Developing strategies to end hunger
 

Heat and Eat: Lighting a Fire Under State Economies

Would you spend a dollar if you knew you’d get almost $23 in return?  That’s the question facing states because of the February 2014 farm bill, which changed the rules of a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) policy called Heat and Eat. 

older man pays for groceries using a keypad
Don't make him choose between these groceries and his heating bill (photo: USDA)

Here’s how Heat and Eat works: utility costs are one of the factors used to determine how much SNAP a household is entitled to. States have a choice between using their participating households’ actual utility costs, or applying standard utility allowances (SUAs). Most states have opted for SUAs, which vary depending on which utility bills a household pays. Households that receive state assistance to help pay their utility bills automatically get the highest SUA available.  Sixteen states and the District of Columbia gave at least $1 in utility assistance to every household participating in SNAP. This cut states’ administrative expenses, since they didn’t need to verify individual household utility bills, and increased the benefits some households received.   

Under the new farm bill, however, households only qualify for the highest SUA if they get at least $20 a year in state utility assistance. This meant that some households would face cuts to their SNAP benefits unless their states gave them additional utility assistance. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the benefits of 850,000 households would be reduced by an average of $90 a month. But they didn’t break these numbers down by state. We apportioned those 850,000 households according to state-level Congressional Research Service data on how many households got the highest SUA because of energy assistance. (Remember, some households can qualify for the highest SUA by submitting their utility bills). We then adjusted the results to reflect more current data (December 2013) than SNAP caseloads from the year the Congressional Research Service used.

State

Affected households (estimate)

California

22,288

Connecticut

22,381

Delaware

1,989

District of Columbia

5,475

Maine

11,331

Massachusetts

44,984

Michigan

118,541

Montana

2,642

New Hampshire

6,971

New Jersey

77,616

New York

192,679

Oregon

16,450

Pennsylvania

140,280

Rhode Island

13,273

Vermont

6,178

Washington

91,388

Wisconsin

75,534

 To maintain Heat and Eat under the 2014 farm bill, some states will have to pay more per household than others. It depends on whether they give $20 in utility assistance to all households (thus simplifying the application and recertification process) or if they only give $20 to households that cannot otherwise prove that they qualify for the highest level of SUA. Changes in SNAP caseloads and the administrative costs of changing state SNAP policies will also affect costs, of course.

Our calculations show that the weighted average cost per household would be $69.76 a year, based on the costs announced by state leaders and the number of households we estimate would continue to receive help with their utility bills. This comes out to a $59.3 million cost for states to increase support to each of the estimated 850,000 households affected. But the CBO estimates that such an investment would maintain $800 million in SNAP benefits. Thus, for every dollar a state spends, it will receive $13.49 in federal SNAP benefits for its low-income families. The real impact is even better: because every dollar of SNAP generates about $1.70 of economic activity (one reason is that these funds are used right away in the local area), every dollar a state spends brings a return of $22.93! 

It’s not surprising that with this rate of return, leaders of several states and the District of Columbia announced plans to provide additional utility assistance to prevent cuts in benefits. (Not all have been passed by state legislatures yet). Below, we’ve created a downloadable table of states and their Heat and Eat plans. 

Download Heat and Eat Table

Even though paying for additional utility assistance is a good investment for states, it would be better if all households—regardless of the status of Heat and Eat policies or whether states choose to offer the program—received enough SNAP benefits to afford a healthy diet. 

Stacy Cloyd

Hacking For Women's Empowerment: What We Accomplished

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This past Saturday, Bread for the World Institute, in partnership with the website, HelpMeViz, hosted the very first HelpMeViz Hunger Report Hackathon at Bread's Washington, DC office. The event brought together a diverse group of justice-minded statisticians, web developers, coders, designers, and data geeks who volunteered their time, skills, and creative energy to take on two  compelling data questions on global women’s empowerment and nutrition. The goal? To scour massive World Bank and UN datasets to find and visualize answers. We gave them four hours. They gave us a lot to think about. Here’s our storify-style recap of how the day went down:

Two Data Challenges—Two Dynamic Groups

Challenge 1:  There’s a lot of data missing on women’s empowerment. How do we tell that story visually?

