Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

42 posts from May 2013

House Agriculture Committee is Writing a Farm Bill Now

Capitol_bldg_flickr_usr_smaedliThe House Agriculture committee is once again writing a farm bill, and it needs to hear from you! If your representative sits on the House Committee on Agriculture, raise your voice and urge him or her to ensure a place at the table for hungry and poor people by protecting programs vital to them.

The farm bill governs SNAP (formerly food stamps) and international food aid. Both are critical anti-hunger programs, and both are at risk of cuts deeper than those proposed in last year’s farm bill process. The House farm bill was just released over the weekend, and it cuts SNAP by more than $20 billion over ten years; it cuts international food aid by $2.5 billion over five years; and it cuts international food aid quality programs by 78 percent. If enacted, these cuts would have devastating consequences.

Time is short: the committee will consider its proposal on Wednesday. Call 1-800-326-4941  and tell your representative that

  1. Cuts to SNAP are unacceptable. The proposed cuts would kick as many as 3 million people from the program, reduce benefits for hundreds of thousands of households, and deprive 280,000 kids of school meals. I urge you to vote against any cuts to SNAP and support efforts to restore any cuts.
  2. I urge you to oppose cuts to food aid and support efforts to make the program more efficient while also targeting the nutritional needs of women and children in the thousand-day window from pregnancy to age 2. International food aid reached 66 million people hit by famine, disasters, and other emergencies. These cuts will cost lives and hinder our ability to effectively reach millions of people in need.

Cuts to these programs will mean no food on the table for millions of our brothers and sisters.

This week is critical as the Senate Agriculture Committee finalizes its farm bill. Call your representative today at 1-800-326-4941 or send an email now.

Thank you for using your voice to help ensure a place at the table for all God's people.

Photo: U.S. Capitol building by flickr user smaedli.

Mobilizing for Justice: Future Pastors Respond to Poverty


Photo: John, a former banker who is one of the subjects of The Line, shops for himself and his three children at a food pantry. (Film still from The Line, courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

By Alicia Vela

Recently, I worked with Bread for the World regional organizer Zach Schmidt and a few of my seminary classmates to organize a viewing of The Line--a documentary that takes a look at poverty in America. The event was part of a class called “Mobilizing for Justice,” taught by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, professor at North Park Theological Seminary, and Dr. Dennis Edwards, senior pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis.

After watching the documentary, which follows four highly-relatable stories of Americans living in poverty, we participated in an exercise that shows how poverty cuts across all demographics. We then entered a period of small- and large-group discussion, reflecting on issues surrounding poverty in America and the ways in which the church can and should respond. The night ended with a plea for those present, as future pastors and leaders, to use our power—our pulpit, our congregation members, and our voices—to impact the issue of poverty in our communities and across the country.

During the event, we discussed different ways of responding to poverty, from helping local food pantries and soup kitchens to advocating for policy changes. We had an opportunity to sign Bread’s petition to President Obama, urging him to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger. The conversation was productive in raising awareness as well allowing us to brainstorm more ways to be involved in addressing poverty. We also collected canned food for the North Park Friendship Center, an organization fighting hunger on Chicago’s North Side.

There are several pieces that I personally took away from my experience with Bread for the World, but the idea of using my voice for advocacy really stood out. I had always thought that as a pastor, I shouldn’t get involved in politics. Being an advocate seemed too divisive in my mind. I have always hidden my political affiliation while working in the church because I thought people would try to argue with me if they had different views. Then I realized that fighting for the hungry is not a political opinion or side, but rather a biblical mandate.

If we take seriously Jesus’s call to love the orphan, fight on behalf the defenseless and care for the weak, we begin to see advocacy as an essential response. As Christians we cannot stand alongside and watch those around us hurt because of the broken systems we have created. We are called to fight for them, to call or write our government leaders and ask for better laws and more care for those who are most vulnerable.

Alicia Vela earned her B.A. in psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder and recently completed her Master of Divinity coursework at North Park Theological Seminary. A Colorado native, she is currently interning at Deer Grove Covenant Church in Palatine, Ill.

A 20 Billion Dollar Cut to SNAP Will Increase Hunger Now

AlexfeedingandreRESIZEBy Robin Stephenson

House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas released his first draft of the farm bill into committee on Friday. His draft would cut SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $20 billion over 10 years. In this weakened economy, need has increased and participation is high, because the safety net has responded as it should, but Rep. Lucas (R-Okla.) would change that with this bill.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a member of the agriculture committee, said the bill “would make hunger worse and not better.” Last week the congressman gave his tenth End Hunger Now floor speech in advance of the chairman’s draft proposal.

