Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals at home

February 11, 2016
A participant speaking during a discussion about the Sustainable Development Goals at Bread for the World office. Todd Post/Bread for the World.

By Cynthia Woodside, Bread for the World Institute

On February 4, more than 50 representatives from the anti-hunger, anti-poverty, faith-based, think tank, philanthropic, and federal governmental communities joined together at Bread for the World to discuss how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the United States. The 17 SDGs include, for example, targets to end hunger and extreme poverty, achieve gender equality, and ensure clean water and sanitation, all by 2030. 

Bread President David Beckmann shared the news that in early February, the President’s Advisory Council on Poverty, Inequality, and Opportunity, on which he sits, approved a recommendation calling on President Obama to continue his administration’s efforts to implement the SDGs in the United States. The council also pledged its assistance in engaging nongovernmental groups to help meet the goals.

Three high-ranking administration officials as well as leaders from the foundation and think tank worlds offered their thoughts. The officials, from the White House National Security Council, the White House Office of Domestic Policy, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, joined other speakers in emphasizing that these global goals reflect American values. They gave encouraging examples and concrete recommendations on how to move forward on the SDG poverty and hunger targets 

The speakers also emphasized that the SDGs are interconnected and universal. Every country that endorsed the SDGs in September 2015 – all 193 nations – committed to all the goals. Countries are not free to pick and choose among the goals.

The example of work on one of the zero hunger targets -- eliminating food waste -- illustrates how organizations can work together to make progress on any of the SDGs. John Norris, executive director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at the Center for American Progress, offered these recommendations:

  • Build on projects and programs that already exist and take them to a new level. It is not necessary to start from scratch.
  • Develop public-private partnerships with great partners to garner bipartisan support. Good partners are key to success.
  • Use data that already exists to create a baseline and measure progress. Do not reinvent the wheel.  
  • Combine actions that touch the heart and the wallet. Highlight economic impacts whenever possible.
  • Expend sweat equity. It will take time and constant nudging to get key people and organizations on board.
  • Remember that the SDGs’ predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), became powerful and successful not because of support from governments, but because of support from nongovernmental organizations. The SDGs are an opportunity for a broad cross-section of society to come together to make progress on critical issues and promote the “power of positivity.”

One place we can already see the power of positivity is in the efforts to eliminate food waste. For example, Feeding America is a founding member of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, which, as its name says, seeks to reduce food waste – among other strategies, by increasing the amount of food donated while it is still fresh and diverting unavoidable food waste from landfills.

Feeding America is also helping to bolster the framework of the SDGs in our country through its own organizational goals, including achieving nutritious food for all and making progress toward economic security for all by 2025.

Beckmann also commended the U.S. faith community – 100 leaders from every major faith tradition in the nation – for its September commitment (particularly the downloads at this link) to pray and work to end hunger in the United States and worldwide by 2030 and to help achieve a shift in U.S. national priorities by 2017. Adding to the positivity, the Council on Foundations is encouraging U.S. foundations to use the SDGs as a framework to inform and coordinate their domestic grants, and so far, five cities and one state have committed to achieving the SDGs in their own jurisdictions.

Following a lively and thoughtful discussion, Bread invited participants to form a working group to build collective U.S. action on the SDGs. The response from this field of committed, caring, and knowledgeable professionals has been nothing but positive.  

Cynthia Woodside is a senior domestic policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute.

One place we can already see the power of positivity is in the efforts to eliminate food waste.

from our Resource Library

For Education

  • The Nourishing Effect

    Hunger and food insecurity add at least $160 billion a year to U.S. healthcare costs.

  • Mass Incarceration: A Major Cause of Hunger

    Mass incarceration has far-reaching effects in the United States. It poses a significant barrier to ending U.S. hunger and poverty by 2030—a goal the United States adopted in 2015. But the connection is not always obvious.

  • Advancing Nutrition through Food Aid Reform

    The United States has long been a global leader in responding to humanitarian emergencies. Food assistance that includes nutritious food for pregnant women and young children is both a life-and-death matter for individuals and an economic imperative for countries.

For Faith

  • Unity Declaration on Racism and Poverty

    A diverse body of Christian leaders calls on the churches and Congress to focus on the integral connection.

    Dear Members of Congress,

    As the president and Congress are preparing their plans for this year, almost 100 church leaders—from all the families of U.S. Christianity—are...

  • In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

    This devotional guide invites deepened relationship with and among Pan-Af­rican people and elected leaders in the mission to end hunger and poverty.

  • Sermon by David Beckmann at Duke University Chapel

    Remarks delivered October 1, 2017 at Duke University Chapel in Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

    Thank you for inviting me to preach here at Duke University Chapel. And I especially want to thank the Bread for the World members who have come this morning.

    Bruce Puckett urged...

For Advocacy

  • Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit

    A set of how-to sheets for carrying out advocacy and fact sheets on the current issues Bread for the World is working on.

    For new and current Bread grassroots hunger activists.

    Ideal as a starter toolkit for new Bread activists or as a set of updates for current activists.


  • Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017

    Unnecessarily long prison sentences, combined with the lack of rehabilitative programs for people in prison, exacerbate hunger, poverty, and existing inequalities.

    Overly harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences have contributed to the rapid increase of our country’s prison population. The...

  • Health Care Is a Hunger Issue

    Learn more about the principles that Bread for the World supports regarding health reform.


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