Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

47 posts from July 2012

Hunger QOTD: President Dwight D. Eisehower

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Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

Hungry Farmers and the Challenges of African Agriculture

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Francis Wanjala Mamati praying for rain. Photo by Roger Thurow.

by Roger Thurow

In Lutacho, Kenya, the rains were late. It was mid-March 2011, and the farmers of western Kenya were still in the grip of the brutally hot dry season. The year before, the seasonal rains that usher in the corn planting began at the end of February; by March of that year the first shoots of the stalks were already pushing through the soil. Now, though, the fields remained parched and the farmers nervous.

And every day the farmers’ worry increased. They knew that a drought, bringing great hunger, was spreading across the eastern and northern realms of their country and throughout the Horn of Africa. Western Kenya, one of the breadbaskets of the region, was usually blessed with good rains. But the extended dry season had made some of them anxious that the drought might reach them as well.

“What if it doesn’t rain?” I asked Agnes Wekhwela, one of the farmers. She was 72 years old, two decades beyond the average life expectancy in Kenya. Her face was creased with wrinkles and wisdom. She had more experience divining the weather than most anyone else.

“It will rain,” she said firmly.

It was a cloudless day, with a brilliant blue sky. “How can you be so confident?” I pressed.

“God knows where we live,” she said, again with great certainty. “God knows who we are.”

A few days later, her bedrock faith was confirmed. The rain began falling, the farmers planted, the heat and the anxiety broke.

That conversation with Agnes became a touchstone for me. Yes, I thought, God knows where the farmers live, God knows who they are. But do we?

That conversation and those questions drove my efforts to report on the lives of these farmers, their hopes and fears, their struggles and triumphs. Every day I was with them, my conviction grew stronger: we must know who they are.

Continue reading "Hungry Farmers and the Challenges of African Agriculture" »

Raising a Family on a Not-for-Profit Salary: The Blessing of Tax Credits

Family-saying-grace

Photo courtesy © Royalty-Free/Corbis

As a husband and father of four, I want to provide for my family—on my own. I am striving toward this end and believe I will get there. At the same time, we have received countless blessings along the way, from a wedding check we found hidden in Frugal Living for Dummies six months after our honeymoon to interest-free car loans and mortgage down payment assistance from generous parents. And those are just two drops in the well.

At times we have written these blessings in a journal. Always, we try to notice and to thank God for them. It is in this same grateful spirit that my wife and I anticipate the blessing of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit as the tax documents begin hitting our mailbox in January.

We live frugally and have made decisions to cut unnecessary expenses. I see the dollars slip out of our air-conditioned home when the front door is left ajar. On the train last week, some fellow commuters were bewildered when I told them we do not receive any television channels. We use coupons and shop at our local Aldi and wholesaler. Our mortgage payment is less than what most families pay for rent.

Some people (like my young children) just don’t seem to care as much about pinching pennies as I do! These means of stretching our dollars—which I happen to enjoy and my wife tolerates—are also a blessing.

And yet, as frugally as we live and as greatly as we have been blessed, we still struggle to make ends meet. The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit help keep our family afloat financially. It is difficult for me to imagine how families carry on with less.

Thank you, faithful God, for providing for us. And I will continue doing what I can to protect my family and the many families that need these credits even more—much more—than we do.

+ Find out more about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC)—and what you can do to help keep it in the budget.

Zach Schmidt is the Central Midwest field organizer at Bread for the World.

Church Women United Delivers 1000 Days Petition to the State Department

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(Left to right) Nancy Neal, Associate for Denominational Women's Organization Relations at Bread for the World; Blanche Smith, National Chair of the Action/Global Concerns Committee for Church Women United; and Robin Fillmore, Advocacy Coordinator for Church Women United, pose for a picture while delivering a petition to the State Department on Thursday, July 26. The petition thanks U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her work on the 1,000 Days campaign and encouraging her to continue her focus on the issue. The petition, which had about 5,000 signatures, was presented to Jonathan Schrier, special representative for global food security in the State Department. Photo by Bread for the World.


Bread for the World has partnered with denominational women's organizations to create the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement. As part of that advocacy work, Church Women United delivered a petition to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thanking her for her work in the movement and asking her to continue to champion nutrition for women and children in the 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child's second birthday.

The women collected 5,000 signatures on the petition, which was circulated through their membership network, posted online, and shared with other denominational women's groups. 


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Blanche Smith, National Chair of the Action/Global Concerns Committee for Church WomenUnited and Robin Fillmore, Advocacy Coordinator for Church Women United joined Nancy Neal, Associate for Denominational Women's Organization Relations at Bread for the World to deliver the petition on Thursday, July 26. They met with Jonathan Shrier, the Special Representative for Global Food Security who received the petition on behalf of Secretary Clinton.

