Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

34 posts from June 2013

"Deadbeats and Leeches?"

Dawn and Joel (2)By Dawn Phipps

Do you know what someone on SNAP (food stamps) looks like? I often hear the stereotype that SNAP recipients are deadbeats and leeches who sit on the couch all day, refusing to get a job.

But that is so far from reality. I know because I was on SNAP. Hard times happen, and sometimes people need a hand.

Food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or SNAP — are a lifeline for 1 out of 6 Americans. This week Congress is voting on the farm bill, which funds SNAP. The new bill could cut SNAP benefits for 800,000 families and kick 2 million people off of the program.

But thanks to your support and involvement, Bread for the World is fighting to make sure this doesn’t happen. Just a few days ago, I joined hundreds of compassionate Bread members like you who came to Washington, D.C., to talk with members of Congress.

You can help keep that momentum going by joining our summer effort to help hungry people. A few generous donors will match your gift to Bread with one of their own—up to $85,000!

When you make a donation — whether it’s $35, $50, or $100 — it will be doubled. I hope you’ll make a gift today.

I never imagined I would need to receive SNAP benefits. I’m a single mom who has always worked full time. But when the recession hit a few years ago, I was laid off.

Three weeks later, I began to receive unemployment. It was helpful, but didn’t replace what I was making. I started to apply for every job that I could. Eventually, I found myself applying at McDonald's—and was told that I was overqualified.

Feeling desperate, I realized that if I was going to take care of my son, I was going to have to ask for help. This was like admitting defeat. But I learned that the strongest people ask for help.

SNAP was there when I needed it, and we need to make sure it will be there for others. That’s why your gift today is so important. People should never have to face hard times or hunger alone.

Dawn Phipps is a nurse and Bread for the World advocate living in Boise, Idaho.

Photo: Dawn and her son. (Photo courtesy of Dawn Phipps)

Important House Farm Bill Amendments to Watch

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Updated, 6:15 a.m., 11:34 a.m., 1:23 p.m. 6/20/13

Debate on the House farm bill began today, with a final vote expected in the next week. The representatives will consider as many as 103 amendments, some of which could increase hunger, and others that would help hungry people. Below is a rundown of some of the key amendments Bread for the World will be closely monitoring. Ultimately, we are pushing for “no” votes on any final legislation that cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) or food aid. Even if you have already done so, please call your representative at 1-800-326-4941 or send an email today.

The SNAP cuts included in the House bill could kick at least 2 million people off of the program, reduce benefits for more than 800,000 families, and leave 210,000 children without free school meals. Cuts to food aid programs could cost lives and hinder the ability of the United States to effectively reach millions of people in need. These cuts must not stand.

Amendments Bread for the World Supports

  • McGovern Amendment (No.1): Restores the $20.5 billion in SNAP cuts included in the House bill by cutting commodity programs and crop insurance payments.  Bread for the World strongly supports. Amendment No. 1 to restore SNAP funding failed in a recorded vote of 188 yays and 234 nays. To see how your representative voted, click here
  • Royce-Engel Amendment (No. 15): Includes common-sense reforms providing much needed flexibility in the Food for Peace program. Will help the United States reach an additional 4 million disaster victims through overseas food assistance without spending any additional U.S. taxpayer dollars. Bread for the World strongly supports. Amendment No. 15 to reform food aid narrowly failed in a recorded vote of 203 yays and 220 nays. To see how your representative voted, click here.
  • Duckworth Amendment (No. 68): Requires USDA to conduct a study and report back to Congress its findings on the impact of SNAP cuts on demand for charitable food services. Amendment No. 68 adopted in a bloc-voice vote. 

Amendments Bread for the World Opposes

A number of harmful amendments have been submitted that would reduce benefits or make access to the SNAP program more difficult for qualifying participants.

