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A father and son return from the farmer's market in the Anacostia area of the District of Columbia. Photo by Eugene Mebane, Jr.
In his speech today on economic mobility, President Obama mirrored many of the main themes of Bread for the World Institute's 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, released just last week. Among these are recommendations to end hunger and extreme poverty by creating good jobs, investing in people, strengthening the safety net, and building community partnerships.
The president focused on the alarming rise in inequality in the United States, the dramatic decrease in economic mobility -- and the harm these are doing to our economy, our families, and our democracy. While he spoke more in terms of a vision than of a concrete goal to reduce poverty and hunger, Obama mentioned a number of the Hunger Report's more specific recommendations, such as making high-quality preschool accessible to every child, strengthening the role of collective bargaining, and increasing the minimum wage so that workers no longer live in poverty.
The president said that America's basic bargain -- that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead -- has been jeopardized. "Since 1979, when I graduated from high school," Obama said, "our productivity is up by more than 90 percent, but the income of the typical family has increased by less than 8 percent. ... Meanwhile, a family in the top 1 percent has a net worth 288 times higher than the typical family, which is a record for this country."
The opportunity gap in the United States is now based as much on class as on race, Obama said. A child born into a family in the top 20 percent of income earners is likely to stay near the top -- about two-thirds of such children do. A child born into the bottom 20 percent, on the other hand, has less than a 5 percent chance of making it to the top 20 percent. Also, the president noted, the gap in test scores between wealthy children and poor children is almost twice as large as that between white and black children.
The 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, was launched just before Thanksgiving. For the past month, Institute Notes has featured a series of posts offering previews of the report. We pointed out that widespread hunger now threatens to become a scandalous “new normal” situation in the United States – it’s risen by nearly 40 percent since 2000.We made the case that not only is it an achievable goal to undo the damage the Great Recession did to U.S. food security, but it is also feasible to eradicate hunger entirely by 2030. We presented a carefully researched four-step plan that leaders at all levels, in partnership with local communities, can use to end hunger in our country. Our most recent post, coinciding with the report launch on November 25, offers a brief recap of these four steps.
In just the few days since the launch, we’ve received a lot of feedback -- on the launch presentation, the report, and the exciting new ways we’re presenting its messages on hungerreport.org. Here’s a quick round-up of what our partners and friends have been talking about:
1. An Expert Panel of Perspectives
No one has more authority to speak on hunger in America than those who have experienced it. At the Hunger Report launch, panelists Barbie Izquierdo, Dominic Duren, and Sharon Thornberry helped humanize the effects of even a seemingly small change in policy or funding.
2. No Paper Needed
The executive summary is available for iPad and eReader download, and the entire report can now be read in page-flipping book format at hungerreport.org/downloads.
3. Interactive Stories
The policies examined in the 2014 Hunger Report have very real impact for millions of Americans. At hungerreport.org/profiles we present four stories that combine multimedia and interactive data to make that clearer than ever.
4. Infographics to Share
Hunger’s causes and solutions are complex. That’s why we need the full report to give them the space they deserve. But a good place to start is with the 2014 Hunger Report infographics -- to get the top messages of the report in bite-size form, and pass them on through social media.
The panel of speakers at the launch agreed that it doesn’t have to be this way. Ending hunger is not an impossible dream. With strong commitment and the right tools, we really can end it.
Check out HungerReport.org to explore all of the tools available to Hunger Report readers, and if you missed them, be sure to read blog posts one, two, three, four, and five of the 2014 Hunger Report series.
Posted by Bread on December 02, 2013 in Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Assets for the Poor, Climate Change, Development Assistance, Economic Development, Food Aid, Food Prices, Foreign Aid Reform, Gender, Global Hunger, Hunger Report, Immigration, Inequality, Latin America, Malnutrition, Maternal and Child Nutrition, Millennium Development Goals, Religion and Hunger, Trade, U.S. Hunger, Weblogs | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Millions of older Americans struggle to put food on the table. Photo: Lindsay Benson Garrett/Meals on Wheels.
Today, Bread for the World Institute is pleased to announce the release of Ending Hunger in America, our 2014 Hunger Report.
The report offers a clear, achievable four-step plan to make hunger a rare and temporary phenomenon, rather than the widely-shared national experience it is today.
With an economy still faltering as we enter 2014, nearly five years after the Great Recession technically ended, it would be all too easy to accept as a new normal the idea that tens of millions of Americans struggle to put food on the table. But our country has the knowledge and resources not only to reverse the ground lost since 2007, but to make rapid progress toward a hunger-free society.
The president should set a goal to end hunger in America and work with Congress to develop a plan to achieve the goal within 10-15 years.
A plan to end hunger should include
- a jobs agenda
- a stronger safety net
- human capital development
- public-private partnerships to support community anti-hunger initiatives
In 2000, the last time the United States had full employment, the household food insecurity rate was 10.5 percent. In 2012, it had surged to 14.5 percent. That translates into a 28 percent increase, in just 12 years, in Americans who struggle to put food on the table.
This also means, however, that a strong economic recovery capped by a return to full employment would improve U.S. food security levels by at least 25 percent. And full employment by 2017 is possible if Congress puts partisan politics aside and agrees on the necessary investments to spur faster job growth.
This is the world’s wealthiest country, and most of us are compassionate, fair-minded people. We should support each other through life’s ups and downs and prepare our children to earn a decent living. Sustainable reductions in hunger on the order of 50 percent or more will depend on strengthening the safety net and investing in human capital.
