Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

42 posts from September 2012

Will Hungry and Poor People Be Remembered in the Presidential Debates?

Photo: Flickr user _kaway_ via Flickr Creative Commons

October is a busy month for people who care about ending hunger and poverty. With the elections just a little over a month away, the biggest issues facing our nation are being debated on the public stage. We need to make sure that hunger and poverty are part of the discussion.

While Bread for the World can lead the way by providing you with election resources, when it comes down to it, your voice is the one that must be heard and that will make a difference for hungry and poor people. A Bread member once wrote a line that has been driving me all year long: "Silence is approval."

So what are our priorities? Right now, we want to use the upcoming presidential and vice-presidential debates as opportunities to make sure that hunger and poverty are part of the national dialogue. The first presidential debate will take place on Wednesday, October 3. It will be moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS Newshour and will focus on domestic policy.

Continue to share the Circle of Protection presidential videos and talk about the candidates' statements. Hold a house meeting, inviting family, friends, co-workers, and members of your church congregation to watch the debates and engage in a discussion of the issues. Talk about what the candidates are saying, but also share stories of poverty in your community and discuss how, as people of faith, you are compelled to act.

For more guidance in pulling together a house meeting, check out the "How to Host a House Meeting" resource on our elections page.

If you and your group are social media-savvy, amplify your house meeting on Twitter. Some of our partners, led by the Half In Ten campaign, are starting a wave of poverty talk through social media channels, submitting debate questions by tagging @newshour and using the hashtag #talkpoverty.

Elections matter and as people of faith we must lead the way in making sure people who are poor and hungry are part of the conversation during campaign season. But, while elections and the debates are the center of attention in October, it is also crucial that we remain focused on the lame duck session.

During the lame duck—the period between the November elections and January 2013, when newly-elected officials come to Washington—Congress will be making decisions about programs that are critical to people struggling to put food on the table, both in the United States and abroad.

As Amelia Kegan, senior policy analyst in our government relations department keeps reminding us, “The framework for the budget is being decided now; waiting until after the elections is too late.” We must let members of Congress know that it is essential to form a circle of protection around programs for the poor and hungry. Even if you have already written, tweeted ,or called your member of Congress, do it again. 

By participating in discussion surrounding the presidential and vice-presidential debates, and continuing to engage our members of Congress leading up to the lame duck session, we let the public and our politicians know that poverty matters!

Debate schedule for October:

October 3 , 9:00 – 10:30 EST (Presidential – Domestic Policy)
October 11,  9:00 – 10:30 EST (VP – domestic & foreign)
October 16, 9:00 – 10:30 EST (Presidential – Town Hall format)
October 22, 9:00 – 10:30 EST (Presidential – foreign policy)

Robin Stephenson is social media lead/senior regional organizer, western hub.

"Is There Enough for Everyone?" Activity


On Fridays, Bread Blog will highlight an activity, for either adults or children, that can be used by Christian educators. This activity, and others like it, can be found in the Engaging Church section of Bread’s website.

In the "Is There Enough for Everyone?" activity, students are encouraged to work together to share increasingly scarce resources. This activity, which is appropriate for younger students, is designed to foster discussion about sharing and how people treat one another.

The children start by playing a traditional game of musical chairs—one chair and one student are eliminated each time the music is stopped. The children then play a second round of musical chairs, during which a chair is removed each time the music stops, but all students continue playing. As the game progresses, more and more people must find a way to sit on fewer and fewer chairs until, finally, everyone must sit on one remaining chair.

Once the commotion dies down, ask everyone to sit down, and think about how they acted toward one another in each of the games: How did it feel to have enough chairs, and then to slowly lose them until there wasn’t enough room for everyone? What would it be like if this was the amount of food you had to eat, instead of the number of chairs you had to sit on? How would this affect your life?

After the discussion, the activity ends with a prayer about sharing:

"God, thank you for this wonderful world and all the blessings of our lives. Teach us how to share with one another so everyone has enough. Amen."

Read the entire "Is There Enough for Everyone" lesson plan from Bread for the World's "Making Hunger History" children's curriculum for more details. If you're interested in addressing the same general topic with teenagers or adults, consider a book group discussion of Bread for the World founder Art Simon's How Much Is Enough?

Photo: Two girls study inside a church in Mexico. (Margaret Nea/Bread for the World)

Rick Steves' $100,000 Donation is Growing

(Photo: Courtesy of Rick Steves)

Whether hosting public forums on eliminating poverty or participating in national action days, travel show host Rick Steves has been a vocal advocate on behalf of poor and hungry people, and a strong supporter of Bread for the World.

