Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

EITC Awareness Day: The Value of Hard Work

6521600217_39fdfe9bf8_oBy Robin Stephenson

Imagine you work full time at a minimum-wage job. Now imagine you are married and have two kids. To supplement your meager income, your partner finds part-time employment - also at the minimum wage.  Your combined income for the year is roughly $22,000. You are officially considered poor.

For over 45 million Americans, this is not an exercise in imagination. It is their reality.

For these hard-working families, there are two provisions in the tax code that provide a lifeline: the earned-income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit (CTC).

Heather Rude-Turner shared her story with Bread members in 2010.  She was struggling to put enough food on the table for her two young children. By 2012, we saw how her hard work and the EITC had helped improve conditions for her family.

“Having that extra income, the EITC, gave me that extra cushion to take care of our basic needs and then save some money,” Rude-Turner said. 

Her life began to change the first year she claimed the nearly $3,000 in refundable tax credits she qualified for. She was able to cover her rent and buy the computer that helped her gain a college degree in child psychology.

For years, Bread for the World has advocated that tax credits for working families be made permanent. Simply put, they help end hunger. The EITC alone moves more children out of poverty than any other government program. For communities still recovering from the recession, the credits continue to be a critical economic boost.

In 2009, Congress improved the tax credits that gave hard-working mothers like Rude-Turner the opportunity to move her family out of poverty. Those improvements are set to expire in 2017, unless Congress takes action. The loss of the improvements would be devastating for the 16 million working families struggling to make ends meets, including 8 million kids, who would be pushed into or deeper into poverty.

In the State of the Union address and the Republican response, President Obama and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), respectively, both spoke about reforming our tax code. Making the 2009 improvements permanent should be a top priority for Congress. Today, EITC Awareness Day, provides the perfect opportunity to remind our members of Congress that millions of hard-working families depend on the EITC and the CTC.

Call (800/826-3688) or email your representative and both of your senators today. Urge them to make the 2009 EITC and CTC improvements permanent.

It seems like such an obvious truth: If you work a full-time job, you should make enough to feed your family. The reality is that, unless we support tax credits for working families, saying we value hard work also becomes just an exercise of our collective imagination.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.


World Prayers for Feb. 1-7: Ireland and the United Kingdom: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales

Belfast Cathedral 3This 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 February 1-7: Ireland and the United Kingdom: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales

Lord we thank you for your great depth of mystery and beauty, which you have shared glimmers of through the beautiful diversity of our nations and ethnicities. 

We call to mind specifically Ireland and the United Kingdom: England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. 

We pray for healing and forgiveness in the times that we have failed to see your beauty embedded in our racial and national diversity. And rather, have used it for abuses and power.  We pray specifically for the wounds that still exist across these countries and in the hearts of those who identify with disenfranchised groups within these countries. We pray for your great and never ending love to bring healing and reconciliation to all the hearts throughout these lands. 

We pray for the leaders of these nations, that their hearts would be humbled, so that you may use them as agents of love.  Love that would welcome strangers, repair wounds with neighbors, feed and clothe the hungry and poor throughout their lands.  We pray for a transformation only available within the power of your love.  We pray for you to become visibly present in the actions and words of these countries’ leaders and all the peoples throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Amen.

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

Ireland: 5.5
United Kingdom: 14
England: Not available
Northern Ireland: Not available
Scotland: Not available
Wales: Not available

Source: The CIA World Factbook and the World Bank World Development Indicators as found in the new 2015 Hunger Report.

Photo: An inside view of The Cathedral Church of St. Anne in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Stephen H. Padre/Bread for the World.

This Weekend, It's All About Football (But Not the Kind You Think)


By Fito Moreno

While the rest of the country is asking, “Seahawks or Patriots?” as we approach the Super Bowl this Sunday, I’m thinking about a different kind of football—the kind the rest of the world plays (soccer). We’re approaching the end of the Africa Cup of Nations, and I’m hoping for an Algeria vs. Ghana game during the quarter finals this weekend.

