The Zero Hunger Challenge: Why it Works and a Call to Action

Angela Rupchock-Schafer | June 24, 2014

Photo: Serbia, Paul Jeffrey/CWS

Photo: Serbia, Paul Jeffrey/CWS

As originally published by The Zero Hunger Challenge, 6/19/2014

We are winning the fight against hunger and poverty. We are winning it in concrete, measurable ways.  Ways most visible in the numbers of young lives saved and communities changed through targeted, sustainable and strategic programs. Global hunger has been reduced by more than 34 percent since 1990, an amazing feat. And yet, listening to the national and international conversation around development assistance and poverty-fighting programs, one could be easily convinced otherwise.

It seems many don’t realize – or choose to ignore – that incredible progress in the fight against hunger and poverty has been realized over the past 30 years. TheZero Hunger Challenge attests to that progress and growth and is a voice that calls for action. The vibrancy and strength of grassroots advocates and leaders in working to convince governments and organizations to be active participants in the movement to end hunger in our lifetimes is nothing short of miraculous. But we can no longer, as a development community, continue to trust in our motives alone to move our agenda forward.

We must double down, work harder and be more creative than ever to convince doubters of the incredible promise and vitality of the work we do. This past week I was honored to take part in the Bread for the World Annual Gathering in Washington, D.C. Some 300 hunger activists gathered to lobby on Capitol Hill for reforms to U.S. policy that will help U.S. foreign aid to be ever more efficient and effective. Thanks to their faithful advocacy, an important amendment passed the House of Representatives and bi-partisan support appears to be growing. But it is growing only with the hard work and dedication of an army of hunger  advocates. Without their voices, the counter-argument against the programs that support the goals of the Zero Hunger Challenge may be drowned out.

“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” (Matthew 14:20)

Bread for the World members advocate from their deep faith that calls them to speak for their less fortunate brothers and sisters. In a similar vein, my CWS colleague and dear friend, Maurice Bloem, is currently walking 100 miles to raise awareness about hunger and the key role women and girls have in fighting hunger in their communities. I’m incredibly proud that CWS is an active participant in the Zero Hunger Challenge – one of the earliest NGOs to join – and Maurice is walking in part to highlight our work towards eliminating hunger and poverty around the globe. This is Maurice’s third year walking for days on end to raise the profile of hunger as an issue worth talking about and investing in, and his strength, determination and commitment to the principles of the Zero Hunger Challenge is a model for us all.

Now, I’m not suggesting each of us can fly to our national capitals to lobby or walk 100 miles to show our commitment to ending hunger. BUT each of us can fight against what I’ve begun to call the “development bullies” we increasingly encounter. When someone questions the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations work towards fighting poverty, point out to them that more people escaped poverty in the 2000’s than in any decade in history. Say it loudly, say it proudly, say it with conviction. Because it’s true and it’s only through the hard work of Zero Hunger contributing members that such incredible accomplishments have been made.

We can no longer let the development bullies mock and malign the work we do. We have to take the offensive and change the conversation. We have to lead, if we are serious and committed to ending the scourge of hunger in our lifetimes. Walking the halls of Congress last week was empowering for me in so many ways. Raising my voice in opposition to the doubters of the effectiveness of hunger-fighting efforts was a sincere pleasure and a way for me to live my faith. And, I can’t wait to go and do it again. Because without my voice, without all our voices, together, how can we make sure this work of eliminating hunger continues?

Each of us have a part to play. I’m eager to play mine. What is yours?

Angela Rupchock-Schafer serves as the Assistant Director, Communications for CWS and has been with the agency for more than 10 years. A graduate of Saint Mary’s College with a B.A. in Philosophy and a Masters in Public Affairs from Indiana University, she is a CROP Hunger Walk organizer and a Bread for the World Board member.