Developing strategies to end hunger
 

13 posts from November 2011

The Journey to Busan

Today, November 29, 2011, the seaside city of Busan, South Korea, is hosting the first day of the fourth high-level forum on aid effectiveness. At least 2,000 delegates will participate in three days of key discussions that will impact the future of development in significant ways.

BusanmdgPhoto Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

In 2005, through the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, the international community embraced an ambitious set of commitments to improve the impact of development assistance. Today in Busan, we are taking stock of the progress made so far. To what extent have these commitments been implemented? Is aid being delivered in a more effective way?

Bread for the World Institute's latest briefing paper, Making Aid Work Better, makes a set of key recommendations to the U.S. government on improving the effectiveness of aid so that aid contributes to real development outcomes:

  • Continue to elevate and maintain development as a national priority, in the face of a range of competing international and domestic agendas – to ensure that development aid is more predictable for the medium-term (the next three to five years), and that allocation decisions favor efficiency and reduce fragmentation.
  • Make a push for a revitalized global effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and focus on the need for global public goods. Recognize that the world’s poorest and most fragile states need security and capacity, and that working with them means being willing to adapt “business as usual” and take risks.
  • Lead the efforts to accelerate poverty reduction and growth in developing countries by encouraging the international community to fund capacity-building within countries. Inadequate technical capacities at the country level and donors’ unwillingness to use existing country systems has made it more challenging to make progress on implementing the existing commitments on aid effectiveness.
  • Support a broad partnership that includes emerging economies as well as private actors and nongovernmental organizations, and is based on clear and transparent communication.
  • Continue to push for a focus on development outcomes and measurable results that are reported in ways readily accessible to the public.

 +The 2012 Hunger Report is available at www.hungerreport.org.

Faustine-wabwireFaustine Wabwire is a foreign assistance policy analyst with Bread for the World Institute.

 

Government Food Assistance: Why It's Needed

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Enabling shoppers to use their SNAP benefits inconspicuously helps encourage eligible families to participate in the program. Photo by Brian Duss for Bread for the World.

“Why are we supporting government programs to end hunger?” We at Bread for the World and the Institute hear this question a lot these days. People who are well aware of the extent of food insecurity in the United States – roughly 50 million people currently self-report that they are not sure they can get enough to eat on a regular basis – may still wonder whether government programs are really needed.

Let’s be clear: No private source of food assistance — including the valuable assistance provided by churches — makes as great a contribution to reducing hunger as government nutrition programs. Government programs are the linchpin of the U.S. response to hungry people. SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), WIC, and the school lunch and breakfast programs are the biggest and most important of these programs.

The Wider Net. Although it’s very difficult, often impossible, to calculate precisely the size of charitable contributions, Bread for the World Institute’s analysis consistently shows that the amount of food provided by government programs dwarfs charitable contributions by more than 9 to 1.

In the 2012 Hunger Report, Institute staff member Kate Hagen shares her own surprise at learning this when she researched government versus private food assistance in Kansas.

Effective Targeting. Year after year, government food assistance passes the integrity test. In SNAP — by far the largest food assistance program — what the government calls “waste, fraud, and abuse” are at historically low levels. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), “The national average level of program payment accuracy for FY 2010 is 96.19 percent, the fourth consecutive year the program has achieved a historically high rate.”

Charitable food assistance doesn’t have a sophisticated administrative structure. Some people see this as a virtue because it means lower overhead costs. But USDA provides services using taxpayer dollars, so it must guarantee accurate targeting of benefits to people who qualify. USDA’s administrative infrastructure provides reliable assurances that nutrition assistance is provided to people in need, commensurate with that need. USDA estimates its quality control systems saved taxpayers $356 million in improper payments.

Responding to Demand. In April 2011, tornados pulverized sections of the country, destroying homes and property in areas that were already struggling. SNAP participation in Alabama increased by 102 percent, mostly because of a powerful tornado that touched down in Birmingham, the largest city in the state, destroying homes and businesses Just one month after the increase in participation, the number of SNAP participants in Alabama fell by 37.5 percent, as people affected by the storm started to recover and no longer needed assistance.