But I’ll also be thinking about the issue of hunger. Aside from Algeria being one the strongest squads in the tournament, Ghana’s two late-game winning goals against Bafana Bafana, and the drawing of lots that will place either Mali or Guinea into the quarterfinals, one thing has really stood out in this tournament: its focus on ending hunger in Africa.

Last week, I saw this video by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The campaign, “African Football Against Hunger," a collaboration between the FAO and the Africa Cup, draws attention to the commitment by African leaders to end hunger in Africa by 2025. The campaign’s potential for exposure is huge considering the total audience per match is approximately 650 million people (take that, Super Bowl!). Last year’s Super Bowl was watched by 111 million people in the United States.

This is one of the few times when I actually enjoy the collision of my two worlds--my love of sports and my desire to see an end to hunger. A key highlight of this campaign is the importance of investing in agricultural development and the impact it is going to have on employment, strengthening rural livelihoods, and meeting the food challenges of a growing population. This is crucial since regional markets in many parts of Africa are still dominated by foreign food imports and will be critical to the 223 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who are undernourished.

Part of how the United States helps African nations invest in agricultural development is by purchasing food locally when providing food aid. This was part of Bread’s Offering of Letters campaign last year to make U.S. food aid more flexible. This encourages the growth of local communities and helps prevent local economies from floundering.

The campaign also stresses the importance of social safety nets and the rights to access resources in order to support small-scale farmers. These farmers work more than 60 percent of the agricultural land and are composed in large part of women.

Sports and advocacy go hand in hand. As Jose Graziando da Silva, FAO director-general, said, “Eradicating hunger requires teamwork and perseverance--the same qualities that players in the Nations cup show us on the field.” As I watch the quarterfinals this weekend, both my inner sports fan and inner advocate will be rooting the teams on.       

P.S. My money is on the Seahawks!

Fito Moreno is acting manager of media relations and a media relations specialist at Bread for the World.


Introducing Bread's 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children

Barbie Izquierdo
and her children, Leylanie and Aidan. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Barbie Izquierdo

In many ways, I’m just like you. It bothers me that some people look down on people living in poverty, as if we’re different. We’re smart, we have wants, and we have needs.

And as a parent, I want the best for my children—Aidan, who’s 7, and Leylanie, who’s 9—just as you want the best for your children or grandchildren or children in your community. But sometimes circumstances don’t enable us to provide the best for them. For me, it was losing my job several years ago during the recession and not having the income to buy all of the food my children needed.

Many of you may remember me from Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters in 2013. My children and I appeared in the documentary A Place at the Table that was part of Bread’s campaign that year.

I’m happy to tell my story again for Bread for the World in this year’s Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children and speak about why child nutrition programs are important to my children and me – and the 16 million kids in our nation who struggle to get enough to eat.

This year, Bread is focusing on the meals and nutrition that children need. My own children receive free breakfasts and lunches at the school they attend in the Philadelphia Public Schools system. I know they and millions of other children need to eat well every day so their minds are ready to learn. Getting enough food every day also fuels their growing bodies and helps keep them healthy.

When my children grow up, I don’t want them to know poverty like I’ve known it as a SNAP and WIC recipient. When more than one in five children in this country live in a family that struggles to put food on the table, many children already know the harsh reality of poverty.

I hope you’ll join me and Bread in speaking up for the federal government’s child nutrition programs, which provide meals for children in schools and outside of schools in various ways. The law that governs these programs is up for reauthorization this year, and Bread wants Congress to continue to make strong investments in children through these nutrition programs.

Now is the time to plan an Offering of Letters in your church, campus, or faith community.

The success of this campaign depends on your faithful advocacy. Let’s make sure that our country’s children get the meals they need to learn, grow strong, and be healthy.

Learn more about the 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children. Order an Offering of Letters kit, or visit the OL website where you can find downloadable resources in English and Spanish. For more information about how you can host an Offering of Letters, contact your regional organizer today. 

Barbie Izquierdo is an anti-hunger advocate, mother, and college student. Barbie and her family were featured in the 2013 documentary A Place at the Table.

