouraging work.

God has made it possible in our time to virtually end hunger in our country and around the world, so Bread for the World is pushing with urgency to make hunger, poverty, and opportunity for everybody a priority for our political leaders. We will push for change over the next two years and in the next round of elections for president and Congress.

Rev. David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World.

A Midterm Winner: Raising the Minimum Wage

 

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A woman cleans an office in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson

Regardless of whether your candidate won a seat in Congress yesterday, one thing was made clear during the 2014 midterm elections: raising the minimum wage is a popular issue with voters - an issue that crosses partisan divides.

Yesterday, ballot measures to increase the minimum wage passed in Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska, and South Dakota.  Since 2013, 13 states have opted to raise their minimum wage.  The momentum is building.

A full-time job should pay enough to support a family. For too many, it does not – but that is slowly changing as voters speak up in state after state.  However, a real path to ending wage stagnation and income inequality in the United States requires Congress to do its part.

Raising the minimum wage is no small accomplishment for workers like Gregory Stewart, 36, of Little Rock, Ark., who wants to provide for his daughters. He works two jobs and still depends on family support.  Raising the minimum wage from $6.25 to $8.50 by 2017 will help the Stewarts. Closing the wage gap is a first step in moving Arkansas away from the label as hungriest state.

Republican senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton, the senator-elect for Arkansas, now have an opportunity to do even more for families like the Stewarts.  They should help pass a federal minimum wage that gives all workers a fair deal.

In 2014, Congress failed to act at the federal level. In April, the Senate failed to pass The Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S. 1737). The bill would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, index it for inflation, and raise the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the general minimum wage.

The federal minimum wage is set at $7.25, translating to a $15,080 annual salary for a full-time worker, and has not been increased since 2009, even though the cost of living has risen.  If the minimum wage had kept up with U.S. productivity growth since 1950, it would be $18.67 today.  This year's Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, points out that 28 percent of U.S. workers earn poverty-level wages.

“Too many workers in this country face hard times as a result of insufficient wages,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in a press release earlier this year. “There is no reason that full-time workers should struggle to provide for their families.”

We are likely to see The Minimum Wage Fairness Act come up for a vote again.  This time, perhaps Congress will be listening and give American workers a fair deal.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Hunger Justice Leader Wins Brave Preacher Award

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Rev. Annie Edison-Albright went through Bread’s Hunger Justice Leader training in 2008. She subsequently became a Lutheran pastor in Wisconsin and has received an award for a sermon she preached on poverty.  (Jay Mallin)

By Stephen Padre

What happens after Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leaders are trained and return to their work? If you preach for your profession, like Rev. Annie Edison-Albright, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Stevens Point, Wisc., you might talk about hunger and poverty in your sermons and even be recognized for the risks it sometimes involves.

Edison-Albright is the 2014 recipient of The Beatitudes Society's Brave Preacher Award. The organization announced her as the winner of its award on Nov. 3 for a sermon she preached earlier this year. The theme of this year’s award was the violence of poverty and income inequality in the United States. Criteria for the award include the relationship of current context to biblical text, courageous proclamation, and attention to the preacher's craft.  According to its website, the mission of The Beatitudes Society is to identify and equip “emerging leaders to grow Progressive Christian faith communities for the sake of justice and the common good.”

Edison-Albright  describes her congregation, its response to her preaching, and her own anxiety about delivering her sermon in a news release from the organization:

"Redeemer Lutheran Church is an ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] congregation where 50-90 people worship at one service every Sunday, located in Central Wisconsin in a small, predominantly Roman Catholic, college town. The congregation is almost entirely white, with significant diversity in age, socioeconomic status, political views, and religious background.

"I felt called to preach about the extreme prejudice against people living in poverty, particularly attacks aimed at fast food workers striking for an increased minimum wage. I struggled with how to call out this injustice without singling out a few members of my congregation and letting the rest off the hook; the terrible Facebook memes I've seen are a symptom of a much larger, systemic sin that we all participate in. My goal was to convey that the people living in poverty whom we reject and dehumanize are incarnations of Jesus Christ. I worry that I didn't focus clearly enough on the systemic nature of the oppression faced by people living in poverty. I also don't like that it's clearly an example of a privileged pastor talking to (mostly) privileged people about (largely absent) people in poverty; I struggle with speaking honestly about the privilege in my context without creating an us/them dichotomy.