Challenge 2: Stunting hurts one in four children around the world. When women are more empowered, do stunting rates drop?

Getting Started: Cleaning Data and Brainstorming Ideas

Both teams were thrown a number of very large datasets. Some were manageable and easy to understand—most were not. So the first step was to get to know the data, share some tips on where to start, and find ways to clean it up and make it easier to analyze. The close second step was to begin brainstorming ideas for how to use that data. 

Team 1: How Do You Visualize Nothing?

Team 1 had an atypical data challenge—not to tell a story about the data that we have, but to focus on what's missing. Thankfully, they were up to it. 

Team 2: Reaching Two Audiences

After cleaning their data, team two quickly began to find correlations between increased empowerment of women and lower stunting rates. But they wondered about the best way to tell the story. For advocates and academics, a data-heavy visualization would work, but probably not for policy makers. So the team decided to craft two ways of telling the same story: an infographic, and an interactive data app. They made good use of the sketch pads. 

Four Hours Later: Data—Visualized!

By the end of the hackathon, both teams, with some help from online participants, produced some impressive visualizations and prototypes that attacked the data challenges from all angles. Heat maps, small multiples, scatter plots, bar charts and some very artful designs all brought fresh insight to the nutrition and women’s empowerment policy discussion, and striking content ideas to the 2015 Hunger Report. Here are some of them:

Number of Missing Data Points, East Asia & Pacific

Missing Women DNA Photo

 Stunting rate vs. Rate of Population with Secondary Education or Higher

We Had a Lot of Thanking to Do

New Friends Made, New Projects Started

Next Steps

It’s clear to see that many stellar ideas were born in the three hours that our two teams had to work at this hackathon. The next step in some cases is simply to refine and polish. But in others it may be to continue building out the concept. We at Bread for the World Institute are eager to create opportunities for the teams to continue their work and to ultimately ready their visualizations for publication in the 2015 Hunger Report. We are now following up to decide on the best way to continue partnering with participants to carry on the work to that point. 

Derek Schwabe

Bright(er) Beginnings for America’s Homeless Children

Together with Hunger Report senior editor Todd Post, I recently visited Bright Beginnings, a childcare center for homeless families in Washington, DC. Our goal was to learn about how Bright Beginnings supports poor families as they strive for economic stability and about how federal government programs such as the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), WIC, and Head Start help make that possible. 

woman in the produce section of grocery store
Photo: Todd Post for Bread for the World

Our visit started in Bright Beginnings’ class for 3- and 4-year-olds, which receives educational funds from both the federal and District of Columbia governments. After some singing and dancing time, we watched as the children washed their hands and served themselves a family-style CACFP-funded lunch of fish sticks, coleslaw (“I found a carrot in my salad!” one girl exclaimed happily), whole-wheat bread, sliced apples, and milk. After more hand-washing, tooth-brushing, and plenty of soothing music, the children were tucked in for naps and we moved on to talk with some grownups. We met with several members of Bright Beginnings’ administrative staff and later accompanied a group of parents from Bright Beginnings’ WIC club on an educational shopping trip to a local supermarket. 

Our experiences will help inform the Institute’s 2015 Hunger Report, which focuses on women’s empowerment as a necessity to end hunger and poverty. Access to high-quality affordable child care is critical for parents—especially mothers—who want to enter or stay in the workforce while their kids are young. Bright Beginnings will also help us with our work on U.S. federal child nutrition programs, many of which will be reauthorized in 2015.

I’m excited for you to hear more about Bright Beginnings. It’s an organization that provides a tremendous level of services to families facing a lot of obstacles. It’s also an example of how nonprofit organizations can accomplish a great deal—but they work a lot better and can reach a lot more people when they participate in well-designed and well-funded government programs.

Stacy Cloyd

Which Country Is Most Committed to Ending Hunger?

This time last year, I  blogged about the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI), which combines a number of variables to come up with a ranking of how serious a country’s central government is about fighting hunger and malnutrition. We know that lack of political will is the only reason the world hasn’t ended hunger yet – so efforts like HANCI are important.

