Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

42 posts from May 2013

Hunger in the News: Farm Bill, SNAP, Global Nutrition

"Senate votes to make small cut to food stamps in farm bill," Associated Press. Last night, the Senate voted to keep a $400 million annual cut to the SNAP (formerly food stamps) program as part of a major five-year farm bill. The chamber rejected an effort by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) to expand the cuts and an amendment by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to eliminate them.

"Revoking Food Stamps for Millions of Americans Endangers Our Classrooms, Our Future," by Gerald S.J. Cassidy, Roll Call (op-ed)."The mere mention of food stamps on Capitol Hill conjures up long held political stereotypes of Republicans reaching for the budget ax while Democrats reach out their hands, both a gross mischaracterization and oversimplification of a complex problem."

"A crucial moment for global nutrition," by Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), The Hill (op-ed). "The moment for turning the corner on global nutrition is here, and it is time for our elected leaders to demonstrate anew how American leadership is the driving force for building a healthier, safer and more prosperous world." 

"Food stamp cuts feared by veterans," by Michael McAuliff, Huffington Post. SNAP "has been—and still is—vital to people who served their country. For Iraq veteran Don Martinez, 33, food stamps kept his children fed while he struggled with getting recognition for the traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress he suffered after close encounters with several rocket and mortar attacks and a humvee rollover."

Looking for a Meaningful, Exciting Experience This Summer?

Rebekah Richey of Altamonte Springs, Fla., and Jenny Millkey of Palmetto, Ga., laugh during the opening plenary session of Bread for the World's 2011 Gathering. (Rick Reinhard)

By Dr. Alice Walker Duff

Please join us for Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering and have a meaningful and exciting experience. It’s not too late, and you can still receive a special discounted rate if you register by May 31.

This year’s National Gathering, themed “A Place at the Table,” offers the opportunity to worship, learn, take action — and have some fun, too. You’ll attend informative workshops, see the inspirational musical Lazarus, and hear from world-renowned preachers, international development and nutrition experts, and high-ranking government officials and members of Congress.

On June 10, Bread for the World Institute will convene its International Meeting, which will renew the 1,000 Days Call to Action to increase the political will to improve maternal and child nutrition. Raj Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Joe Costello, minister of state at the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with responsibility for Trade and Development, will give both give keynote speeches at the meeting.

Kristi Jacobson, one of the directors of A Place at the Table, will participate in a special June 9 session about the documentary, along with three of the people featured in the film—Pastor Bob and Michaelene Wilson of Plateau Valley Assembly of God Church in Colbran, Colo., and Barbie Izquierdo, a hunger activist from Philadelphia, PA.

The renowned Rev. James Forbes, named as one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world by Newsweek, and Rev. Luis Cortés, Jr., president and CEO of Esperanza, will lead us in powerful praise and prayer.

This dynamic event comes at a crucial time for our advocacy. On June 11, we’ll take our message of ending hunger to Congress during Lobby Day.

Don’t miss this. Join us in setting a place at God’s abundant table for everyone.

Dr. Alice Walker Duff is Bread for the World's managing director.


Register online by May 31 for the special discounted rate of only $210 ($175 for students) at www.bread.org/gathering.

Woodridge United Methodist Church Holds Successful Offering of Letters

Letters written by members of Woodridge United Methodist Church during its Offering of Letters last month. (All photos by Christine Darfler)

By Kacie Greer

I recently attended a 10:30 a.m. church service at Woodridge United Methodist Church, in Woodridge, Ill., during which Pastor Dave Buerstetta led an Offering of Letters. This was actually my first time participating in an Offering of Letters. It was very moving, and the way the congregation approached the program was inspiring.

WoodridgeUMC13FINI walked into the church and was immediately greeted by members saying, "You came on the right day, we are doing something very special during service today." In front of me was a table full of letters written by members who had attended the 9:30 a.m. service. These letters were written by adults and children. When seeing letters written by children, I know that a story is being told-nothing beats seeing the truth through a child's eyes.