"My congregation is used to me preaching on topics in the news, so this sermon wasn't out of the ordinary in that way, but I found it challenging to prepare and nerve-wracking to deliver…A couple people have seen the sermon as an invitation into deeper conversation with me about poverty and politics, and I'm deeply grateful for that."

As for the $500 prize that comes with the award, Edison-Albright says, “My plan is to give $250 to Bread for the World, which invested in me and trained me as a Hunger Justice Leader back in 2008, and taught me so much of what I know about changing systems of injustice through advocacy.” She said she plans to give the other half to the Portage County Mobile Pantry, which delivers food to hungry people in the rural areas surrounding Stevens Point. “The Pantry just recently moved into their new home in my congregation's church building. I think this is a very Lutheran, very both/and approach: we need both charitable assistance and systemic change until hunger is eliminated completely."

Stephen Padre is the managing editor at Bread for the World.

Bread Rising in New Mexico: Celebrating the Past, Looking to the Future

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(Left to Right) Debbie Steffen, Joan Brown, Anne Hanke, Terese Bridges , Rev. Steve Miller,  Mark Peceny, Erik Medina, and Bill Miller (photo courtesy of Carlos Navarro).

I do not understand the mystery of grace -- only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us. -Anne Lamott


By Carlos Navarro

How did we get here? What did we accomplish? Where are we going? Those central questions were part of our simple but very meaningful celebration of prayer, reflection, and song on Saturday, October 25, which we called Bread Rising in New Mexico. Several dozen people joined in the celebration at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church that afternoon.

We came together to observe Bread for the World's 40th birthday. More importantly, we put together a celebration that allowed us to stop and think of how that long history of Bread applied to us here in New Mexico. Just as all politics is local, all grassroots advocacy is rooted in local activity.

We asked St. Andrew to host the event because this congregation has been a part of Bread for the World's history in Albuquerque from almost the very beginning. (We could have also held our celebration at St. Paul Lutheran Church, with whom we also have a long relationship).

With a slide show we celebrated the decision of Jim Brown, a member of the Christian Brothers, to take on the role of  volunteer state coordinator in 1984. We rejoiced as we remembered how a group of Bread members, including Lutheran Campus Pastor Howard Corry, decided to create a local group in 1989 and then promote Offerings of Letters among churches in Albuquerque. Then we lifted up the dozens of churches that stepped up over the years to hold  letter-writing Sundays (and sometimes Saturdays and weeknights) in New Mexico, including Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church in the tiny community of Truchas, Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in downtown Albuquerque, St. John's United Methodist Church in Santa Fe, and many, many others. Here is a video of my introduction to the slide show.

Celebrating People

Our advocacy over the years went beyond the pen and paper (and more recently the computer). We viewed pictures of Bread members from New Mexico who took our message directly to members of Congress and of candidates with direct visits in Albuquerque and Washington. We also used the occasion to recognize one of our own members of Congress, who has been an "Outstanding Anti-Hunger Adovcate for New Mexico."

Our slide show also celebrated dozens of individuals who have long been the core of Bread New Mexico over the past 30 years, including those who were involved in the 1990s, the 2000s, those who are part of our current leadership team, and the local members who have become involved more recently. And how can we forget our regional organizers?  Emily Abbott, Zelinda Welch, Matt Newell-Ching, Holly Hight, and Robin Stephenson. We also expressed gratitude for the partnerships that we forged with the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry, The New Mexico Conference of Churches, New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps, and the CARE Action Network.

Our walk down memory lane also included scenes of those times when we came together for worship in ecumenical services, Circle of Protection prayers and songs, and to heed the call from Pope Francis to pray for an end to hunger. Because we come from diverse Christian faith traditions, our ecumenical choir was an important part of our celebration. And fittingly, the opening and closing song was Bread for the World, a piece composed by Marty Haugen on the occasion of Bread's 35th anniversary. We also have a video of the choir performing Pan de Vida (Bob Hurd).

