Developing strategies to end hunger

201 posts categorized "Economic Development"

Public, Policymakers Divided On Immigration Reform Details

Immigration reform momentum has slowed in recent weeks as House Speaker John Boehner questioned whether an immigration bill could pass the House due to Republicans’, “Widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws.”

But even as reform was put on the legislative back-burner, there is a growing general consensus in public opinion and in Congress about how to move forward. Even after indicating that immigration would not be among House Republican legislative priorities early this year, both President Obama and Boehner said that during a rare hour-long face-to-face meeting at the White House, the issue they most agreed upon was immigration. But for Congress and the public, the devil is in the details.

Recent poling from the Pew Research Center shows broad support for the general outlines of some of the most controversial components of reform. For example almost three-fourths of respondents (73 percent) said that “immigrants living in the United States illegally should have a way to stay legally.”

                        Data about opinions on legal status and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants

But the broad agreement among the public breaks down when it comes to what type of legal status qualifying unauthorized immigrants should be granted. Almost half of all respondents (46 percent) said that immigrants should be granted a path to citizenship while about a quarter (24 percent) said they should be eligible to apply only for permanent residency status. The remaining quarter of respondents said that unauthorized immigrants should not be allowed to stay in the United States at all.

This also reflects the divides among policymakers. While Democrats generally support immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, Republicans have proposed  a path to legalization for most immigrants with no "special path to citizenship."

The Republican principles on immigration reform that allowed for a general legalization of unauthorized immigrants was a major step toward building a bipartisan consensus. But bridging the details among the public and the political parties on the path forward for unauthorized immigrants will be one of many thorny policy details that will be at the forefront of discussion and debate during 2014.

  Andrew Wainer

Meet Nadine: Social Exclusion and Hunger

Hunger Report Monday 2 Nadine

Nadine poses for a portrait. Click this image to view a video of Nadine's story. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

Nadine is a registered nurse, low-vision therapist, and former school teacher in Philadelphia who lost her job as a health service administrator when a debilitating medical condition struck without warning. Left with no job, drained savings, and limited assistance, the safety net is the only thing keeping Nadine from homelessness.

Food insecurity in the United States is much more common among members of society who have faced social exclusion, either due to a vulnerability like age or disability, or to discrimination by race, gender, or some other characteristic (see the chart below). Unfortunately Nadine has endured exclusion for all of these reasons.

As an African American woman, even in her healthiest years, Nadine had to hurdle serious barriers in order to attain the educational and employment opportunities that more men, and more women of other racial groups, enjoyed—opportunities that helped provide her with a steady, well paying job. But now, as a disabled senior, her physical inability to work, has left her teatering on the edge of poverty, homelessness, and food insecuirty.

Food Insecurity, Nadine

African American females are least likely to earn a high school or college degree, yet most vulnerable to fatal health conditions like hypertension and various forms of cancer. African American women also have higher rates of unemployment than white women and continue to have lower amounts of weekly usual earnings and median wealth compared to their male counterparts and white women. In 2010, African American women earned, on average, 64 cents for every one dollar earned by a white, non-Hispanic male. White women made 78.1 cents to the same dollar.

We can get close to ending hunger in America by making improvements in economic policies as regularly discussed on Institute Notes. But we cannot end hunger altogether without confronting knottier social issues that tie down people like Nadine. Ending hunger requires ending discrimination so that all people can have access to the educational and job opportunities that allow an individual to earn enough money to keep her family out of poverty. But it also requires a strong federal safety safety net--made up of programs like Social Security, SNAP (food stamps) and disability insurance--so that physical inability to work does not remain a condemnation to chronic homelessness and hunger. 

Visit to view photos and interactive data from Nadine's story and to read more about the role that a strong safety net plays in our four-part plan to end hunger in America.Derek Schwabe

Pakistan Joins the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement

This blog was submitted by Pirbhu Satyani, who is an intern in Bread for the World Institute.   He has a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship through American University and comes from Tharparkar/Sindh, Pakistan.    

