Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

48 posts from February 2013

Ending Poverty and Realizing the Dream

By Marsha Casey

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mlk_wiki_commonsBlack History Month honors those who have paved the way for the victories and successes of African-Americans, ensuring each generation has a brighter future than the last. What started, thanks to historian Carter G. Woodson, in 1926 as a weeklong observance is now a month that celebrates of the accomplishments of African-Americans. I often wonder where our country would be today had it not been for the tireless efforts of Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and the countless others whose names never made it into the history books.  

Though we’ve come a long way with respect to equality among all Americans, poverty is still an injustice that many face. During his second inaugural address on Jan. 21, President Barack Obama said, “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal—not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”

This statement's power was only heightened by the fact that it was delivered by the first African-American president on a day observing the birth of a man who stood for civil rights, justice, and equality—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

In order to see Dr. King’s dream realized, and show respect to those African-Americans who have sacrificed and advocated so that all people could have the rights they are entitled to, it is imperative that we work to put an end to poverty. As Black History month comes to a close, let's redouble our efforts to achieve Dr. King's vision of a "beloved community," in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. We must continue urging our lawmakers to set a goal to end hunger and reduce the federal deficit responsibly, so as not to further burden those who didn’t create it.

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

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.

Lenten Reflections: Learning from Mistakes

'Candle lights' photo (c) 2007, echiner1 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013

Judges 16:1-22
Mark 4:21-34
Philippians 1:27-2:2

By Shanna Wood

In the Judges passage, we find the familiar story of Samson and Delilah, the story of the downfall of a man because of his refusal to learn from his mistakes.

Samson, already at odds with the Philistines after the loss of his wife, falls in love with a woman named Delilah. The lords of the Philistines ask Delilah to find out the secret to his strength for a large sum of money and she sets out to do so. Delilah asks Samson his weakness, he tells her, she binds him up in the manner in which he described and tells the Philistines to come after him. Since Samson lied, he manages to get away unscathed. The part of the story that is difficult to understand is why he stays with Delilah. She asks him the secret to his strength three more times, with a repeat of the same sequence of events until the fourth time, when he has finally conceded the truth. At what point should Samson have learned his lesson and decided Delilah may not have been the woman for him? I would say after the first time, but isn’t it human nature to act obtusely and refuse to learn from our mistakes?

In Mark we find three parables. The first is about revealing that which is hidden and the second two about the kingdom of God. These three parables are followed by a short passage stating that Jesus only spoke to the people in parables, but explained the parables when he was alone with the disciples. Jesus knew the parables were difficult to understand and yet he saved the explanation for his closest followers. Are you part of the people, just interested in the story? Or do you desire a deeper understanding of the truth that is only available for Jesus’ closest followers?

The Philippians passage is part of a letter from Paul and Timothy to the church in Philippi. They advise the church to conduct themselves in a manner that is worthy of the gospel, standing firm together in faith and against those who oppose them. They point out that the struggles the church in Philippi is facing are the same that they have faced. Since all believers face similar struggles, sticking together in support and love can help to keep us all on track.

Prayer: God, help us to be wise and learn from our mistakes. Exhort us to grow closer to Jesus to understand the difficult teachings. Guide our path and give us the strength to stand firm in our faith together.

Shanna Wood is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission,  from NYAPC's 2013 Lenten Meditations booklet.

VIDEO: "A Place at the Table" Directors on "The Daily Show"

Jon Stewart isn't a man who is easily shocked, but on last night's episode of The Daily Show, the host seemed stunned to learn that 17 million children in American go to bed hungry each night.

Stewart talked about hunger with guests Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson, the directors of A Place at the Table, which opens on March 1. Silverbush and Jacobson talked about their documentary, dispelled common myths surrounding food assistance in America, and spread the word that hunger in this country can be eradicated.

"This is really solveable," said Silverbush. "This is one of those issues of our time that we can fix, we know how."

The directors also urged the public to get involved in the fight to end hunger, and to engage their members of Congress through the film's social action campaign, which is cosponsored by Bread for the World.

"We've been talking to legislators about this for two years and they're saying 'Our phones aren't ringing, we're not getting texts, we're not tweets on this, once we do, we're gonna start to change how we vote,'" said Silverbush.

Check out the interview above.

