Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Arkansas: The Hungriest State

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Congress should raise the minimum wage so that a full-time, year-round worker can support a family of four above the poverty line. (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World).

By Alyssa Casey

A decent home life and three good meals a day is what Gregory Stewart, 36, of Little Rock, Arkansas wants to provide for his daughters. Yet in order to provide the basics, even though he works two jobs at minimum wage, Stewart told The Newshour he had to move in with his extended family.

Struggling to make ends meet is not uncommon in the state designated as the hungriest in the United States. In 2013, more than 1 in 5 Arkansas households were at risk of hunger. More than 19 percent of Arkansans lived in poverty, including more than 1 in 4 children. If you visualize five houses or apartments neighboring yours, at least one of those households struggles with hunger. And in your child’s class of 32, more than eight of his or her fellow students live in poverty.

When we hear such staggering statistics, two questions often come to mind: Why are hunger and poverty so high in Arkansas? And what can be done to change this?

Hunger and poverty are complex issues that lack a simple cause or silver bullet solution. However, Bread for the World’s research shows that unemployment and low wages tell part of the story.

Currently 6.3 percent of Arkansans are unable to find work. This is down from 7.3 percent a year ago, but still higher than the pre-recession level of just over 5 percent. Even if unemployment rates drop, low wages often mean that a full-time job is not enough to keep a family out of poverty.

Across the United States, most of the jobs added during the economic recovery have been low-wage jobs. Arkansas echoes this trend. The median annual salary – the middle point in Arkansas’ salary range – is $37, 340. Eight of the ten occupations expected to add the most jobs in Arkansas through 2015 will pay $10,000 less than the median salary.

With a minimum wage of $6.25 per hour, Arkansas is one of three states with a minimum wage below the federal level of $7.25 per hour. When state and federal laws have different wages, the higher standard does apply. However, even someone working full-time, year-round at $7.25 per hour earns an annual income more than $8,000 below the federal poverty line to support a family of four. While legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate to raise the federal minimum wage, the Senate bill failed to pass and the House never even brought their bill to a vote.

The Arkansas Senate race between incumbent Mark Pryor and U.S. Representative Tom Cotton is considered a toss up, but whoever wins should use their position to end hunger. With such important races likely to be decided by only a few votes, Arkansans have a unique opportunity to influence a path out of poverty and help families like the Stewarts who are hungry for jobs that pay a living wage.

As these candidates canvas the state and ask for your vote, ask them what their plan is to address hunger and poverty in Arkansas. Look at their recent votes on hunger and poverty issues. If they are voting to end hunger, thank them. If not, ask them to explain their votes against policies that would help make hunger history.

With all of us pitching in by demanding accountability from our elected officials – whichever state you live in - Bread for the World believes we can end hunger in communities across the country by 2030.

See how hunger and poverty are affecting the 10 hungriest and poorest states.

Alyssa Casey is Bread for the World’s government relations coordinator.

Webinar Today: Elections Prognosis for Anti-Hunger Advocacy

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By LaVida Davis

The November elections are a little over two weeks away. The outcome could shift the make-up of Congress, significantly affecting our advocacy efforts to end hunger in the United States and around the world. What is the prognosis, and what can you do in the coming days to promote anti-hunger champions in Congress?

Join us today for Bread for the World’s monthly national call and webinar. Hear the latest news from Capitol Hill, and get our elections predictions as they relate to ending hunger.

We hope you can join us today, Tuesday, October 21 at 4 p.m.(EDT).

Submit your questions 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 building at Bread for the World

Voting Ensures Communities are Fed, Safe, and Economically Stable

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(Theresa Thompson, Creative Commons)

By Angelique Walker-Smith

How many times have we heard about the tensions between local African-American communities and the police in recent months? Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., Ezell Ford in Los Angeles,  Eric Garner of New York City, and John Crawford III in Beavercreek, Ohio, are a few of the names in the headlines in recent months.  With the use of new technologies that support grassroots photo and video journalism, there appears to be no end in sight of making sure these kinds of stories are told. Such tensions are not the only challenges in the African-American community.   

Hunger and poverty in the African-American community have declined recently, but our community still has one of the largest percentages of hungry people and persons living in poverty. The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013, showed that, in the African-American community, poverty declined slightly from 27.2 percent to 27.1 percent, compared to the decrease of 25.6 percent to 23.5 percent in the Hispanic community.  Nationally, poverty decreased slightly—by 0.5 percent—last year. It is the first time a decrease has been seen since 2006. The bureau announced that 14.5 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2013. Additionally, child poverty declined for the first time since 2000, from 21.8 percent to 19.9 percent.

