Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

45 posts from April 2013

Quote of the Day: Bernard Meltzer


“There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up.”

— Radio personality Bernard Meltzer













Heather Rude-Turner kisses her daughter Naomi after attending church. "God has been with me every step of the way," she said. "When I was really angry with Him He was still there." Heather credits the Earned Income Tax Credit with helping her stay out of poverty and get back on her feet (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

Voices of Hunger: How EITC Helped the Edwards Family

EITC_irs_photo_blogA couple of months ago Ayana Edwards' trusty Honda broke down—for good. She was distraught. Edwards commutes 60 miles round-trip each day, from her home in a suburb of Washington, D.C., to an office in a part of Virginia that is beyond the reach of public transportation. She immediately began to worry about the possibility of losing her job and her means of providing for herself and her family. Although it's never a good time for a car to die, luckily Edwards' vehicle troubles occurred right around the time she was to file her tax return. She is one of the 27 million Americans who receives the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refundable federal tax credit that helps working families.

“The EITC has been a huge help," Edwards says. "It really saved me."

Edwards once utilized several federal safety net programs, but over the years she has increased her earnings, through training and a series of progressively better-paying jobs. She is currently working in human resources and no longer qualifies for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or SNAP (formerly food stamps). If she continues on her current career trajectory, soon she’ll no longer qualify for EITC, either. But, as it is now, the tax credit provides her and her four children with a very important hand-up.

"It’s practical and allows me to get money in one lump sum—money that I can use to catch up on bills, or make a major purchase, if I need to," she says. "I can get things like coats for the kids, if they’ve outgrown something. I have a larger family, so I’m not always able to replace all of the winter coats that no longer fit all at once. When I get my tax refund, which includes the EITC, that’s something I can do.”

This year, Edwards used her EITC money to buy a used car. She didn't have to scramble to figure out transportation, and she didn't lose her job. That lump sum arrived exactly when she needed it, giving her peace of mind, and preventing a blow from which it might've taken a very long time to recover. Without a working car, how would she get to work? Without a job, how would she pay her rent or feed her family? She thinks that those who diminish the importance of the credit, and think it should be reduced or eliminated altogether, just don't understand it's role in helping millions of families secure food, clothing, and shelter.

“The only people who could say something against [EITC] are those who aren't in a position to need it, or don't care about those of us who really do need it," Edwards says.

Your Tax Dollars Fight Hunger

Rosie often has to fight hunger pangs to concentrate in school. Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures.

As you prepare your taxes, take some time to reflect on where your dollars are going. Many of those dollars go to pay for the infrastructure that holds us together as a nation. Very few go toward helping people in dire need. But those few dollars may hold the most value. Imagine what one dollar’s worth of food means to a senior citizen with an empty cupboard. Think of what a healthy breakfast means to a fifth-grader who would otherwise have to learn arithmetic on an empty stomach.  

“I struggle a lot and most of the time it’s because my stomach is really hurting,” said Rosie, an elementary school student in Colorado, describing what it is like to try to learn when she is hungry. “I start yawning and then I zone out and I’m just looking at the teacher and I look at her and all I think about is food.”

Rosie is one of the individuals profiled in the new documentary A Place at the Table. As the film makes clear, the best efforts by congregation and community groups to alleviate hunger are inadequate. Food banks fill a gap, but federal programs provide 95 percent of the food assistance in this country. Tax dollars go directly to programs that help families like Rosie’s. The effect in the lives of people living in poverty is beyond mere calculation.

Our faith calls us to alleviate hunger and poverty and the Bible tells us that government has an important role in making sure that all people are fed, clothed, and sheltered. Thus, the federal budget is a moral document that reflects our national values. Our taxes are a necessary part of that equation, ensuring that the government can fund its priorities.

Continue reading "Your Tax Dollars Fight Hunger" »

Procrastinating on Taxes?

'Form 1040' photo (c) 2012, Philip Taylor - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

By Eric Mitchell

It's April 15. Have you finished your taxes? Even if you find yourself sprinting to the post office today, know that there's a group of people who are even bigger procrastinators when it comes to dealing with taxes: members of Congress.

For two years, Congress has been putting off the budget compromises necessary for a deficit-reduction deal. That procrastination ensures sequestration will continue, causing painful cuts to programs serving the most vulnerable among us.

Call-congress web_smallPlease call your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today at 1-800-826-3688. Tell them to stop procrastinating and include taxes as part of a big budget deal.

Low-income pregnant women are at risk of losing access to prenatal care, and infants and children could lose vital nutrition if the cuts continue. Right now there are lotteries taking place in this country to determine which children will get to attend Head Start and which children will be shut out of the program. Some of the poorest families around the world are at risk of losing life-saving food aid. We need a different path to deficit reduction.