  Pirbhu pic

Pakistan, a middle-income country, has taken the significant step of becoming the 46th member country of the SUN (Scaling Up Nutrition) Movement. An important role of SUN member countries is to collaborate with each other in making the issue of nutrition a top priority. SUN helps member countries design nutrition-focused policies and use resources efficiently to achieve improved nutrition, especially among women and children.  

In my country, malnutrition is a serious issue with many causes, including ineffective government policies, a poor health infrastructure system, food insecurity, and widespread poverty. In terms of Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4), Pakistan is still far behind in reducing its under-5 child mortality rate. Every year, 800,000 children die in Pakistan -- 35 percent due to malnutrition. The risk of death is nine times higher for a child suffering from malnutrition than for a child with a balanced diet. PS blog 1 Pakistan’s National Nutrition Survey in 2011 indicated that 58.1 percent of households were food insecure. The government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working on small projects, but there is no comprehensive and focused long-term plan or strategy to address the situation, to scale up successful programs with a goal of reducing the child mortality rate. The provincial governments (there are four) have been trying to make changes in policies and practices to improve the health and nutrition system since the 2010 introduction of the 18th Amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution, which empowered provinces to take action.  

Malnutrition arises when people have little access to food and limited health services. In Pakistan, the majority of the population (around 63 percent) lives in rural areas, where health services are very limited. The main livelihood of most people is agriculture – even though it would seem that being a farmer and being malnourished contradict each other. In Pakistan it is lack of access to a diversified diet that causes malnutrition. PS blog2 An unprecedented natural disaster (flood) in 2010-2011 made poor communities even more vulnerable. An estimated 20 million people were displaced, millions of acres of land were damaged, and there was widespread damage to crops, mostly wheat and rice. Farmers were unable to feed their families and malnutrition increased rapidly.   

Malnutrition in Pakistan can only be addressed through collaborative efforts -- by engaging the international donor community and by initiating long–term, sustainable programs such as food security, women’s empowerment, agricultural safety nets, early childhood development programs, and quality health service at the grassroots level (meaning reaching to rural communities). Pakistan hopes that best practices and effective government policies around the world can be shared with and imitated in Pakistan as it seeks ways to scale up successful nutrition actions via the platform the SUN movement has provided.

The commitment of Pakistan’s government to join the SUN movement may open more opportunities for technical support and may mobilize resources by engaging international donors to invest more in improving policies and strategies in the health and agriculture sectors, and in building the capacity of human resources and systems. If that is achieved, effective implementation of services can be ensured at all levels to improve health and nutrition for all in my country.

Scott Bleggi

Meet Ofelio: Small Businesses in Low-income Communities

Ofelio Intro Photo

Ofelio prepares Tamales in his kitchen. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

Ofelio left his home in rural Mexico almost 30 years ago with no family in the United States, no knowledge of English, but a strong work ethic and determination to find a better life. He hasn't been able to return to Mexico for more than 20 years, even though his parents, both in their 80s, would like to see him for what would likely be the last time. He still wonders if it was a mistake to come to the United States. Like most immigrants, he wanted the things for his children that are harder to come by in much of Latin America: a secure home, plentiful food, and an education to prepare them for success. He did find some of these things in the United States, but it cost him dearly in health and well-being.

Ofelio’s first job in the United States was washing dishes in a New York City restaurant at a sub-minimum wage. To keep his job he was expected to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day with no sick days, vacation time, or promise of job security. His employers often asked him to work extra hours without pay. He knew that if he objected they wouldn’t think twice about replacing him. Ten years of life on poverty level wages drove Ofelio into a state of deep depression that he says almost killed him.

Businesses Like Ofelio's Have a Hard Time Finding Banks that Will Invest in Them

Ofelio started making tamales out of his home nine years ago for people at his largely Latino church. After a few months, he was getting orders on a regular basis, and the prospect of making a living from tamales grew as he built up a client base in the city’s Latino community. With a lot of hard work and the help of a local nonprofit, Ofelio was able to obtain all of the necessary permits and certifications to legitimize his catering business. He now has insurance, a bank account, and even a website and business cards. As a single father of three, Ofelio knows that the business is his family’s lifeline, and his income still provides little more than essential needs. He combines tamale order drop-offs with school pick-ups and prepares tamales and family meals in the same kitchen.

