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Binghamton, NY

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Latitude: 42.102225 -- Longitude: -75.911797

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Binghamton is a city located in the southern tier of upstate New York in the United States. It is the county seat of Broome County. The population of the City of Binghamton, according to the 2000 Census, is 47,380 (1990 Census: 53,008). The City of Binghamton is nestled in the Southern Tier of New York, at the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers. The city is at the crossroads of Interstates 81 and 88, as well as the future Interstate 86 (also known as New York State Highway 17, The Southern Tier Expressway). -- Source:

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Census Data for Binghamton, New York

New York 2000 Census Population Profile Map

Binghamton New York United States
Population 47,380 18,976,457 281,421,906
Median age 36.7 35.9 35.3
Median age for Male 34.8 34.5 34
Median age for Female 38.6 37.2 36.5
Households 21,089 7,056,860 105,480,101
Household population 46,136 18,395,996 273,643,273
Average household size 2.19 2.61 2.59
Families 10,419 4,639,387 71,787,347
Average family size 2.96 3.22 3.14
Housing units 23,971 7,679,307 115,904,641
Occupied units 21,089 7,056,860 105,480,101
Vacant units 2,882 622,447 10,424,540

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MAS Leadership on Why the World Needs an Urban Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)

Please join MAS and our colleagues working around the world to make cities more livable and resilient, by signing this petition to support the adoption of an Urban Sustainable Development Goal. Background: The Local is Global Recognizing the value of knowledge exchange to address the challenges to creating livable and resilient cities, the Municipal Art […]

GROWing the Farm Bill

The significance of the Farm Bill cannot be overstated. The five-year policy bill generally encompasses all related fields such as conservation, climate conditions, nutritional assistance, sustainable agriculture, research on organic crops, crop subsidies, etc. The Farm Bill is also known as the Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 and historically served as a comprehensive agricultural policy bill. 

Oxfam America lobbied relentlessly for amendments to the proposed 2013 Farm Bill, in particular the Royce/Engel Amendment which would provide for reforming the current system of Food Aid for which updates are long overdue. This bipartisan amendment, proposed by Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) is stated to potentially save the federal government approximately $215 million per year by allowing the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to spend up to 45% of food aid funds on local food instead of spending it on shipping costs for sending food from the US. 

Future Food Aid Reform will play a crucial role in assisting smallholder farmers and agricultural communities around the world. The US would also benefit in terms of gaining value for money by being able to distribute aid to a larger number of individuals without any additional expenditure of funds if Food Aid is reformed under the proposed system. 

Presently, Food Aid must be comprised of at least 75% American produce and the majority of this aid is sent on selected US ships which take between four to six months to arrive. 
High transportation and overhead costs consume up to 53 cents of every dollar of grains shipped. Thus, less than half of the funds spent on Food Aid is spent on actual food. Furthermore, local markets are able to provide cost effective emergency food aid far more swiftly and these markets would enjoy the added benefit of being in demand, thus reducing their economy’s dependence on aid and effectively creating a sustainable food system. Disturbingly, US Food Aid in its current form is ironically preventing developing countries from becoming self-sufficient. Higher efficiency reforms to Food Aid will allow lifesaving aid to reach greater numbers of those in need at no additional cost to US taxpayer. 

Although, the US House of Representatives (“House”) voted against the Royce/Engel Amendment to the Farm Bill on June 19th, 2013, the final tallies were close with 203 voting for and 220 voting against. Members of the New York House of Representatives delegation largely voted towards passing the amendment, those who voted against the Royce/Engel amendment are listed as follows: Reps Sean Maloney, Tim Bishop, Peter King, Michael Grimm & Christopher Gibson. 

New York, a state that is known for outstanding social welfare programs fought tremendously to pass the Royce/Engel amendment. Rep. Eliot Engel of NY’s 16th Congressional District, comprising of parts of the Bronx & Westchester county, introduced the bill, as ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee stating, “Hunger pangs shouldn’t be subject to shipping schedules. Sometimes it seems that we lose sight of why we have a food aid program in the first place - It’s to prevent men, women and children in the developing world from starving to death.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York’s 5th Congressional District covering parts of Queens including Jamaica, spoke eloquently and passionately on the House floor in support, just moments before the vote on the Royce/Engel amendment took place.  Congressman Meeks urged fellow members to support the Royce/Engel amendment in a one minute heartfelt articulate delivery summing up American efforts in alleviating global hunger and promoting Royce/Engel. In doing so, Congressman Meeks encapsulated the essence of the amendment by stating, “why not reach millions more for what we are spending today?”

It should be noted that only a small number of votes prevented passage of the Royce/Engel amendment, hence the issue of Food Aid Reform is steadily gathering advocates. The voting outcome displays increasing Congressional support for Food Aid Reform which thus remains a likely possibility in the future. 

Additionally, the Farm Bill has recently been flung into the spotlight and gained mainstream attention due to the complete lack in funding for supplemental nutritional assistance programs (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. This is due to the fact that on July 11th, the House passed a Farm Bill excluding any form of SNAP provisions that would help combat hunger. 

