Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

84 posts from March 2012

Lenten Reflections: Holy Agitators

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

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit with in me.” (Psalm 51: 10)

The opening verses of this Psalm call us to account for our sins (v. 1-5). We all too often turn from the common good and focus on our ego-driven desires for pleasure and security. Giving into the ubiquitous cultural messages that urge us to focus on our own needs and wants is the great sin of our day.

Especially in the arenas of money and wealth we are tempted to transgress against God’s laws as we are encouraged to find security in the accumulations of our retirement accounts and investment portfolios. Here in the U.S. increasing wealth concentration has been accompanied by an increase in the levels of those living in poverty and a more vulnerable middle class.

This individual and societal sin is not hidden from God (v. 4). We desperately need the mercy and forgiveness of God that the Psalmist is pleading for. I am attracted to how Eugene Peterson interprets this cleansing of v. 7: “Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.” Taking the laundry analogy further I am reminded of how one of my community organizing mentors 40 years ago embraced the title of agitator, because that is the part of the washing machine that gets the dirt out. I see Bread for the World organizers as holy agitators working to rid our world of the “sinful dirt” of hunger.

O how we yearn for a fresh start and repair of our broken spirit. May our hearts be broken open (and not apart) as we encounter the suffering of this world. May God’s presence and God’s generous spirit renew and embolden us to work together to build the grand circle of protection that God intends for all (v. 10-12). Amen.

Mike-troutmanMike Troutman is the Midwest donor relations representative at Bread for the World.


+Read all of our Lent reflections.

David Beckmann: Standing Up for a Faithful Budget

Bread for the World President David Beckmann addresses a press conference for "A Faithful Budget" in Washington, DC, on March 22, 2012.

At 11 a.m. today, David Beckmann stood with other prominent leaders from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faith traditions to promote "A Faithful Budget" -- which promotes comprehensive and compassionate budget principles that will "protect the common good, values each individual and his or her livelihood, and helps lift the burden on the poor, rather than increasing it while shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice."

The timing of "A Faithful Budget" couldn't be better, particularly because this same week, Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget committee, revealed his budget proposal for fiscal year 2013, which severely and disproportionately cuts programs for hungry and poor people. Much of the $4.1 trillion in proposed cuts comes from these vital programs, while much of the savings goes to $4.3 trillion in new tax cuts. (Call your member of Congress today and tell him or her to say NO to the budget proposal.)

Watch David Beckmann's comments at the press conference for The Faithful Budget Campaign. (Video courtesy of The Network Lobby.)

World Water Day: In the Philippines, Country-Led Effort Toward Water Access

Photo by Flickr user likeablerodent

[This blog is an excerpt from the 2011 Hunger Report. Read the full article here.]

Feed the Future has the potential to be a major step forward in U.S. foreign assistance, but it is not the first effort to adopt a country-led development approach. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency, uses a country-led approach in its work with developing countries. The MCC is widely regarded as one of the more innovative examples of U.S. foreign assistance, and it provides a compelling model for establishing a country-led development approach for Feed the Future.

MCC’s approach to country-led development puts participating governments in the lead on both program development and program implementation. To secure U.S. funding, or in MCC parlance to sign an aid “compact,” developing country governments are invited to propose projects that reflect their own development priorities. Partner governments are required to consult with key stakeholders in their country, including civil society groups, the private sector, and communities slated to benefit directly from the assistance. MCC is a partner in the process of developing the compact; its role includes ensuring that proposed investments have good potential to spur growth and reduce poverty, and that the government consults with stakeholders who will benefit from the compact and who can help make the program successful. Just developing and signing the compact can take one to two years.

Before governments submit a project proposal, they must conduct rigorous analysis to identify their country’s key barriers to economic growth and poverty reduction. Based on the analysis, they propose programs to help overcome these barriers, and MCC helps them select and design investments that show greatest promise for increasing incomes among beneficiaries. It’s rare for MCC not to help countries sharpen their proposals. MCC’s objective is not economic growth by any means that works—nor is it to support just any project that will help poor people. The agency will only fund investments that do double duty: stimulating growth and lifting people out of poverty.

