Category Archives: Books

Interview with Dr. Jennifer Morris on her book ‘The Origins of UNICEF’

All over the globe UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Agency, is working to lift children out of desperation and poverty. At this very moment UNICEF is on the frontlines of today’s largest humanitarian emergencies, aiding children in war-torn Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and South Sudan.

The origins of UNICEF go all the way back to the World War II era. Dr Jennifer Morris, a professor at Mount St. Joseph University (MSJU), takes us inside this history in her new book The Origins of UNICEF.

In the following interview Dr. Morris talks about how she developed this work on the history of this famous humanitarian organization.

Read the interview at Cincinnati.com

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Henry and the Hidden Veggie Garden by Kimberly Williams-Paisley

Henry and the Hidden Veggie Garden published by Silverback Books

Henry and the Hidden Veggie Garden published by Silverback Books

With spring and summer comes “yummy” vegetables at stores and many roadside stands. As the book Henry and the Hidden Veggie Garden reminds us, it might take something special to get children to welcome this nutritious food into their diet.

The story, written by actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley and her father Gurney Williams III, features a child named Henry who lives in the city.

Henry enjoys video games, playing, riding his bike and pizza. Vegetables not so much. Even if they come with his pizza, Henry gets rid of them. His parents want him to eat these veggies. They keep encouraging him to try them, but realize it might take something more to make this happen.

Henry’s mother comes up with the idea of sending him to his Aunt Sally’s home for the weekend. Aunt Sally lives far away from the city on a farm. Henry is not thrilled with the idea. Soon he is on his way to Aunt Sally’s to spend time with the family, including cousin Huck who is close to his age.

From the world of the inner city to the farm is a huge adjustment for Henry. It’s an eye opener and the discovery of a secret veggie garden is a life-changer for him.

The book is wonderfully illustrated with farm scenes and animals by Henri Goldsmann. This book is also part of a nationwide campaign started by Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing called “Love your Veggies.”

Grants have been issued to over 80 schools via the program so they can start veggie bars and educational programs about nutrition. These healthy foods become an integral part of fighting child hunger.

According to Feeding America nearly 17 million children suffer from hunger nationwide. They need school lunch and breakfast programs. With summer coming they need feeding programs to fill the gap with schools closed. When veggies are a part of this it makes children healthier and better able to learn and grow.

Henry and the Hidden Veggie Garden is a great children’s story, but one also touching upon a very critical issue in America; ending child hunger through healthy eating.

Article first published as Book Review: Henry and the Hidden Veggie Garden by Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Gurney Williams III on Blogcritics.

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The Candy Bombers is More Than A History Lesson

Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, left, and Mike Rhodes, greet retired Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen, right, prior to the dedication of the Defense Humanitarian Relief Corridor in the Pentagon, May 19, 2009. During the Berlin Airlift, Halvorsen earned the nickname "Candy Bomber" for his dropping candy-laden parachutes from his aircraft to Berlin children. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Molly A. Burgess

Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, left, and Mike Rhodes, greet retired Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen, right, prior to the dedication of the Defense Humanitarian Relief Corridor in the Pentagon, May 19, 2009. During the Berlin Airlift, Halvorsen earned the nickname “Candy Bomber” for his dropping candy-laden parachutes from his aircraft to Berlin children. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Molly A. Burgess

At at time when budget cuts by Congress threaten aid to the needy overseas, The Candy Bombers brings history to life while offering lessons for the present. By Andrei Cherny, it tells the story of the Berlin Airlift of 1948, during the early years of the Cold War. After the guns of World War II fell silent Germany lay in ruins and was occupied by the Allies and Soviet Russia. The capital city of Berlin rested deep inside the Soviet-held area of Germany.

In June, 1948, the Soviets cut off ground access to Berlin, which meant no supplies could get in. What would America do? Using force to get the supplies in meant the threat of World War III. A retreat from Berlin, and allowing the Soviets to take over, would be a disaster.

Instead America chose to airlift supplies into the city. The book tells about how this plan came into action and how it saved Berlin from starvation. It also tells a tale of what the Berlin Airlift meant to children who received magical air drops filled with candy from American planes.

German children who were terrified of American planes during the war now celebrated them. A letter from one child read: “Suddenly we saw about ten white parachutes coming out of the sky! One of them set down at the roof of our house. There were three stripes chocolate in the parachute. My sister, mother, and grandma were very glad about the chocolate too! I want to thank you for your love to the German kids.”

