Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

77 posts categorized "2013 Offering of Letters"

Lean Just a Little: Food Aid Reform in the Farm Bill

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 1.09.46 PMIn a 2010 interview with PBS, Bread for the World President David Beckmann talked about how small reforms to food aid  can help more hungry people. "If we just lean a little bit," Beckmann said, "we can make it a lot easier for people to escape from poverty and feed their children."

Bread for the World continues to urge Congress to make simple reforms to food aid, and our efforts are apparent in farm bill negotiations. Over the years, U.S. generosity and compassion have saved billions of lives, and right now we have an opportunity to make this valuable assistance even better.

A conference committee began negotiations this week to merge House and Senate versions of the farm bill. The Senate version includes common-sense reforms that include allowing food to be purchased in or near the community in need. Language in the bill also grants more flexibility to purchase food aid products with better nutritional quality, which will help target the most vulnerable populations, such as women and children. Locally purchased food builds economies and helps farmers, which in turn helps stabilize regions and  allows them to build defenses against future emergencies. These reforms function as a hand up, not a hand out, and are an essential part of a long-term solution to ending hunger.

Currently, the majority of food aid products provided by the United States must come from this country and be shipped on U.S. vessels. As Bread for the World notes in a new fact sheet on international food aid reform, this practice can add to program costs and delay arrival of food aid, when compared to local purchases. Another current practice, monetization–purchasing U.S. commodities for resale in local markets to fund development projects–meant 800,000 people could have, but did not, receive aid in 2012.

Two lawmakers in the House are leading the charge to modernize U.S. food aid: Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.-39) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.-16), and both are on the conference committee. An amendment they authored was narrowly defeated in a House farm bill, but they continue to work toward inclusion of food aid reform in the final bill.

In a statement submitted to the conference committee, Royce encouraged policy change that includes the flexibility to address each unique situation and eliminate monetization. “In fact, “ he wrote, “if we eliminated the requirement to monetize and provided just 20 percent in flexible funding, we could generate over $500 million in efficiency savings, reduce mandatory spending by $50 million, and reach millions more people in need during the life of this bill.”

In a guest contribution to Politico yesterday, Engel pointed out that food aid policies have stagnated since 1954, and must to catch up to modern needs. He saw firsthand the effect our current law has had on Haiti, and his experience supports the need for reform. “I’ve seen how the well-intentioned sale of American rice has driven local rice farmers out of business, making it harder for Haitians to feed themselves," he wrote. 

It’s time for international food aid to respond to the realities of today’s world. Call or email your member of Congress today and tell them to protect hungry people in the farm bill.

From the Negotiating Table to the Dinner Table

Chicken leg jpg
In November, many struggling Americans will find it even more difficult to put food on the table as they face the expiration of a temporary increase in food stamp benefits. Congress is negotiating a farm bill that would make even deeper cuts to the vital nutrition assistance program (movie still from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media).

This week brings Halloween and the arrival of November. The fall season includes a number of holidays that center on food for Americans. But for many people, Friday will bring new hardship and worry. On Nov. 1, a temporary increase in food stamp benefits will expire, making it more difficult for 47 million people to put food on the table. A family of four could see its benefit decrease by as much as $36 per month. 

“Thirty-six dollars a month may not seem like much, but if you are a family of four with an income of $22,000 per year, $36 means several missed meals or increased difficulty in providing for one's children,” writes Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in a piece on the Huffington Post Politics Blog. “And if this $11 billion reduction isn't devastating enough, members of the House and Senate have begun to finalize a farm bill that will impact vital anti-hunger programs.”

Today, 41 lawmakers will meet with the goal of merging two versions of the farm bill—one that proposes a nearly $40 billion cut to SNAP over 10 years, and another that includes a $4.1 billion cut. If any of your members of Congress are sitting at the negotiating table, you have an opportunity to influence their decisions and urge them to protect the nation’s number-one defense against hunger from deeper cuts. As food prices increase and benefits decrease, more families will likely find themselves in need of charitable food donations earlier in the month, but any cuts to nutrition assistance will leave a hunger gap that cannot be closed by churches, pantries, or food banks.  

