Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

77 posts categorized "2013 Offering of Letters"

Rev. David Beckmann Has a Message: Thank You!

Watch this special video thank you from Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

“We’ve been sending you a lot of emails lately,” begins Rev. David Beckmann in a special video thank you to Bread members. The past year many urgent pieces of legislation were in front of Congress that had consequences for poverty and hunger. Bread for the World called on Bread members to raise their voices, and you responded. You made a difference.

“Together we have an impact,” says Beckmann. The central idea behind our mission to end hunger is that we yield tremendous power as a community of faith when we send a message to Congress that hunger and poverty must and can be alleviated. “We change laws and systems in ways that provide help and opportunity for millions of hungry people,” says Beckmann before highlighting the impact your voices have made in the past year.

There is more work to do to protect and help hungry people in the next year. The year of 2014 includes a packed agenda, starting with a busy January. Beckmann will join organizing and government relations staff next Tuesday, January 14, for this month’s National Grassroots Conference Call and Webinar.

This month you will hear about:

  • The 2014 Offering of Letters: Reforming U.S. Food Aid. We will outline the goals and let you know when you should expect to see a kit in your mailbox.

  • Emergency unemployment extension: Every week that Congress delays an extension, 72,000 people lose their benefits. How can the anti-hunger community make a difference?

  • The farm bill: Can Congress pass a farm bill that largely protects SNAP and makes common sense reforms to U.S. food aid?

  • 2014 appropriations: How can we ensure Congress adequately funds PFDA, WIC, Head Start, and other programs that help end hunger?

  • Comprehensive immigration reform: How can anti-hunger advocates urge the House to craft immigration legislation that contributes to the end of hunger both here and abroad?

Watch Beckmann’s video message that thanks you for all you have done and will continue to do as we embark on a new year full of new challenges and opportunities to end hunger.  “2014 needs to be the year our country gets serious about hunger and poverty,” says Beckmann.  You can help make that happen. Begin by registering for the January 14 conference call and webinar today.

Quote of the Day: David Beckmann

Some jobs still do not pay enough to make end meet  SNAP helps put food on the table for low-income working families. Janitorial work in Washington, D.C., (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

“Partly because of the War on Poverty, we cut the poverty rate in half during the 1960s and early 1970s. But we haven’t made much progress since then, mainly because reducing poverty hasn’t been a national priority. No president since Lyndon Johnson has made reducing poverty one of his top five priorities.”

- Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in today's press release "Bread for the World Welcomes New Debate about Poverty."

Today marks 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson declared a “War on Poverty." This year's Hunger Report,  Ending Hunger in America, outlines a four-step plan, which includes policies to reduce unemployment and improve the quality of jobs. It also urges a strong safety net, investments in people, and partnerships between community organizations and government programs.

Congress has several issues on its agenda in January that will have an impact on poverty in America. Federal safety-net programs have helped many families weather the Great Recession, but poverty rates remain high. Until the U.S. unemployment rates are reduced to pre-recession levels, unemployment insurance plays a vital role in helping the long-term unemployed as they seek work. Take a moment now and urge your members to pass an extension of emergency unemployment insurance, restoring vital aid to 1.3 million job seekers. 

The farm bill conference committee is expected to release its final report soon. Although poverty has increased during the Great Recession, food insecurity has stayed relatively stable.  SNAP (formerly food stamps) has been critical keeping food on the table for 47 million struggling Americans during tough economic times. Tell Congress: now is not the time to be taking food away from struggling families.


Make At Least One More Resolution

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Consider facilitating an Offering of Letters in your church or community as one of your 2014 resolutions. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

If you’re the sort of person who makes resolutions—to eat better, exercise more, learn a new skill— then you probably already have your list made. But why not add one or two advocacy resolutions that can help end hunger?

Pick one or more of the suggestions below. If you have a idea for something not listed here, let us know in the comments.

