Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Bread for the World Letter to U.S. Senate on Smarter Sentencing Act

Photo: Nate, a returning citizen in Ohio, who has been able to overcome the employment barrier, and now works to feed his family. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

Today, Bread for the World President David Beckmann sent the following letter to U.S. senators, asking them to support the Smart Sentencing Act, which would alleviate costly prison overcrowding, reduce excessive sentences for low-level drug offenses, and those resentence cases subjected to mandatory minimum sentencing.

As stated in the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, we cannot end hunger without confronting knottier social issues—and hunger and poverty often result from social exclusion and discrimination. Men and women who have spent time in prison often face difficulty finding jobs and feeding their families—and they are less likely to have access to social safety net programs.

Read the full text of the letter below.

April 24, 2014


Dear Senator:


I urge you to support S. 1410, the Smarter Sentencing Act (SSA), sponsored by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL).  This bipartisan legislation, which will soon see a vote in the Senate, alleviates the costly overcrowding crisis in our prisons. It would reduce excessive sentences for low-level drug offenses and authorize judicial review for possible resentencing of cases sentenced under the old 100 to 1 crack cocaine sentencing disparity. Bread for the World calls on you to vote in favor of the bill and asks you to consider co-sponsoring the SSA. Additionally, we hope you will oppose any additional amendments that harm the bill’s integrity, such ascreating mandatory sentences for other offenses.

As a Christian anti-hunger advocacy organization, we view federal policy through the lens of its impact on hunger and poverty.  Hunger is often a byproduct of social exclusion and discrimination. People who have spent time in prison are more likely to face barriers to work and thus less likely to have the resources to put food on the table. The toll on families and their economic security is significant. Furthermore, outdated, overly punitive, and unnecessarily restrictive drug sentencing disproportionately and unfairly incarcerates people of color for low-level and nonviolent offenses.

Passage of the Smarter Sentencing Act would help restore fairness in our justice system. Since 1980, the federal prison population has increased by an astounding 800 percent even though crime rates are lower. Half of the people in prison are there for a drug offense. Fewer people incarcerated for nonviolent, low-level drug cases would have a marked improvement on hunger in America.

I urge you to support S. 1410, the Smarter Sentencing Act, protect it from additional harmful amendments, and consider co-sponsoring the legislation.




David Beckmann


Immigration Policy: Is Federalism the Answer?

Immigration rally
As immigration reform remains stuck in Congress, local and state proposals are gaining traction, for better or for worse. Here, demonstrators gathered at immigration reform rally held in Los Angeles on Feb. 22, 2014. (Ricardo Moreno)

[This article originally appeared in the National Journal, on April 21.]

By Andrew Wainer and Audrey Singer

For those of us tracking immigration policy, the shift is undeniable. With President Obama recently pointing out just how gridlocked a once-promising bipartisan Senate immigration proposal has become, cities and states have become the new immigration-policy innovators. They are filling the void.

U.S. immigration policy has been the purview of the federal government for more than a century. But it was not always that way. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, individual states had their own immigration laws. States typically sought to regulate immigrant influxes with policies that reflected particular concern about the arrival of poor European newcomers. Now, immigration policy is, in some ways, returning to its roots.

Increasingly, places that want to put out the welcome mat and encourage entrepreneurial activity are sharing ideas. And as a quick federal fix to immigration policy looks like a long shot, local and state proposals are gaining traction.

Continue reading "Immigration Policy: Is Federalism the Answer? " »

Resurrecting Immigration Reform in an Election Year

Gabriel and Jeanette Salguero, pastors at The Lamb’s Church in New York City, spoke at Bread for the World’s 2011 Gathering at American University on Sunday, June 12, 2011. (Rick Reinhard)

“Our broken immigration system is breaking apart families,” Rev. Gabriel Salguero told listeners during the April 15 national grassroots conference call and webinar.

Rev. Salguero stressed that it is urgent that the House of Representatives take up–and pass–immigration reform this year. Salguero, a leading voice in the call to reform U.S. immigration policy, is president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC). 