If you ask Ofelio about his ideas for the future of his business, his eyes light up. He has many, like renting a commercial kitchen to increase production, purchasing a delivery vehicle, and hiring full-time help. Beyond the business, he’d love to take classes to improve his English and be able to provide quality childcare for his two youngest daughters. These kinds of investments are only possible with the help of a business loan. But Ofelio has been denied that help from banks, which deem his business too small and too much of a risk. Without access to capital, Ofelio has no means of moving his business—and his family—beyond just barely making it.

A federal bond program established under the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 authorized the issuance of long-term bonds at low-interest rates to fund community development finance institutions (CDFIs), which in turn provide small loans to businesses like Ofelio’s. The program was supposed to operate from 2011 to 2014, but was held up in Congress for more than two years pending approval on how it should be run. The delay resulted in $2 billion less in loans to support entrepreneurs like Ofelio. Congress should have moved more quickly and the administration should have been a stronger advocate for the program to overcome the delays. Entrepreneurs in low-income communities are the bedrock of the workforce. Investing in them grows opportunity for all of us and enables more people to work their own way out of poverty and hunger.

Fostering micro-entrepreneurship is one critical piece of the 2014 Hunger Report’s jobs agenda—the first pivotal step toward reversing record hunger rates in America.  

Visit to view more photos and data from Ofelio’s story and read more about the role that a jobs agenda plays in our four-part plan to end hunger in America. 

Derek Schwabe

Gender Equality: A Stand-alone Goal in the Post-2015 Agenda?

TohminaPhoto Credit: Laura Elizabeth Pohl for Bread for the World

 The Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) are an unprecedented global effort to achieve human development goals that are identified collectively, achievable, and measurable. Globally, substantial progress has been made toward many MDG targets- including cutting in half the proportion of people living in poverty. Every region of the world has made progress.

MDG target 3A aims to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education level by 2005, and at all levels by 2015. While MDG3 has helped boost political will, and encourage more development groups to invest in resources to promote women's equality, broad progress toward gender equality has wavered, with persistent gender-based inequalities in health, education and politics around the world.

With just two years left to the MDG deadline of December 2015, now is the time for an intensive effort to articulate a goal on gender in the ongoing process to develop a post-2015 global development framework.

Last week, February 3-7, the eighth session of the UN general assembly Open Working Group on sustainable development goals  (SDGs) was held in New York to discuss gender equality and women's empowerment.  These discussions will be included in the UN general assembly report later in 2014, with a proposal for the new 'sustainable development goal' framework. 

A summary of the meeting highlights these points:

  • Gender equality was affirmed as an end in itself and as an essential means for sustainable development and poverty eradication. There can be no sustainable development without gender equality and the full participation of women and girls. Gender inequality is the most pervasive form of inequality in the world. 
  • There was widespread support for a stand-alone goal on gender equality, supplemented by cross-cutting targets under other goals. 
  • Many expressed broad support for a number of priority actions, including: preventing and eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls; empowering women legally and economically; and strengthening women’s voice, participation in decision-making and leadership in all areas of life. 
  • The recognition, reduction, and redistribution of unpaid care and domestic work, disproportionately borne by women and girls, was also recognized as an area for action. 

The question is-- what will guarantee that structural constraints to gender equality—whether social, economical or political —are overcome?

"The problem is not a lack of practical ways to address gender inequality but rather a lack of change on a large and deep enough scale to bring about a transformation in the way societies conceive of and organise men’s and women’s roles, responsibilities, and control over resources."  UN Millennium Task Force on Education and Gender Equality


Meet Nate: SNAP a Lifeline for those Denied Work

Hunger Report Monday 2

Meet Nate: a young dad striving to provide for his family after serving a prison sentence for passing bad checks. He looked high and low for a job for three years but even temp agencies wouldn’t accept him. As far as employers were concerned, he was defined by his response to one question: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”

SNAP (food stamps) helped Nate keep food on the table when the promise of steady work failed him. With the support of those at the HELP program, Nate was finally able to overcome the employment barrier, and now works to feed his family.