An example of how MCC tries to make projects both country-led and successful comes from the Philippines. Water shortages in one district led the government to propose using MCC funding to build a system of reservoirs. Farmers in the district blamed their low productivity on a lack of year-round access to water. When MCC technical specialists analyzed the situation, they determined that the water shortages were caused by inadequate delivery mechanisms rather than storage capacity (which would have required the reservoirs). Thus, MCC did not change the problem identified by the community as a priority, but the solution was adapted based on MCC’s analysis of its causes. MCC’s strengths include its access to such technical expertise. Is this inconsistent with a country-led approach? MCC doesn’t see it that way. Rather, the process works as a partnership, with both parties working to identify the investments with the greatest potential for poverty reduction.

+Explore more Hunger Reports from Bread for the World Institute.

Prayer for the 2013 Budget Proposal

120322-prayIn addition to calling your member of Congress, it’s important that we hold Congress in prayer. Please join us in this prayer:

Gracious God whose law is truth, we ask you to guide and bless our members of Congress as they consider the fiscal year 2013 budget proposal.

We pray that they enact laws that please you and protect the welfare of all your people, including poor and hungry people.

We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.


Photo by Flickr user stallkerl






ACT NOW!: Tell Congress to Oppose Proposed House Budget

Photo by Flickr user Horia Varlan

Tell your U.S. representative:

• Oppose the proposed FY 2013 budget. If the extreme cuts are approved, most of our federal assistance programs will cease to exist by 2050.

• Don't cut SNAP! The proposed budget cuts SNAP by billions, sets new barriers to access the program, and caps funding levels. This could mean millions of Americans could get kicked off the program.

• The deal reached in the Budget Control Act of 2011 should not be broken. The lower spending level in this budget leads to exponentially higher cuts to programs for hungry and poor people and it eliminates the protections Congress agreed to in August.

Call your U.S. representative at 1-800-326-4941 by Thursday, March 29. If you're on Twitter, tweet your support for a circle of protection around programs for poor and hungry people.

House Proposed Budget: Raising André Amid Budget Cuts

120307-alliandandreWhen Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, revealed his budget proposal for fiscal year 2013, I was immediately reminded of Alli Morris, a young working mother in Bend, OR, who relies on federal nutrition programs to feed her son, André, who was born with a rare medical disorder. See their story.

The budget severely and disproportionately cuts programs for hungry and poor people. Much of the $4.1 trillion in proposed cuts comes from these vital programs, while much of the savings goes to $4.3 trillion in new tax cuts. To Alli, it will mean reduced resources for André, further hampering his growth.

The budget slashes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by billions, and turns it into a block grant, which would prevent SNAP from responding to economic downturns.

But the cuts don’t end with SNAP. The proposed budget cuts the funding levels negotiated by Congress last August, and it eliminates the protections established for all major low-income entitlement programs. It also slashes other crucial programs, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, WIC, and Head Start. International food aid and poverty-focused foreign assistance would also be deeply cut. Cuts to this vital funding would endanger lives and our own national security.

Instead of supporting programs that help poor people get a leg up, the House is opting to balance our federal deficit on the backs of the most vulnerable. This proposal fails to create a circle of protection around programs vital for hungry and poor people in our country and abroad.

The House will vote on the proposed budget soon. Congress needs to hear from you today. Tell your U.S. representative: Say NO to the budget proposal and instead form a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people in the United States and abroad.

Use our toll-free number to call your U.S. representative today: 1-800-326-4941. This number will connect you to the Capitol switchboard; simply ask to be connected to the office of your U.S. representative. If you can’t call today, please call no later than Thursday, March 29.

David-beckmannDavid Beckmann is president of Bread for the World. Follow him on Twitter @davidbeckmann.


+Learn more about the 2012 Offering of Letters.

Photo caption: Alex Morris, from Bend, OR, 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.

Lenten Reflections: Day 29

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
Isaiah 30:15-18
Hebrew 4:1-13

Isaiah 30:15-18

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
But you refused and said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”—
therefore you shall flee!
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”—
therefore your pursuers shall be swift!
A thousand shall flee at the threat of one,
at the threat of five you shall flee,
until you are left
like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
like a signal on a hill. 