Government commitment was measured by indicators such as the creation and implementation of new policies and programs, the strength of existing programs, and whether the efforts are supported with sufficient funding. The first HANCI, last year, ranked Guatemala at the top because of its substantial “improvements in providing clean drinking water, ensuring improved sanitation, promoting complementary feeding practices, and investing in health interventions.” HANCI also noted that the Guatemalan government had launched a national campaign, the Zero Hunger Plan.

The second HANCI report, released this week, once again ranks Guatemala, along with Peru and Malawi, at the top. In these countries, governments, civil society organizations, and international partners are collaborating on programs that are making a difference to people’s health and well-being. It is no surprise that the three are also leaders in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, with active civil society networks that advocate for improved nutrition with their governments. SUN countries emphasize the “1,000 Days” window of opportunity on nutrition, which lasts from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday.

HANCI 2

In this chart from the HANCI report, nutrition rankings are the Y axis (vertical) and hunger rankings are the X axis (horizontal). The closer a country is to (1,1), like Guatemala (GTM), the higher its score.

Learn more about Guatemala’s efforts by watching a recent PBS NewsHour segment, “Widespread childhood malnutrition is a paradox in agriculturally rich Guatemala".

 

The PBS broadcast features interviews with government leaders such as Luis Enrique Monterosso, head of the country’s hunger and malnutrition agency; leading private sector businesspeople on why they believe that ending malnutrition in Guatemala is imperative; and Save the Children-Guatemala, which implements programs funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Early successes in Guatemala stem from the recognition that nutrition is important across development sectors; offices devoted to agriculture, health, education, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are all working on nutrition issues. In health, direct nutrition interventions such as feeding malnourished infants are complemented by “nutrition-sensitive” actions in other areas – actions aimed at tackling the underlying causes of malnutrition. These programs together comprise “bundled interventions,” which experts at The Lancet medical journal, the Copenhagen Consensus, and IFPRI consider one of the best uses of development assistance. Bundled interventions fight malnutrition in cost-effective ways; in fact, the benefits they bring are worth many times their cost.

Scott Bleggi

Getting to the Roots of Migration

As Violence in Central America Rises, More Children Flee, 500 pix

For months, immigration reform has been languishing in Congress. But a surge of unaccompanied children and youth crossing the border into the southern United States is a humanitarian disaster that has catapulted migration into the public consciousness and brought to light the conditions that lead desperate parents to send their children to the United States seeking a better life.

So far this year 47,000 children traveling without adults have arrived at the border. About 80 percent are from Central America. According to the International Organization for Migration, children as young as 18 months have been entrusted to smugglers to make the journey. And more are expected. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the total may reach 90,000 unaccompanied minors in 2014 and perhaps more than 100,000 in 2015.

Child migration from Central America --particularly in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador -- has actually been on the rise for several years as already high levels of violence worsen and socioeconomic conditions deteriorate. The U.S. immigration system – mostly along the Texas border where the child migrants are arriving – is overwhelmed. Tens of thousands of newly-arrived women and children are being housed at military bases in California, Texas, and Oklahoma and in converted shelters in Arizona. The administration is seeking additional shelter for the child migrants elsewhere around the country, including in Virginia and New York State.

The more rapid surge this year was largely unanticipated by the administration, which recently asked Congress for more than $1 billion in additional funding for the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement in order to respond to the growing numbers of immigrant children. So far, Congress has not increased the available funding.

Opponents of immigration reform have criticized the Obama administration , accusing senior officials of encouraging the additional unauthorized immigration. Immigration advocates have largely taken the opposite position -- attributing the problem to the current dysfunctional immigration system and the lack of immigration reform. The White House says the immigration surge is caused by poverty and violence in Central America -- yet simultaneously, the administration has begun taking a harder approach to immigration enforcement and deportation along the border.

Last Friday, Vice President Joseph Biden met with leaders from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to convey the message that immigrants entering the United States illegally will be deported. Biden will urge potential Central American immigrants not to count on being granted asylum in the United States. In the past, some pregnant women and parents accompanied by young children have been allowed to join family members in the United States temporarily. According to several sources, this has created a false perception among some immigrants that they can obtain legal status if they make it to the border, even without authorization.

