Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

84 posts from March 2012

Lenten Reflections: Day 38

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:

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Jeremiah 33:10-16
Mark 10:32-34, 46-52

Jeremiah 33:10-16

Thus says the Lord: In this place of which you say, “It is a waste without human beings or animals,” in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without inhabitants, human or animal, there shall once more be heard the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord:

“Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
for the Lord is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!”

For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the Lord.

Thus says the Lord of hosts: In this place that is waste, without human beings or animals, and in all its towns there shall again be pasture for shepherds resting their flocks. In the towns of the hill country, of the Shephelah, and of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places around Jerusalem, and in the towns of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the Lord. 

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” 

 

Hunger QOTD: David Nasby

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Children enjoy a snack at an after-school program in Washington, DC. Photo by Mark Fenton.

"America is the richest country in the world. And yet tonight, thousands of your neighbors will go to bed hungry. It may be your child's schoolmate who is undernourished and has difficulty learning on an empty stomach. Or it could be a co-worker, a working mother whose low-wage job doesn't make ends meet. Perhaps it's an elderly neighbor who has to make a decision whether to delay filling a prescription or buying groceries. The faces of hunger are as broad as the faces of America."

-David Nasby, retired vice president of the General Mills Foundation

Compassion, Peace, and Justice and the Faithful Budget Conversation

I attended the Compassion, Peace, and Justice Day last Friday, March 23, at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. It was sponsored by the Office of Public Witness, the advocacy office of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Washington, DC. The purpose of the event was to bring together Presbyterians on the eve of Ecumenical Advocacy Days, which Bread for the World cosponsored, to explore issues of particular importance to Presbyterians. I attended a workshop on food security/food sovereignty and one introducing a paper called, “World of Hurt, Word of Life: Communion in the Work of Economic Reconstruction,” which is being presented to the 2012 General Assembly by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy.

The paper explores the issues and causes of the global economic crisis and proposes a response by the church that is grounded in our theological tradition. There was one particular section of the presentation that struck me as I was sitting and listening. And this section noted values in our culture that exacerbate the crisis and offers responses, alternatives values that come from our Christian faith that we can lift up in our advocacy for the circle of protection. So I thought I’d share them here.

We are an ownership society.

                                We are a stewardship society!

We are a society of individuals.

                                We are a covenant community!

Inequality happens.

                                We value the common good!

Consumerism abounds.

                                Sustainability is responsible!

The market is infallible.

                                God is sovereign!

Government is fallible.

                                Government is a gift from God!

Nancy-nealNancy Neal is associate for deonomination women's organizational relations at Bread for the World.

 


Lenten Reflections: How Can We Do More for Poor and Hungry People?

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 118:1-2, 19-29
Jeremiah 33:1-9
Philippians 2:12-18

Come with me to a poor urban neighborhood in Dar es Salam, Tanzania. We are heading up an uneven, broken stairway. We carry food along this Via Dolorosa — such small penance on our part! 

This is our second-to-last day in Africa, and after all the walking of the past ten days, my troubled foot requires the cane I brought with me. My fellow pilgrims help me up these stairs.  It is African hot.

We are taking this food to two families for their graciousness in allowing a bunch of well-meaning U.S. Christians to learn from them the way of the cross. 

We are only visiting one family because the other family has had a death. A 4-year-old under-nourished little boy died last night in Dar es Salam. He died because his body could not endure chicken pox. Chicken pox is a deadly disease along this way.

As we reach the first house a woman’s sharp and painful wailing dissects us and great grief wraps itself around our legs, our minds, and our hearts.  We stop outside her door. We suffer with her. We pray. We furtively look into each other’s eyes as we leave the food that we brought for this family on this way of sorrow.

By the time we get to the second house we realize our catalog of questions has shattered along this Via Dolorosa. We have inhaled enough of the poverty to make our chests hurt; we have ingested enough of the sorrow, and we have grown heavy with our knowing.  We have already learned enough. We are more than a little numb.

I stand at one end of a small, narrow hall that opens on both sides.  Multiple households live here.  Sixteen (Or did she say 18?) people call this space: Home. 

We give what now looks like not enough to the mother of the second household, and she thanks us profusely. 

I need to you to see this woman. I need you to see her children. We must all do more! Please, carry this story beyond the borders of this page!  Please know that we must not only continue with the dollars that funds USAID, Feed the Future, and the 1,000 Days Movement. We must be bold enough, we must be inspired enough to see the gospel as it is preached along this way of suffering: we must ask to have it increased! For the hope of the resurrection, we must ask!