Both the House and Senate will mark up the farm bill this week in their respective committees; the Senate on Tuesday, May 14, and the House on Wednesday, May 15. After the chair offers the first draft, committee members have the opportunity to propose and vote on any amendments, or changes, to the bill. Once a final version is voted out of committee, leadership then adds it to the schedule for a floor vote. Both House and Senate leadership have indicated they would like a farm bill on the summer agenda.

“We are supposed to help people, not hurt people,” said McGovern in his speech.” But if this farm bill goes forward with a $20 billion cut in SNAP, we will be hurting people— millions and millions of people in this country.”

Any cuts to SNAP would prove devastating for vulnerable Americans. SNAP participants are already facing a reduction in benefits—on Nov. 1, a temporary program boost that was included in the 2009 stimulus package will expire. Even more alarming: a recent Institute of Medicine study concluded that the way in which the benefit level is calculated for SNAP is inadequate for a healthy diet. Inadequate as existing levels are, just this expiration will reduce the average benefit to about $1.40 per person per meal, reports the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities. Cutting the program by $20 billion over 10 years would reduce the benefit even further and increase food insecurity even more.

“Outraged” was a term McGovern used repeatedly in his speech. He responded to those who believe cuts would reduce participation. “SNAP isn’t a get-rich scheme,” he said. “People use SNAP to put food on their tables during difficult times. McGovern noted that many people who currently qualify for SNAP do work, but said “[t]he way to reduce the number of people on SNAP is by creating jobs—by helping to get this economy going again.” 

In the Senate, the agriculture committee chairwoman’s farm bill draft included a $4.1 billion cut to the SNAP program, which would also create hardship for millions of families. We continue to ask Bread for the World members to call their senators and tell them to ask for a final version with no cuts.

Today, Bread for the World will launch a targeted action alert to our members who have representatives on the committee. During this short window of opportunity, we must get in as many calls as possible to the 44 members who sit on the House agriculture committee. As their constituents, we can demand a final draft that protects programs for hungry people. From Rep. Schrader in Oregon to Rep. Collins in New York, committee members across this nation must hear that any farm bill must help to end hunger now.

Photo: Alex Morris feeds her son, André, in their Bend, Ore., home. Alex 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)

Bread for the World Triad of North Carolina Holds Successful Conference


Rev. James Forbes, shown in 2006, was the keynote speaker at a North Carolina Bread for the World conference last month. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Scott Griessel, flickr user creatista.

By Paula Well and Rev. Bob Herron

On Saturday, April 13, a dream became a reality—a North Carolina Bread for the World Conference took place at the Christ United Methodist Church in Greensboro, N.C.  Thanks to the  efforts of the local Bread Leadership Team of the Triad we held a successful conference that brought attention to issues of hunger in our state, our county, and around the world. 

The keynote of the day was given by Dr. James Forbes, pastor emeritus of Riverside Church, in New York City. His words inspired and challenged the more than 100 attendees. During the conference, Dr. Forbes also offered a “homiletics teaching,” a workshop for pastors on methods of preaching justice.  LaMarco Cable, deputy director of organizing for Bread’s southern hub, gave a presentation on this year’s Offering of Letters and presidential petition.

During lunch, participants wrote letters to Congress and signed the presidential petition while listening to music from hunger advocate and musician Bryan McFarland.  The rest of the time was spent networking with people from various parts of the state and sharing ideas about strengthening our advocacy.  We were also very blessed to have a local cinema showing the brilliant documentary A Place at the Table the same time that the conference was taking place.  We cannot recommend it highly enough.

We hope that other Bread Leadership Teams will  be inspired by hearing about our North Carolina event. We pray that the brilliant preaching of Rev. Forbes and the leadership of LaMarco Cable will take us to new heights. We also pray that the exhilaration of learning how our small voices can be used to amplify important issues will not fade.

Recently, our team reconvened to discuss how we could capitalize on the energy of that day, and we became reinvigorated and ready to plan for our next conference. We feel the ways in which the Holy Spirit emboldens us to dream֫—to dream of a day when, instead of one in six Americans going to bed hungry at night, no one is hungry. We dream of a day when Bread for the World won’t be necessary any longer because the problem of hunger has been solved.

Until that dream is realized, we will continue our work.

