Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

45 posts from November 2012

A Pastor Uses Social Justice Ministry, Social Media to Advocate for Hungry

Pastor Dave Buerstetta blesses an offering of letters at the Woodridge United Methodist church outside of Chicago, Ill. Assisting him are Jason Shubert (l) and Tim Waynick. (Photo courtesy of Dave Buerstetta).

Pastor Dave Buerstetta did not always make the connection between his Christian faith and advocating for hungry people. “I had kind of a conversion experience in seminary,” he says. “I met the Jesus who cares, the one who breaks down the barriers, who helps people who need help.”

“That is the Jesus that I’m in love with. That’s how I knew to live the life that I was called to.“

An ordained American Baptist minister, Dave Buerstetta serves as a pastor at the Woodridge United Methodist Church, in Naperville, Ill., where he lives with his wife, Joann, and two children. At Woodridge, Pastor Dave focuses on youth ministry, outreach, and social justice. He is a thoroughly 21st century pastor, maintaining a popular blog and using social media to share his homilies and fight hunger, poverty, and human trafficking.

Despite ministering to a solidly middle-class congregation, Pastor Dave has seen the hidden hunger that exists in most communities. “Even here they have a lot of need,” he says, relating the story of a family who volunteered at a local food pantry for years and now needs help. Unfortunately, the stigma of hunger and poverty drove that family to seek help outside of the community instead of turning to the pantry at which they had assisted for so many years.

That stigma is a barrier that people of faith need to erase, according to Pastor Dave. He points to the new documentary “The Line” as an important resource for understanding that hunger can happen to any of us. It puts the lie to any notion that people who are struggling are lazy,” he says. (“The Line” is a new Bread for the World resource that can be accessed at www.bread.org.)

In Pastor Dave’s experience, the faces behind the statistics give him power as he advocates as “the hands, the feet, and the voice” for hungry people. He recounts the feedback that he received from a legislative aid for Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) “She said that it’s not enough to tell a moral story. In the current climate, we have to tell stories of people we know in congregations who are receiving assistance. It’s not just millions … it’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith who can’t feed their daughter.”

Since getting more involved with Bread after the 2008 National Gathering, Pastor Dave he has become a seasoned advocate, lobbying in person and on the phone and making the Offering of Letters a major focus in the worship service. He also maintains a one-person Offering of Tweets, sending messages to Congress and informing the world about social justice issues through his Twitter account.

Pastor Dave has seen the positive effect of his lobbying efforts and of the Offering of Letters. When visiting Representative Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) with three other Bread members, she told them that they had received hundreds of letters from Bread and that the letters had make a difference. She also told them that she was cosponsoring a bill to strengthen poverty-focused development assistance.

“It’s experiences like that that help me see the value of lobbying,” says Pastor Dave.

This article originally appeared in the November-December 2012 issue of Bread for the World's newsletter. 

Quote of the Day: Art Simon


"Far from saluting God for our prosperity, genuine thanksgiving generates a deep desire that others may also have enough to meet their needs.  If praying for daily bread means to pray for enough, then surely the implication is that when we have more than enough we will share the 'more' so that others may also have enough. Such sharing is an indication that our hope in Christ is deep and true."

—Bread for the World founder Art Simon, in "Rediscovering the Lord's Prayer"

Photo: Four brothers share a meal in Uganda. (Kendra Rinas)

Washington Update for the Week of Nov. 19, 2012


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

The House and Senate have both returned for a short lame duck period of work before the end of this legislative session of Congress. The phrase “lame duck” refers to the period between the November regular election and January, when new members of Congress take office. Traditionally, the lame duck session is a time when current lawmakers are deemed ineffective—whether or not this designation has merit—as they await the conclusion of their term. This year, however, that implication is being challenged as members of Congress will make several important decisions during the lame duck.

The Circle of Protection: The Overall Campaign

Negotiations to avert the “fiscal cliff” and achieve significant deficit reduction kicked off last Friday, as President Barack Obama met with congressional leadership to attempt to reach a deal. The term “fiscal cliff” refers to the impending sequester ($1.2 billion in automatic cuts over 10 years), the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, the unfinished 2013 appropriations bill, the unemployment insurance sunset and the upcoming debt ceiling, and various other expiring policies—all of which will occur at the beginning of 2013.  Lawmakers are working toward a proposal that deals with these challenges and also reduces the deficit by as much as $4 trillion over 10 years.

