Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

38 posts from April 2012

Video: Tax Credits Help a Mom Get Back on Her Feet

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It's her daughter's fifth birthday party and Heather Rude-Turner is being pulled in a dozen different directions.

There are burgers to prep, snacks to lay out, and visiting relatives to talk with, not to mention the homework she'll tackle after the party so she can receive her Bachelor's degree in a couple months. Heather's daughter, Naomi, and son, Isaac, are laughing as they jump around with two large balloons in the living room.

It's a scene that was unimaginable to Heather just a few years ago, when she left her abusive husband. She didn't have a job or a home but she eventually found both. Her church pitched in and so did the federal government, in the form of the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC. Without the EITC, Heather says, she wouldn't have made it back on her feet.

"Having that extra income, the EITC, gave me that extra cushion to take care of our basic needs and then save some away," said Heather, who used her most recent EITC check to pay bills and her college expenses.

In 2010, the EITC, which low-income workers apply for when they file their taxes, helped lift 5.4 million people out of poverty. Learn more about the EITC and Heather's story in the video below.

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

+Learn more about our mini-campaign on tax credits for low-income families.

When a Job Doesn't Guard Against Poverty, Tax Credits Help

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120216-heatherandsonThis week, many folks will be scurrying to finish up their taxes, but what many don't know is that for some low-income families, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) boost household earnings and lift millions of people out of poverty each year. 

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a refundable tax credit that supplements the wages of low-income workers. The more wages people earn, the more benefits their families receive until a certain point when the benefits begin to decline and finally disappear. People apply for this tax credit when they complete their income tax returns. In 2010, this credit lifted 5.4 million people out of poverty — including 3 million children.

The Child Tax Credit provides financial support for working families with children. The credit is available for children under age 17 to families earning at least $3,000. Families can receive a refund of 15 percent of their earnings above $3,000 up to $1,000 per child. The CTC is a partially refundable tax credit families apply for when they complete their income tax returns. In 2009, the CTC lifted 2.3 million people, including 1.3 million children, out of poverty.

Millions of Americans continue to feel the effects of the recession — and an alarming number are poor and hungry. Nearly one in six people lived in poverty in 2010 ($22,113 for a family of four), including 22 percent of children and more than one in four children under age 5. More than one-third of the U.S. population was poor or near poor in 2010 (living below twice the poverty level).

Unfortunately, a job doesn’t guard against poverty. In 2010, 10.7 million people with jobs lived below the poverty line. A full-time minimum-wage earner makes only about $14,500 a year. We need a growing economy, more good jobs, and measures—such as these tax credits—that ensure working families can support their families.

When times get tough in low-income households, the food budget is usually the first thing families cut. We can’t end hunger as long as people lack the financial resources they need to put food on the table. Join us this week as we learn about the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, and call on Congress to create a circle of protection around critical tax credits for low-income working families.

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

 

 

Photo caption: Heather Rude-Turner depends on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to help support her family: Mark Diamond, 32; Naomi, 5; and Isaac, 3. They live in northern Virginia, where Heather works as a teacher at a Child Development Center. Mark drives limos and works in construction. Heather recently graduated from Kaplan University with a B.S. in child psychology. She would like to become a school teacher. Photograph by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

+Learn more about our mini-campaign on tax credits for low-income families.

A New Generation of Christians at the Q Ideas Conference

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Bread President David Beckmann speaks on a panel on "Food, Famine, and Aid" at the Q Ideas Conference in Washington, DC, on April 11, 2012. Photo by Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy.

What does God want in this world in the midst of all this change? This question wove a common thread in the dozens of dynamic presentations at the Q Ideas Conference, hosted in Washington, DC, over the last few days. Gabe Lyons, author of The Next Christians and founder of the ideas-rich Web platform Q Ideas on the common good, envisioned this gathering of more than 700 primarily non-denominational Christians to enter “a space where church and cultural leaders can learn, dialogue, innovate and collaborate around the important topics shaping the church’s future role in culture.” 

Q invited Bread for the World’s President David Beckmann to join a panel discussion on "Food, Famine, & Aid" related to the reality and perceptions about U.S. foreign aid and solutions to end extreme poverty. 

The Q crowd was anything but monolithic. Conference organizers shared data on participants: 36 percent were “church leaders”; 34 percent started the organization they work for; 41 percent voted for President Obama in 2008, while 59 percent for Sen. John McCain. While Q Ideas describes itself as apolitical, conference organizers said they wanted to host the fifth annual Q conference in DC this year given the importance of the elections on the horizon. Despite Washington’s super-charged political environment, Q’s approach to engaging the church and its relevance in our culture transcended Washington’s political rhetoric by engaging all sectors of society: church, business, government, arts and entertainment, and science and technology to find new ways to achieve the common good.    

