Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

34 posts from June 2013

VIDEO: Highlights from Sustaining Political Commitments to Scaling Up Nutrition

USAID Administrator Raj Shah at the Sustaining Political Commitments to Scaling Up Nutrition event (Joe Molieri/Bread for the World).

On Monday,  international government representatives, global nutrition experts, activists, and civil society leaders assessed progress made since September 2010—nearly 1,000 days ago—when the United States and Ireland launched the 1,000 Days Call to Action and the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement.

At the "Sustaining Political Commitments to Scaling Up Nutrition" meeting, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah reaffirmed the U.S. Government’s financial commitment to addressing maternal and child malnutrition and committed to building a partnership with U.S. nongovernmental organizations to leverage private resources in this fight.

“Today, we have the opportunity to join our voices together-to draw strength from the past 1,000 days and seize the next 1,000 days to achieve progress that was unimaginable in the past,” Dr. Shah said. “The vision that guides our mission starts with the people our governments represent and who are reflected in our invaluable civil society partners who have long championed efforts to advance global nutrition.”

During the meeting, Interaction, the largest alliance of U.S.-based NGOs international , announced that its members have pledged more than $750 million in private funds over the next five years to improve nutrition—including efforts that focus on the 1,000-day window between a woman's pregnancy and her child's second birthday.

For more highlights from the meeting, watch the brief video below.


Social Media and Bread for the World’s Lobby Day


Today, June 11, is Lobby Day! If you're not joining us in person, you can still participate virtually. Making calls is a great way to support the advocates from your state who will be in Washington, D.C., today, as is using social media. 

Share the social media updates from Lobby Day participants, and send your own messages to your members of Congress, too. Your virtual participation helps spread the message that everyone deserves a place at the table.

Are you on Facebook?

1. Search for your member of Congress and “like” their page (this allows you to tag them).
2. Write a status update that tags your member(s) of Congress and includes the two key messages of Lobby Day: 1) Protect SNAP and improve international food aid in the farm bill, and 2) Replace sequestration with a balanced plan that includes both revenues and sensible cuts.
  • Example: “Sen.@RonWyden, my fellow Oregonians are visiting you this afternoon during @Bread for the World Lobby Day. They will ask you to please protect programs for hungry and poor people--and I am asking you, too!

Are you on Twitter?

All but a couple of our members of Congress are on Twitter--it's a great way to connect with your senators and representative. Tweets are short and sweet--tag your member of Congress,  include one of the key messages. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #BreadRising! We will retweet you from @bread4theworld, so that both members of Congress and the advocates on Capitol Hill will be able to see your support.
  • Sen. @RonWyden: Pls protect funding for #SNAP and #foodaid in the #farmbill. #breadrising

If you have questions or need additional help,message Sarah Godfrey or Robin Stephenson—the members of Bread’s social media team—on Twitter or Facebook.

Join Bread's Annual Lobby Day from Wherever You Are

Bread OH 2 Cinti Wenstrup

Photo: Bread for the World members in Ohio recently had an in-district meeting with Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH02). (l-r) Ceal Bellman, Laura Hovland, Nick Yoda, Rep. Wenstrup, Mary-Cabrini Durkin, Sydney Prochazka, and Cindy Browne.

Tomorrow, June 11, is Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day. Each year, Bread for the World’s National Gathering culminates in a day dedicated to putting our faith into action by taking a message to Congress. You can join the chorus of voices urging our lawmakers to create policies that ensure everyone has a place at the table,

Your voice could not be more important right now, and just because you aren’t in Washington D.C., doesn’t mean you can’t participate. Sequestration is chipping away at critical and effective anti-hunger initiatives. There are efforts to cut SNAP (formerly food stamps) and international food aid in the farm bill.

