Category Archives: Food insecurity

The Values That Guide Us

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi


The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, also known as “food stamps,” comes up for renewal every five years as part of the federal farm bill. Normally, its passage is a routine matter that engenders little debate. This year, however, things worked out differently. Different versions of the bill were recently brought up for a vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, both versions tagged with signs of the Right’s fierce austerity campaign. The bill approved by the Senate would cut food stamps by $4 billion over the next ten years. The bill considered by the House proposed slashing funding for SNAP by $20.5 billion over a ten-year period. The House bill was defeated this past Thursday (June 19th), but the reason it went down was because a cluster of Republicans, convinced the cuts did not go far enough, voted against it. The ultimate fate of the farm bill is not yet knowable, but one thing is clear: families that depend on SNAP would suffer greatly from such severe cuts.
Continue reading

Standing Together Against SNAP Cuts

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

The Farm Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that guides and authorizes funding for federal farm and food policies, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamps. Every five years, Congress renews the Farm Bill.  The last time the bill was renewed was in 2008, and this year it is up for reauthorization.

Last month versions of the bill emerged from the Agricultural Committees of the two houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Both versions make devastating cuts to SNAP, demonstrating a degree of cruelty that is both shocking and shameful on the part of those who are supposed to represent us in crafting public policy. On May 14th, by a vote of 15 to 5, the Senate’s Agricultural Committee passed its version of the bill (S 954) with cuts to SNAP of $4 billion over the next ten years. Two days later, on May 16th, the House of Representatives proved even more callous with a version of the bill (HR 1947) that would cut SNAP by $20.5 billion over ten years. If a bill were to be passed in line with either version, it would in effect be pulling plates of food off the tables of hungry kids. And this from the same Congress that obstinately insists on preserving tax cuts for multi-millionaires and grants subsidies to giant agricultural corporations.
Continue reading

Playing with Smoke and Fire

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Yesterday evening, when I sat down to check out the news, I immediately came across two articles that almost blew the nonexistent hair off my head. The first, on Common Dreams, announced: “Canada Vows Plunder in the Arctic.According to the report, Canada has just assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, a consortium of states bordering the Arctic which met in Sweden this past week to discuss the region’s future. One would think the leaders of these nations, alarmed by the melting of the Arctic ice that takes place for ever longer periods each summer, have been anxiously discussing how we can preserve this natural wonderland and prevent its pristine beauty from being further defiled by the greedy hands of man. But let’s not fool ourselves. With global demand for oil and natural gas on the rise, they have other visions swimming around in their heads: of ships plowing the Arctic seas and previously inaccessible reserves of minerals, gas, and oil suddenly coming straight into their pockets.
Continue reading

Buddhist Global Relief Makes Emergency Donation To Feed Syrian Refugees

Moved by the plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled the ongoing conflict in Syria, Buddhist Global Relief has made an emergency donation of $10,000 to the World Food Programme (“WFP”) to help feed families forced from their homes.

According to the WFP, over 1.2 million people are displaced inside Syria and some 250,000 people have fled the country and become refugees in neighboring countries. Many fled the conflict zones with their families under shelling and gunfire from both government and rebel forces, often able to bring along only the clothes that they were wearing. Harsh conditions in refugee camps—including plummeting temperatures and flooding—are making for a life of intense suffering. Many families living in tents lack heaters and winter clothing.

Food for these families is the most critical need. It takes only $72 to provide a month’s worth of food for a Syrian refugee family. BGR’s donation will feed 138 families for an entire month during the difficult winter season.

The WFP is the food assistance branch of the United Nations, and it is the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing global hunger. It is funded entirely by voluntary donations.  To read more about the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and to make a personal  donation, go here.

We are thankful to BGR’s generous donors who are making this emergency food donation possible.

Ending the Wasting of Food, Energy, Our Environment: Triple Net Benefits


A new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council takes a close look at one significant – and eminently solveable – world hunger problem: the wasting of food at every step of our food supply. The report,  “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill” (PDF file), also illustrates the interdependence of our food supply, our use of energy, and our impact on the environment.