The Gang of Eight continues to meet, although they appear to have stalled a bit, and negotiations have moved to congressional leadership and the president. We expect to see a comprehensive deficit reduction proposal come out of the current negotiations. Since members of Congress don't have time to draft a bill that outlines all of the specifics in a $4 trillion deficit reduction package, the deal would be more of a framework, which would set the ground rules for how Congress would move forward in achieving deficit reduction. The proposal would likely include a down payment to avoid the scheduled across-the-board cuts and also address the expiration of at least some of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.  This framework also would include some type of enforcement mechanism to ensure Congress actually implements the plan and meets deficit reduction targets.

The provisions in this framework agreement are extremely important, and we want to ensure it is balanced, responsible, and enables our country to continue its strong commitment to ending hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. Rules matter, and if Congress isn't careful, a bad framework deal could put us on a course that would have dire consequences for poor families and low-income individuals. Failing to raise sufficient revenues and provide upfront protections for anti-poverty programs now could mean devastating cuts 10 years from now.

There is a small window of opportunity for influencing the deal. Every special interest group is trying to get in front of Congress now, and programs for hungry people are at risk. We want to see Congress pass a deal and avoid the fiscal cliff, but it absolutely must be responsible. It must include a circle of protection.

We are telling members of Congress to work with leadership to ensure that any deal truly incorporates a circle of protection, which means:

1)      Explicitly protect low-income entitlement programs for hungry and poor people—including SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and the Child Tax Credit (CTC)—against cuts or harmful changes.

2)      Include additional tax revenue balanced with responsible spending cuts so that our country can reduce its deficits while continuing its commitment to addressing hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.

3)      Prevent further cuts to the portion of the budget that funds yearly appropriated programs (also known as non-defense discretionary), including poverty-focused development assistance, international food aid, and WIC.

Bread for the World organizers are working with Bread members to secure local meetings with key members of Congress, attract local media attention, and increase pressure on these members from their constituencies, so that they know these programs must be protected.

Watch for our action alert next week. We will be calling members of Congress and telling them that we want to see a bipartisan plan to address our deficits—one that forms a circle of protection around programs (including SNAP, WIC, the EITC, poverty-focused development assistance and food aid) for hungry and poor people.  We encourage you to call, and to also ask at least three friends to do the same.

Currently, Congress has two weeks of work days scheduled through the end of the year, but we expect them to add more work days in December.  We will keep you posted and follow the Bread Blog for daily updates.

Continue reading "Washington Update for the Week of Nov. 19, 2012" »

Examining the Supplemental Poverty Measure Numbers

By Kyle Dechant

At Bread, we are thankful for the many ways in which our country comes together on Thanksgiving. Charitable giving, food drives, holiday meals at soup kitchens, and the like allow the vast majority of Americans to participate in this celebration of harvest and thanksgiving.

Tomorrow, many families will also put food on their tables with the help of federal programs, such as SNAP (Supplemental Poverty Nutrition Assistance, formerly known as food stamps). When the holiday season ends, and charitable giving decreases as we return to the busyness of our lives, those programs will continue to provide vital assistance to those in need.

And, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), released earlier this month, these programs are more crucial than ever.

The SPM is an attempt by the Census Bureau to measure poverty in a way that accounts for the ways in which our lives have changed over the last several decades. The “official” poverty measure was developed in the early 1960s, and though this measure is adjusted annually for inflation, it has more or less remained the same since it was created.

