Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

37 posts from January 2013

Practical Actions That Can Change the World

Sharmila and Sanjana

Sharmila Chaudhari feeds her daughter Sanjana, 19 months, at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal, on Sunday, April 29, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Marsha Casey

Have you bought a snack today? Grabbing a bag of chips and a soda from a vending machine can easily cost about $2, right? Would you be shocked to learn that almost half of the world's people live on $2 a day or less—about the same amount of money that you might spend on a quick treat? 

Although progress has been made in the fight against hunger and poverty, people around the world continue to suffer: An estimated 925 million of the world's people are hungry, and there were 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty in 2005. Children are hit especially hard. Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes.

Are you wondering what you can do to change these statistics? Here are three tips to help you begin advocating on behalf of hungry and poor people around the world.

Learn about the issues. Hunger is a global problem that affects people in the United States and around the world. Take the time to investigate the “why” behind world hunger and poverty. Start by reading materials available on Bread for the World's website and in our store.

Get your family, friends, church, and community involved. Spread the word and teach others about hunger and poverty. The more people get involved, the easier it will be to end  hunger in our time.

Take Action. Volunteering and making donations both play a significant part in helping hungry and poor people, but advocacy is key to lasting change. Bread for the World advocates contact Congress—by mail, email and phone—and urge them to work to prioritize the needs of hungry and poor people. Join us!

While many people in this day and age don’t have to wonder where their next meal will come from, there are still mothers walking for miles to fetch water for their children, fathers who don't have enough money to feed their families, and children who goes to sleep hungry each night. Become an advocate and make a difference in someone’s life.

Marsha Casey is a media relations intern at Bread for the World. She is a student at Montgomery College Takoma Park, Silver Spring Campus.

Are You Called?

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Ivone Guillen, in a still from Bread for the World's "Are You Called?" video.

By Keaton Andreas

Are you called?  It’s a question that rattles around in my head and reverberates within my soul.  Growing up, it was this question that served as my guiding light. It has always begged me to consider the larger plan that God has for my life and if I am willing to surrender to that plan. It is a question asked forcefully in churches by the visiting missionary, compelling his or her audience to consider it. It is an honest inquiry that simultaneously serves to challenge a person on how their life is being lived and whether or not they are willing to let God use their life for a higher purpose.

When I entered discussions at Bread for the World about our involvement in this year’s Justice Conference, I could think of no better question to ask.  Our organization is one with a vision to end hunger. Through direct advocacy campaigns we urge our nation’s leaders to consider, first and foremost, those who would go hungry without help. It is a grand vision and one that fills the prophetic tradition of the Bible.

One day last year, as I was flying back from a work trip in Houston, I channeled all of these thoughts into the script for the “Are You Called?” video. It takes the language of calling as I have described it and focuses it around Bread for the World’s mission. In this manner the script seeks to root Bread for the World in both our advocacy work and our place within God’s mission while, at the same time, asking an honest and challenging question to the person watching.

Bread for the World will present “Are You Called?” at the 2013 Justice Conference on February 22 and 23 held in Philadelphia. There is still time to register.  Also join us at the Justice Conference for the pre-conference workshop "Transformational Advocacy: A Faithful Witness to the Reign of God." And stop by our exhibit table and let us know if YOU are called.

Keaton-andreas Keaton Andreas is a southern hub regional organizer with Bread for the World.

 

Tackling Hunger and Poverty in the United States

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Heather Rude-Turner credits the Earned Income Tax Credit with helping keep her out of poverty and get her back on her feet. Once Rude-Turner marries her fiancé Mark Diamond (pictured) and they combine their incomes, they will likely become ineligible for the EITC. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Marsha Casey

Hardship and economic struggle have taken a toll on many Americans. The high price of gas, public transportation, and food means low-income workers are often left to choose between paying their bills, spending money to get to work, or eating and providing for their families.

Federally funded safety-net programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) play a major role in preventing more Americans from falling into poverty. But even with programs like SNAP, which helps those with limited income to feed themselves and their families, putting food on the table is still a constant struggle. 

It's especially difficult in Mississippi, Alabama, and Delaware—the states that have the highest rates of food insecurity in the nation. A recent study on the inability of Americans to afford food showed that one in every four Mississippi residents didn't know where their next meal would come from at least once during the last 12 months.

So what do we do for those Americans who are barely “making it?" How do we help the father who makes only enough money to pay his family’s household bills or the single mother who works longs shifts but still can't feed her children? The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) are in place to help low- and moderate-income families. The EITC helps low-income working people keep more of the money they earn, while the CTC  provides qualifying families with as much as $1,000 per child (for children under the age of 17) annually.