Bread for the World believes immigration reform will reduce hunger and poverty. We ask Bread advocates to urge their representatives to pass legislation this year. The Senate has already passed a bill, but legislation continues to stall in the House.

“Inaction is not an option,” Rev. Salguero told advocates. Outdated immigration policy leaves millions of undocumented people in the shadows, where hunger and poverty persists. Roughly a third of the estimated 11 to 12 million people living and working in the United States without documentation live below the poverty line. Deportations rip families apart. DREAMers–the 1.8 million young people brought to the United States as children–live in fear of being banished from the country that is their home.

Addressing the likelihood of moving an immigration bill during an election year, Salguero noted that the last time immigration legislation passed, there were midterm elections.  However, advocates must build the momentum for action.  “We use leverage at the local level – such as town hall meetings,” said Salguero, “Tell Congress the faith community wants a vote.”

When Congress returns from the Easter recess next week, there are several urgent issues that need attention in order for progress to be made in the exodus from hunger: budget appropriations, an unemployment extension, a minimum wage bill, food-aid reform, and immigration reform should all be given high priority by leadership. 

In June, immigration reform will take center stage at this year’s National Gathering. Presenters include Rev. Salguero and immigration-rights leader Gaby Pacheco. Attendees to the Washington D.C. conference will also spend a day on Capitol Hill telling lawmakers that immigration reform is the moral thing to do and the time to act is now.

A conversation about immigration reform and inaction by Congress so close to Easter had particular poignancy to Rev. Salguero, who told webinar participants, “It is time to resurrect the conversation about immigration reform.”


On the third Tuesday of each month, in an effort to best serve our grassroots and give them a legislative update, the organizing and government relations departments at Bread for the World host a conference call and webinar. The next call will take place on May 13.

What Does Food Insecurity Look Like in Your Community?

A woman serves dinner at a soup kitchen. (Screen shot from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media)

“I just want my kids to be fed," Jaime Grimes of Lincoln, Neb., recently told NBC News. The former teacher and mother of four visits food pantries, grows food in a community garden, and receives food stamps (SNAP); her children participate in a variety of nutrition programs, from school lunches to a backpack program that sends them home with food once a week. Still, it's not enough. 

Although the effects of the Great Recession are fading for some, many families are still struggling to put food on the table. Feeding America's 2014 Map the Meal Gap report, released earlier this week, shows that food insecurity continues to touch every county in the nation, and that children are at especially great risk of experiencing hunger.

According to the report, even in the most food-secure state—which is Nebraska, where Grimes and her children live—more than 1 in 10 children struggles with hunger.

(View the map, and see the food insecurity rate in your state and county.)

“We haven’t really seen increases in food insecurity [since the recession], which is a good thing. The downside of that is there are still way too many food insecure people," said Bread for the World policy analyst Christine Melendez Ashley, in the same NBC News piece.

The Map the Meal Gap report does note that federal nutrition programs and the emergency food system "weave a comprehensive nutrition safety net, reaching food-insecure individuals at different levels of poverty," Still, there is a need to "strengthen anti-hunger programs and policies to ensure food-insecure individuals are eligible and have access to adequate levels of assistance." 

Some key finding from Map the Meal Gap include:

  • 324 counties in the United States are high food-insecurity counties; minorities are disproportionately affected
  • In every state, children are at a higher risk of food insecurity compared to the overall population.
  • Of the counties with food insecurity rates in the highest 10 percent, 51.5 percent were rural, even though rural counties represent only 42.5 percent of all counties in the United States.

What does hunger look like in your community? How many people live below the SNAP threshold? What is the average cost of a meal? Whether you live in Nebraska, with its low rate of food insecurity, or Mississippi—the state with the highest number of people struggling with hunger—viewing the map reminds us of the need to advocate to strengthen our country's safety net and ensure that all are fed.

May's Bread for the Preacher: Out of the Tomb and Into the World

Did you know that each month the church relations department at Bread for the World produces a resource specifically for pastors? Whether you are searching for inspiration for a sermon you're writing, or just a lectionary enthusiast, Bread for the Preacher is for you.

After reading this introduction, explore this month’s readings on the Bread for the Preacher web page, where you can also sign up to have the resource emailed to you each month.

