Tag Archives: hunger

My 2013 Summer Reading List

When summer rolls around, I try to carve out some quiet moments to catch up on my reading. At AJWS, it’s become a tradition for me to share my summer reading list with the staff. This year, I wanted to share it with the whole AJWS family. And even though summer is winding down, I hope you’ll still find time to breeze through a few more books before Labor Day.

The list is in no particular order. Happy reading!

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin: Brilliant, detailed history of Lincoln, his rise to the Presidency and his shaping of his Cabinet.

Transatlantic by Colum McCann: A brilliant new novel weaving together several stories of and about Ireland, Frederick Douglass and George Mitchell. An amazing book!

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel: First of a trilogy of historical novels, this one is about Sir Thomas More, Oliver Cromwell and that era of 16th century British history.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel: Second volume of the trilogy, which I found in a local bookstore after liking Wolf Hall so much. This one deals with the life of Henry the VIII and Cromwell in the years after Wolf Hall, starting about 1535. Read More »

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Historic Vote on Food Aid in Congress This Week

The fight for food aid reform is about to come down to an historic vote. With our partners at the leading development and humanitarian organizations in the country, we just released a joint statement of our support for updating the U.S. food aid system, making it more flexible and effective.

Building on the ideas for reform we have been promoting for years, last month President Obama called for improvements to our outdated and inefficient international food aid system.  This week the House will vote on a bi-partisan amendment, sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) to provide greater flexibility and help more people with our international food assistance without spending any additional U.S. taxpayer dollars.

As committed AJWS activist  Jonathan Zasloff recently noted the reforms have  widespread support, from organizations spanning the ideological divide from the Heritage Foundation to the Center for American Progress. It’s not surprising, as the reforms are really just common sense updates to outdated laws.

[The current, outdated law requires that] the vast majority of our aid be provided in the form of U.S.-sourced commodities, but] the U.S. needs greater flexibility to respond quickly and effectively to emergencies and longer-term food insecurity. In emergency situations in particular, the delivery of U.S. commodities can be extremely difficult – due to insecurity, as has been the case in Syria, or due to a host of other obstacles. Purchasing food locally or regionally, or providing cash transfers/food vouchers that work through local market systems, is often the best option for getting food aid to people who need it. Independent research has shown this approach can reach people considerably faster than shipping commodities from the U.S. These are well-tested and proven approaches that come with strong safeguards to ensure assistance is delivered quickly and not diverted from those in need.

Email your representative in Congress now and tell him or her that food aid reform matters to you!

When 870 million people around the world suffering from hunger every day, making every food aid dollar count is not only a responsible use of taxpayer money — it is a moral imperative. We thank all of our partners and supporters who have brought us so close to making these critically important reforms into a reality.

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A (tentative) win for food justice activists!

Originally posted on the blog of the Brooklyn Food Coalition.

This looks good.

As part of the 2014 Budget Request released last week, President Obama included a proposal that would overhaul America’s international food aid system. It’s not a perfect proposal and it still needs to be approved by Congress, but it’s a huge leap forward.

Right now, the U.S. has a well-intentioned yet wildly inefficient food aid system. Unlike other donor countries, the U.S. ships food from here rather than donating money to purchase food available in or near disaster-stricken countries. As a way of unloading surplus grain, this system works well. As a smart, efficient way of responding to humanitarian crises, it’s atrocious. Read More »

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Repairing India’s Food System Is About Access, Not Scarcity

Sacks of rice stored in the open in Ranwan, India, have rotted and suffered other damage. (Photo: Manpreet Romana for The New York Times)

Today’s New York Times article about India’s “paradox of plenty” is a painful reminder that hunger is acutely political.

The article boils the problem down to this:

“Spurred by agricultural innovation and generous farm subsidies, India now grows so much food that it has a bigger grain stockpile than any country except China, and it exports some of it to countries like Saudi Arabia and Australia. Yet one-fifth of its people are malnourished — double the rate of other developing countries like Vietnam and China — because of pervasive corruption, mismanagement and waste in the programs that are supposed to distribute food to the poor.”