The people left destitute by the tornado qualified to receive emergency SNAP benefits. When natural disaster wipes out communities, Americans count on government to be there to help families and businesses recover. The federal nutrition programs are one of the fastest, most effective lines of disaster response. The charitable network of food providers also kicks into high gear to offer help, but without a structure to administer benefits on par with government, it can quickly become overwhelmed by the challenge of trying to meet the needs of so many new clients.

Quality and Quantity. Hunger is a painful experience, and we give people food to quell the physical pain. But people need healthy food, too. Children, especially, need healthy food not only for their physical development but also for their cognitive development. WIC and the school meal programs are required to meet strict nutrition standards. Charitable providers rely on donations; unfortunately, not all the donations they receive meet the highest standards of good nutrition.

Respect.In the past decade – both before and during the stubbornly high unemployment rates of the past three years — the ranks of people using federal nutrition assistance have been on the rise. One reason more of the people who were eligible started to use these programs was that measures were taken to eliminate the stigma associated with being “on welfare.” Poverty attacks the body and spirit – the impact on people’s self-respect is just one example of the latter. When SNAP participants purchase food using an electronic benefits card that looks like a nondescript debit card, they are largely protected from having to identify themselves as in need of nutrition assistance.

The face-to-face interaction with clients is something that many charitable providers value. It is an opportunity to demonstrate their support for people in need directly. On the other hand, it may be very difficult for a person struggling to make ends meet to ask for help, so it is vitally important to protect the option people now have to obtain assistance anonymously through government programs.

The real bottom line is that too many people in the United States are at risk of hunger and need food assistance. As Kate Hagen says in the 2012 Hunger Report, “Public and private assistance are both essential. Sadly, even with the public and private sectors trying to make food available, together they still don’t provide for everyone in need.”

On November 28, NBC's newsmagazine program "Rock Center with Brian Williams" aired a segment featuring people shopping for groceries hours before dawn on the first of the month -- as soon as their monthly SNAP benefits reach their account. As the program points out, these shopping trips happen in the small hours not because shoppers are looking for Black Friday bargains, but because they have run out of food at home and need to buy groceries as soon as they can.

+View or order the 2012 Hunger Report at www.bread.org/hungerreport.

Todd-postTodd Post is senior editor with Bread for the World Institute.

 

 

Hunger Report 2012 Launch: Spotlight on Babies

Monday, Bread for the World Institute released its 2012 Hunger Report, Rebalancing Act: Updating U.S. Food and Farm Policies.

The launch, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, featured an outstanding panel of speakers that included Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group; Dr. Mariana Chilton, founder and principal investigator for Witnesses to Hunger; H.E. Elkanah Odembo, Kenya’s ambassador to the United States; and World Food Prize laureate and Bread President Rev. David Beckmann. Bread also appreciates the contributions of moderator Alan Bjerga, whose book Endless Appetites: How the Commodities Casino Creates Hunger and Unrest came out in October, and Tianna Gaines-Turner, chair of Witnesses to Hunger. The Witnesses are a group of low-income women who are adding the voices of people struggling with hunger to the debates on policies that affect hungry and poor people.

During the panel presentations, it emerged that even though the speakers come to anti-hunger work from different professions and regions of the globe, they’ve all been thinking about babies lately.

In some ways, infancy is the most important part of a person’s life. If you have a young child or grandchild, or you’re looking forward to visiting one during the upcoming holidays, you can’t help but notice the vast differences between a newborn and a toddler approaching his or her second birthday. Emotional development, physical development, cognitive development, social development – there’s no other two-year period that brings so much change.

Nutritional status during the 1,000-day period from pregnancy until the second birthday plays a critical role in the rest of a person’s life. It’s been proven to affect quality of life years down the road – school report cards, the level of education a person obtains, even lifetime earnings.

With their focus on young children, our panelists are in good company, including that of respected medical journals such as The Lancet and organizations working on the front lines of hunger such as Doctors Without Borders. Grassroots activists from a wide range of countries – among them many Bread members-- have joined together in the 1,000 Days movement to ensure better nutrition for very young children.

