Sneak peek! This is an excerpt from our upcoming publication “Through Her Eyes: The Struggle for Food Sovereignty.” This story featuring Magha Garcia, Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica and Anne Frederick,Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action(HAPA, is one of many that lift up the voices of women (farmers, farmworkers, food chain workers, etc.) fighting for food sovereignty around the world. Enjoy and look out for the new publication when it is released on March 1st!

Magha Garcia is an eco-farmer and environmental activist in Puerto Rico. She is a member of Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica , a grassroots group of farmers and allies who advocate for agroecology and are members of the Latin American Chapter (CLOC) of La Via Campesina. Magha also challenges agribusiness with the group Nada Santo Sobre Monsanto, a collective of multiple organizations, representatives of civil society that includes farmers, students, consumers, scientists, professional associations, teachers, and lawyers who have come together to defend the right to healthy food, free of transgenics.

Anne Frederick is the Executive Director of Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action which works to catalyze community empowerment and systemic change towards valuing `āina (environment) and people ahead of corporate profit. She farms on a homestead on Kaua’i. She is also the co-founder of Hester Street Collective in Lower Manhattan, New York, where she worked alongside communities on issues of urban planning and public spaces.

Magha: Due to their tropical climate, Hawaii and Puerto Rico are ideal places for the biotech seed companies like Monsanto. They can get three to four cycles of seed breeding per year. Location, shipment system and infrastructure, educated and well trained workers, and no government oversight are all factors conducive for GMO crop proliferation in the Caribbean. In Puerto Rico we have a long history of all sorts of experimentation since the U.S. invasion in 1898, but more intensively after the 1930s. Our status as a “non-incorporated territory” or colony allows the U.S. government and the corporations it supports, especially the biotechnology industry, to use us as they please. Monsanto first came to the island in 1983 when they bought the AgroSeeds Corporation. Then in 1996, Monsanto officially changed their name to Monsanto Caribe and since have grown tentacles that are woven into our communities, the public and private educational system, academia, the private sector and especially our local government. The two main functions of Monsanto Caribe are agricultural biotechnology and plant breeding experiments. The main crops they are experimenting on are corn, cotton, soy, rice, papaya, tomatoes, tobacco and sunflower. As “territories” Hawaii and Puerto Rico experience more experimentation than any of the other U.S. states.

Anne: Hawaii is particularly appealing to agribusiness because of its 12 month growing season so we have the greatest concentration of test sites, compared to the mainland. In 2014, we had 1,387 field test sites, compared to California which has around 75. Since 1987 Hawaii has hosted more cumulative genetically-engineered (GE) field trials -- 3,243 -- than any other state. In 2014 alone, 178 different GE field tests were conducted on over 1,381 sites in Hawaii. And the seed industry’s footprint here is 24,700 acres, so that gives you a sense of the density. The area planted in seed crops has grown tenfold since 1982 while land growing vegetables and fruits, excluding pineapples, has declined more than 50% since the late 1990s. Often those test fields are directly adjacent to residential communities and we’ve had cases where a school has had to be evacuated because all the kids got sick. The seed companies would claim it was something else. They’d say it was a weed called stinkweed here that made people sick. Multiple EPA scientists have said there’s no way it could’ve been the stinkweed.

Magha: As in most countries worldwide, the main chemical used to control weeds here is Round Up. It is used by companies, municipalities, landscapers and homeowners to "resolve" the constant growing of weeds. Since Monsanto stated that it is "safe" for people, it is used freely and without any concern by most people. Despite an overwhelming amount of contrary evidence, their false propaganda is still working well. Today, we not only have Monsanto in Puerto Rico but also 10 more agricultural biotech companies including Pioneer, Syngenta, and DuPont. Without any government oversight or regulation, it is easy for ecologically criminal corporations to thrive here. In our case, those experiments are in open fields and our government fully supports them, facilitating privileges like free water and tax breaks, while small scale farmers can barely survive. In the last 10 fiscal years the biotech industry received $519.7 million taxpayer dollars from our government. In addition, they received unique tax rates, exemptions, incentives and wage subsidies.

