Friday, May 30, 2008

Planting seeds in Senator Inouye’s office

This is a recent post on by Robin Stephenson about a recent lobby visit with Senator Inouye of Hawaii. Once again, we hear how much those HANDWRITTEN letters are so valuable!
The challenge of making hunger and poverty history requires the use of our voices, and there is no better way to use them, than to sit down with your local congressional member’s office and plant a mustard seed.

On a recent field trip to the beautiful islands of Hawaii, myself and four other local Bread activists sat down with one of the legislative assistants in Sen. Inouye’s Honolulu office for a chat about global and domestic hunger, the Global Poverty Act (S. 2433) and how to get the Senator’s attention through our letter writing. We left feeling energized and positive. This process not only helped us educate the Senator’s office about our concerns, it gave us the sense that the Senator actually cares for what his constituents think and say.

Setting up the meeting was very easy. We simply called and made an appointment with the legislative aid in Honolulu. She took notes while we talked that she will pass on to the D.C. office. That means our voices will travel from Honolulu directly to Washington D.C. where the policies that affect hunger are made. Given that Senator Inouye is on both Appropriations and the Foreign Operations/State Department subcommittee (the department where poverty-focused development assistance is managed), his knowledge of these issues is essential to moving the dollars in the U.S. budget to helping the most vulnerable.

One of the most poignant things we learned was how important it was for Sen. Inouye to hear from his constituents. The Senator, we were told, prefers to hear from his constituents in Hawaii more than from national lobbyists. Letters are an important way for a Senator, so far away, to hear from the people who voted him into office. But not surprisingly, the letters that mean the most are those hand written personal letters that show the writer understands and cares about the issue. Form letters or dictated letters that are all the same have less of an impact. We were told that it was quality not quantity that made the biggest difference. Check out Communicating with Congress.

It only takes a few minutes to write a personal letter. Three sentences! First, state your motivation: I’m writing because I’m speaking for those unable to speak up. Next, write out the “ask” : Please increase the funding for Poverty-/Focused Development Assistance by $5 billion for FY09 and co-sponsor the Global Poverty Act. And finally, add a fact (unfortunately, there many to choose from): 28,000 children under the age of 5 die every day from preventable causes, half are hunger related.

Mustard seeds are tiny, but “. . . when it is sown, it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Mark 4:32).. By having the compassion for those in need and using our tools of voice or simply writing a tiny letter, we can watch that plant grow and those braches can provide the life sustaining food for so many in need, changing the structures that have left them in the scorching sun. After visiting Sen. Inouye’s office, I felt as if our group had planted just one seed. By taking an hour from our busy day, we educated the Senator’s office and by building that face to face relationship, may indeed see our plant grow. I challenge all you gardeners of justice, to follow our example. Make a call to the legislative assistant in your home district. Plant a seed and watch it grow.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Food for Fines: Idea for Library Food Drive

Here is an idea for a food drive at your local library. Many libraries nationwide do this to support their local food pantries. It is often a win-win since the pantry gets food and this encourages some delinquent library patrons to get their fines off of the books so the library can clean up their system and stop tracking fines they might never recover. All that may be necessary is proposing this to your local library director and appearing at a board meeting.

Here's an announcement for one that can help you think about some of the details that might go into one.
Got some overdue books? The Morton Grove Public Library will be running a Food for Fines program this summer that can get you off the hook and help our community!

MGPL will accept food donations for the Niles Township Food Pantry from Monday 6/2 to Thurs 7/3. The short story is "1 can of food=fines for 1 item." Of course, you are welcome donate even if you have no fines at all!

Here are the details:

-- One can of food can be used to cover up to $5 in overdue fines on one item; there is no limit on the number of items for which fines are waived by a donation, as long as the number of cans donated equals the number of overdue items.

-- The exchange is strictly 1 can for 1 overdue item; one can cannot be donated to cover $1 fines on 5 items.

-- Donations can be used made when returning overdue items, or to cover unpaid fines on previously-returned items, again at the 1 can per item rate.

-- Donations cannot be used for charges for lost or damaged items, or for Interlibrary Loans; these items must be paid by cash/check.

IL advocacy: Food for Families program

From the Greater Chicago Food Depository...
Your action is needed today on an issue that is critical to food banks, pantries and the people we serve in Illinois. The Food for Families program helps the members of the Illinois Food Bank Association (IFBA), which includes the Greater Chicago Food Depository, to provide nutritious food to families and individuals across Illinois who are having difficulty putting food on their tables. In the coming year, Food for Families could provide 7 million pounds of food assistance which would allow the IFBA to assist an estimated 175,000 additional households in Illinois.

Our state leaders are currently negotiating the details of the FY2009 Illinois state budget. Governor Blagojevich has included the Food for Families program in the administration's proposed budget, but in order for the program to receive funding it must be included in the final version of the state budget. This requires support from members of the Illinois General Assembly in both the House and Senate.

