Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

41 posts from March 2011

Remembering César Chávez

Cesar Chavez “I undertook the fast because my heart was filled with grief and pain for the sufferings of farm workers. The fast was first for me and then for all of us in the union. It was a fast for nonviolence and a call to sacrifice.”—César Chávez, March 10, 1968

César Chávez was the president and founder of the United Farm Workers Union and persists as the iconic hero of Latinos in the United States. I knew him when I was a boy and later as a college student. He was already a legend and my hero when I served as his driver/companion for a week in 1988.

César fasted several times in his life—not just to call attention to suffering, but also to do penance and atone for his own failings and to show trust in God. I fasted for one day in 1988 when other students at Texas State took turns fasting to be in solidarity with César.

Today, I am fasting (day four) as a way to live out my faith and show my trust in God, whom I believe can and will end hunger in the world. Like César, I believe God will cure my heart and touch the hearts of others so that together we can call our nation to care for hungry and poor people.

Today is César Chávez Day in communities throughout the United States, and I am proud to pay homage to my hero by continuing my fast along with thousands of Bread for the World members and others. (visit Bread’s website to learn more).

Long before President Obama made these words popular, César taught us to proclaim, Sí se puede—yes, we can. And so I say to you, Sí se puede—with God’s help, we can end hunger.

Marco Grimaldo is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Photo courtesy UFW website.

Video: The Price of Immigration

Jose likes soccer. He likes his car. And he loves his family, which is why he left Mexico for the United States when he was 17, started working, and now sends home about 20 percent of his pay to support them. Like many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, Jose came here for opportunities that don't exist at home.

“We’re not criminals,” said Jose (not his real name). “We just come here to seek a better life.”

Indeed, economic necessity is the reason people risk their lives to work in the United States. And contrary to rhetoric that immigrants steal American jobs and drive down wages, immigrant labor is essential to the U.S. economy, as research shows:

  • Hispanic immigrants contributed $9.2 billion to the North Carolina economy in 2006 and created 89,000 spinoff jobs, according to research by Dr. James Johnson, professor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Kenan Flagler Business School.

Jose is one Hispanic immigrant contributing to North Carolina's economy. He moved there five years ago, found a job, and joined a church. My colleagues Ivone Guillen, Molly Marsh, and I first met Jose at his church this past January, and we found him to be very kind, polite, and open to talking with us. We could tell he missed his family. He showed us pictures. He shared stories of life back home.

Listening to Jose speak and watching him live his limited life in North Carolina (we spent five days with him), you just think to yourself, "You don't leave people you love unless you must, because economic and social circumstances force you to go."

Jesus' Final Hours: Lenten Devotions

Thursday, March 31

We continue following the story of Jesus’ final hours, as recorded in the Gospel of Mark, with Mark 15:6-15 (NRSV).

Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom.

Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over.

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?”

They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Are there words or phrases that impact you in this passage?

If you were in the crowd on Jesus’ earthly judgment day, what would you have done? Would you allow the jealous chief priests to move you? Would you join the powerful voice of the crowd?

In the present, when do you raise your voice for sinful reasons? For loving reasons?

When do you raise your voice to communicate with government officials?

How will you raise your voice this day in gratitude for Jesus giving his life for you?

Kate Hagen is Hunger Report project assistant with Bread for the World Institute.

A Food Writer Fasts

20110330_MarkBittman New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman has joined David Beckmann and other activists in fasting to protect programs for hungry and poor people. As Bittman writes in “Why We’re Fasting,” the man who eats for a living made his decision during his conversations with Beckmann.

“The budget proposes cuts in the WIC program (which supports women, infants and children), in international food and health aid (18 million people would be immediately cut off from a much-needed food stream, and 4 million would lose access to malaria medicine) and in programs that aid farmers in underdeveloped countries. Food stamps are also being attacked, in the twisted “Welfare Reform 2011” bill,” he writes.

“[W]e need to gather and insist that our collective resources be used for our collective welfare,” he continues, “not for the wealthiest thousand or even million Americans but for a vast majority of us in the United States and, indeed, for citizens of the world who have difficulty making ends meet. Or feeding their kids.”

Bittman will fast until Friday; you can follow his progress via his blog. He’s the author of 10 cookbooks, several of which have won awards, and wrote The New York Times food column “The Minimalist” for 13 years.

Photo by Sally Stein

New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman will be at National Gathering 2011—both as a participant and speaker.

Register now for the National Gathering, June 11-14 in Washington, DC.

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Esther, the Fasting Queen

Today, the third day of my fast, I am reminded of Esther. She was an orphaned Jew who became queen—wife of the Persian king, Xerxes. When her people were threatened by death, she fasted unto God. Then she approached the king and asked—successfully—that her people be saved.

The reason her story comes to mind as I fast is the crucial—yet underrated—role women play in development.

We released our latest fact sheet on maternal and child health today. Globally, women suffer disproportionately from hunger, disease, and poverty. The level of child and maternal malnutrition remains unacceptable throughout the world—especially in Asia and Africa, where 90 percent of the world’s chronically undernourished people live.