Hunger at Home

APATT Barbie Screen Shot
Movie still of Barbie Izquierdo and her son from A Place at the Table, courtesy Participant Media

Friday, March 1, will be a key date for hunger advocates.
It is the day that the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester are scheduled to take effect. If the sequester goes forward, WIC, international food aid, and many other programs vital to hungry and poor people will be slashed.
Friday also marks the launch of A Place at the Table: Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, a campaign to convince our nation's leaders to end hunger in our time.
Finally, March 1 is the release date for the documentary A Place at the Table, which puts a human face on hunger and poverty in America. Barbie Izquierdo is one of three people profiled in the film—she and her family have suffered from food insecurity, and she is now a hunger advocate. Read her story below.


Barbie Izquierdo is a young mother who has found the task of feeding her children challenging. Having lost her job during the recession, she was often unable to buy enough food for her daughter, son, and herself. Looking back on the hardest days, Barbie recalls thinking, I literally have nothing left. What do I give them? Some days, Barbie skipped meals to make sure that her children ate.

“I feel like America has this huge stigma of how families are supposed to eat together at a table,” Barbie says, “but they don’t talk about what it takes to get you there or what’s there when you’re actually at the table.”

In fact, the tables of young families are most often the ones standing bare. Households with children are twice as likely to experience food insecurity, meaning that the family does not know how to find its next meal. That’s nearly 17 million children in the United States.

Having gone hungry many days as a child, Barbie was determined that her children would not be caught in the hunger and poverty cycle. 

As the valedictorian of her high school, Barbie dreamed of going to college and earning a degree in criminal justice so that she could earn a decent salary. But first she had to figure out how to keep her children fed. The seemingly simple act of providing food was a stressful struggle—jobs are hard to find in her North Philadelphia neighborhood.

Eventually, Barbie qualified for benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), which provided some relief. But finding healthy and affordable food on a slim budget is its own challenge for those who live in poor neighborhoods. Barbie had to take two buses and travel an hour to reach a decent grocery store. The food she was able to buy with her SNAP benefits usually lasted only three weeks.

“It gets tiring,” says Barbie.


After you see A Place at the Table with your family and friends, use Bread for the World's discussion guide for the film, "No Place at the Table," to help drive the conversation.

Lenten Reflections: On-the-Job Training

'Golden Clouds' photo (c) 2007, Esparta Palma - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Wednesday, Feb. 27

Judges 14:20 – 15:20
Mark 4:1-20
Philippians 1:19b-26

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  (Philippians 1:21)

By Jenean McKay

I am stunned by Paul’s faith in God’s love. Paul was living in joy with no fear of death even though he endured beatings, shipwrecks, and jail. As I’ve ruminated about his life, I have come to some conclusions. It took some time for Paul to get to this stage.  After being called by God and blinded, he was taken “under the wing” for several years by a man known as a dedicated teacher.  Surely there were others to support him. Then there was his missionary travel with its many adventures, also good learning tools.  

Where am I going with this? I believe we are all on a journey of learning and experience that brings us to different faith places. It is important to remember that wherever we are in our journey, God loves us and wants us to live in joy and without fear.  So I say, "We are all rookies here."  We are all valued and loved, and have something to contribute to help each other learn and grow. No matter our backgrounds, age, and situations. It also means that things take time, so we have to be patient with ourselves as well as others on our journey. And, we must not compare ourselves to others or put ourselves down because we don’t see ourselves as accomplished as others. That is not the point. Paul would have a fit if he thought we were demeaning ourselves because we weren’t shipwrecked, beaten up, or didn’t know Greek! 

So let us say to each other as Paul did:  "I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith...."

Prayer:  Thank you Lord for being with us always, no matter where we are or what is going on in our lives.  Give us the courage to accept your love and share it with others as our on-the-job training continues.  Amen

Jenean McKay is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission,  from NYAPC's 2013 Lenten Meditations booklet.

Fighting Hunger and Poverty Disparities


Elementary school children in southeast Washington, D.C., enjoy their lunch. (Eugene Mebane, Jr.)

By Nina Keehan

Black History Month is a time to celebrate progress and achievement, but it also provides an opportunity to acknowledge that African-Americans continue to suffer disproportionately from hunger and poverty.

The statistics are sobering. Bread’s newest fact sheet, “Hunger and Poverty Among African-American Children,” released today, puts the food insecurity rate of African-American children at about 30 percent, compared to roughly 20 percent for all U.S. households with children. Poverty figures are even worse, with 38.8 percent of African-American children under 18 and 42.7 percent of children under 5 living below the poverty line.

