Interested in what we do? WhyHunger is working to build and strengthen a grassroots-led movement for food justice and food sovereignty worldwide. We are happy to share a recap of our 2016 impacts ranging from supporting social movements, strengthening social justice efforts and protecting the right to nutritious food, while increasing community access to food around the world. Thank you for your support!
Building Grassroots Movements
In 2016, a total of 102 grassroots partners benefited from WhyHunger directly sharing resources and granting funds for specific projects and travel in the amount of $485,000 to help communities develop their own solutions to hunger and poverty and build their capacity to engage in long-term change.
WhyHunger’s International Solidarity Fund invested $305,699 in strengthening existing and emergent social movements for food justice and food sovereignty by supporting 25 community-based projects in 13 countries to end hunger among peasant, fishing, and indigenous communities worldwide. Additionally, we secured a donation of $500,000 to support and grow the fund in 2017. By investing in local community-led activities like agroecological training, leadership development for women and youth and capacity building projects, tens of thousands of families are benefitting from immediate access to nutritious food and education while the food sovereignty of entire communities is strengthened.
WhyHunger organized and accompanied key social movement and grassroots partners from the Global South through five strategic site visits to the United States where our allies from Brazil and Zimbabwe were able to meet, learn, share and build solidarity with WhyHunger and allied organizations by supporting and practicing agroecology in the U.S. These exchanges are critical steps in helping to build capacity for individual organizations while strengthening the fabric of the growing social movement for food sovereignty and justice for all. We continue to foster and grow the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance, providing organizational and technical support for the Alliance and the 2016 Food Sovereignty Prize and Food Sovereignty Encounter. In 2016, we helped the Alliance to create and implement a new regional structure, increasing their effectiveness to build food sovereignty locally. We helped initiate a strategic dialogue between three growing movements; La Via Campesina, the Climate Justice Alliance and the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, to build collective power and strengthen the ability for joint-initiatives and cross-sector support at the intersection of hunger and the environment.
Fueling Social Justice
WhyHunger is actively supporting and stewarding a national alliance of emergency food providers to shift from a model of charity as the solution to hunger to a model of social justice. In 2016, we facilitated a leadership retreat to establish a clear vision, goals and plan for the growing network and the Closing the Hunger Gap national conference in fall 2017, which aims to attract more than 500 participants from all 50 states. Our popular Food Justice Voices series What Ferguson Means for Food Justice, a powerful collection of articles featuring the grassroots voices of Black leaders working within movement building and food justice, produced 3 new issues. We launched a new report titled School Breakfast at Half Century - A Look Back to Move Ahead from activist, author, professor and WhyHunger Board Member Janet Poppendieck, an animated video If You Give Someone a Fish illustrating our theory of change, and Connecting Hunger & Health in Brooklyn and Beyond a video that tells the story of food justice and health in everyday lives. These publications and materials helped to educate and engage hundreds of thousands on the issues and solutions at the root of hunger and poverty.
WhyHunger continues to organize grassroots partners using our community of practice methodology around the intersection of hunger, food, agriculture and social justice. In 2016, we convened and led communities of practice for 70 participants around Hunger and Health in the Mid-West and Mid-Atlantic regions and nationally around Youth and Food Justice and Race and Food Justice. WhyHunger supported and accompanied Rooted in Community, a national youth food justice alliance, as they work to organize youth food justice leaders to build collective power. In 2016, WhyHunger provided capacity building support by facilitating a process to re-envision the organization’s governmental structure and by providing funding for youth to participate in their annual Youth Leadership Summit where they joined in skills building, co-learning, creative arts and direct action.
We are happy to share our animated video "If You Give Someone a Fish..." that debuted at the 2016 WhyHunger Chapin Awards and illustrates WhyHunger’s unique approach to solving the hunger problem and invites you to think beyond the familiar. The video was introduced by Executive Director Noreen Springstead. Here is an excerpt from her remarks:
"Hunger is a solvable problem. Harry and Bill knew that more than 40 years ago, and I am more assured than ever that the solution is within reach. There is a growing awareness and acknowledgement in our society that our current systems are broken. Generations are coming together around the bold truth that we must ensure that EVERYONE has access to opportunity, living wages, racial equity, nutritious food, and to justice. We must push for those rights in order to realize the type of world that we want to live in. We are seeing solutions springing up in grassroots-led movements across the country and around the world. Those grassroots innovations and movements are strengthened when organizations like WhyHunger walk the road with them, support their efforts, amplify their voices and weave them together into movements that can reach farther, move faster and grow indefinitely. They need allies – and we need allies. First and foremost, we need the leadership of people most affected by hunger and poverty, frontline grassroots partners who can inform and inspire this burgeoning movement, and we also need you to walk this road with us."