For 2014, my advocacy resolution is to:

  • Organize an Offering of Letters at my church. The 2014 Offering of Letter campaign on reforming U.S. food aid launches later this month.
  • Call my members of Congress on each Bread action alert and encourage three more friends to join me.
  • Organize a meeting with my member of Congress this year about an important issue that affects hungry people.
  • Develop a relationship with the local and D.C.-based staff of my members of Congress.
  • Organize a local Bread team.
  • Attend a town hall and ask a question about a program that helps hungry and poor people.
  • Write an op-ed, letter to the editor, or blog post that educates on hunger issues in my area or around the world, or on the biblical basis for advocacy.
  • Use social media to engage more people and members of Congress in a conversation about ending hunger. Follow Bread for the World on Facebook and Twitter and share action alerts.
  • Create an educational event around hunger issues and invite my member of Congress.
  • Join a local anti-hunger coalition and represent Bread for the World.
  • Host a viewing of “A Place at the Table” in my church or community.
  • Invite three friends or family members, and two other churches, to join Bread to enhance our advocacy impact.
  • Come to Bread’s  National Gathering and Lobby Day June 9-11 in Washington, DC.

We all know that making a resolution is easier than keeping one. A good way to remind yourself of your advocacy resolution is to print out this page, circle your resolution, and then put it up on your fridge.

And here’s the great thing about Bread advocacy resolutions: they come with trainers! If you need help getting started or have any questions, just give your regional organizer a call.

2013: Year in Review and a Look Ahead


Farm work in rural Guatemala (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. (2 Corinthians 9: 11-12 NIV)

In 2013, the generosity of Bread for the World members in time, talent, and treasure has borne fruit in the mission to end hunger. You helped us reach our year-end fundraising goals and helped set the foundation of support for our work in 2014. The year will start with a packed agenda as we ask Congress to extend emergency unemployment insurance, pass a farm bill that protects SNAP (formerly food stamps) and strengthens U.S. food aid, and urge passage of an immigration reform bill that helps end hunger both here and abroad. January’s packed agenda will also include ensuring programs such as WIC and Head Start as well as poverty-focused development assistance get sufficient funding for the remainder of the fiscal year though the appropriations process. Our 2014 Offering of Letters, launching later this month, will urge Congress to update and reform U.S. food aid, which could benefit 17 million more people each year.

As we look back on 2013 one thing is clear: your willingness to reach out to your members of Congress and tell them to make hunger and poverty a priority made the difference. In a hostile budget climate and with continued threats of deep cuts to anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs, our 2013 Offering of Letters targeted both Congress and the White House for the first time.

Through the Offering of Letters, you urged Congress to protect critical programs and petitioned the president to set a goal to end hunger. As a result of our work in 2012, the president’s 2013 State of the Union address called for an end to extreme poverty in the United States and around the world. We continued to message the president and received more than 40,000 signatures on our petition to President Obama, which we hand-delivered to the White House in August.

Bread for the World prevented harmful cuts to SNAP, successfully blocking $135 billion in SNAP cuts in the federal budget, and a House of Representatives proposal to cut the program by $40 billion.

During October’s government shutdown and near default on the debt ceiling, we worked with our faith partners to re-open the government and prevent service disruptions that would have disproportionately affected struggling families.

And although the latest budget deal was far from perfect, final legislation replaced part of the 2014 and 2015 sequester with a balance of spending cuts and revenues – an ask our members took with them to their members of Congress during the 2013 Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. The hard work of Bread members helped ensure that those cuts also stayed balanced between defense and non-defense programs.

Finally, thanks to the efforts of Bread for the World and our partners over the last few years, some of our work came to fruition in 2013. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, which calls for increased and improved monitoring of U.S. foreign assistance and its impact. We are optimistic that the full Senate will take up this bill and pass it in 2014.

As we look ahead to 2014, we are assured that through faith and action we can do great things together.

Investing in Foreign Aid Puts Food on U.S. Tables

Delta Farmer
Produce from 1 in 3 acres on American farms is exported to foreign consumers. Of the top 50 consumer nations of U.S. agricultural products, 43 of those countries have been recipients of foreign assistance (Photo of a farmer in the Mississippi Delta by Todd Post).

By Robin Stephenson

As an anti-hunger advocate, I often hear this sentiment: "We should not be sending all our money overseas when people are hungry here." This statement sets up a false one-or-the-other scenario: the fact is, in proportion to our overall budget, we send very little money overseas to help hungry people. That little bit does a tremendous amount of good— it invests in peace and goodwill, promotes trade and job creation at home and abroad, and saves lives. What that investment doesn’t do is take food off of American tables.