Dana Gunders, report author and an NRDC food and agriculture project scientist, treats the reader to a detailed description of America’s food waste problem and practical solutions.  The report traces our systems of food production, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal, identifying inefficiencies and losses at each step of these interlinked systems. (The report is worth reading even if only for its patient walk-through of the realities of the food system in the United States.) Continue reading

Hunger in America: Rescuing Food, Rescuing People


More than 1 billion people suffer from hunger. Yet, a federal study found nearly 100 billion pounds of edible food was wasted by U.S. retailers, food service businesses, and consumers in a single year. For a family of four, that amounted to 122 pounds of food thrown out each month in grocery stores, restaurants, cafeterias, and homes.

All of the food we receive comes, at least in part, from the effort and generosity of others.  We have every reason to receive it with a sense of gratitude and thankfulness.  To cherish one’s blessings, no food should be wasted.

To remedy the shameful waste of food, Buddhist Global Relief supports the practice of “food rescue“: safely retrieving edible food from grocery stores, vendors, farmers’ markets, and restaurants that would otherwise go to waste, and distributing it to those in need.  For example, one of BGR’s newest partners, City Harvest, Inc. of New York City, responds to the urgent needs of thousands of hungry NYC residents, rescuing 29 million pounds of food this past year and delivering it free of charge to food pantries and soup kitchens.

For information on food recovery organizations in your area, contact Feeding America at 1-800-771-2303.  You can learn more about hunger in America and what you can do to help at www.Feeding  For information on “gleaning” (collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable), contact The Society of St. Andrew‘s national office at 1-800-333-4597.

Restaurants and grocery stores interested in donating food can contact Food Donation Connection at 1-800-831-8161. They link donors with food recovery organizations. Businesses can also make donations of food by becoming a Feeding America “product partner“.

We are grateful that there are so many ways to help.

Stealing Bread from a Poor Man’s Lunchbox

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

A week ago, the House Agricultural Committee drafted a version of a farm bill that’s tantamount to stealing bread from a poor man’s lunchbox. Largely the work of Tea Party conservatives, the bill is framed on the premise that the most urgent task facing this nation is to reduce the budget deficit. To accomplish this, the bill would lower farm expenditures by $35 billion over the next decade, slashing $16 billion off the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamps. In effect this means that the bill gains 46% of its savings—almost half—by depriving the poor of the federal help they need to ensure their lunchboxes aren’t empty.

If the House Committee’s version of the bill prevails, up to three million people would lose their SNAP benefits. Nearly 300,000 children would also be ineligible for the free lunch program, which in many cases provides their only substantial meal of the day. These cuts would have a painful impact on working class families, an impact that hits especially hard when  jobs are scarce, wages are low, and the long drought is driving up food prices. Continue reading

Help on the Way: New Buddhist Global Relief Programs (Part II)


As a followup to our June 21 post on Buddhist Global Relief’s new programs, we are pleased to announce new support to communities in Sri Lanka and Vietnam:

Tam Binh Red Cross (hospital feeding)

For the fourth consecutive year, BGR continues to support Vietnam’s Tam Binh Red Cross’ program to help the poor feed family members who are hospitalized. Located in the Tam Binh district in the Mekong Delta region, a single hospital exists to serve more than half a million people. The price of a hospital stay does not include food, and poverty-stricken families who must carry the heavy weight of medical and hospital costs are further burdened by the need to buy food for their ill family members. BGR’s funding will allow the Red Cross to purchase in-season vegetables, tofu and charcoal for cooking for these patients. These funds are leveraged with the volunteer labor of more than 80 volunteers, who prepare the meals and serve lunch and dinner to the most vulnerable ill and poor people.

Tam Binh Red Cross (Scholarships)

BGR continues to support the scholarship program of the Tam Binh Red Cross with a third year of funding. Entrenched rural poverty in Vietnam has forced many families to make the difficult decision to keep their children at home to work in the fields rather than send them to schools where they cannot afford the basic fees. BGR funds will provide the annual enrollment fee, educational materials and basic health care for 150 students, enabling them to overcome the barriers of poverty and to continue their studies. 100% of BGR’s funds will be used for these scholarships, without any deduction for administrative costs. To qualify for these scholarships, each student must meet criteria for low income, high teacher recommendations, and good conduct. By providing educational opportunities to these promising students, BGR hopes to break the cycle of poverty in their families.

