Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

43 posts from July 2013

August Recess: Time to End the Hunger Games

Lawreence Uganda
Lawrence, a boy staying at Omoana House, a child rehabilitation center in Jinja, Uganda, plays outside on Saturday, May 21, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

With just days until members of Congress head back to their home districts for the month of August, anti-hunger advocates should be prepared to let their senators and representatives know that recess is not a time for playing partisan games with hunger.

The House of Representatives will have only eight working days when they return before the federal government’s fiscal year ends on Sept. 30 and both chambers must pass a continuing resolution or a final spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. There is a $91 billion gap between the Senate's overall discretionary spending and House levels, so a quick resolution of the difference is highly unlikely. Congress will be voting on legislation that will affect hungry and poor people and many of their choices will be influenced by what they hear at home next month.

Key to all negotiations will be a plan to replace the sequester.

As a reminder, the sequester was intended to incentivize Congress to come up with a deal to cut $1.5 trillion over 10 years as part of the Budget Control Act. Since 2011, Congress has been unable to replace the automatic across-the-board cuts, which are now law.

The effects of sequestration this past year have largely been mitigated for programs like WIC with reserve and contingency funds that will not be available in the coming budget cycle. Other affected programs, like Meals on Wheels, haven't fared as well and the data starting to come in shows some vulnerable populations are being hit harder than others. Behind proposals in the House that would slash development assistance by 26 percent and cost lives is a strong movement to protect defense spending over social programs.

“This fall is going to be extremely intense,” says Bread for the World policy analyst Amelia Kegan. Bread members are urged to set up in-district meetings with their members of Congress and to attend any town halls their members are facilitating. 

“If members go back and all they hear about is how bad sequestration is, they will come back and be motivated to deal with the automatic cuts,” Kegan says. But she cautions that “if they hear nothing, they won't think these cuts are a problem, and sequestration will continue or they could make it worse.” Replacing the sequester does not automatically ensure anti-hunger programs are safe.

At stake is funding for safety-net programs like SNAP, which is currently exempt from automatic cuts, and Medicare. Both could become the piggy banks used to replace the looming automatic defense cuts if revenue-raising is not part of a final deal.

When it looked like lines at airports might get longer earlier this year, inconvenienced travelers were vocal and Congress paid attention, adjusting sequestration's effect on air traffic controllers. To the elderly and to children experiencing hunger and poverty, sequestration is more than a nuisance; sequestration is a skipped meal, a lost educational opportunity and longer lines at food pantries. 

To avert a crises of increased hunger both here and abroad, the sequester must be replaced with a balanced package that includes both revenue and responsible spending cuts. Contact your regional organizer to learn how your voice can make a difference in August.

We caution children not to play with their food we should send Congress the same message.

Quote of the Day: Richard Stearns

Hungerandolderamericans“At a time when jobs are scarce and government budgets trimmed, those who are most in need of assistance are being squeezed. As Christians, we believe private citizens and public institutions should prioritize caring for our most vulnerable neighbors.” 

Richard Stearns, President, World Vision US


This month more than 5,000 Christian leaders issued a reminder that lawmakers must make hungry and poor people a priority as they consider our nation’s fiscal challenges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: More than 5 million older Americans struggle to put food on the table, and another 3.5 million live in poverty.  The automatic cuts called sequestration that took effect in March of this year have meant 4 million fewer meals delivered by Meals on Wheels (photo courtesy of Meals on Wheels).

JustFaith: Transforming Churches

Banquet table
A banquet Table at Bread for the World's June 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

"But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  Luke 14: 13-14 (NIV)

Many Bread members have introduced their churches to JustFaith, an adult education program that explores the biblical prescription to heal our broken world and foster congregational and individual wholeness. The 30 weekly sessions are carefully planned for faith sharing that includes prayer, study, and immersion. Each week’s curriculum deepens the participants' understanding of the biblical basis for advocacy. 

Bread members Bob and Janet Raes facilitated the program at West Linn Lutheran in Oregon and saw how it transformed lives. 

The immersion part of the program helps break down invisible barriers that hide suffering in the world. Bob and Janet recalled how simply listening to a homeless couple’s experience opened up a new world to their group. The homeless couple told a story of selling bracelets on the sidewalk with their dog and feeling that they weren't treated with dignity. A passerby offered them money to feed their dog, but ignored them as people. The message to the couple was that the dog deserved compassion, but they did not.

"Our groups said 'we are going to really see people,'" said Janet. "Some ride the bus now and that has just changed them."  Their congregation sponsored 3 months of rent to transition a homeless family into stable housing, and spent the time to help them move in and listen to their goals. Bob and Janet know that compassion is relational.

Through JustFaith, participants learn about both charity and advocacy—the latter is often harder for churches to embrace. "People are so allergic to the word 'advocate'—instead of advocating we say we are 'seeking justice,'" said Bob. JustFaith has helped their church to take a deeper look at the root causes of hunger and write letters as part of Bread for the World’s yearly Offering of Letters campaign, which asks Congress to create programs and policies that end hunger and poverty.

Even though participants in JustFaith are a small subset of any congregation, as other parishioners see the group transform it leads to changes in the church. “It’s an invasive species,” said Janet, with a smile.

With fall—the typical starting time for a JustFaith group—just around the corner, many churches are posting information and forming groups.  If you would like to learn more and find out how you can start a group, contact your regional organizer.

O Come, All Ye Faithful: Choose Our 2013 Christmas Card!

Christmas_collage1

It’s that time again when we ask Bread members to choose this year’s Christmas card photo!

We want to capture the spirit of the season and show why God's grace moves us to end hunger — and we need your help!

Between now and August 1, vote for your favorite photo to grace Bread for the World’s 2013 Christmas card.

