More than 30 years ago, Bread for the World president David Beckmann lived and worked in Bangladesh, and saw extreme poverty while in the country. A few years ago, he and his wife went back for a visit, traveling to the northwest region where they once lived, and saw something amazing.
"What was best about this experience was that although people are still extremely poor, they are dramatically less poor than they were 30 years ago," Beckmann said during a talk at the Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale University on Feb. 9. "The changes have been spectacular."
Beckmann spoke about improvements to infrastructure, such as new roads and buildings, as well as how people's lives have changed—he saw children that looked better nourished, and met women who were taking advantage of new literacy education and microcredit programs. And these changes aren't unique to the country he once called home. "This same thing has happened in hundreds of thousands of communities in the world," he said. "The World Bank judges that the number of people in the world in extreme poverty has been cut in half in the last 30 years."
At the Saint More Catholic Chapel and Center to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of its soup kitchen, Beckmann spread the message that the dramatic progress that has been made in alleviating extreme hunger and poverty is evidence that ending hunger is within reach.
"Those of us who believe in God and can read about and understand this huge change in the world, I think we have to understand this as our loving God moving history," he said. "I've come to see this as a great exodus in our own time; this is God answering prayers on a huge scale. And I think our loving God is asking us to get with the program. Because in our time, it is clearly possible to make much, much more progress—probably to virtually end extreme poverty and hunger within a couple decades."
Beckmann also talked about what it will take to accomplish this—namely, building the political will to move our leaders and "change big systems in ways that will move us toward the end of hunger in our country and around the world."
By connecting with members of Congress—through letter writing and participating in Offerings of Letters, in-person visits, and writing letters to the editor, people learn “that we have power, we can change things," Beckmann said. "Learn how you can be an active citizen and make the world more like how you think God wants it to be."
Watch the full video of the tlak above, and then learn more about conducting an Offering of Letters, and what you can do to help move history.
A girl enjoys a meal provided in rural Guatemala. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provides funding for school meals (Food for Education) in some of the most impoverished and malnurished areas. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)
By Ryan Quinn
Thanks in part to your efforts, 800,000 more people could have access to U.S. food aid each year.
Over the last few months, you've sent thousands of emails to Congress asking for reforms to make food aid more effective and efficient. And modest but significant changes have come in a wide-ranging farm law just signed by President Obama and a bipartisan budget agreement. Together these bills will make it easier for the United States to buy food closer to where it's needed and provide more flexibility around "monetization," a practice in which organizations ship U.S. crops overseas, resell them, and use the money to finance nonemergency programs — something that can be costly and burdensome.
These changes are helping hungry people affected by the crises in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and those affected by the massive typhoon in the Philippines last year.
While these changes are a step in the right direction, there is much more we can do to ensure that our federal government's food-aid policies are better able to help people in times of crisis and in fostering long-term solutions to hunger.
Your participation in Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters campaign is critical to our success. Please take a moment to email your members of Congress. Urge them to fully fund these changes in food aid while enhancing nutritional quality and increasing program flexibility.
Together, we can help ensure that millions more children and families can be reached by food aid. Having grown up living in a lot of different places around the world, I've found that it is a deep and abiding sense of faith, community, and compassion that connects a small town in America to a refugee camp on the border of Syria or Somalia.
With your faith, compassion, and voice, we will convince our nation's leaders to give international food-aid programs the agility they need to be more effective and save more lives. Thanks for speaking out!
Ryan Quinn is senior international policy analyst at Bread for the World.
It’s no secret the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP, or food stamps) has been dealt a series of crushing blows over the last several months. We’ve seen unprecedented cuts to the program, including an $11 billion cut that took effect on Nov. 1, and impacted more than 47 million Americans. Earlier this month, an additional $8.6 billion cut to SNAP included in the farm bill was signed into law. As a result, 850,000 SNAP households in 15 states and the District of Columbia will see their benefits cut by about $90 a month.
Let’s not mince words—these cuts will have dire consequences for millions of hungry Americans. They will affect people like Nadine Blackwell, a disabled former nurse who dedicated years of her life to helping others. She now relies on SNAP and other safety net programs in her time of need. Faced with deep cuts to her SNAP benefits, Nadine may be able to turn to friends, neighbors, and food pantries for some additional help, but churches and charities are struggling to fill the gaps in most families’ grocery budgets. (Watch Nadine’s story)
With a farm bill signed into law, Bread for the World members have asked us for next steps regarding SNAP. If the last several months offer any indication, attacks against SNAP will continue. The farm bill fight may be finished, but our work to protect and strengthen the program is far from over. Although we are tired and frustrated, we cannot let our feelings of disappointment become feelings of defeat. We must tell Congress that enough is enough, and redouble our efforts to fight any additional cuts to the program.
