How We Support This Year’s Farm Bill

Written by Andrew McNamee, Manager of Public Policy

 

Congress must pass a farm bill this year. What are we doing to help?

The “farm bill” is the primary legislative vehicle authorizing the U.S. Government’s (USG) agriculture and nutrition assistance programs. An authorization bill must be passed every five years so that the programs funded by the U.S. Government are authorized to spend money that has been appropriated.

The Agricultural Act of 2014, which is the current law authorizing agricultural and nutrition assistance programs, expires September 2018. It is critical that new authorizing legislation is passed before the expiration date to ensure there is no interruption in program authorization. The House and Senate Agriculture Committees are hard at work writing the bill, and our Washington, D.C. team is meeting with Committee members and their staffs to advocate for beneficial changes in how nutrition assistance programs operate.

On the domestic programs authorized by the farm bill, we will continue to defend the need for and integrity of the programs. We will oppose any effort to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Incentive Program (SNAP), which is the USG’s largest and most important nutrition assistance program. Some Members of Congress have suggested converting SNAP into state-controlled block grants that the state governments could redirect to priorities other than nutrition. We will oppose any such effort.

On international policy, we will promote language that would relax the requirement that Food for Peace programs be funded through the sale of U.S. commodities on local markets in-country, which can distort such markets. We will also advocate for changes to “cargo preference,” or the requirement that most food aid must be transported in U.S.-registered vessels, which can drive up costs and delays.

Our Washington, D.C. team will be advocating on the farm bill in the coming weeks and months. Our goal is for a re-authorization bill that includes critical reforms to pass before the current authorizing legislation expires in September.

How Do I Become an Advocate?

Written by Andrew McNamee, Manager of Public Policy

Feed the Children fights hunger and poverty around the world. While our focus is on direct service to our beneficiaries, we also understand the massive scale of our mission. To truly defeat hunger in addition to being service provider, we must bring together like-minded organizations and advocates for our poorest communities. Our goal is systemic change to defeat hunger, and while we are a zealous advocate for good anti-hunger and anti-poverty policy, we are strictly non-partisan. We proudly work with all people of good faith who care about serving the poor.

Our Washington D.C. team regularly meets with members of Congress and their staffs, and we visited the offices of over 100 members last year. There is nothing that has more influence on a legislator than an informed and well engaged constituent. Personalized communications from a constituent stand out amid a sea of form letters and e-mails. They tell the legislator that the constituent cares about an issue enough to research his legislator’s position on the issue, compose a communication to the office, and consider the legislator’s actions on the issue when entering the voting booth. Moreover, they tell the legislator that the constituent is likely to vote.

Our efforts to affect policy in Washington D.C. depend on support from engaged and informed advocates that can reinforce our message with their members of Congress.

If you want to advocate on behalf of children in the U.S. and around the world, a good first step is to sign up for text updates from our government relations team by texting advocate to 51555, and replying yes.

We will text you when a vital issue being considered by Congress needs your immediate attention.

The next step is to get to know your members of Congress, their committee assignments, and their positions on issues related to food security and nutrition. You can find this information by submitting your address and selecting the member of Congress about whom you wish to learn, or by calling 1-800-826-3688 to be connected directly to your Representative or Senators. Explore your representatives’ websites to find out what positions they have previously taken on food security and nutrition-related issues. Some members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, are considered “champions” on food security, but every member will have something to say about a broad piece of legislation like the farm bill, which includes authorization for child nutrition programs.

Once you know who they are, you should feel free to reach out! Introduce yourself by e-mail or phone call to let the office know that you’re interested in food security and nutrition. You can explain that you will be monitoring the lawmaker’s actions on those issues. If the lawmaker is holding events that are open to the public, attend those events and ask questions regarding the lawmaker’s commitment to your issues. You want a lawmaker to remember that they have a committed advocate living in the district when the issue comes up!

Finally, make sure to follow up with the legislator’s office when they act on an issue you are passionate about, to either thank them or respectfully express your displeasure at their position. Remember that these offices are constantly barraged by appeals, often in less-than-polite language. A sincere thank you, or even a respectfully-worded disagreement, can mean a lot to a legislator and his (often underappreciated and overworked) staff.

There are many opportunities to engage in advocacy related to food security and nutrition. Please sign up now to be an advocate for hungry children in the U.S. and worldwide!

