Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

36 posts from April 2011

Hunger in the News: Budget Plan Cuts Food Assistance


Republican Budget includes Plan to Overhaul Food Assistance Program. House Republicans resurrected a 1990s-era fight over food stamps in their recently approved budget, arguing that any serious attempt to cut spending must include an overhaul of government programs that help needy families pay for food. Congress already has started cutting some food programs, including reducing the Women, Infants and Children Program by $500 million as part of a deal on this year’s budget. [Ag Week]

Let’s Take a Hike. [Congressman Ryan’s] proposal begins by warning that “a major debt crisis is inevitable” unless we confront the deficit. It then calls not for tax increases, but for tax cuts, with taxes on the wealthy falling to their lowest level since 1931. [The New York Times]

Lessons from America's Last Brush with Default. The scenario [from 1995] is replaying now, as policymakers brace for the next installment of a partisan showdown over the size and scope of government. The feds are on track to reach their $14.29 trillion borrowing limit in mid-May, and the Obama administration says juggling accounts can only buy time until July 8. [Fortune Magazine]

Five Myths about Church and State in America. Liberals claim that the founding fathers separated church and state, while conservatives argue that the founders made faith a foundation of our government. Both sides argue that America once enjoyed a freedom to worship that they seek to preserve. Yet neither side gets it right. [The Washington Post]

Republicans in Congress Get Earful on Medicare. Some Republicans in Congress are getting an earful back home over their votes to dramatically revamp Medicare for seniors. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who proposed changing the federal entitlement into a voucher program, got booed at such a meeting in his district last week. [USA Today]

Economists Temper Forecast for Recovery. Nearly eight in 10 economists say they’re less optimistic about the nation's economic outlook this year than they were three months ago and most call high energy prices the biggest threat to the recovery, according to a USA TODAY survey. [USA Today]

Women Lead Fight against S.C. Immigration Bills. As the S.C. General Assembly has considered the bill during the past year, the opposition to it has been steady and strong. And it has been driven by women. The arguments against the bill have focused on religious values, human rights concerns and civil rights issues—all issues that women are more likely to be involved in, experts say. [Miami Herald]


Who Will Respond to Haiti's Cholera SOS? In January 2010 a 7.0 earthquake in Haiti killed 300,000 immediately, left 1.5 million homeless, and now threatens untold hundreds of thousands with a cholera epidemic that is certain to ramp up once the rainy season begins. … [T]he international community seems to be watching this disaster unfold with little more than puzzled glances and impotent responses ... [Huffington Post]

Should We Feed North Korea? North Korea has recently made a desperate international appeal for food aid. Reports from aid workers and international nongovernmental organizations warn of a major food shortage. As the United States deliberates whether to restart a food aid program in North Korea, it must consider the following questions: Is there a true humanitarian need, can we address the potential risk of food diversion and can a properly monitored program allow us to engage with the vulnerable citizens of one of the most isolated countries in the world? [Los Angeles Times]


‘Salubong’: Meet and Rejoice! Lenten Devotions

Sunday, April 24 

Jesus and stained glass "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” (Matthew 28:1-7).

There is a tradition repeated every Easter by devout Roman Catholic Filipinos: the salubong (literally meaning “meeting”). Just before dawn—at 4 a.m.—men gather in one part of town, following a procession with the statue of the resurrected Christ. In another part of town, a procession of women, led by a statue of the Virgin Mary veiled in black. The two processions then converge on the plaza in front of the cathedral or church.

There, a young girl dressed as an angel is hoisted up (nowadays they use a crane) and lifts the black veil of the Virgin Mary so she sees the resurrected Christ. Tradition holds that the veil must be fully lifted up otherwise the coming year will be full of misfortune. All the while, the choir sings a chorus of alleluias. Then the two statues and the people enter the church for a one-house mass.

There is, of course, something wrong with the way the salubong is celebrated. There is no record in the Bible that the Virgin Mary actually met Jesus Christ after he rose from the dead or that she was the other Mary who visited the tomb and met the angel. Somehow, it was reinterpreted, and the Virgin Mary now meets Jesus in the salubong held in the Philippines.

But no matter how the story of the resurrection is reinterpreted, one truth remains immutable: Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed! Even if the Virgin Mary’s black veil is not fully lifted, and misfortune may follow, the truth remains that after three days of mourning, Christ is risen as has been foretold by the prophets.