There are two main components of the House Farm Bill - SNAP & Farm Subsidies. Both of which were historically noble causes - ensuring food security for all and providing much needed assistance to farmers working tirelessly to feed America on low profit margins. While, the numbers of those going hungry in America has been rapidly increasing in recent years, the need for farm subsidies (financial assistance from the US Government) have declined. This is particularly the case because the vast majority of financial assistance goes to recipient farms which are run as commercial agro-businesses enjoying high profits while additionally receive subsidies. Therefore, there exists a desperate need for spending on food stamps to feed the hungry while farm subsidies catering to industrial farms are proving to be largely unnecessary and disproportionately wasteful. 

Furthermore, Congresswoman Grace Meng of NY’s sixth Congressional District which includes the neighborhoods of Bayside and Flushing, has stated compelling reasons why SNAP is important to New York State by highlighting that SNAP stimulates the economy with every dollar in benefits generating $1.70 in economic activity. Rep. Meng added, “Cutting one of our nation’s strongest safety nets will only serve to further the suffering of disadvantaged children and senior citizens across the country.”

Despite this, the House version of the US Farm Bill was passed to include no federal aid for food stamps while additionally maintaining farm subsidies at an even higher level than previously proposed. Thriving commercial agricultural programs have been allocated billions of dollars in subsidies while an estimated 50 million food insecure Americans living in poverty are left to fend for themselves. 

Although, the lack of nutritional assistance programs & wasteful subsidies are a great cause for concern, an unexpected positive consequence has been that this shift in trends has shed light on policies that play a role in current American nutritional policies & hunger dynamics. The latest developments in the Farm Bill has sparked a widespread national conversation on the growing numbers of both Americans as well as our global counterparts who are food insecure, consequently drawing much needed attention on the practices that have lead to the current status quo. 

Please take action by urging your local member of Congress to support food aid reform policies such as procuring food from local and regional markets. For the latest on food aid reform, please

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Lentfer
Posted by: Shireen Alam 

The Power of Information: US Foreign Aid Transparency in Ghana

Everyone is invited!

The Power of Information: US Foreign Aid Transparency in Ghana
Featured speaker, Hon. Albert Kan-Dapaah, former Ghana government minister

Thursday, August 8, 2013
7:00-9:00 pm
New York Open Center, Room 3-A (third floor)
22 East 30th Street, New York, NY 10016

Please RSVP at

Please join Oxfam America and Oxfam Action Corps NYC for a talk by Hon. Albert Kan-Dapaah, a former government minister in Ghana. As a former government minister, Kan-Dapaah knows the value of timely information on American foreign aid. Transparent aid helps governments to plan, helps American citizens to learn more about foreign aid, and helps civil society activists in developing countries to hold governments and donors accountable for results. Yet, the U.S. government lags behind many donors. In 2012, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) ranked 27th out of 72 donor agencies in Publish What You Fund's 2012 Aid Transparency Index. Recent executive branch actions, such as the creation of the U.S. foreign assistance dashboard (<>) seek to make the U.S. a better donor. Congress is taking action as well. The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013, a bipartisan bill that was recently introduced in the House of Representatives as H.R.2638 by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and in the Senate as S.1271 by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). Oxfam America supports the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013 because it will open the books on U.S. foreign aid, and make sure U.S. aid is working as well as it can to fight poverty.

Kan-Dapaah is touring the U.S. to build awareness of aid transparency. For more on the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013 and to take action, visit the Oxfam America website at

Hon. Albert Kan-Dapaah served in both industry and professional practice for over 15 years before entering politics and serving as a Member of Parliament of Ghana for 16 years. He served in various leadership roles in government over the course of eight years as Minister for Energy, Minister for Communication, Minister for Interior, and Minister for Defense. A chartered accountant by profession, Kan-Dapaah recently co-founded a non-partisan think tank - Financial Accountability & Transparency-Africa (FAT-AFRICA). FAT-AFRICA is committed to the development and practice of efficient and effective public sector financial management systems in Africa.

Oxfam Action Corps NYC
Mobilizing public support for policies to end poverty and hunger

Oxfam Action Corps Retreat

FIFTEEN OXFAM ACTION CORPS NYC VOLUNTEERS AND TWO OXFAM AMERICA STAFF participated in the annual retreat held at Holmes Camp and Retreat Center this past June 28-30. The retreat was an opportunity for participants to build rapport with one another, celebrate and evaluate the activities of the past year and plan many events in store for the team in the coming months.