Whether the recipients save the funds for future rainy days, use the money to supplement their take-home earnings, or purchase something they’ve had to go without for an entire year, these tax credits are very beneficial. For the many people who face poverty in the United States, SNAP, EITC, and CTC were put in place to help. It is up to Congress to keep the funding for each of these key programs in place as lawmakers continue to work to balance the federal budget. And it is up to us to remind Congress that they must not balance the budget on the backs of hungry and poor people.

Marsha Casey is a media relations intern at Bread for the World. She is a student at Montgomery College Takoma Park/Silver-Spring Campus.

Going to the Justice Conference? Learn About Transformational Advocacy!

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By Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy

Are you going to the Justice Conference in Philadelphia on Feb. 22 and 23? If so, we’ve got just the workshop for you: "Transformational Advocacy: A Faithful Witness to the Reign of God."

Should evangelical Christians use their influence to shape U.S. foreign policies on global poverty and other issues?  Is there a biblical approach to advocacy?  How can we strategically “remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10) while sharing the saving news of Christ?  How might we be changed in the process? Asbury Seminary, Bread for the World and Eastern University recently created a website called evangelicaladvocacy.com to help evangelicals make sense of these and related questions.

Join this prayerful and scripturally-grounded workshop, based on the research done for the website, to explore an authentic evangelical approach to the theology and practice of advocacy.  

Can’t wait to see you there!

For more information about the Justice Conference workshops, and to register, visit thejusticeconference.com.

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Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy leads national evangelical church relations at Bread for the World.

 

Quote of the Day: Myrlie Evers-Williams

Seniors_hot_lunch_program"May the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of every woman, man, boy and girl be honored. May all your people, especially the least of these, flourish in our blessed nation."

—Civil rights advocate Myrlie Evers Williams, during the 2013 inaugural invocation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Residents of a senior apartment building in Washington, D.C., are treated to a hot lunch sponsored by the Capital Area Food Bank. (Crista Friedli for Bread for the World)

A Day, and a Year, of Reflection

Martin-Luther-King-1964-leaning-on-a-lectern_wikimedia-commonsBy Bishop Don diXon Williams

2013 will be a year of reflection on a number of significant events in our nation’s history.

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King was arrested and wrote his seminal work “Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

Fifty years ago, Eugene “Bull” Connor used fire hoses and police dogs on black demonstrators prompting people to have a change of heart about civil rights because of the brutality that was seen on TV.

Fifty years ago, Medgar Evers, whose  wife will give the invocation at the inauguration of President Barack Obama today, was murdered just outside his home.

Fifty years ago, 250,000 people were inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

Fifty years ago, four young girls (Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins) were killed when a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

This year not only marks the 50 year anniversary of all of those events, but the 150th anniversary of one of the most significant events in this country's history. On Jan. 1, 1863 , another soon-to-be-assassinated president signed the Emancipation Proclamation, ending slavery. Each year, in thousands of African-American churches across the nation, we still celebrate “Watch Meeting Night” as a way to commemorate that day.

On that day in 1863, one old lady said, upon hearing the news, said “Mr. Lincoln signed the papers, but it was God that set us free.” Given the state of our nation and world 150 years later, the question becomes, free to do what?

Despite the incredible strides African-Americans have made, we continue to suffer disproportionately from hunger, poverty, unemployment, and income and education disparities. When compared with the U.S. population as a whole, we are more likely to be poor and more likely to go hungry. According to U.S. Census bureau figures, more than one in four African-Americans  lived in poverty in 2010. And one in four African-American households struggled to put food on the table.

Today, we celebrate not only the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but the second inauguration of the President Barack Obama. It is a time to rejoice, but also a time to pray for the president, and also ask him to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger. Perhaps, in another 50 years, when we look back on 2013 we'll remember it as the year that marked the beginning of the end of hunger.

Don-williams

Bishop Don DiXon Williams is racial/ethnic outreach associate at Bread for the World and sits on the board of bishops of the United Church of Jesus Christ, Baltimore, Md.

Photo: Martin Luther King Jr. leaning on a lectern (1964). From the United States Library of Congress's prints and photographs division, through Wikimedia Commons.

Quote of the Day: Martin Luther King Jr.

Schoolgirl_in_tanzania

"I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for the minds and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits."

—Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo: A schoolgirl in Tanzania. (Crista Friedli)

Successes During an Unproductive Congress

'US Capitol Building' photo (c) 2010, RJ Schmidt - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

The 112th Congress (Jan. 3, 2011 – Jan. 3, 2013) could very well be the most unproductive in our nation's history. It was characterized by deficit reduction drama and political brinkmanship – often aimed at cutting programs vital to hungry and poor people.