After paying their debt to society, many like Nate face tremendous barriers to putting their lives back together upon returning to their communities. Poor people of color, particularly men, are victims of a discriminatory criminal justice system that seems intent on keeping them in poverty. The stigma of having a criminal record means that ex-offenders—returning citizens is the term preferred by advocacy groups—are already one of the groups most vulnerable to hunger.

Map, SNAP Restrictions for Ex-Offenders

In most states, policies that make millions of returning citizens ineligible for nutrition assistance programs like SNAP only exacerbate the problem—while studies show that access to public services that improve economic security, especially soon after people are released, reduces recidivism rates. The policies are counterproductive, go on punishing people long after they’ve completed their sentences, and turn their children, other family members, and communities into collateral damage. 

Italicized text is excerpted from the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. You can read more about social exclusion and hunger in chapter three, and explore the data related to Nate's story and others' with our interactive tool, Stories in the StepsDerek Schwabe

The State Of The World's Children

The United Nations Children’s Fund, known as UNICEF, released an important report that reminds us of progress being made and challenges still before us as we work to see every child grow to his or her full potential.

The State of the World’s Children 2014 in Numbers is appropriately subtitled “Every Child Counts,” and is an impressive accumulation of data, information and published tables updating this report that was first published 30 years ago. 


There are 2.2 billion children in the world, and while much has changed in those three decades, the need for credible data about their situation is more important than ever. It is being used by governments, donors, program implementers and policy makers across the globe as the basis for making decisions about investments and taking actions that are directed to children, especially those who are most vulnerable.

By itself, data changes nothing. But when it is accurate, transparent and widely available it can help decision makers identify needs, support advocacy efforts and measure progress toward stated goals.

What this data enables is a visit to the lives of children in any country you choose, behind the numbers. In an easy-to-view manner, the report provides info graphics that reveal the circumstances under which a child is born, their lives growing up, and the quality of their lives as they enter adulthood.

For example:

  • About 90 million children have beaten the odds against them according to 1990 predictions, and have in fact reached their fifth birthday
  • Improvements in nutrition have led to a 37% drop in stunting since 1990
  • Primary school enrollment has increased from 53% in 1990 to 81% in 2011.

But many challenges remain. Eleven percent of girls are married before their 15th birthday. Fifteen percent of children are engaged in labor practices that compromise their rights to protection from economic exploitation and their right to learn and play. And, some 6.6 million children under age 5 died in 2012, mostly from preventable causes.

Whether you are a policy analyst, a data geek who loves infographics, interested in international development, or just someone who wishes to see all children grow to their full potential, I suggest a look through this very interesting report by UNICEF.

Scott Bleggi

SOTU 2014: Obama, Africa, and the Pope

Photo for SOTU 2014

President Barack Obama participates in a joint press conference with President Macky Sall of Senegal at the Presidential Palace in Dakar, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

What President Obama says about U.S. global priorities in tomorrow's State of the Union address can set the tone for several upcoming opportunities to forge historic partnerships to make progress on global hunger and poverty.

In March, the president will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The topic of their discussion will be global inequality.  The World Economic Forum identified the rising gap between rich and poor as the greatest threat to global stability for the next decade.

In April, more than 500 young African leaders will be coming to Washington, DC, as part of the president's new Young African Leaders Initiative. The program will provide both leadership training and mentoring in the United States, and opportunities for participants to put new skills to use to build economic opportunity in their communities once they return home.

And last week, the White House announced that the president will host the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit on August 5-6. The summit will bring African presidents from across the continent to Washington to strengthen ties and build on the progress made since Obama's visit to three African countries in June 2013. During that trip, the U.S. president focused on commitments to global food security; expanding economic growth, strengthening democratic institutions, and investing in the next generation of African leaders.

