Measuring Progress on Hunger and Extreme Poverty

August 2, 2016

Bread for the World’s mission is to build the political will to end hunger both in the United States and around the world. From 2000 to 2015, an essential part of fulfilling our mission at the global level was supporting the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—the first-ever worldwide effort to make progress on human problems such as hunger, extreme poverty, and maternal/child mortality. The hunger target, part of MDG1, was to cut in half the proportion of people who are chronically hungry or malnourished.

The MDGs spurred unprecedented improvements. The goal of cutting the global hunger rate in half was nearly reached, and more than a billion people escaped from extreme poverty. Building on these successes, the United States and 192 other countries agreed to a new set of global development goals in September 2015, ahead of the MDG end date of December 31, 2015. Among the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms and ending extreme poverty. The SDG deadline is December 31, 2030.

The SDGs are universal—they apply to all countries in the belief that every country, regardless of its current level of development, can make progress. This report focuses on how the SDGs to end extreme poverty and hunger (goals 1 and 2) can be applied to the United States, and what existing measures and indicators could be used to assess progress. These are the SDGs most directly related to Bread’s mission. The MDGs applied only to developing countries, so in one sense, a U.S. plan to achieve global development goals is a new idea. On the other hand, the U.S. government, state and local governments, nonprofit groups, churches, community organizations, and individuals from all walks of life have a long history of initiatives to reduce hunger, poverty, and inequalities—and, of course, these efforts continue today. There are groups and individuals working on all 17 SDGs scattered throughout U.S. government and civil society. These initiatives aren’t (yet) considered actions toward meeting the SDGs, but that is what they are. The SDGs offer an opportunity to articulate a common vision and to tailor a framework for action to the work of the various stakeholders.

The SDGs are a renewed opportunity to make lasting progress against hunger and poverty by bringing together the world’s leaders and resources to tackle these multidimensional and interconnected problems. The United States is in a strong position to begin measuring progress toward the SDGs. The federal government already calculates some relevant indica-tors, and it collects additional data that could be used to mea-sure progress on other indicators. 

Although the United States has advanced capabilities in data collection, our data analysis does not consistently disaggregate data for all the subpopulations and geographic locations neces-sary to track progress for all people, as envisioned in the SDGs. There are also some communities and groups whose data is still not adequately collected, such as homeless people, undocu-mented immigrants, and people who identify as LGBTQ. In order to capture all their voices and their varied experiences, we must strengthen our national surveys and data collection methods. The federal government must lead the way in ensuring that we collect and evaluate all the data necessary to consistently capture the realities of U.S. hunger and poverty for everyone.

from our Resource Library

For Education

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

  • U.S. Hunger and Poverty State Fact Sheets

    These fact sheets provide a snapshot of hunger and poverty in the United States and in each state plus Washington, D.C. 

  • Fact Sheet: Hunger by the Numbers

    In 2017, 11.8 percent of households in the U.S.—40 million people—were food-insecure, meaning that they were unsure at some point during the year about how they would provide for their next meal.

  • 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...


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