The staff and volunteers at Oregon Food Bank are concerned about cuts to SNAP and made sure that one member at the conference table–Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.)–knows they can’t fill the gap. In a recent op-ed, Oregon Food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan and board member Lisa Sedlar point out that deep cuts to food stamps would increase hunger for 100,000 Oregonians. "[T]he total meals lost in Oregon would be equivalent to the entire statewide food bank network shutting its doors for more than five years," they write in the article.

It's also important to remember that there are real people behind these cuts. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Floridian Robin Petersen, who works full time, can't afford to put enough food on her family’s table without nutrition benefits. “If I didn't get food stamps, we'd be at the food pantries every week," Peterson says in the piece. In the same article, hunger relief organization Second Harvest reports that food distribution in the area has already increased by 34 percent in the last six months.

In addition to debating cuts to food stamps, members of the committee must also make choices about international food aid. Beckmann says we must hold members of Congress accountable for their actions. “Any policies that create additional poverty among the working poor, or further impoverish hungry people around the world, are reprehensible,” Beckmann wrote in the Huffington Post piece.

On Friday, the first day of a month in which we celebrate bounty with a national feast, it is disheartening to think that some Americans will be have much less food on their tables when they gather to give thanks this year. 

Who’s Working on the Farm Bill?

Barbie Screen Shot
Nearly 16 million children lived in food=insecure households in 2012.  SNAP (formerly food stamps) helps keep hunger at bay and is the nation's number-one defense against hunger (Movie still from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media).

The farm bill process is starting to move again. Now that both chambers have passed their versions, the conference process – by which the House and Senate try to reconcile the bills into a single piece of legislation – is expected to begin with opening statements on Oct. 30.

As part of the 2013 Offering of Letters, Bread members have been advocating for protection of SNAP funding and asking for common-sense reforms to food aid. There is a vast difference between the Senate and the House bills, so negotiations will be difficult.  As a reminder, the Senate passed a bill with a $4.1 billion cut to SNAP over 10 years, but did include needed improvements to food aid. The House bill, on the other hand, included a nearly $40 billion cut to SNAP over 10 years and a $2.5 billion cut to international food aid.

Nearly 49 million American families live in food-insecure households. In just nine days, participants in the SNAP program, which helps provide food to those struggling families, will begin to see a reduction in their benefits.  Making additional cuts to SNAP  as we continue to rebound from tough economic times would be disastrous. Churches and charities cannot replace such a reduction in the safety net. 

The World Food Program reports that poor nutrition causes nearly half (45 percent) of deaths in children under five — 3.1 million children each year. Common-sense reforms to food aid as part of the Senate version of the farm bill will help programs target nutrition to vulnerable populations with greater efficiency.  More than 50 bipartisan members of the House have urged support of the reforms.

Now is the time for faithful advocates to again add their voice.  If one of the conferees listed below is your Senator or Representative, call or email them, write letters to the editor and use social media to make your message public.  Contact your regional organizer for more ways you can impact the final bill.

Sample tweet: Senator @StabenowPress, I ask you to pass a #farmbill with #NoSNAPcuts and #fixfoodaid

Sample Facebook status update:  A farm bill must not increase hunger. I’m urging my Senator @Debbie Stabenow to protect SNAP in the farm bill and include common-sense reforms to food aid.

Senate Farm Bill Conferees

State

Senator

Twitter

Phone

Michigan

Debbie Stabenow

@StabenowPress

(202) 224-4822

Vermont

Patrick Leahy

@SenatorLeahy

(202) 224-4242

Iowa

Tom Harkin

@SenatorHarkin

(202) 224-3254

Montana

Max Baucus

@MaxBaucus

(202) 224-2651

Ohio

Sherrod Brown

@SenSherrodBrown

(202) 224-2315

Minnesota

Amy Klobuchar

@amyklobuchar

(202) 224-3244

Colorado

Michael Bennet

@SenBennetCO

(202) 224-5852

Mississippi

Thad Chochran

@SenThadCochran

(202) 224-5054

Kansas

Pat Roberts

@SenPatRoberts

(202) 224-4774

Georgia

Saxby Chambliss

@SaxbyChambliss

(202) 224-3521

Arkansas

John Boozman

@JohnBoozman

(202) 224-4843

North Dakota

John Hoeven

@SenJohnHoeven

(202) 224-2551

*To tag your member of Congress on Facebook, you must first like their page. To find their page, click on the hyperlink in their name.

