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133 posts categorized "2012 Offering of Letters"
By Zach Schmidt
Last Wednesday, March 13, was a big day for hunger advocates in the Great Plains states. On that “game day” leaders across Kansas and Nebraska scored an impressive, triple-digit number of phone calls to the offices of Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). More than 200 phone calls were logged between the states—an all-time high! And many callers reported having substantive conversations with the senators’ staffers.
The calls targeted a bill recently introduced by Sen. Roberts and cosponsored by Sen. Johanns, the Improve Nutrition Program Integrity and Deficit Reduction Act (S.458), which would cut $36 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and result in nearly 1 million recipients losing benefits. Hunger advocates, joined by faith leaders in both states, find this unacceptable, and they let their elected officials know that now is not the time to cut nutrition assistance.
The strong showing on March 13 was a result of leadership and teamwork. A dozen key players, including bishops, pastors, directors and lay leaders, encouraged their contacts and connections to make phone calls. Communication was key: leaders shared updates on whom they had asked to make calls, who had committed to call, and what the callers heard back from the offices of the senators. Each of the leaders got behind this, and they delivered the bulk of the calls. Congratulations and thanks to everyone who made a call and especially to those who led others to call! This was one for the books.
Less than a week later, hunger advocates in Kansas and Nebraska enjoyed another big day. On Monday, March 18, two separate opinion pieces from respected local leaders were posted in the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal-Star, Nebraska’s two largest newspapers. In their own unique way, these leaders voiced their support for SNAP, pointed out the damaging impact of S.458, and urged Sen. Johanns to reject the bill. There hasn’t been enough said about hungry and poor people during these budget debates—not from the mainstream media and not from members of Congress on either side of the aisle. These op-eds—and others like them—help to break this silence.
With these big days of phone calls and op-eds, hunger advocates in Nebraska and Kansas are standing with people in their communities, in their states, and in our nation who stand to lose the most in the budget debates. It is a privilege to work in partnership with them.
Zach Schmidt is a Bread for the World regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.
Click here for a larger version of the "Understanding Bread's Campaigns" graphic.
"Circle of Protection," "Make it Happen," "A Place at the Table" — all of these Bread for the World initiatives could confuse anyone, even those already deeply involved in the organization. To help our members and friends understand our advocacy work better, we've developed a chart that explains our various campaigns.
The first row illustrates Bread for the World’s 2012 Offering of Letters: “Expanding the Circle of Protection.” This campaign will continue through the lame duck session of the 112th Congress, likely concluding early in the 113th Congress. We anticipate that many of the legislative issues in the 2012 Offering of Letters, which focused on protecting vital programs, will be carried over to 2013.
The second row roughly indicates in the timeline for Congress as it moves through their lame duck session and reconvenes in the new year.
The third row shows recent and new initiatives, starting with releasing of videos this fall by both presidential candidates. "What About Hungry and Poor People: Barack Obama's and Mitt Romney's Views" focused on raising hunger and poverty as election issues during the campaign.
After the November election, we segued to "Make it Happen, President Obama." Through that campaign, we are encouraging prayers for the president, especially at his January 21 inauguration. At the same time, we are petitioning President Obama to set a goal and work with Congress to enact a plan to end hunger.
On March 1, we will launch Bread for the World’s 2013 Offering of Letters: "A Place at the Table," just as the feature length documentary A Place at the Table begins showing in theaters. We are working with the producer, Participant Media, to ensure that the social action campaign for the movie integrates seamlessly with our 2013 Offering of Letters.
While these campaigns may seem disparate activities, they work together as a cohesive whole.
All of the advocacy work of 2012 brings us to Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters: "A Place at the Table." Our current work with "Make it Happen" will be amplified in the first goal of our 2013 Offering of Letters—petitioning the president to set a goal and work with Congress to enact a plan to end hunger. We will be collecting signatures for an online and printed petitions to President Obama.
We have not achieved all that we advocated for in last year’s Offering of Letters, "Expanding the Circle of Protection." That is just the nature of law making. So our 2013 Offering of Letters will continue to focus on congressional action needed to ensure a place at the table for poor and hungry people. This part of the 2013 Offering of Letters will be similar to past campaigns, focusing on letters and personalized emails to members of Congress.
If you have any questions, contact your regional Bread for the World organizer.
By David Beckmann
This weekend, as faithful congregants across our nation gather for their final service of 2012, we are mindful of the great significance of the budget discussions taking place among our political leaders. Whatever the outcome of these discussions—whether that means striking a deal or going over the fiscal cliff—hungry people in the United States and around the world will feel the effects the most.
We urge Bread members, Bread churches, and every concerned citizen to pray that our leaders choose a wise and just course. Please pass this prayer along or compose your own:
"Almighty and loving God, we pray for our nation. We are divided by ideology and interest groups. Our leaders find it difficult to make decisions together. We face pressing problems. Our economy is still fragile. But urgent questions go unresolved.
"We pray for the president and Congress as they continue to negotiate taxes and government spending. Give them wisdom, a spirit of concord, and a shared sense of responsibility for hungry and poor people. Open doors to a solution that will serve the common good. Amen."