Let us rejoice this Easter day—let us commit ourselves to another year of service, of worship, of praise to our Lord, the risen Christ.

Our Father, remove from us the sophistication of our age and the skepticism that has become, like frost, to blight our faith and to make it weak. Bring us back to a faith that makes people great and strong, a faith that enables us to love and to live, the faith by which we are triumphant, the faith by which alone we can walk with Thee …. Lord we make this our prayer. Amen.—by Dr. Peter Marshall, from The Prayers of Peter Marshall, by Catherine Marshall.

Adlai J. Amor is director of communications at Bread for the World.

Photo credit: Sarah Rohrer

Inconceivable! Lenten Devotions

Saturday, April 23

Macaw One of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride. Vizzini, who is in charge of the bandits who kidnap the princess-to-be, repeatedly exclaims, “Inconceivable!” They discover that they are being followed by a boat: “Inconceivable!” Their pursuer follows them up a giant cliff: “Inconceivable!”

Like Vizzini, our lives are filled with moments that make us stop, frozen where we are, shake our heads, and mutter, “Inconceivable!” Something huge happens, and we have to pause to regain our composure and reconstruct our understanding of what’s normal and possible.

Sometimes, we are stunned by the wonder and beauty that surrounds us. Several macaws frequently fly by my office in Miami, and I look up to see their yellow bellies soaring overhead. It’s amazing, inconceivable even, that I live in this (sub)tropical wonderland. 

But other moments overwhelm us with a sense of helpless grief. Every time I turn off the turnpike onto the street that leads to my house, someone walks between the cars at the stoplight, asking for spare change. I try to remember to keep granola bars in my car or to have dollar bills with me, so I have at least a small offering. One day, I had a chocolate cake with me, so I gave that to the man walking between cars. He looked at me like that was ridiculous, inconceivable.

It’s easy to become numb to this kind of inconceivable—the poverty you can’t miss on urban streets, the pain of disease and mental illness, the brokenness of relationships. It’s too much. The ache of so much gone wrong in the world leaves us overwhelmed and paralyzed. And so we try to drown out the growling stomachs of children. We watch YouTube videos of kittens and laughing babies, while we ignore stories of oil-strewn coastlines, tsunami-ravished towns, earthquake-flattened homes, and violent suppressions of uprisings across the world.

In the passage from Luke 18, Jesus tells the disciples exactly what is going to happen during this time. He lays it out for them, plain and simple. But they’re so caught up in the frenzy of Jesus’ ministry—parables, teachings, healings, crowds, and Passover. Jesus’ words about his impending capture, torture, death, and resurrection are just too much, just inconceivable. In the middle of all that activity, how can they possibly understand that what Jesus has foretold will again deliver God’s people, this time from slavery to sin and death and hopelessness?

Because we know more of this story than the disciples did that day, we approach this holiest of weeks knowing that all kinds of crazy stuff is about to happen. We encounter the sacred moments of foot-washing and holy meals with awestruck, humbling wonder. We find ourselves crushed in that garden, stunned at the betrayal of one we love. We hide when things get too scary, buckling under the weight of the pain and hopelessness. We sit in grief—still, silent, soul-wrenching grief. We go to visit the tomb, determined to confront the darkness. And with Mary, we stop, frozen where we are, shake our heads—remembering what we know about Christ, and finally fully realizing that life defeats death, love conquers hate, and God continually makes all things new. And we mutter, “Inconceivable!”

Rev. Beth Bostrom is the United Methodist campus minister at the University of Miami.

Photo credit: dracobotanicus

‘Why Have You Forsaken Me?’ Lenten Devotions

Friday, April 22

Candle It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!”

In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.”

Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem (Mark 15: 25-41).

Mary's Sorrow: Lenten Devotions

Thursday, April 21

“Stabat Mater” is a 13th-century hymn that can also be read as a beautiful poem about Mary and her suffering leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. It was written in Latin, but its English translation is often sung in connection with Stations of the Cross during Lent.

Cross and cloudy sky At the cross her station keeping
Stood the mournful Mother weeping
Close to Jesus to the last;

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing
All His bitter anguish bearing
Now at length the sword has passed;

O, how sad and sore depressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole begotten One;

Christ above in torment hangs
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son;

Is there one who would not weep,
Overwhelmed in miseries so deep
Christ’s dear Mother to behold.

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain
In that Mother’s pain untold?

Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled
She beheld her tender Child
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of His own nation
Save Him hang in desolation
Till His spirit forth he sent.