We only have one chance to get this right, because damage caused by malnutrition before age 2 is largely irreversible. For example, in a study of children from 40 developing countries, virtually all of those who were stunted by malnutrition at the age of 2 remained stunted as they reached age 5. They did not catch up. Researchers have also documented the costs of early childhood hunger in particular to a nation’s health and education levels and its overall economic productivity.

Dr. Chilton, founder of Witnesses to Hunger, emphasized that early childhood hunger is a major problem both for individual American families and children and for U.S. public health and productivity. Gaines-Turner, for example, first met people from the Witnesses project when she brought her child to a GROW clinic in Philadelphia with “failure to thrive,” a condition with malnutrition-like symptoms. Chilton said that a key part of the “prescription” for childhood hunger is access to adequate SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits for all who are eligible.

Photo of Tianna for post-launch blog
Tianna Gaines-Turner, chair of Witnesses to Hunger in Philadelphia, said that Americans living in poverty don't need Super Committees -- they need superheroes. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl.

Ambassador Odembo said that in Africa as a whole, child malnutrition rates are in the neighborhood of 30 to 40 percent. This is both an alarming statistic for the continent and a number that encapsulates millions of individual tragedies. On the other hand, he pointed out, many countries have a growing middle class and are making significant progress on governance issues. The continent is also rich in resources--not only minerals, but arable land and agricultural potential.

Africa also has youthful populations with energy and potential – a resource that should not be left hungry. Plus, it’s common sense for early nutrition programs to focus on where the babies are. The median age in both Uganda and Niger is just over 15—while India’s median age is just over 26, and the U.S. median age is nearly 37.

It’s easy to see, when we consider newborns, children in kindergarten and first grade, and young adults at their high school and college graduation ceremonies, that the resources devoted to individual children are an investment in their future. Can we as a global community also see that, as the speakers at the Hunger Report launch reminded us, the resources to feed all children properly are an investment in the future of our country and of the world?

+The 2012 Hunger Report is available at www.hungerreport.org

Michele-lernerMichele Learner is associate editor for Bread for the World Institute.

 

 

Hot Off the Presses: The 2012 Hunger Report

111117-hungerreportRebalancing Act: Updating U.S. Food and Farm Policies, the 2012 edition of Bread for the World Institute's annual Hunger Report, was released today, November 21. This is the Institute's 22nd annual report. Few of them have been as timely, considering the looming budget cuts Congress is negotiating.

The report argues that U.S. farm policies need to shift toward production of healthy foods. We say bluntly that current farm policies are doing a poor job of contributing to a healthy food system. There is too much support for ingredients used to produce cheap junk foods, and not enough support for foods that promote good health.

The greater share of government support to the farm sector goes to the biggest producers. Smaller producers and producers of healthy foods — i.e., fruits and vegetables — get little or no support. It's been this way for decades, but Americans are expressing more concern than ever about what we're eating and what we're getting for our tax dollars to the farm sector. The local food movement, with its emphasis on "smaller is better," is helping to reshape the farm policy debate. Farm policies are not solely to blame for Americans' low consumption of fruits and vegetables — but U.S. farms don't even produce enough healthy foods for our population to get its recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals. We need to ask, what are farm policies really trying to accomplish?

The report is not a diatribe against large-scale farming. We recognize the value of production agriculture in lowering food costs. The biggest beneficiaries of low food prices are low-income people – the people most vulnerable to hunger, who are therefore Bread for the World's main concern. Food production could also be a key component of the country's economic recovery strategy, a potential source of jobs. In tough times with so many people out of work, the hobbling U.S. economy simply can't afford to ignore these possibilities. 

The greatest economic challenge facing the United States, bar none, is the rising cost of health care. Obesity as a contributor to these costs is getting more attention as the problem affects more and more Americans. Hunger, on the other hand, is often overlooked as a health issue—but hungry people are by definition in poor health. Together, the costs of obesity and hunger run into the hundreds of billions of dollars per year. This calls for a much stronger tie between the foods government encourages farmers to produce and the foods government should be encouraging people to eat.

