Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

53 posts from February 2012

Lenten Reflections: The First Sunday of Lent

On Sundays during Lent, we invite you to reflect and respond to the weekly prayer and action from our Lenten Prayers for Hungry People resource.

Lectionary readings (from the Revised Common Lectionary):
Genesis 9:8-17
Psalms 25:1-10
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15


O Christ, we rejoice that you bring God’s kingdom into our lives. Grant us faith in this good news so that we may raise our voices on behalf of those who hunger in our world. Amen.


During Lent, many Christians give up a favorite food. Others participate in special fasts as a way to remember those who are hungry. You may prefer to fast for just one day — or simply skip one meal. Contribute the money you save to your church, your denomination’s hunger appeal, or Bread for the World.

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Lenten Reflections: Day Four

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 25:1-10
Psalms 32
Matthew 9:2-13

Matthew 9:2-13

And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic — “Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

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Hunger QOTD: Bernard Meltzer

Photo by Flickr user DeaPeaJay

"There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up."

-Bernard Meltzer

Francis in His Time, Franciscan in Our Time

Sister Margaret Mary Kimmins, the catholic church relations liaison at Bread for the World, delivered a reflection at the Franciscan Mission Service for their inaugural Sunday Souposium. Her talk, entitled "Francis in his time, Franciscan in our time," focused on how Christians are called to be in relationship with God:

Several years ago there was a question that was very popular: What would Jesus do? Do you remember that? And it was, "WWJD?" It was all over the place from bumper stickers to bracelets, really.

It's a good question. It's a reminder of Jesus's example of how to act. However, for Francis, Jesus was not only a reminder, an example, a person to be imitated, but a brother, a lord, the Word of God, the revealer of God, and the center of the Spirit.

So the relationship of Francis to Jesus was so real and so intimate that he was called to imitate Jesus not only in what Jesus did, but also in how Jesus lived: humbly, courageously, gently, directing everyone and everything to God. The incarnate Jesus is the extravagant love of God.

Below are three video excerpts of Sister Margaret Mary's talk. Watch, listen, meditate, and share your thoughts with us in the comments below.




Learn more about the Franciscan Mission Service.

My First Visit to Lobby Congress for the 1,000 Days Movement

120224-capitol hill
Photo by Flickr user VinothChandar

Earlier this month Bread for the World hosted more than 50 religious leaders from around the country to help strengthen the advocacy voice of the church in the 1,000 Days Movement. Representing a variety of national church partners including Catholic, evangelical, mainline Protestant and traditionally African-American denominations, participants included bishops, leaders from religious women’s organizations, and advocacy and development experts. The participants attended meetings with high-level U.S. government officials including USAID Administrator Raj Shah and Lois Quam, executive director of the Global Health Initiative. The group also met with two members of Congress, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Nita Lowey (D-NY). Claudette Reid, coordinator for women’s ministries, Reformed Church in America, has these reflections on her visit to Rep. Lowey’s office:

This was my first visit to Capitol Hill, so I didn't know what to expect. One thing was for certain: I was a bit apprehensive. I can’t explain why exactly -- perhaps it was because I knew visiting Rep. Nita Lowey was an important visit. We only had a few minutes to persuade one of our key leaders that protecting funding for proper nutrition is the key to saving lives and could also assist her in being an effective steward of her budget.

We arrived at the Capitol a bit early so it gave us time to huddle in the cafeteria and review our talking points, which was extremely helpful, especially since the others decided that I should lead off the discussion. Me? Were they crazy? Did this stellar group of advocates---veteran lobbyists--- temporarily lose their collective minds in asking this neophyte to frame this discussion?

Our short walk from the cafeteria to the congresswoman's office was a blur. All I can recall is being nervous and worried that I was going to make a fool of myself. We arrived at the congresswoman’s office and after the usual pleasantries and introductions, my colleagues all looked at me with the non-verbal command to "go ahead." 

I can't remember everything I said, but I know I began by sharing our collective thanks/gratitude for everything that the congresswoman was already doing on behalf of women and girls and marginalized peoples both locally and globally. Then our group launched into our presentation on the importance of reinforcing our commitment as people of faith to bring awareness and sensitivity to the plight of those who cannot speak for themselves. 

Our presence at this meeting was a continuing response to the exhortation to take care of the "least of these" -- a moral and religious responsibility and privilege -- as we partner with Christ. Staff representative Erin Kolodjeski was quite gracious and engaging. She entertained our comments and questions and emphasized that faith communities like ours are key to the work that they are trying to accomplish. We bring life to the data and statistics they already have in abundance. 

