Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

10 posts from November 2010

ACT NOW! Make Permanent the Current EITC and Child Tax Credits

Call 1-800-826-3688 to reach the Capitol switchboard. Your main message should be: Make permanent the current EITC and Child Tax Credit benefit levels along with the rest of the 2001 and 2003 middle-class tax cuts.

You can explain your message further by adding any of the following points:

  • The EITC and CTC encourage work. Only working families can claim these benefits.
  • If Congress fails to continue the current EITC and CTC benefit levels, 1,540,000 people, including 858,000 children, will fall into poverty.
  • EITC and CTC refundable tax credits generate $1.26 worth of economic growth for every additional dollar in benefits. Households spend these tax credits in their local communities.
  • Currently, families can count earnings below $13,000 toward the Child Tax Credit. If Congress fails to extend this benefit level, a full-time minimum-wage single parent with two kids will go from receiving a $1,725 credit to only $248.
  • The EITC is America’s largest anti-poverty program. In 2009, the EITC lifted 6.6 million people, including 3.3 million children, above the poverty line.

Congress is ready to act on critical tax policy. It’s time now to urge your member of Congress to support low-income working families by making permanent the current Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) benefits, the focus of our 2010 Offering of Letters campaign.

The current EITC and CTC benefits expire along with the rest of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts on December 31. Tell Congress to extend the current EITC and CTC benefits along with the rest of the 2001 and 2003 middle-class tax cuts.

Use this toll-free number, 1-800-826-3688, which will automatically connect you to the Capitol switchboard. Ask for your representative’s or senators’ office so you can leave a message.

If you don't know who your Representative is, just use this finder

From Top Chef to Chef For Poor People

How far would you go to help hungry and poor people? Perhaps as far as Narayanan Krishnan?

Krishnan, 29, was an award-winning chef shortlisted for an elite job at a hotel in Switzerland. Before heading to Europe, he visited his family in India. The trip ended up changing his life. As Krishnan told CNN:

I saw a very old man eating his own human waste for food. It really hurt me so much. I was literally shocked for a second. After that, I started feeding that man and decided this is what I should do the rest of my lifetime.

Over the weekend, CNN honored Krishnan as a Top Ten Hero for 2010. He now runs the Akshaya Trust, which has served over 1.5 million meals since 2002, when Krishnan began feeding people using his own savings. See more of his story below.

Congress Must Pass the Child Nutrition Bill

Lauren Tonetti, our California Organizing Intern, submitted a letter to the editor of the LA Times. While the letter was not published, Lauren makes an excellent case for why Congress needs to act now on the child nutrition bill.  

The article reporting on USDA hunger statistics does a good job highlighting that hunger is a reality and issue in America. At the end of the article P.J. Huffstutter mentions that Congress it taking on these issues but does not explain the reality of the matter. The Child Nutrition Act is essential to reducing hunger in America.  We need to make sure that every hungry child gets the food he or she needs to succeed in school and life. Without proper funding millions of children will go without access to food. 

The Child Nutrition Act is about more than feeding hungry children. It is about making a commitment to those who are suffering. There are hungry people in America; the USDA study shows this. 19.5 million children already benefit from feeding programs. But there are so many more children who went hungry because those same programs lack proper funding.  The Child Nutrition Act would remedy this. It is imperative that we feed these children and ensure that they have access to a bright future. 

Yet this success will come at a cost. Unfortunately, the senate version of the Child Nutrition bill contained cuts to future SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—formerly food stamps) to pay for the improvements in these programs. Nearly 80 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with children. We are basically taking food from kids at home to feed them at school. The Child Nutrition Act needs to pass now, in a Congress that supports it but it comes at a great cost. America is one of the richest countries in the world; what does it say that we may be able to feed children at school but perhaps not at home? The disappointing reality is that hungry kids can’t wait any longer for improvements to breakfast, after school, and summer meal programs. Members of the House of Representatives must act before the end of the Lame Duck session.

Take Action


Beckmann on CNN Money

David Beckmann appeared on CNN Money yesterday to talk about the newly released food insecurity numbers in the United States. As you would expect, the numbers aren’t good—but Congress has the opportunity to act, said Beckmann.

“In the next couple weeks, Congress and the president have to do two really important things that are important to hungry kids in this country,” he said. “One is they have to finalize the Child Nutrition Act. That will determine whether we provide better school lunches for our kids.

"Also, as they consider taxes, it looks like everybody’s going to get their current tax benefits extended, and it’s really important that that includes the working poor. If Congress omits them from the tax bill they’re going to be passing in the next few weeks, that in itself will push a million more kids into poverty next year.”

Watch the entire interview here.

Microbanks in Haiti

Saturday’s New York Times carried a good story about some of the many challenges microbanks face in Haiti. One of those banks is Fonkoze, the microfinance organization my colleague Laura and I visited last month. Fonkoze serves about 45,000 women in 43 branches all over the country.