House Farm Bill Conferees

State/District

Representative

Twitter

Phone

Oklahoma -03

Frank Lucas

@RepFrankLucas

(202) 225-5565

Iowa - 04

Steve King

@SteveKingIA

(202) 225-4426

Texas -19

Randy Neugebauer

@RandyNeugebauer

(202) 225-4005

Alabama - 03

Mike Rogers

@RepMikeRogersAL

(202) 225-3261

Texas -11

K. Michael Conaway

@ConawayTX11

(202) 225-3605

Pennsylvania- 05

Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson

@CongressmanGT

(202) 225-5121

Georgia - 08

Austin Scott

@AustinScottGA08

(202) 225-6531

Arkansas - 01

Rick Crawford

@RepRickCrawford

(202) 225-4076

Alabama – 02

Martha Roby

@RepMarthaRoby

(202) 225-2901

South Dakota - AL

Kristi Noem

@RepKristiNoem

(202) 225-2801

California - 10

Jeff Denham

@RepJeffDenham

(202) 225-4540

Illinois - 13

Rodney Davis

@RodneyDavis

(202) 225.2371

Florida - 02

Steve Southerland

@Rep_Southerland

(202) 225-5235

California - 39

Ed Royce

@RepEdRoyce

(202) 225-4111

Pennsylvania - 10

Tom Marino

@RepTomMarino

(202) 225-3731

Michigan - 04

Dave Camp

@RepDaveCamp

(202) 225-3561

Texas - 03

Sam Johnson

@SamsPressShop

(202) 225-3561

Minnesota - 07

Collin Peterson

No account

(202) 225-2165

North Carolina -07

Mike McIntyre

@RepMikeMcIntyre

(202) 225-2731

California - 16

Jim Costa

@RepJimCosta

(202) 225-3341

Minnesota - 01

Tim Walz

@RepTimWalz

(202) 225-2472

Oregon – 05

Kurt Schrader

@RepSchrader

(202) 225-5711

Massachusetts - 02

Jim McGovern

@RepMcGovern

(202) 225-6101

Washington - 01

Suzan DelBene

@RepDelBene

(202) 225-6311

California – 35

Gloria Negrete

@RepMcLeod

(202) 225-6161

Texas - 34

Filemon Vela

@RepFilemonVela

(202) 225-9901

Ohio - 11

Marcia Fudge

@RepMarciaFudge

(202) 225-7032

New York - 16

Eliot Engel

@RepEliotEngel

(202) 225-2464

Michigan - 09

Sandy Levin

@repsandylevin

(202) 225-4961

*To tag your member of Congress on Facebook, you must first like their page. To find their page, click on the hyperlink in their name.

Meet the Budget Conference Committee

Patty Murray
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairman of the Senate budget committee, speaks about the importance of telling the stories behind the statistics during Bread for the World’s 2012 Lobby Day reception while President David Beckmann listens. (Rick Reinhard)

Between now and Dec. 13, the members of Congress listed below will be spending a good deal of time together as they attempt to come up with a bipartisan budget compromise. Their choices and proposals will have an impact on hunger in the years to come.

Last week, Congress reached an eleventh-hour agreement to pass a continuing resolution and raise the country's debt ceiling. The deal averted an economic catastrophe — for now.  The deal funds the government at current levels through Jan. 15, 2014, and raises the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, 2014 — just a temporary fix for the same problem and a new deadline for solving it.

While not written into the legislation, the deal also created a budget conference committee to negotiate a budget for the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year and address the automatic spending cuts of sequestration. The committee must report back to Congress with a budget framework by Dec. 13. This would give the House and Senate Appropriations Committees one month to finalize a  fiscal year 2014 budget. 

The members of the committee have no easy task ahead of them as they try to negotiate the House and Senate budgets, which have a $91 billion difference. The overall size of the pie will determine the amount of funding available for anti-hunger discretionary programs, which are stepping-stones to a hunger-free future. Sequestration, unless replaced, will continue to chip away at funding for programs such as food aid, WIC, Head Start, and Meals on Wheels. Defunding programs that address the root causes of  hunger  is not a solution.