Haiti: A Spotlight on the Country and Our Work

Written by Andrew McNamee, Manager of Public Policy, and Emily Jost, Program Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist

Haiti is a beautiful country with a troubled history. Struck by a truly devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake in January 2010, the country continues to feel the overwhelming effects of the earthquake today.  More than 230,000 people were killed, and a million others were displaced. Children have felt the negative effects firsthand, and those born in 2010 or later have lived their entire lives in the earthquake’s shadow. We were hard at work in Haiti before the earthquake, and we seek to help children thrive though food, medicine and education.

We use a child-focused community development (CFCD) approach to deliver more than just food to children in need in Haiti. There are four pillars to CFCD: Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods.

Through the Food & Nutrition pillar, we serve communities through the support of Care Groups, a mother-to-mother peer training approach. Through these groups, mothers learn positive behavior changes to improve the nutrition and health of their children. We have also provided deworming medication and vitamin A supplements for children under the age of five, to treat intestinal parasites and prevent blindness. In 2015, we provided vitamin supplements to nearly 500 children under the age of five.

“A special thanks to the Care Group staff for the work they do with the mother leaders in my community. I want to become a great seamstress to help the poorest parents in making school uniforms for their children.” –Roodmicka, 11-year-old resident of Bon Berger de Macako

The earthquake devastated Haiti’s water and health infrastructure, which left the population vulnerable to the devastating cholera epidemic that continues to trouble the country today. In response, we’ve built latrines and hand washing stations in five communities in western Haiti, benefitting over 1,200 children, through its Health & Water pillar. We also installed new waterline systems to support whole communities, delivering clean water to over 10,000 people and reducing the incidence of waterborne disease.

One of the most powerful methods to promote education is to provide food at school. Through our Education pillar, we provide 2,900 children with regular school meals and backpacks to reduce financial strain on their parents and ensure they’re focused on lessons rather than hunger. One Haitian teacher explained that before our school feeding program began, children arrived at school hungry and unable to focus, forcing teachers to repeat lessons.

“Thank you for the support provided in the community and our schools through the nutrition program. In addition, we want to give a special thanks to the sponsorship program.” – Eliphete, the father of 11-year-old Djenica

The final pillar, Livelihoods, is intended to help the parents of the children we serve by teaching them new ways to generate income and save money. We assist families in building both household and community/school gardens, which promotes nutritional diversity and helps supply our school meals programs. The fruit tree seedling projects have these same benefits, along with added income from the sale of the seedlings or benefiting the environment through reforestation efforts.

2017 Year in Review: Feed the Children Successes and a Look Ahead

Written by Andrew McNamee, Manager of Public Policy

 

Feed the Children had several notable successes in 2017. These included:

  • Meetings with the staff of more than 100 members of Congress – We were in more than 100 meetings on Capitol Hill, with both Democratic and Republican offices, on a variety of topics, including emergency famine assistance funding, summer feeding for American children who receive free or reduced-price lunch at school, and school lunch debt shaming.
  • Supplemental famine spending of $1 billion – Due to ongoing conflicts, there were more people on the brink of famine in 2017 than in any year since 1945. Feed the Children and other internationally-focused NGOs (non-government organizations) pushed for $1 billion in supplemental funding to be included in a continuing resolution to address these famines, and we learned in May that our collective effort was successful! (The supplemental funding and all U.S. expenditures on international relief and development constitutes less than 1% of the U.S. federal budget, but the money is critical to preventing famine and stimulating development.)
  • Hurricane relief – The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was especially active and deadly. When hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria made landfall in the U.S., it caused nearly $370 billion in estimated damage and collectively caused at least 700 deaths. However, it is feared that the lives lost due to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico have been drastically undercounted.
  • Malawi – Tiwalere II – In 2017, we were awarded the largest grant in our history to continue our critical work in Malawi – to end extreme poverty and hunger. USAID gave $19.15 million through the Global Development Alliance mechanism to match the amount raised by our organization and our partners, Nu Skin and the Procter & Gamble Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program. Tiwalere II, meaning “let’s raise them up” in the local Chichewa dialect, follows the success of the smaller Tiwalere I project that improved nutrition for orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi from 2010 to 2015. Tiwalere II will focus on educating pregnant and lactating women, mothers, their young children, and adolescent girls on best practices related to ensuring young children receive adequate nutrition.
  • Summer Food & Education Program – This was the fourth year we operated our Summer Food and Education Program (SFEP) in coordination with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. Our SFEP provides meals to children who receive free or reduced-price lunch during the school year to ensure they don’t experience malnutrition throughout the summer. Meal sites are often located at libraries, camps, churches, or schools, where children can participate in educational and athletic programs to ensure they don’t fall behind in school during the summer months.

