Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

44 posts from October 2012

Why Jesus Wants You to Vote

'Bible' photo (c) 2005, Nicholas B. - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

By Robin Stephenson

Recently, I half-jokingly chided a friend, telling her that "Jesus wants you to vote."

After learning that civic responsibility will be one of the topics discussed during tomorrow’s grassroots conference call and webinar, I decided to explore this idea a bit more. Does my individual belief in God mean that I am also responsible for contributing to my government through citizenship? 

I began with scripture. In Mark 10:17-31, a rich man walks away from Jesus when asked to give his wealth to the poor as the path to heaven. Religious scholar Miguel De Le Torre posits that this tale doesn't caution against prosperity, but against disengagement with the structures of poverty and oppression. Salvation is achieved through engagement with, and responsibility to, the poor—just believing in God is not enough. 

Living Christianity is a process of turning belief into action and building toward God’s vision of the world. The Old Testament laws structure a just society where all of God’s children are cared for and live in right relationship. In Isaiah 25:6-8, God’s banquet is for all people. In the New Testament, Jesus invites us into a kingdom-building partnership as we call forth God’s will, “…on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10).

Does my biblical responsibility to kingdom-building mean I should vote?

Continue reading "Why Jesus Wants You to Vote" »

Quote of the Day: Robert F. Kennedy


It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

—Robert F. Kennedy

Photo: A schoolgirl in Tanzania. (Crista Friedli for Bread for the World)

Quote of the Day: James 2:15-16


Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

—James 2:15-16 (NIV)

Photo: Two young girls smile in Timor-Leste. On November 6, 2008, the government of Spain earmarked $4.9 million for a project aimed at improving social services for Timorese women and girls affected by gender-based violence. (UN Photo/Martine Perret)

Michigan Activists Ask Senator to Protect SNAP

Whiteboard_messaging_michiganBy Robin Stephenson

The Flint, Michigan chapter of Church Women United (CWU) has a message for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI): create a circle of protection around funding for vital domestic nutrition programs that meet the needs of millions of American families.

Stabenow, as chair of the Senate agriculture committee, is spearheading the Senate’s version of the farm bill, which authorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). This gives Michigan constituents a unique opportunity to influence the decision to either cut or protect SNAP funding as Congress works on a farm bill compromise.

The Flint CWU chapter recently sent 21 letters to Sen. Stabenow to let her know that members of her voting constituency support SNAP—and the 1.9 million Michigan residents who relied on the program during fiscal year 2011. The letter-writing event was organized by Kathryn Blake, a member of both CWU and Bread for the World, with assistance from Michelle Werner, an alumna of the Hunger Justice Leader program.

Continue reading "Michigan Activists Ask Senator to Protect SNAP" »

7.8% Unemployment – Why We Care at Bread


(Source: The Washington Post)

By Kyle Dechant

Last Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the national unemployment rate fell below 8 percent for the first time in more than 43 months. To the relief of many policy makers, September’s seasonally adjusted rate came in at 7.8 percent.

 Why We Care at Bread


(Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau)

Poverty in its most basic form is a measurement of income. As such, it’s not surprising to find that as unemployment falls in the United States the rate of poverty also decreases. The graph above charts U.S. unemployment and poverty over the past 31 years and shows how, generally speaking, unemployment and poverty tend to rise and fall together.

An unemployment rate of 7.8 percent is high by any historic measure. However, given that unemployment has been above 8 percent for almost four years and that the unemployment rate has historically been an accurate barometer of longer-term trends in poverty, this drop seems to indicate that poverty may decrease by more in the near future.

Continue reading "7.8% Unemployment – Why We Care at Bread" »

Public Officials on Taking the SNAP Challenge

By Sarah Godfrey

It has been said before, but it bears repeating: a weeklong challenge cannot replicate the daily struggles of the roughly 45 million Americans who work to stretch the dollars they receive each month from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps).

Still, the exercise can be instructive. When celebrities, such as chef Mario Batali and West Wing actor Josh Malina, attempt to feed themselves on about $4.30 per day (that's an average daily benefit), it highlights the difficulty of living on a fixed income and the importance of federal safety net programs that help keep people from going hungry. 

While celebrity SNAP challenge participants bring attention to the program and the need to protect and increase food stamp allotments, when elected officials participate, the hope is that their involvement won't just inspire conversations, but actually affect decision-making.

In the past few weeks, several public officials across the country have taken SNAP challenges. Along with the usual statements about the difficulty of eating healthily on such a tight budget, fighting cravings, and the relative high cost of buying produce, several officials have also said that the experience has inspired them to work to change policy.

Lorena Gonzalez, Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, took the challenge late last month and her food diary outlines the trouble she had sticking to her $4.90 daily CalFresh budget. At the end of the challenge, she said, "I will not hesitate to stand up for protecting and increasing CalFresh food stamp budgets every chance I get.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton also spent a week last month participating in a SNAP challenge. Stanton had just $29 to last him an entire week. He talked about living without indulgences and treats, and empathizing with families dependent on SNAP, but also said the week had made him "a better policy maker."

This week, a group of local Washington, D.C., officials is taking a SNAP Challenge at the behest of the non-profit D.C. Hunger Solutions. 

The group, including D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh, and Dr. John Thompson, executive director of the D.C. Office on Aging, started the challenge yesterday. On Monday night, they bought their groceries for the week, and a couple of news crews followed them as they did their shopping.

During the shopping expedition, Councilmember Cheh told one reporter that the experience had already changed her thoughts on the D.C. city council's budget priorities. 

"The next time we have some hard choices to make about where we might spend money, we might think about nutrition and food and giving the basics to people who don't have it," Cheh said.