On Wednesday, Steves announced that once his Facebook page received 100,000 "likes," he would celebrate by giving Bread for the World a gift of $100,000. He expected to reach 100,000 fans in a few days, but instead reached that goal in just a few hours.

Steves was so inspired by this "frenzy of friending," as he called it, that he decided to expand his donation, and will now give Bread for the World an additional dollar for every additional Facebook "like" he receives by Oct. 2.

His gift will assist us in our work to urge Congress to strengthen the circle of protection around programs that are of critical importance to those in need, and to make sure the next president of the United States makes eradicating hunger and poverty a top priority of his administration.

Steves now has more than 103,000 fans on Facebook, and the number is still growing. If you haven't already, "like" his page, and encourage your family members and friend to do so, as well.  If you're already a fan of Steves' page, you can still visit him on Facebook and thank him for his generous gift—we think he deserves all the thanks he can get.

Quote of the Day: Randy Schutt


Give the gift that keeps on giving: a good society. Your grandchildren will be glad you did.

—Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy

Photo: A Bangladeshi boy carries one of his family's goats. (Todd Post/Bread for the World)

Christian Formation and Hunger and Poverty Advocacy


Photo: Jim McDonald, former managing director at Bread for the World, and the current president of the San Francisco Theological Seminary. (Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Theological Seminary)

A recent article written by Bread for the World’s former managing director, Jim McDonald, caused me to reflect on the important relationship between hunger and poverty advocacy and Christian formation, especially in seminaries. When advocacy is understood as an integral part of Christian discipleship, seminary students are better equipped to engage in advocacy, steward their influence, and transform the world once they leave the classroom.

After over a decade of leadership at Bread, Jim became president of the San Francisco Theological Seminary because he believes that religious leaders have an essential role in facing the challenges of our time. He saw it firsthand when religious leaders from across the Christian spectrum would unite around Bread for the World campaigns that seek to change policies that hurt poor and hungry people.  Jim said he decided to take the leap into Christian education that promotes “…church leaders who are capable of bringing people together across the political, ideological, and cultural divides, and of bridging those gaps” in the world today.  His work at Bread taught him its importance.

Christian formation that happens in seminary—and, even more broadly, Christian formation at every level—has as part of its task the preparation of Christ followers to transform the brokenness in our world through ministry.  For example, Christian colleges and universities are creating new interdisciplinary centers for faith and politics, faith and public life, as well as symposiums for faith and justice.

These new centers help students integrate what they learn from across disciplines and what their faith tells them so they can approach the social challenges of our day more effectively.

Bread for the World knows how important it is that religious leaders understand Christian advocacy and engage in the practice of stewarding their faith-informed influence in the world.  That is why, in early 2012, Bread partnered with Asbury Theological Seminary  and Eastern University’s School of Leadership and Development to produce an online resource for Christian scholars interested in advocacy—evangelicaladvocacy.org

At Bread’s Hunger Justice Leaders experience last summer, seminary students from institutions including Princeton Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School, and North Park Theological Seminary participated in four days of advocacy training and fellowship. They focused on how to use their voice to end poverty and hunger. Many of these seminary students were drawn by the opportunity to practice theology, putting their discipleship to use for the common good.

Some of these seminary students will return to their communities and actually use the pulpit to preach about Christian advocacy.  Bread resources like Bread for the Preacher  are designed to support the integration of Christian advocacy and faithful action messages at the pulpit. 

When our faith influences us to engage in the public square, it ultimately can feed stomachs and nourish souls.

Krisanne2Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy leads Bread for the World's National Evangelical Outreach. She has a master's degree in theological studies.

Rick Steves Pledges $100,000 to Bread for the World

Travel show host Rick Steves in Ireland. (Photo courtesy of Rick Steves)

Our favorite world traveler, Rick Steves, is close to achieving a major milestone: reaching 100,000 "likes" on his Facebook page. And he has decided that doing something to help hungry and poor people is the best way to celebrate this accomplishment.

The hunger activist and host of Rick Steves' Europe has pledged $100,000 to Bread for the World to aid in our efforts to maintain a circle of protection around federal programs that are vital to the most vulnerable populations. Steves is currently at 99,000 Facebook "likes"—once his page hits the 100,000 mark, he will release the donation.