Anne: Hawaii currently imports, anywhere from 80 to 90% of its food, and we’re particularly vulnerable on Kauai because we have one port where all the food comes in and if that port were to shut down, as it has in the past due to a hurricane or a dock worker strike, that’s it. We have a limited amount of food on the shelves. Food security is a real issue here and we have huge swaths of agricultural land that’s been used to test chemicals rather than grow food. There is a major need for increasing our food sovereignty here. There are people who are interested in farming but the industry and the landowners have such a hold on our local government that it’s been really hard for anyone to make headway over on the west side of the island.

Magha: In the last four years, the main initiative to confront and expose Monsanto or related companies in Puerto Rico is publicly expressed by the annual "Millions Against Monsanto" march. The collective Nada Santo Sobre Monsanto (NSSM), as an umbrella organization, is inviting the public to collaborate on improving effective strategies against Monsanto & Co. This year their efforts led to the rescuing of public land to create gardens. They also showed documentaries to address related topics like transgenic crops, health risks, agroecology, and food sovereignty amongst others.

Anne: The issue area where HAPA has been most active to date is in fair and sustainable food systems -- in particular, advocating for better protections for the people and the environment here on Kauai from the impacts of pesticide use. We do organizing, advocacy and education work -- trying to educate the community about decision making processes, about opportunities to weigh in to effectively advocate. We sent a delegation of communities – spokespeople -- to Switzerland to meet with and speak to the Syngenta shareholders. Gary, our board president, got the organization we work with over there to buy one share of Syngenta stocks so they could get Gary into a shareholders’ meeting. He delivered a very powerful message to the shareholders there about what’s happening and what they’re supporting in Hawaii and specifically on Kauai. We brought over another board member who is a Hawaiian mother living in the homesteads directly adjacent to where Syngenta sprays, whose daughter’s hair has tested positive for 36 different pesticides, including 9 restricted-use pesticides.

We’ve been doing a lot to try to advocate for the governor to mandate and fund data collection and coordination of government agencies on the impact of pesticides. We brought a group of mothers from impacted communities to the governor’s office to meet with him and make a case for implementing the findings in his own report. We continue to provide public education about what’s going on right now with the court cases. We had hearings at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals here in Hawaii. We were able to raise awareness about that and livestream it, continuing to work with our partners to identify other areas where we think we can have some wins. So one of our campaigns is to try and ban chlorpyrifos, which is one of the chemicals the EPA has already said it’s going to ban and is heavily used here.

Magha: There's still a lot to do but there is an increasing number of people who are helping spread the message. Organizations like Boricuà, CLOC, Via Campesina are in a continual educational process, spreading the message. On a personal level, I believe that it is best for people to grow as much of their own food as possible in order to boycott and avoid the GMO industry.

Anne: We are continuing to organize and develop our community leaders who are on the frontlines of impacted communities and find opportunities for them to develop their leadership. That led us to develop another area of our work which we call ‘reclaiming democracy’ because what we found is that the industry has such a hold on our local government and elected officials, that it’s almost impossible to pass any legislation regulating the industry at all. There’s a tremendous need to get fresh blood into our local government and to encourage people who are not part of the status quo to step up and run for local government. So we started a candidate's training program that includes leadership development, campaigning skills, some community organizing skills. So again trying from another angle -- how do we encourage people that want to make a difference in their local community to step up and enter local government and try to run for office? It is a nonpartisan program and we can’t endorse any of the candidates but we can at least provide skills and training.

Magha: Puerto Rico needs allies outside of our island to help us denounce the atrocities, abuses and severe risks of the agro-biotechnology industry. Puerto Rico is in the middle of a complex financial crisis. The current debt is $73 billion. The U.S. Congress and the U.S. Justice Department decided that we have to pay a debt that was created by our government. Since we are a non-incorporated territory we cannot claim bankruptcy. In order to find a solution to this “crisis,” they imposed a Fiscal Board that will govern our country. This board has absolute control over the finances and many other financial and business issues. Their main purpose is to make sure that the investors will get their money back by all means possible. Meanwhile the only ones investing in Puerto Rico are the biotechnology corporations. Last week, Bayer of Puerto Rico announced that they are investing $17 million to remodel their main branch and create a new one. Monsanto is also consolidating and investing more in their facilities located in the South of the island. We have no doubt that the 11 biotechnology corporations will be fully protected by this board.