Lobby Day participants will meet with members of Congress or their legislative staff in D.C. Imagine if they walk into a congressional office that has already received hundreds of calls preparing the member of Congress for the message they will deliver. When a Bread member says, “I am just one of the many Christians from your state/district who believes that the choices we make today will make a difference for poor and hungry people tomorrow,” your call will add impact to that statement.

Last week, Ohioans held an in-district meeting in Cincinnati (see photo), which will amplify Tuesday's Lobby Day visit for participants from that state. You can similarly add your voice and support with a simple phone call that will only take a few minutes of your time. 

Call or email your senators and representative today.  Use our special toll-free number (1-800-826-3688) and make sure to let them know you are a Bread for the World member.  Leave a message with the receptionist and ask your member of Congress to:

1.  Protect SNAP and improve international food aid in the farm bill.

2.  Replace sequestration with a balanced plan that has both revenues and sensible cuts.

Get the same resources that in-person participants will be using on our Lobby Day web page.  You can include additional facts from our Lobby Day talking points or share your personal story.

Even one voice has the power, but many voices in unison calling for a world where all God’s children have enough is a testament to the power of God’s love and grace--and just might move Congress, too.

First Look: 'Lazarus: The Musical'

The first day of Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering closed with an amazing treat: the debut of a new interpretation of Lazarus!

Lazarus is an original Bread for the World musical about hunger and poverty, created by Rev. Joel Underwood in the 1980s. Last night, a new version, with music and arangements by noted musical director Bill Cummings, debuted. The words and the story, however, were unchanged: the musical was based on the parable, found in Luke 16:19-31, featuring the story of a rich man (Dives) and a beggar (Lazarus) and their relationship in life and in the afterlife.

We'll be uploading a few video and music clips in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, here are a few photos from last night's performance to tide you over.

Ending Hunger is an Audacious Call

Photo: Rev. Dr. James Forbes at the June 8 homiletic workshop. (Sarah Godfrey)

By Robin Stephenson

He is called the "preacher’s preacher" and today’s homiletics workshop during Bread for the World’s National Gathering made that clear: Rev. Dr. James Forbes, speaking to a roomful of preachers and participants, said preaching must engage people in scripture and show a truth that will impact and transform behavior. He also had a message for Bread members responding to hunger.
“If my sermon is right, people will leave with a fresh sense of urgency to do what they are called to do," Rev. Forbes said.
He used the example of Luke 8:40-56 and presented the heart of the gospel that “punches a hole in the darkness.” The daughter, who is raised from the dead, shows us that not only does God pay attention to detail, but that food is an essential component of creation. After telling the child to get up, Jesus commands the people to feed the child. “Jesus understands that although the first half of the miracle is re-starting her metabolic process, she is not fully healed," Rev. Forbes said. "She needs food.” 

Food is not a minor detail, Rev. Forbes reminded us, but is essential to the fulfillment of God’s creation–before even creating us, in Genesis, God creates food. “If God in creation provides food,” Rev. Forbes said, "it is an anomalous situation to have a world where some people can’t eat.” Thus, starvation and hunger are a distortion of creation and our call is to heal the world–even when faced with the obstacle of disbelief.

When performing the miracle, Jesus is faced with laughter. The power of healing and wholeness comes through faith. Ending hunger, as Bread for the World members are called to do, must be anchored in our faith.
Belief requires great audacity and it is what Christians responding to hunger in today’s world must rely on–even if the work is spurned. This can be a challenge, for Christians: “If you live in a nation that doesn’t believe everyone needs to eat, there is a great deterrent in that mentality," Rev. Forbes said. "[E]specially if that mentality is present in the Congress of the United States.”
Over the next few days, National Gathering participants will be grappling with that call:  how do we create the political that will allow everyone a place at the table?  And on Tuesday, June 11, participants will take their message to the halls of Congress with the audacity of faith.
Rev. Forbes is preaching and teaching homiletics workshops across the nation this year with Bread for the World.  Ask your organizer if there is an upcoming event in your area and be sure and check our events page for upcoming appearances.

