Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

27 posts from January 2012

Hunger QOTD: Desmond Tutu

Jane Sabbi, left, is a farmer in Kamuli, Uganda, and a mother of seven children. In this photo she works in her field with her sister-in-law. Watch a short video about Jane. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

"Because there is global insecurity, nations are engaged in a mad arms race, spending billions of dollars wastefully on instruments of destruction, when millions are starving. And yet, just a fraction of what is extended so obscenely on defense budgets would make a real difference in enabling God's children to fill their stomachs, be educated, and be given the chance to lead fulfilled and happy lives."

-Desmond Tutu

In Political Campaigns, Attacking Nutrition Programs Helps No One

Photo by Flickr user DonkeyHotey

With the ongoing presidential primaries, the media has given a lot of attention to remarks by some candidates disparaging the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). Yet, opinion polls and data continue to show that this line of attack is neither reflective of voter sentiment, nor factually accurate. Instead, candidates who want to improve the country should tell voters how they plan on ending hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.

A new poll from the Food Research and Action Center asked voters about cutting SNAP to reduce federal deficits. The results were much like the survey on poverty discussed by my colleague Amelia. Here are some of the key findings that we, as activists for hungry families, can take heart in:

  • 72 percent, nearly three in four, of voters say SNAP is important to the country.
  • 77 percent reject the idea of cutting SNAP to reduce government spending as some candidates are proposing.
  • One in every two voters is less likely to vote for a candidate who wants to cut SNAP while only 9 percent would be more likely.
  • Opposing cuts to SNAP is not a partisan issue. Republicans, Independents and Democrats all support this crucial program with large majorities.

Clearly candidates who want to attract this sizable group of voters should oppose cuts to SNAP instead of attacking the program and its beneficiaries.

Candidates who oppose important safety net programs are not only hurting their electoral chances, they’re also misleading themselves. The facts are clear: SNAP is one of the most efficient safety net programs out there. The recession has forced many families to seek help buying food, yet despite rising caseloads, SNAP has continued to see lower error rates every year, dropping to a record 3 percent in 2010. While some are quick to draw upon stereotypes of government bureaucracy, it turns out that 95 percent of money spent on the program goes right to its recipients. It would be very hard to cut the program without cutting benefits or kicking families off.

Politicians who talk trash about SNAP make the false assumption that it has something to do with the country’s rising deficits. It does not. SNAP has certainly added millions of cases in the past couple years, but that means the program is working exactly how it should! It helps the millions of families forced into poverty during the recession. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the program’s participation level will go back to pre-recession levels by 2021, as the economy improves. Candidates looking to balance the budget need to look elsewhere. Readers of the Bread Blog may have seen this chart before, but it’s an important reminder of the true cause of rising deficits:


Candidates often talk about making our country better. Wouldn’t that include addressing poverty? The polls show that Americans are compassionate and understand that the path to ending hunger includes a strong safety net. The data shows that SNAP is not the cause of the deficit. It is, however, the most effective tool we have for helping families that struggle to put food on the table. Candidates need to hear this from voters: Why are you launching these unfair attacks on SNAP and the struggling families who rely on it?  

Ben-d'avanzoBen D'Avanzo is Mimi Meehan Fellow at Bread for the World.



+Find out how you can organize an Offering of Letters at your church. Find resources, stories, videos, and more at www.bread.org/OL.

Think Young Christians are Apathetic and Uninformed? Think Again.

Young activists like LaToya Brown of New Haven, CT, gathered on the opening day of Bread for the World's 2011 National Gathering on Saturday, June 11, 2011, to advocate on Capitol Hill for poor and hungry people. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl.

It may catch leaders in Washington off guard, but there is a wave of young activists ready to leave their imprint on a broken world.  Many believe that young Christians are too busy living within their own protective bubbles to notice the problems of the world around them.  While this may be true for some, the vast majority of college-aged Christians I’ve met and formed friendships with are on fire with a passion unlike any I’ve ever experienced before.

As a 21-year-old intern at Bread for the World, graduating in May, my possibilities seem endless.  I am idealistic, headstrong, and ready to devote my life to a cause that I believe in – and right now that cause is ending global hunger. This same passion lives in many of my friends, who fight for causes ranging from stopping sex trafficking, to ending the use of child soldiers, to volunteering in local nursing homes and homeless shelters. Lawmakers may think that the youth of this nation are apathetic, lazy kids who really don’t care about anything other than the newest video game, but they are wrong.  We want to make a difference – more than anything we yearn to show Christ’s love to the world. 

