72 posts categorized "2013 Offering of Letters"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14: 13-14 (NIV)
Many Bread members have introduced their churches to JustFaith, an adult education program that explores the biblical prescription to heal our broken world and foster congregational and individual wholeness. The 30 weekly sessions are carefully planned for faith sharing that includes prayer, study, and immersion. Each week’s curriculum deepens the participants' understanding of the biblical basis for advocacy.
Bread members Bob and Janet Raes facilitated the program at West Linn Lutheran in Oregon and saw how it transformed lives.
The immersion part of the program helps break down invisible barriers that hide suffering in the world. Bob and Janet recalled how simply listening to a homeless couple’s experience opened up a new world to their group. The homeless couple told a story of selling bracelets on the sidewalk with their dog and feeling that they weren't treated with dignity. A passerby offered them money to feed their dog, but ignored them as people. The message to the couple was that the dog deserved compassion, but they did not.
"Our groups said 'we are going to really see people,'" said Janet. "Some ride the bus now and that has just changed them." Their congregation sponsored 3 months of rent to transition a homeless family into stable housing, and spent the time to help them move in and listen to their goals. Bob and Janet know that compassion is relational.
Through JustFaith, participants learn about both charity and advocacy—the latter is often harder for churches to embrace. "People are so allergic to the word 'advocate'—instead of advocating we say we are 'seeking justice,'" said Bob. JustFaith has helped their church to take a deeper look at the root causes of hunger and write letters as part of Bread for the World’s yearly Offering of Letters campaign, which asks Congress to create programs and policies that end hunger and poverty.
Even though participants in JustFaith are a small subset of any congregation, as other parishioners see the group transform it leads to changes in the church. “It’s an invasive species,” said Janet, with a smile.
With fall—the typical starting time for a JustFaith group—just around the corner, many churches are posting information and forming groups. If you would like to learn more and find out how you can start a group, contact your regional organizer.
Rosie, an imaginative fifth-grader, tries to distract her mind from hunger pangs as she learns and grows in rural Colorado. Her story is told in the 2013 documentary film A Place at the Table (Movie still courtesy of Participant Media).
Is the American dream dying?
The iconic images of the pioneering frontiersman or the weary immigrant gazing west from Ellis Island hold the same promise—that even if someone's immediate circumstances didn't improve by leaving hearth and home behind, their children have a chance at a better life. It was and is the hope of upward mobility.
A new study by a team of Harvard and U.C. Berkeley economic researchers shows that intergenerational mobility – making more income than your parents - may depend in part on where you live.
Family structure, educational investments, and even income inequality correlate with mobility. But the significant variable—the one that means a child born in Seattle is more likely to move up the income ladder than one in Atlanta—is tax expenditures, specifically the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit(CTC). Bread for the World maintains that these tax credits for low-income families are a critical weapon against hunger and must be part of the circle of protection.
In the study’s summary conclusion, the researchers write the following:
What is clear from this research is that there is substantial variation in the United States in the prospects for escaping poverty. There are some areas in the U.S. where a child’s chances of success do not depend heavily on his or her parents’ income. Understanding the features of these areas - and how we can improve mobility in areas that currently have lower rates of mobility - is an important question for future research that we and other social scientists are exploring.
This research should make it clear that members of Congress must keep in place policies that support programs, like the EITC and the CTC, that help create those pathways out of poverty. The tax credits were extended for five years as part of the fiscal cliff deal earlier this year, but are still in danger of being cut. The credits should be made permanent.
As Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) begin proposing reform in their tax writing committees this year, it remains to be seen how they will treat tax credits for working families. In the Senate Finance Committee, Chairman Baucus and ranking member Orin Hatch (R-Utah) have called for a blank slate and are asking for input from fellow members of Congress.
With automatic cuts already in place, and additional cuts proposed as part of budget negotiations, Bread for the World is urging Congress to take a balanced approach to our fiscal future and protect anti-poverty programs like tax credits for working families. Tax reform must also include the needed revenue to continue these and other programs that support a strong safety net.
For as much elbow grease that has oiled the American dream, sound government policies that set a course for prosperity have laid the foundation for individuals to escape poverty. This study shows that cutting and weakening the EITC and CTC could lead to a new American narrative: a reversal of fortune.
Pastor Charlotte Schmiedeskamp of Thompson Falls, Mont., talks about proposed SNAP cuts and sequestration during a visit with her member of Congress during Bread for the World's June 2013 Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. (Robin Stephenson)
July and August offer plenty of opportunities to talk about hunger and poverty with your members of Congress.
Yesterday, during Bread for the World’s monthly grassroots conference call and webinar, members of our policy and organizing staff emphasized that it is important to act now. Director of government relations Eric Mitchell encouraged advocates to take advantage of in-district meetings and town halls during the August recess, a time when members of Congress return to their home districts. “This is the time they need to hear from constituents," Mitchell said. "After August, things will move fast.”
Bread staffers reviewed the last six months and also looked ahead to what may transpire between now and the end of the year. The bottom line: your phone calls make a difference and will continue to be needed.
Noting that the media has largely ignored the effects of sequestration on vulnerable people, Bread policy analyst Amelia Kegan said, “We know if it’s not front page news, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening and isn’t important—if Congress doesn’t hear from you, they won’t think it’s a problem.” Kegan went on to point out that a long-term replacement of the sequester is unlikely at this point, but a short-term fix is still possible this fall, especially as more defense spending cuts take their toll. The question moving forward is how Congress will choose to replace the spending cuts—whether they decide to cut programs like SNAP or taking a balanced approach that includes increased revenues may depend on the pressure that anti-hunger advocates put on their lawmakers.An examination of recent House farm bill activity showed that two wrongs don’t make a right. The first draft of the bill, which included $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP, failed in a floor vote. The version of the bill that the House passed last week does not include the title that authorizes the SNAP program. SNAP will continue to operate at existing levels under current rules and can still be included in a conference with the Senate farm bill (which cuts the program by $4.1 billion). But, as policy analyst Christine Melendez-Ashley cautioned, the way forward for the nutrition title is not yet clear, and that leaves the SNAP vulnerable to cuts in both the farm bill and the appropriations process.
