Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Hunger in the News: Global Poverty, For-Profit Prisons, Venezuela, and Welfare Programs

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

Is it possible to end global poverty?” by Linda Yueh, BBC News. “Later this year, the UN is expected to adopt the World Bank's ambitious target of ending extreme poverty by 2030.”

How California Voters Got So Smart on Crime,” by Sasha Abramsky, The Nation. “California voters get their say on so many initiatives every election cycle that it can be difficult to separate the trivial from the significant. But there was no mistaking what happened when the Golden State’s electorate gave Proposition 47 a 20 percent margin of victory this past November: an earthquake was unleashed in the world of criminal justice. The tremors have reached as far as Texas and New York, where prison reformers are looking at Prop 47 as a model for their own proposals.”

Fight Poverty, Not Savings,” by Bloomberg View. “Some welfare programs exclude people who have financial assets, and for good reason. If the goal is to help people who are living in poverty, the program shouldn't waste resources on people who aren't actually poor. If you lose your job but have enough money in the bank to tide you over comfortably, you don't need food stamps, disability payments or other forms of public support as much as people with no savings do. Yet some asset limits are set too low. By preventing beneficiaries from saving enough money to become self-sufficient, the government can make it unnecessarily hard for them to escape poverty. New data suggests some limits could well be raised.”

Cookie Lyon of Fox's 'Empire' Sheds Rare Light on Black Women's Incarceration and Reentry,” by Kali Nicole Gross, The Huffington Post. “Lee Daniels's blockbuster Empire, an over-the-top soap opera featuring a prominent African American family in the rap world, has tackled a variety of subjects that most mainstream black shows fear to tread -- such as homophobia and psychiatric illness. Yet Cookie Lyon, the mother and ex-wife of the record label's founder, sheds a rare light on black female incarceration and the challenges of prisoner reentry.”

The Growing Right Arm of For-Profit Prisons,” by Mona Shattell, The Huffington Post. “The US incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. The unprecedented increase in our prison populations happened over the last 30 years, and in part is because of the prison industrial complex and the private prison industry that profits from (and contributes to) mass incarceration.”

Unlikely Bedfellows From Cory Booker to Newt Gingrich Unite in DC to Reform Prisons,” by Alice Speri, Vice News. “A summit on mass incarceration is bringing together odd bedfellows from across the political spectrum on Thursday — for what organizers hope will be a "bipartisan breakthrough of massive proportions" that will make criminal justice reform a priority for policymakers at the federal level.”

Venezuela: Does an increase in poverty signal threat to government?” by By J.J. Gallagher, The Christian Science Monitor. “Former President Chávez targeted the country's poor with subsidies and programs funded by oil revenues. But with oil prices plummeting and poverty on the rise, this core base of supporters is being tested.”

Women's History Month: To End Hunger, Women's Empowerment Must Prevail


By Bread Staff

Today concludes the Bread Blog posts celebrating Women’s History Month. It is fitting that it comes a few days after a Capitol Hill briefing on the 2015 Hunger Report When Women Flourish… We Can End Hunger.

Chisholm’s words are apt considering that discrimination is a significant roadblock to women’s empowerment. Because women are key to ending hunger by 2030, their empowerment is vital to the process.

“There is substantial evidence that educating girls, improving women’s health outcomes, and increasing their incomes pays huge dividends for their children, for their families, for their communities and for their countries, said Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute, during Friday's briefing.

The Hunger 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.

These issues were discussed during the briefing, which was hosted by the offices of U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Karen Bass (D-CA), Bread for the World Institute and the African American on the Hill.

Panelists included Margaret Enis Spears, director of the office of markets, partnerships and innovations, U.S. Agency for International Development; Ambassador Amina S. Ali, permanent representative, The African Union Mission to the United States; Shari Berenbach, president and CEO, United States African Development Foundation, and Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, associate for National African American Church Engagement at Bread for the World.

The Hunger Report recommends that in order to improve women’s empowerment and end extreme hunger and poverty worldwide, women should have more economic bargaining power. If women had more control of their income and assets, their bargaining power in both the household and the market economy would increase, as well as their ability to feed and provide for themselves and their children.

According to U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates, if women in Africa and elsewhere had the same access to agricultural resources as men, they could grow 20 to 30 percent more food. This could move roughly 150 million people of out hunger and poverty!

To achieve this, the U.S. government must increase its investments in agricultural-development programs like Feed the Future. And it should place a stronger emphasis on programming that supports women smallholder farmers when it implements projects. 

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 23:40-43


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.

The other criminal, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:40-43)

The other criminal speaks first to his companion, and in so doing becomes another of Luke’s witnesses to the innocence of Jesus.

Then he speaks to Jesus, asking to be remembered. He’s barely met Jesus but – again, Luke’s emphasis – if you only knew this man, even briefly, you would love him.

