Category Archives: Uncategorized

Giving Everyone a Place at the Table

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

This past Friday, Bill Moyers hosted a conversation of the type we need to hear more often on the problem of hunger in America. The program featured a long interview with Kristi Jacobson and Mariana Chilton that revolved around their new documentary, A Place at the Table, which Jacobson directed and produced and in which Chilton plays a prominent role. Though I have not yet seen the film myself, Moyers calls it “one of the best documentaries that I’ve seen in years.” Continue reading

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.
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A New Slate of Projects–Part 4

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

This is the fourth and final part of the four-part series on BGR projects approved for fiscal year 2013–14. We here provide overviews of our three U.S. projects, all new partnerships. Thanks are due to Patti Price, chair of the Projects Committee, and Jessie Benjamin, Carla Prater, and Jennifer Russ for preparing the material.

19. New York City: Feeding a Hunger for Meaning  NEW

Reciprocity-Homeless Not Hopeless

Homeless But Not Hopeless

The Reciprocity Foundation was established in 2006 to address the plight of homeless youth in New York City. In 2011, RF opened the first Holistic Center for Homeless Youth in the U.S., offering homeless youth personal counseling, vocational training, and college preparatory coaching along with meditation, yoga, and retreats. When they found that the homeless students were arriving hungry and unable to focus, RF started a vegetarian meal program in 2012 called “Starved for Meaning.” Meals at the program are prepared collectively and served “family-style,” with a moment of gratitude before the meal.The meal fulfilled the students’ hunger for other things besides food: for community, dialogue, gratitude, and meaning. Our first project with the Reciprocity Foundation provides funding to increase the capacity of the vegetarian meal program from 30 to 75 students weekly. As part of the program, the number of weekly communal meals will be doubled from 2 to 4, the kitchen will be upgraded, and a nutritionist will be hired to ensure balanced and nutritious vegetarian meals.

20. New York City: The Urban Community Food Project  NEW

New York_Urban Rebuilding

Growing Food in the Heart of the City

 The Urban Rebuilding Initiative is a community-based organization established  in New York City to give  low-income New Yorkers a chance to rebuild their neighborhoods and their lives. In August 2011 URI started the Urban Community Food Project, with the mission of building a sustainable food system throughout the City in order to address poverty, food insecurity, and high incarceration rates in low-income communities. The Food Project will train at-risk youth, young adults, and formerly incarcerated men to convert urban spaces in local neighborhoods into food production sites. Trainees will be taught how to build and maintain food systems that will supply fresh produce to community safety-net programs. The Food Project’s goal for 2013 is for each of three farms to produce 2000 pounds of produce per year for local food pantries and soup kitchens. The use of aqua-ponics and solar energy will permit the growth of winter crops. BGR funds will partially support the procurement of equipment and supplies to construct the first garden at Tried Stone Baptist Church. 

21. Santa Clara County: Building Organic Home Gardens          NEW

Verde Valley, picture and quote

Esperanza: “I feel good about growing my own food.”

Due to the devastating recession, for many immigrant and Latino residents in Santa Clara County, California, food insecurity is a hard fact of daily life. In Gilroy, where 63% of the population is low income, there is only one healthy food resource for 4,000 people. Valley Verde was launched in 2009 (and registered as a nonprofit in 2011) to  increase self-sufficiency and healthy eating among Santa Clara’s low-income immigrants and people of color. VV teaches organic gardening skills. By the end of Year 2 in its pilot program (2010) , 83% of families enrolled had healthy gardens and 91% reported increased vegetable consumption. The new project being sponsored by BGR will recruit and support 60 low income residents of Gilroy to cultivate and maintain organic home gardens. VV will use BGR funds to purchase seedlings for winter and spring planting and to purchase planks of untreated redwood to build raised beds for participant families. Participants will acquire organic gardening and leadership skills and nutritional knowledge through monthly garden club meetings, mentoring, and recruitment and training of future mentors.

Concluded

Time to Draw a Line in the Tar Sands

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

The impact of climate change on global food security is sure to be one of the most critical issues we’ll be facing in the years ahead. Since agricultural productivity depends on a stable and congenial climate, we cannot tamper with the climate without jeopardizing the world’s food supply. Over the past decade we’ve seen how a warming climate has triggered long droughts, violent hurricanes, torrential storms, and searing heat waves, reducing yields of essential food commodities. Policy expert Lester Brown writes ominously: “Extreme soil erosion, growing water shortages, and the earth’s rising temperature are making it more difficult to expand production. Unless we can reverse such trends, food prices will continue to rise and hunger will continue to spread, eventually bringing down our social system.”[1]

As an organization dedicated to the battle against hunger and malnutrition, Buddhist Global Relief is deeply concerned with how we’re altering the climate. In our view alleviating hunger calls not merely for acts of philanthropy but also for a vigorous effort to counteract the forces responsible for hunger, among which global warming is now the most formidable. Tackling climate change requires in the first place a commitment to honesty and truth. We can’t hide behind the mask of denial and we can’t afford the luxury of delay. We have to recognize that the primary cause of global warming is human behavior: our carbon-driven economy, our frenzied consumerist culture, and the hunger of fossil fuel corporations for ever greater profits.
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Bussing for a More Just Budget

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

On his PBS program Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers recently featured a segment about the “Nuns on the Bus” tour that took place this summer when a group of Catholic nuns boarded a brightly lettered bus and zigzagged their way across nine states, from Iowa to Washington, D.C. The nuns had set out on a two-week journey of faith and compassion, seeking to draw national attention to the plight of the poor. Their purpose was not so much to inspire people to acts of private charity as to ring the bell for social justice. Their specific target was the federal budget passed this spring by the House of Representatives, crafted by Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, a Tea Party hero now the Republican candidate for vice-president.

