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33 posts categorized "Religion and Hunger"
On November 24, which is the Monday of Thanksgiving week, Bread for the World Institute will launch our 2015 Hunger Report: When Women Flourish … We Will End Hunger. Just before Thanksgiving is when we launch each new edition of the report. What better time of the year in the United States to draw attention to hunger?
In the coming weeks, as the launch approaches, I plan to preview the report on this blog. I’ll share a little of what’s in the report and offer some personal reflections. I write most of the report, but I don’t get the opportunity within it to discuss how writing it has affected me.
When Women Flourish is about women’s empowerment, and why women’s empowerment is so important to ending hunger. The last several editions of the Hunger Report also had plenty to say about women’s empowerment, but this is the first one where we’ve put the issue front and center.
Hunger persists mainly because poverty persists. To really eradicate hunger, you have to address the root causes of poverty, and discrimination is the most fundamental of all root causes. Discrimination defines who we think people are and what we believe they are worth. It determines the limited aspirations that too many parents have for their daughters. If girls are seen as an economic burden to a family, for example, it is not surprising that they die in greater numbers than boys as a result of underinvestment in their health -- including the share of food they receive.
Ending hunger ultimately depends on working with and through women: in the developing world, women work predominantly as subsistence farmers, and subsistence farming is the backbone of community food security. In addition, at the household level, women are responsible for preparing the food that nourishes children and other family members. (This holds true for the most part in rich countries, too).
Yet we did not want to instrumentalize women – seeing and talking about them only as foot soldiers in the fight against hunger. Empowerment is about much more than food production and preparation.
Similarly, discrimination is about more than just gender discrimination. Race, ethnicity, religion, caste, and other drivers of social exclusion also figure into who goes hungry and who doesn’t. We could have done a report focused on race, ethnicity, or any other layer – they all interact. But in this report, we start with gender.
The report looks at three fundamental topics: improving women’s bargaining power in the economy and in the household; reducing the burden of unpaid domestic work and sharing it more equitably between men and women and between families and government; and strengthening women’s collective voice by increasing their political representation and leadership in civil society. I’ll write more about each of these in the coming weeks. For the remainder of this blog post, I’d like to offer a personal reflection.
I learned a great deal while working on the 2015 Hunger Report, as I do on each edition, but on this report there were some real jaw droppers. Let me single out child marriage. When I learned that one out of nine girls around the world becomes a child bride – that’s 39,000 per day -- it was a moment when amazement doesn’t seem too strong a word.
Why was I so surprised? Maybe because child marriage isn’t a big issue here in the United States. I was already aware of the grotesque levels of gender-based violence, the one in three women who will experience it during their lives. Gender-based violence, on the other hand, is also common right here in the United States as elsewhere, so even though the statistics are still disturbing and I wouldn’t say I’ve become indifferent, there’s a certain degree of numbness that sets in after time.
The child marriage figure one in nine is for the whole world, so when you zero in on the countries where this is a common occurrence, you find statistics like three out of four girls in Niger, two out of three in Bangladesh, and one in two in India. Most countries where child marriage is prevalent have laws against it, but changing cultural norms is not as simple as changing laws.
Five years ago, I was in Bangladesh visiting an agricultural program and talking with beneficiaries. The program officer brought me to the farm of probably the most successful farmer in the village. She was not only an able farmer but clearly had charisma. She was probably no more than 30 at the time, and her daughter, a girl about half her age, walked with us by her mother’s side. Behind us was a much older man, over 60 at least, possibly beyond 70. He had trouble keeping up. Only when we stopped and she described what she was doing on each part of the farm did he catch up, standing quietly off to the side until we charged on ahead again. He was her husband. The word marriage doesn’t seem to fit this situation, though. Given the age of their daughter, the farmer could have become this man’s wife when she was as young as 12 or 13. Find out more about child marriage and the damage it does here.
Posted by todd post on October 24, 2014 in Africa, Agriculture, Data to End Hunger, Development Assistance, Economic Development, Global Hunger, Hunger Report, Inequality, Latin America, Malnutrition, Maternal and Child Nutrition, Millennium Development Goals, Religion and Hunger, U.S. Hunger | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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.”