One of the most important ways we can change these unacceptable numbers of African-Americans who are hungry and living in poverty and at the same time address the incidents of violence between local authorities and the African-American community is to get out and vote. Voting leads to structural changes that can transform communities. Voting for candidates who clearly represent the interests of our communities and not voting only for personalities is important in achieving this goal.  Voting is how we put public servants in office to work to transform our communities so that there is, for example, employment that affirms the dignity of God’s people, a supportive safety net to feed hungry people, and clear strategies for healthy engagement between the police and communities. Voting is how we advance strategies of positive change that come out of mutual conversations, negotiations, and partnerships.  

Sadly, however, African-Americans do not vote in high  numbers, especially in the midterm elections. When we do not vote, we remain silent. Our silence prevents us from addressing the issues that face our communities and from electing a leaders who are in tune and consistent with the needs of our communities.

In  Blacks and the 2010 Midterms: A Preliminary Analysis, presented by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Dr. David A. Bositis points out that national turnout in the 2010 midterm election was up slightly from the 2006 midterm election, with African-Americans contributing to 10 percent of the share of votes and 25.3 percent of African-Americans participating. But this was still a drop from 30.1 percent of African-Americans who voted in 2008 with Barack Obama on the ballot. Additionally, a recent study by the Pew Research Forum's Religion & Public Life Project found that almost three-quarters of the American public—72 percent—believes that religion’s influence is waning in public life, the highest level in Pew Research polling over the past 10 years. This contrasts with further findings from the study that “a growing share of the American public wants religion to play a role in U.S. politics.”

Some of the largest African-American denominations that partner with Bread for the World are responding to this challenge. Freedom Sunday 2014, held on Sept. 21, is being followed by Turnout Sunday on Nov. 2, two days before the midterm election. These faith initiatives seek to encourage the African-American community to vote this year. You can make a difference by voting and encouraging your family, friends, and fellow church members to vote as well. For more information on how to make your vote count, visit www.bread.org/elections.  

Angelique Walker-Smith is the Associate for National African American Church Engagement at Bread for the World.

Hunger in the News: Ebola Orphans, Feed the Future, David Beckmann on Hunger, Migration

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

Orphans abandoned, shunned in Africa’s Ebola crisis,” by Sheilia Passewe, USA Today. “The United Nations estimates the virus has orphaned nearly 4,000 children across the region, and that number could double in coming weeks. Aid groups, such as Doctors Without Borders, fear the orphans are at risk of starvation and disease.”

Investing in smallholder farmers to feed the future,” by Tim Fella, Devex. “As the International Year of Family Farming winds down, a new set of United Nations principles recognizes that in order to promote global food security, we need to acknowledge and promote family farmers as key investors in agriculture and food systems.”

One Human Family: Food for All Week of Action,” Just Love, SIRIUS satellite radio podcast.  “This weekend on Just Love, Msgr. Sullivan speaks with David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World. They discuss Bread for the World’s campaign against domestic and international hunger.”

Without Its Farmers, South Sudan Remains Perilously Close to Famine,” by Justus Liku, Huffington Post Blog.  “The theme for this year's World Food Day is "family farming" but there's not a lot to celebrate in South Sudan. It hasn't been a good year for family farming here, and the specter of famine looms large.”

Migrants’ tales: ‘I feel for those who were with me. They got asylum in the sea’,” by Mark Rice-Oxley and Mona Mahmood, The Guardian.  “Countries are spitting out their people for different reasons: war, revolution, bad governance, dead-end economies, climate change, poverty, persecution.”

In Jordan, slashed UN food aid has even 'well off' Syrians feeling the pinch,” by Christa Case Bryant, The Christian Science Monitor. “With Jordan limiting job opportunities and the UN reducing food aid, even middle-class refugees from war-torn Syria are asking how, and where, they can survive.”

Accompanying Unaccompanied Refugee Children,” by Brian Fraga. National Catholic Register.  “The USCCB is one of two lead voluntary agencies — the other is Lutheran Immigration Refugee Services — that helps the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement administer the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program, which provides specialized foster-care services for refugee children under age 18.”

 

An Individual’s Connection to the World’s Hot Spots Today

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Relief supplies to Central African Republic. (USAID)


The news has seemed especially distressing recently, like the world is falling apart all at once. There are troubling reports of violence in Syria/Iraq, Gaza, South Sudan, Central African Republic, and then there's Ebola in West Africa.