A weekly legislative update from Bread for the World's government relations team.
The House and Senate are both in session beginning Wednesday of this week due to the Jewish holidays. They won’t stay in session long, though. It’s an election year, and members of Congress are eager to get home to campaign.
Programs that help people who are hungry and poor have been consistently under threat of devastating cuts during budget negotiations—whether that be the annual budget for the next year or a comprehensive deficit reduction bill that budgets for the next 10 years. New developments affecting those negotiations include a continuing resolution passed in the House, a new report from the administration outlining the effects of across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to begin in January, and the bipartisan negations being conducted by the Gang of Eight in the Senate.
Last week, the House passed a six-month continuing resolution (CR, temporarily funding government operations until a budget is passed) to fund federal discretionary programs at roughly current levels, plus a 0.6 percent increase for the first part of the 2013 fiscal year. The Senate is expected to vote on (and pass) the CR this week.
The farm bill—a bill which governs federal farm and food policy—is set to expire on September 30, 2012, and programs for two of Bread for the World's mini-campaigns, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and International Food Aid, are authorized through the legislation. The Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill last June. However, with seemingly no chance of leadership allowing floor time for the House Committee on Agriculture farm bill, Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley filed what is called a discharge petition. If signed by a majority of the House (218 members), it would force the House to vote on the bill. The petition had 27 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
Congress could still pass a farm bill extension before September 30 or they could let the bill expire and deal with an extension or re-authorization in the lame duck session in November/December once the outcome of the elections is clear.
On Friday, the administration released its sequestration report ($1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts that are scheduled to begin in January and last nine years), detailing how automatic cuts would be implemented. The report, well over 300 pages, provides an estimate of the percentages and dollar amounts that would be cut from every discretionary and mandatory spending account at the program, project, and activity levels, as well as a list of accounts that are exempt from cuts. The negotiated CR does not alter the path of sequestration.
The bipartisan group of Senators called the Gang of Eight continues to meet, trying to develop a comprehensive, bipartisan deficit reduction agreement that would replace the sequester with a comprehensive plan for deficit reduction, including additional tax revenues and further spending cuts. If successful in reaching a deal that Congress enacts, their proposal could determine the available funding for programs for hungry and poor people for the next 10 years. Those involved in the Gang of Eight include Senators Warner (D-VA), Durbin (D-IL) , Conrad (D-ND), Bennet (D-CO), Chambliss (R-GA), Crapo (R-ID), Coburn (R-OK), and Johanns (R-NE).
By Dr. Alice Walker Duff
Bread for the World Sunday is one of the primary ways we engage congregations in our work to end hunger. Through education, prayer, and worship, congregations commit themselves to the fight against hunger. Bread supports these congregations by providing free supplies, in Spanish and English, including a resource kit—with sermon starters, a litany and prayers, bulletin inserts, and offering envelopes.Join me in this year’s endeavor to get more churches engaged than ever before. Next year promises to be a very tough congressional year, and we will need more prayers, Offering of Letters, and people of faith to keep the Circle of Protection strong. It all starts with Bread for the World Sunday and your support.
Please consider sharing these resources with your pastor and church. The official date for Bread for the World Sunday is October 21, but many churches choose to celebrate on another Sunday in the fall. I hope you will plan now to get your church involved in this event.
I will introduce Bread for the World through Bread for the World Sunday to my Los Angeles and New York home churches.
If your church is already participating and active, thank you!
Many churches only hold a Bread for the World Sunday service, but others go on to make an Offering of Letters, become Covenant Churches, keep the congregation informed about issues and pending legislation, and some become the homes of many strong activists. I pray that all the churches with which my family members worship will “go all the way” and become active Covenant Churches.
I am taking the first step this year with Bread for the World Sunday won’t you join me?
Dr. Alice Walker Duff, is Bread for the World’s managing director.
Photo: Bread for the World's 2011 Gathering at American University on Sunday, June 12, 2011. (Photo by Rick Reinhard)
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) meets with Bread for the World activist Margaret Edmondson of Idaho during Bread for the World's Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Photo by Rick Reinhard for Bread for the World)
By Robin Stephenson
In order to accommodate as many activists as possible, we have added an additional time for our Grassroots Conference Call (and Webinar) tomorrow, Aug. 21. Now you can call in at 4 p.m. Eastern Time (that is 1 p.m. Pacific Time for the West Coast) or at 8 p.m. Eastern Time (5 p.m. Pacific Time). Register now for the slot that best fits your schedule!
The monthly call is a great way to get the most recent update on the Offering of Letters, ask questions of our expert policy analysts from our government relations department and hear from your dedicated organizing staff and Bread members.
Maryland activists participate in Bread for the World's 2011 Lobby Day. (Photo by Jim Stipe/Bread for the World)
- Develop an “elevator speech” for why ending hunger is important to you as a Christian.
- Register to vote.
- Write a letter to your local paper saying that ending hunger is a priority for you as a voter.
- Learn what the candidates are saying about ending hunger.
- Speak about the importance of ending hunger at candidates’ town hall meetings.
- Engage your friends. Make sure they are registered and know what the candidates are saying about ending hunger.