There are many women like Esther, who put their trust in God to save people. With God’s help they will be given the grace to improve their villages, to save lives, and to raise healthy families.

Another Esther, Jo Luck, my fellow World Food Prize laureate, just wrote to say she has joined me in fasting to protect programs that serve hungry and poor people. Thank you, Jo, for your leadership at Heifer International.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Time for Reconciliation: Lenten Devotions

Wednesday, March 30

In “Fasting: A Spiritually and Socially Transforming Practice,” Rev. Noelle Damico writes:

“There are a variety of ‘purposes’ for fasting, but a central purpose is that of reconciliation—to God and to one’s neighbor. From the practice of fasting we should be able to see God’s vision for our world more clearly and become determined to live with integrity. Fasting helps us identify the grave injustices around us, acknowledge and take responsibility for our participation and complicity in such injustice, and prepares us to act with God to transform ourselves and our world.”

We invite you to prayerfully consider fasting as one response to the social illnesses of our times. Where is God calling us—individually and collectively—to address human suffering?

If you’re considering a fast, please visit Bread’s website for more information, including spiritual resources. If you are already fasting, we’d love to hear about your experience so far—please share your reflections by commenting below.

Keeping Faith in Dark Times: Lenten Devotions

Tuesday, March 29

Photo: Keeping Faith in Dark Times: Lenten Devotions We continue following the story of Jesus’ final hours, as recorded in the Gospel of Mark, with Mark 15:1-5 (NRSV).

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.

Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things.

Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.”

But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

  • Are there words or phrases that impact you in this passage?
  • Consider Jesus’ confusing response to Pilate: “You say so.” What do you make of it?
  • What is your reaction to Jesus’ silence in reply to the many charges against him?
  • What do you think was going on in Jesus’ mind and heart while he heard the accusations against him?

Zach Schmidt is Central Midwest field organizer with Bread for the World.

Photo by slollo.

God, Hear Our Prayer

David's fast begins on March 28 / Photo of the announcement

Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

David Beckmann launched a fast Monday, March 28, 2011, to call attention to the budget cuts Congress is considering to programs that help hungry and poor people.

He is joined by leaders of 38 anti-hunger organizations and 4,000 activists around the country.

Today, I stopped eating—and will only drink water for the rest of the week.

I usually fast in private, but I am provoked to make a public stand as Congress has proposed massive budgets cuts to programs that disproportionately affect the neediest among us. I joined four other leaders at a press conference this morning to announce our fast. More than 4,000 activists throughout the country and heads of 38 anti-hunger organizations have committed to join us in this fast.

While we need to balance the federal budget and cut the deficit, we must not do it on the backs of poor people. The legislation passed by the House of Representatives last month makes hefty cuts to federal nutrition programs, reduced-price lunches, and food stamps—roughly 22 percent of the budget. Representatives left untouched the 78 percent of the budget that contains the big-ticket items of defense, Social Security, Medicare, and tax breaks to the wealthy.

I’m a Lutheran pastor, and I have not come across any biblical injunction against taxing the wealthy. Yet the Bible constantly reminds us to take care of the least of our brethren. If our representatives and senators are unwilling to listen to the needs of hungry and poor people, maybe they will listen to God.

Our prayer is simple: We invite God to reshape our personal priorities and the priorities of our nation, and we call on God to help us form a circle of protection around programs that are needed by the most vulnerable among us. Amen.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Choosing to Fast: Lenten Devotions

Monday, March 28

GlassOfWater_geodc David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and World Food Prize laureate, starts a one-week, water-only fast today in response to the budget debate that’s dominating Congress.

He, Tony Hall—executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger—and many of Bread’s partners plan to form a circle of protection around programs that meet the needs of hungry and poor people here in America and around the world—programs that new budget proposals threaten to cut in order to reduce the federal deficit.

More than 250 Bread members will also fast during this period.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline mentioned frequently in the Bible and upheld in the church for two millennia. In Scripture, it is mentioned in conjunction with prayer; when the faithful make requests to God, fasting is often involved. Fasting can help draw us closer to God, understand God’s provision in our lives, and grow in awareness of our (often unhealthy) attachment to food and other things. You can find more information about the spiritual basis of fasting in this guide.

We invite you to fast from one or more meals today. You may choose to continue fasting on a regular basis throughout Lent or just for a week, starting today. As you fast, consider the struggle of those who fast out of necessity—because no food is available to them.

Zach Schmidt is Central Midwest field organizer with Bread for the World.

Photo by gedoc.

Lenten Devotions: Day Nineteen

Sunday, March 27

Waves 2 On Sundays, our Sabbath day of rest, we invite you to find refreshment through quiet reflection and prayerful breathing. Each week, we will offer a simple exercise to help facilitate this process, and we invite you to try these or your own.

This is the third Sunday of Lent. Give yourself some space to think today: How have you been observing Lent? Has this led you to be more aware of yourself, of your connection to the Holy Spirit?

Sit in silence for a full five minutes (set a timer so you’re not checking the clock), calming and quieting your soul. Make this a time to prepare your spirit for the week.

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