Institute Insights: February 2019

Contents:

USAID is helping farmers’ organizations, like this group in Kano, Nigeria, to plant and harvest higher-yielding crops. Photo: USAID

From the Director

In January, the EAT-Lancet Commission issued an urgent call to action for a transformation of the global food system. A transformation necessary not only to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but to ensure a "fair and sustainable global food system for healthy people and planet—leaving no one behind."

The report opens with the alarming statement that the current food system is threatening human health and the environment, quite the opposite of what the food system should and could do—"nurture human health and support environmental sustainability." 

The Commission and its report are a timely contribution to a deepening focus on the importance of nutrition, spurred by the 2008 and 2013 Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition, the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, the adoption of the SDGs with a goal to end hunger and targets to end malnutrition in all its forms, and the growing evidence that climate change is already driving increases in hunger and conflict.

The Commission proposes a significant change in diets to substantially increase the consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts, while decreasing meat and dairy. These guidelines are based on scientific evidence about human nutrition and health and the impact of food production and diets on climate change.

They call for a multi-stakeholder approach and propose five strategies: 

  1. Seek international and national commitment to shift toward healthy diets.
  2. Reorient agricultural priorities from producing high quantities of food to producing healthy food...that enhance biodiversity.
  3. Sustainably intensify food production to increase high-quality output: the global food system must be a net carbon sink from 2040 onward. 
  4. Strengthen coordinated governance of land and oceans.
  5. Cut food losses and waste by half, in line with SDGs. 

Good governance at national, regional and global levels is critical to moving in the direction urged by the Commission. It is troubling to say the least that this report comes at a time when we face major governance challenges here at home. Political gridlock dominates, and scientific research is no longer the basis of policy decisions. Multilateral solutions are also under threat as populism takes a zero-sum approach to issues from trade to climate change.

It will take sustained and scaled up engagement and advocacy to make healthy diets and environmental sustainability global priorities and to achieve the SDGs. Our future health and the health of our planet depend on it.

Asma Lateef is director of Bread for the World Institute

Asma Lateef is director of Bread for the World Institute.

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Rev. Jennifer Bailey speaking at poverty hearing in Brown Chapel in Selma AL 3/6/2015. Courtesy Rev. Jennifer Bailey

Honoring Black History Month: Celebrating Black Leaders Championing Nutrition

By Marlysa D. Gamblin

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the contributions of people of African descent across a variety of areas, and that includes individuals and groups who’ve made significant contributions to fighting hunger.

This year, Bread for the World is honoring the work of Black leaders championing nutrition assistance. One of these is Reverend Jennifer Bailey, a Bread member in Greater Nashville, Tennessee, who assists members of her community to gain access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As founder and executive director of Faith Matters Network, Rev. Bailey engages with faith leaders to challenge structural inequities in their communities, especially root causes that perpetuate malnutrition and hunger.

Other leaders are part of national nutrition networks assisting communities of African Descent across the United States. The National Organization of Blacks in Dietetics and Nutrition over the last 50 years has championed best practices and policies to ensure racially equitable access to healthy food. The African American Breastfeeding Network was established in 2008 to provide racially sensitive breastfeeding supportive tools and community supports to strengthen nutrition outcomes for African American women, infant and children. The Black Mothers' Breastfeeding Association connects African American communities with local breastfeeding networks and provides ongoing support to African American families, as well as the public and private agencies that serve them.

As countless studies show, nutrition is a critical determinant of our ability to survive and thrive. And while it often gets less attention, improving access to nutrient-rich foods is inseparable from the goal of ending hunger. Poor nutrition is harmful to children’s physical and cognitive development, and is a predictor of chronic illness in adulthood, leading to higher rates of depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes among other conditions. All of these put people at greater risk of hunger.

Limited access to nutritious food is common in U.S. communities that experience structural and institutional racism—making the commitment of Black leaders to improve access and simultaneously address the root cause of racism a superb reason to celebrate their contributions.

Honoring Black leaders who have championed nutrition in the United States is especially relevant this year, as we observe the Quad-Centennial—the 400-year anniversary marking the arrival of the first African slaves to the United States. The anniversary allows us to honor the resilience of African Americans while acknowledging how slavery has led to policies and practices that, to this day, are rooted in racism. Equitable access to nutritious foods is a critical component of ending hunger in communities enduring the legacy of slavery.

Please join Bread in thanking these leaders and networks for being on the frontline on issues that so deeply impact our ability to end hunger by 2030. 

Marlysa D. Gamblin is the domestic advisor for policy and programs, specific populations, with Bread for the World Institute.