Posted by Scott Bleggi on June 13, 2014 in A Climate to End Hunger, Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Assets for the Poor, Climate Change, Data to End Hunger, Development Assistance, Economic Development, Food Aid, Food Prices, Foreign Aid Reform, Gender, Global Hunger, Good Governance, Hunger Hotspots, Hunger Report, Immigration, Inequality, Latin America, Malnutrition, Maternal and Child Nutrition, Millennium Challenge Account, Millennium Development Goals, Religion and Hunger, Success in Fighting Hunger, Trade, Weblogs | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
The cost, availability, and nutritional content of foods are factors that affect hungry and poor people more than anyone else – and climate change is already changing these for the worse. That was the message of a May 14 panel hosted by Bread for the World Institute and the Alliance to End Hunger.
At the panel discussion, one of the report’s lead authors, climate scientist and evangelical Christian Katharine Hayhoe, explained the science of climate change briefly and noted that the world’s poorest countries and people, who are already suffering the most, will continue to be most vulnerable even as climate change begins to affect everyone.
Two scientists from USDA presented their findings. William Hohenstein (whose father John was a Bread for the World board member in the 1980s!) explained that food availability, access, utilization, and stability are all challenged by rising temperatures and by more frequent droughts and other extreme weather. Lewis Ziska described how rising C02 levels could lead to more food spoilage and contamination; for example, he said, pesticides could become less effective. However, both scientists expressed some hope for the future, with Hohenstein describing new agricultural technologies and Ziska emphasizing the potential benefits of better educating and empowering women and girls (the focus of the Institute’s next Hunger Report, to be released in November 2014).
Sam Myers of Harvard University discussed his research team’s findings that many crops have less protein, zinc, and iron when they are grown in air with higher CO2 concentrations. This may mean that as CO2 rises in Earth’s atmosphere, people will need different amounts and types of food to maintain good health. Finally, Margaret Wilder of the University of Arizona described her work discussing climate change with low-income people in Arizona. Climate change is already making life harder for many Americans struggling to pay higher utility bills, facing a greater risk of asthma and heat-related illness, and noticing that farmers are donating less of their surplus crops to food pantries. As one person interviewed put it, “If it's a matter of feeding my kids and my health, then climate becomes a real issue instead of being an abstract, out-there concept.”
You can listen to the whole discussion and see the slides online here. Bread for the World continues to work to draw attention to the disproportionate effect of climate change on hungry and poor people. This very well-attended event is a gauge of advocates’ increasing awareness that as the global community seeks ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change, we must ensure that the special needs of developing countries and low-income Americans are kept high on the agenda.
2013 was an historic year for nutrition advocacy. As part of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, civil society organizations (CSOs) around the world committed to supporting and holding their governments accountable on plans of action to improve nutrition. SUN focuses on pregnant women and children in the “1,000 Days” from pregnancy to age 2, since this is the most critical period for human nutrition. CSOs can range from small groups working in community settings to nationwide alliances that advance common interests. The SUN Civil Society Network (SUN-CSN) was formed to establish and support SUN Civil Society Alliances (SUN-CSA), as well as to facilitate, communicate, and coordinate across the network.
In the lead-up to the 2013 G-8 summit in London and its Nutrition for Growth event, nutrition CSOs coordinated actions as part of a “Global Day of Action”. Their goal was to show global support for decisive actions at the G-8 to tackle food insecurity and malnutrition. CSOs from Bangladesh, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia led events in their countries to increase awareness of the need for governments to make greater investments in programs and policies to overcome malnutrition.
This year marks an alignment of several key moments in global nutrition. The 67th meeting of the World Health Assembly takes place the week of May 19-23 in Geneva. This is an opportunity for countries to report on progress in achieving global nutrition targets that were set in 2012. The African Union Summit in June will focus on agriculture, food security, and nutrition. The Second International Conference on Nutrition will be held at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in November.
During the week of May 4-11, 2014, a second “Global Day of Action” was held in many of the SUN-CSA countries. The goal was to influence both national nutrition policies and regional development agendas while also highlighting SUN-CSN as a “global, impactful, and agenda-setting network.”
The Global Day of Action’s objectives were:
- Advance multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral efforts to address nutrition as a priority and to scale-up nutrition intervention efforts;
- Add to continued, growing public pressure on national leaders to continue their focus on nutrition, increase progress toward the 2013 WHA global targets, deliver on commitments to SUN and commitments made at the Nutrition for Growth event;
- Increase the public and political profile of nutrition in member countries;
- Highlight SUN-CSN as an effective international campaigning network; and
- Show an inclusive, global constituency in support of nutrition.
We’ve already seen effective social media and press coverage of Global Day of Action events by SUN-CSAs using the Twitter hashtag of #ActingTogether4Nutrition in Zambia (@wchilufya), Bangladesh (@SUNCSABD), Ghana (@ghaccssun), Malawi (@CSO_Nut.Alliance), and Uganda (@UCCOSUN).