By the time our time had come to a close, I realized that I had just completed my first 'lobbying' experience, and the earth did not fall in, and my nervousness had disappeared. I’m ready for my next round!

Claudette-reidClaudette Reid is coordinator for women’s ministries at the Reformed Church in America.

The Power of a Video

Ayleen Ferreras, 6, plays with a carrot from her school lunch at Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park, MD, on April 26, 2011. Bread for the World supports strengthening child nutrition programs as an immediate and direct way to reduce child hunger and improve health and educational outcomes. (Screen grab from video by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

You love videos, right? So do we. Which is why we were excited when InterAction, an alliance of U.S.-based non-governmental organizations, asked to partner with us on a video highlighting Bread's work. We provided the film footage and photographs. My colleague Racine Tucker-Hamilton wrote the script. Then InterAction edited the video. Not a bad deal. We're pleased with the results and we hope you are, too. Also, be sure to check out the other InterAction partner videos with Mercy Corps, CARE and Concern America.

*Text corrected on February 27, 2012, to reflect the fact that Racine Tucker-Hamilton wrote the video script.

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


After WIC, How Now Should I Live?

Photo by Flickr user orphanjones

I sat in the cold metal seat with a number in my hand. I had been there for hours. All around me babies cried, cell phones buzzed, and people shuffled or doodled or just looked numb. The line still wound out the door, and the policeman kept yelling at people who tried to cut the line, thinking they wouldn’t ever get through this thick crowd to one of the little windows where somebody actually listens to you. It reminded me a little of the DMV, but it was the Department of Human Services in Davidson County, and I was there trying to get state health insurance for myself and my baby. I was pregnant and uninsured at the time.

It wasn’t the first afternoon I would spend in that room, feeling lost in a sea of numbers and need. I had to come back again and again to be approved for Medicaid and then after my son Jack was born, I went back again to submit more forms to keep the Medicaid. As I left the first time, I saw a huge rat dart down the street under the overpass hugging the low gray brick building. I shivered when I saw its scuttling hindquarters disappear beneath a dumpster.

During Jack’s first year of life, I also spent a lot of snowy mornings sitting in the drab WIC office (for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children), picking up my vouchers for formula, baby food, eggs, peanut butter, tuna, and milk. Every time I was there, I remember feeling like a misfit. What was I -- a nice middle-class girl who went to college -- doing here? Surely some kind of cosmic oversight had placed me in this room by mistake.

But gradually it settled over me: I was no different than the other poor people who sat in the chairs beside me, waiting for the harried person behind the glass to call their name. It was meaningless how they were dressed or what color their skin was or how they smelled or whether they spoke English. Jack played with their kids. We sometimes smiled at each other. Bottom line, we were all poor enough to need free groceries. Because I sat in those chairs in those rooms, I saw that nothing separates us, not in any way that matters.

Now that I have health insurance through my husband’s job and we live in an affluent part of Texas, I am pregnant again. But I don’t sit in hard metal chairs in overcrowded rooms or doctor’s offices for hours. Instead, I wait in a doctor’s office decorated like a nineteenth-century parlor, with plush, overstuffed couches and glass pendant lamps. I am seen right away. I don’t have to submit form after form to convince a caseworker that I am eligible for benefits. I just get them.

I like my new living arrangements, but I am troubled. I am troubled at how recently I was dependent on government assistance, yet I don’t pause on my way to the doctor to remember the desperation of not being able to get medical care. Just a year ago, I handed my WIC vouchers to the supermarket cashier to receive free groceries, but I now casually swipe my debit card, no longer exercising the humility that comes with dependence. I’ve experienced a bit of hardship, but I’m still so naïve. And I kind of hate that.

I want to look at my new suburban life and all its comforts and know that I don’t deserve it or need it—and it’s not reality for many people. For one reason or another, I may not be as needy as I once was—it’s a complex choreography, how our choices lead us to our circumstances and vice versa. But I do know that when perceptions of reality are not challenged, no matter where we live, we start living with our heads in the sand. Our perspective dims like the light through a ship’s porthole and we stop seeing anything except what’s right in front of us.

Maybe I can make a way of life here in the suburbs that reconciles what I experienced before with what I experience now. Even though I don’t sit next to people in squalid rooms, how can I still care about my neighbor? How can I remember the humanity that underpins the darker, needier, messier side of life? How can I seek out a way of life that is paved with awareness and sensitivity, and that is not unintentionally myopic?

To start, I can write and think about how to take action, ways I can reach through the suburban veneer to the needs that I know lie not far beneath. I can let myself be bothered by the social and economic issues I was a part of not so very long ago. Maybe out of sight is not out of mind if I am careful. Possibly it’s less about guilt and more about remembering.