Then I hear the last words that Jesus speaks to a human being before he dies: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

When Jesus began his ministry (he was in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth), his first words promised release to captives. Now, as he is dying, his last words fulfill that promise.

This criminal is the only person in any of the Gospels to address Jesus by his first name without a qualifier, such as “Lord,” “Son of David.” As the late Scripture scholar Fr. Raymond Brown put it, “The first person with the confidence to be so familiar is a convicted criminal who is also the last person on earth to speak to Jesus before he dies.”

This is Holy Week. Take some time to talk to Jesus on a first-name basis.


Lent Devotions: Luke 23:35-37


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.

The rulers, meanwhile, sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” (Luke 23:35-37)

Mockery again, from three different quarters.

The rulers “sneer” – a Greek word that has the connotation of turning up (or down) one’s nose.

The soldiers “jeer” at him, then offer him wine in jest and say, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.”

But the mockery of a common criminal suffering the same fate is the cruelest cut of all.

How bad can it get? Being ridiculed in front of others is one of the worst things that can ever happen to anyone. It’s “vandalism” to the human person – like drawing graffiti on a beautiful painting, or taking a hammer to Michelangelo’s Pieta.

Have I ever been ridiculed for trying to do what I thought was right? The Lord knows the feeling.

World Prayers for March 29-April 4: Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore

A row of wooden kelongs (fishermen's huts on stilts), which forms the backdrop for the Songs of the Sea musical fountain at Sentosa, Singapore. Wikimedia Commons.

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 29-April 4: Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore

Lord, we give profound thanks for the richness of the people and amazing diversity of life in the countries of Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore. There are many species of plants and animals which are found in these countries and nowhere else. May the people of these countries find peace and happiness even during difficult times.

We pray for the religious groups that are oppressed despite official freedom of religion, and also for the protection and encouragement of religious freedom. May many of the ethnic groups of these countries finally find long-lasting peace and that political reforms and democratization come to fruition in Malaysia.

We especially lift up Chinese inhabitants of Brunei who have been denied citizenship and face discrimination, and also the poor of Brunei, that they gain access to the means necessary to sustain and nourish themselves. During Women’s History Month, we raise up the many women of these countries, some who are treated as second-class citizens.

And most of all, we pray for people who suffer from hunger and poverty in these countries, where there is also great wealth and materialism in some parts. May the priorities and policies of these governments give consideration to people who are marginalized in an economic sense and provide assistance so that all people may live lives of dignity.

We ask these things in the power of your spirit, and in the name of your son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Percentage of the population of these countries living below the national poverty line (2014 figures):

Brunei: Not available
Malaysia: 1.7 percent
Singapore: Not available

Source: World Bank World Development Indicators as found in the new 2015 Hunger Report.

Prayer is a central part of Bread for the World’s work. To learn more about how you can get involved with prayer at Bread, please go here

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:34


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.

They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched. (Luke 23:34)

The normal Roman practice was to crucify victims naked. Sometimes, they were stripped before they even began their death march. Whether the Romans made a concession to the Jewish abhorrence of public nakedness is not known.

Psalm 22, speaking of the sufferings of the Messiah (the same Psalm that begins “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”), says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots.” Back then, garments were much more valuable than today, and were commonly awarded to the executioners.

It is a great insult to hang on a cross dying while others play a game of chance for your clothes. Crucifixion, on every score, was an ugly, humiliating way to die.

The people watching a crucifixion would normally be passers-by. The site chosen for a crucifixion was usually on a main route, so that passers-by would be forced to see it – just like unsuspecting commuters coming upon an accident on an expressway.

In Luke’s account, “the people” are respectful, awestruck, silent. He says they “stood by and watched.” When Jesus dies they will go home “beating their breasts.” Once again, “if you came to know him, you would love him.”

Maybe I need to get to know him better. Like Mary Magdalene did. Or the Beloved Disciple.


Urgent: Say No to Vote-A-Rama Amendments That Target Poor People

http://bread.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341d945753ef017d42340f38970c-piBy Bread Staff

As budget debate and voting continue in the Senate today, Bread for the World is deeply concerned about several proposed amendments that would cut critical programs that serve vulnerable populations.

Yesterday, the House passed a budget resolution, which would balance the budget on the poorest in our nation. We need your voice to tell the Senate they must not do the same. 

Budgets are moral documents. A faithful budget values ending hunger and protecting the most vulnerable - not cutting programs that would make it harder to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Please call 800-826-3688 and tell your senator that this budget is unacceptable.  

  1. OPPOSE any amendments that cut foreign assistance or the 150 account including Paul Amdt #940, which increases the defense budget by cutting the entire international affairs budget by 50% over two years or a $42 billion reduction. These proposed cuts can severely impact funding for humanitarian and poverty-focused development assistance, including critical life-saving programs like maternal child health treatment, agriculture development and nutrition interventions, and humanitarian relief to millions of refugees. Amendment #940 failed in a recorded vote of 4 yays and 96 nays.
  2. OPPOSE any amendments that cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), change eligibility, or reduce benefits and oppose amendments that cut or make harmful changes to school nutrition programs. SNAP and school meals provide more than 21 million children with meals they need to learn and grow. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #375 and Rubio Amdt #547. Withdrawn.