Ending Poverty Could Nearly End Hunger, New Report Says

Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, speaks about her organization's demand to end child poverty in the United States. Photo courtesy of the Children's Defense Fund. 

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Americans who experience hunger are not doing so because of a shortage of food in the United States. A visit to any supermarket or farmer’s market would confirm that. Rather, they are hungry because they live in a cycle of poverty that prevents them from earning enough money to provide adequately for their families.

Roughly 45 million Americans live at or below the poverty line. Twenty-one million of those are children who are living either in poverty or extreme poverty. These children are more likely to experience hunger.

On Wednesday, the Children’s Defense Fund released a report demanding an end to child poverty with an immediate 60 percent reduction. Ending Child Poverty Now calls for investing an additional 2 percent of the federal budget to expand existing programs and policies that would lead to increase employment, make work pay, and ensure children’s basic needs are met. As a result, 97 percent of children living in poverty would benefit, and 60 percent of them could escape poverty immediately.

Seventy-two percent of black children living in poverty, who have the highest poverty rates in the United States, would no longer be poor.

“America’s poor children did not ask to be born; did not choose their parent, country, state, neighborhood, race, color, or faith,” said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, during a press briefing at its national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“It’s way past time for a critical mass of Americans to confront the hypocrisy of America’s pretension to be a fair playing field while almost 15 million children languish in poverty,” she added.

The report outlined several policy improvements to reduce child poverty by 60 percent. Among them:

  • Increase the earned income tax credit for lower-income families with children.
  • Increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.
  • Make child care subsidies available to all eligible families below 150 percent of poverty.
  • Make the child and dependent care tax credit refundable with a higher reimbursement rate.
  • Base SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits on USDA’s Low-Cost Food Plan for families with children.
  • Make the child tax credit fully refundable.

Many of the policy changes that the Children’s Defense Fund advocates for in its report are similar to those Bread supports already. At Bread, we know all too well the impact poverty has on hunger. That’s why we work hard to ensure that the nation’s safety net is protected from budget cuts.

The earned income tax credit along with the child tax credit are among our country’s most effective anti-poverty tools. Bread is calling on Congress to ensure that these two measures stay intact. Both expire in 2017. Making the 2009 improvements to these credits permanent would prevent 16 million people—including 8 million children—from falling into or deeper into poverty.

And this year, the Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of nutrition among children. In 2013, 15.8 million children—more than one-fifth of all children in the United States—lived at risk of hunger. Bread plans to work diligently this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall.

The link between poverty and hunger is well established. Let’s not continue to look the other way as millions of children in the United States continue to live in poverty and suffer from hunger.

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030.

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


What Comes After the Millennium Development Goals?

Women’s empowerment is the focus of this year’s Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger.  Stephan Bachenheimer/World Bank.

By Robin Stephenson

In 2000, governments across the globe agreed to make ending hunger a priority. They established measurable goals and a common framework that would drive policy decisions and ultimately cut extreme poverty in half by 2015.

Like me, you may have first heard about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through your church.

In 2008, as part of its Offering of Letters workshop, my church’s advocacy committee set up eight stations in our sanctuary to teach us about the hunger-reducing goals. After learning about each MDG, our task was to write our members of Congress and urge them to act.

The first station was a pedestal with a bowl of rice on it. As I let the individual grains sift through my fingers, I reflected on a question written there: Can we cut extreme poverty in half?

I’ll admit that I was more of a skeptic than an optimist. Extreme poverty means living on $1.25 a day. In 1990, that was the wage that 43 percent of the world earned each day. The question seemed overwhelming and the solution impossible.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

By 2010, the number of people who lived on $1.25 a day dropped to roughly 21 percent. In other words, we achieved the first goal and cut extreme poverty in half five years before the 2015 deadline!

Still, nearly 1 billion people continue to live on $1.25 a day. There is more work to do, but the MDGs expire in a little over 300 days.

Overall, the strategy was a success, and we have learned some surprising things. The world can and will galvanize around a plan to end hunger. We increase our impact when we have a shared strategy. By defining measurable goals, we now have data–even missing data–that can better inform a path forward.