The SPM takes into account the following considerations that the Official Poverty Measure does not include:

  • Government policies that alter the resources available to families—payroll taxes which reduce net income but also income-supports which ameliorate the impacts of poverty, such as tax credits and SNAP benefits (food stamps).
  •  Expenses that are necessary in holding a job, such as transportation and childcare
  •  Medical costs
  • Variations in household units and support, such as child support payments, co-habitation, and multiple family households
  •  Geographic differences in the cost-of-living across the country

 Here’s how the numbers from the SPM stack up against the official poverty measure:

 According to the SPM, 16.1 percent of the U.S. population (49.7 million people) lived in poverty in 2011; data from the official poverty measure were 15.1 percent of the population (46.6 million people). In other words, 3.1 million more people lived in poverty, according to the SPM than the older official poverty measure.SPN_chart_bread_Nov_2012

  • Fewer children lived in poverty in 2011, according to the SPM, as compared to official poverty data: 18.1 percent of children (13.4 million total) under 18, as measured by the SPM; 22.3 percent (16.5 million total children) by the official measure.
  • Slightly more adults (ages 18-64) lived in poverty in 2011, according to the SPM: 15.5 percent (30.0 million total) by the SPM; 13.7 percent (26.5 million total) by the official measure.
  • More older Americans lived in poverty in 2011, according to the SPM: 15.1 percent of adults 65 and above (6.2 million total) by the SPM; 8.7 percent (3.6 million total) for the official measure.

The SPM also helps measure the efficacy of anti-poverty programs. Among the findings:

  • Without refundable tax credits, such as the earned income tax credit, child poverty would rise from 18.1 percent to 24.4 percent
  • Without SNAP, the overall poverty rate would increase from 16.1 percent to 17.6 percent.

During the holidays, our country does an admirable job of remembering those in need, but direct assistance alone can't lift families out of poverty. As the SPM data shows, anti-poverty programs help the millions of families and children who are at risk of hunger—not only during the holiday season, but year-round.

Kyle Dechant is a fellow in Bread for the World's government relations department.

Persistence Pays Off in Advocating for Poor and Hungry People

Bread members in Ohio are still working to set-up a formal meeting with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), but they snapped a picture with the senator (center) after a meeting with one of his staffers during Bread for the World's 2012 Lobby Day. (Photo courtesy of Jon Gromek)

By Jon Gromek

When I started my career as an organizer, one the first lessons I learned was in the value of persistence in building a good public relationship. I remember talking to a pastor with whom I had been working for many months, and introducing him to the ministry of the organization I was with at the time. He was generally supportive but reluctant—doubtful it would fit prominently into the already busy life of his church. It was an important church in the community so I persisted, talking with the pastor every couple of months, sending him articles related to our conversations that I thought he might find interesting, and inviting him and other members to meetings. 

Eventually, my work paid off—not only did the congregation become one of the strongest and most active churches involved, but the pastor even took on a leadership position within the organization. Much later I asked him what changed his mind and he admitted it was my persistence and the trust we built.  He knew that because I persisted that it must have been important and worth his time.

About a month ago, Bread for the World members and other circle of protection allies gathered in Cincinnati, Ohio, to meet with staffers of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) at Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church. There was an impressive showing of clergy and faith leaders from almost every major denomination (including Bread for the World president David Beckmann).  

The group shared some truly powerful stories of feeding programs and ministries at work in Ohio, and of members who struggled despite the best efforts of the church to provide support. The staff person was very gracious and listened intently. Then Rev. Beckmann politely interrupted and asked a pointed question: "If this is important to the senator, why is it that we’ve never been able to get a meeting with Senator Portman or his senior staff ?" Beckmann pointed out the strength and broad diversity of the group present, no doubt representing millions of Ohio Christians, all coming together for a single purpose. It wasn’t that the issue wasn’t important, the staffer said, but because so many important groups were jockeying for their time and attention, they just couldn’t meet every request.

We know in our work and ministry at Bread for the World that merit is not enough to win victory for poor and hungry people. Moving our elected officials to do the right thing takes persistent effort. It means following up with Senator Portman’s state director with a tour at the local St. Vincent De Paul Society, to give an in-person look at the reality of hunger and poverty.

And it means having dozens and dozens Ohioans call the office of Sen. Rob Portman on Monday Nov. 26 at 800-826-3688 to tell him that we want to see a bipartisan plan to address our deficits, one that explicitly forms a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people (including SNAP, WIC, the EITC, and poverty-focused development assistance).

It means being persistent and balancing the fierce urgency of the here and now with the long view that we are building the Kingdom of God.

Jon Gromek is a Bread for World regional organizer in the central hub, which includes Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan.

