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29 posts categorized "2013 Offering of Letters"
Letters written by members of Woodridge United Methodist Church during its Offering of Letters last month. (All photos by Christine Darfler)
By Kacie Greer
I recently attended a 10:30 a.m. church service at Woodridge United Methodist Church, in Woodridge, Ill., during which Pastor Dave Buerstetta led an Offering of Letters. This was actually my first time participating in an Offering of Letters. It was very moving, and the way the congregation approached the program was inspiring.
I walked into the church and was immediately greeted by members saying, "You came on the right day, we are doing something very special during service today." In front of me was a table full of letters written by members who had attended the 9:30 a.m. service. These letters were written by adults and children. When seeing letters written by children, I know that a story is being told-nothing beats seeing the truth through a child's eyes.
The service began and was led by a young boy, while the projector in the front of the sanctuary showed an image of Rosie, a young girl featured in A Place at the Table, smiling at the congregation. After a few worship songs, Pastor Buerstetta introduced Bread for the World and the Offering of Letters. A short clip of Rosie, taken from the film, then played. The congregation learned a bit about Rosie's life in rural Colorado, and how going to school hungry impacted her ability to focus on her school work. Some of the most powerful words came when Rosie described the hunger she experiences during school hours. She says sometimes all she can picture is food as her stomach growls. She sees images of bananas and other fruits while trying to concentrate on the school work.
Pastor Buerstetta began to address the congregation on the proper way to write to Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) about food aid reform. He talked about how the president's proposal allows the United States greater flexibility to respond to hunger needs around the world while also better supporting long-term development efforts in food security and agriculture. He addressed the issue of funding for proper nutrition as well, which is one of the main inequalities that Rosie faces. Overall, the congregation was very passionate about the Offering of Letters program and about working to end hunger both at home and abroad.
Kacie Greer is a Bread for the World central hub organizing intern based in Chicago, Ill.
Rev. James Forbes, shown in 2006, was the keynote speaker at a North Carolina Bread for the World conference last month. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Scott Griessel, flickr user creatista.
By Paula Well and Rev. Bob Herron
On Saturday, April 13, a dream became a reality—a North Carolina Bread for the World Conference took place at the Christ United Methodist Church in Greensboro, N.C. Thanks to the efforts of the local Bread Leadership Team of the Triad we held a successful conference that brought attention to issues of hunger in our state, our county, and around the world.
The keynote of the day was given by Dr. James Forbes, pastor emeritus of Riverside Church, in New York City. His words inspired and challenged the more than 100 attendees. During the conference, Dr. Forbes also offered a “homiletics teaching,” a workshop for pastors on methods of preaching justice. LaMarco Cable, deputy director of organizing for Bread’s southern hub, gave a presentation on this year’s Offering of Letters and presidential petition.
During lunch, participants wrote letters to Congress and signed the presidential petition while listening to music from hunger advocate and musician Bryan McFarland. The rest of the time was spent networking with people from various parts of the state and sharing ideas about strengthening our advocacy. We were also very blessed to have a local cinema showing the brilliant documentary A Place at the Table the same time that the conference was taking place. We cannot recommend it highly enough.
We hope that other Bread Leadership Teams will be inspired by hearing about our North Carolina event. We pray that the brilliant preaching of Rev. Forbes and the leadership of LaMarco Cable will take us to new heights. We also pray that the exhilaration of learning how our small voices can be used to amplify important issues will not fade.
Recently, our team reconvened to discuss how we could capitalize on the energy of that day, and we became reinvigorated and ready to plan for our next conference. We feel the ways in which the Holy Spirit emboldens us to dream֫—to dream of a day when, instead of one in six Americans going to bed hungry at night, no one is hungry. We dream of a day when Bread for the World won’t be necessary any longer because the problem of hunger has been solved.
Until that dream is realized, we will continue our work.Paula Well and Rev. Bob Herron are team members of the Bread for the World Triad of N.C.
