Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Swedish Soccer Player Spreads Word About Hunger

By Jennifer Gonzalez

It’s not usual to see a soccer player covered in tattoos. But what about covering your body with the names of 50 people you don’t know?

May sound extreme, but that’s exactly what Swedish soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimović did as part of the 805 Million Names campaign promoting the World Food Program. Ibrahimović, born to a Bosnian father and a Croatian mother, both of whom emigrated to Sweden, revealed the tattoos during a Valentine’s Day match between Paris Saint-German and Caen at Parc des Princes.

The campaign’s aim is to show the world that millions of people are going hungry. The names adorned on the soccer player are all people living with hunger.

At Bread for the World, we know the importance of ending hunger – it’s our life’s work. Today, there are 805 million chronically undernourished people around the world, according to a new policy briefing paper by Bread for the World Institute.

This is unacceptable. The briefing paper provides a roadmap to ending global hunger. The U.S. government’s primary contribution to improving global food security is through the Feed the Future Initiative.

The initiative improves the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, strengthens maternal and child nutrition, and builds capacity for long-term agricultural growth. In fact, seven million small farmers grew more crops and provided nutritious food to 12.5 million children in 2013 alone under the program.

Traditionally, the program has been funded by Congress through annual spending legislation. Last year marked the first time Congress introduced legislation to authorize the program, which has been a long-standing Bread priority.

Unfortunately, the legislation did not pass and the future of this program remains in the balance without official statutory approval by Congress. Congressional champions have indicated a commitment to introduce and pass legislation in 2015.

Bread will continue to work hard to make sure that Feed the Future becomes law in 2015. Continue to read Bread Blog throughout the year for the latest information on how you can help. Learn more: Feed the Future.

 Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:47-48


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

While Jesus was still speaking, a crowd approached him and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:47-48)

There could almost be a warning at this point in Luke’s Gospel: The following contains material that may be offensive to some – scandalous behavior by disciples . . . graphic violence . . . abusive language . . . a brutal execution. Some may wish to consider this before continuing.

Luke himself had a hard time with this material. For example, the Judas kiss. It’s embedded in the Christian memory. But read the passage again. Luke says that Judas “went up to Jesus to kiss him.” That’s enough. No need to keep looking when the kiss takes place. Compare this to Mark, who says: Judas went over to Jesus and said, “Rabbi.” And he kissed him.

We all have a hard time when there is bad news about our Church – failure, sin, public scandal. What should we do? Suppress it? Deny it?

I can learn from Luke who struggled with this but told the truth. Best to put it on the table, learn from it, and recognize that at all levels we are and always have been an imperfect Church. We are, each of us, all of us, saint and sinner.

I talk to Jesus a lot about myself. I ought also to talk to him about our Church. Actually, it’s his Church. I wonder what Jesus has to say to me about it?

Hunger in the News: Child Poverty Rates, Food Stamps, Criminal Justice Reform, and Child Hunger

BlogphotoA regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

Child hunger continues despite Obama's pledge,” by David Sarasohn, (Opinion) The Oregonian. “In 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama made a pledge: The United States would solve its problem of child hunger by 2015. It was a major and fitting commitment to deal with a problem that's not only painful and unfair but undermines billions in federal spending on education and health care. But sooner than we might have expected, 2015 is here. And so, still, is child hunger.”

It’s time for Congress to be bold on criminal justice reform,” by Jessica Eaglin and Nicole Austin Hillery, MSNBC. “The word is out: Congress is finally moving forward on criminal justice reform. That’s great news. After decades in which Congress piled punishment upon punishment, now there’s a bipartisan consensus – plus bills – to do something about mass incarceration.”

Looking at Today's Child Poverty Rates: Are We Using the Right Measure?” by Patrick McCarthy, The Huffington Post. “There's an old bumper sticker still out that that started with President Reagan, who concluded, "We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won." Although the quote gained some traction last year -- the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty -- new evidence is disproving the clichés that government doesn't work, and public policy doesn't matter when it comes to creating opportunity.”

Who Gets Food Stamps? White People, Mostly,” by The Huffington Post. “Gene Alday, a Republican member of the Mississippi state legislature, apologized last week for telling a reporter that all the African-Americans in his hometown of Walls, Mississippi, are unemployed and on food stamps.”

