Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

77 posts categorized "2013 Offering of Letters"

A Hunger Justice Leader Setting 'A Place At the Table'

By now, many Bread members have viewed the eye-opening documentary A Place at the Table and are sharing it with their churches, friends, and communities. The feature-length film – now available for purchase on DVD and streaming on Netflix – tells the story of hunger in America through the lives of three people. 

Hunger Justice Leader Libby Tedder Hugus will be hosting a showing tomorrow in Casper, Wyo.,  as part of Hunger Action month. In an interview with Wyoming's KTWO News (see above), Libby said it is time to ask ourselves, "why is that in the wealthiest nation in America we have one in six of our American neighbors that are currently hungry?" For Libby, awareness is just the first step and must lead to action. "When I realized how dire the situation of hunger is in the U.S., I realized something has to be done," she said.

The 2013 Offering of Letters, also called "A Place at the Table," offers an opportunity to act.  This year, we're asking faithful advocates to sign a petition to the president in addition to writing letters to Congress. The movie has been key tool in raising awareness of the hunger problem in the United States. We have created a set of resources tied to the film – including a study guide to order or download – specifically for communities of faith.

Libby is a graduate of the 2012 Hunger Justice Leader training in Washington, D.C. The participants in this program are passionate, faith-filled leaders who, through action and awareness , work to end hunger both at home and abroad. Libby has written for the Bread Blog about her advocacy to end hunger and the faith that grounds her in the work.

With passionate and dedicated advocates like Libby, together we can work to ensure that everyone has a place at the table.

If you have shown A Place at the Table in your community, tell us about your experience, and how this tool has helped you in your efforts to build awareness and take action, in the comments below.

President Obama: Make a Plan to End Hunger

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 peitions 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).

Yesterday, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech, President Barack Obama, addressed this nation's economic disparities.  “Change does not come from Washington, but to Washington,” he said. Bread for the World works to end hunger with a faithful grassroots, but change also requires leadership in Washington.

"The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own,"President Obama said. "To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency"

Vigilance is something faithful advocates know about — our vigilance has helped stave off billions of dollars in cuts to programs that help alleviate poverty. Help us send a message to Washington and the president; join us in telling them that although talking about poverty is a good first step, we need concrete action to end hunger. We have already delivered more than 30,000 of your signatures urging the administration to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad. Our new goal is to reach 50,000 signatures. Help us reach that number by asking your family members, neighbors, church members, and friends to sign the petition today.

Bread for the World Applauds President Obama’s Remarks on Ending Economic Injustice.  Read the press release here.

Bread for the World Sunday Resources Now Available

Liberian BoyBy Vince Mezzera

We know your church calendar is filling up fast—so don’t wait to start planning your Bread for the World Sunday celebration for October 20 (or another Sunday this fall). This is your chance to join thousands of Christians across the country as we lift up our voices on behalf of hungry people.

Bread for the World Sunday offers an opportunity for your congregation to expand and deepen its commitment to ending hunger through education, prayer, and worship.

Your Bread for the World Sunday can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose, and we have FREE resources, including bulletin inserts, offering envelopes, and a NEW resource kit, that can help you plan your celebration.

The kit includes the following:

  • Step-by-step instructions on how to make your event a success
  • Prayers and a brand-new litany
  • Lectionary study for Luke 18:1-8 by Dr. Greg Carey, professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary
  • Reflection by Jeanette Salguero, co-pastor of Lamb’s Church in New York City

Learn more about Bread Sunday and order your FREE resources today!

Additional materials, including hunger facts, PowerPoint slides, children’s activities, and much more, are available for download on our website.

Vince Mezzera is a resource specialist for members and churches.

Photo:  A boy reads his bible at an Assemblies of God service in Saclepea, Liberia (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).


