134 posts categorized "2012 Offering of Letters"
Screenshot from CNN.com
On Monday, July 9, we attended a briefing at the White House, during which President Obama called for extending tax cuts for the middle class and small business owners. While we were overwhelmed by this amazing opportunity to listen to our president, we also wanted to take a critical look at some parts of his speech.
During his speech, President Obama noted that he has cut taxes for Americans by an average of $3,600 per year during his tenure. He urged Congress to extend tax cuts for the middle class and small-business owners who make less than $250,000 for another year. He also called on Congress to allow tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire by the end of the year. President Obama emphasized that 97 percent of U.S. business are small businesses, and are the economic root of the nation.
In an ongoing effort to strengthen the middle class President Obama said that we need to “widen the circle of opportunity” for middle class Americans. We found the president’s use of this phrase interesting. Since early 2011, Bread for the World and other organizations have called on Congress and the Obama administration to create a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.
Yesterday, the government relations interns at Bread for the World braved the ‘July-in-DC’ humidity with more than 100 individuals, including members of Congress, NGOs, faith groups, and numerous anti-hunger advocacy organizations, to oppose the draft farm bill released by the House Agriculture Committee. Together, in front of the Capitol, we raised our voices – and our signs – against the proposed $16.5 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). These proposed cuts would cause 2 to 3 million people to lose their SNAP benefits entirely, cause another 500,000 households to see a $90 reduction in monthly benefits, and end free school meals for nearly 300,000
Hungry children and struggling families are not just numbers or statistics -- they are human lives. They are our friends, neighbors, and fellow Americans. As each Member of Congress stood up and spoke, we heard different viewpoints on the same message: “We must protect SNAP to protect these families.” The 10 congressional leaders at this event spoke with shakings fists, raised arms, and words of devout promise -- they will not stand by and allow the $16.5 billion cut to SNAP.
The American poverty narrative assumes that with the right amount of elbow grease, a person can escape poverty. Our media is littered with heroic stories, and we collectively cheer, celebrating the power of the indomitable American spirit. Some people say, if you are poor, you are just not trying hard enough.
Aside from the fact that such a statement is more about cultural identity than reality, the assumption is affecting budget debates and obscuring solutions that view poverty as a national concern. Poverty doesn’t just affect the individual; it’s a collectively created problem. With the right conditions, poverty can behave like a tsunami, spreading throughout communities and generations, leaving a littered landscape of destruction in its wake. History reminds us increased poverty has a multiplying affect to the detriment of a nation’s prosperity.
Everyone is affected when less people have access to housing, nutritious food, education, and jobs that pay a living wage. The school lunch program was enacted following World War II, when would-be soldiers were denied duty because of malnutrition, putting national security at risk. As President Truman signed the School Lunch Act, he understood that, “in the long view, no nation is healthier than its children, or more prosperous than its farmers.”
Joe Martingale (standing) of New York talks with other Bread for the World activists from the state during Bread's Lobby Day in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.
We need your voice once more and we only have about 24 hours to act! The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and international food aid continue to be targeted for cuts on Capitol Hill.
On Wednesday, July 11, the House Agriculture committee will vote on their version of the farm bill -- the major source of funding for SNAP and other nutrition programs. This draft bill includes a devastating $16.5 billion cut to SNAP. The bill also cripples efforts to increase the nutritional quality of international food aid programs by slashing potential funding by 95.6 percent over the next five years.
The Senate has already firmly rejected deep cuts to SNAP while also proposing common sense reforms to international food aid. The House of Representatives can, and must, do better.
Photo by Flickr user Franco Bouly
Public dialogue can create public pressure, and raising your voice is critical to avoiding cuts that will take food off the tables of families who most need it. We must encourage members that food assistance is not a political football.
If your member of Congress is on the House Agriculture Committee, tag them in a tweet or message them on Facebook in the next several days leading up to Wednesday’s committee vote on the farm bill. Below are sample tweets and Facebook posts, as well as a chart of links to members' accounts.
Dear @RepX, Cuts to SNAP & Food Aid in the #FarmBill would increase poverty & hunger. Please do the right thing #BreadActs
Dear @RepX Please be a hunger champion & do the right thing. Protect SNAP & food aid funding in #FarmBill #BreadActs
I am counting on your continued leadership for people who are poor and hungry. Please oppose cuts to SNAP and food aid in the upcoming farm bill vote.
As a person of faith, I believe that budgets are moral documents and must not be balanced on the backs of the poor. Please be a leader and oppose cuts to SNAP and Food Aid in the farm bill.
