Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

44 posts from October 2012

Hungry and Poor People Hardest Hit by Natural Disasters


By Sarah Godfrey

I am one of the millions of people who lost power on Monday night, thanks to Hurricane Sandy. If the electricity isn't back on in my Virginia apartment by the time I return home from work this evening, I'll be forced to throw out about $75 worth of frozen food—48 hours is the maximum amount of time that food in a full freezer remains stable during an outage, I'm told. I was able to move some of the more expensive items to a friend's freezer, but not everything. I've already lost most of the contents of my fridge, since food stored in a refrigerator is no longer safe to eat after about four hours without power.

Although the cost of replacing the food is an unexpected expense, I'm fortunate enough to be in a position to restock my fridge and freezer without it being too much of a financial hardship. Many of the people who've lost power this week are not so lucky.

Natural disasters hit those living below the poverty line especially hard. Poor people are less able to evacuate in the days and hours leading up to natural disaster, and they don't have the means to recover as quickly. They are unable to splurge on a hotel room when the power goes out for several days, unable to absorb the cost of all of the extras—from bottled water and batteries to take-out meals—that make it easier to ride out a hurricane. They may not have an extra $20 to spend to take a taxi to work when the public transportation system goes down. And they can't afford to replace all of the food that goes bad when the power goes out.

Whether Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the earthquake in Haiti in 2010,  the current flooding in Nigeria, or the flooding and power outages that accompanied Sandy, we have seen, time and again, that natural disasters prove especially dire for poor people. 

A network of public and private agencies have already jumped into action to help Sandy victims, and federal disaster aid will be available to state and local governments as well as individuals. Assistance could include disaster SNAP benefits, or D-SNAP, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture can authorize during a presidentially declared emergency.

But still, even if help is available, it's hard not to be struck by the fact that "the haves" were much better equipped to deal with Sandy than "the have-nots." Today, in the Atlantic, David Rohde looked at "The Hideous Inequality Exposed by Hurricane Sandy," and found that the storm unveiled his city's sharp economic divide. 

"There were residents like me who could invest all of their time and energy into protecting their families. And there were New Yorkers who could not," Rohde writes. "Those with a car could flee. Those with wealth could move into a hotel. Those with steady jobs could decline to come into work. But the city's cooks, doormen, maintenance men, taxi drivers and maids left their loved ones at home."

"Divides between the rich and the poor are nothing new in New York, but the storm brought them vividly to the surface," Rohde writes.

Sarah Godfrey is Bread for the World's associate online editor.

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How Much Do You Know About U.S. Poverty?

Photo: Lunch for homeless people is distributed after Mass in the Lafayette Park. The liturgy is part of a program called Street Church, run by Epiphany Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. (Bread for the World/Crista Friedli)

Do you know how many people in the United States live in poverty? Any idea how many of those living in poverty are children?

If you're a frequent reader of Bread Blog and are familiar with Bread for the World's fact sheets, you may already know that roughly 46 million people in the United States lived in poverty in 2011, and that more than one-fifth of American children live below the poverty line. Still, Marketplace's "What Do You Know About Poverty in America?" quiz offers an eye-opening look at the issue. If you can correctly answer all ten questions, you may consider using the test as a tool to introduce the issues of hunger and poverty to young people, family, and friends.

Test you knowledge by taking the quiz, and also read Marketplace's accompanying article on the politics surrounding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) during this election season.

Quote of the Day: John F. Kennedy


If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

—John F. Kennedy, in his 1961 inaugural address

Photo: Heather Rude-Turner feeds her daughter Naomi, 5, at their northern Virginia home.Heather credits the Earned Income Tax Credit with helping her get back on her feet and keeping her family out of poverty. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Poverty Enters the Conversation on the Campaign Trail

Photo: DeEtte Peck uses her EBT card in Portland, Ore., to purchase food. (Brian Duss)

Poverty has been called this election season's invisible issue, but Wednesday's policy speech from Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan finally brought it into the spotlight.

In his address, given at Ohio’s Cleveland State University, the Wisconsin congressman said that "in this war on poverty, poverty is winning," and talked about public education, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), and other issues facing the 46 million Americans living below the poverty line.

While Ryan offered the first substantive mention of these issues on the campaign trail, his plans to fix them are controversial. He voiced support for converting social safety-net programs, including SNAP, from entitlements into block grants.

Continue reading "Poverty Enters the Conversation on the Campaign Trail" »

Quote of the Day: Bruce Davison


We cannot stick our heads in the sand concerning the issue of hunger in America. Even though this subject seldom reaches the front page of our newspapers or is featured on news programs because of its lack of sensationalism, the problem exists in massive proportions and must be defeated.

—Bruce Davison, actor and hunger activist

Photo: Children enjoy a snack at an after-school program in Washington, D.C. (Mark Fenton)

New USAID Grant Fellowship Honors Rep. Donald M. Payne

Donald_Payne,_Official_Portrait,_c122th_CongressBy Jaylynn Munson

In honor of the late Rep. Donald M. Payne (D-NJ), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently launched a special grant fellowship program for graduate students interested in international development work. The USAID Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship Program will support graduate students seeking to create a more secure, healthy, and prosperous world through careers with USAID.