We hope you find the video as inspiring as we do!
It was a Sunday morning and the idea was to visit the Itaparica Dam with my auntie Tania. Her husband, my uncle Fernando, worked as engineer for the government company that had built it. The dam was spectacular, a massive wall of concrete with a tower in the middle of it to control the flux of water. But there was a catch that took away from the splendor. That exact dam had displaced 70,000 families from their homes and farms. And according to my relatives, there were still families who haven’t received a single penny for being forcibly displaced by the dam twenty years later. I recall my mother shaking her head in disbelief. Indeed, twenty years is a long time.
What should have been only a fun afternoon turned into much more than a tourist visit, and that experience has served me well. It was moment of reflection and learning. As a teenager, still ignorant of the reasons for such things, I was challenged by my inability to conciliate such a beautiful landscape of a “small ocean” and the fact local people who had to move to make space for it didn’t have tap water in their own homes.
It was only later, when I was in college, that I learned that the families impacted by the Itaparica Dam weren’t just sitting around waiting for their checks on the mail. In 1991, along with families affected by other dams in the South of Brazil, they helped to create the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB). Their vision for MAB was to have a voice in national policies and create an organization that would defend their rights.
As a mass, social movement, MAB is currently represented in 17 states of Brazil, with an estimated membership of 60,000 people. MAB works on different intertwined fronts that include organizing; political education; legal support and alliance building. MAB has won important victories in recent years, such as:
•The publishing of the government-sponsored report on the human rights violations created by dams. In the launching of the report Lula da Silva, the country’s President at that time, spoke publicly about those violations, recognizing the social and economic debt of Brazil with the families. It was the first time a high rank government official had addressed those violations.
•The creation of the National Peasant and Workers Platform on Energy formed by families affected by dams and workers in the Energy sector.
•The national campaign “The Price for Electricity is a Shame” helped to mobilize and educate thousands of low-income families for the fact that Brazil had one of the highest rate for Kilowatt even though most of its electricity originates from hydropower with the lowest production of energy.
But mostly important, MAB has become a source of inspiration for many families in Brazil and Latin America in general. Its sharp analysis summarized in the motto “Energy for What and for Whom?” addresses the views of indigenous people, low-income workers, environmentalists and scholars about the greed behind mass energy production and challenges the debate about fossil fuel vs. “clean energy”. MAB’s analysis goes beyond that and provokes us to answer the question: “whom controls the energy?”
In times when we are challenged by melting of glaciers, we have no other option to do our best to answer those questions that MAB raises. And today, March 14th, on the International Day of Struggle Against Dam, thousands of families affected by dams are organizing marches, workshops and other events. They are inviting us for a moment of reflection and action. It is imperative that we join them.
“Let’s say it together, with our hearts: No family without a home. No peasant without Land. No worker without rights. No one without the dignity that the labor gives.” - Pope Francis
Looking back on that Sunday morning, my mother’s reaction prompted me to reflect on the harsh reality of families being pushed out of the comfort of their land, without any support to start a new life. The energy produced by that dam offered little benefit to them, because their new homes had no connection to the electrical network. And, now far away from the river, they had to grow food based on the scarce rains in that the dry region of Northeast Brazil.
My continuous growth as a person relies on my capacity to think critically on the structural problems that affect not only my own life, but also the wellbeing of others. Reflecting on MAB’s questions and not staying on the sidelines, I can only find strength to keep asking new questions. If we are to produce energy from new sources – like solar panels and gigantic windmills, who should benefit from it? Does it respect the rights of Mother Earth, the breathing being that feeds all of us every day?
Reposted with permission from Other Worlds, a women-driven education and movement support collaborative. This is the 5th in a 7-part article series featuring interviews with grassroots African leaders (mostly women) from Senegal, Mali, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Each is working for seed and food sovereignty, the decolonization of Africa’s food system and the preservation of traditional farming practices. The content below is from an interview with Mphatheleini Makaulele by Simone Adler and Beverly Bell. Mphatheleini Makaulele is an award-winning indigenous leader, farmer, and activist, and Director of Dzomo la Mupo, a community organization in rural South Africa. She is also part of the African Biodiversity Network.