 

A Look Ahead

  • We plan to build on our success as we move further into 2018. Our Washington D.C. team will continue to regularly meet with Congressional offices. We will encourage them to make vital improvements to nutrition programs outlined in the farm bill. The farm bill is passed every five years. It is the mechanism that authorizes all agricultural and nutrition programs.
  • We will utilize the lessons learned from disaster response efforts to improve our response in the future, and we will increase our partnerships with other organizations focused on disaster response.
  • Finally, we’re looking to utilize the Global Development Alliance funding mechanism to possibly recreate the success of our Tiwalere II project in Central America, Kenya, and Tanzania.

 

Child Hunger in America: Anna’s story

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Scraping pennies to try and feed a family

Anna is 10 years old. Her family struggles each day just for the most basic necessities.

Her mom, Julie, says, “Anything we could do to make money, that’s what we did.”

For a while, that meant trying to make a living by “junking.” Julie and her husband would collect anything they could find to sell at the local junkyard — aluminum, copper, metal, cans. It’s hard, backbreaking work.

But when the transmission goes out on your only vehicle, making a living like this is impossible. And when you live in a rural area with no public transportation, so is any other type of work.

Their vehicle died about a year ago. “And if you can’t get out and work, you can’t make money,” says Julie. “So when we are low on food you can’t even buy it because you ain’t got money to buy it.”

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Julie is very handy — she and her husband have even done car repairs to try and make ends meet. But they don’t have the money to buy a transmission and get their own truck working again.

“It’s been really stressful and stuff,” Anna says.

She worries about her family, adding, “Sometimes we get low on food.”

And her older sister, Jennifer, sacrifices like her parents do for Anna and her younger brother, 7-year–old Brian.

Jennifer says, “Sometimes I don’t eat because I want to save food for my brother and sister.”

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Julie loves her children very much. It breaks her heart to know she’s doing everything she can to provide for her family and it’s not enough. Through tears, Julie says:

“It just hurts when you can’t get your kids what they want or anything they need.”

In addition to food, they struggle with household essentials like laundry detergent, toilet paper and toothpaste.

“Yeah, I have to scrape up, sometimes pennies, to get that stuff,” says Julie. “I always get dollar stuff. It’s cheap, but it works.”

“I wish my family had money, food and clothes and things like that.”
— Anna

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This family needs help. Food often comes from the local food pantry — a Feed the Children partner agency. Their clothing comes from what is donated to another social services agency.

You can make a difference for a family that’s struggling

Please give today to help feed hungry children like Anna and Brian.

You’ll provide boxes of food and household essentials — just like what our team was able to deliver to Julie and her family.

Your gift today means food to fill the tummies of hungry boys and girls in poor communities across America.

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DONATE

You can provide food and essentials for hungry children like Anna and Brian!

Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve.

Workplace Giving Recognition: UnitedHealth Group

Written by Rhonda Watson, Director of Workplace Giving

 

Did you know you can double, triple, or even quadruple the size of your workplace giving donation?

By giving at work and asking your employer to match your donation, the amount you give will be maximized and it will have an even greater impact.

Feed the Children would like to thank the employees at UnitedHealth Group for helping us to continue our mission. This past quarter, UnitedHealth Group and its employees raised more than $4,500 to help provide hope and resources for families across the country.

Last year, more than $340,000 was collectively raised by donors who gave through their workplace giving programs. This is because their employers matched their gifts.

Find out if your company has a matching gift program. Assess your eligibility and gain access to detailed corporate giving information about your employer by searching our database of companies with matching gift programs at http://www.feedthechildren.org/workplace-giving/.

We are committed to helping you and we will provide as much information as possible. Such as:

  • Company contact name
  • Contact’s phone and email address
  • Minimum and maximum amount matched
  • Total per employee
  • Gift ratio

If your company isn’t listed in our database, make sure to check with your Human Resources department. Let them know you are interested in learning about their matching gift program.

Again, thank you for all you do to help us create a world where no child goes to bed hungry.

 

School Breakfast Program Gives Kids a Healthy Start to their Days

Written by Andrew McNamee, Manager of Public Policy and Caitlin Duncan, Grants Management Specialist

A day at school should be filled with educational challenges and social growth. But for the roughly eight percent of American children living with food insecurity, the day usually begins with hunger. The hunger stalks them throughout their childhoods. It affects their ability to focus and learn, their prospects, even their physical growth. While their friends return from summer break with stories of family vacations, sports practices, and summer camps, food insecure children have no such stories to tell. Instead, they are relieved to be back where free and reduced-price school lunches help them recover from months of inconsistent meals, as well as sometimes feeling like a burden to their family. This is how poverty and related food insecurity psychologically traumatize children for life, and it’s happening on a massive scale. Their chronic hunger affects their education, their social opportunities and sense of self –- even their physical development.