Much of the report is focused on nutrition programs, which should be serving more healthy foods to more than 30 million children (two-thirds of them low-income) who eat school lunch as well as offering incentives for the nation's 45 million SNAP (formerly food stamps) participants to purchase more fruits and vegetables. Farms are, after all, businesses that respond to consumer demand. With some help from government policies, people who would eat healthier if they could afford to could provide farmers with a much larger market to supply.

There are plenty of large-scale fruit and vegetable farmers, but the report doesn't argue that government should transfer to them the support that now goes to large corn and soy farmers. What large-scale fruit and vegetable farmers need is rational U.S. immigration policies. Most of the people who pick the fruits and vegetables we eat are unauthorized immigrants from Mexico and Central America. This is low-paying, backbreaking work that few Americans show an interest in doing. The report looks at the situation of farm workers, emphasizing how much of the food we eat—and should be eating more of—depends on a steady flow of immigrant labor. That labor pool is at risk of vanishing if the federal government doesn't intervene to halt the trend toward repressive state-level immigration policies.

Finally, the report discusses U.S. food and farm policies that affect emergency food aid and agricultural development assistance overseas. Again, the focus is largely on nutrition, particularly for vulnerable groups such as young children and pregnant and nursing women. Good nutrition during the "1,000 Days" period between pregnancy and age 2 is critical to a person's lifelong health and ability to learn. This reality has gotten much more attention in the past few years, as have the simple, cost-effective nutrition actions that can make all the difference – things like promoting exclusive breastfeeding for six months and providing fortified food aid to young survivors of humanitarian disasters. Supporting women's agricultural work is another essential component.

Normally, changes in food and farm policy are made incrementally. Given everything that is going on, though, we need bolder, more determined thinking about how policies can better meet the needs that the world is now facing. The 2012 Hunger Report has plenty of ideas to move us in the right direction.

 +View or order the 2012 Hunger Report at www.bread.org/hungerreport.

Todd-postTodd Post is senior editor with Bread for the World Institute.

 

 

With U.S. Support, Indonesia Tackles Child Malnutrition

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is poised to sign a five-year Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact with Indonesia—the first such compact to include a nutrition component, “Community-Based Nutrition to Reduce Stunting.”

More than 35 percent of Indonesia’s babies and toddlers under age 2 are stunted, meaning they have a highly visible sign of malnutrition--being significantly shorter than average children of their age. There is growing global attention to this age group, often called the 1,000 day window between pregnancy and age 2, because the consequences of malnutrition for such young children are death for some and lifelong, largely irreversible damage to the health and development of those who survive. A higher risk of death in infancy and early childhood, increased susceptibility to infection and illness, and impaired cognitive abilities caused by early nutritional deficiencies have been well documented in a growing body of scientific evidence, dating to 2006 with the Copenhagen Consensus and followed by studies done by the World Bank and by a series of studies by the respected medical journal The Lancet. Research has also found that survivors of early childhood malnutrition complete fewer years of school and are less productive on the job, which causes countries long-term economic loss.

 MCC_Indonesia
Photo credit:  USAID

The 1,000 Days Partnership, on which Bread has reported previously, champions new investments and partnerships to improve nutrition during this critical period.  Indonesia recognized that taking action against malnutrition during the 1,000-day window must be a top national priority. Its five-year national development plan called for a program of prevention.

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, with more than 140 million people living on less than $2 a day. The country’s high prevalence of stunting is a legacy of a health service delivery system that lacks capacity at the local level. The Community-Based Nutrition to Reduce Stunting project will work with communities and health systems to “strengthen the demand for and supply of appropriate services to reduce chronic malnutrition among children.” Designed with the participation of local governments, civil society, and the private sector, it will build on an existing program that involves communities in taking action to improve targeted health, education, and nutrition indicators.  Stunting will be reduced by strengthening community engagement, nutrition and sanitation services delivery, and national awareness and advocacy. The project proposes to reach 1.4 million beneficiaries in rural Indonesia.