I wasn’t surprised to read about a new Kaiser Poll, mentioned on the WonkBlog last month, reporting that Americans believe that about 28 percent of our budget is spent on foreign aid. I often conduct a similar poll when I speak in churches. The responses I get usually range from 15–50 percent.  Jaws drop in shock when I tell audiences that the international affairs budget comprises about 1 percent of our federal budget, and aid for poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) is half of that.

I asked Bread's international policy analyst, Beth Ann Saracco, how she responds when presented with the "either-or" scenario. “When the argument is made that we must choose between feeding our fellow Americans and our brothers and sisters abroad, clearly we fail as a people morally," she said. "But equally as important, we are choosing short-sighted public policy, as well, which gravely threatens America’s economic and national security interests, both in the short and long term.”

PFDA has helped cut extreme poverty in half over the past decade. But knowing what foreign aid does isn't always enough to deter its detractors from pitting international against domestic investments — a false choice that shows a lack of understanding about the root causes of poverty and hunger. PFDA is an investment that helps the U.S. economy. The best defense against hunger is a good job, and jobs that help put food on American tables are often directly, or indirectly, tied to the global economy.  

Businesses rely on consumers to buy their products, and owners add to their workforce as demand increases. Ninety percent of consumers live outside of the United States, and one in three manufacturing jobs depends on exports. Farmers need foreign consumers—one in three acres of their produce is exported. Of the top 50 consumer nations of American agricultural products, 43 of those countries have been recipients of foreign assistance. Statistics show fifty percent of our domestic exports currently go to developing nations. These numbers show that the vitality of the U.S. job market requires foreign consumers, and foreign assistance helps build a foundation for the development of future trade partners.

Since 2010, foreign aid has been reduced by 19 percent. These cuts to PFDA jeopardize the lives of our brothers and sisters abroad and our economic stability at home. As Congress continues to work on a 2014 budget deal, we must tell our representatives and senators to protect poverty focused foreign assistance for the good of all.

Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.

High School Students Help in the Fight Against Hunger

Teenagers at Historic Christ Church in Alexandria, Va., organized a special post-card writing event the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Parishoners sent messages to members of Congress, asking them to protect programs that help vulnerable people (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

Just days before Thanksgiving, at a time when many teenagers are focused on holiday plans, a group of Northern Virginia high school students organized an effort to help people in need. After learning that more than half of all youths in their city live in households that sometimes struggle to put food on the table, teenagers at Historic Christ Church in Alexandria, Va., asked parishioners to send messages to Congress in support of anti-hunger programs.

The teens wanted to offer church members an opportunity to take action at a critical moment, when many in their community, and across the country, have been impacted by cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the ongoing negative effects of sequestration, and a tense budget climate that has placed many safety net programs on the chopping block. They decided to ask church members to send their members of Congress postcards, each one with a message about protecting programs that help hungry families. In addition to the postcards, the teens organized some of the younger students at the church to sort food contributions into a Thanksgiving meal food pantry for the church’s Lazarus ministry, an outreach program that will provide meals for 185 families today.

Their advocacy event was planned to coincide with two Nov. 24 pre-Thanksgiving sermons given by Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann, a Christ Church parishioner.

Beckmann told the congregation that the SNAP cut that took effect on Nov. 1 will eliminate 300 million meals for needy people by the end of this month. “This is not a good way to celebrate Thanksgiving," he said.

“Congress is in the process of finalizing deeper cuts to food stamps,” Beckmann added. “The House of Representatives has voted to cut food stamps by $40 billion over ten years…about $4 billion a year. All the food charity that all the churches and food banks in the country mobilize comes to about $4 billion a year in groceries, so the House’s proposed cut would be roughly equivalent to eliminating all the food charity in the country for ten years.”

After each of Beckmann's sermons, the students issued a call to action and asked everyone to write postcards. Parishioners at Christ Church filled out about 250 postcards on Nov. 24, and there will be another postcard-writing event on Dec. 1.  The messages will be delivered to Capitol Hill next week.

