Developing strategies to end hunger
 

On Immigration, Actions Will Speak Louder than Words

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Ana Zamora was a guest of the First Lady at the 2015 State of the Union Address. Zamora is a 20-year old immigrant who lives in Dallas, TX. She was brought to the United States at the age of 1.

Words are powerful, but sometimes what’s left unsaid truly tells the tale. That was the case during President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, where despite the fact that he  barely mentioned immigration, his message was clear: It’s time to move on from past immigration debates and enact comprehensive reform.

In addition, the Republican English-language response delivered by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) was silent on immigration. However,  the Spanish-language response delivered by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL.) called for immigration reform.

The chances of a major Congressional overhaul of immigration policy during 2015 are slim, but there will be major action next month as the administration begins implementation of President Obama’s 2014 executive action. The action will provide  relief from deportation for about 4 million undocumented immigrants.

This implementation is expected to move forward  despite the fact that House Republicans continue to challenge the action in Congress and in the courts. The Congressional challenge has little chance of success as President Obama has already indicated that he will veto any bill seeking to roll back the action, known as the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program.

But the court challenge by 25 states, led by Texas, could create a fearful atmosphere locally for undocumented immigrants eligible for the program. That will be the true challenge to the DAPA program.

Bread for the World supports the president’s action because it will provide more opportunity for low-income people to move out of poverty. The action will allow some undocumented immigrants the ability to seek further education, job training, find new jobs, and start their own or enhance an existing small business.

Research finds that deferred action can lead to an average wage increase of 8.5 percent for immigrant workers and that it also can have benefits for the U.S.-born and the overall economy.

The very few words devoted to this issue by the president and the Republican’s rebuttal may be an acknowledgement that in spite of the continuing Congressional rhetoric,  both sides know that the debate of words on DAPA is winding down and that the action of implementation is about to begin.

 

Obama's Stand on Paid Leave: One Step Closer to Ending Hunger

Obama with baby

Photo: Official White House photo by Pete Souza

President Obama announced a series of executive actions to extend paid leave to the American workforce—the only modern workforce in the world that still lacks it. The announcement marks another essential step recently taken by the federal government toward helping working families escape hunger and poverty. 

The president’s actions include:

  • Signing a memorandum to guarantee all executive branch federal employees six weeks of paid family leave to care for a new child or ill family member.
  • Calling Congress to pass legislation that grants millions of American workers up to seven days of paid sick time per year.
  • Committing money to help states develop their own family and medical leave programs—$2 billion in the president’s 2016 budget proposal and $1 million from the 2015 budget to fund state- and local-level feasibility studies. 

The memorandum will immediately improve the work quality and flexibility for  nearly 3 million executive branch employees, fully securing them a minimum six  weeks of paid family leave. It is now up to Congress to do the same for the rest of the federal workforce, and carry out the president’s other actions to extend paid sick and family leave to the 43 million private sector workers who still don’t have it.  

Fair Deal page photo, higher quality

The executive action reflects key recommendations in the Institute’s 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. The report points out that changing dynamics in the U.S. family and economy have left working families more vulnerable to hunger. Between 1980 and 2010, mothers in the workforce with children under age 18 increased by 14 percent; mothers with children under age 6 by 19 percent, and mothers with infants by 25 percent. In survey after survey, parents, regardless of their income level, report that they are exhausted and under stress from juggling work and family commitments. This imbalance hinders a parent's ability to adequetly care for and nourish his or her children. Poor nutrition, particularly in the 1,000 Days between pregnancy and age 2, can hurt a child's phyiscal and cognitive growth and keep her from reaching full potential. 

Children in low-income families are more likely to have chronic health problems. One reason families become poor is that when a parent is forced to choose between keeping a job and caring for a sick child, she or he generally opts to take care of the child. Federal standards that require paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave will go a long way toward helping parents—and all workers—balance work and care responsibilities, leaving them less vulnerable to hunger and poverty.