The MCC administers Millennium Challenge Account funding. Back in 2002, Bread members were instrumental in persuading Congress to establish the program, which makes multi-year grants to promote inclusive economic growth that reduces poverty. To qualify for MCC funds, countries must be low-income or lower-middle-income (meaning that their per capita incomes are less than about $4,000 a year), and they must satisfy set criteria such as investing in the well-being of their people and fighting corruption.

Bread for the World Institute has long been a champion of increased focus on improving maternal and child nutrition. In our 2009 briefing paper, New Hope for Malnourished Mothers and Children, the Institute noted that the Millennium Challenge Corporation was under-investing in nutrition—especially given the importance of nutrition to economic growth. We are encouraged by Indonesia’s plan for this compact and applaud MCC for taking this important step forward.  We look for additional countries to improve nutrition outcomes, especially in pregnant women and children.

 
Scott_BlogPic  Scott Bleggi is a senior international policy analyst with Bread for the World Institute.

Some Relief in Africa’s Horn, But Serious Famine Persists

According to information released this morning by the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET), famine will persist for at least another month in areas of Somalia. Due to the consistent delivery of food aid and emergency supplies since the crisis began, some areas previously have been downgraded from Integrated Food Security and Phase Classification (IPC) 5, meaning “famine”, to IPC Phase 4 “emergency”.

  Horn_Crisis_2B


However, according to FEWS NET officials nearly 250,000 people continue to face imminent starvation and death rates, especially among children, remain extremely high, in part due to continuing outbreaks of measles, cholera and malaria. The death toll thus far is “tens of thousands”, and food security in Somalia is the worst since the 1991/92 famine. A continued multi-sectoral response (food, water, sanitation, health, security) is still required and any significant interruption to deliveries will result in a return to famine.

The ongoing famine results from the complete lack of rain during two traditional rainy periods (Oct-Dec 2010, and Apr-Jun 2011) that contributed to crop failures, high levels of animal mortality and very high food prices. While continued, large-scale responses are critical, the flow of local and donated cereals to markets in Somalia indicate that earlier market-based interventions are working.

As we gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, let’s say a prayer for the return of rain to Somalia and an end to the ongoing crisis there.


Scott_BlogPicScott Bleggi is the senior international policy analyst in Bread for the World Institute

Bono Agrees: Famine is the Real Obscenity

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A Somali woman hands her severely malnourished child to a medical officer of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), an active regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations. Somalia is affected by a severe drought that has ravaged large swaths of the Horn of Africa, leaving an estimated 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Photo credit: UN Photo/Stuart Price

The anti-poverty campaign group ONE has released a new short film, “The F Word: Famine is the Real Obscenity,” about the hunger emergency in the Horn of Africa. In my post on August 1,The F-Word is Famine,” I emphasize what might seem obvious, but is not always acted on: preventing such disasters is better and cheaper than waiting until tens of thousands of young children have died. This is true even though prevention efforts take time, and Bread for the World and many other groups have been making the point that development programs need to produce -- and measure -- results.

The harsh reality is that disasters are bound to happen, especially as climate change continues to put additional pressure on natural resources. We must recognize that reducing the risk they pose to human life is not optional.

Families in poor countries, as in rich ones, need social safety nets against hunger and poverty and a viable “plan B” if their primary means of earning a living fails them. Instability and famine in Somalia continue to disrupt the mobility of pastoralists and their livestock -- which is key to food security in the region. The result is a mass exodus of refugees into neighboring countries, particularly Kenya and Ethiopia. These countries, already themselves affected by the region’s severe drought, must deal with additional strain on their economies’ limited resources.

Kenya’s Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Elkanah Odembo, will speak at the launch of the 2012 Hunger Report, Rebalancing Act: Updating U.S. Food and Farm Policies, this coming Monday, November 21. The report emphasizes that short-term relief must be linked to building long-term sustainability. This means ensuring that development assistance and food aid programs work together effectively. For example, U.S. food aid programs should dovetail with the Feed the Future model -- which aims to address the root causes of hunger while also establishing long-term solutions through country-owned investment processes.