Staff members also provided an update on the latest threats to international food aid, which delivers emergency assistance to hungry people overseas. House proposals in the farm bill and spending bills would slash the program. The Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act, introduced in the House by a bi-partisan group of representatives, was also discussed.
Mitchell also stressed that Bread members must put pressure on their representatives to craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship. The Senate passed a comprehensive bill late last month, but is in unclear how the House will come up with a comprehensive bill or a piecemeal approach to reform.
The next monthly conference call and webinar will be held on Sept. 17.
(Left to right) Amanda Wojcinski, Wynn Horton, Moeun Sun, Aminata Kanu, Rebecca Land, and Robert Mauger, students at Houghton College in upstate New York, navigate Capitol Hill during Lobby Day on June 11, 2013. The students met with their senators and representative and urged them to preserve funding for food assistance in the farm bill. (Eric Bond)
Recently, Rev. Noel Castellanos prayed, “God, when you grip our
hearts we are turned toward our brothers and sisters on the margins of
Rev. Castellanos, chief executive officer of the Christian Community Development Association, offered this invocation as we and our colleagues in the Evangelical Immigration Table gathered for a vigil at the Capitol just before the Senate began voting on the comprehensive immigration bill.
Thanks be to God, our prayers—and your advocacy—worked. The Senate passed its version of the comprehensive immigration reform bill on June 28 with a vote of 68-32. Now we turn to the House of Representatives to see what action it will take. We anticipate a more partisan approach in the House. So we pray that God will grip the hearts of our representatives and bring both parties together to pass immigration reform legislation that will benefit struggling families in our nation.
House Farm Bill Fails
We have another major reason to be thankful to God and to you for your faithful advocacy. On June 21, the House version of the farm bill was voted down, 234-195. Had it become law, it would have meant a $20 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). More than 47 million Americans depend on this vital food assistance program.
When the current farm bill was authorized in 2008, we won the largest increase ever for food assistance. Since then, the nutrition portion of the farm bill has been targeted for cuts. We are thankful that God has gripped the hearts of our representatives, until now, and stayed those cuts.
As you read this, Congress is be preparing to recess for the summer. This means that your members of Congress will be back in your district. I encourage you to visit or call them, referring to their voting record on amendments to the new farm bill and other food and nutrition bills (see Bread for the World's 2013 Midyear Congressional Scorecard). If they voted in favor of hungry people, thank them. If they did not, still thank them for being your public servants, but express disappointment for the way they voted and remind them that you are counting on them to vote on behalf of hungry and poor people.
International Coalition Pledges to Fund Maternal and Child Nutrition
We are also thankful that God has gripped the hearts of President
Barack Obama and other world leaders to increase investments in maternal
and child nutrition in developing countries hardest hit by
malnutrition. Since we started our work on this issue four years ago,
much progress has been made. Last month, at a high-level event in
London, world leaders pledged $21.9 billion for maternal and child
nutrition programs between now and 2020. The United States pledged $10
billion through fiscal year 2014 toward eliminating malnutrition in the
1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2—and it promised to continue
funding nutrition programs at this level beyond 2014.
On June 10, during Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C., Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide hosted an international meeting to mark the progress that has been made over the last 1,000 days and to recognize the important role that civil society has played in building the political will to scale up nutrition. The event marked the official launch of the Civil Society Network of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, which will help coordinate the efforts of the 40 SUN countries.
Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, recognized the role that activists— like the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement— have played in elevating the voices of poor and hungry people as policy makers set priorities. In addition, Bread for the World and partners hosted a congressional briefing on maternal and child nutrition to raise awareness on Capitol Hill about the critical role of U.S. leadership.
After the briefing, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) introduced a bipartisan resolution to draw attention to the scourge of malnutrition during the critical 1,000-day window.
This will be a busy autumn and winter for Bread, with important advocacy work around sequestration and other budget issues. We will also be finalizing our plans for the next three years—the first triennial plan within the framework of our long-term vision to end hunger. We will be planning our campaigns for 2014 and launching the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America.
As we enjoy the summer, I give thanks to God for your faithful support and for gripping all our hearts to advocate with those whom Jesus calls “the least among us.”
[This piece originally appeared in Bread for the World’s July-August newsletter.]
As part of the 2013 Offering of Letters campaign, Bread for the World is petitioning the President to make ending hunger a priority. (Robin Stephenson).
Ignoring poverty won’t make it go away, but if one were to listen to our nation’s leaders, you might think that is their plan.
Allotting only 26 percent of his presidency addressing poverty—ranking last among all presidents since John F. Kennedy, according to the Washington Times—President Obama has not yet proposed a comprehensive strategy to alleviate growing poverty. We are petitioning the president to show leadership on this issue.
A recent Kids Count report by the Annie E. Casey foundation shows that child poverty is on the rise. In 2011, 23 percent of children lived in poverty—an increase of 3 million since 2005. Poverty, especially child poverty, impedes the future potential that can move our nation forward. As Christians we know that there is enough of everything to go around, from food to shelter, but what there is not enough of is political will. We are called to a vision where all have a place at the table.
We need to remind President Obama of his promise, made during the last election campaign, to earnestly address hunger and poverty. With enough pressure, we can show that there is a large constituency of people who want to take hunger out of the shadows. We can start the conversation.