After seeing the documentary A Place at the Table, Lori Abshire participated in a SNAP challenge and her church's Offering of Letters. Photo: Participants at the National Hunger-Free Communities Summit watch a preview of A Place at the Table. (Amanda Lucidon for Bread for the World)
By Lori Abshire
This winter I took a poverty class at my church, King Avenue United Methodist. The class, led by Pastor John, was amazing and touched my heart in many ways, but I was overwhelmed by what I learned. What could I do to make a difference when faced with such an enormous problem? The class culminated in a trip to see the documentary A Place at the Table, which highlights the hunger epidemic in the United States.
The documentary shook me to my core. I couldn’t get the image of Rosie, a 12-year-old Colorado girl, out of my head. “ I struggle a lot,” Rosie said in the documentary. “Most of the time it is because my stomach is really hurting and I zone out. I’m just looking at the teacher and all I am thinking about is food.” I had to do something so I decided for the first time I would be one of “those people” on Facebook—I was going to make people aware of the facts about food insecurity and food stamps, or SNAP.
This is a personal issue for me. My family had to be on food stamps when I was growing up. My mom worked hard—there wasn’t a lazy bone in her body—but we couldn’t make it sometimes without food stamps. I am thankful that safety net was there for us. Growing up, I thought anyone with a full refrigerator was wealthy. I will never forget the first time, as an adult, that my refrigerator was full. I had learned by then that it didn't make you wealthy, but I was grateful.
A couple weeks ago, Pastor John spoke about seeing things through Jesus’ eyes. I tried to see this issue that way. I made a commitment to stick to a SNAP food budget for a week, starting Monday, March 25. Can you guess the food stamp allotment for an adult for seven days? It’s about $31 per adult, per week—or $4.45 a day.
I went to Wal-Mart to get the cheapest prices. I tried to make the best choices possible. Produce was so expensive, but I was lucky to be able to buy a banana for each day, an apple, and two oranges. I couldn’t believe the apple I bought was 83 cents!
The only meat I was able to purchase was two cans of tuna. My protein sources were milk, yogurt, peanut butter, black beans, and that tuna.
I can certainly see why someone would buy a bag of chips for $1.50 instead of the carrots I bought. Chips have 800 plus calories and my carrots had maybe 200 total. I can see why people make the choices they make.
I did this to help educate our children and my friends and family. I found that I was OK with being one of those people on Facebook. I opened up a lot of dialogue. I hope I opened some people’s eyes. Hopefully, they started to see things through Jesus’ eyes.
We live in the world’s wealthiest nation, yet more than 50 million Americans struggle to put food on the table. My church has conducted an Offering of Letters, asking our president and members of Congress to enact a plan to end hunger. I hope you’ll join us.
Lori Abshire attends King Avenue United Methodist Church and lives in Columbus, Ohio.
Bread’s 2013 Offering of Letters, “A Place at the Table,” is in full swing and your letters and phone calls are influencing Congress. Below is a list of current proposed legislation affecting programs for hungry and poor people.
The House and Senate Agriculture Committees are busy drafting their respective farm bills. Both committees are aiming to mark up their bills by mid-May. It is very likely both committees will include cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). Last year, the Senate proposed to cut SNAP by $4.5 billion over ten years and the House by $16 billion over ten years. International food aid programs are also at risk. Last year, the Senate included much needed reforms to the programs while the House cut food aid quality programs by over 95 percent. Now is the time to reach out to members of Congress on the Agriculture Committees to voice our support for these vital programs.
Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) recently reintroduced a resolution in support of SNAP, H. Res. 90. This resolution is very similar to H. Res. 760, which was introduced last year and had more than 100 cosponsors. Currently, H. Res. 90 has 102 cosponsors and we are urging more members to sign on to show strong support for SNAP as the Agriculture Committees work on their farm bills.Act Now: Call your senators and representative today at 1-800-326-4941, or send them an email, and tell them to protect and strengthen SNAP!
In April, the House and the Senate passed their fiscal year 2014 budget resolutions and the White House released its budget. Both the Senate’s and president’s budgets would replace the sequester, the automatic across-the-board cuts that started to take effect in March. For more on sequestration basics, see the graphic on the back page of this newsletter and download our fact sheet “The Consequences of Sequestration” from the Bread website.