Like other banks for the poor, Fonkoze tries to help clients make financial headway in a country with little infrastructure. It’s a difficult feat. As reporter Daniel Costello notes, Haiti’s economy is expected to contract by as much as 9 percent this year. This makes the work of microbanks critical:

"Their importance to hundreds of thousands of Haitian borrowers and savers gives these little institutions an outsize importance, making them ‘simply too big to fail,’ said Greta Greathouse, a consultant with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s microsavings and lending program in Haiti."

To see some of Fonkoze’s inspirational borrowers and savers, check out Laura’s photo essay as well as our article and slideshow on a Fonkoze vitamin distribution clinic in Mirebalais, Haiti.

A Bible-Based Spiritual Stimulus Plan

Cureton Johnson once worked in Bread for the World's communications department and helped lead Bread’s effort to mobilize emergency U.S. aid to Ethiopia during a developing food crisis in 1983. Bread founder Art Simon describes Cureton’s work in his book, The Rising of Bread for the World:

In 1983, we began getting reports of a serious food shortage in Ethiopia, which was gradually turning into a catastrophic regional famine, so we began to campaign for emergency U.S. aid. We got there well ahead of the national media, which had not yet given coverage to the famine. In addition to alerting members, we convened a national one-day summit on the African crisis that drew representatives from forty-seven church-related agencies.

We later did a media blitz in 30 cities, led by our media specialist Cureton Johnson. The public response to those efforts prompted Congress and the administration to move more quickly with increased U.S. assistance.

Cureton recently published a new book, Bible-based Spiritual Stimulus Plan, which the publisher describes as a “virtual ‘revival in a book,’ offering a prophetic voice of encouragement to all living in this breathtaking world of change! Its 12 key scriptural stimuli help fashion readers into God's masterpieces for good in society.” 


A few examples of Cureton’s spiritual stimuli:

  • Alligator Courage: The author, in a small boat on a storm-tossed river containing alligators (caimans) in Guyana, shows us the power of Psalm 121.
  • Your Holy DNA: Tap into your holy DNA, which carries wonderful spiritual resources. Old things pass away and, behold, you become new creations in Christ Jesus!
  • Joy—A Yummy Recipe: Discover how a pineapple-upside-down-cake can change your life! "Taste and see that the Lord is good" every day (Psalm 34).
  • Spiritual Blind Dates: You never know when God will put you in a particular place, at a particular time, with a particular person, for a particular reason. Get ready to walk through doors of opportunity! God used a dog on Dr. Johnson.
  • Kindness/Vitamin K: Kindness produces ripple effects of good works, like a stone thrown into a lake makes ripples on the water. Kindness is a doorway into the kingdom of God. Find out how a young girl in Scripture is a perfect example for us to use this gracious gift.

North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson, Howard University School of Divinity Dean Alton Pollard, and others have endorsed the book. So has Bread regional organizer Larry Hollar, editor of the Hunger for the Word Scripture series. “Cureton Johnson's wise, Bible-based reflections challenge us to be prophets of a new time—especially for those on the margins of society.”

Cureton has pastored First Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC, for 19 years. He holds a doctor of ministry degree from Drew University and master’s degrees from Shaw Divinity School and American University.

He describes how the book came about:

In 2006, I attended my first writer's conference in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. I had been writing most of my baby-boomer life and I decided to write a book. Armed with paper and a laptop, I spent a week in training sessions and writing. After a week, I returned home and wrote for several days, but a clear purpose for the book eluded me. So I stopped.

Three years later, while observing a beautiful sunrise over a NC beach, God instructed me to write this book and return to the mountains for another writer's conference. From there, the Lord poured out the Holy Spirit upon me, set me to writing, and endowed me with wisdom from on high. There was a good reason for the delay; I had to know that God was in charge and crafting the book. It would not be completed by human might but by the Creator's power and for his glory.


Ideas for a Plentiful Harvest

This weekend, Bread for the World hosted Harvest for the World at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ to discuss the African-American church’s role in fighting hunger and poverty.  The African-American church has historically been one of strongest entities in the community, providing everything from health and social services to child care and education.  Over the weekend, Bread for the World and some key influencers from the Chicago community discussed ways that the church can take it a step further.  But where do we begin?  Participants shared plenty of ideas, but for starters, here are some of the things we’ve discussed:

If we want lawmakers to really understand how hunger affects the community, we have to show the face of hunger.  Anyone serving meals to those in need knows the face of hunger—and they know that, often times, it’s different from what many might think.  The image of hunger we’re talking about are those of the working fathers and mothers who aren’t even making enough money to put them over the poverty line, despite the fact that they may work 60 hours a week.  The image of hunger we’re also talking about is that of malnutrition and obesity.  When communities do not have access to healthy foods because they are either nowhere to be found in their community or they are too expensive to justify when trying to feed a family, people resort to less nutritious foods filled with sugar, fat, cholesterol and sodium—all of which can lead to obesity.  Decision makers need to see these faces to really understand hungers affects on the community and work toward tangible, accessible solutions.