The immigration reform legislation now stalemated in Congress is important and would help in the response to the current child migration surge. But without increased public and policymaker focus on the root causes of immigration, the problem of unaccompanied minors is likely to continue. It’s no coincidence that most of the child immigrants are from some of the poorest and most violent nations in the Western Hemisphere. Sending your child hundreds of miles – alone – to seek refuge in the United States is not a decision that is taken lightly. It is a desperate act.

Immigration reform needs to include provisions that respond to the factors driving people to make such calculations. Without addressing the poverty and resulting destabilization in the region that contribute to unauthorized immigration, the current humanitarian challenge on the border can only be staved off, not solved.

This blog post is the first in a series analyzing the role of violence, poverty, and a lack of economic opportunity in generating unauthorized immigration to the United States.

  Andrew Wainer

What Should Post-Millennium Development Goals Look Like?

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), endorsed by 189 countries in 2000, are an unprecedented global effort to achieve development goals that are identified collectively, achievable, and measurable. Globally, substantial progress has been made toward many MDG targets. The targets for MDG 1, the first of the eight goals, are to cut in half the proportion of people living with hunger and poverty by December 2015. The poverty target has been met. The hunger target has not, but it is still within reach if all countries are willing to do their part. According to the latest State of Food Insecurity (SOFI) report, 842 million people, or roughly one in eight people in the world, suffered from chronic hunger in the period 2011-2013. This is down from the figures for 2010-2012 (868 million) and for 2009 (1.02 billion).

This is a historic time. As the December 2015 MDG deadline approaches, global efforts to establish an agreed post-2015 development agenda are intensifying. The world’s attention and resources will be focused on this new set of goals for the next 15 years. Unlike the MDGs, which were crafted by a team of experts who came mainly from the United Nations, the process of setting a post-2015 development agenda is largely participatory. The U.N. is working with governments, civil society, the private sector and other partners to identify public priorities through the My World Survey.

Informed by the experience of the MDGs, Bread for the World Institute's briefing paper A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond emphasizes that formulating a universal post-2015 development agenda is critical to promote equity and equitable growth worldwide. It is also an opening to recognize that key areas are clearly interwoven: food security and good nutrition for all; agricultural development; women’s economic empowerment; and good governance and effective institutions. The new goals should be conceptualized and worded in ways that capture the great potential of coordinated approaches, which have proven to be highly effective in responding to complex development challenges with many “moving parts.”

Dao_farmers_harvestingPhoto credit: IRF2015

In May 2013, the High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda—a group tasked with advising the United Nations Secretary General—released its report A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development. The report advocates five “global shifts”:

  • Leave no one behind;
  • Put sustainable development at the core;
  • Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth;
  • Build peace and effective, open, and accountable institutions for all; and
  • Forge a new global partnership.

Another group helping to conceptualize and frame the post-2015 development agenda was formed as a result of the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development (usually called “Rio+20”), which took place in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The conference’s outcome document, The Future We Want, called for the creation of an intergovernmental Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals. The OWG was tasked with developing a proposal that both built on the progress made under the MDGs, and created a single post-2015 framework that placed poverty reduction and sustainable development at its core.

This week, June 14-20, the 12th Session of the Open Working Group met at U.N. headquarters in New York.  The OWG's Working Document outlines 17 Focus Areas that are likely to succeed the current MDGs. They include sustainable agriculture, food security and nutrition; gender equality and women's empowerment; and promoting equality among nations.

While the My World Survey, High Level Panel recommendations, and Open Working Group document are all important to the creation of truly global post-2015 development goals, the most critical task is still ahead: to establish effective implementation mechanisms of the goals and their targets so that the world’s poor and marginalized people- wherever they may be- are not left behind. This should apply to all countries.

Faustine_Typepad

Poverty Holds Back Africa's Rise

Photo for Mozambique IMF conferenceRecently (May 29-30), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the government of Mozambique hosted Africa Rising: Building to the Future, a gathering of African finance ministers, central bank governors, and other leaders to look at key challenges and next steps for African economies.