What can one person — an individual American — do to create peace and calm in far-away places and in such large, complicated situations? It's easy to feel helpless in times like these.

These crises are political, military, diplomatic, humanitarian, and health in nature—or sometimes a complex situation with a few of these aspects at play at once. They are seemingly fit for only national governments to deal with on a large scale. However, individual Americans are connected to these situations every day. Our federal government is acting on our behalf, with our tax dollars, and because of the positive influence of Bread activists in the legislative process of our Congress.

In all of these countries, desperate people are at least getting food to eat, and that is partly because of Bread for the World's work on food aid from the U.S. government this year, namely through Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters: Reforming U.S. Food Aid. The U.S. is the world's largest food donor, and much of the food aid from the U.S. government is given to and distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP), part of the United Nations.

WFP reported recently that it is responding to five level-3 emergencies, the highest level on its scale of severity. There were six level-3 emergencies until recently, when Cameroon was downgraded to level 2.

"This is the first time ever that the international humanitarian community has been dealing with five humanitarian crises of this scale at the same time," said Rev. David Beckmann, Bread's president. "We must continue to advocate to Congress on behalf of the millions of people experiencing hunger and poverty during this unprecedented time of suffering."

What's happening in these places

In South Sudan, the crisis ravages on as 1.8 million people have been displaced since conflict broke out between President Salva Kiir's government forces and rebels allied to his former deputy, Reik Machar. Over 10,000 people have already died. The outlook remains grim as food security may deteriorate sharply into next year. A famine is declared when at least 20 percent of households face life-threatening food shortages with an inability to handle the problem.

South Sudan has already received $1.2 billion this year from aid agencies, but an estimated $345 million more is needed to support the U.N.'s response there.

The Ebola crisis continues to deepen in West Africa as over 3,000 people have died from the infection in the region. The WFP has already reached more 180,000 people in Ebola zones with vital food assistance. Over the next 3 months, the WFP will be targeting 1.3 million people with food assistance, but it needs $107.7 million more.

Recent violence has affected nearly the entire Gaza strip. Nearly 1 in 4 people in Gaza have been displaced from their homes, but 350,000 Palestinians living in U.N. and public shelters are receiving ready-to-eat emergency rations of food on a daily basis. Food needs are increasing, and the chaos in Gaza requires U.S. aid to prevent starvation.

In Iraq, 1.2 million people are being targeted for food assistance. In August, over 190,000 people received family food parcels, which consist of food essentials, including rice, lentils, and vegetable oil.

In Syria, the conflict rages on without a solution, and humanitarian needs are increasing. Seven million Syrians are in need of food assistance. It is estimated that nearly 3,000 Syrians are fleeing every day to neighboring countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. The WFP needs approximately $35 million a week to assist over 7 million Syrians in urgent need of food assistance. 

In the Central African Republic, approximately 175,000 people are displaced and an estimated 416,000 have fled the country. The persistent violence has affected the entire population, and 1.7 million people are at risk of hunger. But so far this year, WFP has assisted nearly 1 million people.

These simultaneous crises have stretched not only the WFP, but also other international humanitarian agencies, to their limits.

"Remember that U.S. food assistance, including our country's support for the World Food Programme, is providing help and a bit of security for desperate people in these situations," said Beckmann.

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

World Prayers for Oct. 19-25: India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka

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A farmer in India. Bread for the World photo

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 October 19-25, we pray for: India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka:

Creator God, we lift to you this week the people of India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. We marvel at the rich diversity of cultures, faiths, histories, and people in these nations, bursting with vibrancy and life. We also lift to you the times when that diversity becomes the seedbed for resentment, conflict, and alienation. Bring peace, healing, and justice to the lives of all the people of these countries, especially those who suffer from the aftermath of wars, recurring climate disasters, human trafficking, and marginalization based on their ethnic identities. May these nations’ governments make human rights, an equitable stability, and reduction of violence priorities in their official actions.  

We raise up those who are displaced in these countries due to regional conflicts, in some of which our own nation has been involved. For all those people who are hungry and who live in grinding poverty, we ask for ways that we ourselves might be instruments of restoration and wholeness. We give thanks for the missionaries, health workers, educators, peacemakers, and others who continue to come alongside these nations’ people, offering hope and supporting opportunities for them to work for a better life for themselves and their families. In your holy and healing name we pray, Amen.

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

India: 21.9
Pakistan:
12.4
Sri Lanka: 6.7

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

Watch “The Last Hunger Season” Online


The Last Hunger Season Film Series: Part 1, "Expanding Possibilities." Watch other videos in the series here.