For more than two decades, Steves has supported Bread for the World and our work to end hunger both at home and abroad. “When you’ve traveled you are more tuned in to your blessings. And when you realize how relatively affluent America is, the thought of any of us going hungry becomes harder to accept,” Steves wrote in a recent email to Bread members.

Steves knows that ending hunger is a non-partisan issue, and was impressed with the presidential candidate videos secured by Bread for the World through our Circle of Protection partnership. The videos, released earlier this month, are on-the-record statements from both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney regarding their plans to eliminate hunger and poverty.

The generous gift from Steves will help to promote these important video clips and support our work as we continue to ask Congress to strengthen the circle of protection and hold the winning presidential candidate accountable to his promise to fight to eradicate hunger and poverty during his term in office.

We urge you to visit Rick Steves' Facebook page, "like" it, and thank him for yet another generous gift.

Washington Update for the Week of Sept. 24, 2012

A weekly legislative update from Bread for the World's government relations team.  

The House and Senate are both on recess until after the November 6 elections. They are expected to return to Washington as early as November 13. For information on communicating with your members of Congress during this campaign season, contact your regional organizer or use our online election resources.

The Circle of Protection: The Overall Campaign

Election season is in full swing. While members of Congress finalized a stop-gap spending bill that will fund federal programs through March of next year, they put off acting on other pieces of legislation, including the farm bill. After November, members of Congress will make difficult decisions about deficit reduction, particularly the $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts scheduled to take effect in January and the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. Bread members must continue to push for a proposal that safeguards programs that help vulnerable people in the United States and abroad. 

This week, the Senate passed a six-month continuing resolution (CR, temporarily funding government operations until a budget is passed) to fund federal discretionary programs at roughly current levels, plus a 0.6 percent increase for the first part of the 2013 fiscal year. The CR also included a clean six-month extension of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The negotiated CR does not alter the path of scheduled across-the-board spending cuts, or sequestration, which is still scheduled to go into effect January 2.  The House passed the CR last week. 

The House and Senate left Washington without taking action on the farm bill—a bill governing federal farm and food policy. The current farm bill is set to expire on September 30, 2012. This legislation governs domestic nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), and international food aid programs that are vital to hungry and poor people. Leadership in both chambers have indicated that they will take action on the farm bill after the elections, during the lame duck session of Congress. The Senate continues to push for a full five-year reauthorization of the farm bill while the House is open to a temporary extension with the full bill being resolved next year. How leaders decide to move forward will be informed by the outcome of November elections.

While farm programs technically expire on September 30, harmful administrative changes (like federal farm commodity price supports reverting to 1949 law) will not go into effect right away. The 2008 farm bill covers all of 2012’s calendar year crops, allowing some wiggle room for Congress to decide how to move forward. Additionally, provisions included in the continuing resolution secure SNAP funding through next year. The last time the farm bill was allowed to expire was in 2007, when the bill expired on September and an extension was not passed until December 26.

The bipartisan group of Senators called the Gang of Eight continues its work to develop a comprehensive, bipartisan package that would replace the sequester and expiring tax cuts with a framework for deficit reduction, including additional tax revenues and further spending cuts. While producing a deal laying out the specifics of what programs to cut and what taxes to raise is unrealistic for the lame duck session, the proposal could establish a process for committees to find the specific savings. If successful in reaching a deal that Congress enacts, the Gang of Eight proposal could determine the available funding for programs for hungry and poor people for the next 10 years. Those involved in the Gang of Eight include Senators Warner (D-VA), Durbin (D-IL) , Conrad (D-ND), Bennet (D-CO), Chambliss (R-GA), Crapo (R-ID), Coburn (R-OK), and Johanns (R-NE).  

Domestic Nutrition

More than 80 members have cosponsored House Resolution 760, which rejects the cuts to SNAP included in the proposed House farm bill (H.R. 6083). The resolution is non-binding, but it is an opportunity for members of Congress to show strong support for protecting SNAP by cosponsoring the resolution. We are encouraging Bread members to ask their representatives to cosponsor.  A full list of cosponsors can be found online.

