Every day, Catarina Pascual Jiménez—a single mother of four who lives in the Cuchumatanes mountains of Guatemala—asks God "for strength to feed my children and to keep them healthy." She felt her prayers were answered when she learned of a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) food-aid program available to women with children under 2.
Catarina enrolled in the new Program of Integrated Actions on Food Security and Nutrition in the Western Highlands (Paisano) and now receives a monthly ration of rice, beans, fortified corn-soy flour, and oil. Because she receives these staples, Catarina can use some of the income she earns washing bundles of laundry to buy fruits, vegetables, sugar, salt, oatmeal, and other items to supplement her family's diet—an option she didn't have before. Most importantly, she can now give her children three meals a day, definitely a nutritional boost for her two youngest, twins Alexander and Sheili, who exhibited the negative effects of early malnutrition.
"Before we entered the program, sometimes I didn't sleep — I'd lay awake all night, and I'd ask myself how I was going to make it," Catarina says. "My children are my happiness, the reason I live and fight and meet the challenges of life. Now that I am a beneficiary of the program, I don't feel as much worry about food anymore."
Learn more about Catarina by watching the video above and exploring Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid." Together we can change policy and ensure continued, improved assistance to millions of people in need, like Catarina and her children, around the world.
The 2014 Hunger Report urges President Obama and Congress to lead the country in setting a goal to end hunger by 2030, and it offers a four-part plan to accomplish this:
1. A jobs agenda
2. A stronger safety net
3. Human capital development or “investing in people”
4. Public-private partnerships to support innovative community-led initiatives against hunger
“We in this Congress are not doing nearly enough,” to help an estimated 49 million food-insecure Americans, McGovern said in the above video. In six months, Congress has enacted $19 billion in combined cuts to food stamps (SNAP), which is the nation’s number-one defense against hunger. “We are going backwards,” noted McGovern.
The congressman expresses his disappointment that the Obama administration has not been able to make good on an early promise to ameliorate child hunger in America by 2015.“[W]hile children make up roughly 24 percent of our total population, they comprise one-third of the nation’s poor," he said, citing a statistic from the Hunger Report.
Still, he added that we should not give up on the goal of ending hunger in America—solutions, such as those outlined in the Hunger Report, exist.
“It is refreshing that this report is honest and blunt,” McGovern said about what he calls the Hunger Report’s "achievable goals," which would end hunger by 2030. “It rightfully states that hunger is a subset of poverty, and that we can’t truly end hunger without addressing poverty.”
A common refrain from McGovern in this series of speeches is that hunger is a political condition — and we whole-heartedly agree. The 2014 Hunger Report outlines a comprehensive plan to end hunger by 2030, but as the Rep. McGovern noted in his speech, advocates must build political will in order to put that plan into action.
Catarina Pascual Jiménez carries her twins, Alexander and Sheili, in rural Guatemala. Small rations from a USAID program supplement the available food for her family (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).
By Rev. David Beckmann
Each year, Christians all over the country use their influence to help write hunger into history. I invite you to take part in Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid," and to urge Congress to make U.S. food aid more effective and efficient.
Thousands of letters from Christians move Congress to develop policies that will end hunger. Your faith-filled advocacy has already had an impact in reforming food aid in the farm bill, but there is more we can do. With adequate funding and smart reforms to U.S. food aid, we can help more people like Catarina Pascual Jiménez, a Guatemalan woman who lives in extreme poverty.
As a single mother, Catarina has struggled to feed her four children, but a few months ago she enrolled in a USAID food-aid program for women with infants under age 2. Because of this assistance, baby twins Sheili and Alexander are now healthier, more active, and happier. The nutrition they receive increases their chances for a better life as they grow.
By enhancing nutritional quality and increasing the flexibility of U.S. food-aid programs, we can help many more families like Catarina's. But Congress won’t make these reforms unless they hear from you and your congregation.
We have everything you need to take part in this year’s Offering of Letters, and to help write hunger into history. Visit www.bread.org/ol/2014 for resources—stories, videos, fact sheets—that will help you conduct an Offering of Letters with your church, campus, or community group.