We cannot achieve food security without investing in agriculture. The report highlights that— in the Horn of Africa as in the rest of the world -- we must invest in an agricultural transformation that builds the resilience of rural livelihoods and minimizes the damage done by future crises. This means support for climate-smart crop production, livestock rearing, fish farming, and forest maintenance practices that enable all people to have year-round access to the nutrition they need, with a special focus on the 1,000 Days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. The right nutrition during this 1,000-day window can profoundly improve children’s ability to grow, learn, and work their way out of poverty.

This is not all new, but agricultural development efforts are just beginning to recover from decades of neglect by both national governments and the global community. Keeping the new commitments to agricultural development is what will sustain the momentum that already exists and prevent future famines. It is because of the importance of agriculture on the African continent that the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development established the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) back in July 2003. Under CAADP, member states are moving towards the attainment of Millennium Development Goal One, to cut hunger and poverty by half by 2015.

 +The 2012 Hunger Report will be released Monday, November 21, at www.hungerreport.org.

Faustine-wabwireFaustine Wabwire is a foreign assistance policy analyst with Bread for the World Institute.

 

Let’s Ask the Real Experts About Hunger in America

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Many people who struggle to put food on their tables have difficulty accessing fresh and healthy food, like these vegetables for sale last summer at the Abingdon Farmer's Market in Abingdon, VA. Photo credit: Laura Elizabeth Pohl.

Many of us have learned during this recession — if we didn’t know before — that often you can’t tell just by looking which of your friends and neighbors might be struggling to get enough to eat. Similarly, people who have never had to worry about running out of food might be surprised at what hungry people have to say on the matter.

The people who best understand hunger and all that goes along with it are the people who are forced to deal with it up close and personal – particularly women who are struggling in difficult circumstances to protect their children’s health and emotional well-being. A clearer understanding of the root causes of hunger starts with seeking the opinions of people who are often overlooked or seen only as “recipients” of the federal nutrition programs that groups like Bread defend.

Bread for the World Institute’s 2012 Hunger Report, Rebalancing Act: Updating U.S. Food and Farm Policies, is informed by insights and feedback from low-income volunteers in programs such as Philadelphia’s Witnesses to Hunger. Witnesses, a research project developed by Children's HealthWatch, began by putting cameras in the hands of women living in poverty and asking them to photograph images that mean “hunger” to them and their families.

Witnesses director Dr. Mariana Chilton of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexell University, and Tianna Gaines-Turner, one of many well-informed and articulate Witnesses living in poor neighborhoods of Philadelphia, will attend the launch of this year’s Hunger Report this coming Monday, November 21. Gaines-Turner will be taking the day off from her jobs – she works a combination of three to make ends meet for herself, her husband, and their children.

The Hunger Report looks at programs that help low-income families pay for necessities — programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and explains why they must be maintained and strengthened. When their parents’ hard work doesn’t pay for everything they need, children from the Witnesses families and others like them must be able to look to their government – ultimately to their fellow Americans -- for help.

+The 2012 Hunger Report will be released at www.hungerreport.org on Monday, Nov. 21.

Michele-lernerMichele Learner is associate editor for Bread for the World Institute.

 


Immigrant Farm Workers and the U.S. Food System

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The U.S. agriculture system is heavily dependent on immigration labor. One of the repercussions of increasingly hostile conditions against unauthorized immigrants has been a shortage of farm labor. Photo Credit: Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Almost three-fourths of all U.S. hired farm workers are immigrants, most of them unauthorized. The U.S. food system—particularly fruit and vegetable production—depends on immigrants more than any other sector of the U.S. economy.

Immigrant farm workers fill low-wage jobs that citizens are reluctant to take. Attempts to recruit citizens for farm worker jobs have failed; without immigrant farm workers, our country’s production of fruits and vegetables could decrease. The Bread for the World Institute will address the complicated issue of immigrant farm workers and the U.S. food system in our 2012 Hunger Report, Rebalancing Act: Updating U.S. Food and Farm Policy.  

In spite of their key role in feeding the American population, unauthorized immigrant farm workers labor under increasingly hostile conditions. In addition to stepped-up pressure from immigration enforcement, immigrant farm workers’ unauthorized legal status, low wages, and inconsistent work schedule contribute to a precarious economic state. Due to their immigration status and socioeconomic challenges, America’s food producers sometimes struggle with food insecurity.

