November 24, 2010 | By Roger Thurow

Historic Moment

Bread for the World’s new Hunger Report raises the stakes right from its very first sentence:

“2011 is a time of opportunity to achieve lasting progress against global hunger and malnutrition.”

Then it raises them further:

“Feed the Future, a bold new U.S. initiative, may be the best opportunity to come along in decades for the United States to contribute to lasting progress against hunger and malnutrition.”

The message implied in these two sentences:  We’ve arrived at an historic moment, let’s not squander it.

The Bread report seeks to raise the clamor among a vast audience and motivate a wide and deep constituency that can hammer home this message to one particular group of Americans: all members of the incoming Congress, both old and new.  They have the opportunity to join with the administration and all the other gathering forces – foundations, humanitarian organizations, private sector companies, universities, international institutions, foreign governments – working to end global hunger and malnutrition through agriculture development in the poorest countries.  Congress can do its part by fully approving the president’s funding request for Feed the Future — $3.5 billion over 3 years — and declaring this work to be a vital and permanent pillar of American foreign policy.

Leading the international assault on hunger has been a prized role for the U.S. in the past.  It did so in the immediate post-World War II years with the Marshall Plan, and then again in the 1960s and ‘70s by spearheading the Green Revolution in Asia and South America.  Combating hunger worldwide was a vital part of this country’s values, and it yearns to be once again.

“Today the United States government is more focused on global food security than at any other time since the earliest days of the Green Revolution,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said at the launch of the Hunger Report this week.  “And USAID is leading that renewed focus, recapturing our agency’s historical legacy of curbing hunger in the developing world.”

He then unveiled the new Bureau of Food Security, which will lead a government-wide effort to implement the president’s Feed the Future initiative and drive “the collective action necessary to end world hunger.”  Feed the Future, Shah said, will be a cornerstone of USAID.

“To be the world’s best development agency,” he said, “we’ll do it by focusing on ending hunger and malnutrition.”

Linking hunger and malnutrition is one of the primary missions of the Bread report.  It has become a mantra of Bread’s president David Beckmann, who introduced the report by hailing burgeoning efforts to improve nutrition for women and children while also improving agriculture production.

Looming over all the talk of history in the making – POTENTIAL history in the making – are some troubling trends of the present.  Particularly the recent increases in food prices, which hark back to the food crisis of 2007-2008 when soaring prices and resulting shortages triggered rioting in dozens of countries and a huge increase in the number of chronically hungry people.

That’s why the most important words of Bread’s Hunger Report may be the three on the cover: “Our Common Interest.”

It is in our common interest – far above the divisions of politics and the tensions of budget cuts — to reverse the neglect of agriculture development, to push for progress against hunger and malnutrition and to avoid a repeat of the food crisis.  To squander this historic moment would be our common tragedy.


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Outrage and Inspire with Roger Thurow - Am I About to Lose My Second Child, Too?

The latest podcast in our ongoing series with Roger Thurow. Hear how even the best nutrition projects can be undermined by bad water, poor sanitation and hygiene, and lousy infrastructure.  From northern Uganda, we hear a mother’s agony when her healthy, robust child suddenly falls ill after a few sips of water…unclean water, it turned out.

Roger Thurow on SDG 2.2

Roger Thurow sat down with Farming First to talk about the individual and societal consequences of malnutrition. 




Digital Preview of The First 1,000 Days

In his new book, The First 1,000 Days, Council senior fellow Roger Thurow illuminates the 1,000 Days initiative to end early childhood malnutrition through the compelling stories of new mothers in Uganda, India, Guatemala, and Chicago. Get a first-look at photos and stories from the book in this new web interactive.

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» Order your copy of the book.


The First 1,000 Days

Roger Thurow’s book will tell the story of the vital importance of proper nutrition and health care in the 1,000 days window from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday.

The 1,000 days period is the crucial period of development, when malnutrition can have severe life-long impacts on the individual, the family and society as a whole. Nutritional deficiencies that occur during this time are often overlooked, resulting in a hidden hunger. It is a problem of great human and economic dimensions, impacting rich and poor countries alike.

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The Last Hunger Season

In The Last Hunger Season, the intimate dramas of the farmers' lives unfold amidst growing awareness that to feed the world's growing population, food production must double by 2050. How will the farmers, Africa, and a hungrier world deal with issues of water usage, land ownership, foreign investment, corruption, GMO's, the changing role of women, and the politics of foreign aid?

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Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, award-winning writers on Africa, development, and agriculture, see famine as the result of bad policies spanning the political spectrum. In this compelling investigative narrative, they explain through vivid human stories how the agricultural revolutions that transformed Asia and Latin America stopped short in Africa, and how our sometimes well-intentioned strategies—alternating with ignorance and neglect—have conspired to keep the world’s poorest people hungry and unable to feed themselves.

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