This is why the USDA’s School Breakfast Program (SBP) is so important. Research has found that providing breakfast to students has a positive effect on their academic achievement- but the benefits extend beyond that. Busy parents can get relief in the early morning when they know there is a nutritious, affordable meal available at school. Kids have the freedom to be kids when their bellies are full and they can think about games and lessons instead of where to get their next meal.

However, not all school districts offer breakfast through SBP. The program reimburses states that offer school breakfast, but participation is optional. Moreover, the number of students eating free or reduced-price school breakfasts is often far below the number of eligible students, especially when breakfast is served before the bell and many students have not yet arrived at school.

State-level efforts are underway to change this. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) has proposed a $2 million investment in the state’s school breakfast programs in his 2017-2018 budget proposal. A bill introduced in the Massachusetts state legislature would require schools that have at least 60% of their students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals, under the federal National School Lunch Program, to offer their students free breakfast. Feed the Children applauds these changes as a step towards achieving a hunger-free childhood for all children.

Some school districts have made efforts to integrate breakfast service into the school day, including ‘School Breakfast Weeks’ that introduce refreshments and socialization into breakfast programs. Or, instead of serving breakfast before school in a separate room, some districts have introduced food carts that serve students in their classrooms and integrate breakfast into the school day. Feed the Children encourages such innovative efforts to make consistent meals the norm.

Not sure how to get school breakfast started at your local schools? For those who would like to initiate school breakfast or expand on existing programs, the USDA provides a toolkit for parents, educators, administrators, and everyday concerned citizens to assist in this goal, called Energize Your Day with School Breakfast. This toolkit offers suggestions for engaging community stakeholders and for taking concrete action toward bringing nutritious, affordable breakfast to more school-aged children.

Kenyan Election Tests Country’s New Constitution and Our Operations

Written by Andrew McNamee, Manager of Public Policy and Kepha Machira, PR & Communications Officer (Kenya)

Kenyans go to the polls today to elect (or relect) their president, his deputy, members of Parliament, county governors, and ward representatives. Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are running for reelection against former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka, in a rematch of their 2013 contest. The first election held under the new constitution in 2013 was relatively peaceful, but an attack on Ruto’s home by a man with a machete and the torture and murder of the electoral commission’s head IT officer, both in the last month, have generated new fears.

The election is the second held under the constitution approved in 2010, in response to the violence that roiled the country following its 2007 election. The violence following the 2007 election, which claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands, is something no Kenyan wishes to see repeated. The Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2008 to mediate a political compromise between the conflicting parties. The National Accord and Reconciliation Act of 2008, which temporarily reestablished the offices of Prime Minister and two Deputy Prime Ministers, was the result of this effort.

The importance of stability in Kenya cannot be understated. The country’s economy is growing significantly and diversifying, and is now sub-Saharan Africa’s sixth largest. Its proximity to South Sudan and Somalia, two unstable countries afflicted by famine, makes it pivotal for global security. The country hosts the UN HQ for Africa, the largest U.S. diplomatic mission on the continent, the African operations HQs of many NGOs, and receives significant security assistance from the West. Kenya is an anchor state in a volatile region, but its ethnic conflicts have never been far from the surface.

The ethnic divisions laid bare by the 2007 election violence have roots that run much deeper than the presidential election. Divisions among tribes affect schoolchildren, as children are moved among schools based on the perceived tribe-loyalty of their parents. This has affected schools where Feed the Children operates its programs, and our staff have witnessed significant relocation because of anxiety about potential 2017 election violence. Buses have been transporting Kenyans from urban areas with a high risk of political violence to rural ethnic enclaves.

This relocation is harming the prospects of Kenyan children served by our programs. Although school terms were scheduled to end in August, many parents removed their children from school as early as June. The parents we depend on to implement the Cash to School program have evacuated, and those in Village Savings & Loan groups have left before completion of the cycle.

In response, we have coordinated with other Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) to prepare for potential violence, and to address the needs of vulnerable populations if violence affects their communities. We seek to prevent any unnecessary loss of life by addressing both the food and non-food needs of the communities we serve in Samburu and Turkana that could be affected.