Participants arrived Friday evening at the retreat center, surrounded by lush greenery and a beautiful lake. The retreat began with a meal shared by everyone gathered around the campfire. Over the next two days, team members had a chance to bond and get to know each other’s background, skills, strengths, and vision for the action corps. Each participant was given time to share stories and experiences that moved and inspired them to become part of the Action Corps. Members also joined in ice-breakers and team-building activities, such as an early morning hike and singing around the campfire. Teamwork was also highlighted in simple tasks such as cooking, dish-washing, building a fire, and cleanup, where members took turns being in-charge and helping out.
Will Fenton, Oxfam America regional advocacy lead, presented on the roots of Oxfam America, how it has developed over the years into what it is today and its advocacy goals. This was followed by a presentation from Brian Rawson, senior volunteer and community organizer for Oxfam America, which summarized Oxfam’s history and presence around the globe. Elizabeth Norman, Oxfam Action Corps NYC co-leader, then overviewed the past year’s activity, which recently included the annual International Women’s Day celebration, a lobby effort around food aid reform in the Farm Bill, and the Behind the Brands Campaign.
The issues tackled by the Action Corps were discussed more deeply in various sessions. Brian talked about the Behind the Brands Campaign and how volunteers have managed to convince several large food companies such as Nestle and Mondelez to agree to address development issues on the supply side of the food industry. These are issues that impact women, climate, land and water use. Tad Kroll discussed why the food aid reform amendment to the Farm Bill, which failed to pass in congress, is important in ensuring a more efficient distribution of food aid to developing countries. Liz Tillman then introduced Oxfam’s latest advocacy campaign beginning in the fall of this year, which aims to stop big corporations from grabbing land from small-scale farmers.

To prepare the team for planning the year’s activities, Paul Schutz lead the group in analyzing the relationship between power, oppression and privilege and how awareness of this relationship is central to understanding to how each one should participate in the fight against social injustices.

The retreat ended with participants assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the action corps, the various challenges facing the team and the many opportunities that could help the group pursue its goals this year. Participants then proceeded to plan the upcoming events for fall and spring using the open-source method, where members got to choose which activity they would like to help plan, given their interests and skills. During the farewells, it was clear that participants were leaving the retreat rested, recharged and ready to continue their fight against poverty and hunger.

Meet the Oxfam Action Corps NYC Leaders and Members!

Oxfam Action Corps NYC just keeps getting better and better! Oxfam Action Corps NYC has decided to improve the structure of our current system by having leaders in different realms of activities carried out. These leadership positions (with members interested in such) within the corps include social media, logistics, rapid response,community coordinator among many others. In the coming days we will be posting profiles of our new leaders. Get to know them here:

Isaac Evans-Frantz
Alliances Coordinator

Isaac is a reproductive health educator in Northern Manhattan. He has volunteered with Oxfam Action Corps NYC since 2007, when he helped launch the group. He is excited about helping the action corps build relationships with other organizations.

Sarah Hwang
Co-Lead Organizer
Hello friends - My name is Sarah Hwang and I'm from NYC. Through volunteer work abroad, I saw first-hand the devastating impact of oppression, social injustice, poverty and hunger. Through these experiences, I was fortunate enough to meet and work with some truly amazing and inspiring people -- children and adults alike. It's my memories and commitment to them (and those in similar circumstances) that have led me to Oxfam. I'm excited about all the initiatives we have planned for the NYC Action Corps. 

Elizabeth Norman
Co-Lead Organizer

I live in Brooklyn, NY. I have loved being involved with the Oxfam Action Corps for the past year. I moved to New York after graduating from Oberlin. In addition to working on the budget of a humanitarian NGO, I am studying French. I love to travel, and I had the opportunity to volunteer on a cheese-making sheep farm in France last summer. I am originally from North Carolina where my parents grew up on a farm. This photo was taken near the Alimentarium, a food museum owned by Nestle near their world headquarters in Switzerland.

Brittany Wilson
Concert Outreach Coordinator
Brittany is a fashion designer in NYC who has volunteered with the Action Corps since 2007. She loves music and is excited meet new people at outreach events.

Jameelah Muhammad is a native of Metro-Detroit Michigan, where she graduated from Southfield Public Schools. She holds a B.S. in Biology and Environmental Health from Oakland University, with a specialization in Resource Management. While at Oakland University she was a 2008 Young People For Fellow, a 2008 Leadership Academy participant, and a YP4 Alumni Board Member and Mentor. Currently she works as the Program Director at the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut and serves as an Adjunct Lecturer at Bronx Community College. From late 2010-2012 she was the Community Program Coordinator at the Center for Sustainable Energy at Bronx Community College (CUNY) and she continues to advise and support various projects there in a consulting capacity. Prior to this, she worked on the Green Collar Jobs initiative and the Good Food, Good Jobs campaign at New York Jobs with Justice and Urban Agenda. Mrs. Muhammad is a certified ROOTS of Success Environmental Literacy Instructor and advises several community education projects. She is an alumnus from the Green for All Fellowship Program and has done climate justice advocacy work nationally and internationally. Most recently she has traveled to Bolivia and South Africa for her work. Mrs. Muhammad is committed to empowering people in her community and passionate about helping people to see the interconnectedness of the environment, the economy, and social justice.