We have to find a way to get the people who are affected by hunger and poverty engaged in the fight to end it.  This is challenging because these families are working and struggling to make ends meet.  However, it could help to foster a dialogue in which those who are experiencing hunger can share those experiences first-hand with decision makers and they can work to come up with solutions.  Not only would this help to truly show the face of hunger to those who may not understand, but it may also provide a solid foundation for lasting solutions to hunger in the community.

We must speak honestly about hunger and poverty.  How many families of four do you know who can live healthy lives on $22,000 per year?  For many individuals, that amount wouldn’t even be sufficient for their lifestyles.  If this is the poverty threshold in the U.S., how many people living just above that threshold are falling through the cracks?  Our faith teaches us that this it is unacceptable for some people to be living with plenty and others to be missing out completely.  It is possible to end hunger and to ensure food justice for all, but we have got to start with an open, informed and honest dialogue about hunger and poverty.

This is a time of great liberation


By Lauren Tonetti, California Organizing Intern and student at Pomona College

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to listen in on a panel discussion about hunger.  The event took place at First United Methodist Church in Pasadena.  David Beckmann, Bread’s president, started the evening with his thoughts on how God is moving in our time to end hunger.  He was followed by a discussion with prominent faith and justice leaders in the Los Angeles Area.  Panelists included: Vanessa Martinez, CLUE Orange County and Micah Challenge; Sarah Nolan, Abundant Table Farm Project and South Central Farmers’ Cooperative; Rev. Pat O’Reilly from the Ecumenical Council of Pasadena Area Churches and Jeremy Seifert, the producer of the film DIVE!

This was an awesome opportunity to hear a wide range of voices on hunger in America. Despite these varied points of view there are some things that have really stuck with me and I think are important to share. 

1. This is a time of great liberation. As I mentioned before, David Beckman started the panel by impressing upon us that God is working in our time. That we are living in a time where we can witness freedom from hunger and poverty in the world. I find such hope in this. The state of hunger in the world is bleak at times and it seems like there will never be change. But take heart, because God is working. These are issues that He cares deeply about and He is creating a path for liberation. God is working and we just have to join with God to end hunger.

2. We need to reorder relationships. This was a point that came up multiple times throughout the discussion. We live in a world full of chaos and confusion. Relationships to others and to the world are distorted. We see other people not as partners or equals but rather as objects. There is a lack of concern towards others and the earth. Hunger is not just about access to food but access to good food. Our relationship to creation has been distorted by the ways we produce and consume our food. Large corporations abuse the land and their workers and hurt smaller farmers. In order to end hunger we need to start viewing others like they are a part of our own family. We need to start caring for the earth and about the way we produce food. We need to encourage greater access and make sure everyone is getting what they need.

3. There needs to be a revolution of the heart.  This last point I want to highlight touches not only on hunger but on the many issues we face. Ending hunger or poverty or war is going to happen through policy or politics alone. We need to start caring. Our hearts will naturally care only for ourselves. We have very private interests and concerns. In order to break down the problems of the world we need to open our hearts. We need to start caring for everyone and take action even when the outcome won’t always help us. Without this kind of love and dedication to others no amount of petitioning or lobbying is going to help. Having a deep love for others and for God is what change is predicated upon.

Finally, I want to challenge everyone who reads this to think about what their hearts find important and worthy. Is it all about you and your gain?  Is there room for others? If you feel like joining this revolution of the heart I want to encourage you to take action. Turn that love into change. 

Write a letter or call congress. Get educated on the issues. Pray about the change you want to see. I fully believe what David Beckman said when he told us that we are living in a time of great liberation. I have faith that God is working and that if we join together we’ll all see the benefits of freedom. 


David Beckmann is speaking with Cameron Shaw, Pomona College graduate 2009 and former Bread intern. 

A Dangerous Myopia

It is lamentable that the deep and persistent economic woes in the United States and Europe are breeding a certain dangerous myopia in international development affairs.

“Americans are more resolute in their desire to put their own house in order,” notes the Chicago Council’s report on its fascinating 2010 national survey of American public opinion. It is very aptly titled, “Constrained Internationalism: Adapting to New Realities.”

For me, one of the most significant findings is that 91 percent of Americans want to focus on fixing problems at home rather than addressing international challenges. That’s up nine points from 82 percent in the 2008 poll. The survey found that 60 percent of Americans think economic aid to other nations should be cut back while only 7 percent think it should be expanded. And concerning our urgent priority at Outrage and Inspire, only 42 percent say that combating world hunger should be a “very important” foreign policy goal of the United States, which is down four points from two years ago.

Continue reading "A Dangerous Myopia" »

November 2: David Beckmann on NPR's Tell Me More

On Tuesday, November 2,  Bread for the World President David Beckmann will be a guest on NPR’s Tell Me More with Michel Martin.

Listen Now David Beckmann on NPR's Tell Me More.

He will be featured on the “Faith Matters” segment of the show and will discuss the politics of hunger and the mid-term elections.

The show will air in Washington, DC, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m EDT on WAMU-FM. Find out what time the show airs in your area.

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