Viola Davis tells of childhood marked by hunger,” by Kathy Lynn Gray, The Columbus Dispatch. “’Take me away from here,’ the 9-year-old girl begged God as she tried to shut out the scene before her. It was 2 a.m. in Central Falls, R.I., and her drunken father was trying to break her mother’s legs with a slab of wood outside their rat-infested apartment. ‘I’ll count to 10 and I want to be gone,’ she said as she knelt on the floor, screaming and sobbing. Award-winning actress Viola Davis didn’t get her wish that dark day in the early 1970s, and she lives each day with painful memories of that childhood, one filled with hunger so strong that she stole and searched through dumpsters for food.”

A national cry for criminal justice reform,” by Katrina vanden Heuvel, (Opinion) The Washington Post. “On the heels of the Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin tragedies — and in light of more recent injustices like the fatal shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, an unarmed Mexican national whom Pasco, Wash., police officers saw fit to shoot multiple times despite his apparent surrender — there’s plenty of reason to despair the sorry state of our criminal justice system and the havoc it wreaks on the lives of too many innocent victims and their families.”

Meet Arthur Brooks, The Republican Party's Poverty Guru,” by Leigh Ann Caldwell, NBC News. “Listen closely and Republicans have begun to talk about poverty, an issue that has largely been dormant for at least two decades in GOP political circles. The intellectual muscle behind Its quiet resurgence is largely attributed to one person: Arthur Brooks. He has the ear of every potential Republican presidential candidate and is trying to change the way the party thinks about poverty and poor people.”

Women's History Month: The Gospel and the Poor


By Bread Staff

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Woman’s Day, Bread Blog, Institute Notes, and Bread for the World’s social media platforms will be celebrating the ingenious, fortitude, and spirit of women during the month of March.

Women like Dorothy Day have been at the forefront in the fight to end hunger. Like Bread for the World members, Day grounded her work in prayer and scripture and felt called to care for the most vulnerable in our society.  Day’s example reminds us that women of faith are helpers and advocates and act as God’s hands in this broken world.

Women are also the primary agents the world relies on to fight hunger. From the mother in Mississippi who struggles to work full-time at minimum wage and still feed her children to the subsistence farmer in Kenya who prays she can sell enough of her produce at market to make it through the dry season, women feed and nourish the world. Lessons from anti-hunger programs carried out in the past decade have made it clear:  women’s empowerment is key to ending hunger worldwide.

On March 8, thousand of events will be held throughout the world as part of annual International Women’s Day observances.  The theme of this year’s celebration is “Make it Happen” for greater awareness of women’s equality.

Women’s equality is also the subject of the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger. The report looks at discrimination as a cause of persistent hunger and makes policy and program recommendations in order to empower women both in the United States and around the world. Increasing women’s earning potential by boosting bargaining power, reducing gender inequality in unpaid work, increasing women’s political representation, and eliminating the wage gap between male and female labor directly contributes to ending hunger.

For more information on the integral role women play in ending hunger and poverty, make sure to read When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger and also visit Bread Blog.


Lent Devotions: Luke 22:45-46


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

When Jesus rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.” (Luke 22:45-46)

(Luke doesn’t like to talk about the failures of the disciples. He excuses their sleep, saying it was “from grief.”)

Twice in the last six verses Jesus tells the disciples to pray that they may not undergo the test. This is the same Greek word Luke used earlier for Jesus’ temptation in the desert, and in the Our Father when Jesus said, “. . . lead us not into temptation.

What is this “test/temptation?” It’s not your run-of-the mill kind. It’s the big one. Is there a God, really? Is evil going to win after all? Am I wasting my time trying to lead a decent life? At death, do I simply dissolve into nothingness?

You can’t go through life without having these kinds of doubts, probably more than once. Jesus faced this question head-on with the devil in the desert, and he’s facing it here in Gethsemane.

It’s a good topic for conversation with the Lord. He was truly human, and had to deal with human thoughts and feelings. It wasn’t always a waltz.

Not that I disbelieve the great truths. It’s just that my belief sometimes has holes in it. When Jesus told the father of the sick boy to have faith, the father replied with words I can make my own: “I do believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:43-44


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

To strengthen Jesus, an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. (Luke 22:43-44)

Artists usually portray Luke’s account of the agony in the garden which says that Jesus is kneeling (Matthew and Mark have him flat on the ground).

Also in Luke, an angel appears. The angel is God’s answer to Jesus’ prayer. And the answer is “no.”