  • Conaway Amendment (No.23): Creates a provision in the SNAP program that would reduce benefits to qualifying participants by 10 percent if Congress fails to pass a farm bill. Amendment No. 23 rejected by voice vote, and withdrawn from recorded vote by Rep. Conaway.
  • Kingston, Westmoreland, Austin, and Scott Amendment (No. 24):  Repeals the SNAP benefit boost enacted in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This benefit boost is set to expire in November.
  • Huelskamp, Goodlatte, Neugebauer, Jordon, DeSantis, Stewart, and Chris Amendment(No. 101): Cuts SNAP funding by $31 billion and also eliminates programs such as SNAP nutrition education and job training, which help participants transition out of poverty. Although the SNAP program has existing work requirements, this amendment imposes additional requirements, making it more difficult for qualifying participants to access the safety-net program when they need it. Amendment 101 adopted in a vote of 175 yays and 250 nays. 
  • Southerland, Westmoreland, Kingston, Bentivolio, and Schweikert Amendment (No. 102):  Creates a state option that allow states to change their SNAP work requirements to match stricter federal welfare work requirements and financially incentivizes states to reduce SNAP caseload by providing states funding based on how much they reduce caseload. Amendment 102 failed in a vote of 227 yays and 198 nays.
  • Reed Amendment (No.103): Ex-offenders who have committed a set of specific violent crimes would be permanently banned from ever receiving SNAP. Amendment No. 103 adopted in a bloc-voice vote.

We will update this blog post as each amendment receives a vote over the next few days.

Recap: June Conference Call and Webinar

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By Robin Stephenson

Each month, Bread for the World’s organizing and government relations departments team up for a grassroots conference call and webinar to make sure our members have the most up-to-date information on polices moving through Congress that affect hungry and poor people. Yesterday, Bread’s director of government relations, Eric Mitchell, began the briefing by stating that there is a lot going on in Washington, D.C., right now—immigration, appropriations, sequestration, and voting the House farm bill, which includes devastating cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) and international food aid.

In the Senate, members continue to debate immigration reform and are expected to vote before the July 4 break. Hunger and immigration are connected and Bread will continue to monitor progress and take targeted action. 

Both the House and Senate are grappling with appropriation bills, and the size of each pie is currently very different, reported policy analyst Amelia Kegan. The appropriations committees differ on several points, including sequestration, in their calculations, and if there is no agreement by Sept. 30 when the government’s fiscal year ends, the vast distance between drafts will likely result in a continuing resolution. Sequestration, which harms both long and short term responses to hunger, could be averted through debt ceiling negotiations, but that depends on voters. Kegan said that during her meetings with congressional offices on the Hill, she is often asked to tell Bread members to speak up by making calls to Congress. “Just because it's not in the news, doesn't mean it doesn't matter,” she said.

But the main issue of the day, on which the current call to action is focused, is the House farm bill which, in its current form, includes $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP and $2.5 billion in cuts to food aid. As of last night, Mitchell reported that the House Rules Committee had received 225 amendments—including 75 that impact nutrition and two on food aid—some that threaten to increase hunger. We will monitor those amendments and, if they reach the floor, provide updates here on the Bread Blog. Not all of the amendments are harmful, though—Bread for the World is actively asking for support of the McGovern amendment, which would restore SNAP funding. An amendment on food aid by Reps. Royce and Engle would also decrease hunger by increasing the flexibility and efficiency of food aid programs. Ultimately, a final bill that includes any cuts to programs that help hungry and poor people, either at home or abroad, must be met with a resounding “no.” But that will only happen if  you make calls and get your networks to speak up.

Stating the sad reality that has remained true with each cost-cutting proposal since the budget negotiations began, LaVida Davis, Bread's director of organizing, said that “the people that are the most vulnerable get thrown under the bus first, so we have to be vigilant.” The sounds of ringing phones should be echoing throughout the halls of Congress today and continue until a final vote has been taken. Let them know you are listening.

We will continue to follow and report on any new developments around immigration, sequestration, the budget, and the farm bill. The next conference call and webinar will be July 16.  Below is the slide show from last night’s webinar portion.

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

Quote of the Day: Amelia Kegan

“[B]read for the World members are not most folks. When it comes to anti-hunger advocacy, we don't check the opt-out box because the policy is complex or the numbers seem daunting. We don't turn to other issues because partisanship has heated up, legislation is blocked up, and people are fed up.”

—Amelia Kegan, Bread for the World senior policy analyst, speaking during Lobby Day on June 11

Make sure Congress knows there is an organized and unified body of Christians who believe hunger is unacceptable.  Call Congress today and tell your representative to vote “no” on a farm bill that includes cuts to SNAP.