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

Quote of the Day: David Beckmann

“Our country is facing a critical situation—first with sequestration, which has left millions without vital resources, and now with farm bill proposals that could further devastate vulnerable people in the United States and around the world. Our National Gathering will empower people to help end hunger.”

—David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering (June 8-11) begins tomorrow.

Photo: The opening plenary session of Bread for the World's 2011 Natoinal Gathering (Rick Reinhard).

Join Us for the National Gathering--On Social Media

BreadrisingFINAL1By Robin Stephenson

The plane tickets have been bought, bags are being packed, and in just two days, Bread members will gather in Washington, D.C. Just like the title of Art Simon’s book says, "Bread will Rise" beginning this Saturday and culminating in Lobby Day (Tuesday, June 11), when our members will take the outcry to end hunger to the offices of our legislators. We hope you will join us as well.

If you can’t physically come to this year’s Gathering, you can still participate virtually. Follow our social networks—this blog, Facebook, and our Twitter feed—and we'll keep you informed of what is happening with recaps, pictures, and more. The social media team and National Gathering participants will be live tweeting the workshops using the hashtag #BreadRising

Workshops will cover such diverse, yet interconnected, topics as immigration, foreign assistance, tax reform, malnutrition, and agriculture. Skills workshops designed to enhance the power of our advocacy will cover everything from how to create public dialogue to telling your story.  And you won’t want to miss inspiring words from keynote speakers like renowned preacher Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Esperanza President Rev. Luis Cortes, and USAID administrator Raj Shah. 

On Tuesday, as we head to Capitol Hill for Lobby Day, you can support Bread members from your home state as they tell our lawmakers that everyone deserves a place at the table. Participants will be tweeting about their meetings and posting pictures on their Facebook pages. We encourage remote participants to call their members of Congress, and use your social networks to amplify the message that polices in the farm bill must protect the most vulnerable and that it is time to put an end to sequestration and agree on a balanced, long-term plan for the nation's fiscal sustainability. 

You can follow each day's events by downloading the National Gathering event program. Pack your virtual bag and join the conversation on social media as we gather in our nation’s capital this weekend. There is more than enough food in the world to feed all people, yet millions still go hungry. Now is the time to gather the political will to follow Jesus' teaching and ensure a place at the table for the least of these. 

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

The Story of Bread for the World's Original Musical 'Lazarus'

Lazarus-poster-small-versionBy Sarah Godfrey

In 1986, Rev.  Joel Underwood, then a Bread for the World staffer, decided to take a sabbatical, but wondered how he would fill those months. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and [Bread for the World founder] Art Simon said, ‘Do what you’ve always wanted to do, but never could,’” Underwood recalls. “I said ‘I want to do a musical.’ He said I should write one on hunger and poverty, and I said ‘Well, gee whiz, why not?’”

Underwood says what immediately popped into his mind was the parable about the rich man and the poor man in Luke 16:19-31. 

“When I went home that evening, I went through that passage with the idea to see how many song titles I could create out of that story,” he recalls. He came up with 21 titles, 19 of which would be used for his musical, Lazarus. “It all fell right into place.”

Lazarus was designed to lift up the problem of hunger, and also be fun to perform, Underwood says. The plan worked: after its 1986 premiere at Catholic University’s Hartke Theatre, the piece (written by Underwood, with music arranged by Louise F. Carlson and Sam V. Nickels) would go on to be performed thousands of times across the globe: in the United States, El Salvador, Australia, India, Egypt, and other countries.

At Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, Lazarus will be performed yet again, this time as a completely reworked, updated version of the original. The new Lazarus debuts Saturday, June 8, at 7 p.m. at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington, D.C.

“When Joel left, [Lazarus] went by the wayside, but I still saw potential in it,” says Bishop Don diXon Williams, Bread’s associate of African-American church relationships. “If we are talking about being grounded in God’s love and having different resources and ways to get people to become involved in hunger issues and advocacy, to me nothing reaches out more than the arts, than music.”