President Obama’s proposal is based on his last offer to House Speaker John Boehner during the fiscal cliff negotiations. It raises revenue while cutting some entitlements. The president’s budget also includes a proposal for reforming food aid, which could enable up to 4 million more people to be reached with comparable resources while saving approximately $500 million over the next 10 years.
The House and Senate are now negotiating a process whereby a single compromised version of the budget is agreed upon by both chambers. This could provide a path for the grand bargain and a replacement of the sequester.
The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee are both moving on tax reform. House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp (R-Mich.) has issued a series of overhaul proposals over the past two years and has promised legislation for a comprehensive rewrite by the end of the year. And Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has been holding meetings with Camp and other Republicans.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) have been topics of discussion within both committees. Bread for the World has sent a letter to the Ways and Means Committee, stressing the importance of these refundable tax credits. Bread members who have senators and representatives on those committees will need to be especially persistent in contacting their members as we continue to urge Congress to increase revenue so we can adequately fund programs that help people who are hungry or living in poverty.
This update originally appeared in the May/June edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.
Photo: Bread members and staff on Capitol Hill for 2011 Lobby Day. (William Johnson)
Schoolchildren in Athens Greece, 2007. Photo by flickr user Tran's World Productions.
By Robin Stephenson
The stories of hunger out of Greece are heartbreaking. It is not as if poverty and child hunger is something new, but recent reports of children in Athens picking through trash cans for their school lunches are shocking—perhaps because the country's fall from relative prosperity has taken just five years or perhaps because children eating from trash cans is simply a perversion of God’s will.
When I think of Greece, I think of families around dinner tables crammed with savories like spinach-stuffed pastry with salty chunks of feta cheese and fragrant bread dripping with thick olive oil—everyone showing love while sharing food.
But the reality for many Greeks today is scarcity—unemployment rates of 27 percent leave dwindling options for many families. As reported in the New York Times, the new image of Greece, filtered through a shroud of austerity where pasta and ketchup are the evening meal, is an inversion of the country's rich cultural heritage, a good deal of which is linked to food. The garbage can is now the table for some it seems.
I have written previously that austerity as an answer to plummeting economies has failed in the past, bringing only vicious cycles of decline as it ignores the complexities of the root causes of poverty. Well-constructed safety nets make it easier to rebound in better times.
Current proposals in the U.S. Congress call for measures of austerity from the most vulnerable populations – those measures include crippling the safety net with disproportionate cuts, as the House Budget Resolution would do if implemented.
When the cupboard at home is empty, Greek children, not unlike American students, go to school hungry. There is no succor for the hunger pangs of the Greek child—no school lunch if her family can’t provide it. In the United States, by contrast, children from low-income families have access to subsidized lunch, a resource we provide with our tax dollars. Not every child is reached and child hunger is still a problem in this country, but our nation made a moral choice and decided that having healthy children is an American value— at least for now.
The economy in the United States is not in free fall, as it is in Greece. We have an opportunity to improve our economy if our members of Congress will come together and act. We can still make sensible choices, such as replacing the sequester and reducing the deficit by balancing cuts with slight increases in revenue, thereby protecting policies and programs that reduce poverty.
The U.S. narrative coming out of the recession has been this: our safety net has worked. During a period of increased unemployment and underemployment in America, food insecurity has remained relatively stable as poverty has risen. The worst decision our nation could make is to abandon effective programs that make it easier to recover.
The future will be complex, but the image of an abundant table contrasted with children searching for scraps gives me pause. God’s vision of a world where all have a place at the table requires the political will to make our children’s health a moral priority. The stories out of Greece remind us that the choices we are making today can change our story tomorrow.
Act today and tell Congress to make the right choice for tomorrow.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
“The EITC has been a huge help," Edwards says. "It really saved me."