What was so refreshing about the fast-paced and plentiful presentations was the affirmation that God has a role in everything we do.  Abrahman Kuyper, the Dutch historian, theologian, and philosopher, was often quoted saying, "There is not a square inch of our existence that God does not call 'MINE!'" The myriad presentations at Q proved 

A Faith of Our Own author Jonathon Merritt perhaps best described the average Q participant, with his phrase, the “new generation of Christians,” who are independent, speak out on a range of issues, and do so with a civility lacking in our political discourse today. Merritt talked about how these Christians are eager to transcend rigid, tired categories and political/ideological camps in order to seek new paths to partner and achieve work on the common good. The Q conference seems to attract en mass this so-called new generation. 

Although the conference had an evangelical, non-denominational distinction and flavor, many participants wouldn’t want to be labeled or categorized “evangelical,” saying that the descriptor “evangelical” is simply too loaded and carries too much baggage in our society. Presentation topics included analyzing power, rediscovering humility, reducing abortion, ending hunger, exercising discipleship, and uncovering common grace in our lives. What mattered more in this gathering was the shared entrepreneurial spirit of these leaders and a common desire to restore the brokenness of our world by relying on Christ-centered principles in whatever sector they find themselves. 

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

 


TAKE ACTION: Call Congress to Protect Funding for Anti-Hunger Programs

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Photo by Flickr user nicolasnova

Next week, the House and the Senate will decide on funding levels for critical anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs for fiscal year (FY) 2013. Sens. Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk sit on the committee that will make these decisions.

Please call today and tell them to:

  • Protect poverty-focused foreign assistance by supporting the highest level of funding for the FY 2013 State and Foreign Operations bill, and
  • Protect international food aid and domestic nutrition programs by supporting the highest level of funding for the FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill.

The overall funding for these bills must be as high as possible.

  • Poverty-focused foreign assistance programs comprise less than 1 percent of the federal budget, but they help people in developing countries lift themselves out of poverty.
  • The Food for Peace Program and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, funded in the agriculture bill, are vital to alleviating global malnutrition and hunger. In one year, as many as 46.5 million people—including 5 million children—received their only daily meal through these programs.
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), also funded by the agriculture bill, currently provides food to nearly 9 million low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5.

The pressure to cut these programs will be immense. We need your voice.

Call Sens. Durbin and Kirk, using this toll-free number: 1-800-326-4941. Tell them to protect poverty-focused foreign assistance, international food aid, and WIC by supporting the highest levels of funding for the FY 2013 State and Foreign Operations bill and the FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill. Thank you.

Take Action: Call Congress 

Call 1-800-326-4941 and tell Sens. Durbin and Kirk:

Support the highest level of funding for the FY 2013 State and Foreign Operations bill and the FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill.

David-beckmannDavid Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

 


Hunger QOTD: Simone Weil

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Children gather in Jombo village, Malawi, where a well provides clean water for drinking, cooking, and sanitation needs. The village is part of the USAID-funded Wellness and Agriculture of Life Advancement (WALA) project designed by Catholic Relief Services. Village residents learn how to prepare nutritious meals for their families and the importance of good hygiene. Photographed in October 2011 by June Kim.

"It is an eternal obligation toward the human being not to let [them] suffer from hunger when one has a chance of coming to [their] assistance."

-Simone Weil

The Power of Bread Teams: Local Miami Team Makes Big Impact

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Miami Bread Team members (left to right): Catherine Hibbitt, Sara Kelly, Alyn Cruz Higgins, and Betty Rice present hand-written letters to the in-district office of Senator Marco Rubio. Source: Recorriendo America News. 

I recently had the chance to speak with Catherine Hibbitt -- a member of the Miami-Dade Bread for the World Team -- about the local anti-hunger movement blossoming in Miami, FL.

Bread Teams are groups of local activists working together to build grassroots support at the local level to urge our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad. The Miami-Dade Bread Team is one of many new Bread Teams across the country. Catherine shared her thoughts on Bread Team involvement and described some of the unique qualities of the team in Miami.

Kelsey Lalman: Why did you choose to be involved in the Bread Team?

Catherine Hibbitt: I attended the National Gathering last year in DC. I thought, ‘Wow, this is where I belong as far as advocacy and lobbying are concerned.’ I was pleasantly shocked that something like this existed. When I came back [to Florida] I wanted to get involved and knew they were starting a Miami-Dade group. It was a way to get involved locally. It’s one thing to go to DC and lobby for a few days, but another to take action in your local community.

What are the goals of the Miami Bread Team?

To get as many people exposed to Bread for the World and effective hunger advocacy in the Miami-Dade county area. It’s not just saying, "Hey, you should know about hunger advocacy," but providing a way for citizens to be involved – to write letters and contact legislators. I see this as a very attainable goal.

What are the challenges of being a Bread Team?

Because Miami-Dade is a gigantic area it has been great to break up the work. Some people know people in “this area” and some know people “over here.” It really defines grassroots, but it hasn’t been easy to break up areas and have [cohesive] leadership.

What unique qualities do you see in the Miami team?

