Bread Newsletter: December 2016

Contents:

Zambia. Photo by Joe Molieri / Bread for the World

An Unwavering Commitment in 2017

By Rev. David Beckmann

With a new administration and Congress, 2017 looks to be a very dangerous year for programs that help poor and hungry people. But you can count on Bread for the World’s unwavering commitment to challenging any proposed cuts to domestic and international anti-poverty programs.

These programs are a lifeline to millions of people here and abroad. Deep program cuts would only drive more people into poverty. That would be a tragedy given the fact that our country and the world have made substantial progress against hunger and poverty over the last several decades.

We will vigorously oppose deporting immigrants or registering people according to their faith. Right now we are continuing to push for promising sentencing reform to be passed, and a beneficial child nutrition bill to be reauthorized.

Together with our partners we will, in the name of God, continue to persistently advocate and organize with and for people who are hungry and poor. I am hopeful that we will also be able to get a few good things done for hungry people.

Sentencing reform, which enjoyed bipartisan support this year, will most likely get punted to the 115th Congress, which starts January 2017. However, we are still hopeful that the current Congress will increase funding for global maternal and child nutrition programs in the fiscal year 2017 budget — the focus of our 2016 Offering of Letters.

So let’s not become despondent about the uncertain road ahead under a new Congress and a new administration. Rather, let us faithfully build on the successes we achieved in 2016.

Even though the 114th Congress was not able to finalize much legislation before the elections, we convinced our legislators to pass a $7.6 billion world hunger bill in July 2016. The bill puts in place a strategy, similar to the successful Feed the Future initiative (which Bread also strongly advocated for), for the U.S. government to help hungry nations develop smart, long-term agriculture programs. 

The bill had broad support from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, including more than 140 co-sponsors of the bill — thanks to your visits, phone calls, letters, and emails. The law will benefit many of the more than 795 million chronically malnourished people, including 159 million children, in developing countries.  

The legislation will also improve maternal and child nutrition, especially in the key 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday.

Bread also did more election-related advocacy this year than ever before. We managed to get all the major-party presidential candidates — including President-elect Donald J. Trump — to make statements about what they would do to provide help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in our country and around the world. 

In fact, 640,000 of you committed to vote to end hunger. Your call for candidates to focus on ending hunger positioned Bread members to be forceful advocates to end hunger with the candidates who were elected.

We also worked with House Speaker Paul Ryan on the poverty plan that House Republicans published in June. These high-level Republican commitments can now give us an advocacy starting point with congressional Republicans. We plan to encourage the Trump administration to target the benefits of his infrastructure program to struggling rural and urban communities

Bread has also grown in strength. Notably, our digital community now includes 16 million people. 

The truth is that the election results are most likely to lead the news Congress and new administration to take actions that will result in an increase in hunger and poverty. Bread needs to be at full strength in its defense of working families and people who are hungry.

We take hope from the fact that our country and the world have made substantial progress against hunger and poverty over the last several decades. Continued progress is clearly possible. 

More fundamentally, our hope is sustained by faith that our loving God is present in the homes of people who are desperate and that God is active in history on the side of the widows, the orphans, and the immigrants, and people who are hungry.

Rev. David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World

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Panelists discuss the 2017 Hunger Report at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

Health, Gender Themes Thread Through Hunger Reports

By Michele Learner

A panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 21 kicked off the launch of Bread for the World Institute’s 2017 Hunger Report, Fragile Environments, Resilient Communities.

The report focuses on a major obstacle to ending hunger and malnutrition — fragility. It explains what fragility is, how it perpetuates hunger, and the roles of three key causes of fragility — conflict, climate change, and weak institutions. It also discusses the difficulties faced by people in the United States who are affected by fragility, particularly the 14 million people who live in communities of concentrated poverty.

The report’s main recommendations, discussions of what it will take to end hunger altogether and places where conflict and climate change converge, infographics, data, and more are available at www.hungerreport.org and on Bread’s blog.

Hunger Reports are written on a different main topic every year. But many Bread members and other advocates will notice common threads from year to year. As we prepare each report, we pay particular attention to examples and connections that add to what we already know about these various themes.

The speakers at this year’s Hunger Report launch made connections among hunger, fragility, health (which was the subject of the 2016 Hunger Report, The Nourishing Effect), and gender (the subject of the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish … We Can End Hunger).