The book is not just about telling the history of major event of the Cold War. It reminds people to apply past to present, at a time when we need some guidance and leadership. The introduction of the book tells about how when the 9/11 disaster struck there was such sadness and outpouring of support for America coming from Berlin. They remembered when America came to their aid after the war. As one woman, who was a child during the Berlin Airlift, said, ” I love Americans.”

America sent food, CARE packages, school meals, reconstruction projects through the Marshall Plan all along months of Berlin Airlift supplies. These acts saved Germany, changed the world and remind us that peace is obtained through reaching out a helping and caring and giving hope.

Article first published as The Candy Bombers Is More Than a History Lesson on Blogcritics.

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McGovern’s The Third Freedom Essential Reading as Congress Debates Food Aid

George McGovern, author of the Third Freedom, was named the United Nations World Food Programme's first global ambassador against hunger. (WFP photo)

Former Democratic senator George McGovern’s The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time highlights ways Congress can work to fight malnutrition at home and abroad, and why it’s so important we win this struggle against hunger.

His book takes on special meaning right now as Congress is proposing reductions in funding to food aid programs both here and abroad.

McGovern, who ran for President in 1972, was the Food for Peace director under President  Kennedy. This program sends U.S. food overseas to fight hunger and build stability.

McGovern also has a long track record helping feed the hungry in the United States. In a Friends of the World Food Program teleconference, the question was once posed to him: why fight hunger abroad when there are hungry people here? His reply was: Why not do both? Fight hunger whether it’s in the US or overseas.

In The Third Freedom he talks about the Food for Peace program which was supported by both President Dwight Eisenhower (a Republican) and then Democratic President John F. Kennedy. Since then, it has been the main weapon of the U.S. against world hunger.

Food for Peace though is currently at risk of significant budget cuts by Congress, despite the fact that there are tremendous hunger crisis points such as famine in East Africa, drought ravaging Afghanistan, and nations like Haiti who need food to bolster reconstruction.

The charity Save the Children says the House of Representatives is proposing $1.04 billion for Food Peace in the upcoming FY 2012 budget, a significant dropoff from this year’s funding level of nearly $1.5 billion.

One of the key bipartisan initiatives discussed by McGovern in the book is the McGovern-Dole global school meals program. Along with Republican Senator Robert Dole, McGovern developed this initiative.

McGovern-Dole funds school meal projects in developing countries. The UN World Food Programme, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and other charities provide meals using McGovern-Dole funds. This program is among those at risk in current budget discussions in the Congress.

McGovern also writes about bipartisan congressional committees, which helped improve the U.S. domestic school lunch program. Today’s representatives need to keep up the fight to ensure needy children in the U.S. can access food. For instance, school lunch and summer feeding program enhancements made by McGovern and his colleagues in the Congress need to be followed through by the current representatives.

The bipartisan cooperation that McGovern writes about is especially critical as hunger rates in the U.S. are rising. Vicki Escarra, President of Feeding America says: “The need for food assistance has increased dramatically during the prolonged and severe recession. Hunger hits every state and county in America, with one in six people facing food insecurity… strong federal nutrition assistance programs will continue to be essential.”

Funding for domestic and overseas food aid is very much on the line currently in Congress. McGovern’s book offers hope in this difficult period by reviewing past achievements in the struggle to end hunger. At the same time, he is looking forward to what should be done next to defeat man’s ancient enemy

Originally published as McGovern’s The Third Freedom: Ending Hunger in Our Time is Essential Reading as Congress Debates Food Aid at Blogcritics Magazine

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Interview with Christine Grote, Author of Dancing in Heaven

When Christine Grote returned to school at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio, she began the journey of an emerging writer. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English 2007 and even started up a literary magazine for the college.

Her writings began to get published by magazines and newspapers, including St. Anthony Messenger , RED Webzine , and the Cincinnati Enquirer . Her journey as a writer would also take her down another path: That of an author.

Christine just wrote and published a memoir about her sister Annie, who passed away in 2009. Dancing in Heaven takes you inside Christine’s family and their life with Annie, who was disabled from birth.

In the following interview, Christine talks about Dancing in Heaven and also the process of publishing this inspirational memoir.

Tell about when the inspiration came to you to write a book about your sister’s life.

I’ve always known I would eventually write a story about Annie. This particular story began as a short story in collage form about Annie’s life for a creative writing class I was taking at the College of Mount St. Joseph in 2005, several years before Annie died. Although my teacher encouraged me to pursue the story by polishing it and seeking publication, I put it away. When Annie died in August of 2009, I felt compelled to tell her story. So I combined my short story with notes, journal entries, and e-mails from Annie’s last days. I filled in with more stories and drafted Dancing in Heaven.