  3. OPPOSE any amendments that cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), change eligibility, or establish barriers that make it more difficult for low-income working families to put food on the table. TANF is often the only source of support for families who receive it. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #372,which creates a financial burden on taxpayers and states while unfairly punishing children and familiesWithdrawn.

  4. OPPOSE any amendments that prevent individuals from claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Child Tax Credit (CTC), including Grassley Amdt #469. The EITC and CTC prevent more people from falling into poverty than any other program in the United States (outside Social Security). These tax credits reward work, promote economic mobility, and have a long history of bipartisan support. Withdrawn.

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators now - even if you have already reached out to them. This message is so important it must be repeated until they hear us and act. Call 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

If you use Twitter, please tweet your senators here: Aid Saves Lives.


Lent Devotions: Luke 23:34


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 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Many hold this to be the most touching scene in all of Scripture.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus emphasizes forgiveness. What is surprising is that he talks about God forgiving before repentance is even expressed.

• When the sinful woman at the banquet bathed his feet in her tears, Jesus tells the astonished guests that she loves much because she knows her sins have been forgiven (before she even came in).

• In the parable of the prodigal son, the father runs to his son to embrace and kiss him before the son has said a word.

• Now, on the cross, Jesus forgives everyone involved in his crucifixion before they show even a hint of remorse.

Some have wondered how, after all their planning and plotting, Jesus could say they didn’t know what they were doing. One has to understand Luke’s portrait of Jesus: If you knew him, you would love him. Despite all their evil plans, these people couldn’t have known what they were doing . . . or else they wouldn’t have done it. It’s as simple as that.

My first thought might be how I fail to show the same forgiveness to others.

Better that my first thought be how Jesus has the same compassion toward me before I even turn to him. I need to believe that – really believe it – before I can do the same to others.

Urgent: Tell Your Representative to Vote NO on House Budget

Update: The House proposed budget resolution passed: 228 yeas to 199 nays.  

By Eric Mitchell

The House of Representatives is about to vote on its fiscal year 2016 budget. The priorities the House budget lays out will not help end hunger. Please call (800-826-3688) or email your representative and say this budget is unacceptable.

The House is proposing severe cuts. They could lead to devastating increases in hunger and poverty in the U.S. and abroad. If we don’t challenge our representatives, here’s what their budget would do:

  • Take 69 percent of its $5.5 trillion in budget cuts from programs assisting low-income individuals – placing the burden on people who are already suffering;
  • Slash SNAP (food stamps) by at least 34 percent, the equivalent of up to 220 meals taken from each participant every year;
  • Cut lifesaving international programs by 16 percent. Funding for our international budget has already been cut by 22 percent. We can’t afford any further cuts.
  • By 2025, the budget would cut non-defense spending 33 percent below what it was in 2010. This puts programs like WIC, food aid, and poverty focused development assistance in serious danger; and
  • Let the 2009 improvements to the earned income and child tax credits expire, pushing 16 million people into – or even deeper into – poverty.

The House is voting TODAY. Your representative needs to hear that there are constituents in the district who find these cuts unacceptable. We should not be placing a greater burden on people who can least afford it.

Call (800-826-3688) or email your representative today! Urge a NO vote on the budget. The cuts to anti-hunger programs are horrific, too deep, and unacceptable.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

David Beckmann Testifies on Capitol Hill Today

4682502331_7d649d4502_bBy Bread Staff

Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, testified today before the House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, urging its members to fully fund poverty-focused development assistance in the fiscal year 2016 budget.

“Extreme poverty around the world has been cut in half. 100 million people have escaped from hunger in just the past decade alone. Annual deaths from preventable diseases have fallen remarkably. Fewer children are dying of pneumonia, diarrhea, and AIDS,” said Beckmann in his prepared remarks. “U.S. poverty-focused development assistance helps build secure, healthy, and productive nations.”

Bread for the World believes that we can end hunger by 2030 with the right investments.

Both the House of Representatives and Senate are planning to finalize their budgets for FY 2016 this week. The House proposes cutting international poverty focused development assistance by 16 percent overall. The Senate proposal is better, but still results in a one percent decrease. Bread considers this assistance a major part of the federal government’s overall work in fighting hunger.

Beckmann asked that the subcommittee encourages the Obama administration to ensure the programs’ effectiveness through its nutrition strategy. Malnutrition limits cognitive abilities, stunts growth, and increases susceptibility to diseases, especially among children.

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators and representative at 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Find more resources to understand the budget process here.

Stay Connected

Bread for the World