Everybody originated with indigenous ways of living and the way of Mother Earth. The real role of women is in the seed. It is the women who harvest, select, store, and plant seeds. Our seeds come from our mothers and our grandmothers. To us, the seed is the symbol of the continuity of life. Seed is not just about the crops. Seed is about the soil, about the water, and about the forest.
When we plant our seeds, we don’t just plant them anytime or anywhere. We listen to our elders, who teach us about the ecological calendar. The seed follows this natural ecological flow. When it bears another seed, that one is planted and the cycle continues.
If you cut the cycle of the seed, you cut the cycle of life. We do not understand how something [like genetically modified and chemically treated seeds] can be called seeds if they cannot continue the cycle of life.
Reviving African Agricultural Values
In South Africa, we know there is a freedom of plants to germinate and grow. People are now awakened to the word GMO, and many people are trying to bring forward the issue of food sovereignty.
Here in Limpopo Province, in the indigenous region of Vhavenda, we are organized as the Dzomo la Mupo, the Voice of the Earth. I founded it in 2008. The meaning of mupo is the natural creation of the universe, giving space to every being on the Earth. We have led several campaigns to protect our environment, including campaigns against the Australian mining company Coal of Africa, court cases against development on sacred sites, and registering sacred forests as protected areas under the South African Heritage Resources Agency.
The African Biodiversity Network (ABN), [a regional network of individuals and organizations across twelve countries], is also looking at the issues facing Africa, women, and traditional agricultural practice. The ABN works toward deepening these values and is becoming a big voice in Africa and across the world. The ABN is a home for reviving African values of biodiversity, indigenous practices that bring us health, and traditional farming systems.
The Global Loss of Seed and Food Sovereignty
I live in an environment of mountains, dense forest, and fertile soil. Our mothers, they selected seed from the previous harvest, which they would plant. We had a way of growing seasonal food and of storing seed from season to season.
Mining is wrongly threatening our water, soil, mountains, and seed and food sovereignty. The government is allowing mining in our soil and the dense, thick mountains, including in tropical areas with good soil and pure water. We need to dialogue about the alternatives to save the forest, rivers, plants, everything in mupo, the Earth.
Commercial farming has dominated traditional farming and food sovereignty, too. It looks only at money as the end product. The seeds depend on chemicals and don’t grow following the ecological, natural flow. Chemical seeds and fertilizers make the soil dry like a crust, like plywood. Our soil is damaged and dry. Our natural seeds that germinated on their own no longer grow in that soil. And this problem is causing the loss of natural foods and traditional farming systems, making our food sovereignty vanish.
When the soil is damaged, when the forest no longer has trees to pick fruit from, it affects women first. In Africa, most women are not employed. Our income is the soil where I can grow food, the forest with trees where I can harvest wild, organic fruits, the stream and river where I can fetch clean, pure water. Globally, women who are not employed or educated are experiencing the problem of where to get food and eat the way we have been for generations.
Now, people are depending only on markets [for the food we eat] because their fields are no longer producing natural food, and they have to buy everything, including seeds, resulting in hunger and poverty. People no longer touch the soil for their food; they find the same frozen and packed food in the same shelf in every season.
Not only is this causing a loss of seed and food sovereignty globally, but we women of indigenous ways know that health is affected by the food we eat. We need variety in food. But going to the store year-round and not finding our natural [and seasonal] foods affects our family’s health.
When children and family members are sick, this impacts women first. Women can no longer find the herbs in the forest to cure their sickness because the trees are being cut down and the soil can no longer let the seeds and plants germinate for us to pick the wild greens.
In honor of National Volunteer Week (April 12-18), we conducted an interview with Gary Bienstock, a volunteer with WhyHunger’s Nourish Network for the Right to Food. This is an edited conversation with Megan Campbell, a junior at Fordham University and the Communications Intern at WhyHunger.
Volunteer Gary Bienstock
Name: Gary Bienstock Age: 69 Hometown: Born in the Bronx, raised in Queens Volunteer Stats: Once a week for the last three years Fun Fact: Has listened to WhyHunger’s annual Hungerthon for 30 years!