O sweet Mother! Fount of Love,
Touch my spirit from above
Make my heart with yours accord.

Make me feel as You have felt
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.

Click here for the full text and original Latin.

Are you moved thinking about what Mary must have gone through? Each of us has pain and suffering in our lives—the loss of a loved one, illness, disability, financial hardship. Think about those last days of Jesus, and think about what he offered us in return for his suffering. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

Scott Bleggi is senior international policy analyst for hunger and nutrition for Bread for the World Institute.

Photo credit: ManonManon

Hunger Knows No Borders

Salguero22 At 37 years old, Rev. Gabriel Salguero has a huge responsibility—to be the voice for some 9 million evangelicals in the United States. He is the president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, which includes more than 3,000 churches. “We work as a team and look for the common good. We fight for laws that are just,” said Salguero, who has led the coalition since January. 

The New Jersey resident says his goal within the coalition is to combat poverty among Latinos, lobby for just immigration laws, and to expand people’s access to education. “These are related issues. My goal is to fight for the well-being and justice of Latinos in this country,” he said. 

Salguero takes his message across the country and to different parts of the world. He also visits legislators in Washington, DC, in hopes of changing laws so that needy people will benefit. Being the voice of those who are in need or have been ignored is what motivates Salguero to lobby politicians and to put his best effort into his preaching at The Lamb’s Church, a multicultural congregation in New York City. 

Salguero has distinguished himself through church and public leadership. He is the founder of P.O.G International, an organization that promotes faith, leadership, and training, and has taught at Princeton Theological Seminary. “I owe all of this to my parents. I learned love and piety from them, watching them help people who were recovering from addictions. That inspired me,” said Salguero, who quit law school to get a doctorate in theology and ethics. 

The evangelical pastor said it hasn’t been easy to do all the things he wanted to do, but serving his community motivates him. “Working on behalf of others is a challenge, whether you’re a man or a woman, so it’s important to achieve some balance,” he said. “It’s helped that I have learned to delegate some duties. I can’t do everything myself so it’s important to work with a team. I have also learned not to say ‘yes’ to everything, and I have the full support of my wife—and that has been essential.” 

Jeannette Salguero is also a pastor at The Lamb’s Church. The couple tries to balance work and personal time. Often they split the time they spend with their two children and help each other meet the needs of their congregation. 

Gabriel Salguero said he will continue working with the immigrant community in the United States, particularly those who are in the country without authorization. “Immigration reform is the greatest challenge for Hispanics. We have to change the laws,” he said. “All of this has its roots in global poverty, and poverty stems from a lack of education. All of it is intertwined.” 

He’s optimistic that millions of undocumented immigrants will soon get the long-sought legal status that will allow them to remain in this country and eventually afford them the rights that come with U.S. citizenship.

Salguero plans to bring his message to Washington, DC, during Bread for the World’s National Gathering 2011 in June. The biennial event will bring together hundreds of Christian activists who are committed to “Changing the Politics of Hunger,” which is the event’s theme. He will be one of the featured speakers and will talk about ways to protect and help the neediest Latinos in this country.

“I’m taking part [in Bread’s National Gathering] because it is important to make sure Latino women and children get adequate nutrition. We must speak up for the hungry and those who are most at need,” said Salguero. “This world is experiencing a crisis because of the gap between those who have and those who have not. It’s our duty to speak up for them in this country and around the world.”

Isabel Morales is Hispanic media consultant for Bread for the World.


Seeing Beyond Our Eyes: Lenten Devotions

Wednesday, April 20

Field We have all heard the expression: “Seeing is believing!” But seeing can also be misleading. What you see and experience can actually deceive, delude, or even trick you. How many of us have watched magicians at work? We see birds and rabbits pop out of hats; we see people levitate or disappear before our eyes. In other words, seeing can be misleading!

Similarly, in our society there are “truths” that are not truths at all but are in fact like magic tricks. Some of us have bought into them. They have become part of our everyday lives. Our thoughts and actions are guided by them on a subconscious level. Our goals and aspirations are shaped by them. They are so entrenched in our thinking that they have become normalized in our consciousness and express themselves throughout our culture. The sad fact is such deceptions have not only infiltrated society but also the church of God.

What are these deceptions?

Psalm 49 calls on the world to hear the truth concerning the temporary glory and false security of those who gain their wealth unjustly. But this psalm also distinguishes the everlasting hope of the righteous who put their trust in God’s word and follow the Spirit of God.

