Connect Blog | WhyHunger

WhyHunger is proud to join USFSA members and grassroots partners at the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C. this week and will continue to stand in solidarity at work toward climate justice a key to ending hunger and building social justice for all. Please read USFSA's statement on the People's Climate March below.

USFSA  logo people's climate marchThe US Food Sovereignty Alliance, an alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based, and food producer groups, is joining in solidarity with the It Takes Roots Coalition at the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C. on April 29, 2017 to stand for “the rights, actions, and leadership of communities who are at the frontlines of fighting for water, land, and home.”

As a US-based organization, the USFSA upholds the right to food as a fundamental human right and works to connect our local and national struggles to global movements led by farmers, fishers and indigenous people. Corporate-controlled industrial agriculture and fishing are significant contributors to climate change and smallholder farmers producing and harvesting food build the resiliency of ecosystems which contribute to both nourishing people and cooling the planet.

Humans have a right to the resources required to meet their basic needs and provide themselves with shelter, sustenance, and an adequate livelihood. The means of meeting these needs are often embedded in cultural practices that are vital for people’s sense of identity. Food feeds more than the body.

Climate change increases hunger. A sustainable and nutritious food supply is essential for the entire human population, but it’s also essential for the economic well-being of food producers. People who produce food – like farmers and fishers – are often hardest hit by climate change, which directly affects their family’s food supply and sources of income. With 78 percent of the world’s poor relying on farming to support their families, it’s important to develop sustainable ways of farming that support both the environment and those who rely on crops for economic stability.

The industrial food system accelerates climate change. The corporate-controlled, profit-driven industrial food system is responsible for 44-57% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions from agriculture, forestry and fisheries have nearly doubled over the past fifty years and could increase an additional 30 percent by 2050.

Industrial agriculture requires deforestation to make room for endless fields of soybeans, corn, grain, oil palm and sugar cane. It requires the dispossession (often times violently) of indigenous peoples and smallholder farmers from their territories through land grabs to make room for resource intensive mega plantations and unsustainable resource extraction. Today small farms account for 90% of all farms yet occupy less than a quarter of the agricultural land.

The industrial food system relies heavily on the extraction and refinement of fossil fuels to produce chemical insecticides and herbicides which results in nutrient depleted soils in addition to contaminated bodies and ecosystems; the further removal of land from food production; and green gas emissions due to the transportation required for global trade.

Industrial aquaculture depends on the fossil fuel driven harvest, processing and distribution of wild fish, often depleting resources and ecosystems that small scale fishers depend on while growing salmon and shrimp for first world markets.

Food sovereignty is climate justice. Cooling the planet and nourishing people go hand-in-hand. We can cool the planet AND ensure adequate food and nutrition to the world’s human population by fighting the destructive and building the new.

Food sovereignty rejects the false solutions of so-called Climate Smart Agriculture (methods that call for increased productivity and intensification) and tax incentivized conservation and reforestation and calls for the scaling out of agroecology. Agroecology is a science and practice defined in the daily lives of millions worldwide that puts food sovereignty into action. It represents both a form of agricultural production and a process for organizing and building community self-determination. Agroecology is a way of life and a pathway to end hunger, protect our natural environment and transform society. It is farming, feeding, restoring, preserving, protecting and democratizing, grounded in the ongoing accumulation of knowledge of those relying on nature’s resources to nourish their families and communities. And it begins with an intuitive understanding that ecology is about the interdependent relationships of natural organisms—including humans—to their local environment.

Food sovereignty calls for the self-determination of indigenous communities, valuing women’s leadership, and the defense of territories, land, water and seeds. A small fraction of lands and water are still in the possession of indigenous communities, farmers and fishers, nevertheless they continue to produce most of the world’s food, steward the land and defend the rights of Mother Earth. We need a food system that works for and nourishes everyone, not towards the capital gains of a small percentage of people.

Food sovereignty calls for policies that support local economies and local markets. Localizing production, processing and distribution of food cuts out the need for extensive food miles resulting in greenhouse gas emissions, and creates and supports jobs through the development of local businesses. This localization redistributes wealth, power, and decision-making into the hands of the people.

Food sovereignty calls for a deepening and strengthening of democratic processes that puts people before profits and protects nutritious food as a fundamental human right. Food sovereignty is defined by communities’ control over the way food is produced, traded and consumed and protects their rights to define their own food and agriculture systems.