Action: Ohio Bread members, please be sure to call the office of Sen. Rob Portman this Monday, Nov. 26, and tell him that you want to see a bipartisan plan that addresses our deficits without balancing the federal budget on the backs of poor and hungry people. You can reach Sen. Portman's office at: 800-826-3688 

Bread for the World Is Thankful for Your Support

Beckmann_and _bread_mosaic

By David Beckmann

We have a lot to be thankful for this year at Bread for the World, and you’re at the top of the list.

Your support—whether through your prayers, letter-writing, giving, visits with your members of Congress, or outreach to your congregation—has literally helped change the lives of millions of hungry people all over the world. Thank you for making this change possible.

Please take a minute to watch this video, which captures our spirit and expresses our gratitude to you for being a part of our work:

Some of you have been with us since Bread was founded nearly 40 years ago in a tiny parish building. And some of you have just recently joined our work to end hunger. Whether you’ve been a part of this work for four days or 40 years, I want to thank you for believing in our audacious vision of ending hunger.

I pray that your holiday celebrations will be filled with God’s abundant blessings.

Grace and peace,

David Beckmann

P.S. Your continued support matters so much in our ongoing effort to make a critical difference in the lives of hungry and impoverished people. Click here to donate.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

The 2013 Hunger Report Launch

As you may have heard by now, the 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach—Global Development Goals, was released yesterday. During a launch event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., a panel of experts discussed the report, which calls for a renewed push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline and urges a focus on ending hunger and extreme poverty in new global development goals. 

The panel included Hon. Mwanaidi Sinare Maajar, Tanzanian ambassador to the United States;  Stephan Bauman, president and CEO of World Relief; Jonathan Shrier, acting special representative for Global Food Security, U.S. Department of State; and Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World Institute.  Ndimyake Mwakalyelye, radio and television journalist at Voice of America moderated the event.

A few highlights from the discussion are below. (All photos: Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Quote of the Day: David Beckmann


"In former times, people of faith 'administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouth of lions, won strength out of weakness, and put armies to flight.' In our time, God is calling us to end hunger."

—David Beckmann in the 2013 Hunger Report, "Within Reach, Global Development Goals"

Photo: A young boy plants the rice crop in the village fields of Aileu, Timor-Leste. (UN Photo/Martine Perret)

Bread Members Honor Sen. George McGovern

Mcgovern_arrangement_SD_Bread_resize"And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." (Isaiah 58:10)

Last month, Bread members in South Dakota honored the memory of the late Sen. George McGovern, a tireless advocate for hungry and poor people, with this lovely arrangement.

"Whenever one of our key South Dakota people pass away, our Bread South Dakota folks send at least one representative and an arrangement with a globe, a loaf of bread, and wheat," says Tammy Walhof is Bread for the World's senior regional organizer for the Upper Midwest. "Sometimes, people use flowers from their gardens as well.

For funeral of the Sen. McGovern, whose home state was South Dakota, Walhof says that the person charged with bringing the arrangement wanted to dress it up more, to so she sought out the help of a local florist. "It became quite the beautiful arrangement," Walhof says.

The 2013 Hunger Report Is Here

Hunger-Report-2013-Cover-blogsizeThe 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals has arrived.

This year's report focuses on meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets and setting the next round of global development goals once the MDGs expire at the end of 2015. The 2000s were a decade of extraordinary progress against poverty and hunger, but with just three years left before the deadline of the MDGs, a final push and a strong finish will be critical to build momentum for what comes next.

The report (hard copies of which are now available for sale in the Bread store) is accompanied by the launch of an interactive website. Below is a list of just a few of the web features to explore:


The Hunger Report website includes a large infographic on stunting, as well as smaller visuals depicting key issues in the report sprinkled among our issue pages.


"Tohomina: Fighting Malnutrition in Bangladesh" tells the story of Tohomina Akter of Barisal, Bangladesh, who is working to keep her 17-month-old daughter, Adia, healthy and nourished so that she can become a doctor one day. Child malnutrition that results in stunting is one of many issues targeted by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Guest contributors

Read guest pieces on from a wide range of topic experts, including U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General José Graziano da Silva and Michal Challenge International Director Joel Edwards.

The Report in Photos

See the 2013 Hunger Report through a series of photographs highlighting key issues.

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