These issues keep us awake at night, and inspire us to make a difference. I am haunted by the thought of children going to bed hungry; of families working multiple jobs while struggling to make ends meet; of children facing stunting and challenges to physical development due to malnutrition; and of whole communities ravaged by drought and famine.  

Young Christians are banding together to make their voices heard – to proclaim the good news of Christ’s love but to also put it into action.  In a Reuters article, author Shane Claiborne explains that this new movement is comprised of young Christians seeking a more authentic expression of faith: "'I see an entire generation of young people who want a Christianity they can wrap their hands around.  They don’t just want to believe stuff. They’re saying if you want to know what I believe, then watch how I live.'"

I have found an authentic expression of my faith at Bread for the World where I work to advocate for poor and hungry people in near and distant places.

To my fellow young Christians, I want to challenge you to ask yourself, what is the one cause that makes you impassioned for someone other than yourself? If you haven’t found one yet, I would recommend getting involved with Bread for the World to make a lasting impact on turning the tide of hunger and poverty in America and abroad.  Participating in Bread's Offering of letters is a great way to start advocating on behalf of those less fortunate.  Everyone is called to make a difference.  Find a way to make yours.

Jael-kimballJael Kimball is media relations intern at Bread for the World.



+Find out how you can organize an Offering of Letters at your church. Find resources, stories, videos, and more at www.bread.org/OL.

Hunger QOTD: Anne Frank

Photo by Flickr user SidPix

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

-Anne Frank

Amelia Kegan on the Role of Poverty in the Upcoming Elections

Amelia Kegan, senior policy analyst at Bread for the World, attended a panel discussion with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity to discuss how poverty and hunger will affect teh conversations in the upcoming elections.

In an interview, Kegan emphasized that poverty is not a partisan issue:

Poverty really has to be an issue that politicians take seriously and really address. Hopefully we can see that Americans really value and are going to [be] considering and listening for the candidates to address [poverty] through the 2012 elections. In today’s political climate, everything is often times so partisan and so polarizing. As we saw from the panelists today, [poverty] really is an issue that everyone can get behind and everyone should be able to support.

Watch her video interviews with the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity below and read her reflection on study findings that say 88 percent of surveyed voters said a presidential candidate’s position on poverty is important in deciding their vote, and nearly half (45 percent) said the issue is "very important."


+Learn more about poverty in the United States and how you can take action.

Hunger Doesn’t Discriminate Based on Party Affiliation

120126-SNAPDespite perceptions and suggestions to the contrary, we know that the circumstances that lead people and families to enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) don’t discriminate based on race. And as we profiled earlier, an ever-growing number of families on the program are working.

Add this: Though a breakdown of participation based on political affiliation doesn’t exist to our knowledge, we have no reason to believe that people struggling in this economy are disproportionately Democrats, Republicans, or otherwise. Consider the story of Susie, a 59-year-old Florida woman who lost her business during the recession:

"I am a Republican and a conservative ... and I had to swallow my pride today and come in and apply for benefits for the first time because I'm losing weight," Susie said. 

Even if you brush the moral case for SNAP aside, candidates ought to take note of the sheer political calculus that there’s a growing proportion of the American electorate for whom SNAP is the difference between having just barely enough to eat and going hungry. 

Matt-newell-chingMatt Newell-Ching is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.



Photo caption: Alex Morris feeds her son, André, in their Bend, OR, home. Alex depends on SNAP, WIC and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system. Photo by Brad Horn for Bread for the World.

+Learn more about SNAP and how you can take action.

Gabriel Salguero: What Do Latino Evangelical Voters Want?

Photo by Flickr user √oхέƒx™

[This blog post is an excerpt from an article written by Bread for the World board member Gabriel Salguero, president of that National Latino Evangelical Coalition. The full article is available on The Washington Post.]

It may come as a surprise to you to learn that Hispanic evangelicals are a key constituency in swing states. The Jan 31 Florida primary has hastened an all-out blitz for this group’s attention. What do Hispanic evangelicals want from a presidential candidate?

Since our coalition of Latino evangelicals launched a national voter registration campaign, I have fielded multiple interviews about this growing--and increasingly politically influential--demographic. As many have noted, historically, Hispanic evangelicals are social conservatives that simultaneously advocate for issues of justice for the most vulnerable. Anyone who ignores this reality, particularly in swing states like Nevada, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Ohio, has not understood this emerging and increasingly vocal group. As a group, we are quintessential independent voters.