The service began and was led by a young boy, while the projector in the front of the sanctuary showed an image of Rosie, a young girl featured in A Place at the Table, smiling at the congregation. After a few worship songs, Pastor Buerstetta introduced Bread for the World and the Offering of Letters. A short clip of Rosie, taken from the film, then played. The congregation learned a bit about Rosie's life in rural Colorado, and how going to school hungry impacted her ability to focus on her school work. Some of the most powerful words came when Rosie described the hunger she experiences during school hours. She says sometimes all she can picture is food as her stomach growls. She sees images of bananas and other fruits while trying to concentrate on the school work.

Pastor Buerstetta began to address the congregation on the proper way to write to Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) about food aid reform. He talked about how the president's proposal allows the United States greater flexibility to respond to hunger needs around the world while also better supporting long-term development efforts in food security and agriculture. He addressed the issue of funding for proper nutrition as well, which is one of the main inequalities that Rosie faces. Overall, the congregation was very passionate about the Offering of Letters program and about working to end hunger both at home and abroad.

Kacie Greer is a Bread for the World central hub organizing intern based in Chicago, Ill.

Act Now: Senate Voting on a Farm Bill

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

By David Beckmann

The Senate will vote on a farm bill this week. SNAP (formerly called food stamps) and international food aid programs are once again on the chopping block.

Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a farm bill that takes some necessary steps towards food aid reform. Unfortunately, it also included a $4.1 billion cut to SNAP over the next ten years. If these cuts go into effect, at least 400,000 SNAP households will lose about $90 a month in benefits.

There's still time to act! your U.S. senators need to hear from you. Call them today at 1-800-326-4941 and urge them to take the following actions:

  • Support Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to restore cuts to SNAP.
  • Vote against any amendments that cut SNAP. This vital program keeps food on the table for millions of families even as poverty, unemployment, and underemployment remain high.
  • Support efforts to make international food aid more efficient and targeted to the nutritional needs of women and children in the thousand-day window from pregnancy to age 2.

Cuts to SNAP and food aid will leave no place at the table for millions of our brothers and sisters. Don’t delay. Call your U.S. senators at 1-800-326-4941 today!

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Early Mornings and Necessary Action

Photo: A screening of A Place at the Table.  (Amanda Lucidon for Bread for the World)

By Anneke Essenburg

On April 5, I woke up at 5 a.m., and by 6 a.m., I was on the road with four other Calvin College students and two leaders of the Christian Reformed Church’s Social Justice Office, headed to Washington, D.C. Twelve hours, two stops, and many Twizzlers later, we arrived!

We went south for the weekend to attend the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference. This year, the focus was on food justice, a topic that our student organization, the Social Justice Coalition, is really passionate about. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we learned about all aspects of food justice and the farm bill, and then on Monday we lobbied on Capitol Hill.

At the conference we learned about the movie A Place at the Table, and one of the women featured in the film, Barbie Izquierdo, was there to share her story. Midway through our journey home, we began discussing how we could share what we learned with the Calvin community, in order to widen the advocacy base.

So, on Thursday, May 2, we held a screening of A Place at the Table, followed by a panel discussion. Our panelists were Marge Palmerlee from Degage Ministries, Emma Rosauer from Access of West Michigan, and Chuck Clemence, coordinator of the Grand Rapids Bread for the World team.

The first step in educating others and involving them in ending hunger is just deciding to take action. There are logistical details to work out—contacting panelists, purchasing showing rights, advertising—but it isn’t about having a perfect event, it’s about reaching out and offering knowledge.

Sure, I spent time stressing over whether or not anyone would come. But you know what? They did. Our job is not to force people to come, or to force people to care. Only God can do that. Our job is to be faithful, to act, to do something. Because if we do nothing, then nothing will change.

There are 50 million people in America who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. This is not right. We need to do something. I need to do something. You need to do something.

Anneke Essenburg is a student at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a leader in the student organization Social Justice Coalition (SJC).

Quote of the Day: Wendell Berry

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

—"What We Need Is Here," by writer and farmer Wendell Barry

Congress needs to hear from you! Any farm bill must not increase hunger. Call or email your members of Congress and tell them to ensure a place at the table for all people by protecting and strengthening the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and international food aid in the farm bill.

Photo: A farm in Washington state. (Andrew Wainer)

Quote of the Day: David Beckmann


“Lawmakers must look for other measures for balancing our federal budget than to do so on the backs of hungry and poor people who did not create the deficit in the first place.”