Today’s celebration of World Food Day lifts up the role of smallholder farmers through the theme, “Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth.” There are plenty of these farmers to celebrate: 500 million smallholder farmers live and work in the developing world. Most of them are women.

Last year saw the publication of The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, a book by Roger Thurow, senior fellow for global agriculture and food policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and longtime friend of Bread for the World. Now there is a series of short documentary videos online that bring the book to life, telling the stories of smallholder farmers in Kenya.

Here’s a description of the story:

Africa’s small farmers, who comprise two-thirds of its population, toil in a time warp, living and working essentially as they did in the 1930s. Without mechanized equipment, fertilizer, or irrigation; using primitive storage facilities, roads, and markets; lacking capital, credit, and insurance; they harvest only one-quarter the yields of Western farmers, half of which spoil before getting to market. But in 2011 one group of farmers in Kenya came together to try to change their odds for success—and their families’ futures. Roger Thurow spent a year following their progress.

In The Last Hunger Season, the intimate dramas of the farmers’ lives unfold amidst growing awareness that to feed the world’s growing population, food production must double by 2050. How will the farmers, Africa, and a hungrier world deal with issues of water usage, land ownership, foreign investment, corruption, GMO’s, the changing role of women, and the politics of foreign aid?

Watch The Last Hunger Season online. Learn more about Bread’s efforts to enact much-needed reforms to U.S. food aid. Then take action to help more smallholder farmers, like those shown in Kenya, and hungry people around the world as well. 

Two Billion People Suffer from ‘Hidden Hunger’

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A student who benefits from a USAID funded feeding program in Guatemala. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)


By Kimberly Burge

According to a new report released this week, a staggering 2 billion people do not get the essential vitamins and minerals from the food they eat. They remain undernourished, suffering from the “hidden hunger” of micronutrient and vitamin deficiencies.

The annual Global Hunger Index (GHI) is released jointly by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Welthungerhilfe (one of Germany's largest private development organizations), and Concern Worldwide. The 2014 report finds that, while great strides have been made to feed the world, 805 million people are still chronically undernourished because they do not get enough to eat. Even those who get sufficient calories can suffer from hidden hunger, an often overlooked yet critical aspect of hunger and nutrition.

Hidden hunger is often hard to detect, but is potentially devastating. Hidden hunger weakens the immune system, stunts physical and intellectual growth, and can lead to death. It wreaks economic havoc as well, locking countries into cycles of poor nutrition, lost productivity, poverty, and reduced economic growth.

Bread for the World Institute has explored the issue of hidden hunger in several previous Hunger Reports. Frontline Issues in Nutrition Assistance: Hunger Report 2006 recommended food fortification and the addition of vitamin and mineral supplements to nutrition programs to help boost the health and nutritional status of those who are malnourished. For example, iodine deficiency causes problems with cognitive development and remains the world’s single greatest cause of preventable mental retardation. But developing countries are making efforts to add iodine to household salt, efforts that are paying off. Between 1997 and 2002, 67 percent of all households in sub-Saharan Africa were consuming iodized salt, along with 53 percent in South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa; 80 percent in East Asia; and 91 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

“Particularly in countries facing a high burden of malnutrition, hidden hunger goes hand in hand with other forms of malnutrition and cannot be addressed in isolation,” said Welthungerhilfe president Bärbel Dieckmann. “In the long-term, people cannot break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition without being granted the basic right to nutritious food.”

Hidden hunger is not found exclusively in developing countries, however. It crosses borders and exists here in the United States as well, as the Institute’s Senior Editor Todd Post saw while researching Hunger Report 2012.

“In Philadelphia, I visited emergency rooms with Dr. Mariana Chilton, head of Witnesses to Hunger, who recruited women to participate in Witnesses first by targeting mothers who brought their babies to the emergency room for something they thought was unrelated to hunger,” recalls Post. “The children were suffering from a condition known as ‘failure to thrive,’ a precursor to stunting, which was malnutrition related.”

“Failure to thrive” is the clinical term for a child severely underweight for her age. Witnesses to Hunger was born out of Children’s HealthWatch, a multi-city research project that is studying the effects of hunger on the health and well-being of young children. The project screens children in emergency rooms and ambulatory care clinics at five medical centers across the country, since undernourished children have higher rates of hospitalization.

To read more about Witnesses to Hunger and Dr. Chilton’s work, see p. 52-53 of Rebalancing Act: 2012 Hunger Report.  