Diversity/Outreach Role

I am seeking to connect local community based organizations to some of the work and campaigns that OXFAM currently is organizing. I want to provide opportunities for young people in those communities to engage with OXFAM to learn more about international environmental issues and how involvement in these issues is relevant to local environmental issues. I am also interested in providing support in the creation of Anti-Oppression training for OXFAM volunteers and staff to get a better understanding of the local environmentally injustices. I want to provide a safe space to discuss the relevance of cultural diversity, inclusion, and effective dialogue in the organizing work and campaigns that OXFAM engages in. 

Success Story: Emiliana Aligaesha

From left: Justa Lujwangana & Emiliana Aligaesha

Dining for Women together with Oxfam Action Corps NYC collaborated to host an evening of discussion centered around Tanzanian farmer, Emiliana Aligaesha, first runner up in Oxfam’s prestigious Female Food Hero contest in 2012. Emiliana was joined by volunteer translator, Justa Lujwangana and Mwanahamisi Salimu Singano of Oxfam Tanzania in sharing her success story. 

Emiliana Aligaesha from Karagwe district in Kagera region was born and brought up in Tanzania, became a full-time school teacher, married and had children. Upon being widowed, she was able to successfully create a sustainable livelihood by utilizing her agricultural and entrepreneurial instincts through which she single-handedly provided her eight children with a university education. 

The discussion highlighted many positive aspects as well as challenging issues within the agricultural system in Tanzanian society. A lack of buyers has often resulted in crops going to waste. It has proven to be difficult to sell crops at a fair and sustainable price, despite the fact that land is tremendously arable and farmers enjoy a wide range of climatic variations as well as diversity of agricultural terrain, allowing for an assortment of produce ranging from passion fruit to plantain. It is disheartening and often wasteful to be expending energy and effort to grow yields which are eventually sold at a low rate or not sold at all. Above all, despite toiling in time-consuming, fatiguing and demanding labor, most farmers continue to live in poverty. 

Although, women farmers far outnumber men both within the farming community and also in the rural areas in Tanzania, merely three percent of women own land. Furthermore, 99% within that three percent are non farmers. Approximately 70 percent of the farmers in Tanzania are female but they have limited means of progressing any further from their status as laborer farmers. 

Mwanahamisi Salimu Singano, Oxfam Tanzania
Very few women farmers are landowners due to inequities within customary norms in rural areas, thus women’s access to land is restricted. Generally, it is the case that men own farmland but women produce the crops. For the most part, the nature of rural Tanzanian farming is largely composed of intensive manual labor as the availability of convenient farming tools remains limited. Therefore, although women do the bulk of the work, their labor is not widely recognized in an official capacity and as a result they do not have ready access to credit or training programs. 

Thus, the matter of food insecurity combined with unsatisfactory policies and social norms, which include women being the last members of the family to be able to eat at mealtimes, have all played a role in leading women to be marginalized to the extent that they are often left to feel inferior to their own children. As is the case in both developing and developed countries around the world, women are given both an inferior social status and fewer rights. As a result, even relatively achievable tasks are often far outside the reach of most women and many needlessly facing a lifetime of struggle. 

In Emiliana’s case, she had the advantage of access (but not ownership) to a six acre family farm through inheritance rights.  Along with her fellow community members, she was able to thrive by forming a private company, Karagwe Peasants Development in order to sell coffee and beans. Karagwe gave out micro-credit loans to mothers and reinforced the idea of purchasing food directly from smallholder female farmers which assisted in levelling the market.  In due course, Karagwe was able to form a thriving agricultural establishment to the extent that the World Food Programme (WFP) is now one of their purchasers.  Additionally, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been helping to guarantee prices for Emiliana and her fellow farmers. 

The World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian agency and fights hunger worldwide. The World Food Programme provides relief in emergency situations such as conflict and natural disasters by delivering food aid. It works towards the objectives of saving lives and protecting livelihoods, preparing for emergencies, rebuilding lives after emergencies and strengthening the capacity of countries to reduce hunger. Approximately, 12,000 people are employed by the World Food Programme, most of them in remote areas, directly serving the hungry. On average, they aim to reach more than 90 million people with food assistance in over 70 countries. 

Emiliana further stressed the importance of maintaining a relationship with the World Food Programme as a buyer as it has eliminated problems such as the scarcity of buyers, instability, as well as the pitfalls of an irregular income. Emiliana further stated that one of the best ways to ensure that Kaldera are able to maintain this crucial economic tie is by supporting the World Food Programme with charitable contributions which will increase their budget and enable continued support to smallholder farmers allowing them an opportunity to prosper. 

Additionally, the United States is one of the largest supporters of the World Food Programme. Hence, if we are able to reform our own food aid laws, this will be instrumental in enabling the World Food Programme to have wider decision making powers in responding to food crises around the world. Reform within the field of food aid will have an impact on US Government spending measures and USAID which then directly impacts programs such as the World Food Programme. 

