Anti-Hunger Advocates: Get Ready for a Busy Year
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) listens as Bread for the World activist Jana Prescott speaks during Bread for the World Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Robin Stephenson
While the 113th Congress is new, many of the issues it will tackle are not. Funding for both domestic nutrition programs and refundable tax credits is still in jeopardy. Poverty-focused development assistance is also in danger, and any cuts made to PFDA would result in lives lost and an increase in hunger and poverty around the world.
Given the urgency surrounding congressional budget negotiations and the fact that the fate of programs that benefit hungry and poor people is uncertain, anti-hunger advocates need to be ready for a busy year. Here are three questions you should ask yourself in preparation for your 2013 advocacy efforts.
Do you have a new representative or senator in your region?
If so, introduce yourself to staff in the new member's local office, and also use the opportunity to introduce them to the issues in the 2013 Offering of Letters.
Relationships are key to successful advocacy and making contact with local staffers is important. They can help you connect with the D.C. legislative staff, and since they live in the member's district and work directly to address the concerns of constituents, they often have an understanding of how poverty and hunger are affecting a community. Local meetings also give our experts on Bread’s staff the opportunity to follow up with the legislator’s D.C. staff. Check out the Congressional Management Foundation list "Five Key Ways to Engage Freshman Legislators," and if you are able to set up a local office meeting, be sure to contact your regional organizer. Bread's organizers can provide you with talking points and handouts that you can use during your visit.
Check out this example, from the New Mexico Bread team, on finding your members in district.
Is your member on a relevant committee?At Bread, when critical decisions are being made we target those senators and/or representatives whose voices and votes in committee can impact what will eventually reach the floor for a vote. We may encourage more in-depth advocacy on a single issue in that member’s region. For a list of relevant committees, see this blog post.
Are you planning a hunger summit or site visit that your member of Congress could possibly attend?
Members of Congress typically spend three days a week in Washington, D.C., and travel home on the weekends. Members also have longer periods of time spent in their home states or districts (called recess), which are dictated by each chamber’s calendar. Recess is a great time to connect with your member of Congress, but it's important to plan ahead. If you want to request a meeting with your member, find out scheduled town hall dates, or invite your member to an event during one of those periods, do it well in advance.
As part of a local faith roundtable, our Oregon Bread team often partners on events that educate our community. Last year, the newly elected Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore., District 1) dropped by the annual Oregon Faith Roundtable Against Hunger breakfast in Portland and then wrote about it in a Facebook status update!
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
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