“The gains of the last decade, during which many countries in sub-Saharan Africa saw sustained high rates of economic growth and an impressive reduction in poverty, have been nothing short of remarkable,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

“However, there is still a long way ahead to meet the aspirations of the continent," she continued. "Extreme poverty is still too prevalent ... Now is the time to look at the policies that will take the region to the next phase of its economic development.”

We know that the link between economic growth and lower poverty rates is not automatic or guaranteed. In fact, Mozambique, the host country, vividly illustrates the idea that growth, while necessary, is not sufficient.

In 2013, researchers reported that although Mozambique has enjoyed economic growth of 7 percent to 8 percent for two decades, more than half of the nation's population lives below the poverty line. Stunting among children under 5 fell only slightly in the decade 2003-2013, from 48 percent to 43 percent.

Carlos Castel Branco, an economist at the Institute for Social and Economic Studies (IESE) in Maputo, pointed out that over the same decade, 2003-2013, food production per capita in Mozambique did not increase. In fact, it has declined slightly, while food prices have increased. Castel Branco said that less than 1 percent of all private investment went to basic food production for the domestic market.

Edna Possolo, head of the nutrition department at Mozambique's Ministry of Health, said it is encouraging that Mozambique is part of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement. The government has prepared a multi-sectoral plan to fight malnutrition; Possolo said that the greatest difficulties are in implementing the plan. Many people believe that malnutrition is purely a health problem, and thus, only the Ministry of Health needs to be involved. Donors often prefer to fund programs to cope with the symptoms of malnutrition, rather than structural approaches that take longer to achieve tangible results.

But more donors are involved than five years ago, Possolo said. And Mozambique's civil society is receiving support from the SUN Multi-Partner Trust to help ensure that the full plan is implemented.

The priority measures that Mozambique has identified and begun to carry out include: a large-scale vitamin A supplementation and deworming program for children ages 6 months to 5 years; iron and folic acid supplementation for pregnant and postpartum women; treatment of acute malnutrition; optimization of infant and young child feeding practices; and large-scale fortification of wheat flour and edible oils.                     .

These two areas of focus -- supplementation for vulnerable people and fortification to supply the nutrients everyone needs -- are in line with the emphasis on ordinary low-income people that the Africa Rising meeting participants agreed is needed to fight poverty in Africa. A deeper structural transformation is needed so that ordinary citizens can benefit from the boom, participants declared. As the joint declaration approved at the meeting points out: "Policies need to be designed in such a way to ensure that a surge in growth can also spur structural transformation."

Photo: Gustavo, 2, with his mother Constantia in Cobue, Mozambique. Gustavo has recovered from severe malnutrition -- the result of a bout of malaria at a year old. Photo by Rebecca Vander Meulen.

Michele Learner

“Nutrition for Growth” At One Year: Tracking Global Pledges

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Nutrition and education link in Guatemala school feeding. (Joe Molieri/Bread for the World)

We recently marked the first anniversary of the historic global nutrition event “Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger Through Business and Science” (N4G), held in London in conjunction with the 2013 G-8 Summit. Co-hosted by the governments of the U.K. and Brazil and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the event brought together leaders from business, government, science, academia, and civil society. They made ambitious financial and political commitments to provide better nutrition to women and children in the 1,000 Days “window of opportunity” from pregnancy to age 2; reduce the numbers of stunted children; and help put an end to deaths from severe acute malnutrition. More specifically, they agreed to prevent at least 20 million children from being stunted and to save at least 1.7 million lives by 2020.

How pervasive a problem is malnutrition? The number of people suffering from chronic hunger declined from 868 million in 2012 to 842 million in 2013. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the number of undernourished children has been reduced by 17 percent in 20 years. Yet undernutrition is still the cause of nearly half of the deaths of children under age 5.

Globally, nearly one in four children younger than 5 is stunted due to chronic micronutrient deficiencies. Stunting is a condition linked to increased susceptibility to common illnesses, lower levels of academic achievement, and lower lifetime earnings, said UNICEF in its recent report, "Improving Child Nutrition: The Achievable Imperative for Global Progress".