Ms. Smith told Mr. Shrier that Church Women United joins with other women's organizations to express their support for the initiatives of the U.S. Government to improve nutrition for mothers and children. Mr. Shrier responded that Secretary Clinton is very passionate about the 1,000 Days Movement. He thanked the Church Women for the petition, explaining that the support of the public helps the Secretary and the administration to continue to keep 1,000 Days in the forefront of their work.

Hunger to Get Global Attention at the Olympics

Olympics blog 7.27.12

Photo by Flickr user Rareclass.

Tensions are mounting as nearly 11,000 athletes gather in London to participate in more than 300 events in nearly 30 sports. In addition to the world’s most determined athletes, the fierce competition of the Olympics also brings politicians, tourists, heads of state, and rich donors to the United Kingdom for the nearly month-long competition. 

The intense international media coverage of the games makes the Olympics a prime venue to advocate for global hunger programs.  

British Prime Minister David Cameron has seized the opportunity, announcing that a hunger summit will coincide with the closing of the Olympic Games. The hunger summit builds on the promise made by world leaders at the G-8 Summit in May, to bolster food security and agriculture. The eight participating nations committed to supporting the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition announced by President Obama at the summit. This initiative includes an agreement between G-8 leaders and the private sector to help lift 50 million people out of poverty within 10 years.  

Cameron’s pledge to extend the promise of the G-8 Summit by holding a hunger summit during the 2012 Olympics Games raises several questions: Is this just a publicity stunt, or is he actually taking seriously the needs of millions of hungry people in developing nations? If so, what will the Olympic spotlight actually do for those who are hungry? 

The Olympics has the potential to bring together a myriad of donors and publicity, and I am hoping the Games will provide a positive outcome for hungry and poor people around the world.

Sarah dickey Sarah Dickey, a recent graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South, is a media relations intern at Bread for the World.

 


Town Hall Meetings: Coming to a Community Near You!

Town Hall blog 7.26.12
Photo by Flickr user Comedy Nose.

With the presidential election fast approaching, there will be no shortage of stump speeches, fundraisers and “personal” emails from the candidates.  These may not be the best forums for voicing your opinion, but there is one platform that is ripe for making concerns about hunger and poverty known—the town hall meeting.  

A town hall meeting is an informal public meeting where everyone in a community is invited to attend, voice opinions, and hear from public figures about a particular subject or subjects. Attending one of these meetings is your right as a member of the community, but it can be nerve-wracking if you haven’t gotten your talking points together to effectively engage your member of Congress.  

Bread for the World now offers useful resources for bringing hunger and poverty to the forefront of these meetings. They include tips on how to get your Congress member’s attention and quick and powerful facts about hunger and poverty. You can also find ideas for taking things a step farther—guidelines for writing letters to the editor, scheduling a meeting with your members of Congress, and publicizing responses to your questions using social media.  

While poverty and unemployment in the United States reached record rates between 2008 and 2010, the rate of food-insecure households did not rise. This is largely due to the success of anti-poverty programs like SNAP that help people get back on their feet in times of heightened need. Overseas, U.S. funding for medication helps prevent more than 114,000 at-risk infants from being born with HIV each year. Additionally, more than 33 million people affected with HIV since 2004 have received counseling. Unfortunately, programs that support hungry and poor people in the United States and abroad risk grave cuts as Congress continues work to reduce the deficit. 

It is more vital than ever for you to take action and lift your voice for hungry and poor people, and town hall meetings are perfect platforms to do so. Ask your members of Congress to create a circle of protection around programs that provide vital support and nutrition to vulnerable people in the United States and around the world. Visit Bread’s Elections Matter page for more resources to ensure that hunger and poverty are top priorities this election season.

Kristen-youngbloodKristen Youngblood Archer is the media relations specialist at Bread for the World.

 

Bread Acts in North Carolina!

Bread Acts Blog 7.27.12
Screen shot of North Carolina Bread activists taken from WFMY-TV.

Bread’s engine runs on the fuel of dedicated and faith-filled advocates across this nation who continually address decision makers on issues of hunger and poverty. When organizers see members independently creating events like the Bread for the World North Carolina Team did on Wednesday, we know we are doing our job right. With song and prayer, over 20 religious leaders and activists surrounded the Guilford County Department of Social Services, making public their concern for protecting programs that are critical to people experiencing hunger and poverty. 

Vital domestic nutrition programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps) are facing severe cuts by Congress that could send more hungry to already overburdened church pantries. The Greensboro Urban Ministry got a small taste of the daunting task of feeding the recipients of such programs when a computer glitch stopped local SNAP benefits. Over a two-month period, 1,500 more people needed food, compared to the same period in the previous year.