Food Sovereignty and Climate Justice is only possible through a rural-urban, internationalist alliance led by working people. As resource poor people at home experience the effects of food deserts and people around the world are violently driven from their land in the name of profit, a global response is necessary. The presence of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance in alignment with the goals of the It Takes Roots delegation at the People’s Climate March is an important step in building towards such a broad-based alliance.

Food Sovereignty and Climate Justice, NOW!

The US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA)

This post was originally published on the Give Healthy blog. In order to examine the concept of food justice and the emergency food system, Give Healthy spoke with Noreen Springstead, Executive Director of WhyHunger. Since 1992, she has worked for food justice and contributed to the organization’s mission of developing, supporting and replicating grassroots solutions focused on self-reliance and empowerment to end hunger and poverty. Below is a Q & A where she gives her perspective on “Give Healthy."

1. What does the term “Give Healthy” mean to you?

Noreen: When I think of the term “Give Healthy,” I think of living healthy, so for me the core of “Give Healthy,” is nutritious food and exercise. The correlation around the work of solving hunger is that all people should have access to nutritious food. Good food and healthy food should be the evolution of the American food drive, and to take that one step further we should be moving toward establishing that food is a universal human right.

2. What do you see as the connection between hunger and health?

Noreen: What we’ve seen at WhyHunger is that there is a deep important connection between hunger and health, especially within low-income communities. There is a prevalence of fast, cheap, non-nutritious food in low-income neighborhoods. We’ve also observed the prevalence of processed food going to food banks. On one hand, its helps to alleviate hunger, but on the hand, it’s creating other health problems such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. This paradigm needs to be changed. I’m excited to share that our Communications Intern Cataydra Brown, who is currently a sophomore at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has done research at the intersection of food access, race, and class, ultimately questioning how someone’s socioeconomic status and race determines the quality of food that they’re exposed to in their neighborhoods. For example, in her research she examined Jamaica, Queens, which has a household median income of approximately $45,000, and 55% African-American vs. TriBeCa, New York, where the household median is $203,000 with 3% of African-Americans. She found that within a 20-block radius, Jamaica had 19 fast food restaurants – which included McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, etc., and no establishments that served fresh fruits and vegetables. However, in TriBeCa, there were just 2 fast food establishments within 20 blocks and a multitude of places that served organic fruits and vegetables. That just does not exist in a predominantly minority, low-income areas.

3. What trends have you seen in food banking around sourcing healthy food?

Noreen: There are a lot of food banks evolving their food sourcing and putting a premium on change in the form of nutritious food. For example, we are seeing more local farmers producing fresh food for food banks and putting nutrition front and center. WhyHunger is helping to support food banks that are transforming the emergency food system into one that prioritizes health. A couple of great examples are our friends at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and the Santa Barbara Food Back in California. Increasingly, like-minded food banks and community organizations are banding together in an effort WhyHunger is involved in called Closing the Hunger Gap, to learn best practices from each other and expand their thinking of what the emergency food system should look like.

4. How do we build a food system where everyone has access to nutritious food?

Noreen: We need to look at the system through a social justice lens. We need to look at everyone from the workers who pick the food to the workers who serve the food in our restaurants. The food system is built on exploited labor. Economic justice and fair livable wages are the basis of building a food system where everyone has access to nutritious food. WhyHunger is working to change the narrative from food charity to food justice and exploring how to establish food as a basic human right.

5. What do you mean by the term food justice?

Noreen: Food justice explores both intersections and opportunities between hunger and racial justice, environmental justice, economic inequality and health equity. Food charity is the model we need to change, because while it serves an immediate need for people, it doesn’t solve or end hunger in the long-term. Food justice addresses the deeper poverty at the root of hunger.