Severe acute malnutrition is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. According to the World Health Organization, there is a 30 percent to 50 percent mortality rate for children younger than 5 who develop severe acute malnutrition.

How ambitious were the N4G commitments? Altogether, leaders pledged an historic $4.15 billion to tackle malnutrition via investments in multiple sectors: agriculture; health; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); education; and social protection programs. They did so in the realization that nutrition is intertwined with all these sectors -- and that a person who is malnourished in early childhood can never reach her or his full potential.Commitments were made to new partnerships and scaled-up research. An annual Global Report on Nutrition was announced (the “first annual” report will be released in November 2014 at the Second International Conference on Nutrition). An annual global nutrition meeting alongside the UN General Assembly was initiated.  A Global Nutrition for Growth Compact puts nutrition at the center of the world’s development agenda. A group of businesses has pledged to improve the nutrition (and hence the productivity and health) of 927,000 employees in 80 countries. See a complete list of commitments.

A year after N4G, what progress has the United States made? The U.S. government has made nutrition a higher priority in meeting our global development assistance commitments. In a time of almost universal budget cuts, Congress reached a bipartisan agreement to boost funding for nutrition in the FY 2014 federal budget. USAID recently announced a new global multisectoral nutrition strategy. The agency credits the “strong advocacy and dedication” of civil society organizations such as Bread for the World Institute for the release of the strategy, which will “align our important global nutrition commitments.” The USAID strategy will be used to develop a U.S. Government Global Nutrition Coordination Plan, to include USAID, four cabinet-level departments (Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Treasury, State), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Peace Corps, and the White House. The plan is designed to accelerate “progress toward relevant WHA targets and other U.S. government commitments by maximizing the impact of government actions.” 

Civil society organizations, including those in the nutrition stakeholder community such as the Institute, are clearly a driving force in getting this high level of U.S. government commitment to nutrition. Legislative and non-legislative advocates are working seamlessly to increase funding for nutrition activities and to shape an effective policy and program operations agenda. USAID operational partners are designing nutrition projects that encompass several sectors of development assistance.

Of course, commitments and action by the governments of countries with high burdens of malnutrition are essential to success. To date, 51 such countries have come together in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement in order to work -- governments and civil societies together – to expand successful nutrition programs. 

Working together, civil society will monitor the pledges made at N4G to ensure that they are honored. We will help ensure that diverse government nutrition policies and programs come together in the most effective way possible. Malnutrition is a major component of global hunger, so tackling it more effectively will bring us much closer to our very feasible goal, ending global hunger by the year 2030.

In a recent blog post, David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and Rick Leach, CEO of WFP-US said: “From climate change to civil liberties, the world is at a critical point right now with many issues. Global nutrition is no different, and, as such, deserves adequate attention as its reach is vast and implications deep. Future generations depend on decisions we--governments, NGOs, faith leaders, community leaders, investors, scientists, educators, and others--are making and actions we are taking right now to ensure that they can reach their full potential. Not only can we reduce undernutrition--we must if our children's children are to thrive.”

Scott Bleggi

The People’s Choice: Immigration Reform

Most Voters Support CIR

When Rep. John Boehner became Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011, he said, “This is the people’s House. This is their Congress. It’s about them, not us.”

Today, immigration reform increasingly seems to be the people’s choice – including people who are Republicans – but legislative reform is stuck. And the House of Representatives is the primary barrier.

Historically, one reason immigration reform has been difficult is the U.S. public’s ambivalence on the issue. Everyone agrees that the system is dysfunctional and needs to be updated, but there is disagreement on how to do so. Some (mostly on the right) want more border security and more expulsions of unauthorized immigrants. Others (mostly on the left) argue for an easy path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants and a generous policy toward future immigrants that is based mostly on family connections.

Although there are shifts in public opinion from month to month and from year to year, there is mounting evidence of a clear public consensus – a consensus built around comprehensive immigration reform policies similar to those in the bill the Senate passed last year.