Looking Ahead: The Bread Rising Campaign

Our review of our history was very important for the other purpose that brought us together in this sanctuary: the Bread Rising campaign, which aims to end hunger by 2030. David Miner, national chair of the Bread Rising campaign and an anti-hunger activist in Indianapolis, was a special guest at our service.

The campaign urges Bread members and supporters around the country to take three important actions: 1) increase our commitments to ongoing prayers for the end of hunger; 2) redouble our commitment to advocacy; 3) provide the resources to help our organization leverage the big changes that are needed to end hunger. We asked local Bread members to prepare reflections on those three actions as well as the goal to end hunger in our country by 2030. Those reflections are included in a separate piece that we will be posting soon.

Carlos Navarro has been a Bread member for over 20 years and has led Bread’s presence in New Mexico for the last decade. He maintains the Bread for the World New Mexico website and blog, and serves on the Bread for the World board of directors.

Reprinted with permission from the Bread New Mexico blog.

 

Why I Vote

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By Sheena Meade

Why I vote is an easy question for me to answer for two reasons. When I think of my right to vote, I am reminded of the people who were hanged, bitten by dogs, and sprayed by water hoses just so I can have the right to vote.  Civil rights were dearly won by many people who lived before me, even though rights are not things that certain groups of people should have to earn. Living in Florida, that memory is very close to me.  Less than 30 miles from where I live, Harry T. Moore and his wife were murdered on Christmas night in 1951 for their activism.  As a leader in the NCAAP, Moore helped increased the registration of minority and women voters in Florida. 

Secondly, I was raised in a family in which civic engagement is a mainstay.  I have memories of my immediate family advocating for poor and marginalized people during my early years.  My mother would always tell me that one of the best ways to change a community for the better was by voting.  I remember witnessing her going out into the community and encouraging people to vote.  If her influence wasn’t enough, the church I attended taught me that, as a Christian, I am compelled to be Christ-like.  I learned early on that Christ was the consummate advocate.  His primary focus was on the young, sick, and the marginalized.  He strove to change the dreary conditions of the least, lost, and forgotten.  I vote to do the same, and would like to encourage others to do the same today.

Add your name to the pledge to end hunger.  Join me and others who are raising our voices and making it clear that we vote to end hunger.  

Sheena Meade is the interim deputy director in the organizing department at Bread for the World, southern hub

Hunger in the News: Investigating Food Aid, Famine Averted, Polling on Hunger

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

Hunger pains: U.S. food program struggles to move forward,” a Medill-USA TODAY investigation, USA Today.  “The U.S. spends more than half of its international food aid budget transporting life-saving commodities through a tangled system of special interests and government bureaucracy – more than $9 billion in taxpayer dollars over a recent 10-year period, finds a Medill/USA TODAY investigation.”

Hunger: An issue we can agree on,” by By Sara Lilygren and Jim Weill, The Hill. “More than 80 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Independents believe the federal and local government has responsibility, and 50 percent of Republicans believe that the federal government has responsibility.”

“South Sudan famine temporarily averted, but risks remain: U.N.,” by Drazen Jorgic, Reuters. “Aid and some small harvests have helped stave off a feared famine in South Sudan, but any more fighting there could still leave millions facing severe hunger next year, a senior World Food Program (WFP) official said on Friday.”

“CAR Food Security Hard Hit,” by Joe DeCapua, Voice of America. “The U.N. assessment found that ‘food reserves in rural areas are now around 40 to 50 percent lower than average levels.’ Family income levels are down sharply.”

“Why aren't food stamps an issue in midterm elections?” by Jana Kasperkevic, The Guardian.  “When I took over as a director of the food bank, it was doing about 4m pounds of distribution a year and had no additional programs. This year we will do 20m pounds.”

Why child poverty in the US may be much worse than you realize,” by Danielle Kurtzleben, Vox. “Poverty is unevenly spread, and for many college-educated, urban-dwelling, well-to-do Americans can be almost entirely hidden.”

 

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