Anne: The most heavily impacted communities happen to have the highest density of Native Hawaiian residents. A lot of mothers who live in these frontline communities have stepped forward and said “This is not okay for our children to be doused in pesticides; this is unacceptable.” I think they have been some of the most powerful voices, especially Native Hawaiian mothers like Malia Chun on Kauai who’s been a really vocal critic of the industry and a very powerful voice. A lot of companies claim to be these major job providers but actually it’s a pretty small amount. You talk to plenty of Hawaiians over there and they all just say that [the jobs that are created] are not worth the contamination of our land; we have to look more long-term at the future of āina. The seed company has been really successful in using this issue to drive a wedge in our community and there’s this ‘don’t rock the boat’ mentality -- “don’t threaten your jobs, don’t make waves.” That’s why voices like Malia and other mothers who are Native Hawaiian are so important in the movement. And stepping up in our small communities is really challenging. I think here is where relationships are so important. People don’t like to jeopardize relationships or talk out against their neighbor, so people are very reluctant to speak out about the industry publicly. The ones who do put themselves out there become exhausted and it takes a toll. Also, there have been cases where people have stepped forward and shared their stories and were not happy with the media’s use of their story.

On the north shore of Kauai, we have a lot of organic farms and generative farming practices and then the west side is literally like a food desert. So there are folks on the west side -- like one of our board members, Josh Morre, and some of his partners who are trying to start a youth farming initiative. Similarly there’s an organization on Oahu called Mao Farms which has a similar mission of youth leadership development, growing the next generation of farmers, and trying to create pathways in local agriculture. There’s definitely work happening; it’s just hard because those projects tend to be relatively small and we don’t have the political will to incentivize them or to get them on state land. So even though there’s discussion at our county and state level of increasing food production, it seems like the policy has to catch up to our goals of increasing food production. Meanwhile, there are a lot of people just kind of doing it -- just trying to create the solutions outside of working with government. I think we could be doing a lot more to incentivize that here. For instance, last year we hosted a food justice summit, with the help of the Pesticide Action Network, where we brought together four women working on food sovereignty projects and battling the impacts of the agrochemical industry in their home countries to speak about their struggles and lessons learned and to share and exchange with Hawaiians and with the local food movement here. That was really powerful. I think that it’s helpful to share what’s happening in Hawaii because people think of Hawaii as this tropical paradise where you come for your honeymoon. Yet we are ground zero for pesticide testing. Pesticides are actually going into the water here, this pristine beauty that we think is Hawaii is actually not the case; our ecosystems are in distress and sharing that message is really important.

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.

Nelson from Zimbabwe visited with WhyHunger to share learnings about agriculture and agroecology

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's 2016 Impacts. Picture from Chicago gathering with food providers.

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.

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This spotlight is a feature of WhyHunger’s digital storytelling that showcases grassroots organizations and community leaders through dynamic stories and pictures, to give a real view of projects that are working to alleviate food insecurity and increase communities’ access to nutritious food. We believe that telling one’s story is not only an act of reclaiming in the face of the dominant food narrative of this country, but also an affirmation that the small acts of food sovereignty happening across the country add up to a powerful, vital collective. Up today: Soil Born Farms; Sacramento, CA. Story and photos by David Hanson.

In 2006, Soil Born Farm’s Food Access Coordinator, Randy Stannard, heard about a man selling peaches at a crazy low price at one of the city farmer's markets. He heard the man had incredible fruit but no permit. Since Soil Born Farms is a non-profit in Sacramento that supports farmer’s markets and encourages sustainable growers and farm education programs throughout the city, Randy found the man with the peaches and the man invited Randy to his orchard.

The orchard makes an thick L-shape beside and behind a modest two-story house in the northern suburbs of Sacramento, CA. It’s a quiet street with some empty lots, a suburban area where retail and residential have trickled in slowly rather than undergoing a full-on, mass development assault. The kind of outer city place that still has overt, physical reminders of its rural past, like tall, dry native grasses or a lot with an old barn still in back.

Randy walked with Carlos among his and his wife Maria’s 150 fruit trees. The couple had planted the trees twenty years prior, as soon as Carlos bought the empty lot. Apricots, grapefruit, oranges, apples, plums, pluots, cherries, peaches hung from the trees’ shady ceilings. A row of nopale cactus stood one story tall. Randy couldn’t believe it all grew on this non-descript semi-suburban lot and that Carlos had never intended to sell any of it until that year.

Now this story will sound like a movie writer’s or campaign speech writer’s ideal of American Dream: Immigrant Version. But it's true and it’s told just as Maria told it to me while we walked under the fruit.

