Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

53 posts from February 2012

Hunger QOTD: William Arthur Ward

A 70-year-old woman laughs with family members inside a grocery store in Tachilek, Myanmar. UN Photo/Kibae Park.

"Learn and grow all you can; serve and befriend all you can; enrich and inspire all you can."

 -William Arthur Ward

The SNAP Vaccine: Keeping Kids Healthy

Time and time again we are reminded that hunger remains a problem in America. The latest reminder comes from a Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) poll.  Since 2008, Gallup has asked respondents if, in the last year, there was a time that they did not have enough money to buy the food their family needed. In 2011, 18.6 percent said, “yes” -- the highest annual rate yet.

This FRAC poll found that more people reported having trouble buying food in the last half of 2011, as food prices rose and unemployment and underemployment remained high. In fact, more people reported food hardship in the third and fourth quarters of 2011 (19.2 and 19.4 percent respectively) than in any period since the fourth quarter of 2008 – the height of the recession.  The states where the most people had trouble buying food were generally in the South. Mississippi (24.5 percent), Alabama (23.4 percent), West Virginia (22.5 percent), Kentucky (22.5 percent), and South Carolina (21.9 percent) had the highest percentages of food hardship.

Like an illness, hunger leads to poor health and hurts child development. The folks at Children’s HealthWatch point out that we already have a vaccine for the hunger: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps).  Like a good vaccine, SNAP effectively prevents malnutrition and alleviates hunger, allowing participants to get back on their feet. According to their research, children on SNAP are less likely to be underweight or have developmental delays. Families who can rely on SNAP are also less likely to make trade-offs between buying food and other staples like electricity and heat for their homes. By investing in the “SNAP vaccine,” we are putting end to hunger and its consequences.


In the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Congress enacted a temporary boost in SNAP benefits to combat rising food prices. FRAC’s polls found that the boost stemmed the rising number of families struggling to buy food during the recession. Two years after ARRA, Children’s HealthWatch found that children on SNAP were more likely to be healthy than eligible children who weren’t enrolled.

Unfortunately, Congress cut this increase in SNAP benefits to pay for other legislation. Families on SNAP will now see a drop in their benefits in October of 2013. The President rightly addressed this problem his recent budget proposal, but it’s up to Congress to enact it. Let’s continue to combat hunger and poor nutrition through this highly effective vaccine by protecting SNAP and returning the ARRA boost that has helped so many families. 

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



+Learn about our campaign for the 2012 Offering of Letters.

Give Me an 'O'!: Cheering on the Offering of Letters



Our communications team started putting together the materials for this year’s Offering of Letters way back in August, so we’re excited they’re finished and that many of you are starting to use them.

As you know, this year’s Offering of Letters is comprised of an overall campaign and four mini-campaigns. This week, we’re telling you about our overall campaign, including the resources we created to help make this campaign as effective as possible.  

The word “Offering” works as a handy mnemonic device for listing these resources – so check them out!

O  Offering of Letters handbook. Your go-to resource for information about the entire campaign. Remember that our website has the latest information, plus many Web-only resources.

F  Facts. These hunger and poverty facts can help make the case for action. This glossary will also help clear up unfamiliar terms and concepts.

F  Frequently asked questions? Here are some general questions and answers.

E  Endorsements. Find out what church and denominational leaders are saying about this campaign.  

R  Real people. Hear Tara Marks and Rev. Judith VanOsdal talk about why the issues at stake in this campaign are so important. View their stories in video and print form and share them with others.

I  Inserts for your church bulletin can help your church discuss the issues, write letters, and pray.

N  Need more visuals? Our PowerPoint presentation gives an overview of the campaign with photos, pertinent stats, and talking points. All you have to do is advance the slides, but these 10 tips will help you get the most out of this resource. Download the PowerPoint, called “Presenting Bread for the World’s 2012 Offering of Letters.”

G  Get back to us! Tell us how your Offering of Letters went with this feedback form. Your comments help us follow up with members of Congress and also measure the campaign’s impact.

There are lots more resources on our website, including posters, an activity, display board images, an order form for ordering supplies, and a sign-in sheet to use at your Offering of Letters. But your regional organizer is your most important resource, so be sure to call or send them an email if you have questions.