Reaching Mountaintops: 2013 Offering of Letters

Jeanette Salguero is co-pastor at the Lamb's Church in New York City. Photographed on Sunday, October 28, 2102.
(Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

Bread for the World researches the root causes that drive hunger and poverty. Whether improving nutrition for mothers and children as part of the 1,000 Days movement, which falls under the umbrella of international food aid and development, or improving nutrition for mothers and their children domestically through the WIC program, we advocate for policies that support long-term solutions to hunger.  

This year, as part of the Offering of Letters, faithful advocates are writing to their members of Congress asking that these vital programs be protected. Cuts to food aid will deter progress made combatting malnutrition and hunger globally, and there is potential to improve the program through common-sense reforms. Sequestration, unless replaced with a balanced approach, will make it impossible next year to reach all of the mothers and children needing nutrition assistance through the WIC program.

In a year filled with harmful proposals in Congress to anti-hunger programs, Bread members have been busy—and you have our gratitude for all your work.  SNAP is under unprecedented attack, faithful immigration reform could bring millions who are hungry out of the shadows if enacted, and decisions around the budget and taxes can affect our mission to end hunger for years to come. Some of the decisions will be made in the next few months and we continue to ask for your prayers, your vigilance, and your voice.

In this year's Offering of Letters video, Pastor Jeannette Salguero beautifully articulated the work we do as an advocacy organization grounded in faith: 

"Being a Christian to me is advocating—is reaching out, extending the hand. If someone is being thrown from a mountain, the church is very good at asking if they can help you—can I heal your wounds. However, the church also needs to ask who was launching them from the mountaintop." 

There is still time to conduct an Offering of Letters through your church or even with a small group—your voices matter. Learn more about how your voice can reach mountaintops with this year's Offering of Letters and watch the full video below.

Cuts Cost Lives: Nutrition Funding in Danger

Khato Rana plays with her daughter Rita, 2, at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal. The facility, run by Nepali NGO Rural Women's Development Unity Center (RUWDUC), restores malnourished children back to health (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

That four in 10 Nepali children are stunted because of malnutrition is outrageous. We have the knowledge to solve widespread malnutrition — but will we?

The 2013 Offering of Letters video "Malnutrition is Everywhere" shows targeted investments in nutrition work. The short video, shot at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home (NRH) in Dhangadhi, Nepal tells a story of hope. Nutrition interventions result in positive outcomes for mothers and their children in the first 1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2.

“Within a month or so, you can see the change in a child,"said Pinky Singh Rana, board member at the Rural Women’s Development Unity Center. "You can see the positive attitude of the mothers in how seeing a child who had almost died overcoming that. It’s really a such a satisfying feeling for us also.”

The NRH and organizations like it are saving lives and helping children reach their full potential with support from U.S. development assistance. Each year, 3 million children die from causes related to malnutrition and 165 million suffer from its consequences. Food aid, currently in danger of severe cuts, not only mitigates and prevents hunger but also shows that our nation values children all over the world—something Christians strongly believe. 

Food aid does more than just save lives; it's an investment in a stable and peaceful future. In the briefing paper "Sustaining U.S. Leadership and Investments in Scaling Up Maternal and Child Nutrition," senior foreign policy analyst Scott Bleggi writes, “There is solid evidence that demonstrates that improving nutrition – particularly early in life, in the 1,000 days between a women’s pregnancy and a child’s second birthday, has a profound impact on a country’s long-term economic development and stability.”

Progress on improving nutrition for vulnerable children like those in Nepal would be undermined if proposals to slash food aid become law. In the House version of the farm bill, food aid would be cut by $2.5 billion dollars. The Senate version would reform the food aid program, making it more flexible and able to reach more vulnerable mothers and infants in the first 1,000 days.

Sequestration is also chipping away at global anti-hunger programs. This year has already seen a $1 billion cut to poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) because of these automatic across-the-board cuts. A recent appropriations bill approved in the House would further slash PFDA by a devastating 26 percent.