Therefore, there are numerous ways in which we can provide assistance in order to empower and support women around the world and farmers like Emiliana.  

Supporting an organization such as Dining for Women is an ideal way to learn more about empowering women. Dining for Women is an organization which collects dinner donations that help change the lives of women and girls worldwide. Dining for Women holds dinners once a month during which chapter members dine in together, each bringing a dish to share and in doing so the dollars which would have otherwise been spent dining out at a restaurant are instead sent to thoroughly researched, carefully selected programs with an aim to empower women around the globe.

Buying fair trade products from socially responsible companies that support small scale farmers is another key way to help. As mentioned in previous blogs, supporting Oxfam’s GROW campaign and Behind the Brands campaign either through making donations or volunteering will work towards ensuring justice within the food system. Oxfam are urging supporters to encourage all the companies targeted in the Behind the Brands campaign to stay committed to the UN Women Empowerment Principles. 

Furthermore, Food Aid Reform is a key issue at the moment which will play a key role in helping smallholder farmers and agricultural communities around the world, the vast majority of whom are women. Oxfam is currently lobbying members of the US House of Representatives to work towards reforming the current food aid system which is outdated. Presently, food aid must be comprised of at least 75% American produce and the majority of aid is sent on selected US ships which takes between four to six months to arrive. 

High transportation and other overhead costs consume up to 53 cents of every dollar of grains shipped. Thus, less than half of the funds spent on food aid is spent on actual food. Local markets are able to provide cost effective emergency food aid far more swiftly and these markets would have the added impact of being in higher demand, thus reducing their economy’s dependence on aid and effectively creating a sustainable food system. Lobbying for higher efficiency reforms will allow lifesaving aid to reach greater numbers of those in need at no additional cost to the US taxpayer. To take action in support of women farmers such as Emiliana, and to learn more about food aid reform, visit:

Photography by: Nikko Viquiera
Posted by: Shireen Alam 

Hear from Emiliana Aligaesha Farmer, Karagwe district, Kagera region, Tanzania

Emiliana Aligaehsa, Farmer, Tanzania
Emiliana Aligaehsa, Farmer, Tanzania
Emiliana Aligaesha is a coffee, banana, bean, and maize farmer and livestock keeper in Karagwe district, Kagera region in the northern part of Tanzania. Emiliana began her career as a schoolteacher, but when her husband died in 1992 she found that her salary was not enough to reach the educational goals for her children. 
 Emiliana taught herself how to farm and in 2007 she joined with other farmers in her community to form Kaderes Peasant Development Ltd., a private company that sells coffee and beans. Emiliana and her fellow farmers received support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to find better prices and customers for their products. 
Emiliana now exports coffee around the world and the World Food Program has bought her beans to use in emergency food aid programs in neighboring countries. Through her determination, and by leveraging a tiny investment of U.S. foreign aid, Emiliana has become a successful farmer and businesswoman. In 2012, Emiliana was the first runner up in Oxfam's Female Food Hero contest in Tanzania, which highlights the achievements of small-scale women food producers. As a former teacher, Emiliana's proudest accomplishment is that all eight of her children have been put through college as a result of her hard work.

Thursday, May 30, 2013
6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Community Resource Exchange (CRE)
Conference Center
42 Broadway
20th Floor
New York, NY 10004

Important: RSVP required to enter building. RSVP here by May 29th.

Light snacks and beverages will be served.

Food Aid Reform

When the weaponization and catastrophe of resources stricken people without food and water, we ask ourselves how much can we do to help? The United States currently sends food aid oversees in humanitarian crisis. Whether caused by drought, political disparity or natural disasters, USAID sends delivers food via Food for Peace. This program began in 1954 dedicating most of the food it buys to American farmers who then ship the food to the respective country in need. However, when we buy food from the Midwest, put it on the train to South Carolina, and then transport the food wearily on a ship, we can triple the amount of time people suffer.  It also undermines the local markets in developing countries. When we look at Somali crisis in 2011, we can see how food is not going to the right places and arriving too late. Approximately 260,000 people died because of lack of access to food. The simple conclusion is we need to do better.

We can do better. Oxfam America began its food aid reformcampaign last May. Food Aid reform has a few major goals which include supporting local farmers by buying directly from farmers of the catastrophe area, faster delivery of food to people in dire need, stretching the tax payer dollar to make food aid more efficient, and reduce carbon footprint. With continued efforts and the help of citizens signing petitions, the food aid reform plan Oxfam set forth was passed in the Senate Agricultural bill. Unfortunately, the political game clouts the importance of food aid reform. The Agricultural Appropriations bill, or "the farm bill", continues volleying in the tennis match between the House and Senate.