Carlos moved to the US at age 15. He and his father and brother left the small pueblo of Atangillo and worked on a dairy farm in the States. Then they went back to Mexico. But Carlos didn't want to stay in the small town. He wanted the American dream. So he moved to Tijuana and drove a taxi, shined shoes, and worked in a restaurant. Eventually he settled in Sacramento. When the construction season slowed down in winter, Carlos returned to Atangillo to visit his family and his girlfriend, Maria. He and Maria wrote letters to one another, too.

In 1972 Maria moved up to Sacramento to marry Carlos. They lived on the other side of town from where the orchard and home now sits. Carlos worked construction for 29 years. They had kids and Maria stayed home to be with them. They wanted their kids to love the land and enjoy simple pleasures, like the ones Carlos and Maria remembered from their pueblo. They didn't want their kids to be spoiled.

In 1985 Carlos bought a piece of land in the north side of the city. He planted fruit trees there and he'd go most evenings to water and tend to them. By 1993, he and Maria had saved enough to build a house on the lot and move into their fruit orchard. Their kids could wander into the yard and sit in the shade below a ceiling of fresh fruit, just like Carlos had imagined.

Carlos never intended to make money off the orchard, even though he had 150 trees. He simply wanted to grow fruit and share it with his family. But Maria saw it differently. She asked why he worked all day on the fruit and they could only eat and give away so much of it, then the rest rots. So Carlos decided to try to sell some of his fruit.

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rich garon root causes of hungerWhyHunger sat down with longtime supporter and author Rich Garon to get some insight on his new novel Felling Big Trees, his commitment to address the root causes of hunger and what his career in politics has taught him about social issues. Proceeds from Felling Big Trees benefit WhyHunger.

Q: Of all the charities, what drew you to WhyHunger and its mission?

A: I started working with WhyHunger 40 years ago, which was known as World Hunger Year at the time. My first duties as a legislative assistant were supporting my former boss, Congressman Ben Gilman, as he worked on the Right-to-Food Resolution. That was followed in the late 70s when I helped him as he worked with this whirlwind dynamo named Harry Chapin. He and Bill Ayres had just set up the group and they were determined to create a Presidential Commission on World Hunger. The Commission was established and Ben served with Harry, Congressman Rick Nolan, Senator Pat Leahy, Senator Bob Dole, and other members from the private sector. Harry was soon known as the conscience of the Commission—the driving force to get things done the right way. I’m truly heartened by the great work WhyHunger has done and continues to do.

Q: How did a career in Washington both help and fail to help you prepare for spending your retirement serving the homeless?

A: I saw how Ben, as Chairman of the House Commission on International Relations, could use that position to make a difference on issues such as children’s survival and related nutrition and health issues. However, as we know, there’s a lot more to do, and Washington can be a tricky place to get done what needs to get done. I guess as I entered my work on behalf of the homeless, I had little power to bring to the table. I had to, as Harry would say, just do something. I learned through a lot of trial and error what seemed to work and what didn’t. I think I’ve been doing my homework as I now begin to approach elected and appointed officials. Again, I learned that from Harry. Policymakers he met couldn’t believe that a singer/songwriter seemed to know more about the issues than they did.

Q: In your book, Felling Big Trees, the main character Fran Stewart is a disgraced politician who is searching for meaning and an answer to global injustices. Do you relate with the main character and why?

A: Yes, I think it’s not uncommon to come away from a career on Capitol Hill wondering why more can’t be done to effectively and humanely deal with the problems our nation and the international community face. I had to think for quite a while on how to portray a single act that captured his lashing out at Washington. Congressman Fran Stewart wonders what could have been done, for example, to halt genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia. Having visited both areas, those questions always burned in my mind.

Q: Why did you choose to write about poverty, hunger, and homelessness from the point of view of Capitol Hill?

A: I wrote this novel 15 years ago. I had just retired from a career on Capitol Hill, so that seemed to be the perspective from which I could relate with authenticity. The novel format gave me an opportunity to create characters struggling with personal issues, as they also tried to better understand and deal with issues and themes I thought important.

Q: What has a career in politics taught you about social issues and how we can help?

A: It is important to be persistent in seeking change, but not to the degree that you can’t recognize that those who earlier have opposed change are now ready to talk. I’ve seen some real opponents come around to seeing the merit in one’s position.