Paula Well and Rev. Bob Herron are team members of the Bread for the World Triad of N.C.

International Aid Groups Call for House, Senate Action on Farm Bill


The American Jewish World Service, Bread for the World, CARE, The Modernizing Assistance Network, Oxfam America and Save the Children released the following statement today in advance of the Senate and House committee mark-ups of the 2013 Farm Bill:

“With more than 870 million people suffering from hunger worldwide and Congress looking to ensure wise use of taxpayer funds at home, the 2013 Farm Bill represents a crucial opportunity to make our international food aid programs both more efficient and more cost-effective.

Unfortunately, the current Senate draft Farm Bill, due to be marked up next week, includes the same incremental steps toward reform as last year, but fails to address the fundamental changes that are so badly needed.  We urge Senate leaders to work with the Administration to achieve stronger reforms in food aid programs so that American tax dollars can go farther and American compassion can reach more people in need. On the House side, we remain disappointed that the House Agriculture Committee draft once again fails to incorporate any reforms.  

In his 2014 budget request, President Obama proposed common sense reforms that would feed millions more people and save lives by delivering aid faster with no additional cost to the taxpayer. This proposal sets an important precedent in building a more modern food aid program. Proposed reforms include allowing for greater flexibility in how the U.S. delivers food to hungry people overseas and ending the inefficient method of having aid groups sell food aid overseas to fund development programs, a practice known as “monetization.” This increased flexibility is a part of a package that would allow food aid to go farther, feeding 2-4 million additional people. These reforms have been greeted with interest by members on both sides of the aisle.

While we are supporting the Administration’s request that the FY 14 Appropriations bills be the vehicle for food aid reform, we recognize that there are several potential paths forward for Congress to achieve these much needed improvements to our international food aid program, and we are fully committed to working with leaders in Congress, including members of the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, to get it done this year."

Photo: Somali woman and a malnourished child exit from the medical tent after the child receives emergency medical treatment from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), an active regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations. Somalia is the country worst affected by a severe drought that has ravaged large swaths of the Horn of Africa, leaving an estimated 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. (UN Photo/Stuart Price)


Hunger in the News: Farm Bill, SNAP, Food Aid


A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

"Congress Set to Begin Work on Farm Bill," by Ron Nixon, New York Times. A solid, basic look at the what will happen in the Senate and House around the farm bill, the rough timetable, and what is at stake.

"Top Chef star urges Congress to support anti-hunger programs," by Josh Hicks, Washington Post. Tom Colicchio joined Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) at a screening of A Place at the Table and met with members of Congress to encourage them to protect and strengthen programs that fight hunger.

"Food aid for the 21st century," by John Kerry, Tom Vilsack, and Rajiv Shah, Chicago Tribune (op-ed). Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, and USAID administrator Shah on modernizing food aid.

"Twelve Things You Can to To Fight Poverty Now," by Greg Kaufmann, The Nation. Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK Lobby, Marci Phillips of the National Council on Aging, Jim Will of Food Research and Action Center, tell you what you can do, right now to make a difference. (No.11: Tell Congress: Increase, Don't Cut SNAP).

"These Three Charts Show How the World Could End Extreme Poverty by 2030," by Howard Schneider, Washington Post.

Senate Agriculture Committee is Writing a Farm Bill Now

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

Update, 5/13/13: The Senate Agriculture Committee released a draft farm bill proposal on Friday, May 10, but it is not too late to call! If your senator is on the agriculture committee, call 1-800-326-4941 today and tell him or her to 1)Vote for any amendments that eliminate cuts to SNAP and vote against any amendments that cut SNAP, and 2)Vote against any amendments that cut international food aid.


Today we sent the following call to action to Bread for the World members whose senators sit on the Senate Agriculture Committee.  These senators' voices will be critical in deciding how SNAP, international food aid, and other vital programs will provide for the needs of hungry and poor people in the future. If your member is on this committee, your voice will be critical in influencing him or her. The committee is comprised of 20 members, including chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and ranking member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.); click here for the full roster.

By Eric Mitchell

The Senate Agriculture Committee is once again writing a farm bill, and they need to hear from you! Time is short before they release their proposal. The farm bill governs SNAP (formerly food stamps) and international food aid, critical anti-hunger programs. Both are at risk of devastating cuts.

If your senator sits on this committee, call him or her today to ensure a place at the table for hungry and poor people by protecting programs vital to them.