This psalm takes head-on a great deception in our society. We all know that in our society a person’s wealth or lack thereof determines not only his or her social standing but also the way others treat him or her. Let Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, or another billionaire or millionaire grace our presence. People will stand at attention and often cater to his or her every need. It’s not the worship of the individual but, rather, the wealth he or she possesses. It is our perception of the power of wealth and the so-called comfort and security it brings in this life.

At the same time, let someone with shabby clothes, not the best of odors, hair unkempt, and obviously poor come in. It is easy for us to dismiss him, to walk past and not recognize his humanity. We never ask, “How did he get where he is?” We never ask about his morality or righteousness. We sometimes consider him as possibly not being blessed! All we know is that he is poor and so subconsciously something kicks in and causes us to ignore—and even evade—his presence at times.

This psalm challenges this way of being. Wisdom cries out, saying, “Be mindful of your perceptions. Be mindful both rich and poor of how you perceive riches and those who possess them. Be mindful not to put your trust in the wealth that is fleeting and temporal. Be mindful to put your trust in God and God’s eternal riches.”

For earthly wealth has its limits, but God’s riches are limitless! There comes a time when all men and woman will part from their wealth, either in this life or when this life is over, and will have to stand before their Maker. This is the message of the psalm. Learn the ways of love, loving your neighbor as yourself. Learn the ways of sharing and the gift of giving. Learn the ways of seeking God’s will in all matters. Then you truly will be blessed.

Derrick Boykin is Northeast regional organizer for Bread for the World.

Bread Hits the Beauty Circuit

Bread for the World is going somewhere a little different this October: the runway of the Miss Black Illinois U.S.A. Pageant. Tanya August, a 2012 delegate, will highlight the problems of hunger and poverty within the African-American community by using Bread as her platform.

After a visit to Guatemala, August became deeply concerned about combating hunger on all levels. She became interested in Bread because of the broad range of poverty issues we cover—both internationally and domestically. Bread’s strong focus on African-Americans and hunger sealed the deal for August.

“I am excited to be able to choose your organization as my platform,” said August. “Hopefully through my journey, we can spread the grim truth about hunger and poverty within the world—and, unfortunately, in our very own backyard. Optimistically, we can empower others to take the same just stance.”

The Miss Black U.S.A. Foundation is committed to health and education within the African-American community. The pageant’s winners then use the influence they hold during their reigns to promote awareness of these issues.

August will dedicate her volunteering and work toward the Miss Black Illinois crown to educating people in her state about hunger and various ways to help alleviate it. She hopes to inform people about the issues and inspire them to act on behalf of those living in poverty in our country.

August is an example of the foundation’s emphasis on the academic achievement of its contestants. A strong student, she is currently working toward a master’s degree in clinical professional psychology at Roosevelt University in Chicago. She is looking forward to her journey toward the crown in Illinois, and, hopefully, at the national level. Bread wishes her the best of luck!

Shannon Cummings is a media relations intern at Bread for the World.


Desert Meditations on a Mountain Bike: Lenten Devotions

Tuesday, April 19

Bikeride2 Imagine if Moses, Abraham, Jesus, and the prophets had lived in the northern forests of Scandinavia, the jungles of the Amazon, or the Himalayas instead of the mostly desert areas of the Middle East and North Africa? The imagery and the settings in scripture might have been much different.

But the desert is the backdrop of scripture, and God uses that environment to speak to us. There is a simplicity in the desert environment that gives us the clearest example of an emptiness where God speaks. The desert is a brown or reddish brown canvas; a place with few distractions where we can hear the voice of our Creator more clearly.

And God rewards our attention. The prophet Isaiah talks about the blessings that God provides in the desert in Isaiah 41:17-18; Isaiah 44:3-4; and Isaiah 35:2.

My home of Albuquerque is one of a handful of places in our country where we can have a desert experience in the city limits. On Saturday before Holy Week, I set out prayerfully on my mountain bike for a ride through the desert foothills of the Sandia Mountains. My purpose was to listen to as many messages as I could from our Creator.

Here are some random thoughts.

Presence, not endurance. There is a very steep, sandy hill with a couple of curves on the bike path that I haven't mastered. I often avoid it, and instead go the long way through a paved road where I can get more traction. I decided to tackle it this time, and sure enough, I had to dismount and roll the bike uphill. My first thought was that endurance and personal strength should not be the guiding principle for my presence in the desert, but the experience of being there. In fact, having to dismount made me stop and walk and slow down.