Sarvodaya (Kelwatte water supply)

This year, BGR is supporting its long-time partner, Sarvodaya (“Welfare of All”) USA with a life-saving project to provide reliable clean water supplies in the Kelwatte district of Sri Lanka. Currently, these residents obtain untreated water from an open and polluted stream. An assessment of the needs of these villagers showed a high rate of childhood disease from drinking unsafe water. Dry seasons threaten water shortages every year, putting crops, livelihoods and health at risk. BGR funds will help provide safe and clean water to hundreds of residents with a new gravity water supply system. The local community participates in the construction by providing direct labor through shramadana: “sharing work, knowledge, talents and time.” This project will empower the community, raise individual and self-esteem and be a model project for neighboring communities. Thus, the project will provide a foundation for personal and social awakening and offer the gifts of water and health.

In making these grants, BGR addresses the twin problem of pollution and poverty,  helps ill and vulnerable members of poor families, and acknowledges the critical role of education in escaping intergenerational poverty and hunger.

Help on the Way: New Buddhist Global Relief Programs in the U.S. and Africa (Part I)

Buddhist Global ReliefBuddhist Global Relief is pleased to announce new support for a number of programs to help combat the chronic problem of hunger in urban communities in the United States and childhood hunger in West Africa.

City Harvest Healthy Neighborhoods Program, New York City, NY

One of BGR’s newest partners, City Harvest, Inc. of New York City, responds to the urgent needs of thousands of hungry NYC residents. It meets the challenges of urban poverty with a remarkably creative range of services, such as the rescuing of 29 million pounds of food this past year that would otherwise have been discarded at restaurants and grocery stores, and delivering it free of charge to food pantries and soup kitchens. This year, BGR funds will support City Harvest’s Healthy Neighborhoods, an integrated series of interventions in some of the most food-insecure areas in the United States, including neighborhoods in the South Bronx and Bedford-Stuyvesant. We’ll support mobile “farmer’s markets” that will provide some 800,000 pounds of fresh, free produce directly to neighborhoods with more than 2,000 low-income households. Addressing the links between poor health and poor nutrition, these “mobile markets” are also used as hubs to provide additional services such as food stamp screenings and health education.

Glide Sustainable Nutrition Program, San Francisco, California

Located in the heart of San Francisco’s poverty-stricken Tenderloin district, the community group Glide has provided help to the homeless and hungry since 1969, when a dedicated group of community members gathered to offer a free potluck dinner to anyone in need of a meal. Since then, Glide has skillfully developed its Sustainable Nutrition Program that provides food and nutrition and wellness education. BGR is partnering with Glide this year to support this multi-pronged program. Our program funds will help provide three healthy meals each day to anyone in need, healthy meals and snacks for children in the local childcare center, workshops on family nutrition cooking, information on healthy food sources, youth classes in gardening, ecology and health, and visits to local farmers’ markets.

Helen Keller International Child Feeding Program, Côte d’Ivoire

Building on its past partnerships with Helen Keller International, one of the oldest international relief organizations devoted to reducing malnutrition, this year BGR is funding a program to support improved infant and young child feeding practices in Côte d’Ivoire. This country is one of the poorest in the world, ranking 149 out of 169 countries on the U.N. Human Development Index. Over 40% of the population lives in poverty, and more than a quarter of its population are children under the age of five. Poor infant and young child feeding practices is one of the leading causes of chronic malnutrition among children under two, and malnutrition during this critical developmental window can condemn these children to a lifetime of poor health. BGR’s program funds will be used to educate and train women-led community based volunteer care groups about optimal feeding practices, including the importance of breastfeeding of children under 6 months and providing micronutrient-rich complimentary foods to children under 2 years old. Education and training will be provided to more than 100 volunteers, who will then help hundreds of households with young children.

These programs will make a difference in the lives of so many poverty-stricken families, extending a compassionate helping hand to reach those both close at home in the United States and children in the poorest continent in the world.  You can extend your helping hand, too, at

Budget Slashing and Food Aid: Taking the Long View to Help the Hungry

Charles W. Elliott

The United States federal budget is in the news, and once again partisan U.S. political battles over the role of government, budget priorities, and fiscal policy place the world’s poor in the crosshairs. Often, behind the dry budgetary text are the cries of hungry children and the desperation of the poor.

How the richest nation in the world addresses the problem of hunger is not merely an obvious moral issue. Food security plays an important role in global stability and, therefore, our own national security. As U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently said: “Our national security depends on feeding a growing world.” So does our domestic security. President John F. Kennedy wisely said: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” In the practice of giving, we serve even our own enlightened self-interest. Continue reading