The SNAP cuts in the farm bill are a huge blow to those families who will see their food budgets shrink, but our voices have made, and will continue to make, a difference.
Faithful advocates successfully blocked harmful provisions that would’ve lead to millions of people not just experiencing cuts to their benefits, but losing them altogether. We stopped policy changes at the federal level that would have banned convicted felons from the program for life (a move that would’ve affected millions of children in the process), punished people for not finding work in a tough economy, and allowed states to drug test every applicant. Those provisions, if enacted, would’ve affected people like Nate, a young father in Ohio who is working hard to provide for his baby daughter. For Nate, a returning citizen who has had trouble finding work, SNAP has been a vital lifeline, allowing him to feed and care for his daughter as he gets back on his feet. (Watch Nate’s story)
We could see more votes to cut SNAP in the coming months; the program will likely remain at the center of a bitter congressional tug-of-war. But advocates must continue to bust myths about SNAP and spread the message that it helps children and struggling families eat. In a nation that has more than enough food to go around, no one should have to go hungry because Congress wants to find budget savings.
With so many families seeing their SNAP benefits reduced, our work to protect other anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs takes on even greater importance— protecting WIC, school meals, and tax credits, and reinstating emergency unemployment insurance will be crucial to making sure that families reeling from the SNAP cuts don’t fall deeper into poverty as a result.
And we will continue to tell members of Congress that they must protect SNAP. Families struggling to put food on the table must be our lawmakers’ top priority. Enough is enough.
Join Bread for the World this afternoon, at 4 p.m. ET, for a webinar and conference call on reforming U.S. food aid. Once you have registered, join the webinar (enter your activation code when prompted) or use the call-in number and follow along with the slides below.
If you have any questions or have problems obtaining the call-in and log-in information, please contact our Marion Jasin, Bread for the World's organizing coordinator, at (202) 688-1106 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also follow the webinar on social media. We will be live tweeting the call using the hashtag #BreadWeb.
A mother and child share a meal in rural Guatemala. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)
By Amanda Bornfree
Where there is hunger and poverty, mothers and children are almost always disproportionately affected. The 1,000 days from pregnancy through a child’s second birthday are the most crucial for a child’s development, but many women around the world don’t have access to proper nutrition for themselves or their children. The United States plays a crucial role in the fight to eradicate maternal and child malnutrition, and our nation's continued commitment is key to ending this global scourge.
In June, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Fla.) introduced House Resolution 254, which recognizes the importance of U.S. leadership in addressing global maternal and child nutrition. Though the resolution is still active, it’s in need of more support. So far, there are 53 co-sponsors, but only six are Republicans. In order for this resolution to pass, we must make sure the resolution remains bipartisan. This means, we need YOUR help!
We’d like to encourage you—especially if you live in a Republican district—to reach out to your representative and ask her or him to co-sponsor H. Res. 254. This resolution will bolster and strengthen our government's efforts to make sure children everywhere have the nutrition they need to grow and thrive. Please use letters and/or phone calls to reach out to your representatives and ask them to support this important resolution. Share the news with your family and friends that live in Republican districts, too— they may also want to urge their representative to support the fight against global maternal and child malnutrition. Submitting letters to the editor of your local paper will also help get the word out to your community.
As always, we encourage you to check out the resources we have on our webpage that may assist you during this process. And please contact Rev. Nancy Neal, Bread's associate for denominational women's organization relations, Beth Ann Saracco, Bread international policy analyst, or your regional Bread organizer for additional information or assistance. We’d also like to know what you hear back from your representatives —please keep us posted!
Thank you for being a supporter of the 1,000 Days movement!
Amanda Bornfree is a consultant in the church relations department at Bread for the World.
—Roy Choi, the father of the food truck movement, who used his platform at the MAD3 food symposium to talk about food insecurity in America, and the food deserts in his hometown of Los Angeles. Choi called on the chefs in attendance to use their influence to help see that all are well fed.
Photo: Aidan Rodriguez enjoys spaghetti prepared by his mother, hunger activist Barbie Izquierdo. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
Here in Washington, D.C., safely secured in a Smithsonian museum, is the supposedly cursed — but still famous — Hope Diamond, valued as high as $350 million. But today there is a newer gem in the capital city, worth even more. This gem is buried in the thousands of pages and in the trillions of dollars that comprise the fiscal year 2014 federal budget and is a victory for Bread for the World and its members.
Despite gradual cuts to the overall international affairs budget in the last three years, poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) accounts grew in FY 2014 by more than $800 million. In fact, PFDA funding has steadily increased over the past few years. This year, Congress appropriated more than $24.1 billion for PFDA programs, adding $800 million since last year.