What challenges did you face in the journey from an inspired idea to a ready-to-publish manuscript?

The first challenge was determining what to include and what to cut. I do a lot of revising, and make a fairly big mess of it in the process by at times physically cutting printed pages and taping things back together in a different arrangement. I felt the most challenged by, or least secure in, the final editing as a self-publishing author. No one has your back, so you have all the responsibility of making sure the final product is clean and correct.

What led you to start your own publishing company as opposed to sending your book to a traditional publisher?

Originally I intended to seek traditional publication. I bought books about getting an agent, writing a book proposal, and getting published. I sent out a single query letter to a recommended agent. I never heard anything back. Not even a simple, “I got your query and I’m not interested.” Agents don’t even have time for that much.

Meanwhile I was reading about self-publishing online. I liked the fact that I would keep control of the final product, including the title. I liked the fact that I wouldn’t have to wait what could be four or more years to find an agent. I wanted Annie’s story out there so I could move on with my life. I am not a very patient person. I did not want to have to rely on my query letter in a stack of thousands, making it into the right individual’s hands at the right time. It’s a good story. I wanted to tell it. I took a self-publishing workshop from Writer’s Digest University online and saw that I could do it.

What advice would you give other people inspired to write a book? Would you ever teach a seminar on publishing a book?

I think anyone inspired to write a book, or pursue any other creative outlet, owes it to themselves, not to “try,” but to do it. I read somewhere there are no “aspiring” writers, only writers. We only get one chance at this life, and the years go quickly.

I don’t have any plans to teach a seminar, and don’t really feel qualified to do it. But I am more than happy to answer individuals’ questions or help others in any way I can.

Where can people get a copy or more information about Dancing In Heaven?

You can read a brief summary, a few excerpts, and what others are saying about the book at the Dancing in Heaven page on my blog. Dancing in Heaven is available in print and for the Kindle at Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble online in print (they actually have it discounted 10%) and for the Nook . It is also available in other ebook formats from Smashwords .

I love to hear comments or answer questions from individuals who have read Dancing in Heaven. They can do that on the page at my blog.

View the original article on blogcritics.org

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Friendship Trains, Global Hunger and Plumpy’nut

Baby Food for the Friendship Train in 1947.

A group of Army personnel went on a special mission in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio in the fall of 1947. This group of soldiers was helping to load boxes of baby food onto a truck. The following day a train was to roll into Cincinnati to pick up the food. Its destination: Europe.

World War II was over, but the peace was not yet won. Millions of people in the war-devastated countries were suffering from food shortages. Harsh winters and drought had followed the war. Reconstruction still had a way to go. Children were at severe risk of stunted growth if they could not get the right nutrients.

Americans took action. The Friendship Train, as it was called, went from coast to coast picking up food like the baby formula. One of the great achievements in American history was helping to rebuild Europe after World War II, and the Friendship Train was part of this.

The world scene now is no different, in the sense that food is needed to win the peace. If children are hungry, action has to be taken.

What better way to do so than a Friendship Train of plumpy’nut heading toward the areas of suffering and conflict around the globe? Plumpy’nut is the special peanut paste that rescues children from life-threatening malnutrition. The key is to get plumpy’nut to every child at risk from malnutrition so they can be saved.

Low funding and lack of political will are often what prevents this. While there are many great efforts ongoing among the public to raise funds and promote plumpy’nut, getting all the political leaders on board is essential. It has to be a team effort, as Josette Sheeran, the World Food Programme’s director, often points out.

A Friendship Train of plumpy’nut today could rescue every malnourished child whether it’s in East Africa, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yemen, Afghanistan, Guatemala, or any of the other suffering countries. It’s critical to reach the children because without nutrition in the first thousand days of life, they suffer lasting physical and mental damage.

It is unacceptable that low funding prevents foods like plumpy’nut from reaching malnourished children. Food aid is relatively inexpensive when it comes to foreign policy spending. Global hunger-fighting programs make up less than one-tenth of one percent of the entire U.S. federal budget.

So let’s get the Friendship Train rolling. All aboard with plumpy’nut. Save lives and help an entire generation of children to be healthy and strong enough to overcome the challenges their country may face.

Article first published as Friendship Trains, Global Hunger and Plumpy’nut on Blogcritics.