God says, “This cup can’t be taken away, but I will be with you through it all.” This is expressed by the angel at Jesus’ side “to strengthen him.”

It is then that Jesus is in agony. Only Luke uses the word “agony” – the word by which we have come to characterize this whole scene.

“Agony” comes from a Greek word describing the mental and physical tension athletes feel when facing a contest. They may be confident, but one can never be sure of all that will happen.

So the prayer of Jesus now takes a different tone. He knows he will have to face the worst. He prays that he will be able to handle it well. And he begins to sweat profusely.

My prayers are often answered the same way as Jesus’ prayer. The answer is “no” . . . but God says, “I’ll be with you through it all.” I’m grateful for God’s presence, of course, but what I sometimes have to face isn’t easy. It’s agony.

This deserves a heart-to-heart talk. With Jesus. He’s been there.

Join Us: Pray to End Hunger

Prayer at Bread for the World's 2015 National Gathering, Washington, D.C.  Rick Reinhard for Bread for the World.

By Bishop José García

At Bread for the World, we believe that prayer is foundational to achieving Bread’s goal of helping to end hunger and extreme poverty by 2030. Will you join us in asking God to move our government’s officials to enact laws and policies aligned with God’s Kingdom values and to make ending hunger and poverty a major priority by 2017?

When you commit to joining in praying for the end of hunger, we will email you twice a month with specific prayer requests and sample prayers.

Commit-to-prayThe church season of Lent began last week. Some Christians use Lent to live more simply, fast, and pray more fervently in order to grow closer to God. Many give something up or take something on as a new discipline. Adding prayers for the end of hunger is a good foundation for these faith practices.

Philippians 4:6 tells us to “let your requests be made known to God.” Prayer is the vehicle through which we advocate before God. When we call upon God’s promises, the Scripture assures us that our prayers are being heard (Psalms 10:17) and will be answered (Isaiah 58:9).

Join us in this movement to gather 100,000 people praying faithfully for an end to hunger and poverty.

You can make this prayer part of your regular prayer life. Whenever you pray Give us this day our daily bread, include people who are hungry in our country and around the world in your petition.

At Bread for the World, we envision a world by 2030 in which everybody has enough to eat. We need Congress and the president to do their parts, but nothing happens without God. You can invite your friends to pray too. Let us know, and we’ll send you a card that you can share with them.

Bishop José García is the director of church relations at Bread for the World.

World Prayers for March 1-7: Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco, and San Marino

View from Gimmelwald
Picturesque view of Gimmelwald, a tiny, mountaintop village in Switzerland. Stephen H. Padre/Bread for the World.

This is a weekly prayer series that appears each Friday on the Bread Blog.

One aspect of Bread for the World’s new Bread Rising campaign is prayer. The campaign is asking Bread members to pray more, act more, and give more. In this blog series, we will provide a prayer for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.

This prayer series will follow the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, a list compiled by the World Council of Churches that enables Christians around the world to journey in prayer through every region of the world, affirming our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing their challenges and sharing their gifts.

We will especially be lifting up in prayer the challenges related to hunger and poverty that the people of each week’s countries face. In prayer, God’s story and our own story connect—and we and the world are transformed. In a prayer common to all of us—the Lord’s Prayer/the Our Father—we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This line from this prayer can also be a prayer for the end of hunger.

We invite you to join Bread in our prayers for the world’s countries to end hunger. And we encourage you to share with us your prayers for the featured countries of the week or for the end of hunger in general.

For the week of March 1-7: Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco, and San Marino

God of all nations, we thank you for the majestic and tranquil beauty of these countries—for snow-capped mountains and idyllic green valleys. We thank you for the leaders in the Church that Switzerland has produced, both in centuries past and today. Strengthen the work of the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, and other church organizations, the YMCA and YWCA, all with offices in Geneva. We thank you for the witness to peace, diplomacy, and humanitarian work that Switzerland also has provided for decades. We ask you to also strengthen the work of international secular organizations that work in these areas—especially the United Nations and its many agencies and the Red Cross in Geneva. May that city and its residents from around the world continue to foster peace among nations and peoples as they continue to host to formal and informal peace talks. May the annual World Economic Forum that takes place annual in Switzerland remember people around the world who are hungry and poor, and may the people who speak at the event, those who have tremendous power and influence in our world, work more for a world in which the marginalized are at the table.