On April 10 of this year, President Obama set the presidential 2014 Fiscal Year budget. It highlighted effective food aid and shifted the majority of food assistance from the Agriculture Appropriations bill to the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. Changes includeseveral major goals:

  1. Taking 45% of appropriations for food aid to buy food local to disaster or catastrophe
  2. Proposes major reforms to make food aid more cost-effective and have greater impact, while maintaining robust levels of emergency food assistance and related development assistance and creating a new $75 million Emergency Food Assistance Contingency Fund.
  3. Provides a total of $47.8 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, a decrease of six percent from the 2012 enacted level, due to lower Overseas Contingency Operations activity. 
  4.  It also offers the shipping industry a $25 million subsidy to offset loss from decreased use for food aid shipment.

We have proposed a better food aid program and the President clearly took notice. His extensive plan takes money and invests it into successful food programs. Administrator for USAID, Dr. Rajiv Shah, also supports this program. Secretary of State John Kerry joins in bi-partisan support of the change.

Emiliana Aligaesha
Oxfam estimates that this reform will reach upwards of 17 million more people. Programs like this place cash directly into hands of people in need. We know that it works. Take the case study of Emiliana Aligaesha that provides evidence for success of these programs. Ms. Aligaesha found herself a widow and mother of eight children. Her salary as a teacher could not support all of her children for the basics of food, water, and education. Teaching herself how to farm, she joined several farmers in her community to create the Kaderes Peasants development. The coffee they produce and beans, maize and bananas they grew and harvested serve as a means for USAID and the World Food Programme to buy and distribute. This process supports her agricultural business to take care of her family. She has power to control her destiny and welfare supported by effective food aid assistance.  

Bold effective poverty-focused food aid reform is what we need. It opens further discussion for addressing issues with hunger, poverty and injustice. The program of food aid is absolutely American in principle. It only utilizes approximately 0.55% of the U.S. GDP. By saving more lives, this program strengthens the value of every cent of taxpayer money. After the twenty nine action corps leaders took to lobby in Washington D.C., progress to pass effective food aid reform remains uncertain. We need your help to lobby, write, and show support for effective food aid reform. 

Take a moment to write a post card or letter to your Senators and your district's representatives today! Below is a sample letter.

Dear (Insert respective Congressional Representative name),

My name is (insert name), a constituent from (insert city). I work as a (insert occupation and/or role in community). I am also a supporter of Oxfam America (option to insert number of years you have been involved with the Action Corps).

I am writing to urge the you to support the food aid reform proposed in the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2014. Specifically, I am asking to support shifting the Food for Peace program and 302b allocation from the Agriculture budget to the State and Foreign Operations budget. This is key to reform because it will ensure the US government has the flexibility it needs to provide life saving emergency food assistance where it is most in the fastest and most cost effective way.

Food Aid reform has bipartisan support – and it will mean that life-saving food aid reaches two to four million additional people every year at no additional cost to taxpayers.

My address is listed here. I appreciate the (Senator/Representative) informing me how s/he plans to stand on this issue. We look forward to hearing from the office.

Thank you for your time. For more information please feel free to contact our Oxfam Action Corps Representatives at

Best Regards,

Want to add a two-page informational brochure with your letter? Please email us and we can send you the document. It takes a matter of 15 minutes to write a letter and make your voice heard. Together, we can make effective poverty-focused developmental assistance a reality. 

Thank you in advance.

-Megan Nakra 

This article was reposted from here:

Event Thursday 5/30: Women Report from Abroad: Personal Stories of Foreign Aid Success

Please join Dining for Women and Oxfam America for an evening of inspiring accounts by women working in developing countries, exploring the impact of U.S. foreign aid on women and girls.
Hear from Emiliana Aligaesha
Farmer, Karagwe district, Kagera region, Tanzania

Emiliana Aligaehsa, Farmer, Tanzania
Emiliana Aligaehsa, Farmer, Tanzania
Emiliana Aligaesha is a coffee, banana, bean, and maize farmer and livestock keeper in Karagwe district, Kagera region in the northern part of Tanzania. Emiliana began her career as a schoolteacher, but when her husband died in 1992 she found that her salary was not enough to reach the educational goals for her children. 
 Emiliana taught herself how to farm and in 2007 she joined with other farmers in her community to form Kaderes Peasant Development Ltd., a private company that sells coffee and beans. Emiliana and her fellow farmers received support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to find better prices and customers for their products. 
Emiliana now exports coffee around the world and the World Food Program has bought her beans to use in emergency food aid programs in neighboring countries. Through her determination, and by leveraging a tiny investment of U.S. foreign aid, Emiliana has become a successful farmer and businesswoman. In 2012, Emiliana was the first runner up in Oxfam's Female Food Hero contest in Tanzania, which highlights the achievements of small-scale women food producers. As a former teacher, Emiliana's proudest accomplishment is that all eight of her children have been put through college as a result of her hard work.

Thursday, May 30, 2013
6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Community Resource Exchange (CRE)
Conference Center
42 Broadway
20th Floor
New York, NY 10004

Important: RSVP required to enter building. RSVP here by May 29th.

Light snacks and beverages will be served.