The success of this campaign depends on your faithful advocacy to build the political will to reform U.S. food aid. Please use the power of influence God has entrusted to you to help our neighbors around the world.
Rev. David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.
After two years of bitter negotiations, the farm bill— a nearly $1 trillion piece of legislation that will govern U.S. food and farm policy for the next five years— is law. Faithful advocates made calls, met with members of Congress, and wrote thousands of letters and emails in support of reforming food aid in the farm bill. We asked Ryan Quinn, Bread for the World’s senior policy analyst, who tracks food aid, how we did.
“Even though other areas of the farm bill [i.e., harmful cuts to SNAP] were unacceptable, the food-aid provisions were a win,” says Quinn. “We ended up with something better than what was originally in the Senate version.”
Those provisions include an $80 million boost to local and regional purchases , or LRP, which allows the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to buy food close to the source of need rather than shipping life-saving resources, which can take weeks or months. “That was huge,” says Quinn. “LRP is permanent now. There was a pilot program for a modest amount in the last farm bill. Once tested, it was obvious that LRP doesn’t hurt the U.S. agriculture industry, helps more people, and most importantly, it is part of the 'hand up' we want to see with our programs.” By supporting farmers and local markets in distressed regions, LRP is consistent with Bread for the World’s mission to end hunger and poverty.
Asked if reforms included in the farm bill mean we are done reforming policy around U.S. food aid, Quinn emphasized that this was only a first step. “We are doing more with greater efficiency, but more changes are necessary, which is why we have made food-aid reform the focus of our 2014 Offering of Letters.“ (Order your 2014 Offering of Letters toolkit)
Other reforms include phasing out monetization, a practice in which aid organizations resell food-aid products in local markets to support development work, but can undercut local farmers in the process. “We have new ways to do development that weren’t there a few years ago,” says Quinn. Food for Peace will have the flexibility to broaden its scope and will receive a larger share of funding, decreasing the need for monetization. “Flexibility to meet the needs of each circumstance has really been the core of our modernizing efforts,” says Quinn.
Other improvements include increased program transparency and the expansion of the practice of prepositioning food aid in areas where disasters are likely—something that was critical in getting life-saving food aid to the Philippines. But the provision Quinn finds especially encouraging improves the nutritional quality of food. “We are talking about babies here,” he says. "It makes me feel happy that our work helps provide the nutrition they need in the first 1,000 days of life.” Providing proper nutrition to mothers and children during this period establishes a foundation for a better life as children grow.
Asked whether calls and letters from advocates made a difference, Quinn answers with an emphatic "yes."
“I met with Sen. Stabenow's (D-Mich.) staff on food aid, and they made it clear that they heard from Bread members and it made a difference,” he says. Congress may have the power to change polices that address hunger with the stroke of a pen, but “it’s constituent voices that can make them pick up the pen in the first place,” Quinn says.
Next week, learn what is next for food aid as we continue the conversation on the Bread Blog.
Photo: Lutheran Development Service distributes food to people affected by drought in Swaziland in 2004. Many distributions of U.S. food-aid items, which originate with USAID, are carried out by private relief and development organizations, many of them supported by U.S. churches. (Stephen H. Padre)
A job seeker reads a copy of the California Job Journal as he waits in line to enter the California Job Journal HIREvent February 10, 2009 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)
Updated: February 27
Too many families are watching the American dream unraveling right before their eyes. Their stories follow a pattern: after years of hard work, a job is lost. Hundreds of applications are filled out, but employers are slow to hire – especially if a job seeker has been out of work for a while. Savings fill the paycheck gap, but soon the savings are gone and then the retirement account is drained. For the first time, they find themselves standing in line at a food pantry and signing up for food stamps; they do everything they can, but the phone does not ring with a job offer. Long-term unemployment has become the American nightmare.
Emergency unemployment insurance for those who have been jobless for longer than 26 weeks expired in late December, and Congress has done nothing.