Our nation’s leaders have an opportunity to make history with small investments in anti-hunger programs – PFDA comprises less than 1 percent of the federal budget.  Reforms to food aid could save even more lives. But, Congress needs motivation. They need to hear from their constituents that investing in human lives is a priority. During the month of August, reach out to your members of Congress and let them know that cuts can and do cost lives.

Prayer: God’s Banquet is for All

During a worship service at the 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C., Bread for the World members offer letters to member of Congress calling for all to have a place at the table  (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

God of all creations, we give you thanks for the seeds that you sow in our lives, the seeds of faith, hope and love. Help us to nurture those seeds in all your people, that together we may produce a bountiful harvest and in unity enjoy the feast we are all given in your grace. In the name of him who showed us that the banquet is for all, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Learn more about lifting up concern for hungry and poor people through A Place at the Table: Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters. With your voice, and the voices of those of in your church, campus, or community group, we will convince our nation’s leaders to ensure a place at the table for everyone.  

Bread offers a variety of worship materials to raise up God's call to end hunger. For more prayers and resources, go here

Making Progress on Obesity: New CDC Study

Girl eating cropped
A young girl eats lunch at a soup kitchen in a scene from the documentary A Place at the Table. (Film still courtesy of Participant Media).

The anti-hunger community has long known that poverty and obesity go hand in hand. One in eight preschoolers in the United States is obese, and the percentages are higher in black and Hispanic populations. This week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported modest declines in the obesity rates of low-income preschoolers in 19 states – proof that advocating for better nutrition is bearing fruit. It’s a good start, but the gains could be derailed if current proposals in Congress to take an axe to nutrition programs are passed into law.

The CDC collected data on low-income preschoolers ages 2 to 4; many of the children were enrolled in WIC. In a briefing on the report, CDC director Tom Friedan said that the federal program has improved nutritional standards. The report recommends helping low-income families get affordable and nutritious foods through federal programs like WIC.

However, WIC is one of the programs that has been subject to automatic cuts under sequestration. This past year, WIC has been able to maintain its caseloads with reserve and contingency funds mitigating cuts that could have affected as many as 600,000 women, infants, and children. But back-up funds won’t be available next year. If Congress does not act and replace the sequester with a balanced approach that includes revenue, the program will not have the ability to serve all the mothers and children who need it. More disturbing, appropriations bills in the House would shift cuts affecting defense spending onto programs like WIC and SNAP, reversing positive trends toward reducing both hunger and obesity.

In 2010, Bread for the World and our partners urged Congress to improve nutritional quality in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and make it possible to reach more low-income children with nutritious food. In the past two years, Bread for the World members have successfully advocated to create a circle of protection, mitigating cuts to programs like SNAP, WIC, and tax-credits such as the EITC, all of which help hard working low-income families stave off hunger and buy nutritious food.

More progress is needed and more progress is possible. Both quantity and quality of food make a big difference in the health of children. In communities that are considered food deserts, distance to a supermarket may be an insurmountable obstacle to healthy eating. Low-income households with limited resources often need to stretch their food budgets and opt for cheaper, low-density, calorie-rich processed foods in lieu of more expensive fruits and vegetables. Nutrition assistance programs like SNAP and WIC provide these families with healthier options.

Taking into account health, education, and economic productivity, a group of Brandies University economists calculated the cost of poverty in 2011 to be a staggering $167.5 billion. Poverty, complex as it is, affects everyone. Investing in programs now will mean a lot less expense down the road, helping ensure a labor force that is healthy and productive.

Programs like SNAP and WIC help stave off both hunger and obesity, but both programs continue to be at risk of grave cuts. August recess presents an opportunity to get in front of your senators and representative and help influence the decisions they make when they return to Washington in September. Set up in-district meetings with your members of Congress, attend any town hall meetings that they hold, and write letters to the editor about protecting and strengthening SNAP and replacing the sequester with a balanced approach.

What members of Congress hear over the next few weeks will determine the decisions they make this fall.