Read a full account of the day’s events in the Alexandria News. For more information on how you can organize a letter-writing event in your church, community, or campus group, read more about Bread for the World's Offering of Letters and Bread for the World Sunday events.


Quote of the Day: Joel Berg

At Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C., participants wrote letters to Congress, urging members to  to protect programs that alleviate hunger (Joe Molieri/Bread for the World).

“We know exactly what works in fighting hunger, and America has been doing precisely the reverse. We know that creating living-wage jobs and ensuring an adequate safety net will end hunger in America, as it has in much of the rest of the Western developed industrialized world. And yet we are killing all programs to create new jobs and we are cutting back on the food stamps — the SNAP program — even though it reduces hunger and aids the economy.”

— Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, on the Nov.7, edition of The Takeaway radio show. Listen to the full story, “Annual Feast Is A Reminder of America’s Hungry," below.

As we join together with families and friends today, many of our neighbors will be facing a leaner Thanksgiving because of cuts to the SNAP program (formerly food stamps) that took effect Nov. 1.  Remember people who are hungry around the world by praying this prayer:God, empower us and inspire our leaders to fill the hungry with good things.”

Although Congress is not in session today, you can still email your representative and senators over the holiday. Take a moment to tell your members of Congress to fill the hungry with good things as they continue to negotiate funding levels for the SNAP program as part of the farm bill. With a proposal to cut the program by nearly $40 billion being debated, faithful advocates must speak up to ensure that everyone has a place at the table.

November’s Conference Call and Webinar: "Time is Running Out"

Watch this informative video on sequestration, "Stop the Cuts," created by NDD United, a Bread for the World partner organization.

"Enough is enough," said Amelia Kegan, Bread for the World senior policy analyst, during November's grassroots national conference call and webinar.

Sequestration – the automatic cuts enacted by default because Congress was unable to negotiate a budget last year – is harming Americans and increasing the numbers of families that experience hunger. Recent cuts to SNAP (food stamps), the program that helps 49 million struggling Americans put food on the table, will be felt just days before a national holiday that celebrates abundance. And immigration reform, which could boost the economy and decrease hunger for more than 11 million undocumented workers, languishes in a "new normal" of delays and partisanship bickering.

Kegan's frustration with Congress makes sense – it's likely a feeling many of us share. It is frustrating for Christians to watch this Congress act to reverse the automatic cuts that inconvenienced air travelers, while our seniors who depend on Wheels on Meals, and mothers who participate in the WIC nutrition program, continue to suffer. It sends a message that reducing wait times to board airplanes trumps the alleviation of hunger and poverty.

But the efforts of compassionate advocates have helped keep many cuts at bay. The next couple of weeks will require a vocal outpouring of protest from anti-hunger advocates. We must tell Congress that we have had enough.

"Time is running out," Kegan told participants on the call. Congress must pass a 2014 budget and finalize the farm bill before the end of the year, or we face the possibility of another government shutdown. The budget conference must provide a compromise by Dec. 13, which means they have fewer than 10 legislative days to reach an agreement. Kegan worries legislators will be in such a hurry that they may not reach a compromise that protects SNAP, reforms food aid, and replaces sequestration with a balance of revenue and smart cuts.

Kegan highlighted the report "Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer and Less Secure," which tells the stories of people who have been affected by these cuts. We forget that federal investments maintain the health and wellbeing of our communities. Sequestration – now lauded by some in Congress as efficient deficit reduction – has had profound costs for individuals, communities, and our nation, creating a drag on the economy and hampering job growth.

An increase in jobs is the economic boost this country needs – an idea that is central to the 2014 Hunger Report, which will be released Monday. Immigration reform with a path to citizenship will also help the economy and take a bite out of hunger. Many organizations, including Bread for the World, are participating in Fast for Families, a movement to pressure the House to act on immigration reform.

Every month, we hold a conference call and webinar to update our members.  The next call will be Dec. 17 at 4 p.m. EST.  Slides from this week’s call can be seen below.

Food Banks Say They Can't Fill the Hunger Gap

Food Bank RickMany local newspapers have recently published op-eds written by food bank representatives, all of them with a clear message to Congress: if legislators cut nutrition assistance, charity cannot fill the hunger gap.