Megan: What is your professional background?
Gary: My career was in the garment center where I worked for women’s designer clothing companies for many years. I recently retired and wanted to give back. I felt that I always worked to support my family and due to the nature of the job, I didn’t have a lot of time to do volunteer work. My family grew up with radio legend Pete Fornatale, my children are still good friends with his children, and he was always very active with WhyHunger, so I knew of WhyHunger through him. After I retired, I contacted the folks at WhyHunger to see what I could do to help them and now I volunteer in the office and help with events.
Megan: What exactly do you do in the office?
Gary: I do outreach. I make a lot of phone calls to tell people about WhyHunger and get their information in order to send WhyHunger Hotline posters to them and to let them know that we are here for whatever they need. Every day I volunteer, Patricia Rojas, WhyHunger Hotline and Database Manager for Nourish Network for the Right to Food, gives me a list of calls to make. Today I’m calling different clinics.
Megan: What do you like about WhyHunger?
Gary: What I like about WhyHunger is that it helps people who need assistance but might not know where to go to get help. Our main focus is to direct them to places where they can get help and healthy food. I feel our work is very important because many people don’t know that there are other things available to them, including food banks, access to healthy food, education and other services. We also educate people on places to get healthy food and other things for a healthy life. There are many different aspects of WhyHunger that I find appealing and that make me want to volunteer here.
Megan: Could you speak a little bit about the power of volunteering and how much of a difference volunteers make?
Gary: Sure. One of the things that I find very gratifying about making calls is when people are thrilled and relieved to hear from us. They feel that we are so important to their neighbors that need help. We not only help individuals, but we also call food banks and things like that so when they don’t have enough food to give out, we can help them out by providing their patrons with additional places they can go to get food. It’s a very gratifying feeling when people thank you for calling and express their appreciation for what you’re doing. And for me, I find it very satisfying that I’m at least doing something that’s helping humanity other than making money.
Megan: Do you have any advice for people who want to start volunteering but maybe don’t know how or don’t want to work in a traditional soup kitchen?
Gary: Yes! My first thought is to contact an organization that you’re interested in. Most nonprofit organizations love volunteers and they will find something for you to do that fits your background and professional skill set. If it’s a nonprofit that you really have an interest in, you will enjoy being there and you will find it very gratifying. Many nonprofits let you work from home if you can’t work in the office; you don’t necessarily have to travel or be in an office or soup kitchen to volunteer. You can do it from anywhere nowadays and it really is a very satisfying experience that I think everybody should try. I enjoy doing it and I look forward to the days that I come in!
WhyHunger collects and distributes information about programs that address the immediate and long-term needs of struggling families and individuals. The national WhyHunger Hotline (1.800.5HUNGRY or 1.800.548.6479), refers people in need of emergency food assistance to food pantries, government programs, and model grassroots organizations that work to improve access to healthy, nutritious food, and build self-reliance. Please visit /findfood for more information.
Image from Global Exchange's Anti-Oppression Reader
WhyHunger is an organization committed to growing into anti-oppression practices as we work towards social justice and equity for all people. Like many individuals and organizations doing this type of work, we are continually learning, questioning and re-committing ourselves to living that practice. But what does “anti-oppression” actually mean and how can institutions develop anti-oppression lenses to their work? The following are thought-provoking and educational resources our staff uses to explore oppression within ourselves and the system as a whole so as to be better allies and learning partners to those we serve and collaborate with.
WHITE PRIVILEGE: UNPACKING THE INVISIBLE KNAPSACK Peggy McIntosh’s article White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack is used widely by activists, social workers and educators to discuss white privilege, institutional racism, oppression and accountability. This provocative document breaks down some of the unacknowledged societal benefits and unearned privileges granted to white people. Looking at her own circumstance as a white woman, McIntosh describes how this privilege appears in her everyday life from things like finding bandages matching her own skin color to going shopping without being harassed or followed. McIntosh emphasizes the importance of recognizing the privileges and power each of us have or do not have based on our identities as the crucial first step to achieving equity, noting that “Describing white privilege makes one newly accountable.” She leaves the readers to answer the question of how that “arbitrarily-awarded power” will be used to reconstruct the larger power system and achieve justice.