By Rev. Nancy Neal

After the grand celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, we are ready to get down to the business of being the church in the world — of being Christ's body in the world. We see a world that is broken and in need of God's restoring love and grace. The way things are isn't the way they have to be, and guided by God's already-present reign of justice and peace, we have the tools to help us. As followers of Jesus, being church in the world means living as a resurrected people. Renewed and emboldened by the Spirit of Christ, we engage the world around us prayerful, hope-filled, encouraged, inspired, and imaginative about how things can be when infused by God’s saving power.

Rev. Nancy Neal is associate for Denominational Women's Organization Relations at Bread for the World.

Food-Aid Lessons from Mangos in Nicaragua

'Fresh mango' photo (c) 2007, shankar s. - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

By David Gist

My introduction to “food aid” came in the form of mangos, and took place in Nicaragua, where my wife, Wendy, and I spent six years as Presbyterian Church (USA) mission workers. Our yard was filled with mango trees, so every morning we cleaned and bagged the fruit, then went out and looked for children selling newspapers or cleaning car windows at traffic signals and gave them the mangos.

This “mango-distribution system” sounds simple, but it didn’t always go well. Have you ever seen a mango after it’s been in a plastic bag in 95 degree weather with 90 percent humidity? We soon switched from bags to baskets. But one thing was constant—whenever we delivered our “mango food aid,” the oldest child (usually a girl) would come to our car, thank us, call other children to her, distribute the mangos among them (starting with the youngest children), and return the basket. Not once did any child try to hoard them.  Not once did the oldest children eat before serving the youngest.

Our experience delivering mangos reminded us that people in need take care of one another when given a chance. Additionally, while the mangos addressed an immediate need, we knew we had to go deeper to address the problem of hunger. But how do we go deeper? I pondered this question during my years in Nicaragua.

As the time came to leave Nicaragua, I felt myself increasingly conflicted at ending our mission. Were we abandoning God’s call to service? But I said nothing and kept my worries to myself. Our host organization held a worship service to say goodbye to us, and at the close of the service the pastors laid hands on Wendy and me. One leader looked at me and told me he knew I felt broken inside at the prospect of finishing our mission service. He went on to tell us we had it all wrong; we were only now beginning our mission service. The pastors then commissioned us as missionaries from Nicaragua sent to the United States to speak out for all those in the developing world—to go to the seat of power and advocate to bring an end to hunger, poverty, and injustice. And with that blessing, God propelled me to Bread for the World.

Today, in 2014, we have the opportunity to improve food-distribution systems. Smart, simple changes to food-aid programs would allow food aid to benefit millions more people each year—at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. How is this possible? Buying and distributing food in the region where people need it is much cheaper and faster than paying international shipping companies to deliver U.S. food from across the ocean. Local and regional purchasing also supports small farmers in the developing world, and they are the agents who will ultimately bring an end to hunger. Food aid, like a basket of mangos, meets an immediate need, but with reform it can do so much more and go so much further.


Learn more about the 2014 Offering of Letters: Reforming Food Aid, including worship aids and information on how to conduct an Offering of Letters, on our website.

David Gist is a regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.

Lenten Devotions: Go, Tell, and See

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions.

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devosAudio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

'Easter Cross ~ Alleluia ~ 'Praise the Lord'' photo (c) 2013, Sharon - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
Easter Sunday 
April 20, 2014
The following is Pastor Ron Glusenkamp's Easter Sunday sermon, given April 20, 2014 at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. 

"After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.
But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.' This is my message for you."
So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Suddenly Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.
Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me" (Matthew 28).