Continue reading "The Story of Bread for the World's Original Musical 'Lazarus'" »

Quote of the Day: Christian Bishops in Nebraska

Woman_writing_letter_to_congress"The Bible proclaims God's concern for the poor, the 'least of these' (Matthew 25:45). As Christians, we are called to embody this concern in our faith communities and in civil society. As we debate our priorities for public resources at this time, our last option should be cutting care for 'the least of these.'"

—Excerpt from an op-ed written by a group of Christian bishops in the state of Nebraska (click here for full piece and complete list of authors).











Photo: Arlene Barela, a mother of two in Orange County, Calif., writes letters to Congress at Templo Calvario (Assembly of God church) in Santa Ana, Calif., on Sunday, October 16, 2011."I'm a mom and when he [Pastor Lee de Leon] was speaking about kids being hungry, when I imagine my kids being without food, I want to be part of the change that can help them." (Photograph by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)


Charities Concerned About Potential SNAP Cuts

Photo: Lunch service at a soup kitchen. (Courtesy of Participant Media)       

You need food pantries, and you need SNAP, and you need school lunch programs. When you cut one, you’re cutting the whole netCommunity FoodBank of New Jersey's Diane Riley

Think Progress recently ran a piece on the reaction of charities around the country to the House Agriculture Committee's farm bill, which would slash more than $20 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). In short, the people who carry out the important work of food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens are nervous about potential cuts.

“Given how long the recession lasted and the alarming rates of poverty, SNAP for many families has become not just a safety net, but a way of surviving,” said Mid-Ohio Foodbank vice president of public affairs, Marilyn Tomasi, in an article cited by Think Progress. 

In a recent op-ed piece, Feeding America president and CEO Bob Aiken said that the House farm bill cuts, if enacted, would amount to more than 8 billion lost meals for struggling families, by his organization's estimation.

"If divided evenly across Feeding America’s national network of food banks, every food bank would need to provide an additional 4 million meals each year for the next ten years, and that is just not possible," Aiken wrote. "There is no way that charity would be able to make up the difference. We are already stretched thin meeting sustained high need in the wake of the recession. We simply do not have the resources to prevent hunger for the millions of people who would be impacted by these cuts—the low-income working families, seniors, children, and individuals struggling to get by."

The idea that charities will make up for cuts to SNAP and other federal nutrition programs is popular—and erroneous. Charities, food banks, food pantries provide an invaluable service, but they can't address hunger alone. One in 24 bags of food assistance comes from charitable organizations; federal nutrition programs, such as SNAP, provide the rest.

In the documentary A Place at the Table, Pastor Bob Wilson, one of the film's subjects, talks about how the economic downturn in the United States has stretches his Colorado church's food pantry to its limits (This weekend, Pastor Bob and his wife Michaelene, will participate in a panel at Bread for the World's National Gathering to talk about their food pantry, and the increasing demand in their community). 

"Every Wednesday we go down and get a trailer full of food from Food Bank of the Rockies," Wilson said in the film. "The problem that we run into in small towns is that the income level has gone down, the jobs are minimal, the second and third generation people are having to leave the area to find work.

"Ten years ago or so when we started this, my wife and I had purchased an old Suburban and I remember driving into the food bank and being excited about backing up and filling that Suburban with 10 to 15 boxes of food and thinking we were really making a difference in our community," Wilson continued.  "And after a year and a half we bought a little single axel trailer that we could put two pallets of food in and we thought we had really arrived, that we could certainly meet the needs of the community with two pallets of food.  And four years ago a gentleman from our church donated this trailer and now we’re doing four pallets twice a week and it’s amazing how the need has increased over the 10 years."

Charities can't, and shouldn’t have to, do it alone—government must do its part. Contact your members of Congress and tell them to protect SNAP and other vital food assistance programs from devastating cuts.

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