Even when results were less than stellar, we gained valuable information. For example, women’s empowerment has been slow and uneven. In areas where the MDG framework helped empower women, progress against hunger is accelerated.

Fouzia Abdikadir Dahir, a Mandela Washington Fellow and native of Kenya, is one of those empowered leaders transforming her community.

Dahir founded the Northwestern Organization for Social Empowerment in her country. She contributed to this year’s Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger. “Being a pastoral woman from this region who has made it this far,” she writes, “I plan to use every opportunity to advocate for the rights of these women and girls.”

Now the question is what happens next. After another round of consultations with the world’s governments, the answer is coming in the form of a new framework: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs, expected to be adopted at a summit this coming September in New York, will set international development priorities through 2030. The suggested 17 goals aim to do more than halve extreme poverty – but end it.

Can we end hunger by 2030? After seeing what the world did in 15 short years, my answer is an emphatic yes!

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Thank You, Rick Steves!

Rick Steves, a longtime Bread for the World member, speaking at the 2014 National Gathering in Washington, D.C. Bread for the World.

By Bread Staff

Every Christmas, Rick Steves, a longtime Bread for the World member, raises funds for Bread through his traveling friends and network at Rick Steves' Europe. This special fundraiser helps support our advocacy to end hunger.

Our fundraiser with Rick last month was the most successful to date!

We raised $166,408 for Bread from 1,453 gifts. Rick also provided a matching gift of $100,000, bringing the total raised to over $266,000! 

Thanks to all of you who participated! With Rick’s generosity, these funds will help us make more of an impact on policies and programs that affect people who are hungry both in the United States and abroad.

Our goal was to reach $200,000, and we exceeded expectations!  For every dollar Bread raises, we leverage $100 in terms of government assistance and funding that is vital to people who are hungry and poor.

In 2015, we will advocate for stronger child nutrition programs that can close the hunger gap for the more than 1 in 5 children who live in families that do not have adequate access to food. When Congress makes decisions about the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit this year, we will urge them to make the tax credits permanent. We will also continue our advocacy to reform food-aid and reach millions of more people. And any time there is an opportunity to impact policies that can end hunger, such as immigration reform, mass incarceration, and many others, Bread for the World will speak up with your help.

Thanks to you and Rick Steves, we can do more in 2015!

You can help end hunger every month of the year with a monthly gift.  Your gift, which automatically renews your annual membership, creates a reliable stream of financial support and enables us to make plans for the future.

Rick Steves is host of public television's most-watched, longest-running travel series, "Rick Steves' Europe," and the author of more than 50 travel guidebooks.






A New Year's Resolution You Can Keep


By Jim Lund

This year, I resolve to do more to end hunger. I invite you to join me. Too many children in our rich nation are undernourished. Too many children around the world suffer the pangs of hunger daily. I am sure you too find this appalling.

One thing you could do is join me as a part of the Baker’s Dozen givers. Every month, each of us makes a recurring donation that Bread members turn into real action to end hunger: communicating with lawmakers, educating peers, and organizing letter-writing workshops. The results make a difference.

Just last year, our work together blocked cuts to domestic poverty-focused programs, won support for development assistance in Central America, and gave 1.5 million people around the world access to nutritious meals through U.S. food-aid.

My monthly gifts to Bread for the World let me accomplish far more than I ever could alone. Join the Baker’s Dozen givers today, and make a concrete difference for people who need your support.

* $5 monthly provides resources to 30 people who want to end hunger
* $30 monthly underwrites a workshop that generates letters to Congress
* $100 monthly supports lobbying activities to end hunger

I’m hoping that by this time next week, 50 of you will make a new year’s resolution to help end hunger through Baker’s Dozen monthly giving. When we come together — each of us doing a small part — we can accomplish great things. Together, we can end hunger. Will you join us today?

Jim Lund is the vice president for development and membership at Bread for the World.

Photo: U.S. food-aid programs help feed millions of children around the world. (Bread for the World).