Altogether, 19 country-level CSOs committed to displaying strong public support for nutrition issues.
At the inaugural meeting of SUN-CSN, in June 2013 in Washington, DC, I witnessed a real commitment from advocates from all over the world to share ideas and build a Community of Practice on efforts to scale up nutrition. SUN countries are those with the world’s highest burdens of malnutrition. They are working together with very limited resources in ways that are most impressive. I hope political leaders will take note of their advocacy and live up to their governments’ commitments to meet global nutrition targets by 2015.
Posted by Scott Bleggi on May 13, 2014 in A Climate to End Hunger, Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Assets for the Poor, Climate Change, Data to End Hunger, Development Assistance, Economic Development, Food Aid, Food Prices, Foreign Aid Reform, Gender, Global Hunger, Good Governance, Hunger Report, Immigration, Inequality, Latin America, Malnutrition, Maternal and Child Nutrition, Millennium Challenge Account, Millennium Development Goals, Religion and Hunger, Success in Fighting Hunger, Trade, Weblogs | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Editor’s note: Welcome to Institute Notes’ blog series on Success in Fighting Hunger. Today, Derek Schwabe shares a big-picture global success story that is not as well-known as it should be. Later in the series, our Institute colleagues present more “things that are working.” Today’s smaller success stories -- programs whose potential impact is seemingly modest -- are not only of vital importance to the people who participate, but may well contain the kernels of large-scale future progress. Thus, this series celebrates sustainable progress against hunger, no matter what its scale.
- Michele Learner, editor of Institute Notes
Too few people know this, but more people escaped poverty during the 2000s than during any other decade in history. More importantly, progress on not only poverty, but hunger, child mortality, and a host of other debilitating human problems occurred in every major region of the world. Bill Gates was right in his foundation’s myth-busting 2014 annual letter: “By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been.”
The chart above shows that the world has already met and surpassed the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of cutting extreme poverty in half by 2015 -- as measured by the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 per day. The chart below digs deeper into that data, revealing that, though poverty reduction has been slower in some regions than in others, it has indeed occurred in every region. Both of these graphics first appeared in the 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals.
It may not be possible to prove a direct causal link, but it is no coincidence that this progress coincided with global efforts to reach the MDGs. When the MDGs were launched in the year 2000, leaders from every country in the world pledged their support. Few could have known at the time how influential these goals would become.
Since 2000, the MDGs have been the dominant global development framework, and they have galvanized public support around the world for ending hunger and extreme poverty. Individual countries have used them as a model for their own national development plans. Civil society groups, particularly faith-based ones, have been loyal advocates of the MDGs, dedicated to holding government leaders accountable for following through on their pledges.
As the December 2015 deadline for the MDGs fast approaches, and leaders inch toward consensus on what should replace them, we should pause to celebrate the power of goal-setting. Developing new post-2015 goals offers a rare opportunity to enable national leaders and communities to set their own country-specific development goals. The experiences of countries as different as Ghana, Brazil, Rwanda, Vietnam, and Bangladesh have proven that with good leadership and a comprehensive, country-owned, and data–driven strategy, setting goals can work on a national level too.
Development organizations such as the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development have embraced the goal-setting approach of the MDGs and are now rallying behind an ambitious goal: to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2030. Here in our own country, Bread for the World is urging President Obama to do the same, starting with a goal to end U.S. hunger. Development experts and economists agree that, thanks to the successes of recent decades, such a goal is now within reach.
Get the full global success story of the MDGs in the 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals, and learn about what it would take to eliminate U.S. hunger in the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America.
Posted by Bread on April 28, 2014 in Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Assets for the Poor, Data to End Hunger, Development Assistance, Economic Development, Global Hunger, Hunger Report, Millennium Development Goals, Religion and Hunger, Success in Fighting Hunger, U.S. Hunger, Weblogs | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Dawn shares her story of facing social stigmas. (Video credit: Feeding America)
For millions of Americans like Dawn, the idea of accepting help--even when it's badly needed--is daunting and humiliating. While she was unemployed, Dawn received SNAP (food stamps) that helped keep her and her son fed and healthy. The safety net was there for her family when a job just wasn't. Getting by on SNAP was hard enough (the average benefit is less than $1.50 per meal), but being socially ostracized for it, she says, was the most stressful. Scrutinizing stares and rude comments became a usual part of her weekly grocery trip, and she found herself shopping late at night just to avoid ridicule.