Bread activist Bryan McFarland has a history of going the extra mile—advocating for an end to hunger by creating programs like “Jacob’s Join” that educate with song. Yesterday was no exception. With the help of Robert Herron, Frank M. Dew, Christine Byrd, Mike Aiken, and other organizers with Bread for the World’s Triad Chapter, the leaders sent a public call—not only to Greensboro, but also to North Carolina’s Senators Kay Hagen and Richard Burr— to maintain SNAP funding. Listen to what they had to say in a WMFY news story:

 

You don’t need Bread staff to create an event in your region. However, your Bread organizer can help you with press contacts, resources, and information about which issues are the most critical and timely. Creating the political will to end hunger is noisy business, but when advocates are empowered, active, and public, change happens.

Thank you for your fantastic work, Triad Team!

+Make the conversation about hunger public at a town hall meeting this month while Congress is on recess. We have resources for you here

 Robin-stephenson

Robin Stephenson is regional organizer at Bread for the World.

 

Thank You, Senators!

Thank You Senators Blog 7.26.12
Heather Rude-Turner, 31, of northern Virginia, was once a single mom receiving WIC, SNAP, and EITC. Because of this, she said that 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.

Fifty-one senators need a thank you for doing the right thing and voting in favor of a Senate bill that includes a one-year extension to the Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit. The bill is not yet law; there will be a similar vote in the House soon. But today we need to thank those members we have been messaging all year to extend the credits as part of the circle of protection. 

In the past three years, we have campaigned twice for strong tax credits for working families, because these programs are two of the most effective government programs to combat child poverty.  Tax credits often serve as ladders out of poverty.

We have even been blessed to see a life transformed over that time.

Remember the first time you watched Heather Rude-Turner’s story in the 2010 Offerings of Letters video?  It was really tough to listen to the pain in Heather’s voice when she said, “I don’t eat a lot of the time because I feel bad—because I’m taking the food away from my kids. And I feel like if we have one banana in the house, if I can cut it in half, they can each have half of a banana. I don’t need vitamins: I’m all grown up.” 

Another video one year later showed how EITC had given Heather the tools to transform her family’s life Watching her eat a banana in the midst of all those blessings, I said a tearful prayer of thanks—thanks that we are people of faith willing to address members of Congress and stand up for families who are busy being poor, and thanks for the members of Congress who fight for them.

We respectfully ask for justice from our elected officials, but we also must empower them by publicly saying, “Thank you for doing the just thing.”

If your senator voted “yea” on this roll call list, send him or her an email, write on his or her Facebook wall, or tag him or her in a tweet and say, “Thank you, Senator, for standing with children and voting to extend tax credits for working families.”  Use the hashtag #BreadActs on Twitter so we can re-tweet you.

+There is still time to influence your Representative. Send an email today.

Robin-stephenson

 Robin Stephenson is regional organizer at Bread for the World.

 


Our Thanks to YOU for Your Generosity

7.26.12. Thank You

School kids enjoying a healthy lunch with fresh fruit and vegetables. Photo by USDA.

Your donation will make a difference for hungry people. I want to personally thank those who contributed to our summer matching gift campaign. I am happy to report that Bread for the World raised over $180,000—surpassing our goal of $150,000!

An additional matching gift was made by a generous member, and now a total of $175,000 will be matched dollar-for-dollar. 

I am grateful to everyone who participated in the campaign, which raised a total of $355,000 overall—a significant boost to Bread’s efforts to protect funding for programs that are vital for hungry people. 

Thank you for your generosity and for making this campaign an overwhelming success!

David-beckmann

Rev. David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World

 


Senator Coons Stands for a Circle of Protection

As Congress debates ways to balance the U.S. budget during these difficult times, Bread for the World has urged our political leaders to form a circle of protection around funding for programs that are vital to hungry and poor people here in the United States and abroad.

This theme was picked up by Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) as he spoke from the Senate floor yesterday. Sen. Coons said that in times of fiscal pressure, Congress must not shirk its responsibility to the most vulnerable members of our society:

(starting at 1:15 in the video above)

"Cuts, as you know, Mr. President, to essential services and programs are already deep. Although this isn't broadly known throughout the country, sacrifices have already been made here and pennies are already being pinched from programs that, in my view, serve the people who can least afford them. ...

"We must continue to make cuts across the board to move our way toward a sustainable federal deficit. But, Mr. President, cuts alone cannot responsibly make our path forward. ...

"We need to bring balance back to how we solve these problems and we need to do it in a way, that forms a circle of protection, Mr. President, around those who are most vulnerable in our society.

"In previous generations ... when they came together and reached the resolutions that solved our country's fiscal problems ... they put a circle of protection around the most vulnerable Americans. They chose not to slash or cut or eliminate those programs that are focused on the most vulnerable in our society: the disabled, low income seniors, children in the earliest stage in life.

"I think that it's important that we remember those values as we look at the choices we make here today, and as we come together in the months leading up to the election and, hopefully, after the election to craft a solution to our structural problem."

Thank you, Sen. Coons for taking a stand for all of us.

+ Read more about expanding the circle of protection.

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