Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

84 posts from March 2012

I Called My Member to Stand Up for Grandmother


Why did I call my Congresswoman about endangered nutrition programs like SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps)? Why did I tell her legislative assistant a bit of my own family’s history?

Because of my grandmother. Because of my father. Because of hunger’s toll. Because of the lost potential in children who went to work fulltime at 14 years old.

My grandfather’s death left my grandmother as the sole provider for their four children, ages 1 to 7. She moved from a house to an apartment; made and remade their clothes; took in sewing; kept the gas low; did others’ housework; and scraped the bottom of every barrel. Her own mother was also widowed young and survived by selling soap from door to door. Now elderly and disabled, she moved in with her daughter (my grandmother) and the children.

At the time, there were no social safety nets, and no nutrition programs. As a little boy, my father especially hated being sent to beg a soup bone from the local butcher, but also held his breath, hoping the butcher would leave some shreds of meat on the bone.

The boys delivered newspapers. During summers they worked in a furniture factory from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., six days a week. The girls helped their mother with sewing jobs. Nobody complained.

Uncle Jack and Daddy left school to work fulltime after eighth grade. Grandmother anguished, but their jobs were necessary for feeding the family.

Marginal survival, lost human potential.

Can I be silent about national budgeting that makes nutrition a low priority? Can our nation tell families just to put a little more water in the soup? If I didn’t try to maintain the nutritional safety net, I wouldn’t be able to face my grandmother’s spirit.

I had a chance to stand up for her, and I made a phone call.

Mary Cabrini-Durkin is a Bread activist from Cincinnati, OH.

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

Hunger QOTD: William Arthur Ward

Photo by Flickr user jasonb42882

"Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: Be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work."

-William Arthur Ward 


Writing Letters for Our Community in Albany, NY

Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

St. Vincent de Paul Church, a progressive urban Roman Catholic community in Albany, NY, conducted our 2012 Offering of Letters on March 3 and 4. We wrote letters opposing cuts in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), because of concerns about our parish food pantry guests, who rely upon those programs. Because of the troubled economy, the numbers served by the food pantry has risen 25 percent from 6,999 guests in 2009, to 8,739 guests in 2011.

To prepare for the Offering of Letters, we made a bulletin insert and announcements, as well as oral announcements. We also had a session about a program housed in the former parish rectory which serves young women with addiction problems who are pregnant or have young children. The program director noted that WIC and SNAP provide major support for those women

Parishioners were provided sample letters, background information, paper, pen, envelopes and stamps for letter writing after Mass using the Bread website as the primary resource. Sample letters were sent out electronically to enable parishioners to prepare their letters in advance.  People were invited to sign up for updates about the Offering of Letters from Bread for the World.

We mailed out 113 letters while some people wrote their letters from home. Postage was paid for out of the proceeds from a talent auction our church held in January that raised about $2,800 for Bread for the World and our food pantry.

Dave Rowell is a member of St. Vincent de Paul parish in Albany, NY and has been its covenant church coordinator since 1985. He coordinates the annual Offering of Letters and the fundraiser to raise money for Bread for the World.

+Learn more about the 2012 Offering of Letters.

+Click here for more Offering of Letters resources.

Lenten Reflections: Day 34

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 119:9-16
Isaiah 44:1-8
Acts 2:14-24

Acts 2:14-24

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 

‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.

Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

+Read all of our Lent reflections.

Hunger QOTD: César Chávez


Altar boys and a church member walk from the church rectory to mass at Our Lady of Assumption Church (Notre Dame de l'Assumption) in Petit Goave, Haiti, on Sunday, October 10, 2010. The church was completely destroyed during the earthquake on January 12, 2010. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

"We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own."

-César Chávez

Calling All Activists: Beat Your Drums Loud Enough for Washington to Hear!

Photo by Flickr user  Vladimir Morozov

Why should you care about the House proposed budget?

  1.  God’s Vision:  God calls us to speak for the most vulnerable.  God’s vision is a world where all have enough (2 Corinthians 8: 13-15). The House Resolution will increase harm and suffering for the poor and hungry both here and abroad.
  2. God’s work: The Budget Resolution proposes cuts to programs that Bread members have championed over the years and have given people like Heather Turner a hand up on the cycle of prosperity.  Therefore programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit reflect God’s vision. 
  3. Safety Net’s Save: During a time when communities and families are struggling to come back from the harsh economic realities of the great recession, it would be devastating to cut a safety net that has kept millions afloat and stimulated local economies.
  4. Values: If the values carved in this resolution are allowed to stand unchallenged, it sets the priorities for November’s lame duck session and prevents Congress from adequately funding programs for the most vulnerable.  The poor did not create the deficit and should not bear the burden of restoring fiscal responsibility.
  5. Options: Deficits have been reduced in the past with the principle that we can reduce the deficit at the same time we reduce hunger and poverty.  There are other options that better fits God’s vision for God’s world.