On Friday afternoon,  Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), along with Reps. Paul Broun (R-GA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), and Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), introduced a proposal to block-grant farm bill nutrition programs. Under this plan, SNAP, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, Community Food Projects, Commodity Supplemental Food Program, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program would be consolidated into a single block grant to the states, with funding returned to FY2008 levels. Members argue this proposal will streamline programs and give states more flexibility while cutting spending. Like other SNAP block grant proposals introduced this Congress, this proposal will not likely become law, despite possible attempts to attach it to a moving farm bill in the lame duck session. For more information on why block-granting SNAP would be harmful, please see our Block Grants 101 fact sheet.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is facing potentially devastating cuts. Although the continuing resolution extends funding through March at levels agreed to last August in the Budget Control Act , WIC is subject to approximately 8.2 percent in automatic cuts on January 2 if Congress fails to come up with a deficit-reduction plan to replace the sequester. These cuts could mean a loss of benefits for more than 700,000 low-income women and young children.

Poverty-Focused Foreign Assistance

Poverty-focused foreign aid makes up a small part of total discretionary funding, which must be approved by Congress each year in the appropriations process. The continuing resolution funds programs at the Senate levels for FY 2013. PFFA is subject to cuts in January when sequestration is enacted. The programs would take an 8.2 percent cut, according to the OMB report. These cuts could mean lives lost around the world. For example, as a result of the sequester:

  • 276,500 fewer people would receive HIV/AIDS treatment, potentially leading to 63,000 more AIDS-related deaths and 124,000 more children being orphaned.
  • 656,000 fewer children annually will have access to quality primary school education, making their road to overcoming poverty that much harder.  

Earlier in the week, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) submitted a proposal to cut off aid to several countries, including Pakistan, Libya, and Egypt. The Paul amendment failed by a vote of 10-81. 

The Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act (S. 3310), introduced by Senator Lugar, with support from Senator Rubio, was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 19. The objective of this bill is to improve transparency and accountability within U.S. foreign aid by instituting a standard monitoring and evaluation requirement across all agencies that administer U.S. foreign assistance. Additionally, it calls for information garnered from the evaluations to be made public. The companion legislation is the Poe-Berman bill in the House. Our hope is that both bills will be taken up by the full House and Senate during the lame duck session.

Tax Credits

The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire at the end of this year, and Congress is in the midst of debating which parts to extend, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit. 

We expect the tax credits to be an important issue in the lame duck session, along with the rest of the tax cuts. The bipartisan Gang of Eight senators are also looking at the tax credits as part of the tax cuts and possibilities for tax reform. 

International Food Aid

Food aid is reauthorized in the farm bill process and funded in the appropriations process. Like other discretionary programs, funding is extended at Senate levels for the FY2013 budget as part of the continuing resolution. Food aid is still subject to sequester and may be cut by 8.2 percent, which would result in over 3 million people losing access to vital food assistance and 377,200 fewer children having access to quality primary school education.   

Quote of the Day: Matthew 25:37-40


Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  —Matthew 25:37-40

Photo: The Guatemalan Alliance to End Hunger works with the Ministry of Public Health to distribute a fortified drink mix to families at risk of malnutrition. (Alliance to End Hunger)

Forming a Stronger Circle of Protection and the Congressional Black Caucus


Photo: Elementary school children in southeast Washington, DC, enjoy their lunch. (Eugene Mebane, Jr./Bread for the World)

By Cheryle Adams

As a District of Columbia resident and an employee of Bread for the World Institute, I need to understand the budget cuts—both already in force and threatened—to programs affecting poor and vulnerable people in the United States. I want to make a connection between Bread’s emphasis on expanding its Circle of Protection campaign and the deep budget cuts that are still scheduled to happen in January.

Last week, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Foundation held its Annual Legislative Conference in DC, featuring braintrusts and forums on a wide array of topics. I chose to attend presentations that substantiate the reasons it is so important to expand the circle of protection, on topics such as voting rights, child welfare, and intergenerational poverty.

Continue reading "Forming a Stronger Circle of Protection and the Congressional Black Caucus" »

Social Good Summit, By the Numbers

When famed statisitician Hans Rosling presented UNICEF child mortality numbers at the Social Good Summit in New York on Monday, he said the figures are among "the most serious statistics we have, as well as the most motivating." The child mortality rate has improved dramatically over the last 20 years, but 19,000 children around the world still die each day. Who can hear that and not feel compelled to act? 

The Social Good Summit, a three-day conference held during UN Week and sponsored by Mashable, the UN Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundtion, examined how social media can be used to solve our greatest global challenges. One of the most interesting things about the summit was the widespread sharing of statistics about hunger, poverty, education, public health, and foreign aid across various social media platforms.

Some of the data was sobering, other figures were inspiring, but all of the numbers should serve as motivation to continue the fight to help the world's poor and hungry people. As Rosling said, "The world is getting better, but is not yet good."

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