It's great when celebrities can use their fame to put SNAP in the news, but it’s even better when SNAP challenges can be used to convince elected officials of the importance of federal nutrition programs.

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

Take action! Tell your representative to support SNAP and get the latest news about domestic nutrition programs on our mini campaign page.

Quote of the Day: Art Simon


To remain silent is to support the continuation of hunger.

—Bread for the World founder Art Simon in The Rising of Bread for the World

Photo: A farmer scoops cocoa out of pods. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Tell Your Member of Congress to Help Cut Hunger and Poverty in Half


Photo: Elementary school children in India benefit from meals provided by the school. (Jim Stipe/Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson

Good news: According to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO) report released today, the number of hungry people around the world continues to fall.

Since the 1990s, global food insecurity has declined steadily and, as the FAO notes, the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of cutting hunger and poverty in half by 2015 is within reach, if adequate, appropriate action is taken.

The report, the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012, is a joint publication of the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Program (WFP).

The news underscores the importance of expanding the circle of protection and ensuring adequate funding of poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA).

Many Bread members will remember the 2008 Offering of Letters campaign, which asked for a strong Global Poverty Act that would commit the United States to the "hunger MDG." Efforts to build political will, support programs that fight systemic poverty, and provide a chance for people to thrive have been bolstered by a strong faith-based constituency calling for elected leaders to support policies that help poor and hungry people.

Despite the progress made, the report also reveals that nearly 870 million people around the world are chronically undernourished, and while that number continues to decline, the rate of decline has slowed.

“The number of hungry declined more sharply between 1990 and 2007 than previously believed,” the FAO says in the report. "Since 2007-2008, however, global progress in reducing hunger has slowed and leveled off."

Members of Congress, including the bipartisan Gang of Eight, are currently creating the framework for lame duck session budget negotiations. PFDA, which accounts for less than one percent of federal budget spending, is on the chopping block. Any cuts made to PFDA would result in lives lost and an increase in hunger and poverty around the world.

Bread members and activists can help keep Congress on track in moving toward meeting the MDG. Remind your congressional representatives of the importance of forming a circle of protection around PFDA. If you've already talked to your members of Congress, please don't be afraid to contact them again, and reiterate the importance of helping poor and hungry people both at home and abroad. 

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

South Dakota Bread Team Talks Poverty With Elected Officials


Photo: Ninth grade student Abby reads her essay on poverty-focused development assistance to Karen Kunze, South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson's staffer on foreign operations. (Courtesy of South Dakota Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson

Last week, Bread members in South Dakota met with local and D.C.-based staff of Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) to discuss poverty-focused development assistance. Senator Johnson sits on a key committee—appropriations—which sets vital funding for programs that provide long-term poverty-reducing strategies abroad. Poverty-focused aid makes up less than one percent of the federal budget and must be approved by Congress each year in the appropriations process. The Senate FY13 appropriations-funded programs are critical to ending poverty abroad, and South Dakota Bread members asked Sen. Johnson to protect those proposed levels in any future budget negotiations.

Staff Assistant Bret Hoffman met the group of 10 Bread members at the senator's Sioux Falls office. When Bread member Cathy Brechtelsbauer called to schedule the meeting she asked if the office could teleconference with the Washington D.C., legislative assistant, Karen Kunze, who deals directly with foreign aid. Many local offices are equipped to conference with D.C. By conferencing, constituents can talk directly to key staff members about the issues they work on. This method of communication gets the right information to the right people.

The advocacy team included a ninth grader named Abby, who won last year’s Human Rights Day essay contest, which Bread for the World South Dakota sponsored.  Abby read aloud her essay, which  pointed out the fact that $1.3 billion people live on no more than $1.25 a day and that agriculture is an essential part of the solution to poverty. Staff Assistant Hoffman appreciated Abby’s grasp of the interrelation between poverty and human rights.

Others Bread activists shared stories, as well. A college student who has seen farmers struggling in Nicaragua emphasized the importance of simple but critical inputs, such as food storage systems, that increase agricultural productivity. A farmer returning from a mission trip to Haiti spoke about the importance of Feed the Future as a program that is not a handout but a hand up, lifting communities into a cycle of prosperity. And a doctor talked about working in Ethiopian clinics using the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to save lives.

Before leaving, Bread members asked what kind of support the group could provide to Sen. Johnson. Kunze encouraged the group to continue to educate others in their community about poverty-focused development assistance, and how such a small portion of the federal budget does so much good.

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

Advocacy and the 2012 Hunger Justice Leader Program


Photo: Hunger Justice Leaders pose in front of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building after meeting with people working in the White House Office of Public Engagement in Washington, D.C., on Monday, June 11, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Chinook: GPNW Community of Christ, Autumn 2012 edition.

By Lyle Anderson II

We live in a world with enough food for everyone, and yet so many go to bed at night not knowing where their next meal will come from. Caring for, and seeking, an end to the injustices of hunger and poverty has been a part of our story as Community of Christ from our earliest beginnings as a movement, and a part of our calling we have been reminded of in Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a,c: “God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will… Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare…. Prepare new generations of disciples to bring fresh vision to bear on the perplexing problems of poverty, disease, war, and environmental deterioration.”

It was a great honor to be selected as one of 70 young adult ministers from 16 Christian traditions and 26 states to participate in Bread for the World’s 2012 Hunger Justice Leaders Workshop. We descended on Washington, D.C., on June 8; over the next few days, we learned about hunger, poverty, anti-hunger and poverty programs, and citizen advocacy.

We were a diverse group of people from varying backgrounds, but we shared one thing in common: grounded in our faith as disciples of Christ, we had a conviction and passion to end the injustice of hunger.

Continue reading "Advocacy and the 2012 Hunger Justice Leader Program" »

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