Delivering Petitions and Preparing for August Recess

Petition deliver August 2013
Bread for the World staff members (L to R) Amelia Kegan, Gary Cook, Eric Mitchell, and LaVida Davis visited the White House and hand-delivered Bread’s presidential petition on August 7, 2013 (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

By Amelia Kegan

Yesterday, Bread for the World staff visited the White House and delivered boxes containing our presidential petition. We presented White House staff with a grand total of 30,409 signatures! This time last week, we had 25,000 signatures, but we put out a call for 5,000 more before yesterday’s important meeting—and Bread members delivered!

Dr. John Holden, a Bread member from Silver Spring, Md., rushed into our D.C. office late Tuesday afternoon to ensure that the 509 signatures he collected were included in the delivery. By adding Dr. Holden's names to our existing count, we were able to surpass our goal.

Jon Gromek, a Bread for the World regional organizer for the central hub states, worked late on Tuesday night, scanning and sending names to Bread’s D.C. office. He made sure the signatures he gathered at an anti-hunger event held Sunday at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dayton, Ohio, made it to the White House, too.

With this delivery, we were able to emphasize the importance of presidential leadership in ending hunger in our time. We know achieving this goal is possible, but we need the political will to do it.

We brought this up during our meeting with White House staffers Paulette Aniskoff, deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and Paul Monteiro, public engagement advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement. We also talked about the farm bill, sequestration, the budget, and immigration. We shared with them the strength of Bread’s membership, and your advocacy work made a big impression.

Now that we’ve delivered our first batch of petitions to the West Wing, our new goal is to reach 50,000 signatures. Help us reach that number by asking your family members, neighbors, church members, and friends to sign the petition asking President Obama to work with Congress on a plan to end hunger.  

But even more immediately, we need you to get in front of your senators and representative over the next few weeks. While Congress is in recess, faithful advocates must be hard at work.  

What your members of Congress hear now will influence the decisions they make when they return to Washington in September. August recess offers an opportunity to talk to your legislators about funding for SNAP (formerly food stamps), international food aid, poverty-focused development assistance, Head Start, and WIC, as well as immigration and the debt ceiling.

Will your senators find you at their office doors, ready to talk about making moral budget decisions that protect “the least of these?” Will your representative hear your voice at her next town hall meeting as you express outrage over the $40 billion in SNAP cuts proposed by the House? Will your members of Congress open their local papers and see letters to the editor demanding that they fix sequestration and come up with a more balanced approach that protects families struggling with hunger and poverty?

Bread for the World has a new August recess webpage that will help you make the most of this crucial time and take actions that will help hungry and poor people. If you want members of Congress to make good decisions this fall, you have to tell them so today!

Amelia Kegan is senior policy analyst at Bread for the World.

How Much is Enough? The Price of Partisanship in the Farm Bill

A $20 billion cut to SNAP, the amount proposed in a House farm bill that failed earlier this year, is equivalent to eliminating half of all the charitable food distribution by churches and food banks over a 10-year period. The legislation that is currently being drafted doubles those cuts (Rick Reinhard/Bread for the World).

Last year it was $16 billion, but that wasn’t enough. Earlier this year, the number was $20.5 billion, but even that wasn’t enough. Now, the House of the Representatives has proposed $40 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) over 10 years – a horrifying amount that would substantially increase the suffering of the 47 million Americans who depend on SNAP to keep hunger at bay.

The Hill reports that the House is expected to vote on the bill in September after returning from August recess.  The proposal is the product of a working group convened by House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in an effort to attract conservative votes and pass the stand-alone nutrtion title of the farm bill on partisan lines. 

The farm bill proposed by the House Agriculture Committee earlier this year "would have cut SNAP by $20 billion—which would have kicked 2 million people out of the program, reduced benefits for more than 800,000 families, and left 210,000 children without school meals,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in a statement released earlier today. In the current bill, the House doubles the number of people hurt. Beckmann calls both proposals "truly cruel and unacceptable."