Photo: Hunger Justice Leader alums at the National Gathering, Washington, D.C., June 10, 2013. Back row (l-r) Evan Waddy-Farr, Lawrence Kirby, Chad Martin, Justin Fast. Front row (l-r) Christina Reed and Beth Bostrom.

Act Now: House Voting on Cuts to SNAP and Food Aid

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

Update: 6/19/13

We expect two amendments to be considered and voted on today that Bread for the World strongly supports.  Please urge your representative to

1. Vote against any cuts to SNAP and vote for Rep. McGovern’s amendment to restore SNAP funding. The SNAP cuts included in the bill could kick at least 2 million people off of the program, reduce benefits for more than 800,000 families, and leave 210,000 children without free school meals.

2. Oppose cuts to food aid and vote for the bipartisan Royce-Engel amendment to make food aid more efficient. The amendment will feed at least 4 million more people at no additional cost to taxpayers by making the food aid system more flexible and efficient.

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By Eric Mitchell

This week, the House of Representatives is considering a farm bill that includes more than $20 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) and $2.5 billion in cuts to international food aid programs. Numerous harmful amendments submitted to the bill threaten to cut SNAP further or make dangerous changes to the way the program works.

Your representative needs to hear from you today.

The SNAP cuts included in the bill could kick at least 2 million people off of the program, reduce benefits for more than 800,000 families, and leave 210,000 children without free school meals. Cuts to food aid programs could cost lives and hinder the ability of the United States to effectively reach millions of people in need. These cuts must not stand.

Call your representative today and urge him or her to vote against a farm bill that includes cuts to SNAP or international food aid. Tell your representative that you

  1. Oppose any cuts to SNAP and support efforts to restore funding to the program, and
  2. Oppose cuts to food aid and support efforts to make the program more efficient.
The next 48 hours are critical as the House of Representatives moves to vote on the farm bill. Call your representative at 1-800-326-4941 or send an email today.

Thank you for continuing to use 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. 

John Lewis: "Never give up until everyone has food."

RepjohnlewisBy David Beckmann

In the closing minutes of Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, Rep. John Lewis entered a caucus room packed with hundreds of exhausted Bread members who had spent the day walking the halls of Congress, meeting with their lawmakers on behalf of hungry and poor people. The civil rights leader brought them to their feet with a rallying cry:

“Continue the fight. Continue the struggle. Never give up until everyone has food.”

Thanks to you and thousands of other faithful advocates, we are making progress against hunger. This was clear at our National Gathering, held in Washington, D.C., June 8-11. More than 1,000 anti-hunger advocates joined us in prayer, training, education, and advocacy.

On Lobby Day, Tuesday, June 11, Bread members engaged legislators or their staff in 199 meetings, telling our stories and those of people in need, urging our leaders to consider the most vulnerable when they cast their votes—and reminding them that we are holding them accountable. Three-quarters of the Senate was visited by Bread members during Lobby Day.

Quietly, steadily, we are building a critical mass in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, especially as it affects the youngest and most vulnerable.

On Monday, June 10, participants from more than 20 countries joined us for a special day-long international meeting, “Sustaining Political Commitments to Scaling Up Nutrition,” which was convened by Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide.

Leaders from governments, nongovernmental organizations, and civil society joined Bread members to take stock of the movement to improve nutrition for mothers and children during the critical 1,000 days that lead to a child’s second birthday.

SUNmovementOver the past three years, 40 countries with high malnutrition rates joined the movement to Scale Up Nutrition (SUN) and have highlighted nutrition in their development agendas, while donor governments and nongovernmental organizations are investing in new and innovative ways to prevent and treat malnutrition and undernutrition. Immediately prior to the June 10 meeting, world leaders committed $4.15 billion to scale up direct nutrition interventions and an additional $19 billion for nutrition-sensitive programs in agriculture and other sectors.

Our 2013 National Gathering revealed the power and the glory of God working through us to end hunger. I am filled with gratitude for your commitment to this important work. I thank all of you who attended the Gathering or sent prayers as we took our message to Capitol Hill.

NewsletterlazarusAnd I thank everyone who worked behind the scenes or took center stage to bring us together for a remarkable long weekend. We enjoyed a sold-out production of Lazarus: The Musical, which was created by Joel Underwood, with new music by Bill Cummings.

We shared a special screening of the documentary A Place at the Table, followed by a meaningful discussion with the people who shared their lives onscreen and in the companion book, Barbie Izquierdo, Bob and Michaelene Wilson, and Sharon Thornberry—as well as director Kristi Jacobson.