—Bread for the World President David Beckmann, in response to the House Agriculture Committee's farm bill, which cuts SNAP by $21 billion. 

Photo: Alex Morris, from Bend, Ore., depends on SNAP, WIC and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system. (Brad Horn)

House Committee on Agriculture Passes Farm Bill with a $21 Billion Cut to SNAP: How the Members Voted

Correction: This post originally reported that Reps. David Scott (D, GA-13) and Filemon Vela (D, TX-34) voted in favor of the FAARM Act of 2013. Both representatives voted against the  legislation.
Yesterday, the House Committee on Agriculture passed a farm bill that includes a $21 billion cut to the SNAP program. The bill, formally known as the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013, passed out of committee by a vote of 36 yeas and 10 nays.

Bread for the World expressed outrage over the severe cuts to anti-hunger programs in a joint statement with Feeding America, United Way, and Catholic Relief Services.

The bill, which now goes to House leadership to be scheduled for a floor vote, would create hardship for families in the Unites States and have deadly consequences for families abroad. If enacted, it would:

  • Remove 2 million SNAP recipients from the program
  • Reduce SNAP benefits (by about $90 each month) for 850,000 households
  • End free school meals for 210,000 children.
  • Cut international food aid by $2.5 billion over 5 years—those cuts would include a 78 percent reduction in funding for improving the nutritional quality of food aid

During a very heated debate on the nutrition portion of the bill—a debate that included comments about churches taking primary responsibility for the care of hungry and poor people—Rep. Jim McGovern introduced an amendment to restore all cuts to the SNAP program. By a roll call vote, the amendment failed 17-27.

Bread for the World will continue to fight these cuts as the bill goes to the floor of the House. Domestic nutrition programs such as SNAP are the first line of defense against hunger and have proven effective in decreasing food insecurity during a weakened economy.

Members of the House Committee on Agriculture who voted to pass a bill with a $21 billion cut to the SNAP program. If your representative is on this list, we encourage you to call your member’s office or tag him or her in a tweet and let them know you are disappointed.

Members of the House Committee on Agriculture who voted to protect the programs for poor and hungry people that provide a place at the table for all. If your representative is on this list, we encourage you to call your member’s office or tag him or her in a tweet and thank them. 

Senate Passes Farm Bill Out of Ag Committee with 15-5 Vote

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

Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee marked up the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, commonly referred to as the farm bill. The draft of the bill amended by the committee will now be scheduled for a full Senate vote. We thank Bread for the World members who took the time to urge their senators on the agriculture committee to ensure a place at the table for hungry and poor people by opposing cuts to SNAP and international food aid.

The Senate version of the farm bill cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $4.1 billion over five years, which would leave nearly 500,000 households without benefits. (In opening statements, Sens. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cowan (D-Mass.), Harkin (D-Iowa), and Brown (D-Ohio) spoke favorably of SNAP and nutrition programs).  

Food aid fared better, with a proposed expansion of a program that creates flexibility in purchasing emergency food and includes provisions to improve the quality of food aid, particularly for mothers, children under five, and other target populations. International food aid provisions remain intact moving to floor debate and we will continue to ask senators to support those provisions.

The nutrition portion of the bill, under which SNAP is authorized, saw numerous amendments submitted for consideration, none of which made it through to the final version of the committee’s bill. Below is a summary of the amendments offered or mentioned in committee:

Continue reading "Senate Passes Farm Bill Out of Ag Committee with 15-5 Vote" »

What $20 Billion in SNAP Cuts Would Mean for Church Pantries


Today, the House Committee on Agriculture will consider a farm bill that would cut SNAP by more than $20 billion over ten years. While food pantries and churches do amazing work in feeding hungry people, their efforts cannot counteract that sort of blow to such a vital program. In 2011, federal nutrition programs delivered more than 23 times the amount of food assistance as did private charities. 

Churches can't do it alone—the government must do its part.

Check out Bread for the World's fact sheet, "Churches and Hunger" to learn more about how SNAP cuts would tax churches, food banks, and private food charities beyond their limits. And if your representative sits on the House Committee on Agriculture, call 1-800-326-4941 today and tell him or her that cuts to SNAP are unacceptable.

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