Modeled after the State Department’s Rangel Fellowship Program, the Payne Fellowship Program will provide students with support for graduate school, professional development, and entry into USAID's Foreign Service.  The program will be managed by USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah. “This new fellowship will help USAID to attract and support a diverse group of talented young people who are dedicated to public service and international development,” said Shah. “It could not be more fitting that we are naming this fellowship after U.S. Representative Donald Payne, who has led by example in dedicating his life to helping others around the globe.”

The two selected applicants to the program must be applying to a two-year graduate program for fall of 2013. They will each receive fellowships valued at $45,000 annually, along with internship experience, professional mentoring sessions, and appointments as Foreign Service Officers with USAID upon completion of the program. Applicants must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.2 or higher to be eligible for the program. The program application is available here and the deadline for submission is Jan. 23, 2013.

Representative Payne, who passed away on March 6, was an avid supporter of human rights and humanitarian assistance in developing nations. He was also the first African-American congressional representative from New Jersey and served on Bread for the World’s board for five years.  Rep. Payne worked tirelessly to change the lives of hungry and poor people, both in the United States and abroad.

Jaylynn Farr Munson is Bread for the World's media relations intern. She  is a senior at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md.

Photo: Official portrait of Rep. Donald M. Payne. (U.S. House of Representatives)

Quote of the Day: David Beckmann


Hundreds of millions of people have escaped from hunger and poverty in our time, and all the nations of the world have acknowledged that further progress is possible. Given what the Bible teaches about God's concern for poor people and God's presence in history, doesn't it make sense to thank God for this great liberation? Doesn't it make sense to see it as an experience of God's saving action in our own history? Isn't God present in whatever efforts we make to help people escape from hunger and poverty?

—David Beckmann, in Exodus from Hunger

Photo: A fisherman, with his catch, by the beach in Mexico. (Margie Nea)

The Effects of Criminalizing Hungry and Poor People

Hot_meal_program_bmoreBy Sarah Godfrey

Earlier this month, a Washington Post piece on the rise in family homelessness profiled Helen Newsome, a young mother with a toddler and a newborn baby who had been turned away from several D.C.-area shelters.

The article focused on a bureaucratic tangle that has the city turning away families in need, but also explored the myriad issues that homeless families face in finding suitable sheltering. Newsome said she frequently spent the night in a subway station with her children when she had no other option. Eventually she is helped by Janice Coe, a social worker who finds out about Newsome's troubles from a member of her prayer group who happens to use the subway station where the family sleeps. 

Other families referenced in the piece said they have slept with their children on church steps or on the discount bus line from D.C. to New York, which, at just $14 for a round-trip ticket, offers a cheap, safe, warm place to sleep for several hours.

The article ends on a hopeful note, at least where Newsome’s family is concerned. With the help of Coe, she is able to apply for SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) and find temporary shelter in a motel while waiting for subsidized housing. But what would've happened if Newsome has been given a ticket at that subway station instead of a helping hand?

Continue reading "The Effects of Criminalizing Hungry and Poor People " »

South Dakota Activists Remember George McGovern

Photo: Senator George McGovern signing his book "Abraham Lincoln" at the Richard M. Nixon Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif., in 2009. (Scott Clarkson/Wikimedia Commons)

Sen. George McGovern, who died on Sunday, was a tireless hunger activist and a great friend to Bread for the World. McGovern holds a special place in the hearts of Bread's activists and organizers working in South Dakota, the senator's home state. Cathy Brechtelsbauer, Bread for the World's volunteer coordinator for South Dakota and Tammy Walhof, Bread's senior organizer for the Upper Midwest and Plains region, offer this reflection on his work and legacy. 

Sen. McGovern was one of the best champions for ending hunger in our lifetime. He has done so much in our country and around the world. One of his biggest accomplishments was recruiting Sen. Bob Dole and other partners recognizing that hunger is not (and should never be) a partisan issue. Those of us who work on hunger have partnered with Sen. McGovern, a Democrat, and Sen. Dole, a Republican, in this work.

We appreciated Sen. McGovern’s dogged determination to end hunger. He never quit working on it! By urging Congress to create a circle of protection around domestic nutrition programs, foreign assistance anti-poverty programs, and food aid programs, we’re continuing his legacy and preventing his work from being undone.

He’s made a difference in the health of our nation. Many people are eating today, and in fact, many are alive today in our country and worldwide, because of the work of Sen. George McGovern.

Cathy Brechtelsbauer is Bread for the World volunteer state coordinator for South Dakota. Tammy Walhof is Bread for the World's senior regional organizer for the Upper Midwest.

Quote of the Day: Bob Dole


Combating hunger around the world must be a high-priority foreign policy objective as well as a matter of concern to all people of faith.

—Former senator Bob Dole in Ending Hunger Now, written with George McGovern and Donald Messer

Photo: A young woman sells her grain in Addis Ababa's famous Mercato, one of Africa's largest open-air markets. (Todd Post/Bread for the World)

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