Commit to Feed Our Nation's Children

Federal nutrition programs for children, such as the National School Lunch Program, are a critical part of the fight against hunger. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

In 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama pledged to end child hunger by 2015. Last week, the president didn’t even mention the word hunger, much less child hunger, during the State of the Union address even though he insisted that the state of the union was strong and that the country had turned a page.

It did not go unnoticed. News outlets such as the Huffington Post, Moyers and Company, and others made references to the omission, and more importantly, the president’s inaction on his pledge. To his credit, President Obama did propose measures last week that would give struggling families a better chance of improving their financial situation. Because hunger is intrinsically linked to poverty, these measures could improve food insecurity for children and adults.

However, the fact is that child hunger is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately. In 2013, 15.8 million children—more than one-fifth of all children in the United States—lived at risk of hunger. Even brief periods of hunger and malnutrition put children’s health at risk and carry consequences that may last a lifetime.

Without enough food, children can become susceptible to health issues such as anemia, stomachaches, colds, ear infections, and asthma. Being hungry can be stressful. It can manifest into anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems, which can lead students to pay less attention in class and receive poor grades as a consequence.

This year’s Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of nutrition among children, who are especially vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition during their early years of development. Bread plans to work diligently this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall.

The bill funds five major programs:  National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the WIC Program. These programs serve roughly 40 million adults and children nationwide.

As long as families are struggling financially, these programs must continue to stay intact. They are a crucial part of the safety net so many families count on for daily living.

“Congress must pass a bill that gives children who are at risk of hunger easier access to meals when and where they need them,” said Christine Melendez Ashley, senior domestic policy analyst at Bread for the World. “Traditionally, this issue has had strong bipartisan support. Still, given the federal budget climate and divided government, this reauthorization could get caught in partisan gridlock.”

Let’s make sure that every child in the United States has enough to eat, whether it’s at school, at an after-school program, or at home. Later this week, Bread will officially launch its 2015 Offering of Letters campaign. The campaign’s print materials, its usual toolkit, which will include background information on child nutrition, how to conduct an Offering of Letters, and other resources, will be available in early February.

In 2015, Bread plans to stay committed to the issue of child hunger and ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill. Join us in our effort!

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





Hunger in the News: Climate Change, Catholic Charities, and Poverty

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

Iowa View: Climate change affects global challenges,” (Editorial) by Rev. Susan Guy, Special to the Des Moines Register. “When I was ordained more than 21 years ago, climate change was not an issue that was even remotely on my mind. Throughout my years of ministry in local churches and as an organizer, there was one key issue that occupied my heart and mind, and which led me to specific acts of charity and justice. That issue was hunger.”

Head of Catholic Charities USA leaves knowing talk on poverty shifting,” by Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service. “After a decade as president of Catholic Charities USA, Father Larry Snyder planned to step down Jan. 31 and return to his beloved Minnesota.”

12 Days, 12 Things You Can Do to Fight Poverty” by Greg Kaufmann, Moyers & Company. “BillMoyers.com is proud to collaborate with TalkPoverty.org as we focus on poverty coverage over the next two weeks. Every day, visit BillMoyers.com to discover a new action you can take to help turn the tide in the fight against poverty.”

Let’s Address the State of Food,” (Commentary) by Mark Bittman. New York Times. “The state of the union, food-wise, is not good. The best evidence is that more than 46.5 million Americans are receiving SNAP benefits – formerly food stamps – a number that has not changed much since 2013, when it reached its highest level ever.”

Poverty stems from unjust economic system, not big families, pope says,” by Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service. “Families who have lots of children do not cause poverty, Pope Francis said. The main culprit is "an economic system that has removed the human person from its focus and has placed the god of money" as its priority instead, he said Jan. 21.”

Destiny’s story: 'Once you get in poverty, it’s kind of hard to get out,'” by Jenny Brundin, Colorado Public Radio. “Destiny Carney, 18, grew up in poverty and was often homeless but now leads classes at Project Voyce. The program helped Carney turn her life around.” 

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