Please don’t put off this call! You can make a difference and it will take only a few minutes:

  1. Call 1-800-826-3688.
  2. Ask for your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative.
  3. Say: "I'm [your name] from [your town], and I urge you to stop procrastinating and include taxes as part of a big budget deal. Please enact a deficit-reduction deal that replaces sequestration, raises sufficient revenues, and addresses entitlement spending."
  4. You can add to your message by discussing the harmful effects of sequestration. To learn more, see Bread's fact sheet on sequestration.
  5. Thank the office.

Thank you for being a powerful voice for hungry people.

Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.

Worship, Learning, and Lobbying at Ecumenical Advocacy Days

Rev. Gary Cook, director of Church Relations at Bread for the World, holds up "A Place at the Table," the 2013 Offering of Letters handbook during aconversation with Barbie Izquierdo, who is featured in the documentary film of the same name. Photo taken at Ecumenical Advocacy Days, held April 5-8 in Washington, D.C. (Robin Stephenson)

By Robin Stephenson

More than 700 people gathered in Washington, D.C., last weekend for Ecumenical Advocacy Days, and Bread for the World staff and members were counted among them. This year’s gathering, held April 5-8, began with three days of worship and workshops on the theme "God’s Table: Food Justice for a Healthy World." The conference, of which Bread for the World is a sponsor, culminated in a Capitol Hill lobby day, during which participants told their members of Congress that a faithful farm bill will alleviate hunger and malnutrition, support farms and communities, and protect God’s creation.

With the agricultural and nutrition challenges we face today, food and farm policies that end hunger are something we must get right. Bread for the World Institute dedicated last year’s Hunger Report (PDF) to the concept of the farm bill as a legislative vehicle that can help meet those challenges as we work to address root causes of hunger. With this year’s Offering of Letters calling for a place at the table for all of God’s children, Bread for the World is closely following farm bill negotiations and calling for robust funding for both food aid and SNAP (formerly food stamps) as programs that can end hunger.

Staff members from Bread for the World—from across our government relations, church relations, and organizing departments—and Bread Institute presented in several workshops during Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Issues workshops Bread staff participated in included "Harvesting a Healthy Farm Bill: What’s at Stake?," "Food Insecurity 101:  Hunger in America," "Immigration in the Food System," "1,000 Days: The Foundation for Life," and "The Most Important Policy Conversation This Year: TAXES."  Bread staff also led skills workshops on social media and advocacy and conducting an Offering of Letters.

Bread for the World’s Women of Faith for 1,000 Days Movement hosted an opening night reception with Bread president David Beckmann giving an address on the importance of nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window, from a woman's pregnancy through her child's second birthday. 

One event highlight was an evening conversation with Barbie Izquierdo, whose story illustrates the importance of domestic nutrition programs. She is featured in the documentary film A Place at the Table, and also in Bread’s 2013 Offering of Letters.

Next up is Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, "A Place at the Table," which will be held June 8-11 in Washington, D.C. The event will offer many informative workshops, as well as the opportunity to hear speakers like Rev. Dr. James Forbes and Rev. Luis Cortes, among others. The National Gathering also includes the premiere of a new arrangement of the musical Lazarus.  Take advantage of early-bird registration, and join us in June.

Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.

Quote of the Day: Derick Dailey

“The reality is that in order to break free from the bondage [of poverty] in this country and the world, we need elected officials to make good on their words and put 'love thy neighbor' at the center of our legislative agenda.”

—Derick Dailey, in a video from Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, "A Place at the Table."

Photo: Derick Dailey is a first-year student at Yale Divinity School whose late grandmother influenced his drive to help poor and hungry people. Dailey, 23, is a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and also serves on Bread for the World's board. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Budgets 101: The FY2014 Process

'US Capitol' photo (c) 2007, Navin75 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

By Robin Stephenson 

The fiscal year 2014 budget resolutions from both the House and Senate budget committees are now public record. Yesterday, President Obama introduced his budget proposal. These three budgets may seem confusing because they make very different choices on spending, cuts, and taxes. We will explain what it all means, what’s next, and why hunger advocates should care.

It’s important for advocates who care about hunger issues to understand budgets because they set the foundation for policy that either addresses or ignores hunger and poverty. Combined with spending caps and the automatic cuts created through sequestration as part of the Budget Control Act, the FY2014 budget will be an important legislative vehicle to watch. Faithful advocates must demand a balanced approach with love of neighbor at its center. Budgets are moral documents that reflect our national priorities.

The House budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), is bad news for poor and vulnerable populations.  If enacted, it would dramatically increase poverty. By balancing the budget in 10 years without raising revenue, the proposal from Ryan, who is House Budget Committee chairman, prioritizes defense spending and decimates programs that alleviate hunger (such as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which would force millions back into poverty. While defense spending receives $550 billion more than under sequestration, non-defense discretionary spending is cut $700 billion below sequestration levels, forcing cuts to programs including poverty -focused development assistance and the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)—both of which save lives and provide stepping stones out of poverty.