In May, a Politico poll found that comprehensive immigration reform draws broad bipartisan support. The poll indicated that 71 percent of likely voters in competitive House and Senate districts supported comprehensive reform, while 28 percent opposed it.

The 78 percent support among Democrats is probably not a surprise, but the poll findings of 64 percent support among Republican respondents demonstrate that reform is now supported by major swaths of Republican voters. But many Republican House legislators – and those within Republican leadership – are reticent about moving on immigration reform.

Public opinion can’t be discerned from a single poll, of course, and there are other surveys that conflict with the Politico poll. But it is one piece of evidence that public support for immigration reform may be growing. Increasingly, however, it looks as though reform is stymied in the House – the same House that was touted as being a reflection of popular will rather the domain of politicians alone. Andrew Wainer

Data to End Hunger: Hacking for Women’s Empowerment

Data Do-Gooders Heading Photo

Bread for the World Institute is excited to announce our first live HelpMeViz Hunger Report hackathon event. On Saturday, June 28, the Institute, in partnership with the website HelpMeViz, will bring together coders, data scientists, and data visualizers in Washington, DC, as we tackle two data visualization challenges for our upcoming 2015 Hunger Report. The report, currently being drafted, explores why women’s empowerment is essential to ending global hunger. We hope to feature the visualizations developed at the event in the report, either in print or online at hungerreport.org.

HelpMeViz is a website open to anyone who is searching for feedback on visualization designs, from seasoned designers and data visualization specialists to individuals seeking to improve their graphic displays.  It offers an online community where all types of visualizations are welcome, including simple bar or single-line charts, full-blown infographics, and interactive visualizations.

Here are the visualization challenges that we will tackle:

Exposing Gaps in Data on Women’s Empowerment

Over the past few decades, we have learned a lot about the marginalization of women around the world and its costs to human development. Data authorities such as the World Bank and the United Nations have set out to develop holistic ways of measuring women’s empowerment and gender equality across countries, defining a minimum set of 52 indicators for doing so. But even the most advanced women’s empowerment indexes available today still miss critical elements of what it means for women to be empowered in the developing world. Far too many of the indicators that compose women’s empowerment indexes depend on largely unreliable, old, or inconsistent data for far too many countries. This significantly compromises the accuracy and integrity of the index and makes it much less reliable for policy makers who base decisions on it.

In our upcoming 2015 Hunger Report, Bread for the World Institute will identify key missing data in current women’s empowerment indexes and explain why better data are essential to continued progress. We’ll need help from hackathon volunteers to visualize where those gaping holes in the data lie.  

Women’s Empowerment and Stunting

Childhood stunting (far below average height for one’s age) is a condition that indicates long-term malnutrition. It currently affects one in four of the world's children. When a child is stunted, she is prevented from growing, learning, and later earning to her full potential. As we begin to explore years of data on women's empowerment from the World Bank and United Nations, we want to ask the question: Do countries that significantly improve the status of women also eventually see lower rates of stunting? Research from countries around the world has shown that when women are empowered to earn more and have a greater say in home finances, they are more likely than men to invest additional income in promoting the welfare of their children -- through nutritious food, for example. Are there data that support a relationship between women’s empowerment and improvements in stunting?

HelpMeViz Hunger Report Hackaton

Up to 25 guests will be invited to the HelpMeViz Hunger Report Hackathon. We will provide participants with the datasets, work space at Bread for the World’s offices, and breakfast and lunch during the event. Participants will also receive a printed copy of the 2015 Hunger Report when it is released, and an invitation to the report’s launch at the National Press Club in November, 2014.

The event will be blogged live on HelpMeViz. We hope that interested people all over the world will want to lend their voices and skills to these challenges. Data will be made available when the event begins, and visualizations, conversations, and comments will be posted to the site in real time.

If you would like to attend the event in Washington, DC, email HelpMeViz with a short paragraph that describes your interest and your skillset (statistics, programming, design, etc.) with the phrase “Bread for the World” in the subject line.

You can check out the most recent 2014 Hunger Report, complete with interactive stories and data, infographics, and featured stories online at hungerreport.org. Derek Schwabe

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