The ostensible objective of the House budget is to forge “a path to prosperity” by cutting government spending and thereby getting the federal deficit under control. But was this the real aim the budget’s proponents had in their hearts? Budgets are usually written in an arcane jargon that only trained economists can understand, but the nuns had evidently done their homework and had realized what the budget would do. They could see that behind its claim to serious fiscal responsibility, the budget would actually bolster the wealth of the ultra-rich while passing on the bill to just about everyone else.
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An Oasis of Safety for Kids in Port-au-Prince

Jennifer Russ

The cameras and reporters may have moved on to other stories, but the people of Haiti affected by the 2010 earthquake have not been forgotten. A report from the What If? Foundation details the support that BGR’s grant has provided for the children of the Ti Plas Kazo neighborhood in Port-au-Prince: 17,000 meals over the course of six months, or over 2,800 meals per month, cooked by volunteers in a calm, safe environment that children enjoy.

The food program, known as Lamanjay in Haitian Creole, has not been without its challenges. In the first part of 2012, the program’s vehicle was inoperative. Luckily, the food program team found a man with a “tap tap” (a brightly painted independent taxi) who helped them transport the food. Another challenge has arrived along with the Haitian rainy season, which forces the cooking team to operate in a leaky temporary structure with a tarp-covered tin roof. The What If? Foundation hopes 2012 will see the construction of a new permanent kitchen and cafeteria.

Despite these challenges, the success of the program is evident in the calm order of the daily routine. Children arrive an hour before food is served to clean tables and sweep the floor with child-sized brooms. They then wait patiently for their food.  When they are finished they give up their seats to other children and take their plates to be washed. Although these children face poverty and hardships every day, Lamanjay allows them a couple of hours of safety and peace and a place where they can fill their bellies, forget their worries, and be children, if only for a little while. Continue reading

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

My Keynote Address at UN Vesak Celebration

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

I have been extremely busy reviewing the proofs of my translation of the Anguttara Nikaya, which Wisdom Publications intends to publish in the fall. Wisdom is offering a very generous discount of 40% on pre-publication orders placed before August 15th. So, if you are interested, don’t delay!

Because I’m now committed to reading through almost 2,000 pages of proofs, and then (after proofing) making up indexes for the book, I haven’t been able to devote time to this blog. But on May 7th, in the window between first and second proofs, I gave the keynote address at the United Nations Celebration of Vesak, held at the General Assembly Hall of the UN Headquarters in New York. This was the second time that I gave the keynote at this function. The first was in the year 2000, the first time the UN commemorated Vesak. This time the talk was shorter–just ten minutes–since there were some fourteen delegations each allotted six minutes. It was particularly interesting seeing the three-minute videos each delegation had prepared about Buddhism or Buddhist remains in their country.

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations has put up the text of my talk here. The crowding of words in this online version was not in my original document, but must have resulted from the image processing of a printout. However, the document is still readable. The texts of several other talks are available on the website.

Once my proofing and indexing of the Anguttara Nikaya is finished, I will have more time to devote to this blog. There are a number of issues concerning social justice, food justice, food sovereignty, and Buddhist engagement that I intend to explore. Meanwhile Charles Elliott, a BGR board member and environmental attorney, will be blogging.

Permaculture Gardens at Mqatsheni, South Africa

These photos show the permaculture gardens at Mqatsheni, South Africa. The gardens are being built with a grant from BGR through the Khuphuka Project of our partner, Dharmagiri Outreach. The Mqatsheni area has been severely impacted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and food insecurity.  More than 80% of the program beneficiaries are women, and 92% are unemployed.  The project’s goal is to increase local food production in the community, and to provide the community with seedlings and plants now available only from remote nurseries. The garden will also be used as a training center to facilitate the knowledge transfer of gardening skills to the surrounding areas.

In addition to the photos below, please visit the album of Photos at Picasa from this project.

Helping Hungry Kids in Haiti

From BGR Executive Director, Kim Behan:

I would like to share the heartfelt communications from Margaret Trost, Founder of the What If? Foundation, on the occasion of the anniversary of the food program we support in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The need for these meals is still great, and many of the children coming to the food program are still living permanently in tents together with their families. For many of these children the meal they receive here is their only meal of the day.

It commonly happens that when the news disappears from the headlines, funds that would be donated to help people trapped in a crisis dry up along with the help those donations facilitate. But Buddhist Global Relief remains firm in its commitment to the poor children of Haiti. We have been supporting and renewing the food program in Port-au-Prince for the past few years and plan to continue to support it into the future. If you wish to show your own concern for the children of our island neighbor in the Caribbean, you can donate to BGR or directly to the What If? Foundation.

With metta,
Kim Behan

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