Inez Torres Davis participated in an ecumenical delegation of church leaders in a trip to Africa sponsored by Bread for the World last October. She works with the Women of the ELCA as their Director for Justice. 

Our Continued Campaign on the House Budget

'My Trusty Gavel' photo (c) 2009, Brian Turner - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

 

To our great disappointment, the House budget was approved today in a 228-191 vote. The budget, originally proposed by Budget committee Chairman Paul Ryan, fails to form a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people, and actually dismantles protections previously in place. We are however extremely thankful for Bread members who made phone calls to House members, spread our action alert through their churches, friends and used social media to get the word out that Christians care about the hungry and poor both here and abroad.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the cuts in the House budget are so severe that most of the government – aside from health care, Social Security, and defense – would cease to exist by 2050. Such harsh spending cuts to reduce our deficit are unacceptable. The House budget enacts trillions in additional tax cuts and fails to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction.

Most disturbing, these cuts would have a devastating impact on programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the Special Supplemental Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC), poverty-focused foreign assistance, and international food aid. In fact, 62 percent of the cuts in this budget are to low-income programs.

But take heart: We will continue to raise awareness on the importance of programs that help poor and hungry people. Stay tuned to the Bread blog for continued updates on these campaigns. Email, call, or visit your members of Congress and ask them to stand up for hungry and poor people in the United States by protecting funding for domestic nutrition programs that alleviate hunger and help lift Americans out of poverty.

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Lenten Reflections: Day 36

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 118:1-2, 19-29
Deuteronomy 16:1-8
Philippians 2:1-11

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; 
his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”

Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.

This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.

The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

+Read all of our Lent reflections.

Hunger QOTD: Majora Carter

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Photo of Majora Carter by James Burling Chase

“By working together, we can become one of those small, rapidly growing groups of individuals who actually have the audacity and courage to believe that we can actually change the world.”

-Majora Carter

Who’s in Your Circle of Protection? How Rep. Paul Ryan’s Proposed Budget Impacts Hungry and Poor People

120328-isaacIn this tough fiscal and economic environment, Congress must make difficult choices. But protecting hungry and poor people shouldn’t even be a question. Unfortunately, the budget proposed by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan fails to form a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people, and actually dismantles protections previously in place.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the cuts are so severe that most of the government—aside from health care, Social Security, and defense—would cease to exist by 2050. Every major bipartisan deficit-reduction group in the last two years has concluded that it will take both additional revenues and spending cuts to reduce our deficit to acceptable levels, but Ryan’s proposed budget fails to ask for an additional dime in revenues. Instead, his budget enacts trillions in additional tax cuts and fails to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction. 

Despite unprecedented levels of need, cuts in the proposed budget would have a devastating impact on programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the Special Supplemental Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC), poverty-focused foreign assistance, and international food aid. In fact, 62 percent of the cuts in this budget are to low-income programs.

Domestic Nutrition Assistance Programs

Increased need has led to increased demand for our nation’s nutrition programs. Nearly 49 million Americans—including more than one in five children—lives in households that struggle to put food on the table. More than 46 million Americans currently participate in SNAP; nearly half of them are children, and another 25 percent are elderly or disabled. Nearly 9 million women and young children rely on WIC for nutritious food.

Yet under this proposed budget, SNAP and WIC would see devastating cuts:

  • SNAP would be cut by $133.5 billion over 10 years and be turned into a block grant program. This would severely limit the program’s ability to respond quickly to increases in need. A cut this deep could kick 8 to 10 million people off the program.
  • WIC is funded by Congress every year. With the budget’s proposed spending caps, it would be nearly impossible to fund WIC at the level necessary to meet need.

Tax Credits for Low-Income Families

We can’t end hunger as long as people lack the financial resources they need to put food on the table. Tax credits such as the EITC and CTC boost household earnings and lift millions of people out of poverty every year.

  • The budget resolution appears to allow current EITC and CTC benefit levels to expire. This would end the additional EITC marriage penalty relief, end improved EITC benefits for families with three or more children, and prevent low-income families from counting earnings below $13,000 toward the CTC.
  • The budget calls for more than $4 trillion in savings from reducing tax expenditures. Given Congress’ reluctance to curb many of the popular big-ticket deductions and exemptions, there would be greater pressure to cut back on low-income tax credits, such as the EITC and CTC.

Poverty-Focused Foreign Assistance

More than 900 million people around the world suffer from chronic hunger. Poverty-focused foreign assistance supports economic growth, protects vulnerable people, and helps curtail desperation that may lead to violence. It is an important, strategic investment that saves our country from costly interventions later on.