Clearly, India doesn’t struggle with food scarcity; it struggles with food access and inequitable distribution. The crux of the problem is about who gets what and why; which populations are able to access government schemes and which populations struggle against stigma, corruption and bureaucratic procedures that limit their access to needed services.

Marginalized populations, including rural indigenous women and migrant workers, are often shut out of the food system in India and elsewhere in the developing world. This is why the World Food Programme (WPF) often provides food or cash vouchers to women instead of men. But the WPF’s approach isn’t the ultimate answer. India needs to have strong internal mechanisms of accountability so that its vulnerable citizens do not suffer the consequences of false promises and neglect. Read More »

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Hunger is Not a Game

Fans of The Hunger Games—you know who you are—are getting excited for the movie version of the first of Suzanne Collins’s trilogy of young adult novels. The film arrives in theaters this weekend. (Midnight or 3 a.m. IMAX screening, anyone?) We want to doff our hat to Oxfam—one of our friends in the campaign to end global hunger—for partnering with the HPA (that’s the Harry Potter Alliance) and its Imagine Better Project; a project to harness the energy around The Hunger Games to help fight, well… hunger. This really seems to be “catching fire” (insider Hunger Games, reference—sorry!) and we look forward to hearing more about the campaign’s performance in the coming weeks. Read all the details about this over at The New York Times.

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Jews vs. The Farm Bill

Originally posted on The Jew and the Carrot.

AJWS President Ruth Messinger supporting local agriculture in Kenya.

The issue inspiring the latest Jewish political movement won’t surprise readers of this blog—but it might cause some head scratching among the rest of the Jewish community. It isn’t Israel or the 99%. Nope, it’s… the U.S. Farm Bill!

While it may seem like an unlikely target for a swell of Jewish activism, the Farm Bill—which dictates U.S. law on everything from agriculture to food stamps to biofuels—is packed with policies that go against the grain of Jewish ethics. The bill is up for debate and reauthorization this year, and six Jewish organizations are seizing the opportunity to call for reforms that they feel will go a long way toward achieving their Torah-inspired visions of food justice.

Even though they’re each tackling a different aspect of the bill, they’ve recently joined forces to maximize their power and mobilize their constituents toward a common goal. Read More »

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On the 2nd Night of Chanukah: Turning Family Tradition Into Lifelong Passion

Originally posted on the blog of Where Do You Give?

September 1997: I am sitting with my family on the soft, beige carpet in the family room ready to begin our annual tradition. Index cards are lined up in front of us: “Hunger in Africa” “Literacy in America” “Homelessness in Mountain View, CA.” My parents hand my brother and me each $1,000 in small bills (monopoly money, of course). We then spend the rest of the afternoon talking about the different issues we could support and how much money we want to donate to each. Once all the money is spread out among the index cards, my brother and I run into our rooms to grab our tzedakah boxes. We pour the coins that we have been collecting all year onto the carpet. As we meticulously count the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, my parents calculate the percentages that will go to each organization based on what we allocated with our monopoly money. As our tzedakah boxes lie empty on the carpet, I know it is time to start setting aside my money for the next year.

Read More »

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Haiti Doesn’t Need Your Old T-Shirt… Or Our Surplus Rice

AJWS has been saying for a while that shipping surplus U.S. food thousands of miles to developing countries is about as useless in ending global hunger as, well, sending them our old T-shirts.

According to this article in Foreign Policy Magazine, here’s a great acronym for the leftovers people send to the poor under the guise of helping: SWEDOW (“stuff we don’t want”).

Charles Kenny makes it clear and compelling why casting our SWEDOW on the Global South isn’t going to foster sustainable change—it just clears out our closets and the coffers of U.S. farming surplus to make room for the next useless T-shirt or bumper crop. Read More »

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Old MacDonald’s farm had a WHAT?

There are some unusual “crops” mentioned in the U.S. Farm Bill! Which of the following is regulated by the bill?

A.  Grain to distribute to survivors of disasters
B.  Corn grown to produce biofuel
C.  Field of wheat eligible for a generous government subsidy
D.  All of the above

Answer: D

That’s right. But did you know that these things are all harming communities in the developing world?

Take our quick quiz now to test your knowledge about the global impact of the Farm Bill. The bill is coming up for reform in 2012, and the more we know, the more we can do to make a difference.

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