Prince Tarnah is an attorney who spent 11 years of his adolescence and young adulthood, in the 1990s and early 2000s, in West African refugee camps. His family, along with 80 percent of the country’s entire population, was displaced by Liberia’s civil war. Fast-forward to 2014. Tarnah had returned home to Liberia and was working for a nonprofit when the Ebola epidemic began. International staff members at his organization were evacuated, leaving Tarnah to provide technical support to Liberia’s Ministry of Health in its efforts to treat patients and contain the epidemic. Nearly 5,000 Liberians died during the outbreak.

One reason the Ebola outbreak was so deadly, Tarnah explained at the panel discussion, was that many doctors and nurses had been either killed in the war or displaced from their homes. Many of the surviving health workers had not returned by the time the Ebola virus reached Liberia. (Of the health workers who were treating patients, a further 200 are believed to have died from Ebola themselves).

Another way that the war damaged Liberia’s ability to respond to Ebola, even a decade after the fighting stopped, was its devastation of both the country’s roads and other infrastructure, and the ability of its government to provide the population with basic services. The post-conflict development assistance for health care that Liberia received, while it helped pay for much-needed medications and medical equipment, was not designed to strengthen the country’s healthcare system so that it could provide for the country’s future health needs. Thus, when the Ebola epidemic began, there were large gaps in the system — everything from insufficient planning and training on how to respond to a public health emergency to a shortage of ambulances, hospital beds, and gloves.

The Nourishing Effect notes that hunger and micronutrient deficiencies pose major challenges to the capacity of national health systems in developing countries, just as the Ebola crisis posed to Liberia’s health system in particular. Yet building this capacity is essential to ending hunger and reaching the other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the nations of the world adopted in 2015.

When Women Flourish … We Can End Hunger argues that if gender inequality is not significantly reduced, it will simply not be possible to end global hunger. Speakers at the launch of Fragile Environments, Sustainable Communities agreed, pointing to the particularly devastating impacts of conflict and climate change on women and girls as a group. One is soaring rates of gender-based violence — whether its causes are as open as using rape as a weapon of war, or somewhat less obvious, such as more women, alone or in pairs, walking further distances to collect water due to a changing climate. Many women are also under a great deal of pressure to work long hours to earn enough to support their families, with men away at war or looking for work because climate change has made it impossible to earn a living by farming. In turn, problems such as gender-based violence and the escalating demands on women’s time fuel hunger and malnutrition.

Fragility, health, and gender are three themes among many interconnected and overlapping dimensions of hunger and its solutions. The SDG framework emphasizes considering various problems and solutions to be interdependent for the straightforward reason that they cannot be solved in isolation from each other. Certainly not by 2030, the agreed deadline.

Photo: Panelists discuss the 2017 Hunger Report at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

Michele Learner is associate editor at Bread for the World Institute.

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Dr. Susan Timoney is secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

On Faith: Love is the Measure

By Dr. Susan Timoney

It is hard to miss the note of urgency we hear in the Scripture readings that mark the beginning of the season of Advent. In Romans, Paul preaches “it is the hour now for you to wake from sleep, for salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).  In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus cautions “For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Matthew 24:44).  At this time of year, when so many of us carry a Christmas “to-do” lists a mile long, the Lord is asking “Is planning for the day of salvation on the list?”

More than simply planning to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, Advent nudges us out of the kind of spiritual complacency that allows us to think we have plenty of time to set things right with God or to be the kind of Christian we know we can be.  We know we can do more by way of good works or prayer or learning Scripture, feeding the hungry and other works that build the kingdom. But those things need to wait until tomorrow, until the kids are grown, until I can retire, until… 

Advent teaches us that, if there is one thing of which we can be sure, it is that we don’t have the luxury of knowing when it will be our turn to stand before Our Lord. To give an account of the way in which we have been stewards of the gifts he has given us, of the way in which we have been a light for others, a light that draws people into an encounter with Jesus.

After Jesus cautions us to expect the unexpected, we find Jesus in the next chapter of Matthew’s Gospel sharing the lesson of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13).  Here, we learn we have all we need to be prepared. We have the light of faith. We have a choice to use our gifts to be about the work of ending hunger, loving our neighbors and caring for God’s creation. We have the choice to choose hope rather than despair, light rather than darkness, confidence rather than fear. The writer T.J. O’Gorman captures this beautifully:

Face to face with our limits,
Blinking before the frightful
Stare of our frailty,
Promise rises
Like a posse of clever maids
Who do not fear the dark
Because their readiness
Lights the search.
Their oil
Becomes the measure of their love,
Their ability to wait —
An indication of their
Capacity to trust and take a chance.
Without the caution or predictability
Of knowing the day or hour,
They fall back on that only
Of which they can be sure:
Love precedes them,
Before it
No door will ever close.

