Saturday, April 26, 2008

NY Times: "Across Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger'

The April 18 New York Times ran an article about the increasing food riots across the globe. These clashes are becoming more an more common as people on the edge are feeling desperation and anger. All of these stories are illustrating how extreme poverty alleviation is not only a matter of morality, charity, social justice or national security, but all of those things together.

Here are excerpts:

"Saint Louis Meriska’s children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal recently and then went without any food the following day. His eyes downcast, his own stomach empty, the unemployed father said forlornly, “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry. That anger is palpable across the globe. The food crisis is not only being felt among the poor but is also eroding the gains of the working and middle classes, sowing volatile levels of discontent and putting new pressures on fragile governments."

“Why are these riots happening?” asked Arif Husain, senior food security analyst at the World Food Program, which has issued urgent appeals for donations. “The human instinct is to survive, and people are going to do no matter what to survive. And if you’re hungry you get angry quicker.”

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bloggers Against Hunger, June 18

The forwarded message is from a blogger friend of mine. She's organizing a Blog Against Hunger day. Even if your blog doesn't directly have to do with poverty issues, please consider doing a post about something hunger related on June 18. You could publicize an event, promote a hunger-fighting org,post your own musings... Help raise awareness and maybe learn more about an issue yourself! Thanks!



The lines in the soup kitchens and food pantries are growing. More and more people need help, and not enough is being done to provide for those in need.

I'm inviting all of you to take on the issue of hunger in America. On Wednesday June 18, I need you to post a blog calling attention to the fact that the poor are getting poorer, while our nation fails to acknowledge the need to do something to change things. The ongoing cycle of poverty needs to end.

Think about the situation in your home town and what could be done to make a difference. Spotlight an organization that is working to make changes. Write about your personal experiences and actions. But do something to raise awareness of a growing issue here that is destined to grow worse as the economy continues to spiral downward.

Join Bloggers Against Hunger and post a blog about hunger issues on June 18. In the interim, you can send a letter to your local paper letting them know about the planned blogfest on June 18, notify your churches and synagogues and ask them to join in the effort, and alert your friends and colleagues to participate. There is a similar BAH groups set up on MySpace and Facebook, so let your friends there know about it as well.

Just a reminder that on Saturday, May 10, the Postal Carriers are doing their annual food drive. You can leave a bag of canned goods by your mailbox, and they will collect it and bring it to local food pantries. Do what you can to help someone in need.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Survey from Howard Dean: Where is Poverty in the Dem Issues?

I just finished filling out a survey from the Democratic National Committee. Apparently, my voice is important to deciding the campaign strategy for the general election? Well, that's debatable, but what I want to write about was the one of the questions that had to do with ranking the importance of election issues. 14 were listed: Education, environment, health care, civil rights/liberties, immigration, social security, ethics in government, reproductive rights, homeland security, stem cell research, Iraq, taxes, energy policy, and jobs/economy.

Where was Poverty?

I know that it is a complex issue that spans education, healthcare, jobs/economy, civil rights and immigration. But really, I think it deserves it's own category seeing as how over 35 million Americans are food insecure and 1.1 billion people live in extreme poverty around the world. Doesn't it deserve a _mention_ in a Democratic party survey? I mean, if the Dems aren't even going to bring it up amongst themselves, who is going to talk about poverty? Clinton was very quick to jump on the bandwagon earlier in the primary, claiming poverty was "central" to her campaign after Edwards said it was central to his. But if it doesn't have to do with the healthcare part of it, I don't hear it being discussed. More and more people are getting on food stamps and hunger riots are breaking out globally. I hear and see plenty of coverage on this from NPR, the NY Times, the Chicago Trib, and the Economist, but nothing from our candidates. Obama a great record on poverty-fighting legislation like Farm Bill subsidy reform and the Global Poverty Act. But even he isn't bringing those up. We really have to talk about these things out in the open if we are going to change them. Words matter...change... So, let's speak some words about poverty again and change some lives for the better!

I've got to find Howard Dean's address somewhere here on this survey....

Farm Bill Call in by Friday!

A call-in action about the Farm Bill! This message is from Bread for the World...
We need you to take action right away to ensure the gains we've fought so hard for over the past year and half are not lost.

Please call your representative and senators by noon Eastern time Friday, April 25, at 1-800-826-3688. Tell them we must pass a new farm bill now, and must not lose the nutrition increases and food aid changes already passed. At a time of sharply rising food prices, these increases are especially critical. Modest commodity reform could pay for these increases without resorting to tax increases or other cuts.