Thanks for your important work on this campaign! We need your voice.

Molly-marshMolly Marsh is managing editor at Bread for the World.



+Learn more about the overall campaign for the 2012 Offering of Letters.

Photo by Flickr user Listen Missy!

Lenten Reflections: Why Do We Fast?

Photo by Flickr user theilr

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during Lent, we offer reflections from Bread staff and others who faithfully work to end hunger.

Lectionary readings (from the Revised Common Lectionary):
Psalms 77
Proverbs 30:1-9
Matthew 4:1-11

Growing up in the Greek Orthodox Church, the coming of Lent meant one thing: fasting. As a child I identified Lent as an interminable time of rules and guidelines on what I could eat. The Fast of Great Lent is a strict one, wherein participants abstain from meat, dairy, and even oils, and opt for smaller, simpler fare. It meant eating my morning cereal with orange juice instead of milk, foregoing "Pizza Fridays" with my classmates in elementary school, and being jealous of my other friends who got to choose what they gave up! I eagerly waited for Easter to come so that I could go back to life as normal.

As an adult, I’ve thankfully matured a bit in my faith and view the Lenten period of fasting quite differently. For Orthodox Christians, fasting is an attempt to strengthen our spiritual relationship with our creator by stripping away the worry, distractions, and concern of the secular through simplicity and solidarity with the poor and hungry.  

The Great Fast of Lent hearkens the image of Jesus fasting in the desert and being tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:1-11), to which he responds,"It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

I once heard a priest describe the point of Lent in relation to its fast by telling a young parishioner that "Great Lent is much more about the words that come out of your mouth than the food you put in it."

During Lent we seek to listen more carefully to the words that come from God’s mouth, whether in prayer or scripture so that we may order our steps and words in that example. Throughout the Bible, we see the clear commandment to serve the poor and hungry and to bring justice to our world. This Lent, let us be just as mindful of what comes out of our mouths as what we put in them, so that we may be effective advocates for all those who hunger this Lenten season.
Jon-gromekJon Gromek is North Central regional organizer for Bread for the World.

+Read all of our Lent Reflections.

Hunger QOTD: Jane Addams

Photo caption: A pregnant woman in Timor-Leste looks out her window. Recently the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) supplied equipment to Timor-Leste's national hospital in capital, Dili, which will aid in reducing maternal mortality and improving child delivery. UN Photo/Martine Perret.

"Civilization is a method of living, an attitude of equal respect for all [humans]."

-Jane Addams

"Our Job and Our Call"


20111030_ElMilagro_JudithVanOsdol_0342bThe little boy was wearing short sleeves in winter and his lips were turning blue. Pastor Judith VanOsdol was surprised, but not stunned. She knew why he wasn’t wearing a coat: The majority of her congregation at El Milagro Lutheran Church in Minneapolis is poor and food insecure.

“More people than we can realize fall between the cracks or are just under the line and find themselves in situations where they are unable to feed their families and the children,” she said. "When we are in a situation of economic insecurity I think it's easy to blame the most vulnerable. And for some odd reason we look there first to cut."

VanOsdol believes it’s important to advocate on behalf of poor and hungry people so that the federal programs that help them continue to help them. This is why she agreed to be filmed as part of our 2012 Offering of Letters campaign. Each year Bread for the World invites churches and groups across the country to write personal letters and emails to their members of Congress on issues that are important to hungry and poor people. These letters send a powerful message to our country's political leaders and help us as a nation move closer to our goal of ending hunger.

"It is indeed our job and our call to be a part of these processes and decisions and legislations and pieces of legislation," said VanOsdol. "And the persons who make those decisions need to hear from us."

Watch the video below to meet Judith VanOsdol and to learn how contacting our members of Congress is an effective way to advocate for poor and hungry people.

Photo caption: Judith VanOsdol, pastor of El Milagro Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, leads the noon service on Sunday, October 30, 2011. VanOsdol believes in advocating on behalf of hungry and poor people, many of whom make up the majority of her congregation. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Laura-pohlLaura Elizabeth Pohl is multimedia manager at Bread for the World. You can follow her on Twitter at @lauraepohl.

Lenten Reflections: Day Seven

On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays during Lent, we invite you to reflect and respond to one highlighted Scripture reading from the Revised Common Lectionary.