T.J. O'Gorman, An Advent Sourcebook, Liturgy Training Publications, Thomas J. O'Gorman, editor

Dr. Susan Timoney is secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.  She earned her doctorate of sacred theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.

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Sunset at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Howard Wilson for Bread for the World.

News Briefs

JOIN US IN CREATING THE GLOBAL ADVENT CALENDAR

During Advent, Bread for the World is sharing meditations written by the Society of Saint John the Evangelist a monastic community of The Episcopal Church & The Anglican Church of Canada.

Each day, Bread will post a picture, meditation, and word of the day. Bread members are encouraged to participate and help create the Global Advent Calendar via social media. On Twitter and Instagram, tag your image/prayer #adventword plus the tag for the day. On Facebook go to the AdventWord Page and write on page using #adventword and the tag for the day.

Get involved and take part in creating the Global Advent Calendar.

MAKE BREAD FOR THE WORLD PART OF YOUR CHRISTMAS GIVING

Matthew 2:10 tells us about the wise men from the east who came to pay homage to the Christ child, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Their divine discovery inspired them to give Jesus their best gifts and to share the good news of his birth — helping to spread joy to the world.

It was the beginning of a tradition of giving many of us keep today.  Will you make Bread for the World part of your Christmas giving this year? By donating today, you’ll help spread joy to others — and feel the joy that giving brings.

As Bread for the World members, the joy of the Gospel moves us to change the policies and conditions that allow hunger to persist in our nation and around the world. The joy of Christmas inspires us — men and women, Republicans and Democrats, young and old – to work tirelessly with the conviction that God wants all people to be fed.

As the wise men did — and the shepherds before them — may we give the best of our talents and resources to express the joy we find in Jesus’ birth among us. 

Make your Christmas gift to Bread for the World today.

THERE IS STILL TIME TO ORDER BREAD FOR THE WORLD CHRISTMAS CARDS!

When you send Bread for the World Christmas cards to your family and friends, you will help create hope and opportunity for hungry people.  Proceeds from the sale of these cards support efforts to urge our nation’s decision makers to change the policies and conditions that allow hunger to persist in our own country and abroad.

The 2016 card features a photo of Afghanistan girl and her sibling.  Inside is a Scripture passage — Isaiah 35:10 — and the greeting, “May the Prince of Peace, who is born among us this Christmas, give you peace and joy in the new year.”

Ten cards and envelopes are only $15 (includes shipping). Additional card deigns, including one without a religious greeting, are available. View the cards and place your order today or call 800/822-7323. Order today to receive them in time for Christmas.

2017 HUNGER REPORT NOW AVAILABLE

The 2017 Hunger Report: Fragile Environments, Resilient Communities is now available to the general public. The report explains why ending hunger globally demands a clear focus on supporting fragile countries, where two-thirds of people facing hunger will live by 2030.

The report includes offers recommendations for U.S. and other governments as well as anti-hunger advocates to more effectively meet humanitarian needs in fragile states — while, at the same time, promoting peace, strengthening governance, and preventing the worst effects of climate change.

The report includes a four-part Christian Study Guide that helps small groups explore the report together. The study guide also offers specific actions readers can take in order to mobilize their communities around anti-hunger advocacy.

Visit hungerreport.org today to download the full report, view a mini-documentary video and infographics, and get the latest data on hunger, poverty, and fragility worldwide.

Photo caption: Sunset at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Howard Wilson for Bread for the World.

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After the birth of her 8-month-old daughter Debi, Asha Rani and husband Bikash Sarker subscribed to the Aponjon mobile health messaging service to receive information about keeping their new baby and the entire family healthy. Tanvir Murad Topu for USAID.

Field Focus: Key to Better Health Now in the Palm of your Hand

Editor’s note: Bread’s 2016 Offering of Letters: Survive and Thrive focuses on the nutrition of mothers and children in developing countries. Sometimes, however, it’s challenging for Americans to understand the connection between the letters they write to Congress and what happens on the ground in far-away places in the work of ending hunger. 

To better understand the connection, Bread is partnering with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to post USAID stories on Bread Blog. This story first appeared on the organization’s website.