Our workshops and plenaries were led by renowned experts from across many fields. And Bread volunteers, interns, and staff kept it all humming.

I have so much more to share from the Gathering: stories, photos, and details about the progress that we are making to end hunger. You will be receiving a follow-up newsletter in a couple of weeks with important information about where we go from here to end hunger.

In his keynote address, Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development renewed the commitment of the U.S. government and applauded the advocacy campaigns of Bread for the World:

“Together, you form one of the greatest movements alive today—the fight to make hunger, malnutrition, and extreme poverty permanently a thing of our past.”

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Farm Bill: Next Steps

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By Robin Stephenson

This week the Senate passed its version of the farm bill, with 66 “yes” votes and 27 “no” votes. The Senate version included $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP, the program that serves as our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. As high rates of unemployment and underemployment and a tough economic climate persist, this safety-net program has been a godsend for those struggling to make ends meet. Now is not the time to cut a program that is reducing hunger in America.

Next week, the House of Representatives is expected to begin voting on its version of the farm bill, which includes even more drastic cuts to the domestic nutrition program than the Senate’s bill: SNAP would be slashed by $20.5 billion under the House proposal. If these huge cuts become law, millions of families would see a reduction in their nutrition assistance – vulnerable populations such as the elderly and children would be hit especially hard. Churches and charities, for all they do, cannot absorb such an increase in need.  

It is critical that Bread members speak out now. Even if you have already done so, contact your representative again. House members must hear repeatedly from constituents that a farm bill with any cuts to SNAP should be met with a “no” vote, and such extreme cuts need to be met with extreme outrage.

Silence is approval, but a loud response from voters calling for protection of programs for hungry and poor people can have a long-term effect.  “If you defeat the SNAP cuts in the farm bill, they’ll start taking anti-hunger advocacy seriously,” says Eric Mitchell, Bread for the World’s director of government relations. “When it comes to the farm bill,” he explains, “many members of Congress cater to all the different special interests; it‘s time they take nutrition seriously.”

Coalition partners are gearing up for a coordinated call-in day on Tuesday, June 18. Early next week, expect to receive an action alert from Bread for the World asking you to contact Congress, even if you called or emailed as recently as last week. “This is a critical time,” says Mitchell. 

Mitchell, along with the government relations team and the organizing department, will give an update on the farm bill and other key issues during next Tuesday’s national grassroots conference call and webinar, so be sure to register for this session. SNAP, food aid, and the latest news on the sequester will be discussed.

Bread for the World opposes any cuts to SNAP in the farm bill and is asking members of Congress to vote “no” if the bill comes to the floor.  If the House version passes, then the House and Senate bills enter conference, meaning they come up with a compromise between the two bills, which would then be voted on by both chambers. Going into conference with $20.5 billion in SNAP cuts as a starting point would make it extremely difficult to come to a compromise that would protect programs that help hungry and poor people.

If the House version of the farm bill is defeated on the floor, some options for moving forward might include sending the draft back to the agriculture committee for changes, another short- or long-term extension of the farm bill, or leadership may choose to vote on the Senate bill.

But no matter what is decided, Bread for the World will continue to spread the message that SNAP works and should not be cut in any final piece of farm bill legislation.

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

Linking Nutrition with HIV/AIDS and Other Health Services

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Efforts to reduce malnutrition in Rwanda help to thwart the rise of HIV and AIDS, saving the lives of countless infants and young children. (Photo: Bill McCarthy for EGPAF)

By Lior Miller

For the past 10 years, Rwanda has made significant achievements in scaling up its health system to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic and maternal and child mortality. As the Rwanda Country Officer for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), I have witnessed many of these transformations firsthand. While Rwanda is often cited as a success story for infectious diseases – deaths from tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS dropped by 80 percent in the past decade – not enough people know about the remarkable improvements in reducing the country’s high malnutrition rate.

Malnutrition is a state resulting from too little food, inadequate nutrient intake, and frequent infections or disease. It can manifest in a number of ways, but the most common is stunting, which affects 165 million children under the age of ive worldwide. In 2005, more than half of Rwanda’s under-five population was stunted. Just five years later, the stunting rate had dropped to 44 percent. This number is still high, but due to concerted efforts by the national government and its partners, progress is expected to continue.