- Magnify your voice by combining it with those of thousands of other Christians. Become a member of Bread for the World; organize an Offering of Letters.
- Engage your church.
- Give money and volunteer time to candidates who are committed to ending hunger.
- VOTE for candidates who are committed to ending hunger.
During the August recess, as we lead up to the lame duck session, Bread members are setting up meetings with members of Congress and their staff at local offices to make sure that hunger issues are part of the campaign conversations.
by Kyle Dechant
- Eighty-four percent of all SNAP benefits go to households with a child, elderly person, or disabled person.
- Eighty-five percent of families on SNAP make less than $24,000 a year (for a family of four).
- The average SNAP allotment per household is $284 per month.
With rhetoric about government programs heating up during this election year, some Americans are not getting reliable information about the value and efficiency of this program to assist hungry families.
Bread for the World activist Kaela Volkmer (left) talks with Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) as staffers listen during Bread for the World Lobby Day in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
More than 60 young religious leaders—"agents of change" from communities around the United States—came to Washington, DC, for Bread for the World's Hunger Justice Leaders training, June 9-11. Their jam-packed schedule included three days of worship, workshops, and a chance to lobby members of Congress on behalf of hungry and poor people. This story of one hunger justice leader comes from Bread's summer 2012 "Legacy of Hope" newsletter.
In two Nebraska congressional offices, newly minted Hunger Justice Leader Kaela Volkmer countered the myth that poor people abuse the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and the Women, Infant, Children food program (WIC).
“It’s painful for me to see the polarization happening now. We must find a solution that doesn’t put poor and hungry people in greater peril, ” Volkmer said.
The night before, Kaela and 60 other young church leaders from across the nation were commissioned as Hunger Justice Leaders. The next day, the Hunger Justice Leaders joined hundreds of Bread for the World members in visiting congressional offices to urge members of Congress to protect funding for programs vital to hungry people.
Kaela calls the three lobbying visits she made “real world experiences in reasonable dialogue.” Face to face with Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), she told him about a mother who handed her baby to Kaela, begging for help feeding her children.
Kaela admits it wasn’t easy to respond calmly to charges that SNAP is “too big and rife with abuse.” But she came armed with the facts, and imparted them—also delivering a petition supporting the maintenance of levels of aid to hungry families signed by scores of her fellow Nebraskans.
Kaela’s Hunger Justice Leader colleagues were similarly impassioned and equipped by the training they’d just completed: “The training empowers the powerless. I thank God!” said Rev. Christina Reed of Washington, DC. “This has been a truly transformative experience. Through worship, conversation, song … I have felt the spirit of God moving.”
Rev. Libby Tedder of Casper, WY, agreed. She said the training program, sponsored by Bread for the World Institute, has enabled her to “speak with courage so that the eyes of the powerful will be opened to the plight of the hungry.”
Kaela Volkmer’s home congregation, St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church of Omaha, invested in her by sponsoring her Hunger Justice Leader training. Kaela serves as a member of the church’s human needs committee. Her particular passion is Catholic social teaching, which centers on addressing the root causes of inequity in addition to charitable acts.
“Catholic social teaching is so beautiful, rich, and needed in today’s world,” Kaela said. Kaela had assured St. Wenceslaus’s pastor that she would return equipped to bring back to the church the voice and the resources they need. “I came home unsettled, but in a good way,” she said. “I am ready to navigate the waters."
One of her first projects will be to help revitalize the parish’s Offering of Letters.
With the presidential election fast approaching, there will be no shortage of stump speeches, fundraisers and “personal” emails from the candidates. These may not be the best forums for voicing your opinion, but there is one platform that is ripe for making concerns about hunger and poverty known—the town hall meeting.
A town hall meeting is an informal public meeting where everyone in a community is invited to attend, voice opinions, and hear from public figures about a particular subject or subjects. Attending one of these meetings is your right as a member of the community, but it can be nerve-wracking if you haven’t gotten your talking points together to effectively engage your member of Congress.
Bread for the World now offers useful resources for bringing hunger and poverty to the forefront of these meetings. They include tips on how to get your Congress member’s attention and quick and powerful facts about hunger and poverty. You can also find ideas for taking things a step farther—guidelines for writing letters to the editor, scheduling a meeting with your members of Congress, and publicizing responses to your questions using social media.
While poverty and unemployment in the United States reached record rates between 2008 and 2010, the rate of food-insecure households did not rise. This is largely due to the success of anti-poverty programs like SNAP that help people get back on their feet in times of heightened need. Overseas, U.S. funding for medication helps prevent more than 114,000 at-risk infants from being born with HIV each year. Additionally, more than 33 million people affected with HIV since 2004 have received counseling. Unfortunately, programs that support hungry and poor people in the United States and abroad risk grave cuts as Congress continues work to reduce the deficit.
It is more vital than ever for you to take action and lift your voice for hungry and poor people, and town hall meetings are perfect platforms to do so. Ask your members of Congress to create a circle of protection around programs that provide vital support and nutrition to vulnerable people in the United States and around the world. Visit Bread’s Elections Matter page for more resources to ensure that hunger and poverty are top priorities this election season.