These leaders also have an opportunity to end the series of unnecessary crises, which puts our country's fragile economy at risk and makes struggling families uneasy and uncertain about the future. Congress must pass a moral budget that adequately funds programs that combat hunger and poverty. Moreover, Congress must replace sequestration with a balanced plan that has revenues and smart spending cuts that won’t increase poverty.

So, starting now and until Dec. 13, faithful advocates whose members of Congress sit on the conference committee need to support those leaders and urge them to do the right thing. Make phone calls and email them. Public dialogue can create public pressure, and raising your voice is critical to avoiding cuts that will take food off the tables of families who most need it. Write letters to the editor of your local paper supporting smart budget decisions that decrease hunger. Send your members of Congress public messages of encouragement and support on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Finally, be sure they know how hunger and uncertainty are affecting Main Street at home – tell the story.

Here is a sample tweet and Facebook post you can borrow, or you can craft one of your own.

Tweet: We need a moral budget to #EndHungerNow @RepPaulRyan. Replace #sequestration with revenue & smart spending cuts. #BreadActs

Facebook status update:  I’m urging Representative @Paul Ryan to use his position on the budget conference community to #EndHungerNow. Craft a moral budget that replaces sequestration with revenue and smart spending cuts.

The House Budget Conferees

State/District

Representative

Twitter

Phone

Wisconsin -01

Paul Ryan

@RepPaulRyan

(202) 225-3031

Oklahoma – 04

Tom Cole

@tomcoleok04

(202) 225-6165

Georgia – 06

Tom Price

@RepTomPrice

(202) 225-4501

Tennessee – 06

Diane Black

@RepDianeBlack

(202) 225-4231

South Carolina – 06

James Clyburn

@Clyburn

(202) 225-3315

Maryland -08

Chris Van Hollen

@ChrisVanHollen

(202) 225-5341

New York – 17

Nita Lowey

@NitaLowey

(202) 225-6506

*To tag your member of Congress on Facebook, you must first like their page.  To find their page, click on the hyperlink in their name.

The Senate Budget Conferees

State

Senator

Twitter

Phone

Washington

Patty Murray

@PattyMurray

(202) 224-2621

Oregon

Ron Wyden

@RonWyden

(202) 224-5244

Florida

Bill Nelson

@SenBillNelson

(202) 224-5274

Michigan

Debbie Stabenow

@StabenowPress

(202) 224-4822

Vermont

Bernie Sanders

@SenSanders

(202) 224-5141

Rhode Island

Sheldon Whitehouse

@SenWhitehouse

(202) 224-2921

Virginia

Mark Warner

@MarkWarner

(202) 224-2023

Oregon

Jeff Merkley

@SenJeffMerkley

(202) 224-3753

Connecticut

Christopher Coons

@SenCoonsOffice

(202) 224-5042

Wisconsin

Tammy Baldwin

@SenatorBaldwin

(202) 224-5653

Virginia

Tim Kaine

@SenKaineOffice

(202) 224-4024

Maine

Angus King

@SenAngusKing

(202) 224-5344

Alabama

Jeff Sessions

@SenatorSessions

(202) 224-4124

Iowa

Chuck Grassley

@ChuckGrassley

(202) 224-3744

Wyoming

Mike Enzi

@SenatorEnzi

(202) 224-3424

Idaho

Mike Crapo

@MikeCrapo

(202) 224-6142

South Carolina

Lindsey Graham

@GrahamBlog

(202) 224-5972

Ohio

Rob Portman

@robportman

(202) 224-3353

Pennsylvania

Pat Toomey

@SenToomey

(202) 224-4254

Wisconsin

Ron Johnson

@SenRonJohnson

(202) 224-5323

New Hampshire

Kelly Ayotte

@KellyAyotte

202-224-3324

Mississippi

Roger Wicker

@SenatorWicker

(202) 224-6253

*To tag a member of Congress on Facebook, you must first like his or her page. To find the member's page, click on the hyperlink in their name.

Beware of the Chair

Derek
“The reality is that in order to break free from the bondage [of poverty] in this country and the world, we need elected officials to make good on their words and put 'love thy neighbor' at the center of our legislative agenda.” said Derick Dailey, in a video from Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, "A Place at the Table." (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson

The shutdown is over and the debt ceiling has been raised — for now.  The finish line – a final 2014 budget and a responsible replacement of sequestration – was moved to early next year.  For faithful advocates these new developments mean a chance to take a breath, but beware of the chair.