Please reach out to your state officials TODAY and let them know that feeding hungry families, like the Garcia Family, pictured above, must be a priority in Illinois. There is still time to have an impact on the state budget process!

Please take action today. In just a few clicks, you can help the hungry.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Darwin's Nightmare

The following movie review from my good buddy Coffeefortwo's blog is for the documentary "Darwin's Nightmare." I haven't seen it, but have been told would be of interest to me because of the global poverty issue. Coffeefortwo's review writing was compelling enough for me to put this pretty high up on the netflix queue, so I thought you might enjoy reading it...
Darwin's Nightmare (Hubert Sauper, 2004). Sauper's documentary gives a gut-level view of the often dismal lives of citizens of Tanzania. Much of what's depicted is truly devastating and therefore absolutely vital anyone trying to understand that enormous divide between cultures as our society becomes more and more global. Of course, that means it's even more important to be seen by those who willfully turn a blind eye to international hardship. A major part of the film's thesis involves the aggressive fishing of Lake Victoria, with literally tons of Nile perch being shipped off to fill cultured European plates while local residents of Tanzania starve in the streets. The indifference of those helping to orchestrate this is not callous, but is instead all the more reprehensible because it is simply casual, just another day of business. As journalism the film is sound and moving. As filmmaking, it is somewhat wanting. Sauper never quite gives form to his film. A cohesive through-line is ultimately too elusive as he devotedly makes room for all of the found pain on screen. It's a flaw, but one grounded in the right intentions.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recipe for Hope Week #4

Week Four of Bread for the World's "Recipe for Hope" campaign. Read about an aspect of the current food crisis (Ingredient for Despair) and find out how to take action in a positive way (Recipe for Hope)
Ingredient for Despair: Government Subsidies for Farmers

Farmers in the United States, Japan, and the European Union receive government subsidies which often encourage overproduction and distort prices. They may even give farmers incentives that run entirely contrary to common sense.

For example, current commodity programs create an incentive for farmers to grow cotton in desert states like Arizona, where water for irrigation is scarce. In turn, artificially low prices for this subsidized cotton can prevent farmers in poor countries, such as Mali and Burkina Faso, from selling their cotton crops for a fair price and being able to feed their families. Subsidies to farmers in developed countries also hinder development of agriculture in poor countries, exacerbating the growing world food crisis.

Bread for the World Institute discusses this issue in detail in chapter three of its annual hunger report, Healthy Food, Farms & Families: Hunger 2007

Ingredients for Hope:

Our Recipe for Hope has two components—something you can do; and something you can say to our nation’s leaders.

Watch, rate, and forward this YouTube video.
This one-minute piece is a great way to help spread the word about getting involved in the fight against the global hunger crisis. As you watch and rate videos on YouTube, they attract the attention of more people. So spread the word!

Call your senators:
Call your senators and ask them to cosponsor the Global Poverty Act (S. 2433). Use this special toll-free number, and ask to be transferred to your senator's office: 1-800-826-3688. Find out who your senators are.

Talking Points:
We can make sure that our assistance has the greatest impact on the people who need it the most by improving the effectiveness of our development programs.

-Trade policies of the U.S. government often undercut our efforts to help hungry and poor people around the world provide for their families.

-The Global Poverty Act can help prevent situations like the current hunger crisis by requiring a coordinated strategy across the U.S. government to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Saudis donate $500M for food crisis

Printed in the Chicago Trib. I do not know how much the US contributed in the response to the UN emergency appeal.
Saudis donate $500M for food crisis
Associated Press Writer
4:59 PM CDT, May 23, 2008

Saudi Arabia made an unprecedented contribution of $500 million to the U.N. World Food Program to respond to rising prices, meaning the agency won't have to cut rations to the world's needy, the United Nations announced Friday.

The contribution the world's biggest oil producing nation was by far the largest response to the U.N. food agency's emergency appeal for $755 million to cover increased costs that threatened critical aid to millions of needy people.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "warmly welcomes the offer of the landmark contribution," U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said.

"The secretary-general notes that this contribution of an unprecedented size and generosity comes not a moment too soon, given the needs of millions of people dependent on food rations," she said.

The Saudi contribution means the agency, which operates the world's largest humanitarian program, will now have the money it needs to carry on its activities without cutting the amount of food given to the needy, Okabe said.

Josette Sheeran, the agency's executive director, said donations actually topped the appeal target -- reaching $960 million from 32 countries -- which means WFP will have $205 million to use for other urgent needs.

"We turned to the world to help the hungry and the world has been generous," Sheeran said in a statement issued at the agency's Rome headquarters.

According to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Saudi Arabia produces about 9 million barrels of oil a day. Oil prices have now topped $130 a barrel.

The WFP describes higher food prices as its biggest challenge ever and estimates the rising prices are pushing 130 million people into hunger.

Ban warned last month that the rapidly escalating global food crisis has reached emergency proportions and threatens to wipe out seven years of progress in the fight against global poverty. Ban has established a top-level task force to tackle the world food crisis.