On February 6, in yet another close vote, the Senate failed to advance a bill to renew emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) by one vote. Passage could have helped 1.7 million job seekers who are struggling to survive without a paycheck — or an unemployment check. The Senate will try again, with another vote on extending unemployment insurance expected in the next few days.
When unemployment rates are high, lawmakers have always made provisions to help Americans until the economy returns to full employment — namely, by passing EUC. Today, the long-term unemployment rate remains twice as high as any time Congress has let emergency unemployment benefits expire.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) voted "no", even though 48,485 Ohioans have been cut off from their unemployment benefits. His could have been the vote that would've helped his constituent Vince Congiglio, an IT professional who is looking for work.
“I worked for a living—I paid into the system my entire life,” 53-year-old Congiglio told an MSNBC reporter after yesterday’s vote. “The first time in my life I ask for something, I get punched square in the gut.”
Another surprising "no" vote came from Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). Illinois has an unemployment rate of 8.6%, significantly higher than the national unemployment rate of 6.6%. Kirk has 99,000 constituents who desperately need an extension of unemployment benefits. He has said he would vote for an extension with a cost offset, which the legislation included, but apparently changed his mind. The congressional gridlock around extending unemployment benefits won’t help unemployed teacher Diana O’Conner; she needs solutions.
O'Connor, a constituent of Kirk's, lost her job last February. “We are not out of work because we are lazy,” O’Connor told The Chicago Tribune. Her story is a reminder that job loss can happen to anyone. "I'm your sister, I'm your neighbor, somebody you go to church with,” she said.
The final vote tally was 58-40. In a procedural move that allows the bill to be reintroduced at a later date, Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) changed his vote to "no."
Congress goes back to the negotiating table, while for millions in America — and 72,000 more each week — the nightmare continues.
During remarks given at yesterday's National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), said that ending extreme poverty around the world is very much within reach.
"This morning, I want to share an overarching purpose worthy of this room that has come together to follow the teachings of Jesus," he said. "Let us work together to end extreme poverty in our lifetime. Because this is now achievable, but only if all of us—from science, business, government, and faith—come together for the poor.
"We can end extreme poverty for the 1.1 billion people who live on a dollar-and-a-quarter a day,” he continued. “We can end it for the 860 million people who will go to sleep hungry tonight. And we can end it for the 6.6 million children who will die this year before their fifth birthday."
After citing those bleak statistics, Dr. Shah spoke of "good news" to report: "On continent after continent, a smaller share of people live this way than at any other time in our history. And today, we know that a condition that defined the state of humanity when Jesus walked the earth and only started getting better in the last 200 years can actually be nearly eliminated in the next 20."
Shah also shared heartbreaking stories of those who've dealt with hunger and famine, and also the progress that has been made in eradicating poverty, through vaccines, clean energy, and improved nutrition that allows children to thrive.
"Those who lead partner countries will need to prioritize the poor, fight corruption, and work with businesses to solve problems,” Shah said. “Those who lead our great nation will need to make tough decisions that keep us committed to this mission and continue our nation’s proud history as the world’s humanitarian leader. And those who lead communities of faith need to do just as Pope Francis is teaching us—and shine a bright light on poverty."
Watch the full video of the National Prayer breakfast, which includes remarks from Dr. Shah and President Obama, and read more about the fight to end extreme poverty around the world in the 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach. Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters focuses on how smart reforms to U.S. food aid programs can help our nation better prevent hunger and starvation around the world. Learn more at www.bread.org/ol.
"No more shall there be in it
An infant that lives but a few days,
Or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
...They shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit."
— Isaiah 65:20a-21
As Christians today, we continue to serve people in need—our neighbors next door as well as those far from us as they struggle with hunger and poverty. In supporting reforms to U.S. food-assistance programs, we can mirror God’s intention for abundance and life. By engaging in this issue, we are participating in caring for our neighbors near and far but in ways that better reflect God’s desire that we all might build up our world to be a place where all are cared for and sustained. Read "God Wants Abundance and Life: A Biblical Reflection" to learn more about the importance of reforming U.S. food aid, the focus of Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters.