Lectionary readings:
Psalms 77
Job 5:8-27
1 Peter 3:8-18a

1 Peter 3:8-18a

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For

“Those who desire life
and desire to see good days,
let them keep their tongues from evil
and their lips from speaking deceit;
let them turn away from evil and do good;
let them seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.

+Read all of our Lent Reflections.

Hunger QOTD: Dietrich Bonhoeffer


"The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children."

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian

Photo caption: Children in a Head Start class in Tuscon, AZ, eat a nutritious lunch. Photo by Jeffrey Austin.










When Was the Last Time You Wrote a Letter?



When was the last time you wrote a letter? Do you remember sitting down to write out your thoughts, folding up the letter, sliding it into an envelope, licking the envelope closed, addressing it to the recipient, sticking a stamp on, and dropping it off in the mail?

Indeed, letter-writing is a lost art these days, but not for thousands of Christians around the country who participate in Bread for the World's annual Offering of Letters.

Each year Bread for the World invites churches and groups across the country to write personal letters and emails to their members of Congress on issues that are important to hungry and poor people. These letters send a powerful message to our country’s political leaders and help us as a nation move closer to our goal of ending hunger.

This year, we need you to raise your voices more than ever.

Bread’s 2012 Offering of Letters is designed to make our advocacy as effective as possible, and our overall campaign  focuses on protecting funding for programs for hungry and poor people.

We hope you will join us in asking our representatives to create a circle of protection around vital programs for hungry and poor people in the United States and abroad. But we know that writing a letter can be somewhat intimidating, so throughout this week, we'll be publishing posts on the Bread Blog about how you can write this letter, and how you can get others to write letters along with you. The blog series will feature:

  1. A compelling video that tells the stories of people who advocate for poor and hungry people;
  2. How-to resources that teach you to organize a letter-writing event in your community;
  3. Biblical grounding on how to view these campaigns as people of faith;
  4. and a lot more!

So, visit the Bread Blog each day to learn something new about the Offering of Letters, and set your pen to paper (or your fingers to your keyboards) and get to writing!

Photo caption: Members of Templo Calvario (Assembly of God church) in Santa Ana, CA, participated in Bread for the World's Offering of Letters and wrote letters to their members of Congress on Sunday, October 16, 2011. Photography and video by Laura Elizabeth Pohl.

JCHOI_SMWKNDJeannie Choi is associate editor at Bread for the World. Follow her on Twitter @jeanniechoi.


+Learn more about the overall campaign for the 2012 Offering of Letters.

Lenten Reflections: Love that Transforms

Image by Flickr user qthomasbower

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during Lent, we offer reflections from Bread staff and others who faithfully work to end hunger.

Lectionary readings (from the Revised Common Lectionary):
Psalm 77
Job 4:1-21
Ephesians 2:1-10

The Christian lifestyle is one that must constantly be able to challenge society. In the third lectionary reading, St. Paul reminds the Ephesian community that they are called to live within society in a manner that transcends it. This calling challenges us to consistently live the radical principles of love in a world that continues to hate.

In the first reading for today, Job’s friend admonishes Job’s lament by appealing to the theology of retribution. In that perspective, God rewards the good and punishes the wicked. However with Job, as with Jesus, we can affirm that they are both righteous and just, and yet they suffer. Both of them demonstrated God’s radical love with acts of justice and charity, and yet society either punishes (as with Jesus) or ridicules (as with Job) those who are good and righteous.

In St. Paul’s famous “hymn to love” we are told that “love is patient, love is kind,” but from these readings we are also reminded of the fact that love can and will hurt. This is the transformative dimension of love where we can experience a rebirth into faith and hope through the trials of our own despair and anguish. For Job and Jesus their experience of suffering does not condemn their acts of justice and charity. At the end both of them are vindicated through the loving and transformative intervention of God.

In the second reading the psalmist recognizes this pattern as well. After lamenting the present social anguish the psalmist recognizes God’s wondrous deeds throughout history and in the following psalm that message of hope is rekindled through the power of faith. Faith in a God whose love has prevailed in the past and even now, in the anguish of the present, can still be felt.

John-gonzalezJohn Gonzalez is Northeast regional organizer for Bread for the World.



+Read all of our Lent Reflections.

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