Ghanaian Fair Trade Farmers in NYC

Photo by Nikko Viquiera
On May 2nd, Oxfam Action Corps NYC members had the opportunity to meet with Fair Trade Ghanaian farmers, from Kuapa Kokoo, an entirely farmer owned cocoa growing cooperative. The event was an enlightening experience detailing how various components of the emerging global food justice campaign piece together to create and enable the quintessential example of a thriving and prospering food system that is performing at its very peak.

From modest beginnings in 1993 with a membership of 200 farmers, Kuapa Kokoo has rapidly grown into a national cooperative which now represents nearly 63,000 farmers, a third of whom are women. Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union objectives include empowering small-scale cocoa producers, enhancing female participation in the decision-making process and encouraging environmentally sustainable production practices. All three of the organizations in attendance - Oxfam, Divine Chocolate and Slow Food USA are working towards these common goals. Oxfam America encompasses these objectives within the GROW campaign as well as the newer Behind the Brands Campaign.

Divine Chocolate markets chocolate products made from Kuapa Kokoo cocoa. Kuapa Kokoo owns a 45% share in Divine Chocolate, has two elected representatives on the board, receives a share of company profits and contributes to manufacturing as well as marketing decisions. Slow Food USA is part of a global grassroots organization that stresses the importance of food choices as well as the origin of food consumed and generally raising awareness in crucial aspects of the food justice movement.

It was a breath of fresh air to be able to meet and hear the stories of the smallholder farmer firsthand from Kuapa Kokoo farmers, Christiana Adusei and Kwesi Boateng. This event, which was free of charge and open to all was perhaps one of the most insightful and inspiring food justice events held in the history of Oxfam America’s GROW campaign.

Discussions of diverse panelists (Christiana Adusei and Kwesi Boateng of Kuapa Kokoo, Amanda White of Divine Chocolate, Will Fenton of Oxfam America, Tim Gore of Oxfam International as well as Richard McCarthy of Slow Food USA) representing West Africa, the United States and Europe were thorough and comprehensive while also allowing ample time for any questions raised and further discussion. Despite an audience composed of Oxfam Action Corps NYC members, donors, Slow Food supporters and Divine Chocolate fans, the event supplied knowledge even to the most learned food justice devotees within the audience, and further highlighted little known yet common issues by providing the complete story from start to end and addressing any thoughts raised.

The conversation raised intriguing points and engaging conversation including the fact that cocoa farmers do not eat chocolate as it is far more of a cultural indulgence in the developed world than anywhere else. At the same time, many of us in the Western world have never seen a cocoa tree in the wild. Thus, the concerning dilemma of food miles creating environmental impact, resulting in consumers becoming further detached from the food they consume appeared to be far from ideal.

Photo by Nikko Viquiera
Subsequently, the discussion that followed clarified the reason this combination of West African farmers supplying the US and Europe with chocolate ultimately makes perfect sense, both in terms of resources and long term sustainability, due to the fact that the economic power lies not in the humble cocoa bean but in the finished product - a bar of chocolate. Together, Kuapa Kokoo and Divine have created a viable way of producing a flourishing trade in sustainable chocolate, thereby simultaneously satisfying the needs of both West African farmers as well as Western consumers of chocolate. Thus, West African farmers who make their living from cocoa but do not in fact eat chocolate and ship their harvest abroad, are engaging in a mutually beneficial relationship. This practice has enabled farmers to become established in their trade and self sufficient. Furthermore, it has given decision-making power to the smallholder farmer. This success story was further confirmed by the reply to another question, wherein, it was confirmed by Christiana and Afriyie that all the cocoa grown by their co-operative gets sold.

However, during the discussion it emerged that a large percentage of Kuapa’s cocoa is not sold to Divine Chocolate because at this time there is not yet a high enough demand for Divine Chocolate products. Fair Trade makes up only a portion of Kuapa Kokoo’s total sales. The bulk of the remaining cocoa is sold at fluctuating market prices instead of a guaranteed minimum price.

Some of the remainder cocoa is sold to companies such as Cadbury’s, which sell some Fair Trade chocolate brands as well. Cadbury’s, owned by Mondelez is one of the brands that was the subject of focus of Oxfam’s recent ‘Behind the Brands’ campaign. Mondelez has recently responded to the mounting consumer pressure from over 100,000 petition signatures collected and presented by Oxfam supporters and have agreed to take steps accordingly. Steps to be taken by Mondelez include publishing data from first stage impact assessments of their policies in a year’s time and then publishing concrete action plans to address those issues. Mondelez will also sign on to the UN's Women Empowerment Principles. This will further ensure that the cocoa from Kuapa Kokoo is tackling poverty, hunger and unequal pay which plagues so many and is impacting women farmers like Christiana who will benefit from this change in policy.