GLOBAL EXCHANGE ANTI-OPPRESSION READER Global Exchange’s Anti-Oppression Committee (AOC) created an extensive document full of articles, tools, stories, essays and poems designed to help the reader explore the concepts surrounding anti-oppression practices and learn how to develop and use an anti-oppression lens. Divided up into sections, the Anti-Oppression Reader contains short pieces on all types of prejudices from ableism to sexism, tools for change and personal stories that inspire. There is also an excellent glossary that clearly and simply defines different terms related to oppression and provides a great starting point for readers new to the framework.
BLACK GIRL DANGEROUS Author Mia McKenzie’s website Black Girl Dangerous is a reader-funded, non-profit project to amplify the voices of queer and transgendered people of color. The blog offers articles, videos and resources about race, queerness, gender, class, social justice and their intersections. A new web series called “Qraftish,” offers short videos that follow a young woman as she contemplates relevant issues including everyday microaggressions and speaking out against racist and oppressive comments when the comment does not apply to oneself.
THE CATALYST PROJECT The Catalyst Project is an organization working to build powerful multiracial movements that can win collective liberation. As part of that vision they help to organize, train and mentor white people to take collective action to end racism and work as allies to support efforts to build power in communities of color. The site provides toolkits, workshops, resources for analysis and strategy, and training opportunities for organizations. This can be a great place for non-profit organizations that are committed to anti-oppressive practices to find resources and inspiration.
This list is by no means exhaustive and we invite you to use the comments section below to add your thoughts and other resources that you find useful!
By Saulo Araújo, WhyHunger’s Global Movements Program Director
Last September, 400,000 people took to the streets of New York City for the People's Climate March. Photo credit: Beatriz Beckford.
In her most recent article at the Huffington Post, Salena Tramel, scholar and a powerful writer, put it clearly: “The protracted debate over the severity of climate change is over, as clearly indicated by the UN’s emergency meetings and the IPCC’s landmark climate report. What remains to be seen is who will be in charge of righting this wrong.”
This week, United Nations members meet in Lima, Peru at the 20th Conference of Parties on Climate. While the gathering is important, it can be difficult to have much faith in these negotiations, because of the lack of transparency and accountability on which they are based. Dominated by the same mindset (of free trade agreements and industrial agriculture’s misleading mission “to feed the world”) that brought us in to this environmental crisis, it seems almost naïve to hope these talks will establish mechanisms to demand real accountability .
Communities and social movements represented in the recent mega-protest for action on climate change, the People’s Climate March that brought nearly 400,000 people to the streets of New York City last September with participating events worldwide, should be at the table leading these negotiations. But it will not happen in Lima, neither in Paris during the 21st Conference of Parties on Climate Change next year. The only way out of the climate crisis is through a broader alliance between social movements led by peasants and indigenous people. Without the knowledge and solidarity of those who are left out of the negotiations table, the stewards of Mother Earth, we will not find the right strategies to save our planet and ensure everyone has the right to nutritious food.
Read more about the People’s Climate March in the Huffington Post and stay to to date with what is happening in the streets of Lima, Peru with #COP20.
A couple of underreported stories, plus a couple of our partners being recognized by national press...
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently changed how it calculates hunger statistics, which effectively made it look as if worldwide hunger has decreased dramatically. An important new report, "Framing Hunger," seven hunger-related organizations and seventeen U.S. and Canadian development scholars and advocates challenge FAO's accounting and break down why it all matters. Our friend Anna Lappé interviewed her mother, Frances Moore Lappé, one of the report's co-authors, for Who's Hungry Now? The Answers Might Surprise You... on the Huffington Post.
Quartz is one of the few media outlets reporting on a new USDA/University of Maryland study on the dire honeybee die-offs: Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought.
And in news about inspiring solutions, we're thrilled that NPR has recently reported on the great work of our partners at Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, in Tucson Food Bank Helps the Needy Grow Their Own Food, and Food for Maine's Future in Farm Free Or Die! Maine Towns Rebel Against Food Rules.
What are you reading about food politics this week?
By Siena Chrisman, Programs Communications Manager
We're excited here at WhyHunger about our friend Raj Patel's new "fair film" and community-building project, Generation Food. The project's focus on locally-based knowledge, agroecology, and community-driven change are right in line with our mission, and we're looking forward to seeing these stories brought beautifully to life on film by Raj and Steve James, director of the great "Hoop Dreams."
Check out the trailer, and learn more about the project at generationfoodproject.org.