Many Christians and others are generous in supporting food banks, but with the needs of struggling families they are anticipating, the food banks simply cannot ramp up their assistance quickly enough and will never have the capacity to fill the gap that Congress has created.

Paul Ash, executive director of the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks, talks about a potential $40 billion cut to SNAP (food stamps) in his op-ed "Food Banks can't make up for food stamp benefit cuts," published Nov. 17, 2013, in SF Gate. "[W]e can raise our voice in protest now, or prepare to watch our neighbors go without enough to eat," he writes.

"It's easy to pass off what goes on in Washington as senseless, unwise, irrational, or out of our control," Ash continues. "But it's more useful to be shouting as loud as we can – through our representatives, to the conferees who will cast the votes, and to the White House – that this is not acceptable."

Ash notes in the op-ed that the Nov. 1 SNAP cuts, combined with the $40 billion in proposed cuts in the House version of the farm bill, would mean that every food bank in the nation would have to double the amount of assistance they provide in order to meet demand. Donors, Ash notes, have shown no signs that they would be willing to double their giving, which would leave food banks unable to provide food to people in need of emergency aid. 

The next few weeks are critical as members of the farm bill conference committee negotiate a final bill. The cuts that have already taken place have made it more difficult for already-struggling families to put food on the table. As food prices increase and benefits decrease, more families will likely find themselves in need of charitable food donations earlier in the month — but cuts to nutrition assistance will leave a hunger gap that cannot be closed by churches, pantries, or food banks.  

Each time a food bank representative speaks out in local papers, which members of Congress read, faithful advocates have an opportunity to amplify that message. When you see such articles, we urge you to write a letter to the editor. Contact your regional organizer if you need assistance or talking points.

With 49 million Americans at risk of hunger, and more than 1 billion people around the world living in extreme poverty, now is the time to raise your voice in protest. SNAP and international food aid programs must be protected in the farm bill. Email or call your member of Congress at 800-826-3688 today.

Photo: A food bank in Alexandria, Va., provides emergency food assistance (Rick Reinhard).

Prioritizing Hope in the Farm Bill and Budget Negotiations

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

The farm bill and 2014 budget conference committees continue to meet, and we continue to ask Bread for the World advocates to keep calling and writing their members of Congress. At stake in these negotiations is more than making columns of numbers balance; at stake is the funding for nutrition programs that allow Alli Morris of Bend, Oregon, the opportunity to move on and move up.

The story of Alli and her infant son Andre, told in the video above, shows that nutrition programs are a hand up. The Bend community takes advantage of federal programs to care for those who experience need in their midst. SNAP (formerly food stamps) is the life preserver Alli needs as she makes her way to solid ground. WIC provides the nutrition baby Andre needs to fight a pituitary disease he was born with.

The decisions made by Congress in the next two months must prioritize nutrition programs like SNAP and WIC that value both Alli and Andre's health and future. Some proposals, if enacted, would mean both programs might not be there for another family and community that need them. The automatic cuts called sequestration are chipping away at WIC funding. SNAP, a program that so many Americans have seen as a blessing during the recession and slow recovery, is at risk of being slashed by nearly $40 billion.

Alli and Andre's story reminds us that even if life throws us a few curve balls, there is always hope. Most of us have experienced hardship and can probably recall what it took to overcome difficulty, but not everyone has the same access to a helping hand. Alli insists that she can make a better life for herself and Andre. Her hard work is the essence of the American dream. This family has a chance because there is a community with the tools they need to provide an opportunity for Alli's commitment to take responsibility for her family's future.

It may be easy for members of Congress, sitting at a conference table in Washington, D.C., with reams of paper in front of them, to focus on the columns of dollar figures without seeing that a family's hope is a line item they may cut. It's might be easy for Congress to forget that programs like WIC and SNAP help communities thrive as we care for one another. But it won't be easy if the people the members of Congress represent tell them to prioritize hope. Perhaps you have a story to remind them that hardship can be overcome with the right tools and opportunities. SNAP and WIC are not just programs of hope, but ladders to move lives on and up. 

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