Amelia Kegan, our senior policy analyst, talked about the allure of what runners call “the chair” during this week's grassroots webinar and conference call. Kegan, who recently completed a 100-mile race in Pennsylvania, warned that after you’ve hit the 60-mile mark and come to an aid station, you inevitably see a chair. Tired, you eye it with longing. But, you know that once you sit in that chair and your eyes begin to droop with relaxation, it is much harder to get back up and finish the race.

Our race to end hunger is long and, as the last several months have proved, sometimes frustrating. We share victories, but we also share despair.  I’ve heard more than one anti-hunger advocate say that, at times, they’ve wanted to cap their pen, hang up their phone, and never speak to another politician.

I wonder how Moses did it, all those years in the desert?  I imagine his often “stiff-necked” charges always asking: are we there yet? I often see this race to end hunger as being similar to crossing that desert — long and tiring, to say the least. At times manna is given to us when we most need it, but like Moses we must wander as servants of the Lord, faithful that the journey is part of the reward.

We know we are not alone as a network of Christians and we know that God is in our midst. Like Moses, we have answered God’s invitation to “come.” Perhaps, like Moses, we might feel inadequate for the job — especially against special interests and the power of money. But we are not inadequate in the eyes of God, whose power is greater than all.

Moses probably saw his share of chairs in the desert. Coming off the mountain, he finds corruption and idol worship among his people. He is angry, but he doesn’t sit down, he travels on.

The coming months will continue to be tough. The farm bill conference is likely to begin soon and our collective responsibility to care for the widow and the orphan will again be called into question as SNAP faces yet another attack. The expected immigration reform legislation in the House and continued budget negotiations reminds us that we must encourage those who have the power of the purse in order to live out the command to love our neighbor.

Are we there yet? No, but we have travelled the trail faithfully. Take a moment, say a prayer of thanks that we passed this hurdle, but beware of the chair — we have work to do.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer in the western hub.

Can 26 Members of Congress Help End 15 Days of Misery?

Hunger LineIt’s been a miserable 15 days for those Americans who are facing uncertainty and hardship because of an avoidable government shutdown.

The latest news reports indicate that the Senate has crafted a bipartisan extension of the debt ceiling through February, and a continuing resolution that would fund the government through mid-January and end the current shutdown. The proposal, if adopted, would need to pass both chambers and be signed by the president. Reporters are noting that congressional leaders are feeling pressure from an increasingly vocal group of Republicans in the House, which is a factor in these new developments.

Each day the shutdown continues more harm is done—especially to vulnerable populations. Each day makes it that much more difficult for low-income families to rebound. Each day, Main Street loses an estimated $160 million in economic activity. Each day of the shutdown is unacceptable. 

And it is going to get much worse if Oct. 17 comes and goes and Congress doesn’t act to ensure that the United States can pay its bills. 

Failure to raise the debt ceiling would likely send the country into a recession deeper than 2008’s, according to a Treasury Department report. The lesson from the last recession is clear—during times of financial crisis, the most vulnerable suffer and the ranks of the hungry grow. As a result of the last recession, SNAP participation increased—from 26 to 47 million in 8 years. A debt-ceiling default would prove disastrous for the crucial programs that kept hunger a bay and those who need them. The administration could be forced to delay or suspend billions of dollars in benefits for social security, SNAP, and other vital safety net programs.  The U.S. economy is just starting to recover from a period of low employment and high poverty and cannot absorb yet another crushing blow.

The Gospel reminds us again and again that we are to care for the widow, the orphan, and the alien. We are told we see Jesus when we feed the hungry. Advocacy is a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even if you’ve already called your members of Congress about these issues, call again (1-800-826-3688), send an email, and tell your friends to call, too. We cannot stop until this situation is resolved in a responsible way.

If you are a resident of one of the states or districts listed below, your faithful advocacy around these issues is especially important. We have identified the following members of the House of Representatives who may be particularly influential in ending the shutdown and raising the debt ceiling. These members will play a critical role in months to come as Congress works to move beyond the current impasse and craft a final budget. January must not become a repeat of the last 15 days. Support and encouragement from constituents could make the difference. Call them today or, for those engaged in social media, tag them on your Facebook page or in a tweet.  Make sure they hear your story and understand that there is a human cost to inaction. 