By Troy Beckman

Asha Rani is a 24-year-old, married mother of two. She lives with her family and in-laws in a small compound located in one of the most crowded slums in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Following the birth of her first child, Rani realized that she didn’t understand some of the essential elements of raising a healthy baby. Though her family offered advice, she still had questions about immunizations, nutrition and diet, and when to seek care from a doctor when the infant was sick.

Even after she delivered her second baby, Rani remained unsure of how to properly take care of her children. But her cell phone was about to change the way she raised her children.

In a country with more than 115 million people subscribing to cell phone service and networks covering 95 percent of the country, USAID is harnessing the power of mobile technology to spread health information throughout Bangladesh with a new mobile health service called Aponjon. It means “dear one” in Bengali.

As part of the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, Aponjon is the first-ever nationwide maternal and child health cell phone messaging service in Asia.

The service sends pre-programmed voicemail and text messages with advice and health information to pregnant women and new mothers, as well as their husbands, mothers-in-law and other family members. Twice a week, mobile messages urge pregnant women to visit health care providers for regular check-ups to prevent complications during pregnancy, and advise them to give birth in a health clinic or with a trained midwife in attendance. Messages also target women and families after their baby is born with advice on how to raise a healthy child.

Currently, 60 percent of child deaths in Bangladesh occur during the first month of life. Understanding the importance of healthy practices like proper nutrition for newborns and their mothers during pregnancy is essential for women like Rani to protect the lives of infants.

Goalposts in Sight

Since 1990, maternal deaths in Bangladesh have dropped by 66 percent and the mortality rate for children under age 5 has declined by 60 percent.

“I call it the final 100 meters,” says Dr. Ishtiaq Mannan of Save the Children, a physician and key player in USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program activities in Bangladesh. “If you compare Bangladesh’s journey to reducing maternal and child mortality with a 400-meter relay race, Bangladesh is almost at the final 100 meters. In the final 100 meters, business as usual will not work.”

In order for Bangladesh to cross the finish line, Mannan acknowledges the need for pregnant women to give birth under the supervision of a skilled attendant, whether at home or in a health facility. He is enthusiastic about utilizing innovative tools to make information more readily available to policymakers and health officials, while serving the needs of women and families.

“You have to take special efforts, measure every step and calculate every step you take. Now, if you want to do it efficiently, technology has a big, big role to play,” Mannan said.

Bangladeshi urban slum dwellers like Rani often have poor access to basic health care. Clinics in these areas are typically overburdened with patients and understaffed by doctors and other health care providers. Rather than wait in line for hours at a time, many people choose not to visit a doctor unless it is an emergency.

Access to health information is also difficult to come by in the countryside. Visits often require patients to travel long distances, whether for check-ups during pregnancy, family planning counseling or giving birth.

“Bangladesh has got a very good platform because of the cell phone availability and high cell phone penetration,” says Mannan. “So we can use this to reach mothers with health information as we are doing with the MAMA [Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action] initiative.”

Rani was eager to learn more basic health information through the service. Now, she has the answers to many of her questions in the palm of her hand. One of the early messages she received explained the importance of immunizations, prompting her to take her baby to a nearby health facility to receive routine vaccinations. Rani also learned about the nutritional benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of her new daughter’s life. She continues to receive recommendations on nutrient-packed foods to feed her growing baby.

Her husband also receives weekly text messages on their shared phone and has become more active in caring for their baby and the entire family.

“The Aponjon service helped me to get accurate health messages on how to raise a child as well as to take care of my own health,” Rani said. She is encouraging others in her community to subscribe.

According to the Bangladesh Demographic Health Survey, conducted in 2011 and published in 2013, only 26 percent of pregnant women nationwide have at least four antenatal care visits before giving birth. However, a recent survey among Aponjon users indicates that 66 percent of women who receive mobile messages have visited a health care provider for regular check-ups at least four times, as recommended by the World Health Organization. During childbirth, 57 percent of subscribers deliver their baby in a health facility — nearly double that of the national average.

“Using a simple and innovative solution like mobile technology is already showing results,” says Melissa Jones, director of health and education programs at USAID’s mission in Bangladesh. “Ending preventable child and maternal deaths will not only help Bangladesh reach its goals in improving overall health — it can also contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty. By making it possible for more children to grow up healthy, the next generation of Bangladeshis have the opportunity to live in a more productive and prosperous country.”

Mafruha Alam of the Development Research Network and Mahin Rashid of USAID contributed to this article.

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Ann George is executive director of the Parma Heights Food Pantry. Alison Grant for Bread for the World.