This year's SOTU themes can pave the way to strengthen partnerships with these new audiences in the global community -- to the benefit of everyone, but particularly the world's 842 million hungry people.

By Michele Learner and Faustine Wabwire, Bread for the World Institute  


SNAP: It's There When You Need It

Hunger Report Monday 2

We can get very close to ending hunger in America by pursuing full employment and a fair deal for workers. But we cannot end hunger altogether without confronting knottier social issues. Hunger is often a by-product of social exclusion, which can appear in many forms of discrimination.

Ending hunger means ending discrimination and having a safety net wide enough to protect those who are prevented from working, and their families. That means fortifying front-line nutrition programs like SNAP (food stamps) that help people get back on their feet sooner when they can’t find work, and supplement basic needs for people like the elderly and disabled who simply can’t work.

SNAP is the most effective policy tool at our disposal capable of ensuring that the most vulnerable members of our society can still eat. As the infographic below shows, SNAP is neither designed nor implemented for permanent use--the average new SNAP participant stays on the program for 10 months. 

Congress could pass a renewed farm bill as early as next week. But the pending compromise is expected to cut at least $8 billion from the SNAP program at a time when record numbers of Americans are out of work. This cut will deal a second weakening blow to the nation’s already beleaguered safety net, following an estimated $5 billion cut two months ago that sapped 16 meals from the monthly food budgets of participating three person families. 

The safety net exists to help the unemployed get back to work sooner following an economic downturn. Is this really the right time for Congress to be pulling it out from under them?

Read more about the role of federal safety net programs like SNAP in ending hunger in chapter three of the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America.

Derek Schwabe

Rhode Island Becomes Third State to Mandate Paid Parental Leave

Hunger Report Monday 2

Last week, Rhode Island joined a small, but growing, group of states that have made paid parental leave a right for working parents. New Jersey and California are currently the only other states that have implemented laws mandating paid family leave. Washington is set to enact paid-leave legislation next year, and both New York and Massachusetts have bills pending. Several other states—including Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Colorado, and Oregon—are also investigating similar measures. More state-level action on paid leave demonstrates waning patience with Congress’ prolonged inaction on the issue. 

The United States remains the only advanced economy in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid parental leave (see infographic below). What is now a societal given for families in other developed nations is still a luxury in the United States—mostly available to the wealthiest Americans. In fact, about 40 percent of U.S. workers are not even guaranteed job-protected family leave that is unpaid.

We know that creating abundant, better-paying jobs is the first step to ending hunger in America. But wage rates are just one component of the economy that is out of balance. The changes in society over the past half-century—most prominently, the new norm that most women are in the paid workforce—have not been accompanied by policies that adequately reflect these realities and ensure that workers have the support they need to meet their responsibilities. 

Too many jobs do not pay enough, do not enable parents to balance work and family responsibilities, and do not provide workers with any bargaining power to negotiate higher pay or more flexible schedules. Government policies currently in place do not go far enough in addressing these problems. In the United States, where the expectation is that parents work outside the home, government has a role in protecting the welfare of children, elderly people, and people with disabilities by setting standards to ensure that all workers can fulfill their job and family commitments.

The absence of a federal provision for paid parental leave is an anachronism, but it’s sadly not the only one. “In virtually every area of work-family policy, provisions in the United States tend to be less well-developed and less equitably distributed than those in most peer countries,” write Jane Waldfogel and Sarah McLanahan in the journal The Future of Children,published by Princeton University and the Brookings Institution. More than four in 10 private sector workers—and more than 80 percent of low-wage workers—do not have paid sick days. In other high-income countries, the law specifically permits workers to request flexible scheduling, while in the United States, many workers worry that even giving the impression of any sort of work-family conflict could get them fired. 

The stark economic conditions (especially high unemployment rates) facing many families today are aggravated by the inadequate response of policymakers. States like Rhode Island, New Jersey, and California have set a good example by choosing fair national labor standards that foster supportive work environments and a more stable economy—which will result in lower rates of hunger and poverty.

Read more about the role of work-family policy in ending hunger in chapter two of the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America

Derek Schwabe

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