 

  • Angelina Aspuac of AFEDES and the National Weaver’s Movement receives their official bill (number 5247) at the Congress of the Republic in Guatemala City
    Angelina Aspuac of AFEDES and the National Weaver’s Movement receives their official bill (number 5247) at the Congress of the Republic in Guatemala City
  • Milvian Aspuac, director of AFEDES, joins in making tamales during the harvest ceremony in San Martín Jilotepeque
    Milvian Aspuac, director of AFEDES, joins in making tamales during the harvest ceremony in San Martín Jilotepeque
  • A member of one of AFEDES’ community groups poses in front of her home garden, which boasts a mix of edible and medicinal plants
    A member of one of AFEDES’ community groups poses in front of her home garden, which boasts a mix of edible and medicinal plants
  • Dancing at a harvest ceremony and festival in San Martín Jilotepeque, birthplace of the campesino a campesino methodology
    Dancing at a harvest ceremony and festival in San Martín Jilotepeque, birthplace of the campesino a campesino methodology
  • AFEDES members and supporters march for International Women’s Day in Guatemala City
    AFEDES members and supporters march for International Women’s Day in Guatemala City
  •   A member of one of AFEDES’ community groups poses with her daughter in front of their worm composting bin
    A member of one of AFEDES’ community groups poses with her daughter in front of their worm composting bin

On my first day volunteering with WhyHunger partner AFEDES (Women’s Association for the Development of Sacatepéquez, Guatemala), I visited a community in San Antonio Aguas Calientes with self-proclaimed “agro-eco-feminist” Mercedes Monzón. Held at the home of one of AFEDES’s members, the meeting’s objective was to learn about the low-impact pesticide lime sulfur and to make a big batch for the group of 10 women to share. In one morning, these goals were met and more. We drank mosh (a sweet oat-based drink) followed by a savory atol (a warm corn-based drink) topped with beans and ground pumpkin seed. As we sipped and worked, group members also shared their frustrations and successes, whether it was a sickness affecting their hens or a bountiful harvest of medicinal plants from their herb garden. AFEDES meetings create these safe spaces for women to come together, to get away from their worries at home and to focus on improving their livelihoods.

Although many members of AFEDES have barely finished primary or secondary school, they keep attendance, minutes, financial records, and plan for their futures. Women in rural communities form organized groups and elect their own presidents, treasurers, and promoters, who become leaders, supporting their compañeras in anything from taking legal action against domestic violence to learning new weaving techniques. These groups later report to the general assembly at AFEDES, which also has its own leadership structure. This dynamic builds networks of solidarity among women within and across communities. I found this especially powerful in a world where women are taught to compete against each other rather than work together. 

AFEDESblog5 resize

Olga Zet, vice president of AFEDES, shows support for the Weaver’s Movement.

After wrapping up in San Antonio, we headed to Santiago Sacatepéquez, home of AFEDES headquarters, where we found the office staff in a workshop on bio-energy. I certainly did not expect to receive a chiropractic adjustment on my first day as a volunteer, but I happily obliged after a two-day bus journey through the mountains of Chiapas and Guatemala. After our adjustments, a naturopath led us through a series of energy-balancing processes to center our minds and bodies. Even though I had quite literally just met everyone in the room, I felt a certain unity and connection as we flowed through the different energy centers of our bodies.

Milvian Aspuac, director of AFEDES, later explained to me that workshops like this are part of the holistic approach the organization takes towards building autonomy among indigenous women and their communities. This vision of autonomy includes physical, political, and economic facets of life. For example, reclaiming women’s health, both physically and spiritually, is one of the important pillars of physical autonomy. AFEDES is also guided by the principle of Utz’ K’aslemal, their response as Kaqchikel women to “buen vivir” policies in countries like Bolivia and Ecuador. The ultimate mission is to defend life itself.

Milvian pointed to a large wasps’ nest outside her office window. “We don’t kill these wasps because they are life,” she explained. When there is a march to defend water, AFEDES will be there because water is life. When communities organize against a mining project, AFEDES will be there because land is life. This political clarity is a result of over 20 years of organizing, during which AFEDES has seen many changes in its vision and mission. Through a restructuring process in 2012, the women focused on their core values by asking themselves, “What do we really want?” The answer wasn’t more money or more things, but simply to live well, vivir bien, Utz’ K’aslemal.

With this perspective, elements that might seem disconnected at first soon become inseparable. My first week with AFEDES, I attended a harvest festival and ceremony in the mountains of Chimaltenango and the next day I joined the National Weavers’ Movement in the capitol presenting legal reforms to protect indigenous textile designs (their proposal was accepted in February and is now awaiting approval from the Commission of Indigenous Peoples). Through these experiences, I saw first-hand how women and their communities are organizing and building resilience from the ground up. It’s all part of defending the web of life. 