Read the talking points below.

[Note: This toll-free number will connect you to the Capitol switchboard, where you will ask to be connected to your representative's office in order to leave your message.]


The House passed its version of the farm bill in July; the Senate did the same in December. Key representatives and senators are meeting now to reconcile the two different versions and prepare a conference report that sets out the terms of the final bill. However, conferees have been unable to agree on total funding for the bill and how to pay for it. The president has threatened to veto the bill if it includes funding mechanisms he does not approve or fails to incorporate adequate commodity program reform. The current farm bill is scheduled to expire on April 25.

Both the House and Senate bills included significant increases to the farm bill's nutrition programs, especially food stamps. These increases represented a powerful recognition of current needs in the food stamp program and food bank programs. Since then, food price inflation has accelerated, squeezing many low-income families. However, if Congress does not pass a new farm bill, we will lose the nutrition increases currently on the table. This will mean fewer families will receive the assistance they need to be assured of an adequate, nutritious diet.

Rising food prices are also having a devastating impact on poor people outside our country. Our food aid assistance is a critically important tool to help the poorest people in the world cope with the rapidly rising food prices that we are currently seeing. However, some provisions of our food aid programs cause inefficiencies that cost lives. One of the most direct changes we could make to our food aid programs is to provide the flexibility to purchase some of our food aid locally or regionally. A pilot study of how to buy food locally or regionally was rightly included in the Senate version of the farm bill. Though the original language was weakened by an amendment during the Senate floor debate, it is a good first step and should be retained in the final bill.

At the same time, the Senate- and House-passed bills do very little to make commodity programs fairer or more equitable. Neither version includes meaningful payment limits and both actually increase the most trade-distorting programs.

It's not too late to pass a final farm bill that addresses these issues. A few changes to the commodity programs would make the programs fairer for farm families of modest means while producing enough savings to pay for the nutrition increases we know are necessary. Funding is not an issue for the food aid pilot program, but conferees do need encouragement to include it in the final bill. The result would be farm bill that is better for poor people, in our own country and around the world.

See my recent interview on Bill Moyers Journal about rising food prices and the ways the farm bill could help mitigate their impact on the most vulnerable among us:

Message to Congress:

In this time of rising food prices, your statement of support for nutrition funding in the farm bill is especially critical! Modest reforms to make commodity programs more equitable could provide funds without risking a presidential veto. Please show your support for finishing the farm bill with the strongest nutrition title to help make great strides against hunger and poverty.

Key points:

Over 35 million Americans--including more that 12 million children--struggle to put food on the table.

With skyrocketing food prices, food stamp households need assistance now more than ever.

Failure to pass a new farm bill or extension of the current bill would mean that millions of low-income people will miss out on food stamp benefit increases on offer under the current conference proposals.

Modest reform of commodity programs could produce savings to redirect to low-income families through the food stamp program.

The Congress will miss a huge opportunity if they pass this Farm Bill without addressing the inefficiencies of our current food aid program. The local and regional purchase pilot program passed by the Senate should be retained in the final bill.
Calls need to be completed by: 12 noon (EST), April 25.

Thank you for your efforts on behalf of poor and hungry people,

David Beckmann
President of Bread for the World

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jeffery Sachs' letter to the next US president

I came across this on youtube. Jeffery Sachs, Director of Millennium Promise and one of the leading voices regarding global extreme poverty, reads a letter to the next president. He is speaking at some engagement with "State of the Planet '08 on the podium. He calls the letter: "Peace Through Sustainable Development"

He draws connections between US military actions, climate change, food insecurity, water scarcity and poverty. I have not heard anyone give such a direct speech about national security and poverty together before. He offers 10 suggestions to implement on Jan 21, 2009

1) End the Iraq war immediately
2) Announce the end of the Bush tax cuts in 2010
3) Send a climate envoy to China, India, the G77 countries and the European Union to open intensive negotiations on a climate agreement by the end of 2009
4) Hold a summit of dry land regions including Sudan, Isreal, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Senegal, Niger, Somalia, Yemen, Afganistan, Mexico, Australia, Mali, Iraq, the north African countries, the mediterrainean Europe and and the US to launch a project to assess water risks, food insecurity, new engineering and climate hazards to the worlds dry lands
5) Call on congress to sign UN convention on the law of the sea and the UN convention on biological diversity
6) Triple public funding for R&D into sustainable energy systems to reach 10 million dollars/year in 2010
7) Embrace the Millennium Development Goals as the organizing principle for US foreign assistance. Double aid from $25 billion this year to $50 billion in FY2010 and reach 0.7% of GNP ($100,000 billion) by 2015.
8) Call on congress to eliminate subsidies on ethanol production immediately to reduce pressures on food prices and rationalize our approach to sustainable energy
9) Immediately re-establish US contribution to UN population fund. Revisit objectives of global plan on population development from 1994 (aim to stabilize world population by 2050 at 8 billion people or fewer thru rapid and voluntary reduction of fertility rates )
10) Establish a new dept for international sustainable development to oversee international efforts on climate change,poverty alleviation, biodiversity conservation