To end hunger altogether, we must also confront knottier social issues, such as racism and other forms of discrimination that drive too many people to the margins of society. The United States, like many other countries, has its own group of ultra-poor people, including more than a million households with children that have incomes below $2 a person a day.
Ending hunger in the United States will require leadership not only at the federal level but also at the state and local levels. There are countless examples of locally-led initiatives that are achieving great success in their communities.
The United States has a track record of making rapid improvments in the economic well-being of our people. If we decided to make ending hunger a priority, we could wake up in 2030 and think of the hard times of 2013-2014 -- with, for example, 48 million low-income Americans participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP -- formerly food stamps) -- as a bad dream.
To learn more, read Ending Hunger in America, released today in print version and available at the Hunger Report website.
As part of my work on the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, I traveled to several parts of the country to talk with people about how they and their communities are fighting hunger. I wrote a chapter for the report based on community-level anti-hunger initiatives.
I believe it’s impossible to end hunger without strong community support. This doesn’t mean that a community eschews government assistance—on the contrary, government programs are often the foundation on which local initiatives are based.
“Communities” are based less on geographical boundaries than on common interests. Some of the communities I visited were small towns and cities. In one case, it was an entire state (Arkansas)—the governor was leading the effort. While government involvement isn’t always necessary, leadership is essential. Someone has to want to make it his or her issue and be willing to put in the effort to get others to see that it is their issue too.
I’ve always been curious about why in some communities, nearly 100 percent of all those eligible for food stamps (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) are participating in the program, while other places may not even get to 50 percent participation. It seems clear that it has a lot to do with whether the community supports the program and wants to make it easy, or at least less cumbersome, for people who need assistance to get it. Stigma is a powerful countervailing force that keeps many people from reaching out for help. A supportive community will try to reduce that stigma.
It’s one thing to encourage people to take advantage of the assistance they qualify for. But how do communities come to realize and accept that it is the government, not charities, that is the main source of nutrition assistance and must therefore be the main focus of anti-hunger advocacy?
Indianapolis is one example of how a community learned how to fight hunger more effectively. Dave Miner, a former board chair of Bread for the World, leads the Indy Hunger Network (IHN) in Indianapolis. Dave and his wife Robin collected information on all the major sources of food assistance in the city and produced a simple pie chart so that anyone can visualize where Indianapolis’ food assistance comes from. The chart is reproduced below. As it shows, federal nutrition programs accounted for more than 90 percent of the food assistance in Indianapolis in 2012, with SNAP alone making up 73 percent.
Indianapolis is not an anomaly when it comes to the amount of work the federal nutrition programs are doing to end hunger. When people think about food assistance in their community, the images that come to mind are people providing food to their neighbors, children collecting canned goods for a food drive at their school, the food pantry in a church basement, a soup kitchen for homeless people. A government program does not seem the same as a neighbor, but the fact is that’s where most hunger relief comes from.
Indianapolis has set a goal of ensuring that by 2015, all people who are hungry will be able to get the nutritious food they need. To realize this goal, contributions are needed from both public and private programs. SNAP can fill some of the meal gap, but it cannot do it all. Research by the food bank network Feeding America indicates that 42 percent of the food-insecure people in the Indianapolis region have incomes too high to be eligible for federal nutrition programs. This means that their only sources of food assistance are private charities.
The pie chart has galvanized support for the contributions that SNAP, WIC, school meals, and other federal nutrition programs make toward achieving the goal of being hunger free. Having the pie chart there to look at also makes it easier for people who might not otherwise be inclined to pick up the phone to call their member of Congress or visit the member’s local office to advocate for these programs, and to persuade their friends and family to do so as well.
There are countless examples of locally led initiatives that are achieving great success in their communities. At their core, these initiatives are formed around the belief that to end hunger at the community level, a broad range of stakeholders must unite behind a common vision and strategy. Community ownership is critical to achieving sustainable solutions to hunger. Partnerships at the local level, and those between local initiatives and state and federal government, build that ownership.
What are the top reasons for global hunger? Gender inequality might not be your first answer, but it’s correct. In fact, it's one of the two principal factors behind food insecurity in Africa, according to the 2012 African Human Development Report. (The other is bias against rural areas).
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense that it's harder to build a strong economy and provide for all your people if half your workers have one hand tied behind their backs. It was not until recently, however, that there was solid evidence of just how much harder it is.
Analysts at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) looked back at the years 1970-1995, a period of significant decline in child malnutrition. What made this progress possible? A larger supply of available food per person seems like an obvious answer, and this was, in fact, something that helped. But it was responsible for only about 26 percent of the improvement. Gains in women’s education explained 43 percent of it.
The implications are startling. Women's education contributed significantly more to progress against childhood malnutrition than having more food available.
Bread for the World Institute has long emphasized the importance of investing in smallholder farmers. This has not changed. But producing more food to feed a growing population, while critically important, is only one benefit of such agricultural development.
Another is getting resources -- tools, land rights, access to markets -- into the hands of women. Why? Evidence amassed from research in dozens of countries is conclusive: women are more likely than men to spend additional income to improve household nutrition, health care, sanitation, etc.
The Institute's latest essay in the Development Works series, Development Needs All Hands on Deck, offers a closer look at how to boost women's economic empowerment and ensure that they can participate fully in their local and national economies. What are some of the obstacles and how have people been able to succeed despite them? Read our short essay to learn more about this essential component of ending world hunger.
Photo: A key to ending global hunger is enabling women to get jobs that can support their children. Photo by Jim Stipe.
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