In some states, African-Americans make up only a small percentage of the population, but still have the highest rates of poverty. Take Iowa: although less than 3 percent of the state’s population is black, more than half of those children are living in poverty. That, compared with a poverty rate of 17.3 percent for all children in Iowa, signals a huge disparity.

The problem also exists in states that have large African-American populations. In Mississippi, African-Americans are 37 percent of the population, and the child poverty rate for that group is nearly 50 percent, compared with 31.8 percent for all children in the state.  

We must continue to work to help those suffering from hunger and poverty by being aware of these facts and fighting for programs that help reduce the disparities. Federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and WIC have prevented millions of African-American families from falling into poverty. Join Bread for the World in asking the president to set a goal to end hunger. Take part in our Offering of Letters campaign, which urges Congress to protect the programs that help hungry and poor people. Make these actions a part of your Black History Month observance, and continue to fight these disparities every month of the year.  

Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.

Lenten Reflections: Welcome the Children

12 mother and daughter in dcBy Rev. Mary Jacobs

"Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." (Matthew 18:5)

From the moment I knew that I was pregnant, I adopted new habits to protect and nourish the new life within. I started eating breakfast in the mornings. Caffeine disappeared from my diet. Fruits and vegetables replaced chocolate chip cookies and candy bars. I prepared my body to be a welcoming space, so that our unborn child could receive nourishing care.

Each Sunday as I stood at Christ’s table and broke the bread and lifted the cup as pastor, I imagined how the gifts of communion transformed into grace surging through my blood to the growing child. My faith created a spiritually hospitable space where God’s love flourished.  

Hospitality of the Jesus kind speaks of creating room for the little ones whether we are the expectant parents or not. To welcome the children in our midst creates receptivity for welcoming the anointed One of God. His penchant for such radical God hospitality brought him into relationship with those who were vulnerable and voiceless, needful of care and protection.  If we are to welcome him, we must find a way to offer such nourishing generosity to the little ones. 

His welcome of the little ones, young or differently aged, put him at odds with the powers of his day. Such an embrace situated him on the road to Jerusalem and finally to a lonely hill on a brutal Friday. 

40-for-1000_logo_blogJesus beckons us to follow him into places of power to create a gracious welcome for the children.  Such hospitality calls for hearts of courage to cultivate life nurturing habits and for voices to speak for those who are vulnerable.  To welcome the child is to assure that the pregnant mother can nourish the new life within her and parents can find the resources necessary to feed the developing body and mind of the newborn and toddler.  To do this, we welcome the Christ. 

Christ, you come inviting the little ones into your arms.  How grateful we are that each child is precious to you.  Teach us your kind of hospitality that we may make this world hospitable for them.  Lead us in the way of generosity that we may offer nourishment for developing minds, growing bodies and tender spirits.  Create within us such a steadfast welcome for the children that we open wide our hearts to you.  Amen.

Take time today to communicate with members of Congress on behalf of expectant mothers, and advocate for policies that assure young children will receive adequate nutrition and care for healthy development. 

Rev. Mary Jacobs is the International Disciples Women’s Ministries President, Transitional Interim Regional Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Northern California and Nevada, and the proud mother of two amazing daughters.

Photo: A mother and daughter enjoy a block party in D.C. (Crista Friedli/Bread for the World)

Pastoral Advice for Our Nation's Political Leaders

By Rev. Gary Cook

It may sound a little silly to write a “pastoral” letter to the president and congressional leaders.  Politicians, after all, usually respond to power and money, not the advice of clerics. But right now, as the sequester looms and it is obvious that the political process is stuck— if not broken—it may be time for a little pastoral counseling.

Today nearly 100 Christian leaders from across the wide spectrum of the church spoke with one voice to our nation’s leaders. National leaders of Catholic, protestant, Orthodox, Pentecostal, and evangelical churches—leaders representing broad racial and ethnic diversity—offered encouragement and wise counsel in the form of a joint letter. We thanked them for their efforts and told them that we're praying for them. We urged them to skip the brinksmanship and compromise on spending cuts and revenues. We asked them to remember that the Bible tells us that the government has responsibilities concerning poor people. We told them to be clear about the moral choices they are making. 