State (district) 

Representative

Twitter

Phone number

Alaska – at large

Rep. Don Young

@repdonyoung

(202) 225-5765

Arkansas – 02

Rep. Tim Griffin

@RepTimGriffin

(202) 225-2506

California - 22

Rep. Devin Nunes

@Rep_DevinNunes

(202) 225-2523

Florida - 25

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

@MarioDB

(202) 225-4211

Florida – 15

Rep. Dennis Ross

@RepDennisRoss

(202) 225-1252

Florida – 13

Rep. Bill Young

n/a

(202) 225-5961

Idaho – 02

Rep. Mike Simpson

@CongMikeSimpson

(202) 225-5531

Illinois – 13

Rep. Rodney Davis

@RodneyDavis

(202) 225-2371

Minnesota – 03

Rep. Erik Paulsen

@RepErikPaulsen

(202) 225-2871

New Jersey – 02

Rep. Frank LaBiondo

@RepLoBiondo

(202) 225-6572

New Jersey – 03

Rep. John Runyan

@RepJonRunyan

(202) 225-4765

New Jersey – 07

Rep. Leonard Lance

@RepLanceNJ7

(202) 225-5361

New York  -02

Rep. Peter King

@RepPeteKing

(202) 225-7896

New York – 11

Rep. Michael Grimm

@repmichaelgrimm

(202) 225-3371

New York – 22

Rep. Richard Hanna

@RepRichardHanna

(202) 225-3665

Oklahoma -04

Rep. Tom Cole

@tomcoleok04

(202) 225-6165

Pennsylvania - 06

Rep. Jim Gerlach

@JimGerlach

(202) 225-4315

Pennsylvania – 07

Rep. Pat Meehan

@RepMeehan

(202) 225-2011

Pennsylvania – 08

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick

@RepFitzpatrick

(202) 225-4276

Pennsylvania – 11

Rep. Lou Barletta

@RepLouBarletta

(202) 225-6511

Pennsylvania – 15

Rep. Charlie Dent

@DentPressShop

(202) 225-6411

Virginia – 01

Rep. Rob Wittman

@RobWittman

(202) 225-4261

Virginia – 02

Rep. Scott Rigell

@RepScottRigell

(202) 225-4215

Virginia – 04

Rep. Randy Forbes

@Randy_Forbes

(202) 225-6365

Virginia – 10

Rep. Frank Wolf

@RepWOLFPress

(202) 225-5136

Washington – 08

Rep. Dave Reichert

@davereichert

(202) 225-7761

*To tag a member on your Facebook wall, you must first like their page.

Photo:  At Our Daily Bread Employment Center in Baltimore, Md., people line up for the Hot Meal Program, 2010. (Jim Stipe)

Changing the Conversation: The #FaithfulFilibuster

  FaithfulFilibuster-9
Rev. David Beckmann calls for an end to the government shutdown that affects our most vulnerable citizens on Oct. 9, 2013, outside of the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of Circle of Protection)

Religious leaders are gathering on Capitol Hill each day Congress is in session for a "Faithful Filibuster" that will continue until the government shutdown ends. In contrast to the dialogue centered on blame and gamesmanship inside the Capitol, people of faith are reading from more than 2,000 biblical verses reminding our nation's leaders that a moral government places caring for the most vulnerable before of political gain. 

An inability to agree on a budget and the raising of the debt ceiling is weakening our economy and harming our most vulnerable citizens; each day the stalemate continues, the impacts on hunger compound. Before the shutdown, 33 religious leaders sent a letter to Congress warning that a shutdown would adversely affect the economy and people struggling with hunger. With one in seven Americans living below the poverty line and the nation's fragile economy recovering from one of our worst recessions in decades, playing political games right now is irresponsible and foolish. "It is time to move from the blame game to some resolution," said Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann.

The Circle of Protection organized the “faithful filibuster.” Speaking to the human cost of inaction at the Wednesday opening, Rev. Beckmann said, "I am appalled by the harm that the government shutdown is doing to poor people. When I was leaving my office on Friday, one of the cleaners told me that four of janitors in our building have been laid off because of the government shutdown." 