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Filed under advocacy, Books, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, Europe, global hunger, History, malnutrition, plumpy'nut, School feeding, World Food Programme, World War II

College Class Takes on Hunger and Poverty at Home and Abroad

The College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio (College of Mount St. Joseph photo)

This week I spoke to the College of Mount St. Joseph’s (MSJ) UN Millennium Development Goals class. The MSJ class just returned from a trip to the United Nations in New York where they met with UN delegates. The students aim to take action on ending hunger and poverty, achieving universal education for children, and working on other development goals.

The class runs for the fall semester. Professor Elizabeth Barkley says, “Through their Service Learning with local agencies, students begin to make an impact in their world and realize that, although problems can seem overwhelming and unsolvable, young people can still make a difference.”

At the class I discussed ways you can take action to support the Millennium Development goals. One of the easiest ways is playing a game called Free Rice . In fact, MSJ has its own team . Playing Free Rice, you answer vocabulary questions and other subjects. For each correct answer 10 grains of rice are donated to the UN World Food Programme to fight hunger. The rice is paid for by advertisers on the site.

Currently, Free Rice is supporting school feeding in Cambodia. Earlier this year Free Rice proceeds supported school feeding in Haiti.

What better way to support the Millennium Development goals than through school feeding? The meal at school fights child hunger and malnutrition and improves class attendance and performance, giving children an opportunity to escape the poverty trap through an education. In many developing countries, school meals are the only meal children receive the entire day. Free Rice is a quick and easy way to take action and help children get these vital school meals.

Another idea we discussed in the class was advocacy, making your voice heard to your elected officials. Current budget proposals in the Congress threaten achievement of the Millennium Development goals. For instance, Congress is proposing reducing both domestic and international food aid.

One of the programs being threatened is The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) which supports food banks across the U.S. With demand for food banks fast rising, TEFAP takes on even more urgency. However, the program is below last year’s funding levels and Congress is planning more cuts to it in 2012. Unless citizens take action, this vital source of supply for food banks is at risk.

One of the handouts I gave at class was a guide for how to use Twitter and Facebook to take action to contact your representatives on these key issues.

Another area where Congress is proposing cuts is to the U.S. Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole programs. These are two major global hunger-fighting initiatives sponsored by the United States. If funding is reduced, it is a major blow in the struggle to fight hunger and poverty around the world. Food for Peace was started back in the Eisenhower administration with the idea of sending U.S. surplus food abroad to help countries fight hunger and build stability.

The McGovern-Dole program supports international school feeding. For just several billion a year, we could provide food for children at school around the world. Contrast that to the 52 billion (at least) price tag for supporting nuclear weapons programs, with the Cold War long in the rear view mirror–something to think about if want to talk social justice and an intelligent search for peace in today’s world.

One of the highlights of the class was our discussion of Plumpy’nut, a vital life-saving nutrient. Ironically, at that very moment on NBC Nightly News, a segment featuring the plumpy’nut producer Edesia was being aired. Edesia and plumpy’nut have been featured In many of my articles over the past year, such as the Silent Guest , and also in the Providence Journal .

I talked about how critical Plumpy’nut is for rescuing children from dangerous malnutrition, and its easy storage and distribution. Plumpy’nut is a key part of the famine relief effort ongoing in East Africa, but is also critical to many other areas.

The problem with plumpy though is that low funding prevents aid agencies like the UN World Food Programme and UNICEF from having enough supply on hand. Therefore, many children needlessly suffer the effects of malnutrition. One of the students pointed out the need for establishing plumpy facilities in many countries. This creates jobs for the people in the country and provides a plumpy supply for faster and cheaper distribution.

I tried to talk the class into having a plumpy’nut mascot appear on campus for an event. Am waiting for word on this. I also learned that there was concern about the MSJ football team’s season. However, the team has compiled an outstanding record over the past decade with a number of conference titles. So history would suggest the team will do well.

And the class will do well also in working toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Professor Jim Bodle says a main purpose of the class is for students “to become aware of how our actions have an impact on the rest of the world.”

And that sums it up in a nutshell. Actions you take today can make a difference. Whether it’s service to a charity in your community, playing Free Rice, writing a representative, or even promoting Plumpy’nut using a mascot, all are ways you can take action to end hunger and poverty.

Article first published as College Class Takes on Hunger and Poverty at Home and Abroad on Blogcritics.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Africa, Books, Catholic Relief Services, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, Edesia, global hunger, Ivory Coast, Kenya, malnutrition, Mercy Corps, Middle East, plumpy'nut, West Africa