He estimates these plans would give net savings of over 200 billion per year to be used on other domestic programs and reduce the US deficit.

Part 1:
Part 2:

Monday, April 21, 2008

CROP Walk for Western Chicago Suburbs: May 4

It's CROP Hunger walk time again! I'm not walking in this one (my area does it in the fall). CROP Hunger Walks help children and families worldwide -- and right here in the U.S. -- to have food for today, while building for a better tomorrow. Each year more than 2.5 million CROP Walkers, volunteers, and sponsors put their hearts and soles in motion, raising over $16 million per year to help stop hunger around the world -- and in their own communities. And you can be a part of it!

Glen Ellyn/Wheaton CROP Hunger Walk
Sunday, May 4, 2008

Here is my friend's site. Please consider making a donationIf you'd like to donate, remember you can allocate your funds to a specific org like Heifer International, CARE, etc.

thanks! ccyl

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Feed My Starving Children

At the Global Activist Expo this week, I met the people from "Feed my Starving Children" They are the only hunger group I know of around here that has volunteer jobs that even 5 yr olds can do! Anyone 5 and up can go to their facilities in the Chicagoland or Twin Cities areas and help pack food that goes to children in extreme poverty in 50 countries. The food they provide is a special mix of protein, soy, etc that is formulated for the needs of the nutritional challenges of the areas they serve. Jobs at the packing facility include scooping food into bags, putting stickers on bags, packing bags into boxes...really simple stuff. As a disclaimer for those organizing for a temple or public school, this is a pretty highly Christian org.

Here is the website with the video. Despite questions I have about the details of the "Baby Moses" story in the video (I'm not sure newborns in any country can process solid food?), I believe this is a good organization. It does have a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator. I hope to get down to the facility myself soon!

Economist Hunger issue: "The Silent Tsunami"

The current issue of the Economist takes a look at global hunger with five articles concerning the effect of rising food prices around the world. They found this quote from Josette Sheeran from the World Food Programme so compelling, they used it twice: "For the middle classes, it means cutting out medical care. For those on $2 a day, it means cutting out meat and taking the children out of school. For those on $1 a day, it means cutting out meat and vegetables and eating only cereals. And for those on 50 cents a day, it means total disaster."

Startling oh-my-God-type statistics abound in this issue, like the price of wheat and rice. Last year, wheat prices rose 77% and rice 16%. Since January, rice prices have soared 141%. WHAT!!???!!! Also, there is the forecast that if "on a conservative estimate the cost of their food rises 20%, 100 million people could be forced back to this level[less than $1/day]....In some countries, that would undo all the gains in poverty reduction they have made during the past decade of growth." The issue looks at some of the reasons for this increase and the culprits are the usual suspects. Farm subsidies in wealthy countries (yes, that would be us Americans and our ridiculous Farm Bill), changes in demand as China and India consume more grain and meat (meat that takes a lot of grain to produce), and voracious appetites of western biofuel programs (yep, that would be us Americans and our crazy ethanol, too).

The article called "The New Face of Hunger" offers some insight into possible solutions like increased production of food. It speaks favorably of the possibilities of a supply response coming from the world's 450 million small farm holders in developing countries and gives 3 reasons why this would be desirable: "First, it would reduce poverty: 3/4 of those making do on $1 a day live in the countryside and depend on the health of the smallholder farming. Next, it might help the environment: those smallholders manage a disproportionate share of the world's water and vegetation cover, so raising their productivity on existing land would be environmentally friendlier than cutting down the rainforest. And it should be efficient: in terms of returns on investment, it would be easier to boost grain yields in Africa from 2 tonnes per hectare to four than it would be to raise yields in Europe from eight tonnes to ten. The opportunities are greater and the law of diminishing returns has not set in."

Overall, it is a really informative issue on these topics. Go check it out!