Our leaders would be wise to listen to such advice.  But it is the paragraph that begins with “Finally” that is most exciting to me:

Finally, we ask both parties to work together toward ending hunger and poverty. The Circle of Protection continues to be committed to protecting vital programs for people in or near poverty in our country and around the world, but that is not enough. Help us reduce hunger and poverty by expanding opportunity and justice, promoting economic growth and good paying jobs, stabilizing family life, and protecting the well-being of children. We celebrate the progress the world is making against hunger, poverty, and disease, and we are encouraged by the possibility of ending extreme hunger and poverty globally. Dramatic progress against hunger and poverty in our richly blessed country is also possible. Please, protect the poor and help create the opportunities that make them poor no more.

After two years of being in the defensive “please don’t cut” mode, Christian leaders are asking Congress and the president to look beyond their current squabbles toward a goal of actually ending hunger and poverty. That’s good pastoral advice.

Rev. Gary Cook is director of church relations at Bread for the World.

Read the Circle of Protection letter here or below. Pastors, please click here to add your name to the letter.


Go to the Movies: See "A Place at the Table"

By Rev. David Beckmann

APATT movie poster_blog_resizeThe national discussion around hunger is changing — and your work is driving that change!

More than 6,800 of you have signed our petition asking the president to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger. During his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined his proposals to help people climb out of poverty. But the March 1 sequester threatens WIC and poverty-focused development assistance, which are not exempt from deep automatic cuts.

These events make the presidential petition more important. Thank you so much for your support. We still have much to do, but the next step is easy: go see a movie.

This Friday, March 1, the documentary A Place at the Table will open in theaters nationwide. The film, from the producers of An Inconvenient Truth and Food, Inc., focuses on hunger in America.

A Place at the Table shows that we defeated hunger in the past and that we can do it again.

Please see the film—and invite your friends, co-workers, classmates, and family members to watch it with you. Click here to find a theater near you. A Place at the Table will also be available through iTunes and on-demand on March 1.

Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters is also called "A Place at the Table" and launches on March 1. Together, the film and our Offering of Letters campaign will magnify our focus on ending hunger through changes in public policy.

Watch the movie, discuss it, and spread the word about the importance of ending hunger and poverty. A hunger-free world is within reach. God is at work in our midst, preparing an abundant table where all are welcome. With your voice we will convince our nation’s leaders to ensure all people a place at the table.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Lenten Reflections: The 1,000-Day Window of Opportunity

7 neelam and shuvam

Neelum Chand carries her son, Shuvam, 1, through the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home (NRH) in Dhangadhi, Nepal. The NRH, a project of the Rural Women's Development and Unity Center, a Nepali NGO, works to restore malnourished children to health. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Lisa Bos

Many people have a Lenten tradition of giving up something for the 40 days of Lent as a way to show penance. Often, it is a vice or a luxury—something that helps a person make a sacrifice, but may also have the added benefit of a few lost pounds or a little extra money in a bank account.  Among my friends, common trends are giving up a food or drink: getting rid of that daily Starbucks coffee, forgoing dinners out, or committing to not eating any sweets.

40-for-1000_logo_blogIt’s easy to forget how much these things are luxuries, both for those living in poverty in the United States and around the world.  That Starbucks coffee? Most people in the developing world live on less than the cost of that one coffee every day. Millions of children have never had a birthday cake or a candy bar. Hunger is a part of the daily life and struggle of nearly a billion people around the world.

I don’t say this to make anyone feel guilty, nor to make the problem of hunger seem so bad that it is insurmountable. It isn’t. Progress is being made in ensuring that children and mothers in particular have better access to healthy, nutritious food. The long-term impact of this is almost immeasurable. Children who do not get proper nutrition during the 1,000 days from pregnancy through their second birthday are at risk of having underdeveloped minds and bodies, which impacts their ability to learn, get a job, and provide for their families in the future. Undernutrition contributes to 2.6 million deaths of children under five each year.

We can make a tremendous impact on ending the cycle of hunger and poverty during the first 1,000 days of a child's life. Congress, in particular, must recognize the important role of nutrition in a safeguarding a child’s health and well-being and fund nutrition programs at a level that will reach those who are in need.  In order to make this happen, we all need to raise our voices to our legislators.

So, in addition to making a Lenten sacrifice, how about sacrificing a few minutes of your time to call or email your senators and representative and tell them to protect funding for nutrition programs both at home and abroad? We need your help to make this an issue that Congress can’t ignore. The fight against hunger and undernutrition is one that is too important to lose.

Lisa Bos is the Policy Advisor for Health, Education and WASH at World Vision US.

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