In 2004, George W. Bush won the majority of Hispanic evangelicals and in 2008 Barack Obama won that vote by a slim majority. Now in 2012, politicians, pundits, and prognosticators want to know which way we will lean. I’d like to recommend a way forward.

Hispanic evangelicals are not a monolith. Moreover, it would be the height of hubris for anyone to claim to speak for the 10 million or so Latino evangelicals. I personally agree with David Neff of “Christianity Today” that we as evangelicals should resist the temptation to try to be kingmakers. There is much seduction in the “will to power” and we should run away as fast as they can from this temptation. Martin Luther King, Jr. was correct, when he wrote: “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, it must be the guide and critic of the state and never its tool”(Strength to Love, 1963). Hispanic evangelicals should simultaneously bring moral and public pressure to bear on behalf of legislation we feel is consonant with our conscience and convictions. Our community should work hard to develop our own national agenda that holds all candidates accountable. In short, we should shy away from endorsing candidates --while backing agendas that are consonant with our worldview.

So what are Hispanic evangelicals passionate about? In 2012, many Latinos in Pentecostal and evangelical congregations have divided allegiances. On the top of their mutual agendas is humane, common sense immigration reform. This is a moral and family values issue. We take “welcome the stranger and love your neighbor” seriously. We are looking for legislation that provides an earned path to citizenship and keeps families together. This type of legislation has been endorsed by presidents from Reagan to Obama and yet nothing has changed. Both parties have lacked the political will to make policy changes that will impact Latino families in profound ways. 

To say Latino evangelicals are disappointed by this inaction is a severe understatement. Moreover, the rhetoric by some GOP candidates to veto a DREAM Act or to not provide a path to earned citizenship for the 12 million illegal and undocumented immigrants is raising the ire of many Latino pastors. Our message to the GOP is to stop the anti-immigrant rhetoric. Meanwhile, this present administration’s spike in deportations has left us disillusioned with the left. In short, Hispanic evangelicals want real solutions now and they want both parties to be accountable.

On the social issues Latino evangelicals overwhelmingly hold to a pro-life and pro-marriage platform. This is no secret. Latino evangelicals have historically been social conservatives on the issues of marriage and what Catholics call a “seamless garment” of life. This means that many Latino evangelicals advocate for a broad agenda that protects children--both before birth and after. We are thoroughly concerned about the health of the most vulnerable.

While Hispanic evangelicals are for the most part social conservatives, they also value the power of good governance on behalf of the ones Jesus called, “the least of these.” Many Hispanic evangelicals, myself included, signed-on to the Circle of Protection to protect programs for the poorest and most vulnerable in our country. In addition, we realize that the global economic recession has displaced thousands of Latinos from homes in the foreclosure crisis. Latinos look for a government that understands that among the things the Constitution calls for is that the government “promote the general welfare.” This is at the heart of Latino evangelicals’ advocacy for anti-poverty programs at home and abroad, immigration reform, and educational equity. Pew researchers have said that Latino evangelicals are “big government social conservatives.” I would say we are people who seek the common good. ...

[Keep reading this article on The Washington Post.]

Gabriel Salguero is a board member at Bread for the World and president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.

HungerQOTD: Robert Alan Silverstein

A young girl sells oranges in the market in Lusaka, Zambia. Photo by Margaret W. Nea

"Those who wish for a more peaceful, just and sustainable world are helping to make ending world hunger a major priority... Together we can end hunger."

-Robert Alan Silverstein

Just a Tweet Away with @DavidBeckmann #WEF

Photo by Flickr user World Economic Forum

Yesterday, David Beckmann tweeted: “I’ve been invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos this year.” (Follow @DavidBeckmann on Twitter.)

Since a portion of my day is spent facilitating the @bread4theworld twitter feed, I wondered if our twitter followers, me included, know why Davos is so important. So I set out this morning to do a little online investigating and this is what I’ve learned:

  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) has taken place in Davos, Switzerland, since 1971. This year, the WEF is happening from January 25 to 29.
  • In attendance are more than just government officials, but also academics, business representatives, journalists, religious leaders and other dignitaries.  The meetings create a cross-pollination of ideas to address the world’s economic and social problems.
  • Transformational programs around poverty have been launched at past meetings, such as the Global Health Initiative (GHI), a program through which the U.S. government supports the work of Scaling Up Nutrition, a program that Bread for the World is mobilizing around in this year’s Offering of Letters.