Call toll-free: 1-800-326-4941

Raise your voice and urge your senator to ensure a place at the table for hungry and poor people by protecting programs vital to them. Tell your senator to:

  1. Protect and strengthen SNAP. SNAP effectively and efficiently helps 47 million low-income Americans put food on the table. As unemployment and poverty have remained high, the number of families at risk of hunger has not increased since 2008. SNAP is functioning as it should.
  2. Improve international food aid in ways that make the program more efficient while also targeting the nutritional needs of women and children in the 1,000 day window from pregnancy to age 2. The emergency food aid program, Food for Peace, reached over 53 million people last year.

Cuts to these programs will mean no food on the table for millions of our brothers and sisters. Urge your senator to ensure a place at the table for hungry and poor people by opposing any cuts to SNAP and international food aid.

This week is critical as the Senate Agriculture Committee finalizes its farm bill. Call your senator at 1-800-326-4941 or send an email today. Please contact your senator no later than Friday, May 10.

Thank you for using your voice to help ensure a place at the table for all God's people.

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

Cutting WIC Not the Right Formula for Healthy Moms and Babies

Gromek_hospital_resizedBy Jon Gromek

You might not know it by looking at me now, but I was two months premature when I was born, barely weighing three pounds. My birth and the weeks that followed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit must have been a harrowing time for my parents, especially my mom.  It took some time, but I eventually grew strong, gained weight, and became a healthy child—and eventually a healthy adult. One of the things I credit to my recovery was the healthy food I received both before and after I was born. My parents thankfully had the resources to make sure I had all the nutrition I needed, yet because of the sequester’s 5.3 percent cut to the WIC program, more than 600,000 moms and babies are going to find those resources harder to come by. 

I recently got to sit down with some of the staff at the “Moms-2-Be” program in Columbus, Ohio.  Moms-2-Be (M2B) is a unique program designed to help pregnant women who live in Weinland Park /near Eastside of Columbus have healthy pregnancies, deliveries, and babies. 

The Weinland Park neighborhood has the highest density of poverty in all of Franklin County and, until recently, an alarmingly high infant mortality rate. For the moms who reside in the neighborhood, WIC is one the best resources they have to help their babies.  The sequester means that more than 18,000 Ohio moms like the ones in Moms-2-Be in Weinland Park are going to have a harder time beating the odds and giving their babies what they need to grow and develop.  Staff told stories of the struggles moms will go through to make ends meet and the tough choices they will have to make to be sure their children are fed.  Sometimes that means cutting formula with water to make it last or having to graduate their babies to solid food long before they are ready. 

With Mother’s Day around the corner, take a moment to reflect on everything that moms do to fight for their children. This Mother’s Day, tell Congress to stand up for mothers and children. Email Congress right now and tell your senators and representative to stop these cuts and instead enact a balanced, responsible budget deal that protects our mothers, our children, and our economy. Mothers protect us. Make sure Congress protects them.

Jon Gromek is regional organizer, central hub states, at Bread for the World.

Photo: Jon Gromek, as a newborn, being held by his mother, Angie Vrettos-Gromek. (Photo courtesy of Jon Gromek)

Quote of the Day: Ed Asner

"There are genuinely sufficient resources in the world to ensure that no one, nowhere, at no time, should go hungry." —Actor and activist Ed Asner

Photo: A young girl sells oranges in the market in Lusaka, Zambia. (Margaret W. Nea)

Choose Mothers Over Inconvenienced Travelers


By Alice Walker Duff

How will you honor your mother this Mother’s Day? What will you do to let your mom, grandmas, aunties, and mentors know that you learned their lessons of love and care for others?

This Mother's Day, honor your mom, and all the amazing women in your life, by telling Congress to stand up for mothers. Congress can act quickly and decisively—its members recently fixed flight delays caused by sequestration cuts. But nutrition and other programs that help moms in the United States and around the world are still on the chopping block.

There’s only one way to fix this and protect mothers and children from harmful cuts!

Email Congress right now and tell your senators and representative to stop these cuts and instead enact a balanced, responsible budget deal that protects our mothers, our children, and our economy. As a thank you, we will send a free e-card to any of the women in your life. We will let them know that you honor them by standing with mothers everywhere!

Mothers protect us. Make sure Congress protects them! Email Congress now and celebrate Mother's Day in a way that makes a difference. Together, we can make sure that mothers and children in the United States and around the world have the nutrition they need to thrive.

Thank you for joining me in standing with mothers everywhere.

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

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