In the end, persistent advocacy by Bread for the World members, our partner organizations, and other people of faith resulted in reducing our deficit by more than $2 trillion over the next ten years. The White House and the 112th Congress managed to do this without substantial cuts to programs vital to those whom Jesus called "the least of these."

A Circle of Protection Was Created in 2011 in Response to Threats to Vital Programs

It became clear toward the end of 2010 that we were in for a bruising battle during the 112th Congress. Thus, we spent most of our time in 2011 and 2012 defending programs vital to hungry and poor people from unprecedented attacks in Congress. Although our 2011 Offering of Letters focused on reforming foreign aid, we quickly expanded it to protect domestic and international programs vital to vulnerable people.

We worked with other faith organizations to create a Circle of Protection around these programs and to amplify the voice of the faith community in the deficit reduction discussions.

The extent of the attacks became evident when Congress passed a bill covering the FY 2011 budget, which cut poverty-focused development assistance programs and WIC. The budget was eventually enacted (Pub. L. 112-10, the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011) with a few hours to spare before the government would have shut down in April 2011.

Deficit reduction negotiations continued as the country moved closer to reaching our credit limit, or debt ceiling, in August. Congress eventually passed the Budget Control Act of 2011 (Pub.L. 112-25). It established a super committee to deal with further deficit reductions. Should the committee fail, across-the-board cuts would be triggered. However, the cuts, or sequester, exempted the biggest anti-poverty programs — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), tax credits for the working poor, Medicaid, and child nutrition programs.

Deficit Reduction Plans in 2012 Propose Severe Cuts to Programs that Help Poor People

The super committee failed to reach an agreement and 2012 opened with Congress vowing to work toward deficit reduction and avoid the sequester.

Our 2012 Offering of Letters focused on expanding the circle of protection around such anti-poverty programs. By then, we also learned that in order to cope with these unprecedented attacks, we had to change the way we campaigned. Instead of focusing on a single issue, we worked on four different issues under a broad campaign theme.

In March, the Republican-led House passed its FY 2013 budget. Had this passed Congress, the proposed cuts would have been so severe that most of the government—aside from health care, Social Security, and defense—would cease to exist by 2050. In fact, 62 percent of the cuts in this budget are to programs vital to poor people.

Added to the mix during deficit reduction discussions was the reauthorization of the farm bill. Both the Senate and House proposed cuts, with the House version of the bill including $16.5 billion in cuts to SNAP over ten years—$12 billion more than the cuts proposed in the Senate version. As many as 3 million people would have been cut out of SNAP and 280,000 children would have lost school meals. Both bills would have reduced agriculture and nutrition spending over the next ten years.

A Few Signs of Hope in 2012

During the presidential elections of 2012 the Circle of Protection asked the Republican and Democratic candidates to issue video statements on how they would end hunger. In the fall, both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney released statements committing to addressing hunger and poverty. We were able to use these statements to draw attention to the issues.

It is worth noting that before the year ended, outgoing House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-Calif.) introduced his rewrite of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, the Global Partnership Act. Also, the House unanimously consented to approve the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012 to improve the efficiency of U.S. foreign aid. While these bills did not pass, we remain optimistic that similar bills will pass in the 113th Congress.

Congress and the President Avoided the Most Harmful Scenario at the Fiscal Cliff

All the issues that we persistently advocated for during the 112th Congress were dramatically resolved a few hours before we reached the fiscal cliff at the end of December 2012.

President Obama signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act to prevent the most economically harmful portions of the fiscal cliff from taking effect. The deal minimizes the negative impact of the fiscal cliff on hungry and poor people and generates about $620 billion towards deficit reduction over the next ten years.

The deal prevents most Americans from seeing an immediate tax rate increase and extends emergency unemployment insurance through 2013. It also extends the current Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) benefit levels for five years.

It postpones for two months the across-the-board cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Most provisions of the 2008 farm bill were extended through Sept. 30 2013, avoiding immediate cuts to SNAP benefit levels or changes in eligibility standards.

On the international side, the temporary extension of the 2008 farm bill authorizes funding for both the McGovern-Dole International Food Program, used for school feeding programs for poor children abroad, and the Food for Peace Program, which allows the United States to respond to disaster with needed food aid.

Ultimately, the American Taxpayer Relief Act raises revenues, helps reduce the deficit, and supports initiatives that lift people out of poverty.

Thank You for Your Advocacy and Prayers

Despite many challenges, 2012 ended on a positive note for us, with many important anti-poverty programs being protected from harmful and disproportionate cuts. Medicaid, SNAP, and WIC were not cut. Many tax credits that help people lift themselves out of poverty were extended. Most critically, the worst effects of the fiscal cliff were avoided.