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; 
therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.

+Read all of our Lent reflections.

Planning an Offering of Letters Workshop

Bread activists attend an Offering of Letters workshop in Newark, NJ, on Saturday, March 3, 2011.

Planning Bread for the World's Offering of Letters workshop is something I have been a part of for more than 25 years.  I was part of a small group known as New York Metro Council of Bread for the World, which came into existence after Bread’s national office moved from New York City to Washington, D.C. in 1982, and before there was a regional office in New York. We were Bread members from Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Rockland, and Westchester counties. Every year, early in Lent we hosted a workshop which attracted 30 to 50 church leaders. If you are planning to host a workshop, perhaps this account of my experiences will help you.

Initially, the workshop was an all-day event with the morning focusing on the Offering of Letters and the afternoon providing opportunities to learn about visiting congressional representatives, developing media skills, and exploring poverty issues in depth. As a result of this experience, when I began working in the Archdiocese of Newark Human Concerns Office I realized what was happening in New York could be done in New Jersey.  Bread’s regional organizer helped me identify three Bread members who joined in planning the first New Jersey workshop. 

This year, we decided to have the workshop on March 3, because the New York City workshop was held consistently on the last Saturday in February. We selected the Archdiocesan Center in Newark because of its location. 

A save-the-date flyer is distributed before the holidays, and the complete brochure and registration is distributed by mid-January. The registration fee covers the cost of a light brunch: beverages, bagels, yogurt and fruit.

Planning the workshop begins in the fall. We work on confirming the date, location, and length of the workshop (a typical workshop runs from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.).

The workshop schedule includes: prayer (sometimes scripture sharing); an introduction to Bread for the World; information about the Offering of Letters campaign; viewing the DVD; writing a letter; and a closing prayer.

My hope is that these workshops empower people to write their members of Congress. I hope that you will also plan to host an Offering of Letters workshop in the future.

Kay Furlani is retired from the Archdiocese of Newark after serving 12 years as director of the Human Concerns.  She is a long-time member of Bread for the World and served on its Board of Directors for six years.

+Click here for more Offering of Letters resources.

Hunger QOTD: Evangeline Cory Booth

Martha Togdbba of Kpaytno, Liberia, grows vegetables, including tomatoes and chili peppers. She irrigates her small farm with water from a nearby stream by walking back and forth with a watering can. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

"It is not how many years we live, but rather what we do with them."

- Evangeline Cory Booth

Lenten Reflections: Am I Being Faithful to God's Calling?

Photo by Flickr user  Lel4nd

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 107:1-16
Isaiah 60:15-22
John 8:12-20

Today’s lectionary passages brought to mind the song, “Forever” by Chris Tomlin, particularly the second verse: 

“From the rising to the setting sun
His love endures forever
By the grace of God we will carry on
His love endures forever
Sing praise, sing praise
Sing praise, sing praise, Yeah
Forever God is faithful
Forever God is strong
Forever God is with us
Forever, Forever”

God’s enduring love puts our lives in perspective. Only through God may we know a peace that goes far beyond our understanding. This peace recently comforted me as my car spun 360 degrees on black ice, went off the interstate, turned another 180 degrees and then landed -- not on a boulder, but neatly beside it. As I sat waiting for the tow truck, I thanked God for sparing my son and me. I also felt it was a good time to check in and ask, “What is it you would have me do in these days that I am yet alive, so that I may be faithful to your calling?”

Consider how God would respond to you if you asked this question. What would encourage you to listen and to follow?  What would stir anxiety or fear in your heart?  How would you hear God’s love?

Let us pray.  Mother Father God, it is by your grace that we live.  Help us to listen to your still small voice and to know your calling upon our lives. Help us to be attentive to the Spirit for guidance.  Help us to hear your voice through others, too.   We rejoice in your presence in our lives and your desire to draw us near.  Amen.

Nancy-rhodesNancy Rhodes is vice president for finance and administration for Bread for the World. 


+Read all of our Lent reflections.

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