Another highlight of the discussion included the topic of Fair Trade products. Buying Divine chocolate will help the farmers of Kuapa Kokoo and purchasing Fair Trade products in general will support small scale farmers around the world. Additionally, another question raised the mistaken assumption that Fair Trade labels only comprise of luxury products such as chocolate, tea or coffee and not staples. This was confirmed to be incorrect during the discussion. It should be noted that staples such as rice, flour, beans, legumes, fruit such as bananas, mangos and pineapples, olive oil, palm oil, cotton as well as more luxury products, such as honey and sugar are all readily available as certified Fair Trade. Additionally, investing in Fair Trade will enable us to repair our broken food system and can act as a lasting legacy in building a generation of self-sufficient, smallholder women farmers.

Posted by: Shireen Alam

A Special Event: Panel Discussion with Ghanaian Cocoa Famers

On Thursday, May 2, 2013, please join Oxfam America's GROW Campaign, Slow Food USA and Divine Chocolate for a special event.

The Tibet House
22 West 15th Street
New York, NY 10011

at 7:30 PM

Ms. Christiana Adusei
Photo credit: Sophi Tranchell
You're invited to attend a special event with two Ghanaian cocoa farmers, Mr. Kwesi Boateng Afriyie and Ms. Christiana Adusei, who will take part in a panel discussion. During the panel, Mr. Afriyie and Ms. Aduseiwill describe their relationship with Divine Chocolate, share personal stories as farmers growing cocoa and participating in a fair trade cooperative (Kuapa), and talk about their hopes for agriculture and the challenges for the next generation of farmers.

The event will be an opportunity to learn about the experiences of the different partners working towards the same goals of prioritizing small-scale and women farmers, and encouraging participatory co-ownership, democratic decision making and shared wealth. It will also provide insights into the functioning of the Kuapa cooperative, which markets around 70% of the world's fair trade chocolate.

This event is free and open to Oxfam supporters like you. Space is limited, so please RSVP to Will Fenton at

Lobbying for Food Aid reform

Sarah Hwang, Jill Mizell, and Elizabeth Norman attended a great Oxfam Action Corps training in April in Washington, DC. Twenty-eight new Action Corps leaders from fourteen cities around the country, including Austin, Madison, and Seattle, joined Oxfam staff and current organizers for the training. Highlights included a panel with former organizers, a talk by Martha Kwataine from the Malawi Health Equity Network about how her group is effectively using foreign aid and a presentation by Jim French, a farmer in the Midwest, about seeing the impact of Oxfam’s work on farmers in Africa. We also met a lot of great Oxfam staff and Sisters on the Planet ambassadors.

Our day of lobbying members of Congress and their staff about supporting poverty-reducing foreign aid in President Obama’s budget proposal was a real highlight. We met with Congresswoman Nita Lowey and staff from Senator Gillibrand and Senator Schumer and staff from Representative Eliot Engel, Representative Carolyn Maloney, and Representative Nydia Velazquez. We asked everyone to support the President’s food aid proposal which requires 45 percent of food aid to be purchased in local and regional markets. Full food aid reform could save up to 17 million more lives at no additional cost! We heard concerns about the impact on U.S. farmers and the shipping industry. We encouraged our New York members to consider the fact that food aid represents only 1 percent of U.S. agricultural exports, which means that there would not be a big impact on these industries. We were especially happy to hear about how Representatives Engel and Lowey are championing the proposal and to confirm support from other New York members. It was also fun to be on Capitol Hill - we ran into Senator Al Franken in the hallway and got directions from “Gang of Eight” Senator Tom Coburn.

Overall, both our training and lobbying helped highlight the impact of Oxfam and the Action Corps. Congressional staff definitely took note of the number of Oxfam supporters in their districts and the numbers of petitions signed and delivered. We also received a lot of encouragement for how active the New York City Action Corps has been. It was a fabulous training, and we look forward to sharing a lot of the information at our upcoming retreat.

To learn more about food aid reform, see

Congresswoman (and Food Aid reform champ!) Nita Lowey with Oxfam Action Corps members & staff

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Super Bowl Helmets Bloomingdales

Snowy Day

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Grand Central Photo Mashup

These are two photos merged together from a shop and Grand Central. Let me know if you like this sort of mashup.

New York Public Library

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
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Bulgari Snake

"When a woman teams up with a snake. A moral storm threatens somewhere."
Stacy Schiff

Still Christmas in Brooklyn

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Luzzo's Pizzeria New York

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Hint: upside down table and chair on the ceiling 

Radio City Music Hall

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Grand Central Station

"Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving." Terry Prachett

Bloomberg Headquarters in Panorama

"Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind..."Calvin Coolidge

National Academy Art Opening

“A picture is a poem without words”

Open 24 Hours in NYC H & H Bagels

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Bagel history dates back to 1783, according to popular belief. They were created to honor King John III Sobieski of Poland, after he protected Austria's people from an attack by Turkish invaders.
Rumor has it a local Austrian baker created the bagel in the shape of a stirrup to honor the renowned horseman, and named it a "beugel" (the Austrian word for stirrup). The beugel quickly gained popularity throughout Eastern Europe, and, as it did so, the bagel evolved into a circular shape with a hole in the middle, as it appears today.

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