By Eric Mitchell
Tomorrow the Senate will vote on whether to consider reinstating emergency unemployment insurance for the more than 1.7 million unemployed workers who have seen their aid lapse in recent weeks. For many of these jobless individuals, this assistance is their only source of income as they struggle to find work — and feed their families.
Please call (800-826-3688) or email your senators today! Urge them to vote yes on extending unemployment insurance!
This proposal extends unemployment insurance through March, is retroactive to Dec. 28 (when long-term aid expired), and it is completely paid for. The Senate is expected to vote tomorrow on a motion to advance the bill. We believe they are just a couple of votes shy!
Take two minutes right now and call or email your senators and urge them to VOTE YES on extending unemployment insurance.
Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.
"It doesn’t matter your color, religion, your political party—if you are poor, you are poor. And we all have the same problems—locally, nationally, and globally."
—Nadine Blackwell, a registered nurse and former school teacher in Philadelphia, who lost her job as a health service administrator when a debilitating medical condition struck without warning. Now the safety net is the only thing keeping Nadine afloat.
Food insecurity is a much bigger problem for families with a disabled adult, but it's a problem that can be solved. Ending hunger is possible. To learn more about hunger in America—and how we can end it in our lifetimes—read the 2014 Hunger Report.
Watch Bill Nye, the Science Guy, dispel more poverty myths in this short Gates Foundation video.
By Robin Stephenson
- The United States does not send "all" of its money overseas.
- We invest a small amount of our budget in international poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) programs.
- That investment does not increase poverty in America.
Programs categorized as poverty-focused development assistance, or PFDA, help alleviate hunger and poverty abroad, and also support trade, national security, and job creation here in the United States.
In the fiscal year 2014 budget spending bill, overall PFDA got a modest boost over last year's funding levels, although some programs saw reductions. The increase is good news, but PFDA remains mired in misunderstanding, where the general public is concerned. PFDA myths must be debunked in order to support continued investments in global hunger and poverty reduction.
One PFDA myth I've previously written about was recently addressed by Joe Cerrell of the Gates Foundation on Devex, in the piece, "It's our responsibility to #stopthemyth on foreign aid." Cerrell, like most anti-hunger advocates, has defended PFDA investment in response to the false belief that we send all our money overseas while America's poor go without. It's simply not true.
Cerrell thinks the myth's persistence is due to public misunderstanding of the size of overseas investment and what it provides. In a recent survey, a large number of Americans said they believe 28 percent of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid, which is a gross inflation of the actual number. PFDA comprises less than one percent of the federal budget, and has a tremendous impact.
With benchmarks such as the Millennium Development Goals and program design that includes country participation and partnership, more progress was made against hunger and poverty in the 2000s than during any other decade in history. With smart investments, we will continue to see a global exodus from hunger — unless we pit domestic and international investments against one another and reduce PFDA funding.
"Quite simply," Cerrell writes on Devex, "if 1 percent of the budget was redirected back to domestic issues in a donor country, it would only be a drop in the bucket — but invested in the developing world, it is helping to spur historic progress and prosperity."
In our churches and communities, faithful advocates must remove the shroud of misunderstanding surrounding PFDA. A study commissioned by Bread for the World in 2013 makes it clear that ending world hunger is something Americans care about. In fact, 37 percent of Americans think the U.S. government is doing too little to end hunger in developing countries around the world. Only one in five of those polled believe we are doing too much.
“Americans want to help their brothers and sisters end hunger, and become self-sufficient," said Rev. David Beckmann at the time of the study's release. "Congress should embody and reflect this compassionate spirit as it deliberates on our federal budget.”
As we move forward in addressing 2015 funding levels for PFDA, we must focus on development assistance programs in particular. Through faithful advocacy, we can ensure these programs are robustly supported, thereby ensuring thousands of people throughout the world have the opportunity to enjoy a more prosperous future.
Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national lead for social media and senior organizer, Western hub.
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