Still, I wasn’t sure I understood why I should care about what is happening at Davos this week, so I asked my friend, Bread for the World Institute’s policy analyst Faustine Wabwire. Faustine pointed out that with competing interests in these tough economic times, global food security needs a strong voice and a renewed commitment from world leaders. “Investing in long-term development requires long-term, sustained commitment from national governments and the international donor community,” Faustine said. “As our leaders meet in Davos, we are reminding them to follow through on the commitments they have made in the fight against hunger, poverty, and disease.”

So I’ll be following @DavidBeckmann this week (and the hashtag #WEF) as he navigates the conversations with an ear toward solutions to end hunger and poverty. Be sure to follow us at @bread4theworld, where we will be posting different opportunities for you to include your voice and remind leaders that their choices can indeed make a world of difference.

Robin-stephensonRobin Stephenson is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.


Five Things You Probably Don't Know About Food Stamps

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is in the news these days because of comments made by some Republican presidential candidates. Below are five things you probably don’t know about the program.

  1. A large and growing share of SNAP households are working households(see chart). In 2010, more than three times as many SNAP households worked as relied solely on welfare benefits for their income.

    The share of SNAP households with earnings has continued growing in the past few years — albeit at a slower pace — despite the large increase in unemployment.

    One reason why SNAP is serving more working families is that, for a growing share of the nation’s workers, having a job has not been enough to keep them out of poverty.

  2. SNAP Working Households Have Risen

  3. SNAP responded quickly and effectively to the recession. SNAP spending rose considerably when the recession hit. That’s precisely what SNAP was designed to do: respond quickly to help more low-income families during economic downturns as poverty rises, unemployment mounts, and more people need assistance. In 2010, for example, SNAP kept more than 5 million people out of poverty and lessened the severity of poverty for millions of others, under a poverty measure that counts SNAP benefits as income.

    Economists consider SNAP one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus, so SNAP’s quick response to the recession — as well as a temporary benefit increase enacted in the 2009 Recovery Act — helped the broader economy. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) rated an increase in SNAP benefits as one of the two most cost-effective of all spending and tax options it examined for boosting growth and jobs in a weak economy.

    Converting SNAP to a block grant, as some have proposed, would largely destroy its ability to respond to rising need during future recessions, forcing states to cut benefits or create waiting lists for needy families.

  4. Today’s large SNAP caseloads mostly reflect the extraordinarily deep and prolonged recession and the weak recovery. Long-term unemployment hit record levels in 2010 and has remained extremely high. Today, 43 percent of all unemployed workers have been out of work for more than half a year; the previous post-World War II high was 26 percent in 1983.

    Workers who are unemployed for a long time are more likely to deplete their assets, exhaust unemployment insurance, and turn to SNAP for help, since it is one of the few safety net programs available for many long-term unemployed workers. In most states, other programs — such as cash assistance under theTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and state General Assistanceprograms — haven’t responded effectively to rising need during the recession.

    More than one in five workers who had been unemployed for over six months received SNAP in 2010, according to Congress’s Joint Economic Committee.

  5. SNAP has one of the most rigorous quality control systems of any public benefit program. Each year states pull a representative sample (totaling about 50,000 cases nationally) and thoroughly review the accuracy of their eligibility and benefit decisions. Federal officials re-review a subsample of the cases to ensure accuracy in the error rates. States are subject to fiscal penalties if their error rates are persistently higher than the national average.

    In 2010, only 3 percent of payments went to ineligible households or to eligible households but in excessive amounts. Payment accuracy has continued to improve in the past few years, despite the large increase in SNAP enrollment.
  6. SNAP is Projected to Shrink as a Share of GDP

  7. SNAP’s recent growth is temporary. CBO predicts that SNAP spending will fall as a share of the economy as the economy recovers and the Recovery Act benefit increases expire (see chart). By 2021, SNAP is expected to return nearly to pre-recession levels as a share of the economy.

    Over the long term, SNAP is not growing faster than the economy. So, it is not contributing to the nation’s long-term fiscal problems.

Stacy Dean is vice president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. This blog post originally appeared on  the Center on Budget  and Policy Priorities' blog, Off the Charts (www.offthechartsblog.org).

+Learn more about SNAP and how you can take action.

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