Dawn never forgot the undue shame that she was made to endure during that rough time--and the millions of others who still face it today. Like most Americans, she has a firm sense of self-reliance, and considers it a strength. But she knows that it can also feed that oppressive stigma. Today, she's a vocal advocate for the millions of Americans who bear a degenerating burden of guilt for circumstances they can't control.
We have many tools at our disposal (like the new SNAP EBT card system) that can make it easier for people to anonymously accept help when they need it, but as Dawn's story shows, they will not be enough. Combatting stigmas will start with challenging hurtful attitudes and assumptions about what it means to need help.
Hunger is a shared public health problem--not a punishment for the few--and the more we talk about it this way, the sooner we may be able to reduce the stigma that makes it a much harder problem to solve than it should be.
Check out hungerreport.org to read Dawn's full story--complete with photos and graphics--and to download the complete 2014 Hunger Report and read more about how social stigmas perpetuate hunger in America.
This past Friday — the eve of International Women’s Day — Bread for the World and the Institute hosted a Twitter chat with senior policy analyst Faustine Wabwire on how women’s empowerment can help end hunger. Research continues to show that, in nations and communities all over the world, gender bias is a principal cause of hunger. In fact, 55% of the reduction in hunger from 1970-1995 can be attributed to improvements in the status of women.
Senior Hunger Report editor Todd Post, Faustine, and other members of the Institute are currently at work developing the 2015 Hunger Report, to be released in November 2014, which will propose policy changes to improve women’s economic, political, and social status. International Women’s Day offered a prime opportunity to expand the discussion to the Twitter-sphere, resulting in a fruitful dialogue that touched on the varied dimensions of women’s empowerment in the United States and around the world and gave us a chance to hear new perspectives.
Here’s a brief recap of where the chat went, with a smattering of sample tweets:
We had a lot of help getting the word out.
We started by asking "Why women's empowerment?"
We examined the role of women in agriculture and the food system.
@breadinstitute .problem is bigger - when investing in food security does not improve nutritional status of women&Kids. focus on nutrition#1— susannecourtney (@susannec_acfCA) March 7, 2014
We looked back to the role of the Millennium Development Goals, and ahead to the threat of climate change.
We pondered where hunger and poverty rates correspond — and where they don't.
We acknowledged the influence of culture.
We heard from health experts on the role of good nutrition and access to health care.
@bread4theworld Good nutrition during pregnancy sets the stage for healthy, thriving children. Decreased access limits successful outcomes.— ProMedica (@ProMedicaHealth) March 7, 2014
We shared resources with each other.
We talked jobs and wages as next steps toward gender parity in the United States.
We had many to thank for a rich online discussion.
Posted by Bread on March 10, 2014 in Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Assets for the Poor, Development Assistance, Economic Development, Food Aid, Food Prices, Foreign Aid Reform, Gender, Global Hunger, Hunger Hotspots, Hunger Report, Inequality, Latin America, Malnutrition, Maternal and Child Nutrition, Millennium Development Goals, Religion and Hunger, Trade, U.S. Hunger, Weblogs | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Gender bias is a principal cause of hunger. Women produce well over half of the global food supply and are more likely to spend additional income on food. We won’t be able to end extreme poverty by 2030 without tackling gender inequality around the world. This is why women’s empowerment will be the focus of Bread for the World Institute’s (@breadinstitute) upcoming 2015 Hunger Report, currently being developed.
Join Bread for the World Institute Senior Policy Analyst Faustine Wabwire (@fwabwire) for a Twitter chat on the linkages between hunger, poverty, and women’s empowerment this Friday, March 7—the eve of International Women's Day. We want to hear your recommendations and stories to help answer the question:
What can we absolutely not leave out of the 2015 Hunger Report on women's economic empowerment to end hunger?
Be sure to include the hashtag #IWD2014 in your tweets. Here are the details:
What: Twitter Chat on Women’s Empowerment to end Hunger and Poverty
When: Friday, March 7, 2014
Time: 12 p.m. - 1 p.m. EST
Chat Hashtag: #IWD2014
Primary Twitter Accounts:
@asmalateef (Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute)
Faustine and the Institute will start the conversation with a few questions—but we hope to do a lot of listening. We look forward to hearing from you!
Posted by Bread on March 05, 2014 in Africa, Asia, Assets for the Poor, Development Assistance, Economic Development, Food Aid, Gender, Global Hunger, Hunger Report, Inequality, Latin America, Malnutrition, Maternal and Child Nutrition, Millennium Development Goals, Religion and Hunger, U.S. Hunger, Weblogs | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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.
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.
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.
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 Steps.
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