Q: Why do you think it is important to support community-led solutions to hunger, poverty and homelessness along with policy change?

A: It’s important, as Fran Stewart recognizes, to ask some universal questions, questions as relevant today as in the 1990s: What breeds inaction and apathy? How do we jumpstart a deeper connection to injustices we see every day? How far will we humble ourselves to help those with few resources? Community led solutions, such as those advocated by the work of WhyHunger, focus on these types of questions in the face of the realities of changing obstacles. WhyHunger has served its supporters well in doing this over the years and in alerting policymakers of the voices and stories of the people, who are a force to be reckoned with.

Q: How do the challenges of our current political climate dovetail with the challenges in your book, Felling Big Trees, and how do you see that affecting the state of hunger, poverty and homelessness in the U.S.?

A: Ben used to urge us to keep our powder dry until we knew exactly what we were dealing with; to see the best way to get what we wanted from any given situation. I think that’s sound advice, and a position embraced by Fran Stewart. At some point, he realizes long-established ways of doing things are not the best ways. He raises one person’s voice and does what one person can do to the fullest extent possible. I believe in any political climate, that’s the measure of a person.

Rich Garon received both his M.A. and Ph.D. in Politics from New York University and began a career on Capitol Hill that lasted more than 25 years. For the last six of those years he served as Chief-of-Staff, Committee on International Relations, U.S. House of Representatives. He currently chairs the Serve (Outreach and Mission) Committee at the Immanuel Anglican Church in Woodbridge, VA and coordinates the Homeless Ministry, with an emphasis on those living in the woods. He was named to the Board of Directors of the Greater Prince William County [VA] Community Health Center, and conducts mission trips with his wife, Karen, to Bolivia to support church-building in several areas including what began as a tent city.

For more information, please visit www.richgaron.com, watch TV interview and connect with Garon through Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Felling Big Trees is available on Amazon, BookBaby, and wherever fine books are sold.

Proceeds benefit WhyHunger.

NAHO Letter Sign On! Calling all community-based, state and national organizations to join WhyHunger and The National Anti-Hunger Organizations (NAHO) in sending a clear message to the incoming Administration and the Congress that we must protect a strong and effective national nutrition safety net for low-income individuals and families! Programs like the National School Breakfast and School Lunch, SNAP, Summer Meals and WIC are a critical part of ensuring everyone has access to nutritious food and the first line of defense against hunger. 

As we work together to transform our food system, build social justice and invest in community-led solutions that attack the root causes of hunger and poverty, we must also ensure these critical programs keep providing the food and support our neighbors need day in and day out.  Join us today and sign on to this important message! (Organizations only please).  

Action Needed:  Read and Sign On today to join other national, state, regional and local organizations to demonstrate the diverse groundswell of support for the federal nutrition programs.

Deadline: Wednesday, March 1st! This letter will be a key advocacy resource for the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, March 5th-7th in Washington, DC.  For more on the conference, click here. Please sign your organization onto this letter by Wednesday, March 1st to ensure your organization is listed in the Lobby Day (March 7th) materials.

WhyHunger is a member of the National Anti-Hunger Organziations (NAHO), along with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), No Kid Hungry, and the Alliance to End Hunger. The following statement is delivered by NAHO.

December 14, 2016 ─ Our organizations, which make up the National Anti-Hunger Organizations, are committed to ensuring a strong and effective national nutrition safety net for vulnerable, low-income individuals and families. With a united voice, we reflect on the hunger problem in America and its solutions as we transition to a new president and a new Congress.

There are 42 million people in this country — 13 million of them children and over 5 million of them seniors — living in households struggling with hunger. This problem would be far, far worse if not for the nation’s very effective anti-hunger programs:
• the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps);
• the National School Breakfast and School Lunch programs;
• the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) that provides nutritious meals for children in child care, Head Start, and afterschool programs and shelters;
• the Summer Meals programs;
• the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC);
• The Emergency Food Assistance Program ( TEFAP), which provides commodities to food banks;
• the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations; and
• nutrition programs for the elderly (e.g., the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) and congregate and home-delivered meals).

Together, these federal nutrition programs reduce hunger and poverty, improve health and learning, increase productivity, create jobs, and strengthen our communities. They help the many people in our country — of all ages, races, ethnicities, and life circumstances — who are struggling. This includes seniors, children, people with disabilities, military and veterans’ families, low-wage workers, unemployed and underemployed adults, and others.