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Migrant workers from Mexico pick cucumbers in Blackwater, Virginia, in July 2011. Many farmers say that without migrant labor, their crops would never get picked. Photo Credit: Laura Elizabeth Pohl

The Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits and Security bill (AgJOBS) was developed in 2000 by farmers and farm worker advocates to regularize the status of workers in the agriculture sector. Public concern about unauthorized immigration has held up prospects of enacting the bill into law.

Immigrant farm workers should have a legal means of being in the United States. The approximately 1.1 million unauthorized immigrant farm laborers in the United States do work that citizens will not perform and that farmers need.

The current system separates immigrant families and leaves farmers with an unstable workforce. In addition to fair enforcement of immigration laws, the United States needs a way to legalize farm workers and reform our agricultural guest worker programs to support both immigrant families and farmers.  

+The 2012 Hunger Report will be released at www.hungerreport.org on Monday, Nov. 21.

Andrew-wainerAndrew Wainer is an immigration policy analyst with Bread for the World Institute.

 


Want to End Child Malnutrition? Focus on the First 1,000 Days

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Preventing child malnutrition during the 1,000 days from pregnancy to age 2 is vital to ensuring healthy development and avoiding irreversible damage, including diminished intellectual capacity, impaired immune function, shorter height, and impaired vision. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl.

Next Monday, November 21, we will release our 2012 Hunger Report, Rebalancing Act: Updating U.S. Food and Farm Policy. Yesterday, Senior Editor Todd Post mentioned here that the report’s timing dovetails with key decisions about farm bill reauthorization. The report also looks at how the United States responds to hunger and malnutrition overseas with food aid and development assistance — a topic practically ripped from the headlines as famine deaths continue in the Horn of Africa.

Did you know that malnutrition in pregnant women, babies, and toddlers up to their second birthdays has lifelong consequences? In the Hunger Report’s Chapter 4, we look at this critical 1,000 Days window and how a growing body of scientific evidence shows that nutritional interventions during this time can save lives and prevent lifelong disability — all in a very cost-effective way.

As health workers and development programs seek to scale up these proven strategies, it’s an opportune time to improve the nutritional value of U.S. food aid, which helps millions of people every year. Many of them are young children who have survived famine, war, or drought.

In the report, we talk about the latest developments in food aid products, the target populations for their use, and how their effectiveness in treating severe acute malnutrition outweighs their slightly higher cost. The newest food aid products — being distributed today in parts of the Horn of Africa — are almost miracle foods. They are densely packed with calories, vitamins, and minerals. Some of them can be produced right in the country where they are needed, which lowers their cost and makes them more readily available. We feature the story of Gustavo, who today is a healthy 2-year-old in Mozambique thanks to timely nutrition interventions. It really is remarkable to see how quickly a child can recover from near-starvation with proper, nutritious food and community-based action.

Improving the nutritional quality of food aid is a daunting challenge in the context of a shrinking federal budget. We look at the physical process of moving food from the United States to starving people overseas, and how food aid is programmed for general distribution or therapeutic feeding. We suggest ways in which costs can be lowered -- such as by adopting local and regional purchase procedures, coordinating aid efforts more closely, and reporting nutrition outcomes so that the most effective food aid products continue to be used.

Chapter 4 also emphasizes that increased support for research in agriculture will be critical to meeting growing global demand for food in the next decades. In fact, we raise questions that cannot be answered without additional funding for research and development — for example, “How can agriculture most effectively improve nutrition in countries with high malnutrition rates?” Building local capacity in production, marketing, storage, and delivery is another key to meeting future food needs. 

If you’re interested in seeing why fighting malnutrition is so important to improving food security and health, then you’ll want to look closely at Chapter 4, “Rebalancing Globally,” when the 2012 Hunger Report is released November 21.

+The 2012 Hunger Report will be released at www.hungerreport.org on Monday, Nov. 21.

Scott-bleggiScott Bleggi is a senior international policy analyst with Bread for the World Institute.

 

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