Hunger in the Suburbs

By Alison Grant

When Ann George opened the Parma Heights Food Pantry in 2008, the depth of the Great Recession wasn’t yet apparent. The local food bank told her she would likely see about 50 families a month.

Eight years later, with the recession long since officially over — and recent census data showing years of high poverty easing in communities across the U.S. — the pantry supplies food to 280 to 300 families a month.

“We’re seeing people that have gotten jobs again, but they’re not the good-paying jobs that they had,” George said. “I’ve actually had men come in here and cry. They say they never expected to see themselves in a place like this.”

George started concentrating on hunger in Parma Heights in 2007 after she overheard two women in the grocery store talk about struggling to make ends meet after their husbands died and their pensions were cut by more than half.

A meeting was set for that night at her church to discuss mission donations to Central America. George told parishioners the money was needed at home. When she started making calls to drum up interest in a pantry, she ran into disbelief that there could be a problem in Parma Heights.

“I found out then that if you weren’t affected by it, you didn’t know how bad it was,” said George. It was the same thing Michael Harrington described 50 years earlier in his book “The Other American,” when he said that poverty survived because it was invisible to most Americans.

Hurting families

In 1999, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank supplied 518 anti-hunger programs, primarily in the city of Cleveland. By 2015 there were 710 programs, scattered across a wider geographical area, with pantries and hot meal dining halls springing up in bedroom communities such as North Royalton and Bay Village.

At the Parma Heights Food Pantry, George and her small crew of dedicated volunteers see hurting families up close every week. Parma Heights families or those who go to a church in town can visit once a month to pick canned and boxed food, produce and bakery goods from the shelves. But George never turns anyone away.

Rita Mandsley, 62, walks to the pantry from Middleburg Heights, 2 1/4 hours each way. She pulls a wagon to carry home food if it’s not raining. If it is, she uses a tote bag and takes less.

“It means the difference between having something to eat and not,” she said. “I get by in between by scrounging through garbage cans.”

Donna of Parma Heights, with her granddaughter, Alessa, 1, said the pantry is a lifeline for her household of six. “Just to get to the end of the month is kind of hard,” Donna said. “They’re really good here.

There’s always been pockets of poverty in the suburbs, of course. But suburban poverty began accelerating after the 2008 housing collapse and foreclosures that disrupted families, said Claudia Coulton, founder and co-director of the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University.

The economic downturn saw the iron foundry at the Ford plant two miles from the Parma Heights pantry close after 58 years of being a path into the middle class. Ford also shuttered its Engine Plant No. 2 and GM closed its transmission factory. At its peak in the 1960s, the Ford complex employed 15,000. Now it’s about 1,000.

“Those were good-paying union jobs. People could buy houses,” George said.

At the Parma Heights Food Pantry, volunteers scramble to respond to the scarcity some local families live with. The pantry has gently-used clothing (up to six items per family member), children’s books (with a stuffed-bear chair for young visitors set up near the book shelves), a treasure chest of trinkets for kids and blankets that are donated to veterans.

The pantry's main source of food is the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Every week a small caravan heads there — Ann and her husband, Arnie, in their car, following a truck driven by a neighbor. The pantry spends about $1,200 a month at the food bank and $1,500 for rent and utilities.

November and December are the pantry’s busiest months. People that won’t come in the rest of the year show up hoping to put a holiday dinner on the table. Jaworski Meats in Middleburg Heights sells turkeys to the pantry at cost.

“Most of the businesses that I approach try to help us one way or another,” said George, 82, who has had two open heart surgeries and is on her second pacemaker but shows no sign of slowing down.

George said helping neighbors was something she witnessed as a young girl growing up on the near West Side of Cleveland. Her father, an Italian immigrant, went to West Tech High to learn to be a shoemaker. When he set up shop at 57th and Lorain, customers didn’t always have the cash to cover their bill.

“He would say take the shoes and when you have money you can come back and pay me,” George recalled. George sees some of the same hardship at the doorstep of the pantry today.

“If you have not been affected by this it’s very hard to understand that there are people in this country,” she said, “in your own neighborhood, that are hurting.”

Alison Grant is a freelance writer in Bay Village, Ohio. 

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Photo by Joe Molieri / Bread for the World

Mothers and Children Need Your Help

As Congress works to finalize the fiscal year 2017 budget, please continue to call (800-826-3688) your senators and representative and urge them to support an increase for global maternal and child nutrition programs. Without this increase in funding, millions of mothers and children around the world won’t have the nutrition they need to have a fighting chance for a better life.

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