Edwards once utilized several federal safety net programs, but over the years she has increased her earnings, through training and a series of progressively better-paying jobs. She is currently working in human resources and no longer qualifies for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or SNAP (formerly food stamps). If she continues on her current career trajectory, soon she’ll no longer qualify for EITC, either. But, as it is now, the tax credit provides her and her four children with a very important hand-up.
"It’s practical and allows me to get money in one lump sum—money that I can use to catch up on bills, or make a major purchase, if I need to," she says. "I can get things like coats for the kids, if they’ve outgrown something. I have a larger family, so I’m not always able to replace all of the winter coats that no longer fit all at once. When I get my tax refund, which includes the EITC, that’s something I can do.”
This year, Edwards used her EITC money to buy a used
car. She didn't have to scramble to figure out transportation, and she didn't lose her job. That lump sum arrived exactly when she needed it, giving her peace of mind, and preventing a blow from which it might've taken a very long time to recover. Without a working
car, how would she get to work? Without a job, how would she pay her rent or
feed her family? She thinks that those who diminish the importance of the
credit, and think it should be reduced or eliminated altogether, just don't
understand it's role in helping millions of families secure food, clothing, and
“The only people who could say something against [EITC] are those who aren't in a position to need it, or don't care about those of us who really do need it," Edwards says.
By Eric Mitchell
It's April 15. Have you finished your taxes? Even if you find yourself sprinting to the post office today, know that there's a group of people who are even bigger procrastinators when it comes to dealing with taxes: members of Congress.
For two years, Congress has been putting off the budget compromises necessary for a deficit-reduction deal. That procrastination ensures sequestration will continue, causing painful cuts to programs serving the most vulnerable among us.
Low-income pregnant women are at risk of losing access to prenatal care, and infants and children could lose vital nutrition if the cuts continue. Right now there are lotteries taking place in this country to determine which children will get to attend Head Start and which children will be shut out of the program. Some of the poorest families around the world are at risk of losing life-saving food aid. We need a different path to deficit reduction.
Please don’t put off this call! You can make a difference and it will take only a few minutes:
- Call 1-800-826-3688.
- Ask for your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative.
- Say: "I'm [your name] from [your town], and I urge you to stop procrastinating and include taxes as part of a big budget deal. Please enact a deficit-reduction deal that replaces sequestration, raises sufficient revenues, and addresses entitlement spending."
- You can add to your message by discussing the harmful effects of sequestration. To learn more, see Bread's fact sheet on sequestration.
- Thank the office.
Thank you for being a powerful voice for hungry people.
Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.
Rev. Gary Cook, director of Church Relations at Bread for the World, holds up "A Place at the Table," the 2013 Offering of Letters handbook during aconversation with Barbie Izquierdo, who is featured in the documentary film of the same name. Photo taken at Ecumenical Advocacy Days, held April 5-8 in Washington, D.C. (Robin Stephenson)
By Robin Stephenson
More than 700 people gathered in Washington, D.C., last weekend for Ecumenical Advocacy Days, and Bread for the World staff and members were counted among them. This year’s gathering, held April 5-8, began with three days of worship and workshops on the theme "God’s Table: Food Justice for a Healthy World." The conference, of which Bread for the World is a sponsor, culminated in a Capitol Hill lobby day, during which participants told their members of Congress that a faithful farm bill will alleviate hunger and malnutrition, support farms and communities, and protect God’s creation.
With the agricultural and nutrition challenges we face today, food and farm policies that end hunger are something we must get right. Bread for the World Institute dedicated last year’s Hunger Report (PDF) to the concept of the farm bill as a legislative vehicle that can help meet those challenges as we work to address root causes of hunger. With this year’s Offering of Letters calling for a place at the table for all of God’s children, Bread for the World is closely following farm bill negotiations and calling for robust funding for both food aid and SNAP (formerly food stamps) as programs that can end hunger.
Staff members from Bread for the World—from across our government relations, church relations, and organizing departments—and Bread Institute presented in several workshops during Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Issues workshops Bread staff participated in included "Harvesting a Healthy Farm Bill: What’s at Stake?," "Food Insecurity 101: Hunger in America," "Immigration in the Food System," "1,000 Days: The Foundation for Life," and "The Most Important Policy Conversation This Year: TAXES." Bread staff also led skills workshops on social media and advocacy and conducting an Offering of Letters.