The president’s announcement on paid leave is the latest in a series of recent executive actions which address key recommendations from the 2014 Hunger Report. Other recent actions include: free community college for most students, greater home affordability, access to high-speed broadband, and an executive order that relieves four million undocumented immigrants of the threat of deportation

To read more about the 2014 Hunger Report and the elements of its four part plan for ending hunger in America, download the report and view infographics on top issues at hungerreport.org.

Derek Schwabe

United States Still Lags behind Peer Countries on Women in Elected Office

Proportion of Women in National Parliaments of Ten Most Developed Countries

Congress has more than 100 women for the first time in U.S. history.

An ongoing string of news articles has been triumphantly proclaiming this news ever since the November elections. People like the number 100 because they’re thinking of 100 percent and the ideas associated with it -- completeness, sufficiency, even perfection. Years of chasing after 100 on countless school exams have ensured that I will always look on it favorably. But when it comes to women in Congress, 100 is hardly a number to celebrate.   

Compared to other high-income countries, the United States has a much lower percentage of women elected to government office, and November’s elections did not change that. Among the 10 most developed countries (according to the United Nations Development Program), the United States ranks last on female representation in national elected offices. See the chart above. Women in the 114th Congress hold 19.4 percent of seats, up less than one percentage point from last year. And this is the highest percentage in history. Other high-income countries now average 25 percent women in national parliaments, with Nordic countries closest to equal representation with consistent shares of one-third or more. Currently 95 countries have larger shares of women in national parliaments than the United States.

The evidence shows that women who are elected to office have different priorities and achieve results that are different from those of their male counterparts. Women legislators introduce many more bills on health care, education, and child care than men do. Women also tend to work harder than their male counterparts to keep legislation they’ve sponsored alive, and they are more collaborative, seeking consensus so the bills will pass. In a study of the U.S. House of Representatives, these factors made female legislators more effective than males at getting their legislation advanced and passed.

Although we can’t stereotype and pigeonhole all women as more “nurturing,” female members of Congress have proven to be more collaborative and more focused on social issues. It makes sense that electing more women could help reduce political polarization and potentially advance an agenda of ending hunger and poverty in the United States.

You can read more about the historical impact of women in the U.S. Congress in Chapter 4 of the 2015 Hunger Report: When Women Flourish … We Can End Hunger.

Derek Schwabe

Incarceration, Hunger, and Work

Most states Restrict or Ban Certain Ex-offenders from Using SNAP

As we mentioned in our earlier post on incarceration as a hunger issue, one result of sending people to prison is that they lose their jobs, and therefore any ability to help support their children and other family members.

Many inmates do, however, work while serving their sentences. In fact, prison labor is big business. UNICOR (also known as Federal Prison Industries, Inc.) has an annual net profit of more than $600 million and employs 8 percent of medically-eligible federal inmates. The company has said its goal is to employ 25 percent of the federal prison workforce. Other prisoners manufacture everything from airplane components and furniture to artisanal goat cheese and wooden canoes.

Working while incarcerated allows people to keep busy and perhaps learn a skill, but it is not a path to financial stability. Federal inmates earn between $0.23 and $1.15 an hour. From this, they must pay for phone calls, stamps, many of the toiletries they use, and more. There is little if any money left over to pay child support or save for their release date.

When they are released after serving their sentences, therefore, people have little money of their own. The prison system does not give them much either -- a maximum of $500 for federal prisoners and even less “gate money” from most state prisons. It takes time to find a job and start getting paid, even in the best-case scenarios. And for many, the situation is further worsened not only by employers’ reluctance to hire people with prison records, but also by government policies.

Formerly incarcerated people may qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) in some states. But in others, a felony drug conviction can mean that a person is never again eligible for SNAP benefits. In Georgia, for example, one can be convicted of felony drug possession if caught with one ounce of marijuana -- and forever barred from receiving SNAP benefits.

