Sunday, July 20, 2014

Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014

How do you get your news? Do you turn on a television, perhaps a radio? Do you "fire up" an Internet browser and type in your favorite news URL?

For all the many ways that we can have news communicated to us, so much never gets delivered. Or, rather, so much else gets in the way that we miss important stories. Stories of hope. Stories of tragedy.

The story of South Sudan is the latter, I'm afraid. It's an ongoing story of lives lost, lives disrupted, and livelihoods and futures in peril...but it doesn't have to be!

Three years ago (in 2011), Africa's longest-running civil war ended. But peace in the newly formed South Sudan didn't hold. In December of last year (2013), violence erupted largely upon ethnic lines as a result of a decaying relationship between the president of South Sudan and his former deputy. Since the violence started, over 10,000 people have been killed. Over a million people have been displaced and nearly 400,000 have fled to neighboring countries. Worse yet, the violence has left upwards of 4 million people in need of immediate assistance: food, clean water, shelter. Without it, the United Nations estimates 50,000 children could die of malnutrition by year's end.

All this has me an era of political wrangling, budget cutting, of putting forth fiscally conservative solutions, how can we, the United States, make our overseas food aid programs do more to save more [lives, money, time, etc.]?

Food aid has its issues. You can read more about them here. Truth is, it’s a system that could do a lot more with existing taxpayer dollars if it just made a few changes. “Get more bang for your buck,” as it were. A current piece of bipartisan legislation – the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014 – is aiming to do just that. By ending some ineffective practices with how food is shipped and where it is purchased, existing money can be freed to do more for more people. Millions more people, same amount of money. People, just like those in the South Sudan, could benefit from modernizing the policies in our food aid system. Let's get it done!

Use your voice - take action today! Call your U.S. Senators and ask them to support the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014! If you are not sure who your member of Congress is, click here and enter your five-digit ZIP code. It only takes a few minutes and is a great way to easily participate in the democratic process - remember: they are elected to serve you!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

If you build it...

"If you build it, he will come.”

Okay, so maybe I stole that line from the iconic 1989 fantasy-drama film Field of Dreams which has absolutely nothing to do with this blog post.  Yet, allow me to modify the quote to its more recognized misquoted form, “If you build it, they will come.”
I’m talking, of course, about that delightful family-friendly tabletop game called Jenga. True story. How so? Easy! For those unfamiliar with Jenga, players take turns removing one block at a time from a tower constructed of 54 equally sized blocks. Each block removed is then balanced on top of the tower, creating a progressively taller yet less stable structure. Make sense? Good!
Are you ready to have your mind blown? Jenga is derived from a Swahili word meaning “to build”.
Therefore…“If you Jenga, they will come.”

I think the pictures speak for themselves. What success we had! 80/35 Music Festival-goers had a delightful time playing our home-built oversized game of Jenga (aptly named: Giant Jenga) while learning about the serious issue of climate change and the role that top food and beverage companies play in contributing greenhouse gases. Think of it as educational Jenga! Or Jenga with a conscience!
Regardless of whatever you might call it, there were several intense games played over the two day festival – some even came back to play multiple games. During more tense moments, when the swaying structure seemed on the edge of collapse, dozens of people along a busy walkway would be at a dead stop, staring, waiting for the tower of bricks to come crashing down. It was fun to watch them.
The goal of Oxfam’s signature campaigns such as GROW and Behind the Brands is to build a better food system for all. After this last weekend, I might say that Oxfam’s goal is Jenga a better food system for all. Brick by brick, lifting up others so that those communities can Jenga a better future for themselves.

To see more pictures from our time at the 80/35 Music Festival, click here.

To learn how to build your own Giant Jenga set, click here.