The voice of God. As I reached an area on the bike path with several brush plants, I heard a joyful chattering. I am no zoologist, so I couldn't say whether it was a mammal or a bird. That minute my thought was, "Thank you, God, for speaking to me."

The dry creek bed. Albuquerque doesn’t get a lot of rain during the winter months and early spring. This year, we have suffered from El Niño, so conditions have been drier than usual. As I came to a dry bed that normally handles water runoff, I thought of the words of Isaiah 41:17-18 and my work as a Bread for the World volunteer. "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them. I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water." (New Revised Standard Version)

Carlos Navarro is volunteer state coordinator for Bread for the World in New Mexico, and a Bread board member.

Photo courtesy of Carlos Navarro.

Hunger in the News: Rising Food Prices a Threat


World Bank: Rising Food Prices Pose Imminent Threat. Spiking food prices have pushed the world's poor countries to "one shock away from a full-blown crisis," the head of the World Bank warned Saturday. "This is the biggest threat today to the world's poor, where we risk losing a generation," said World Bank President Robert Zoellick. [The Wall Street Journal]

Small-Scale Farmers Increasingly at Risk from 'Global Land Grabbing.' New research on the global rush for agricultural land shows small-scale farmers increasingly at risk as land deals ignore local tenure rights. … The stakes are high for displaced small farmers, women and children, as well as national governments where land is being leased in large amounts. [The Guardian]

Two-Thirds of Nations on Track to Meet Poverty, Hunger MGDs by 2015. Two-thirds of developing countries are on track or close to reaching the U.N. Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets to reduce extreme poverty and hunger, according to a World Bank-IMF report released Friday. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

Zoellick Warns on Food, Oil Prices. World Bank President Robert Zoellick on Thursday warned of rising food inflation and high oil prices resulting from political turmoil in the Middle East as risks to world growth, as they threaten to push more people into poverty. [The Wall Street Journal]


Job Cuts for Poor Seniors Could Up Homelessness. For $700 a month, 65-year-old Esmeralda Calderon cares for children part-time through a federal community service job that's in jeopardy because of cuts to the proposed federal budget for 2011. It's the only source of income for a woman who has no one to rely on and lives alone in public housing in a gritty Hollywood neighborhood. [Associated Press]

Prices outside Food, Energy Still Tame, but on the Rise. Rising gasoline and food prices aren’t news. They have been increasing a lot so far this year. When setting monetary policy, Federal Reserve officials have labeled rising commodity prices as transitory. Fed policymakers, however, should take note: other prices are also creeping higher. [The Wall Street Journal]

For Richest, Federal Taxes Have Gone Down; for Some in U.S., They’re Nonexistent. As millions of procrastinators scramble to meet Monday’s tax-filing deadline, ponder this: The super-rich pay a lot less in taxes than they did a couple of decades ago, and nearly half of U.S. households pay no income taxes at all. [The Washington Post]

Food Justice at Your Seder Table. This year, many Jewish groups are adding a chapter to the seder's never-ending story of oppression and freedom: food justice. [Huffington Post]

Chicago School Bans Packed Lunches. A small school in Chicago is making big news on the lunch line these days. Little Village Academy on Chicago's West Side no longer allows students to bring food from home to eat for lunch. So it's either eat the cafeteria food or go hungry. As you might expect, the policy has parents all around the nation in an uproar. [Miami Herald]

Vital Statistics: Hunger becomes a Major Issue in the U.S. This is a startling figure: About one in four Americans—urban, suburban and rural alike—worries about not having enough money to put food on the table at some point in the next year. [Indianapolis Star]

As Debt Ceiling Vote Nears, the Pressure's on House Republican Freshmen. They ran against debt. They swore and swore again that they’d cut up the nation’s credit card. But now the 87 freshmen House Republicans are facing intense pressure from administration officials and even some natural allies on why they should—indeed, why they must—vote to allow the federal government to go even deeper into debt. [The Washington Post]

For Gates’ Successor, Obama Needs a Budget Expert. When Robert Gates was chosen to be defense secretary, his primary mission was clear: fix the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, after President Barack Obama's Wednesday speech declaring he would cut $400 billion from "security" spending over 12 years, the primary credential for Gates' successor is that he be an expert on budgets ... and how to cut them. [The Cable/Foreign Policy magazine]


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