And for all of this, we are thankful to you, our members, our activists, our donors, and our partners. As the 113th Congress begins its work we pray that it will be more productive than the 112th Congress in protecting programs vital to hungry and poor people, wherever they may be.

This article originally appeared in the Jan./Feb. edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.

Keeping You Informed: Bread's Monthly Grassroots Conference Calls

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From the soundproof room in our D.C. office, Bread experts update grassroots activists and answer questions. Pictured (l to r): LaVida Davis, director of organizing; Marion Jasin, organizing assistant; Eric Mitchell, director of government relations; Christine Melendez-Ashley, policy analyst. (Robin Stephenson)

By Robin Stephenson

"The fight is not over," said director of organizing LaVida Davis during the most recent Bread for the World national grassroots webinar and conference call. "The fiscal cliff is part of a longer conversation. [Members of Congress] still really need to hear from us.”

On the third Tuesday of each month, Davis and Bread's director of government relations, Eric Mitchell, along with other expert staff, gather around a phone to give you the most up-to-date information about our work and answer any questions you may have. The conference calls, which also have a webinar component, give our members direct access to our government relations staff.  These are the members of Bread's staff who spend many of their afternoons in the offices of your members of Congress and know the ins and outs of the policy behind each of our campaign priorities.

At Bread, we know that every advocate accesses information differently, so we offer a variety of ways in which our grassroots can stay informed. When Congress is in session, we publish written legislative updates on this blog, we send out monthly newsletters, and, of course, our regional organizers are always available to help you plan local actions and answer your questions. The conference calls are yet another tool the you, as an advocate, can use to prepare for action.

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Photo: Behind the scenes, Bread organizers Tammy Walholf and Sarah Rohrer answer questions in the webinar chat room. (Robin Stephenson)

During the most recent call, held on Tuesday, Jan. 15, one caller who identified herself as Joanne wanted to know how school lunches fared in the recent “fiscal cliff” bill passed by Congress on Jan. 1.  Ready to answer her question on the other side of the phone was Bread’s domestic nutrition policy expert, Christine Melendez-Ashley. She told Joanne that the school lunch program was not affected and that the sequester (or automatic cuts) scheduled for March 1 would not impact the nutrition program either, because it is one of the programs exempt from these across the board cuts.

Melendez-Ashley said that if the sequester is not averted it will affect discretionary programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA). Both of those programs are part of our 2012 Offering of Letters Campaign and are critically important to hungry and poor people. 

She emphasized during the call that funding for WIC and PFDA is especially vulnerable because they are categorized as discretionary, meaning Congress must appropriate funds to pay for the program each year.  Mandatory programs are not subject to  across the board cuts—the spending levels for these programs are determined each year by the number of eligible participants.

The August 2011 Budget Control Act put spending caps on discretionary programs over 10 years and Congress must decide which programs will see decreased funding as they work through the appropriations process each year.  The fiscal cliff bill further lowered those spending caps for the next two years as a way to delay the sequester. Sending Congress a message that these programs need a circle of protection is as critical now as it ever was.

Eric Mitchell cautioned that another perfect storm is brewing, and referred to the events coming down the pike as "March Madness." Between the debt ceiling (scheduled to hit between mid-February and March), the scheduled sequester (March 1), and the expiration of the 2013 continuing resolution (March 27), members of Congress have a lot of decisions to make in less than 60 days. 

Mitchell said it is a good time to thank our members of Congress who voted for the fiscal cliff bill— if the bill had not been enacted, poor and hungry people would've suffered dire consequences. The bill extended refundable tax credits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, for five years. Although the credits were not made permanent, this is a huge victory.

“Now through March 1 is critical," said Mitchell. “We urge you to also ask [members of Congress] not to politicize the debt ceiling debate.  We want them to take a thoughtful, balanced approach that protects poor and hungry people.”

To find out the next chapter of budget negotiations, ask tough questions of the experts, and hear  how you can influence your policy makers to protect vital programs, call in to our next grassroots webinar and conference call on Feb 19.  We will be waiting for you on the other side of the phone.

National grassroots conference calls and webinars are held on the third Tuesday of every month.  These calls will take place at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. EST (Please adjust time zones accordingly).  To register, visit www.bread.org/events

Quote of the Day: Jeremiah 22:3

"This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right."  Jeremiah 22:3 (NIV)

Photo:  Millions of older Americans struggle to put food on the table. (Photo © Lindsay Benson Garrett/Meals on Wheels)

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