Hunger issues are reflected in the diversity and population in Miami. With the focus on foreign aid, it resonates here very well because there are people from many, many different countries. They’ve often benefitted from the aid. They have a very real connection with the idea of foreign assistance and realize that a lot of people, including their families, rely on these programs. It’s a very personal connection.

My conversation with Catherine revealed to me that Bread Teams are as unique as the people and places that create them. But what weaves the teams’ efforts together is that they are each committed to anti-hunger advocacy. Through outreach, Offering of Letters events, visits to local congressional offices (see the Miami-Dade Team at one of their own), and other team actions, Bread Teams are growing the movement to end hunger in a big way.

To learn more about starting or joining a Bread Team in your local community, contact your Regional Organizer.

Kelsey Lalman is an organizing intern at Bread for the World.

New Report Confirms SNAP Reduces Poverty

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Heather Rude-Turner, 31, of northern Virginia, was once a single mom receiving WIC, SNAP, and EITC. Because of this, she said she can relate to some of the low-income families who bring their children to the childcare center where she works as a teacher. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

We’ve been saying it repeatedly over the last several years: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) is successful in keeping poverty in check or even reducing it in our country. Now, a new U.S. Department of Agriculture study confirms this, saying that SNAP reduced the poverty rate by nearly 8 percent in 2009. The USDA studied nine years of SNAP data, the latest year being 2009.

The New York Times writes that the reduction of poverty in the U.S. due to SNAP is “a significant impact for a social program whose effects often go unnoticed by policy makers.”

Currently, more than 46 million Americans benefit from SNAP -- which is the highest number of participants since the program was first piloted in 1961. More than half of today’s beneficiaries are children, most of whom are likely to be poor.

The Times writes: “The program lifted the average poor person’s income up about six percent closer to the line over the length of the study, making poverty less severe. When the benefits were included in the income of families with children, the result was that children below the threshold moved about 11 percent closer to the line.”

If you want to help us create a circle of protection around programs such as SNAP -- which are vital to hungry and poor people -- write your member of Congress today.

Adlai Amor is director of communications at Bread for the World.

+Join us in calling policymakers to protect funding for SNAP and other programs that help poor and hungry people!

Lenten Reflections: Easter Sunday

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Women in white circle a church in Sudan. Photo by Margie Nea.

Easter Sunday, or Resurrection Sunday, has arrived at last! The love of God — that reconciles and transforms all things, and that is embodied in Jesus Christ — could not be silenced or destroyed. He is risen!

Lectionary readings (from the Revised Common Lectionary):

Acts 10:34-43
or Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18
or Mark 16:1-8

We invite you to reflect and respond to the Holy Week prayer and action from our Lenten Prayers for Hungry People resource.

Prayer:

O Christ, by your crucifixion and resurrection, you overcome death and all the powers of evil. Grant us faith to trust your promise of new life so that, living in your steadfast love, we may be extravagant in sharing with all those in need.

Amen.

Action:

The weeks following Easter—before the school year ends and summer activities start—are an ideal time to explore how we can be agents of new life in God's world. The spring recess is also a good time to meet with your representative when she or he returns to the home district. Visit www.bread.org to find suggestions about arranging these face-to-face visits with your Congressional representative.

+Read all of our Lent reflections.

Lenten Reflections: Holy Saturday

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Bread for the World members headed to Capitol Hill on Tuesday June 14, 2011, to lobby their members of Congress on behalf of poor and hungry people. Lobby Day was part of the Bread for the World's 2011 National Gathering, when nearly 300 people from around the United States converged on Washington, DC, to learn how to advocate against hunger and poverty. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl.

Holy Saturday was a day of Sabbath rest after the violent, tortuous death Jesus’ endured. For his disciples and followers, all hope was lost. But we know what happens on the next page, and soon they would, too.

Lectionary readings:

Job 14:1-14
or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24
Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16
1 Peter 4:1-8
Matthew 27:57-66
or John 19:38-42

[The following prayers for Holy Saturday are from Dr. Scot McKnight and can also be found here.]

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

+Read all of our Lent reflections.

Lenten Reflections: Good Friday

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The choir sings at Mass in Our Lady of Assumption (Notre Dame de l'Assumption) Church in Petit Goave, Haiti, on Sunday, October 10, 2010. The church was completely destroyed during the earthquake on January 12, 2010. Services are now held under a corrugated metal roof. The original church building was about 300 years old and one of the oldest churches in Haiti. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

On Good Friday, we remember Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross for our sins. Although a somber time, it is “good” because of what Jesus accomplished and inaugurated for us—reconciliation to God. And it is good because it anticipates his resurrection on the third day. 

Lectionary readings (from the Revised Common Lectionary):

Isaiah 52:13—53:12
Psalm 22
Hebrews 10:16-25
or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1—19:42

[Rather than add our own words here, we humbly encourage you to read Psalm 22, the words on Jesus’ lips and heart as he breathed his last.]

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;

“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver— let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast. On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.

Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled; I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.

I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.

For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.

To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.

+Read all of our Lent reflections.

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