In particular, SNAP, as our nation’s first line of defense against hunger, has the broadest reach. It is structured to respond effectively to need as a result of economic downturns, natural disasters, and other causes.

Soon, the new Congress and President-elect Trump will be sworn in and will begin making key decisions. We call on them to recommit America to one of its most important and widely agreed-upon beliefs, one that has deep and long-standing bipartisan support: nobody in this country should go hungry.

We call on them to safeguard the federal nutrition programs, including protecting the programs against block grants or other structural changes that would undermine their effectiveness; fully funding these programs and defending them against budget cuts; and taking steps to assure all hungry people in our country receive the help they need.

We look forward to working with the new Congress and President-elect Trump toward the goal of ending hunger in the United States.

Tis’ the season! This time of year we’re all thinking about special gifts that we can give to loved ones, so how about making sure at least one of those is a gift with meaning? Here’s our annual WhyHunger Holiday Gift Guide, a compilation of 10 unique, staff favorites that support the work of WhyHunger and our valued partners to make a positive impact on the issues we care about. There’s something for everyone!

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This delicately-sculpted sterling silver charm has sheaves of wheat along the sides, framing the handwritten words “Give Thanks” in black enamel. Features a beautifully braided bale and our “give” logo in black enamel on the back; includes a keepsake charm card. A portion of the proceeds benefit WhyHunger. Order online today. $45.00 

 

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Support youth activism with the “Fund Black Futures” t-shirt from the Black Youth Project (BYP100). This grassroots organization is dedicated to creating justice and trains young black activists in direct action grassroots organizing skills, so they can build power and transform their communities. Purchase here. $18.00 

 

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“Our Food, Our Right: Recipes for Food Justice” by the Community Alliance for Global Justice. This cookbook has over 50 contributors’ collected efforts and wisdom, this guide has the tools you need to take back your food choices and stand up for all people’s rights to good, healthy and culturally appropriate food! Foreword by Raj Patel. Buy it here. $18.95 

 

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Get this great statement poster from our longtime partner the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). This poster represents their Fair Food Program, which works to guarantee rights for farmworkers in Florida's tomato industry. Use this to proudly show off that you support the justice and dignity that the Fair Food Program upholds for the men and women who harvest U.S. produce. Get it here. $22.00 

 

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Bring in the New Year with California Sparkling Wine from ONEHOPE! This wine is light in color and displays aromas of fresh green apple and nectarine with a hint of fresh baked bread. Pairs with appetizers, seafood, sushi as well as a wide range of desserts and cheeses. A portion of the proceeds go to support WhyHunger. Order online today. $59.00 

 

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Want to support Standing Rock? Get this limited edition tee designed and produced by Native American Clothing Company (NTVS). NTVS has collaborated with the Indigenous Environmental Network, a leader in the #NoDAPL resistance that is fighting for climate and economic justice, with proceeds from the shirt supporting their actions. Get it here. $24.00 

 

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There’s still time left to get your holiday cards! Our Closing the Hunger Gap partner, Oregon Food Bank, offers two holiday cards to choose from – proceeds from the cards will go directly to providing healthy meals to those in need. All you have to do is place your order by December 19th. $10.00 

 

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Create awareness and an educational opportunity about food sovereignty at the table with food sovereignty placemats from Grassroots International, a partner of ours in movement building around the globe. These laminated, double-sided placemats tell the story of the broken food system on one side and examples of how to fix it on the other side. Each measure 11" x 17", perfect for the kitchen table! Order here. $15.00 

 

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Step back in time with the 2016 Hungerthon sweatshirt! The orange, white and red vintage logo is a throwback to WhyHunger’s start in the 1970s. The WhyHunger logo is displayed on the front of the sweatshirt in white. This heavyweight, full-zip sweatshirt is sure to keep you warm during those cold winter nights. Order here. $100.00 

 

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Add some amazing flavor to your holiday dishes with herb salts from Rise & Root Farm, a food justice partner and woman-led farm in upstate NY that is committed to engaging rural and urban communities through food and farming. These salts are made with herbs grown at the farm and are available in a variety of mixes that include garlic salt, triple basil salt, lemongo and more! Buy through their online store. $8.00 

 

Still not sure what to get? You can always make a donation on behalf of someone to give back to your favorite local community-based organization. We hope you enjoyed our list, happy gift giving!