The first 1,000 days of a child’s development – from pregnancy to 2 years of age – are a critical period for health and survival. Adequate maternal and child nutrition during this period is crucial for both cognitive and physical development. Stunting, in particular, affects brain development and is associated with lower cognitive abilities, poor school performance, and lower earnings throughout the lifetime.

In response to the country’s high malnutrition rate, the Rwandan Ministry of Health developed the National Multi-sectoral Strategy to Eliminate Malnutrition in Rwanda. One of the key strategies outlined was the scale-up of community-based interventions to prevent and manage malnutrition in children under five years of age and in pregnant and lactating mothers. In this intervention, community health workers use behavior change communication to teach women about optimal feeding practices through a package that EGPAF and PATH harmonized with Rwanda’s national plan. The health workers counsel mothers, fathers, and other caregivers to promote social and behavior changes, including improved maternal diet, early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for six months, safe water and hygiene, how to care for a sick child, and growing kitchen gardens and learning small animal husbandry for diet diversity.

Counselors also discuss nutrition in the context of HIV, since malnutrition threatens the health of HIV-positive mothers and their children. Malnutrition weakens the immune system and causes faster disease progression. Inadequate food intake can affect adherence to antiretroviral medication and drug effectiveness. Because HIV progresses faster in children than it does in adults, the risks posed by malnutrition make them even more vulnerable to mortality. Moreover, because HIV-positive pregnant women are less likely to gain adequate weight than non-infected women, counseling on maternal nutrition during pregnancy enables them to give birth to normal weight babies, increasing their chances of survival.

Malnutrition has more detrimental effects than hungry bellies, and efforts to reduce stunting rates also improve maternal and child survival, decrease HIV-related mortalities, and increase economic productivity. Rwanda’s success in reducing malnutrition, and eventually eliminating it altogether, is due to a number of factors, including a strong health system with universal health coverage, integrated health services, and an emphasis on vulnerable populations. In addition, the importance of the government’s political and financial commitment cannot be underestimated. With more families being reached at the community level through the concerted efforts of the Government of Rwanda, EGPAF, and other partners, I have no doubt we can achieve the elimination of malnutrition and new HIV infections in children in Rwanda.

To learn more about the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation's work in Rwanda, click here.

Lior Miller is Country Officer for Rwanda for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, based in Los Angeles, CA.

Immigration As a Hunger and Poverty Issue

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Rev. Luis Cortés at Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering. (Joe Molieri/Bread for the World).

Immigration and hunger are closely related. Addressing Bread for the World members during the 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C., last weekend, Rev. Luis Cortés, Jr., noted that “Food, like immigration, is a fight about morality.” 

Rev. Cortés, president of Esperanza USA, the largest Hispanic faith-based community-development corporation in the country, said that comprehensive immigration reform must be a key component in efforts to end hunger.  “To not have immigration reform,” he said, “is to perpetuate hunger in America.”

Debate on a 1,000-plus page bill has begun this week on the Senate floor and is expected to continue through the July 4 break. The "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act" includes an earned legalization process for 11 million unauthorized immigrants, increased enforcement both at the border and inside the United States, and a revamped guest worker program for both low-skill and high-skill sectors.

Senators from both parties are preparing dozens of amendments to the bill. Proposals that do not take into account hunger as a root cause of migration or address domestic hunger in immigrant populations in the United States offer an incomplete solution.

Hunger is a root cause of migration and reducing hunger internationally would ease forces that push unauthorized immigration, reducing the need for those escaping extreme poverty to flee their countries of origin. Lack of legal status in the U.S. also contributes to food insecurity and exploitation. Rev. Cortés pointed out the irony that many immigrants are farm workers who lack access to adequate nutrition: “You know what is really weird? When you work on a farm and you’re hungry,” he said

During the National Gathering workshop “Immigration as a Poverty and Hunger Issue," Bread for the World Institute senior immigration analyst Andrew Wainer presented the stark facts  (see PowerPoint below). According to the Department of Labor, the average income for a farmworker is between $17,500 and $19,999 each year, and poverty rates for undocumented immigrants are disproportionately high.

The call to end hunger must include extending legal status to undocumented workers while providing development assistance to countries with high poverty rates.

Bread for the World's 2013 Lobby Day

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