As much as is within my power, I can appreciate the soft couches, but remember those hard metal seats.

Andrea-bailey-willitsAndrea Bailey Willits is a freelance writer and editor in Plano, TX. She blogs at everydayextraordinary.me.

Lenten Reflections: When Do We Advocate for Justice?

Photo by Flickr user time_anchor

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 25:1-10
Daniel 9:15-25a
2 Timothy 4:1-5

Why and when do we advocate for justice? Today’s readings urge us to consider our grounding and our timing.

In Daniel 9, the prophet pleads for God to rescue Jerusalem and its people. Daniel knows he can’t point to the people’s faithfulness to justify God’s intervention. Time and again the people strayed, worshipping foreign idols, forgetting the amazing story of redemption from slavery in Egypt. All Daniel can fall back on is the depth of God’s mercies. The standard isn’t human faithfulness; it’s the sky-high standard of God’s limitless love.

As we advocate in our day, we know how short we’ve fallen from the fullness of faithfulness. How tentative we’ve been in speaking truth to our leaders. How discouraged and even cynical we’ve gotten with the political process. How fleeting and narrow our successes seem. How we’ve lost sight of God’s great mercies.

Stop it, Daniel says. We’ll never measure up if it’s only about us. What we point to and rely on is God’s steadfastness. All other ground is sinking sand.

The letter to Timothy looks to the setting and time in which we advocate. These days we have our fingers to the wind, deciding the perfect time to act. We hesitate, for when so many people disparage government’s role, when partisanship and electoral politics reign, when budget cuts are the order of the day, is now really the time to speak out boldly on God’s justice priorities?

Stop it, the epistle writer says. It’s not about whether the times are advantageous. We should be present and vocal whatever the political environment. In fact, faith swirls as a counter-cyclical wind: When the situation looks worst, that’s exactly when we’re called to the most expressive, determined advocacy.

Now is that time. God’s great mercy endures. Let’s do it.

Larry-hollarLarry Hollar is North Central senior regional organizer for Bread for the World.



Hunger QOTD: Shane Claiborne

Photo of Shane Claiborne by Tsar Fedorsky and Erik Stenbakken

"Only Jesus would be crazy enough to suggest that if you want to become the greatest, you should become the least. Only Jesus would declare God's blessing on the poor rather than on the rich and would insist that it's not enough to just love your friends."

Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical


David Beckmann to Speak at Wheaton College

'Wheaton College' photo (c) 2006, Stevan Sheets - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/


David Beckmann is preaching about hunger and poverty at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL, tomorrow, February 24. David will also keynote Wheaton’s annual HNGR Symposium entitled When Did I See You Hungry?  Advocacy, Hunger and Faithful Citizenship. This year’s Wheaton HNGR symposium explores the role of citizens to influence government—given that escalating food prices and increasing instability continues to deepen global hunger. It is a great honor for Bread for the World’s advocacy work to be featured at this important gathering.

Using his research expertise, Bread’s annual Hunger Report editor, Todd Post, will join the symposium panelists with presentations entitled “Facing the Facts: The Power of Research to Combat Poverty and Hunger,” and “The Earth and God’s Bounty, Emerging Themes in Global Food Production and Distribution.”  

Wheaton College is a celebrated academic institution within the U.S. evangelical world. What Wheaton offers to students by way of classes, chapel experiences, or educational symposiums such as this has ripple effects on the wider U.S. evangelical landscape. Many of tomorrow’s evangelical leaders in  churches, and international relief and development organizations come from Wheaton College.

In 2010, Bread for the World partnered with the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College to host an historic consultation focusing on how evangelical Christians approach government and God’s mission in the world. Government, Global Poverty, and God’s Mission in the World: An Evangelical Declaration came out of the rich dialogue amongst of the evangelical leaders representing academia, church, international relief and development organizations, media and advocacy institutions participating in the consultation.

The 2010 consultation at Wheaton inspired another exciting collaboration with two more prominent evangelical institutions.  A partnership between Asbury Seminary and Eastern University and Bread for the World formed in January 2012 to provide an online curriculum resource for evangelical seminaries and graduate coursework.  The curriculum will offer four modules that connect Christian discipleship and government engagement.  The resource will examine how evangelicals have thought about the role of government in the area of U.S. foreign assistance. The curriculum will be biblically grounded, using scripture to provide guidelines to help evangelicals growing concern to address global poverty worldwide.  The online curriculum resource will be open to the public and available June 2012.

Krisanne-vaillancourt-murphyKrisanne Vaillancourt Murphy manages evangelical church relations at Bread for the World.


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