The increases come at a time when Congress has been trying to cut the federal budget. We would not have been able to keep a circle of protection – much less increase it – were it not for the persistent advocacy of Bread members and partners.
In general, the dollar amounts for PFDA funding have more than tripled since FY 2000. Despite these increases, the overall PFDA funding by the United States still stands at less than one cent for every dollar the government spends.
Bread measures poverty-focused development assistance by examining the International Affairs Budget of the U.S. government (called the 150 Account). In addition, we include appropriations for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture Departments. They include funding for such programs as the Millennium Challenge Account, the Global HIV/AIDS Initiative, Enterprise for the Americas, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Food for Peace Program, and the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program.
Photo: Khato Rana plays with her daughter Rita, 2, at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal. The facility, run by Nepali NGO Rural Women's Development Unity Center (RUWDUC), restores malnourished children back to health. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By LaVida Davis
In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah declared God’s promise that babies would live long and prosperous lives. Register for February's conference call and webinar to learn how your actions can fulfill God’s promise by helping your church, campus, or community write letters that will win reforms to U.S. food aid that can help millions escape hunger.
Thousands of the new 2014 Offering of Letters kits were mailed recently to Bread for the World leaders. And now we are ready to answer all of your questions about how you can use the kits and write hunger into history. (Kits are available to order from our online store here or download materials from the 2014 Offering of Letters website).
When should I conduct an Offering of Letters? Why are we focusing on food aid, and what reforms still need to be made after the farm bill? What if my congregation is more interested in domestic poverty? How many letters do we need to make a difference?
Our experts on the topic will be available just for you. And if you are new the webinars, we have a how-to guide online to help you.
Join us Tuesday, February 18, at 4:00 p.m. ET (adjust for your time zone) to learn all about the 2014 Offering of Letters. You can ask questions during the webinar in our online chat box, or email them in advance to Marion Jasin (email@example.com), Bread's organizing coordinator, and we'll get them to the front of the line.
LaVida Davis is director of organizing and grassroots capacity building at Bread for the World.
"Hunger has plagued the world for thousands of years. But ending it is a greater moral imperative now than ever before, because for the first time humanity has the instruments at hand to defeat this cruel enemy at a very reasonable cost. We have the ability to provide food for all within the next three decades.”
—Sen. George McGovern (1922-2012), from The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time
Photo: Rosa tends to her family's livestock, a typical chore for children in rural Guatemala, where she lives. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)
By Stephen H. Padre
Imagine losing everything you have—your possessions, your home, your livelihood. And your friends, relatives, children, or spouse. Even your country.
This is the situation that millions of refugees found themselves in during the 22-year civil war in Sudan that ended in 2005. For many years during the war, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese fled the fighting and took refuge in northwestern Kenya. Many of them found their way to Kakuma Refugee Camp, which essentially became their new home.
It’s the responsibility of your country’s government to protect you and look after your welfare. When your government can’t do that—when you are forced out of your country because your government is at war, for example—in most cases, the United Nations becomes responsible for you. As a refugee, you are a citizen of a country but are in exile, and therefore have a particular legal status. You can’t always find a way to make a living in your host country. Therefore, you need someone else to support you, which often means providing things as basic as shelter and food.
The U.N. set up Kakuma Refugee Camp in 1992 to house the thousands of refugees fleeing the civil war to the north in Sudan. Under the care of the U.N., the camp provided shelter, food and water, health care, education, and other essential services to as many as 200,000 people at the height of its operations.
While the U.N. is responsible for the camp, it contracts out many of the services to private organizations. The Lutheran World Federation, an organization that addresses poverty and is supported by Lutheran churches around the world, was contracted to oversee the day-to-day operations of the camp. In this role, it carried out the distribution of food to camp residents. This was one of the most critical services it provided to refugees who had nothing. Biweekly rations of food staples—including flour, beans, cooking oil—kept people alive day by day.
The path the food took to get to refugees was somewhat complex. But much of it originated in the United States. It had been purchased with American taxpayer dollars and had been sent by the U.S. government to the World Food Program, one of the many U.N. agencies that worked in the camp. The U.S government is the largest donor to the World Food Program.
We as Americans and taxpayers should be proud of our role in providing food to Sudanese refugees. It meant survival for many of them—continuing to live, sometimes for longer than a decade, before they could return to their country.
Bread for the World’s 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid," focuses on our government’s role in providing food to help refugees, survivors of disasters, and people living in the cycle of chronic poverty. While U.S. food-aid programs provide admirable assistance in many ways around the world, they can work even better. With smart reforms, these programs can help up to 17 million more people—and at no additional cost to taxpayers.
Take part in an Offering of Letters, and urge your members of Congress to support changes to policies and practices that will enable U.S. food aid to help more people.
Stephen H. Padre is Bread for the World's managing editor.
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