  • In this budget, overall funding levels for foreign assistance are cut by 10 percent in comparison to last year’s funding levels.
  • The International Affairs budget is less than 1 percent of the total federal budget, but it bears roughly 20 percent of the proposed budget’s discretionary cuts for FY13.
  • The budget calls for ending the global anti-hunger program Feed the Future. Feed the Future aims to help 18 million vulnerable women, children, and family members escape hunger and poverty and prevent the malnutrition and stunting of 7 million children. Without the continuation of this program, gains will be reversed and lives will be lost.
  • The budget calls for cutting international disaster assistance by more than 50 percent at a time when famine and natural disasters are still a reality.
  • The United States has been able to successfully leverage other donors through its bilateral investments in foreign assistance. However, this budget calls for reductions to multilateral contributions, which would jeopardize international momentum to address hunger, poverty, and global health issues.
  • The cuts put forth in this plan would jeopardize gains made against global poverty. The level of proposed cuts would endanger lives and our own national security.

International Food Aid Programs

For more than 50 years, the United States has played an important role in alleviating global malnutrition and hunger, especially during emergencies. Despite the tremendous need around the world—including the ongoing famine in the Horn of Africa—the proposed budget could lead to deep cuts to international food aid programs.

  • For most schoolchildren, the one meal they get through the McGovern-Dole school feeding program is often the only meal they get all day.
  • In-school feeding and take-home rations improve school enrollment for girls. Educating girls in developing countries is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty.
  • Emergency international food aid is often the only line of defense between millions of people and hunger.
  • The International Affairs budget, which includes international food aid, is less than 1 percent of the total federal budget, but it bears roughly 20 percent of the proposed budget’s discretionary cuts for FY13. Cuts this deep would have devastating impacts on the roughly 46.5 million people who receive emergency international food aid.

This analysis was written by the government relations department at Bread for the World. Contact your member of Congress and ask them to oppose the proposed House budget.

Photo caption: Isaac, 3, enjoys fresh fruit. His mother, Heather, depends on the Earned Income Tax Credit to help support her family. Photograph by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

Act Now!: Say 'NO' to the House Proposed Budget

Hundreds of Bread members have called Congress since last week’s action alert on the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget being debated by the House of Representatives. Let’s keep up the momentum!

If you haven’t done so, please tell your representative in Congress to oppose this budget.

We have analyzed the budget, and the news is bad for people who are struggling:

  • The proposed budget cuts the highly effective Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by 17 percent over the next 10 years. This will put millions more American families at risk of hunger.
  • The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports that the cuts are so severe that most of the government—aside from health care, Social Security, and defense—would cease to exist by 2050.

The next 24 hours are crucial as the House of Representatives plans to vote on this budget tomorrow, March 29. Please call your representative now. Use our toll-free number, 1-800-326-4941. If the line is busy, please redial and call again. 

+Contact your member of Congress and ask them to oppose the proposed House budget.

Lenten Reflection: Marked by Our Convictions

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Photo by Flickr user Sarah Korf

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 119:9-16
Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23
John 12:34-50

Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God. (John 12:42-43)

A man in love will make an absolute fool of himself to win the affection of his beloved. A mother will make ridiculous faces and babble unintelligibly to elicit a smile from her baby. When our convictions are strong enough, when our longing is deep enough, we’re usually willing to risk a little embarrassment, to stick our necks out beyond our comfort zone.

An honest journey through Lent is marked by conspicuous conviction from start to finish.

For me, there’s hardly a more conspicuous act of Christian devotion than publicly wearing the black smudges of Ash Wednesday plastered across my forehead. It’s one of the few days of the year when I viscerally feel “set apart” because of faith in Christ. And yet, the approach of Good Friday reminds me that the awkwardness of quizzical stares pales in comparison to the conspicuous conviction – and suffering – of the One who laid down his life that all might have it fully and eternally. “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, and anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)

That’s the kind of conviction Jesus calls us to live into. The kind of conviction that washes dirty feet. The kind of conviction that speaks difficult truth in love. The kind of conviction that defends the rights of poor and hungry people, even when opposition is quick and change slow to come. The kind of conviction that chooses God’s praise over feel-good but fleeting praise from friends, coworkers, luminaries, and leaders.

God, release us from the fear of standing in the full light of our convictions. Remake us in the image of Jesus, who “[came] into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in [him] should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46) 

Greg Sims is annual giving manager at Atlanta Community Food Bank.

+Read all of our Lent reflections.

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