Amanda Staples and Matt McFarland seem to have a secret garden. Except that, unlike in the famous story, their garden has only three tall, vine-covered walls surrounding it. The fourth side opens to the street, and Amanda sells her produce there each Wednesday in addition to providing for a ten-family CSA.

The lot had been abandoned and overgrown for thirty years until Staples and McFarland, following a dream they’d had of owning and operating a small farm in the city, bought the lot and the house behind the lot’s back wall. For a year they cleared the land and prepared the soil for planting.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) has been seeking out and supporting city growers like Staples and McFarland since it launched the Philadelphia Green initiative in 1974 with a mission to support grassroots efforts at tree planting and gardening throughout the city. So it’s not surprising that PHS found Staples’ project, now called Germantown Kitchen Garden, just when Staples needed help most, in the form of seedlings, seed, tomato framing, row cover, pest controls, salt hay, and massive loads of compost. Staples hopes to make it a viable business, something she can do full-time while her husband continues work as a software designer. She’s weaning herself off PHS’ support, buying her own seedlings and other materials as the garden progresses.

This is not the first kinda-secret-garden to pop up in Philly. The city has a long history of community gardens and “guerrilla” gardens. The Vacant Lot Cultivation Association was founded in 1897, to help people access land and start market gardens. Food rationing during World War I and World War II spurred many Philadelphians, as it did with Americans throughout the country, to plant gardens for food. And the exodus of black farmers from the sharecropper south in the early to mid-nineteenth century brought a new agrarian population to the city.

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In the 1970s, the community vacant-lot gardens took off, just as the industrial boom imploded, leaving over one-hundred thousand people jobless.

At the same time, another wave of southern blacks moved north. They were joined by Puerto Ricans, who had begun arriving in small numbers during and after World War II and were now coming by the thousands, pushed by the transition of their island’s economy from agriculture to export-oriented industry, and by Southeast Asians escaping the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Many of these newcomers came from rural environments where they grew food or worked on farms. They brought an agricultural knowledge and ethic with them, though largely in the hands of the older generations.

PHS’ Ernesta Ballard launched the Philadelphia Green initiative in 1974, and the Penn State Extension began its Urban Gardening Program in 1977, a success that was eventually folded into a long-running U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program. By the 1990s over two thousand projects covered the urban farm spectrum from gardens raising ornamental flowers to food-producing small farms similar to Germantown Kitchen Garden.

The success of PHS in creating a web of small growers throughout the city has necessitated gradual expansion of their services. In 2004, community growers began asking PHS if they could bump up the capacity to share their fresh produce beyond the reach of individual growers’ family and friends. PHS received a grant from the Albert Greenfield Foundation to begin a program that connects growers with food cupboards like SHARE. They also began a program at the city jail to teach basic gardening, nutrition, and job skills in a rehabilitated greenhouse on the prison grounds. The seedlings from the city jail program were used in educational garden programs and for fruit orchard plantings.

In 2009, PHS received the USDA's Community Food Project (CFP) grant to expand on these five-year-old efforts. The city jail program expanded to incorporate a work-release project to place released inmates into landscaping jobs. The grant allowed them to create greenhouses, more raised beds, and community workshops at the SHARE food pantry distribution site. They can now supply a network of over 100 growers with 200,000 vegetable seedlings.

SHARE and PHS were able hire a farm manager at SHARE to operate the produce garden and seed nursery at the distribution warehouse. Truck drivers, often volunteers from the various churches and food pantries, see the gardens while they wait for their trucks to be filled. Bill, the farm manager, tells them about growing healthy produce in the city. This year, ten of the churches connected to SHARE have asked Bill to help them establish a church garden on their site. Grassworks simplicity and patience at work.

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In the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood of North Philly, the East Park Revitalization Alliance Farm (EPRA) began in 2003 as a community-based non-profit. They’ve helped to establish over a dozen community gardens, thirteen acres of community green space with new tree plantings, and helped organize mural paintings to bring art into the neighborhood. At the EPRA Farm, a small table holds baskets of hot peppers, tomatoes, okra, greens, pears, squash. Two young employees work the farm stand on a humid October afternoon.