It’s a long way off until the budget deadline on October first or more likely after a continuing resolution and the November elections.   Yet waiting until then to speak up may be too late.  The time to get noisy is now.  We need a steady drumbeat of citizen discipleship in the next several months that says a resounding “NO” to cuts of programs that protect hungry and poor people.  You did it last year and literally helped millions.  Start this week with a phone call to your Member of Congress and follow it up by starting a movement in your community that calls for a circle of protection.

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



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

Lenten Reflection: Praying through Brian McLaren's Naked Spirituality

120326-prayerOn 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
Isaiah 43:8-13
2 Corinthians 3:4-11

My church has a Wednesday night book study for Lent this year. We are reflecting on Brian McLaren’s book, Naked Spirituality. The leaders of the study present pieces of the book and lead the group through various exercises that allow for quiet reflection and meditation.

Two weeks ago, we talked about three kinds of prayer. The theme of the first prayer was “sorry.” McLaren suggests that “the most important conversation we have is not with God, but the conversation we have with ourselves before we speak with God.” Will we put on a false face? Or will we be honest? And so in this prayer of “sorry,” we enter a process of self-examination so that we can see the difference between what is real and what is imaginary.

The next prayer is “help.” McLaren says that an immature prayer asks God to remake the world in our image for our convenience, and a mature prayer asks God to make us in God’s image so that we may respond to the world. We did an exercise that moved me deeply. We made a list of frustrations or problems, starting with little ones and moving to big ones, and we transformed those frustrations into mature prayers that asked God to remake us in God’s image so that we can respond to the world.

The third prayer was the prayer of “please.” This is a prayer of intercession. When we see suffering in the world, there are many possible reactions we can take, such as action, prayer, intervention, nothing, despair, or we can explain it away. But as Christians, we are called to prayer at the very least. And in prayer, we can feel connection, we can feel solidarity, or we can let go. In this prayer, we become a bridge between the needs of others and God. We become God’s love in the world for others.

I invite you to try out these Lenten prayers.

Nancy-nealNancy Neal is associate for denominational women’s organization relations with Bread for the World. Check out her work on the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days.


Photo caption: An attendee prays during the second day of Bread for the World's 2011 Gathering at American University in Washington, D.C., on June 12, 2011. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Lenten Reflections: Fifth 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):

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-12
or Psalm 119:9-16
Hebrew 5:5-10
John 12:20-33


O Christ, we live in a world filled with suffering and death, but you call us to follow you and serve you. May your abundant mercy open our eyes to new ways we can create hope and opportunity for hungry people.



Members of Congress pay special attention to the local newspapers in their district and state. Write letters to the editor and contribute op-ed pieces so your representative and senators in Washington, D.C., see that their constituents believe ending hunger should be a national priority.

+Read all of our Lent reflections.

Lenten Reflections: Day 31

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 51:1-12
Exodus 30:1-10
Hebrew 4:14—5:4

Psalm 51:1-12

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

+Read all of our Lent reflections.

Take Action: Write a Letter to Your U.S. Rep. and Say ‘NO’ to FY2013 Budget

It’s time to write those letters and emails, folks.

We need to tell our U.S. representatives to oppose the proposed FY 2013 budget, to not cut SNAP, and that the deal reached in the Budget Control Act of 2011 should not be broken. The sample letter will change throughout the year as we quickly respond to legislation that is being considered in Congress and ensure our message will be the most relevant and impactful.

If you have an Offering of Letters planned in the next several weeks, please use the following sample letter, which you can download from our website. The sample letter (or email) is a guide; personal letters that connect members of congress to their constituency are always the most influential. The important part is that what we ask them is a consistent and clear message across the nation.

Below is our sample letter. Feel free to use the language below, or to send your own message:

Dear ______,

I ask you to stand up for hungry and poor people in the United States and abroad by opposing the House FY 2013 budget. Rather than support these extreme cuts, I urge you to create a circle of protection around programs vital for hungry and poor people. The budget decisions before Congress are difficult, but we must not balance the budget on the backs of vulnerable people. Programs for hungry and poor people are a lifeline for millions of families.

In 2010, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) lifted 4.4 million people out of poverty. The Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit lifted 9.3 million people out of poverty. Last year, emergency food aid helped 46.5 million poor people.

Over the last decade, foreign assistance programs provided safe drinking water for nearly 1.3 billion people around the world. Time and time again, these programs have proven effective in addressing hunger and helping families move out of poverty. Yet much of the $4.1 trillion in cuts in the House's FY 2013 budget are to programs vital to poor and hungry people, while much of the savings goes to $4.3 trillion in new tax cuts.

The budget slashes SNAP by more than $130 billion, which could kick more than 8 million people off the program. It cuts funding for international programs such as food aid and poverty-focused foreign assistance by another 11 percent for next year, and calls for further cuts that would endanger lives and allow global hunger and poverty to persist.

Our budget choices must not hurt those Jesus called the least among us. As you consider your vote on the House FY 2013 budget, I urge you to form a circle of protection around funding for programs vital to hungry and poor people and oppose this budget.

If you still have questions, call your Regional Organizer, or you can ask your questions in the comments section. As the our campaign moves forward and follows the actions of Congress, we will update you as quickly as possible on this blog with new resources.

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


Stay Connected

Bread for the World