Grace and peace to you from our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Welcome and thank you for gathering together to celebrate Easter here at Bethany Lutheran Church. It is a holy day, and that's why we say, Christ is risen! "He is Risen, Indeed, Alleluia." Christ's victory over sin, death, and the grave calls for a response. So, in honor of that, and also because this message is too big for one preacher to carry by himself, every time I say, "This is the day that the LORD has made," I'd like for you to respond by saying, "Let us rejoice and be glad in it."
We do rejoice and are glad in it. That's why we have such lovely music filling the sanctuary today. That's why the chancel area is dressed up in its Easter garments. That's why you and I have come here to participate in what is REAL! Namely, that Jesus is alive!
"This is the day that the LORD has made."
    [People] "Let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Two weeks ago, the Bethany Foundation gave away $5,000 as seed money, so that we might grow it and bring it back next week. It's a powerful--if not risky, crazy--reminder that God gives us blessings, and we are called to invest ourselves in those blessings in order that we might share them with others. For when you think about it, we have"an avalanche" of grace, hope, and love.

Continue reading "Lenten Devotions: Go, Tell, and See" »

Lenten Devotions: Hot Cross Buns

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions.

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.


April 19, 2014

"Welcome child into our family
Washed in water, reborn and free
A sign on your forehead and your heart
The cross that never will depart
Allelujah Allelujah
Allelujah come and sing

Stirrin’ up the water
Stirrin’ up my soul
A Light comes to the darkness
Come and make me whole
Oh Stir it up, stir it up, Oh Lord
The call goes out to near and distant lands
Come all you children into my hands
Grow like branches on the living tree
Washed in water, reborn and free
Allelujah Allelujah Allelujah now we sing

Comfort and joy the spirit brings
In darkest trials, drink from the spring
Hear the promise that no time could ever hold
It’s forever, for young and old
Allelujah Allelujah Allelujah Lord we sing."

Lyrics from "Stirrin’ Up the Water," by Peter Mayer

IMG_0517I’m making hot cross buns today. It’s a custom a started long ago with our daughter Hannah Grace. We’re not together this year, but I’m thinking about her as I “stir up” and stir in all the ingredients. The spices are what get me the most. Nutmeg, cinnamon, and all spice. I think of the women gathering all the spices to “embalm” the body (for there is a balm in Gilead). Their sad, sad souls and hearts were broken.

I beat the eggs and remember one person saying, “You can’t make an omelet unless you break a few eggs.” What needs to be “cracked open” in our lives? What needs to be blended together? Right now, the dough is “resting” and rising. Shrouded in old tea towels that have been in my wife’s and my family for ages. In our busy 24/7 world, when do we Sabbath? God made us to be 24/6 and here we are running around like chickens. Yes, those little chicks that Jesus says he wishes he was like a mother hen for us to gather us under the shadow of God’s wings.

I shared the following quote from Miriam Weinstein the other evening as we “welcomed our 53 first communion participants” to the table.  In a soccer/baseball/hockey/ballet/music lesson driven culture, where is the table?

If this generation forgets what gathering around the table means and can mean, will the table/altar up front look like a big desk? And with portable tablets and phones, what is a desk even all about?

But, even though I ask these questions, I believe. I believe in the power of eating and drinking together. I believe in gathering around each other in a circle. I know the transformational power of spices. I trust that the little bite of bread and sip of wine that we hand out is truly given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.

Families who eat supper together…position their kids to do better in school.

Families who eat supper together…pass on their ethnic, familial, and religious heritage.

Families who eat supper together…help prevent eating disorders and obesity.

Families who eat supper together…build their kids’ literacy, vocabulary and conversational skills.

Families who eat supper together…teach their kids manners.

Families who eat supper together…promote a sense of resilience that will last a lifetime.

Families who eat supper together…enjoy each other more as a family.

( From The Surprising Power of Family Meals: How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier, and Happier, 
by Miriam Weinstein

Allelujah now we SING!

(Photos courtesy of Pastor Ron Glusenkamp)

Lenten Devotions: "Cross Fit"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions.