Ray Boston, aka Razor, walks over in gray dress slacks, white shirt and tie, and blue cardigan sweater. He smiles as he asks the young women working the stand if there are any insects in the $1 pint of okra.

He’s lived in this neighborhood since 1985. He remembers another garden two blocks over run by some older guys.

“Mr. Wilbur and Mr. Gray were old fellows,” he says. “That lot was an old church and had been vacant. So these guys were retired, sitting around not doing much. They were from down South. So they started growing on the lot. Had a rooster. They’d give you vegetables, kinda like this farm. Then one died and then the other died. New houses went up but they didn’t wipe out the garden like we thought they might. So God is good.”

This is a repost of an article originally written and published by GRAIN.

Could your pension be pushing small farmers off their land?

Around the world, farmers are losing their lands, often violently, to large companies and speculators who see farmland as a lucrative investment. But what are the complex mechanisms behind these processes? Could your pension fund be contributing to land grabbing in places like Brazil?

This animated video shows how a global farmland fund, managed by US financial giant TIAA-CREF, used a complex company structure to avoid restrictions on foreign investment in farmland in Brazil. It then acquired lands from a Brazilian businessman who has used violence and fraud to grab large areas of farmland from small farmers and indigenous peoples in the Brazilian states of Maranhão and Piauí. This video is intended to pressure pension funds to publicly disclose the names and locations of the farmlands they have acquired across the world and to stop speculating on farmland.

Struggles over land and resources are intensifying in Brazil, where 150 environmental activists have been murdered since 2012, many of whom were fighting to protect the lands of small farming communities. It is important for us to expose the actors and mechanisms behind this violence and say STOP to farmland speculation and land grabbing.

If you have a pension, contact your pension manager to say you do not want your savings contributing to land grabs and farmland speculation!

The below statement was drafted by Maria Luisa Mendonça of the Justice and Human Rights Network (Rede Social). WhyHunger stands in solidarity with our partner, Landless Workers Movement (MST), and has signed this letter along with the National Family Farm Coalition, Grassroots International, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and others. Please read below to learn why this is important. 

Armed police raid the MST’s National School, detain MST members and fire live ammunition

Early on the morning of November 4, an estimated 10 vehicles full of armed civil and military police raided the Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes (ENFF) in Guararema, Sao Paulo, detained several MST members and waved their weapons and fired live ammunition. The school is owned and run by the Landless Workers Movement (MST). The brutal action is part of an illegal crackdown operation against the MST spanning three states - Parana, Matro Grosso do Sul and Sao Paulo.

In another operation against an MST camp in the state of Paraná, six other local MST leaders were detained for unknown reasons.

The MST was created over three decades ago and is Brazil’s largest social movement dedicated to peacefully defending small farmers’ access to land. The MST has assisted hundreds of thousands of peasant families in gaining land for farming with the support of articles 184 and 186 of Brazil’s 1988 Constitution. The MST has also played a central role in the peaceful protest movement opposing the anti-democratic removal of former President Dilma Rousseff from office earlier this year.

The Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes campus was financed with donations from notable figures such as Brazilian musician Chico Buarque, photographer Sebastião Salgado and the Portuguese Nobel Prize winning author José Saramago. Hundreds of Brazilian and international intellectuals, teachers and artists have regularly contributed lectures, courses and teaching materials to the school. The Escola Nacional is a symbol of solidarity to the rural movements in Brazil that advocate for the democratization of education and land.

The raid of the school by armed police was carried out without a warrant. According to reports, police arrived around 9:25am with a supposed warrant to arrest two individuals who weren’t present at the school. Police agents climbed over the reception gate and shot multiple rounds. Based on the bullet casings found at the scene, the police used lethal bullet rounds – not rubber.

According to the MST, two members of the movement were detained and subsequently released a few hours later. Those detained were the singer Gladys Cristina de Oliveira and 64 year-old librarian Ronaldo Valença Hernandes, whose rib was fractured during the incident.

State-led attacks against the MST began escalating during the month of September when several members of the MST were arrested and accused of being part of a “criminal organization” under Brazil’s Law of Criminal Association.

We call for an immediate end to the repression and criminalization of the MST and other grassroots organizations in Brazil, and for the release of all those arrested on groundless charges.

Advocacy for land rights and peaceful protest are essential rights that are protected under Brazil’s constitution and that must be respected by all Brazilian authorities.

Learn more about what’s happening here.

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