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Isaías immigrated twice to the United States to support his family in the department of San Marcos, Guatemala. Photo: Andrew Wainer for Bread for the World

Foreign Assistance Should Meet Needs, Not Political Whims

By Jordan Teague

Since the beginning of his administration, President Trump has called for cutting off aid to countries in Central America with large flows of immigrants and asylum-seekers, indicating he is willing to use U.S. foreign assistance like a cudgel. He has also threatened to cut off assistance to countries whose votes in the United Nations do not align with the United States.

It is true the U.S. government has used foreign assistance as a means of promoting the national interest. The Marshall Plan is a perfect example. It was clearly in the U.S. interest to help rebuild Europe and Japan following World War II. No one would argue 80 years later that we haven’t reaped enormous benefits. More recently, Feed the Future, the United States’ flagship global food security initiative, is helping to end hunger, poverty, and malnutrition. Since the program was launched in 2010, U.S. agriculture and food exports to Feed the Future countries have increased by $1.4 billion.

We should be investing foreign assistance dollars in countries and populations with the highest level of need. When people are affected by humanitarian crises—droughts, conflict, floods—the political decisions of their country’s leaders should not be the determinant of who qualifies for lifesaving aid. By representing our values, U.S. foreign assistance should be, and often is, more than just a transactional arrangement. The Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in 2015 by all countries, including the United States, pledge to “leave no one behind.” That means poverty, hunger, illiteracy and other hardships should be important factors in determining how to use our foreign assistance.

Hunger and other hardships are factors causing people to flee their homes in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Bread for the World disagrees with the approach the Trump administration has taken thus far to prevent people from seeking asylum at our southern border. U.S. foreign assistance, by addressing the root causes of migration, would be a useful tool to solve the humanitarian crisis at the border and contribute to creating conditions that allow families to choose to stay in their countries, rather than flee. Cutting foreign assistance to these countries, on the other hand, would achieve quite the opposite and be counterproductive.

Foreign assistance must not be used as a political tool apart from addressing development and humanitarian challenges.

Jordan Teague is international policy analyst with Bread for the World Institute.

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The world must cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent by 2030, or it will be impossible to stop a range of grim projections from becoming reality, according to a recent report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Photo: iStock

Climate Change: Yes, there is Reason for Hope

By Todd Post

In the previous edition of Institute Insights, I highlighted recent reports by the world’s top climate scientists that sound more like sirens going off than their typical warnings about the impending effects of climate change. In short, the reports are telling us the international community needs to begin rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly Carbon Dioxide (CO2) produced from fossil fuels. 

For Institute Insights readers, quite simply this means it will become much harder, if not impossible, to end global hunger in our lifetime.

I had hoped to convey that it is feasible to reduce emissions. Mainly, we need to accelerate a transition to renewable resources, such as solar and wind power, as well as energy efficiency, which is already underway. By feasible, I mean doable and affordable.

The cost-benefit analysis is alluring but is not what gives me hope that the tide is turning and the much needed political will is about to finally burst forth. I’m investing my hope in what’s been dubbed a Green New Deal, and the cast of advocates who are leading the charge.

In November, newly elected Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York’s 14th Congressional District participated in protests on Capitol Hill outside the offices of Democratic leaders in Congress demanding their immediate attention to address climate change. Just about everything AOC does these days attracts media attention, but I think it is important to note she was not there to lead the protest. She was there in solidarity with members of The Sunrise Movement, led by a diverse crowd of people in their 20s and younger from across the country. The Sunrise Movement represents the generation who stands to lose the most from climate change, forced to contend with the negligence of their elders, and they are all about a Green New Deal.

A rapid deployment of renewables is only one piece of the Green New Deal. What is often missing from discussions about climate change is the opportunity it presents to create millions of jobs. Yes, that’s right—opportunity, which I know sounds perverse. U.S. infrastructure must be retrofitted for the kind of heavy weather we can anticipate with the effects of climate change in the coming decades. We need to weatherize every building in the country to prevent energy loss, which accounts for nearly one-third of all domestic emissions. A Green New Deal would provide jobs for workers in manufacturing, construction, and other sectors. If a Green New Deal is properly targeted, as proponents demand, it could lift millions of people out of poverty.

To be clear, there really isn’t a lot new about the Green New Deal, in terms of its greenness or ethos. The Green New Deal invokes the Depression-era New Deal, a massive public works program to improve the nation’s infrastructure. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, there was much clearer recognition that America’s infrastructure was in ill shape for the effects of climate change and something had to be done. Bread for the World Institute’s 2010 Hunger Report: A Just and Sustainable Recovery called for sustained investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency to create jobs and revive the economy in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The report didn’t call for a Green New Deal, but that was basically what the report was proposing.

There are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic of our political leaders stepping up to the challenge of climate change. Their track record has been so disappointing. But I find a great deal to be grateful for the leadership coming from new members of Congress, the younger woke generation, and for likeminded young leaders in civil society.

Todd Post is senior researcher, writer, and editor with Bread for the World Institute.

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Tools
from our Resource Library

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