AFEDESblog6 resize

Weaving class at AFEDES headquarters in Santiago Sacatepéquez.

I arrived at AFEDES with an interest in gender and food sovereignty, which began with learning to grow my own vegetables in my mom’s garden and led me to study Human Ecology with a focus in sustainable food systems at College of the Atlantic in Maine. I was especially drawn to AFEDES’s focus on gender and racism in addressing problems in the food system, as a revolution without intersectionality is no revolution at all. What I gained over the six weeks I spent immersed in this community was more than I could have hoped for: I left with a much more complete vision of the kind of world I want to live in and the steps I can take to make that a reality.

As I watched from afar the social movements making waves back home in the U.S., from a pipeline resistance in my home state of New Jersey, to dairy workers organizing for better protections and wages in Vermont, I began to see them all connected in the bigger fight to defend life itself. On many occasions I asked myself, “What would my Utz’ K’aslemal look like without the confines and pressures of capitalism, patriarchy, and racism? What does autonomy mean to me?” I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I think I am beginning to ask the right questions.

We’re happy to share the good news that The National Federation of Farmers and Cattle (FENSUAGRO) – Colombia has recently held the inauguration of the first class of students at the “Maria Cano” Latin American Agroecology Institute (IALA). FENSUAGRO is a agricultural workers’ union where its members work to maintain their training center, grow coffee, vegetables and raise small animals. The new agroecology class has been made possible through support from WhyHunger’s International Solidarity Fund that provided the initial funds to rehabilitate the Raul Valbuena Training Center to serve as a space for agroecology classes to peasant families in Colombia. The first class consists of 25 students, who are apart of local peasant, indigenous, and afro-descendant associations affiliated with FENSUAGRO. The students, aged 18 through 28, will get a 2 1Ž2 year junior college degree in agroecology. They will also have the option to complete an additional two years at the University of Amazonas, and get a full university degree.
 
“Peasant agroecological territories are our proposal for a genuine peace with social justice, in harmony with Mother Earth.” – Peter Rosset
 
Students in this program will alternate between attending classes at IALA, and doing projects in their home communities. They also have an opportunity to work on the school’s agroecological farm in the mornings, which gives them a great mix of technical training in agroecology, peasant politics, and community organizing. The second class of 50 students will begin their classes soon and we look forward to FENSUAGRO’s continued growth and are committed to continuing to invest in social movements working for food sovereignty. Enjoy the pictures of the school and students below!  
 
 The inauguration
 The inauguration of the first class of students at the “María Cano” Latin American Agroecology Institute (IALA María Cano).
 
mistica about violence in Colombia
Here, students are participating in a mistica about violence in Colombia.
 
ndigenous and afro descendant associations from all over rural Colombia that are affiliated to FENSUAGRO
The school, pictured above, currently has its’ first class of students from local peasant, indigenous and afro-descendant associations from all over rural Colombia, that are affiliated to FENSUAGRO.

schools agroecological farm in the mornings
Students have the opportunity to work on the schools agroecological farm in the mornings, and have classes in the afternoons.
 
Latin American Agroecology Institute
 
It is clear from the turnout of the inauguration that the students and teachers are all committed, and that there will be a very high demand to attend the “María Cano” Latin American Agroecology Institute (IALA María Cano).

WhyHunger’s International Solidarity Fund helps to support MST’s efforts to train teachers and young people in Agroecology and help them to develop educational practices to teach Agroecology in elementary and high schools in Brazil. We are excited to share this announcement from MST.

Egídio Brunetto, the Popular School of Agroecology and Agroforestry, launched in partnership with Expressão Popular publishing company, its first Training Book "Agroecology in Basic Education: Suggestions for Content and Methodology."

Grounded in the mistica and the symbolism of collective work, the launch was attended by local authorities, Leftist organizations, students and educators of Agrarian Reform settlements.

 The content of the publication was organized by popular educators: Dionara Soares Ribeiro, Elisiani Vitória Tiepolo, Maria Cristina Vargas and Nivia Regina da Silva.

In the material, priority was given to stimulating the study of agroecology as a mechanism to mobilize families, create self-esteem, strengthen the peasant identity, generate income and raise awareness of families in the countryside.

For the educators, the book shares recommendations of how to organize the school curriculum to respond to the different realities and experiences of each community, and leaves to each educator to decide which parts can be used in their classroom.