O Lord, we know that these countries enjoy great wealth but that not everybody enjoys that wealth. We pray for people who struggle with poverty, particularly immigrants, workers in the tourist industry, and expatriates. We pray that governments and private corporations will use this wealth wisely for the benefit of all peoples, both in their own countries and around the world. We pray that the common resources will be used toward the end of hunger and poverty in our world. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Percentage of the population of these countries living below the national poverty rate (below 50 percent of median income):

Austria: 9.0 (2011)
Liechtenstein: Not available
Switzerland: 10.3 (2011)
Andorra: Not available
Monaco: Not available
San Marino: Not available

Source: Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.


Lent Devotions: Luke 22:39-42


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

Then going out, Jesus went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.” After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:39-42)

Jesus had a strong sense of a God-given purpose in his life:

     • Early in his ministry, when asked to stay in Capernaum, he says, “To the other towns also I must (go) . . . because for this purpose I have been sent.”

     • Later, told of Herod’s death threat, he says: “I must continue on my way today, tomorrow, and the following day.”

     • And now, having arrived in Jerusalem and hours away from death, Jesus says to the Father, “. . . not my will but yours be done.”

Perhaps God is nudging me to do something I don’t want to do. From time to time, a certain thought runs through my mind, an inkling to do something (or stop doing something). I shy away from it, slough it off and figure it’s just one of those odd thoughts, daydreams.

But maybe it didn’t come from me. Maybe it came from the Lord. That makes a difference.

Now, early into Lent, I should take a long look at this. If the Lord is nudging me toward something, I ought to do it.


Food Stamp Hearings Begin in House Agriculture Committee


By Robin Stephenson

When U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas, 11) was appointed to the chairmanship of the House Committee on Agriculture last November, he announced he was forming a new subcommittee that would conduct a full-scale review of SNAP (formerly food stamps). The hearings began Wednesday and are expected to continue with no end in sight.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 11.36.30 AM“Today’s hearing marks the beginning of a top-to-bottom review of the program,” began Conaway’s opening statement. “We will conduct this review without preconceived notions and with a commitment to strengthening the program so it can serve as a tool to help individuals move up the economic ladder.“

Policy change that fosters economic mobility is good news. However, many anti-hunger advocates worry the hearings are a veiled attempt to dismantle SNAP, potentially leading to harmful programmatic changes, such as block granting or cutting benefits.

Bread for the World’s policy expert on nutrition, Christine Melendez Ashley, said she is happy to hear Congress is talking about hunger. “Faithful advocates who care about ending hunger need to be paying attention to these hearings,” she said. “The result of such talks must be to help end hunger and not exacerbate it.”

But there is reason to worry given the proposals that were part of last year’s farm bill negotiations. That bill was finally passed last February after three years of bitter debate. To the disappointment of Bread members, it included a devastating $8.6 billion cut to the SNAP program. Thanks to your letters, phone calls, and meetings with members of Congress, the proposed $40 billion in cuts and harmful programmatic changes were not enacted.

Those 2014 farm bill cuts came on the heels of another benefit reduction months earlier. Congress passed the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act with provisions that increased funding for school lunch programs and improved child nutrition programs – but they paid for the improvements by cutting SNAP benefits. In essence, funding for food at the dinner table was siphoned to fund the food at the lunch table. We need to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The child nutrition bill is up for reauthorization again this year and the focus of Bread’s 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children.

During yesterday’s inaugural hearing, the connection between child hunger and SNAP came up in several comments. U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga., 13)  noted that 45.3 percent of all of those who are on SNAP are children – 1 in out 5 live in households that are food insecure.

SNAP, which provides a modest $1.40 per person per meal for those who qualify, is a critical part of our nation’s safety net. During the Great Recession, millions of families who experienced hardship depended on the program. As the economy recovers, SNAP caseloads are dropping – participation rates have dropped by 1.5 million over the last 18 months.

Hearings like these matter because they help us understand what Congress is prioritizing and give the public an opportunity to react before policy changes are made. SNAP and the child nutrition programs are both vital pieces of the safety net that feed our children. Faithful advocates need to make sure Congress is paying attention to both the dinner and lunch table - especially when it comes to our nation’s children.

Act Today: Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress. Tell Congress to prioritize children at risk of hunger and invest in strong child nutrition programs.

Read Bread for the World’s latest resource:  Get the Facts About SNAP.

Photo: screenshot of U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway convening nutrition hearings, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015.  Hearings dates and times are posted on the committee’s website.


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