Today, 800,000 furloughed federal employees live in uncertainty and the collateral damage radiates throughout the private sector. Yesterday, the Department of Labor reported a surge in unemployment claims.

"I am terrified by the likelihood of a financial crisis," said Rev. Beckmann.  "It will hurt all of us, and it will hurt hungry and poor people most of all." (Read "What Does the Government Shutdown Mean for Hunger?" on the Bread Blog for more information on how the government shutdown will impact anti-hunger programs.)

Grounding our actions in faith and hope, Beckmann reminded the gathered that we work in relationship to the Creator. "God is with us, God hears the cries of the poor," he said before he began reading verses from Isaiah 40 and 41.

Join us on Twitter or Facebook, and remind Congress that shared needs must take precedence over political victories. What biblical verse calls you to end hunger?  Tell and tag your member of Congress in a tweet or on Facebook and use the hashtag #FaithfulFilibuster

It is critical Congress hear from faithful advocates. Send your members of Congress an email (your calls may not get through during the shutdown) and use the power of your local paper to message them through letters to the editor. Each day the impasse continues, people suffer—and each day, Rev. Beckmann and other religious leaders will gather to read scripture until common sense and a spirit of cooperation prevail.

Keep the Conversation Going: A Place at the Table

Kaela and friends
Kaela Volkmer (middle) is a member of St. Wenceslaus Catholic parish in Omaha, Neb. She is pictured here with St. Wenceslaus staff. (Photo courtesy of Kaela Volkmer)

By Kaela Volkmer

On Sept. 19, as members of the House of Representatives were debating how much funding to cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), I had the good fortune to be in a place of positive energy, care, concern, and compassion for our hungry and vulnerable neighbors. In Omaha, Neb., about 300 concerned citizens gathered at Aksarben Cinema for a special free screening of A Place at the Table, a powerful new documentary related to hunger, health, and poverty. 

Through support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Active Voice, Hunger Free Heartland, whose mission is to end childhood hunger and obesity in our greater community, was able to mobilize an amazing team of coalition partners to host a wonderful event.  The evening included a resource fair, a reception, and a thought-provoking panel discussion following the viewing of this critically-acclaimed film. 

As a Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader, I was humbled and privileged to be part of this collaborative effort to keep the conversation going in our community about hunger, health and public policy. Here are some of the highlights of the event:

  • Sue Arment, director of Hunger Free Heartland, pulled together and guided a strong and resourceful planning team comprised of various community partners for the event.
  • Andrea Barstow, manager of Aksarben Cinema, graciously donated the theater and reception space for our gathering.
  • Lucy Wilson of Edible Omaha moderated our panel, and her personal story of what it felt like being a child who knew the pangs of hunger touched our hearts and inspired us.
  • Our expert panel included Lauren and John Levy of the Heart Ministry Center, John Bailey from the Center for Rural Affairs, Sen. Sara Howard, and Craig Howell from United Methodist Ministries. The panelists helped us to reflect on different aspects of the film, from personal experiences to public policy considerations, and they helped us think about steps we can take to be part of the solution.
  • Whole Foods donated an amazing amount of delicious and healthy food for the public reception. 
  • More than 15 community organizations were represented at the resource fair before and after the film, offering information about how citizens can get involved in concrete actions related to hunger and poverty issues in our community.

It truly was an inspiring evening that brought us together to learn, to share, and to talk about the role we all share in contributing to the multi-faceted solutions that will bring about an end to hunger in our community.

While at the event, I received the message confirming that the House of Representatives had just voted to cut an unthinkable $39 billion from SNAP.  I took a deep breath and felt a deep sadness and sorrow in my heart, knowing that such actions will only increase poverty, hunger, and suffering in our state and in our nation. I thought about the nearly 4 million food insecure people in our country who would lose nutrition assistance under this scenario, including 2 million low-income working families and seniors. And then I looked up at the hundreds of people who showed up for the screening and the staffers from organizations who are working tirelessly with and for our most vulnerable neighbors. My heart swelled with gratitude for their presence, for their willingness to ask questions and find solutions to the scandal of hunger and deprivation that confronts more than 49 million people in our country.