SNAP could be a bridge for people returning to the community at a stressful time in their lives. Instead, many former inmates add hunger to their list of problems. Without SNAP benefits, they are forced to rely on support from family, friends, or charities—and if they do not have that safety net, stealing or another crime may appear to be the best of their few options. The United States has a high rate of recidivism – repeat offenses. In fact, more than 28 percent of former state prison inmates are re-arrested within six months of their release. Of course, hunger is not the only cause of recidivism. But it is one of the easiest to solve.

Our country's high rates of incarceration carry consequences beyond the fate of individual inmates and their families. In the final piece of our short series on incarceration, we will examine its impact on hunger in the wider society -- and for prospects for change through advocacy.

 Stacy Cloyd

 

Countdown to 2015: A New Dawn for Global Development

For the last 15 years, the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have formed the bedrock of global development efforts -- goals on hunger, gender equality, and child and maternal mortality, among others. Bread for the World's recent analysis of the value of the MDGs refers to the goals as "an uprecedented global effort to achieve development goals that are identified collectively, achievable, and measurable."

Now, the MDG clock is ticking. When the goals were adopted in 2000, a 2015 deadline was set. They are to be replaced by a new set of goals-- Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) -- starting in September 2015. Unlike with the MDGs, the process of determining what might follow them, a "post-2015" development agenda, has featured an active international debate. The U.N. High Level Panel on Post-2015 (HLP) -- the official process through which the post-MDG global development agenda is being shaped -- met four times for consultations that aired the views reported by a wide range of other groups.These meetings were held in New York in September 2012; London in November 2012; Monrovia, Liberia, in January 2013; and Bali, Indonesia, in March 2013. In May 2013, panel members presented a report outlining their vision and priorities for post-2015 development to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, while in July, Ki-moon outlined his response to the HLP in his own report.

The process of negotiating the SDGs continued in 2014. In September, a special event on the MDGs and the post-2015 agenda was held during the 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. The theme was "Delivering On and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda."

2015-Time-for-Global-Action_En

Source: UN/DPI

Earlier this month, on December 4, the Secretary General released an advance version of his synthesis report on the post-2015 development agenda, The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet. The synthesis report aims to support U.N. member states’ post-2015 negotiations based on the world's experiences with the MDGs. The report proposes a set of six essential elements as well as a means of implementing the goals. The six elements are:

Dignity -- eradicating poverty as the agenda's overarching objective, and addressing challenges related to inequality and the rights of women, youth, and minorities;

People --  addressing education; health; violence against women and girls; and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH);

Prosperity-- calling for inclusive growth that ensures all people have employment, social protection, and access to financial services;

Planet-- equitably addressing climate change; halting biodiversity loss and addressing desertification and unsustainable land use; protecting forests, mountains, oceans, and wildlife; and reducing disaster risks;

Justice-- issues including governance, reconciliation, peacebuilding, and state-building; and 

Partnership-- elements of transformative partnerships that place people, planet, and mutual accountability at the center.

According to the Secretary General's report, implementation of the post-2015 agenda should focus on:

  • Committing to a universal approach with solutions that address all countries and groups;
  • Integrating sustainability in all activities;
  • Addressing inequalities in all areas;
  • Ensuring that all actions advance and respect human rights;
  • Addressing climate change drivers and consequences;
  • Basing analysis in credible data and evidence;
  • Expanding a global partnership for means of implementation; and
  • Anchoring the new compact in a renewed commitment to international solidarity.

Today — unlike in 2000 when the MDG era began — 72 percent of the world’s poor people live in middle-income countries. Others live in developed countries -- in the United States, for example, 15 percent of the population was living in poverty during the Great Recession, and nearly a quarter of all children lived in households that had trouble putting food on the table. Both of these factors mean that the next set of goals must apply to all countries if the SDGs are to end extreme poverty by their deadline of 2030. The post-2015 development agenda provides an opportunity to promote equity and equitable growth in a way that is truly universal.

Faustine Wabwire

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