It is currently unlikely that we’ll see such draconian cuts become reality through this budget process. The Senate’s resolution, by contrast, reflects a more balanced approach and, unlike the House version, replaces sequestration, the automatic cuts currently in effect (see a side-by-side comparison of the two budget proposals).

Continue reading "Budgets 101: The FY2014 Process" »

Quote of the Day: Isaiah 49:10

“They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them.
He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.”

— Isaiah 49:10


Photo: A young woman in Lusaka, Zambia carries water from the well to her house. Since the well was installed near the village, the walk to get water is only 10 minutes each way. (Margaret W. Nea)

Advocacy Is About Relationships

Two men chatting at Bread for the World’s 2011 National Gathering. (Alisa Booze Troetschel)

By Mary Getz

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to spend a month in Honduras on a service-learning trip. We worked on a variety of projects and spent time talking to those alongside whom we worked. We learned about culture, agriculture, and the economy.

One afternoon after our group had finished putting in a concrete floor to a community building and we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves, we heard chuckling from some of the men with whom we had been working. We could tell that we were the source of their amusement. When we asked to be let in on the joke, the answer turned our perspective on the day upside down.

The men explained that while we did a fine job on the floor, they were capable of doing it more quickly without us. They said that the important work that day was the friendship we built and the details we learned about each other’s lives.

The men told us, “You have something that we don’t have. You have a voice. You can go back to the United States and tell our story.

"Tell about what it means to be a small farmer here. Tell about what you’ve learned about how trade in your country affects people in our country. Tell our story.”

Our friends’ call to us that day mirrored Proverbs call to action:

Speak out for those who cannot speak,
for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

We are called to advocacy—to work for justice—to speak out for those that cannot. 

Advocacy is about building relationships to achieve goals. We tend to focus upward towards our elected officials when we think of advocacy. But that focus can obscure the important relationships that are at the heart of our advocacy—people who are hungry or living in poverty. Our most authentic advocacy is done when we are in relationship with those that we are assisting.

In Matthew we read,

for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me.  (Matthew 25: 35-36)

By meeting Christ in those around us, especially those who are in any kind of need—and by being in relationships with them—we can learn their stories and share those stories with people in power.

We can speak up for those who cannot.

Mary Getz is the grassroots and online communications officer for the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations. She manages the Episcopal Public Policy Network, a grassroots network of Episcopalians committed to the active ministry of public policy advocacy.

[This piece originally appeared in the April edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.]

Justice Is Not Just Extra Credit for Poet Micah Bournes

MicahBournes_038_resizeBy Sarah Miller

While attending the Justice Conference in Philadelphia several weeks ago, I had the honor of sitting down with spoken word artist and creative writer Micah Bournes.

Micah was a featured artist at the event, which is one of the largest international biblical and social justice conferences in the world. For those unfamiliar with spoken word, Micah describes it as poetry that is "written to be performed rather than read on a page.”

Much of the Long Beach, Calif., artist's work focuses on social justice, either directly or indirectly. Micah says he didn’t set out to be an advocate for justice or to necessarily inspire others to be justice-minded—a lot of his writing has been “accidentally justice-focused,” he says. “It’s just really paying attention and listening to people.”

Micah was first exposed to spoken word during the summer before his junior year of college. A friend invited him to an open mic in L.A. and he decided to participate. He had no idea how much that night, and the unique form of expression, would impact his life.

At the open mic Micah saw a bunch of people “spilling their hearts, and it was amazing to [me] that people would be so vulnerable with a group of strangers and yet it didn’t feel awkward—I saw people talking about their deepest spiritual wounds.” He recognized that “here is an art form… or platform, where people are already being open and inviting spiritual conversations.” He saw it as an opportunity to take what many saw as a time to reflect on sorrow in their lives and use it instead to “speak some hope and some truth and some life into [it]."

I first heard Micah’s testimony on YouTube; he talked about his modest upbringing and the important role faith played in his life from an early age. “My mom had a very simple plan for teaching us the truth of God and that was, ‘Read the Bible, just read it.’” Micah’s immersion in the Word has greatly influenced his faith and his work. 

“[Jesus] was a brilliant poet," Micah says. "He used art to communicate truth… When Jesus is revealing himself, he could have just said, ‘I am the second person in the Trinity; God in the flesh’. No, he said, ‘I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Door. I am the Light’. These are metaphors. He was using poetic language to reveal who he was to us. I see that in scripture. That influences me.”

Continue reading "Justice Is Not Just Extra Credit for Poet Micah Bournes" »

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