InterAction Forum 2017: Emphasizing the Need for Accountability, Transparency and Inclusiveness

Written by Anna Rohwer, Director of International Operations & Administration

 

‘United We Stand’ originated from The Liberty Song that was written by John Dickinson during the American Revolution. It’s a simple phase that has lived in different contexts of American history but always means the same thing: we fall when we’re divided, so we must stand united if we hope to stand at all. ‘United We Stand’.

We are living in a critical moment of history. Our world is more interdependent and interconnected now than ever before, yet we are seeing increased polarization across political, cultural and religious ideologies. We have made progress towards addressing poverty and hunger, yet there remains significant need. More than 65 million people have been displaced due to war and persecution—more than at any other time. Millions of people in the horn of Africa are facing a devastating drought. Nearly 3 million children under 5 are still dying from preventable diseases each year, and just 1 in 3 people have access to proper sanitation globally.

The U.S. has always been at the forefront of addressing humanitarian and development challenges, with billions of dollars going each year to foreign assistance. However, the current administration has proposed a significant (31%) reduction to the international aid budget. This has negatively affected organizations like Feed the Children that rely on government funding to address poverty and hunger around the world. Because of this, there is now an urgency for both civil society and the private sector to find opportunities to fill the gap.

IMG_20170620_100126363We had the opportunity to participate in the annual InterAction Forum in Washington, D.C. InterAction is an alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) focused on disaster relief and sustainable development programs. The theme for this year’s forum—United We Stand—was incredibly relevant given the current climate in which NGOs are operating in the U.S. today.

In his keynote address, President Bill Clinton emphasized the need to be unified in our efforts to eliminate global poverty and empower those who are most vulnerable. He shared: “We’ve never had more potential to spread hope through real learning, through real doing.”

The forum provided the opportunity for “real learning.” Themes like accountability and transparency, inclusiveness, human rights, and gender equality were emphasized by Heads of State, activists, entrepreneurs, and other influencers.  We also heard from experts on technical topics like the economic rationale for investing in nutrition (there’s actually evidence that links investment in nutrition to economic development), the human side of technology (in places like Rwanda and Malawi, drones are being used to deliver medicine in remote places), and organizational transformation to achieve cross-sector programming (in order to reach sustainable development goals, organizations need to move away from legacy business models and build integrated systems and programs that actually work).

The forum also provided the opportunity to interact with more than 100 international NGOs that are working around the world, as well as a number of for-profit companies using business solutions to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. Learning about what others are doing was not only inspirational, but it also created opportunities for information sharing and collaboration. ‘United We Stand’ together in the fight to end poverty and hunger.

As we, along with hundreds of other humanitarian organizations, continues to navigate the increasing challenges we are up against, our role in the effort to alleviate poverty and hunger is increasingly relevant and essential. We will continue our work and strengthen our impact, regardless of the increasing challenges, and we are committed more than ever to creating a world where no child goes to bed hungry.

 

Encourage Your State Officials to Address School Lunch Shaming

Written by Caitlin Duncan, Grants Management Specialist

 

Making a show of throwing away a child’s hot lunch.

Making lunch contingent on performing chores in front of peers.

Sending certain children to a designated area for a cold food item.

Writing debt notices on a child’s arm.

Those examples are just some of the lunch shaming tactics that schools have used to pressure parents to repay school meal debt. The premise is that embarrassment will motivate families to pay the money back quickly. While respecting the need of school districts to recoup a sometimes staggering meal debt, we are against such practices as degrading, which can lead to a negative educational environment for children. Not having enough to eat as a child is already a discouraging struggle. Children who deal with chronic hunger should not also have to worry about public shaming when they have an overdue lunch bill.

Our vision is to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry, and in this pursuit, we believe in treating each child and family in the communities we serve with value and respect. Last summer, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees school lunch programs, imposed a July 1, 2017 deadline for states to establish policies on how to treat children who cannot pay for food. We applaud the state of New Mexico for being the first state to outlaw lunch shaming, passing the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act. The law requires schools to deal with parents–not children–regarding meal debt, ends practices meant to embarrass students, instructs schools to provide students with a USDA reimbursable meal regardless of debt, and outlines steps for schools to connect low-income families with available school lunch programs. We enthusiastically encourage state legislators across the country to follow suit and to develop similar policies that defend children’s dignity and promote students’ access to food at school.

To encourage positive changes to your state’s school lunch debt policy, find contact information for your locally elected officials here.

For ideas on what to share with your elected official, refer to the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) advocacy toolkit here.