Sister Simone Campbell leads evening worship at Bread for the World's Hunger Justice Leaders Program in Washington, DC, on Sunday, June 10, 2012. Sister Simone leads Network, a Catholic social justice lobby group that launched a Nuns on the Bus tour to bring light to federal budget cuts that hurt poor and hungry people. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World
From June 17 to July 2, a small group of nuns toured the nation by bus to protest budget cuts that would endanger poor and hungry people in the United States. Known as the "nuns on the bus," this powerful contingent of women religious raised awareness at every stop on their tour about cuts to federal funding for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). The bus tour ended Monday, July 2, with a rousing rally in Washington, DC (see our coverage of the event here).
On Tuesday, we sat down with Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network -- a primary organizing group of the bus tour -- to hear her stories from the road and find out what we can expect next from the "nuns on the bus."
Read part 2 of our interview below. (Read part 1 of our interview here.)
Where did you grow up? And were you aware of social injustice growing up?
I grew up in California. I grew up in Long Beach. But my sister and I -- this was the late '50s -- and so my sister and I really cared about civil rights when we were young. Dr. Martin Luther King was our hero, and so that shaped me early on.
Adding a personal touch to one’s anti-hunger advocacy work — be it through a letter, phone calls, or even artwork — is the key to effectively bringing about policies that protect hungry and poor people. And the world of social media provides new and exciting ways to engage one’s elected officials.
During the Wild Goose Festival this past June, Bread for the World staff members ran a photo booth that allowed attendees to personally contact their members of Congress in a creative, easy way through social media outlets. Bread staffers encouraged festival-goers to write a message to their senators or representatives on a whiteboard and then hold up an image of the member of Congress. Bread staffers then took a photo of the participants so that this image could be attached to a tweet, Facebook status, or email. Bread staff encouraged participants to use two specific, strategic hashtags in their tweets, so that people were able to follow the entire series of tweets over the course of the four-day festival.
Nancy Carrasco (left) and Erika Carranza (right), both of California, listen to a speaker during a breakout session at Bread for the World's Lobby Day in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Photo by Rick Reinhard for Bread for the World.
What’s going on?
On June 21, the Senate passed its version of the farm bill, which included $4.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the food stamp program). The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 (S.3240) could impact 500,000 families by reducing their monthly SNAP benefits by $90. It passed with 64 yes votes and 35 no votes.
Food assistance in the U.S. and around the world is at risk of deeper cuts in the House.
Next week on Wednesday, July 11, the House Agriculture Committee will consider their version of the farm bill. The draft bill contains approximately $16 billion in cuts to SNAP, and more than $35 billion in overall cuts to farm bill spending. We are urging members of Congress on the committee to vote against the bill because of the deep cuts to SNAP. We are also asking them to speak up during the markup in support of these critical programs. All members of the Ag Committee need to hear from constituents that these programs are vital to people who are hungry and poor.
Just as we urged Senators to oppose and support certain amendments in the Senate process, we also want to see strong opposition to negative amendments that further cut SNAP and food aid, and strong support for positive amendments, whether they pass or not. The Senate has already voted against even deeper cuts to SNAP. We must urge the House to do the same.
I am a recent college graduate of The University of the South, a very small university that sits on top of the East Cumberland Plateau in Sewanee, TN. I know that I am fortunate to have had a cafeteria to serve me three meals a day, and a supermarket that I could walk to for groceries; however, not everyone in my town was as fortunate. As a college student, it’s easy to get stuck in a “bubble,” and sometimes forget about issues that may be in your backyard.
Sewanee is a small town of just 2,361 people, and 3.3 percent of families in Sewanee live below the poverty line. This figure may seem low, but when you consider that the majority of Sewanee residents are employees or students of the University, the percentage of families living in poverty who are not associated with the university is actually much higher.
During my first year in college, I volunteered at the Otey Parish in downtown Sewanee, where I learned very quickly that many families in the community don’t always know where their next meal will come from. Otey’s outreach program provides assistance to families in need, and gives meals to about 75 families in the community once a week. Volunteering at Otey Parish was an eye-opening experience because I had never before thought that families within the small town of Sewanee suffered from hunger.
Screenshot from Dateline NBC.
Dateline recently aired a program following three families as they transitioned from the comfort and safety of a middle-class life, to the struggle and anxiety that came with job loss as a result of the recession. The program, America Now: Lost in Suburbia, shows life on safety-net services (watch it below). Besides coping with the debilitating shame that comes with poverty, one thing is clear from the stories: None of the families want to be using government benefits.
“It’s this dirty little secret … what we don’t talk about is people who struggle,” says Joyce Welch, who hides her poverty from others in her suburban community. “It takes an emotional toll, it takes a mental toll, it takes a physical toll,” she says. "There is a moment where I went, 'my joy is gone -- my love for life, my ability to continue moving forward is gone.'"