Bread for the World’s Women of Faith for 1,000 Days Movement hosted an opening night reception with Bread president David Beckmann giving an address on the importance of nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window, from a woman's pregnancy through her child's second birthday.
One event highlight was an evening conversation with Barbie Izquierdo, whose story illustrates the importance of domestic nutrition programs. She is featured in the documentary film A Place at the Table, and also in Bread’s 2013 Offering of Letters.
Next up is Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, "A Place at the Table," which will be held June 8-11 in Washington, D.C. The event will offer many informative workshops, as well as the opportunity to hear speakers like Rev. Dr. James Forbes and Rev. Luis Cortes, among others. The National Gathering also includes the premiere of a new arrangement of the musical Lazarus. Take advantage of early-bird registration, and join us in June.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
By Robin Stephenson
The fiscal year 2014 budget resolutions from both the House and Senate budget committees are now public record. Yesterday, President Obama introduced his budget proposal. These three budgets may seem confusing because they make very different choices on spending, cuts, and taxes. We will explain what it all means, what’s next, and why hunger advocates should care.
It’s important for advocates who care about hunger issues to understand budgets because they set the foundation for policy that either addresses or ignores hunger and poverty. Combined with spending caps and the automatic cuts created through sequestration as part of the Budget Control Act, the FY2014 budget will be an important legislative vehicle to watch. Faithful advocates must demand a balanced approach with love of neighbor at its center. Budgets are moral documents that reflect our national priorities.
The House budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), is bad news for poor and vulnerable populations. If enacted, it would dramatically increase poverty. By balancing the budget in 10 years without raising revenue, the proposal from Ryan, who is House Budget Committee chairman, prioritizes defense spending and decimates programs that alleviate hunger (such as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which would force millions back into poverty. While defense spending receives $550 billion more than under sequestration, non-defense discretionary spending is cut $700 billion below sequestration levels, forcing cuts to programs including poverty -focused development assistance and the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)—both of which save lives and provide stepping stones out of poverty.
It is currently unlikely that we’ll see such draconian cuts become reality through this budget process. The Senate’s resolution, by contrast, reflects a more balanced approach and, unlike the House version, replaces sequestration, the automatic cuts currently in effect (see a side-by-side comparison of the two budget proposals).
How does one reconcile being a "foodie" with working to fighting hunger? The two things might seem to be at odds, but a lot of people who dedicate their time to cooking and enjoying the best possible meals are also passionate about fighting to ensure that everyone has access to beautiful, fresh, amazing food. Whether it's chef Tom Colicchio trying to makeover public school lunches or New York Times food writer Mark Bittman writing about SNAP, people who love food, and make their living cooking and writing about food, can be powerful anti-hunger advocates. That idea is at the heart of Food Bloggers Against Hunger.
Today, 200 food writers from around the blog-o-sphere are donating their posts to raise awareness about the documentary A Place at the Table and issues of hunger. And, most importantly, they are asking their readers to send letters to Congress to protect SNAP funding and make anti-hunger legislation a priority.
Many of the bloggers shared their tips for cooking healthy on the cheap, some chose to highlight facts about hunger in America and their thoughts on A Place at the Table. But a few of the bloggers also offered moving personal accounts of their own experiences with hunger and poverty.
Kate in Kitchen, who shares delicious recipes through her blog, bravely shares her past experience with hunger:
I have never, ever taken one bite of food for granted. I’ve never shunned a meal due to any reason because I can’t forget what it was like to not have enough. To lay hungry in the night. To walk past trash cans spilling over with half eaten foods, to see food thrown out, to hear people say “I’m STARVING!” as if they had any idea what that’s like, and me trying to focus the meager tips I made on purchasing something decent for my boy and I to eat when the bank account was bare.For a list of participating blogs, visit the Food Bloggers Against Hunger website, or find the posts on Twitter, by searching the #takeyourplace hashtag.