During the launch, Dionara Ribeiro, one of the editors, said that the creation of the notebook is a result of the work of 64 educators, at an important moment that was the basic course of agroecology that worked on "Agroecology in Basic Education in Rural Schools".

In this sense, it reaffirmed the importance of working with agroecology with children, youth and adults, and that schools will be forming subjects with theoretical and practical appropriation to contribute to the transformation of their environment.

"Our focus is on transforming settlements and camps into agrochemicals-free territories, thus ensuring more health, biodiversity and better relations between people and nature," she explained.

At the end of the launch, an ecumenical act was carried out with the planting of trees, to symbolically start a new cycle, accompanied by "many fruits". According to the MST in the region, this booklet will strengthen the peasant identity through a process of building knowledge among rural families

This post first appeared in The Huffington Post.

President Trump calls his first federal budget “America First: A Blueprint to Make America Great Again. It is more like “A Blueprint to Make America Poor Again.” Who is right? What are the REAL FACTS?

The choices that our elected officials make in the budget will determine so much of what our country invests in and how we prosper in the coming years. But it goes beyond the dollars and cents to determine what America stands for and which way our moral compass is pointing. Are we a nation that stands for “Justice for All,” and especially for the tens of millions of poor people, including millions of innocent children, working families, immigrants who harvest our food, seniors who’ve worked all their lives and disabled people? So far, 69 percent of all the Trump budget cuts are from programs that benefit low or moderate income Americans. Is this budget a MORAL DOCUMENT?

HOUSING

Congress has promised “A decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family.” Over the years it has established a series of housing programs to meet this need. There is currently a shortage of seven million affordable homes for extremely low-income families. These families spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities, almost double what our government determines to be a reasonable rate. Affordable housing programs could take a monumental hit.

The Trump Budget cuts more than $6.2 BILLION from federal housing programs including $1.9 BILLION from the Public Housing Fund, the elimination of the $3 BILLION Community Development Block Grant Program that helps to fund more than a thousand anti-poverty agencies and another BILLION in community planning and development grants to help communities to build affordable housing and improve neighborhoods. The results of cuts of this magnitude will be felt in the continuing deterioration of public housing and poor neighborhoods and a rise in homelessness. THIS IS AN IMMORAL DECISION!

OTHER CUTS THAT WILL HURT THE POOR

Social Security Insurance (SSI) for the poor and disabled will be cut $150 BILLION over ten years. This program is the financial lifeline for the vast majority of its recipients. THIS IS AN IMMORAL DECISION!

Pell Grants for college will be cut $125 BILLION over ten years. How many poor people will not go to college because of those cuts? How much lifetime income will they lose? THIS IS AN IMMORAL DECISION!

In the Trump budget the following programs will be eliminated:

-The Legal Services Corporation which provides legal representation for poor people in court for domestic violence, vets seeking their just benefits, seniors looking for justice in the face of financial scams and much more. Who will represent these folks? How will justice be served? THIS IS AN IMMORAL DECISION!

-LIHEAP (The Low Income Energy Assistance Program) helps poor people, especially seniors to pay their energy bills. The program is now funded at $3.4 BILLION. The federal government funds 85 percent of the budget. Next winter could be a very cold winter for those who lose this program. What other basics essentials, like medicine and food, will they need to go without to keep from freezing? THIS IS AN IMMORAL DECISION!

-Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) Since its inception in 1976 WAP has aided more than 7 million families to save money on energy bills by repairing their homes and making them more energy efficient. It has a triple benefit: reduces harmful pollution, creates jobs and saves money by reducing energy bills. It has always been considered a bi-partisan winner, but not in the Trump budget. THIS IS AN IMMORAL DECISION!

-The Community Services Block Grant, which includes funding for the meals on wheels program will be cut in half. AN IMMORAL DECISION

ALL THESE ARE NOT MORAL DECISIONS!

There are billions of cuts to environmental research and regulations that are working to prevent the growing global warming and to protect our air and water. The budget also makes severe cuts to foreign aid of $363 million in food aid to poor countries just as famines are reported in South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia. It also eliminates the Food for Education Program created by senators Dole and McGovern that provides meals to millions of hungry children throughout the world. THESE ARE IMMORAL DECISIONS!

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