As a Bread for the World Hunger Justice leader and advocate for poor and hungry people, I am deeply grateful to have been part of this event and to stand together with others who are working to create a place at the table for all people.

Kaela Volkmer is a 2012 Hunger Justice Leader who lives in Omaha, Neb.

Want to Talk to the White House?

Gary
Gary Cook, director of church relations at Bread for the World, hands Paulette Aniskoff, deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, sheets from the petitions delivered to the White House on August 7, 2013. The signatures emphasize the need for presidential leadership to end hunger. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

As the government shutdown drags on, the impact on hunger compounds. How will the SNAP program be affected? How will furloughed federal employees make ends meet? What would it mean for our economy and anti-hunger programs if we don’t raise the debt ceiling?

Do you wish you could pick up the phone and talk to someone at the White House about these issues? Register for the next monthly grassroots conference call and, on Oct. 15, you can. The one-hour conference call and webinar begins at 4 p.m. Eastern (1 p.m. Pacific).

You won’t want to miss our special guest Paulette Aniskoff, deputy assistant to President Obama and director of the Office of Public Engagement – a department created to facilitate dialogue between the administration and the public. Aniskoff is watching the government shutdown up close.

Some of you may remember seeing Aniskoff’s name in a report written by Amelia Kegan last August, after she and other Bread staff delivered more than 30,000 of your petition signatures to the White House. As part of the 2013 Offering of Letters campaign A Place at the Table, many of you have and continue to send in petitions asking the president to work with Congress on a plan to end hunger. During the call, you’ll hear how your signatures made a big impression.

October will be a busy month for faithful advocates. Congress will make decisions on the budget and sequestration, the farm bill, and immigration reform – all with far-reaching consequences for hunger. This month’s call will equip you with important information that will help you in your work to end hunger.

As usual, our expert policy analysts from the government relations team will provide you with the latest updates on how key bills are moving in Congress and what you can do to protect and strengthen anti-hunger policy and programs. Below are new informative resources you won’t want to miss.

And if you would like a comprehensive how-to-guide on our monthly webinars:

If you’d like to ask Aniskoff, or Bread staff, about the presidential petition, or any piece of anti-hunger legislation on our issues agenda, submit your questions ahead of time to organizing coordinator Marion Jasin at mjasin@bread.org.  And register today

Mamas, Papas, Tíos, Niños, Abuelitas, Vecinos and A Place at the Table


Bread for the World's associate for Latino relations, Dulce Gamboa, speaks to CNN en Español about the nearly $40 billion in cuts to SNAP recently passed by the House of Representatives and the impact these cuts would have on the Latino community.

By Dulce Gamboa

More than one in four Latino families does not know where their next meal will coming from. The situation is worse for families with children — one in three experiences food insecurity. These are hardworking people who often work two low-paying jobs, struggle to put food on the table, and skip meals to feed their children.
 
The House recently approved a bill to cut SNAP
(formerly food stamps) by nearly $40 billion over the next 10 years. This will send millions — including many mamas, papas, tíos, niños, abuelitas, and vecinos in the Latino community — to the nearest food bank or church in search of food. But our churches and charities would have to nearly double their ongoing efforts to handle the need and, realistically, they cannot absorb an increase in demand of this magnitude. Budget cuts to programs such as SNAP will have devastating consequences for low-income Hispanic families.

Millions of Latino children will go to school hungry, which undermines their learning capacity and reduces their lifetime productivity. By 2018, Latinos will represent 18 percent of the U.S. labor force and the contributions of Latino children to American society and the economy in the years to come will depend on the investments that our government makes in our children. We must help them develop physically, mentally, and emotionally. Feeding our children in low-income families is not only the morally right thing to do, it is the economically right thing to do.
 
The fate of the farm bill is still up in the air and the SNAP funding battle is certainly far from over. The House and the Senate will have to reconcile their differences around SNAP through conference before the end of the year. A cut of $40 billion is unacceptable for the Latino community. Is this the end of an era of compassionate policies to lift people out of poverty and hunger? Congress must protect families and children from hunger. A prosperous future where everyone has a place at the table demands it.

Dulce Gamboa is the associate for Latino relations at Bread for the World.

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