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

April 18, 2014
Good Friday

"But nobody wants to know him,
They can see that he's just a fool,
And he never gives an answer,
But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down,
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning around."
Lyrics from "Fool On the Hill," by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Whenever he sings this song, or "All You Need is Love" (neither one of which is in most
Denominational hymnbooks, although if I had a vote they would be included), I think of Good Friday. For today is about the foolishness of the cross and, of course, the foolishness of love, and thank God for that!
Today's devo contains a couple of helpful resources for you. First of all, take a trip to the National Gallery in London, and see a lovely altarpiece on which you can meditate.
Next, there is a great app from the Church of England that can help you download Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer services which have all sorts of lovely lessons and prayers each day. Check out today's prayer.
Blessed are you, Lord God of our salvation, to you be glory and praise for ever. As we behold your Son, enthroned on the cross, stir up in us the fire of your love, that we may be cleansed from all our sins, and walk with you in newness of life singing the praise of him who died for us and our salvation. Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Blessed be God for ever. 
A few weeks ago as part of our First Communion seminar for 3rd graders and their parents, I asked the participants to write down a sin on a sticky note. In the event that parents needed more paper, I offered them extra sticky notes. If the children could not spell their sin, I told them to draw it. Then I collected the sins (without looking at them). I put them on a big stake (nail) which we then took into the courtyard and hammered into a large cross. The stack of sins was then lit on fire. As the fire moved through the sins, the paper "morphed" into the shape of a rose, and then it simply disintegrated. You could have heard a pin drop.
Now, in some quarters of the faithful, this activity has become passé. However, I think it provides a graphic example of how God's sin took on to himself what was ours. Through the pain and fire of death on the cross God reduces all the times we've missed the mark and forgives us.
I pray for you today. May you feel forgiven and free.
One more Beatles song: God wants "to hold your hand."

Discussing Development, World Hunger, and Advocacy at the University of Kentucky

University of Kentucky One Campus volunteers Ibitola Asalou (l) and Liz Renzaglia (c) with Lesly Webber-McNitt of the Farm Journal Foundation at the April 2 development and world hunger panel. (Courtesy of Deborah Charalambakis)

By Deborah Charalambakis

How can food-aid reform and agricultural investments help feed people around the world? And what can advocacy to do help make those things possible? On April 2, residents of Lexington, Ky., college students, and faculty gathered at the University of Kentucky for an engaging, thought-provoking discussion that explored these questions, as well as others related to development and world hunger.

Jon Gromek, regional organizer with Bread for the World;  Dr. Jerry Skees, president of  GlobalAgRisk; Abby Sasser,  regional field director at ONE Campaign; and Lesly Weber-McNitt director of government relations and program development at Farm Journal Foundation, were the participating panelists. Amanda Milward, field representative from Rep. Andy Barr’s office (R-Ky.-06), was a special guest.  

Among the topics tackled during the panel discussion were agriculture and food-aid reform. Many people don’t realize the importance of investing in agriculture and smallholder farmers, something all of the panelists touched on. Both Gromek and Dr. Skees spoke about the need for U.S. food-aid reform, and the ways we can improve food security for Africa’s most vulnerable people. Investing in farmers and agriculture not only increases income and food security for those populations, it reduces poverty significantly. This has been documented in both Ghana and Burkino Faso, two of the countries profiled in the ONE Campaign report “Ripe for Change: The Promise of Africa’s Agricultural Transformation.” Ghana has seen a decrease in poverty by 44 percent, and Burkino Faso created 235,000 jobs—all because those countries’ governments invested in their agricultural sectors.

The panelists also talked about advocacy, and how it helps make such success stories possible. When I asked our panelists why advocacy is important, they all dove in to answer. Sasser, Weber-McNitt, and Gromek – who all work in advocacy— stressed that our members of Congress represent us; when groups of hard-working advocates contact their senators and representatives about issues such as protecting foreign assistance programs (which account for less than 1 percent of  our federal budget), those elected officials listen. The more politicians hear from their constituents, the better the chance that they will act on the requests of their constituents. . When we become aware of  issues of agriculture, poverty, and development and we continue to stand on the sidelines, this not only skews our view of justice, but calls into question our concern for humanity all together.  That was something the audience truly understood in our advocacy discussion.

Though the event was a great success, and many people had questions for our panelists, it doesn’t end there. When it comes to issues of agriculture, development, and world hunger, let us be persistent in educating those around us about these issues, and become powerful advocates for the world’s poor.



Deborah Charalambakis is president of the ONE Campus chapter at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. ONE was created with assistance from Bread for the World. To learn more about what’s happening in ONE in Kentucky, follow the group on Twitter: @ONE_uky

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