During a period of continued high unemployment where there is only one job available for every three applicants, this proposal would increase work requirements, meaning that people who want to work and are looking for a job, but haven’t found one, would see their benefits cut –benefits that help feed children. Ninety-nine percent of households receiving SNAP live well below the poverty line and have no room to absorb these cuts in their household budgets. 

In the effort to cut benefits, much has been made of the increased participation in the SNAP program. SNAP participation has closely followed poverty and unemployment rates and has responded quickly and effectively to the recession. As the economy recovers, the Congressional Budget Office projects the participation rates will drop to pre-recession levels.

For Christians, feeding the most vulnerable among us is not a partisan issue – it’s a moral call. We know there is enough for everyone.  A proposal to cut $40 billion from a program that offers much-needed food to so many is distressing.

"Assuring government’s obligation to advance the common good, ensure fairness, and defend the most vulnerable is good religion and good politics," said Rev. Beckmann. "Massive cuts to SNAP are neither."

This month, members of Congress will travel home to hear from their constituents. What they do upon their return – pass a farm bill that guts food assistance or cut social programs deeper while protecting defense spending – will depend entirely on what they hear from you. If they hear nothing, expect more proposals that, like this one, will hurt hungry and poor people.

To learn more about how you can get involved and specific priorities in your state or district, contact your regional organizer.

August Recess: Time to End the Hunger Games

Lawreence Uganda
Lawrence, a boy staying at Omoana House, a child rehabilitation center in Jinja, Uganda, plays outside on Saturday, May 21, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

With just days until members of Congress head back to their home districts for the month of August, anti-hunger advocates should be prepared to let their senators and representatives know that recess is not a time for playing partisan games with hunger.

The House of Representatives will have only eight working days when they return before the federal government’s fiscal year ends on Sept. 30 and both chambers must pass a continuing resolution or a final spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. There is a $91 billion gap between the Senate's overall discretionary spending and House levels, so a quick resolution of the difference is highly unlikely. Congress will be voting on legislation that will affect hungry and poor people and many of their choices will be influenced by what they hear at home next month.

Key to all negotiations will be a plan to replace the sequester.

As a reminder, the sequester was intended to incentivize Congress to come up with a deal to cut $1.5 trillion over 10 years as part of the Budget Control Act. Since 2011, Congress has been unable to replace the automatic across-the-board cuts, which are now law.

The effects of sequestration this past year have largely been mitigated for programs like WIC with reserve and contingency funds that will not be available in the coming budget cycle. Other affected programs, like Meals on Wheels, haven't fared as well and the data starting to come in shows some vulnerable populations are being hit harder than others. Behind proposals in the House that would slash development assistance by 26 percent and cost lives is a strong movement to protect defense spending over social programs.

“This fall is going to be extremely intense,” says Bread for the World policy analyst Amelia Kegan. Bread members are urged to set up in-district meetings with their members of Congress and to attend any town halls their members are facilitating. 

“If members go back and all they hear about is how bad sequestration is, they will come back and be motivated to deal with the automatic cuts,” Kegan says. But she cautions that “if they hear nothing, they won't think these cuts are a problem, and sequestration will continue or they could make it worse.” Replacing the sequester does not automatically ensure anti-hunger programs are safe.

At stake is funding for safety-net programs like SNAP, which is currently exempt from automatic cuts, and Medicare. Both could become the piggy banks used to replace the looming automatic defense cuts if revenue-raising is not part of a final deal.

When it looked like lines at airports might get longer earlier this year, inconvenienced travelers were vocal and Congress paid attention, adjusting sequestration's effect on air traffic controllers. To the elderly and to children experiencing hunger and poverty, sequestration is more than a nuisance; sequestration is a skipped meal, a lost educational opportunity and longer lines at food pantries. 

To avert a crises of increased hunger both here and abroad, the sequester must be replaced with a balanced package that includes both revenue and responsible spending cuts. Contact your regional organizer to learn how your voice can make a difference in August.

We caution children not to play with their food we should send Congress the same message.

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