There was good news to be found in this year’s Global Hunger Index. The number of people going hungry has steadily decreased in most developing countries. Since 1990, hunger in the developing world has fallen by 39 percent, and 26 countries have reduced their scores by 50 percent or more. Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chad, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Thailand, and Vietnam have seen the greatest improvements in their scores between the 1990 GHI and the 2014 GHI.

And bad news, too: Levels of hunger are still “alarming” in 14 countries, and “extremely alarming” in two, Burundi and Eritrea.

Kimberly Burge is the interim associate online editor for Bread for the World.

Join Us on Twitter for a World Food Day Town Hall

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Every year on October 16, the global community pauses to celebrate World Food Day and raise the profile of the ongoing struggle to end hunger and poverty. This year’s celebration will focus on the 500 million small family farms, which help feed the world. 

The majority of these family farms are in developing countries, and most are run by women. They contribute in critical ways to local economies, support sustainable development, and provide nutritious food to billions of people. They are crucial partners in the effort to end hunger by 2030. That’s why @Bread4theWorld and @WorldFoodPrize are encouraging our supporters and partners to do their part to advocate for and on behalf of small farmers.

In honor of World Food Day, October 16, @Bread4theWorld and @WorldFoodPrize Foundation will moderate a Twitter Town Hall at 11 a.m. CT (12 noon, ET). Our chat will focus on the critical role small farmers play in the fight to end hunger by 2030 and how each of us can play our part, too. 2010 World Food Prize laureate and Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann (@davidbeckmann) and 2014 World Food Prize laureate Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram (#RajWFP) will lead this public discussion with partners, bloggers, and leaders who are working together to end  hunger once and for all.

Be sure to join the conversation on Twitter on Thursday, October 16 at 11 am CT (12 noon ET) using #WorldFoodDay. And please share about the Twitter town hall with your network through social media channels, blogs, websites, and emails before the event.

Crippling All of Humanity: A Reporter’s Reflection on Seeing Child Malnutrition

By Robin Stephenson

Earlier this year, PBS NewsHour correspondent Hari Sreenivasan traveled to Guatemala and saw the effects of malnourishment firsthand. Malnutrition, he saw, diminishes human growth, but also the future growth of a country’s economy.

Half of Guatemala’s children lack access to nutritious foods in the first two years of life. They will never reach their full potential. Physically and mentally stunted for life, malnutrition leads to health problems and reduced mental capacity. In turn, this leaves a country with a weak labor force.

Sreenivasan met one-year-old Lidia Chumil, whose diet typically consists of beans and herbs. Her mother does not have access to the nutrients she needs to feed her daughter. Baby Lidia is underweight and small for her age. It is unlikely she can ever regain what she has lost.

Reducing child malnutrition is a complex problem that requires new ways of thinking. Guatemala’s minister of food security, Luis Enrique Monterroso, told Sreenivasan that a focus on poverty interventions in the past did not work. Today, the Guatemalan government targets malnutrition.

Reps. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.) would agree that addressing malnutrition is key. In a recent contribution to The Hill, they write, “Specifically, addressing malnutrition requires coordinated planning and programming of effective nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions across multiple sectors, including agriculture, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, social protection and humanitarian assistance programs.”

The congressmen go on to laud the recent introduction of a USAID nutrition strategy that will strengthen the impact of federal dollars by coordinating programs and resources across government agencies. “[The strategy] also acknowledges that high rates of chronic malnutrition can significantly impact a nation’s GDP potential, as well as other economic and social costs,” they write.

As a partner, the United States can bolster efforts by the Guatemalan government with new foreign assistance programs that also target malnutrition. The Feed the Future initiative, legislation that takes a multi-sectorial approach to ending hunger, was introduced in both chambers of Congress. The legislation develops a whole-of-government strategy that supports country ownership, nutrition, and food security.

More than Guatemala’s future is economically stunted by malnutrition. There is a global price to pay.  It is estimated that childhood malnutrition will cost the global economy some $125 billion in lost GDP growth by 2030. Not to mention, hunger is presently driving children to flee Guatemala for the United States, creating an immediate crisis on our border.

Although Sreenivasan saw malnutrition up close, in a personal reflection, he steps back and takes a global view. “The question I’m left wondering is what becomes of a world where a significant portion of the population grows up without even the basic nutritional foundation to give them a shot at anything else,” he writes.  “As the business leaders in our piece say, from an economic perspective, that kind of inequality will cripple the productivity potential of entire countries. But from a human perspective, it seems like it will cripple us all.”

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

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