When you send Bread for the World cards, your family and friends learn about our vital work to foster hope and opportunity for hungry and poor people. So please let us know which image you think will make the best card for 2013!

Vote today!

The photos above (L to R) are "Multitude of the heavenly host," "Shepherd in the fields," and "Wrapped in bands of cloth." Choose your favorite here.

President Obama Pushes for Minimum Wage Increase

Solar Panel workerBy Traci Carlson

“[B]ecause no one who works full-time in America should have to live in poverty, I am going to keep making the case that we need to raise the minimum wage.”

—President Barack Obama, during a July 24 speech on the economy at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.

On July 24, President Obama delivered a speech on the economy, during which he advocated for policies that would rebuild ladders of opportunity for all Americans. He specifically called for an increase in the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour. The rate hasn’t seen a boost since 2009, despite surges in the cost of living and a recession that has left millions of Americans struggling to put food on the table. Since his State of the Union address, Obama has urged Congress to raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour.  

Bread for the World believes that well-paying jobs are essential to helping people lift themselves and their families out of poverty. But the current minimum wage makes it extremely difficult for even full-time workers being paid at that rate to make ends meet.

As President Obama pointed out in his speech, we cannot grow an economy by only cutting programs. Increasing the minimum wage and investing in anti-poverty programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) will stimulate job creation and economic growth, directly benefiting not only the working poor but small businesses, farmers, and local economies.

It is crucial to not only strengthen anti-poverty programs and measures, but to protect them from deep cuts as well. Any deal to replace the sequester or pass a fiscal year 2014 budget must not be at the expense of the poor.The sequester has directly hurt hungry and poor people, and there are other troubling developments on the horizon, including  threats to cut SNAP, a program on which 47 million Americans depend. The Senate version of the farm bill cut SNAP by $4 billion and the House farm bill failed to include any nutrition title. Congress must work with President Obama to replace the catastrophic sequester with a balanced plan that includes both revenues and responsible spending cuts, so that poor working families don’t suffer further harm.

Protecting SNAP, increasing the minimum wage, and replacing the sequester are all essential to decreasing hunger and poverty in the United States.

Traci Carlson is Bread for the World's government relations coordinator.

Photo: A worker from Maggio Roofing installs solar panels on a home in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of the District of Columbia. (Mark Fenton).

A Liberation Poem

Lazarus choir
The choir sings during the premier of Lazarus: The Musical, one of the highlights of Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C. June 2013 (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

God of Power,
God of People,
You are the life of all,
That lives,
Energy
That fills the earth,
Vitality
That brings to birth,
The impetus
Toward making whole
Whatever is bruised
Or broken.

In you we grow,
To know the truth
That sets all creation free.

You are the song
The whole world sings,
The promise
Liberation brings,
Now and forever

—Unknown

 

Bread offers a variety of worship materials to raise up God's call to end hunger. For more prayers and resources, go here.

Quote of the Day: President Barack Obama

"When the rungs on the ladder of opportunity grow farther and farther apart, it undermines the very essence of America—that idea that if you work hard you can make it here."

—President Barack Obama, during a July 24 speech on the economy at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.

Photo: Barbie Izquierdo is a Philadelphia native whose firsthand experiences with hunger and poverty have made her an anti-hunger activist and nationwide speaker on the topic. She lives in Lancaster, Pa., with her two children, Leylanie, 7, and Aidan, 5. Barbie has worked with Witnesses to Hunger in Philadelphia and appears in the documentary A Place at the Table (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

Advocating for a Living Wage

'Change' photo (c) 2010, KnockOut_Photographs - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

By Traci Carlson

Despite the toll that the recession has taken on hungry and poor people, and the rising cost of food and other basic necessities, Congress hasn't raised the federal minimum wage for four years.

With the rate stuck at $7.25 per hour since 2009, workers earning the federal minimum wage find themselves struggling to make ends meet—even when holding down multiple full-time jobs, in some cases. An increase in wages would reduce hunger and poverty in the United States.

Today, as senators held a hearing on the 75th anniversary of the federal minimum wage, activists gathered at the Methodist Building, in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, to pray for a living wage.

Those gatherered reflected on the fact that the federal minimum wage would be $10.74 today, had it kept pace with inflation over the last 40 years. They shared stories of real people struggling to feed their families and they prayed for political leaders to act justly on this issue and raise wages for millions of America's lowest-paid workers.

Please join them in praying for those who are hungry, those who have the political power to increase the minimum wage, and also for people of faith, who can help pressure this nation's leaders to change wage policy.

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had." (Acts 4:32)

"[T]hat there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need." (Acts 4:34-35)

To learn more about how jobs that pay a living wage help fight hunger and poverty, click here.

Traci Carlson is Bread for the World's government relations coordinator.

Reversal of Fortune: New Study Links Tax Expenditures and Mobility

Rosie
Rosie, an imaginative fifth-grader, tries to distract her mind from hunger pangs as she learns and grows in rural Colorado. Her story is told in the 2013 documentary film A Place at the Table (Movie still courtesy of Participant Media).

Is the American dream dying?

The iconic images of the pioneering frontiersman or the weary immigrant gazing west from Ellis Island hold the same promise—that even if someone's immediate circumstances didn't improve by leaving hearth and home behind, their children have a chance at a better life. It was and is the hope of upward mobility.

A new study by a team of Harvard and U.C. Berkeley economic researchers shows that intergenerational mobility – making more income than your parents - may depend in part on where you live. 

Family structure, educational investments, and even income inequality correlate with mobility. But the significant variable—the one that means a child born in Seattle is more likely to move up the income ladder than one in Atlanta—is tax expenditures, specifically the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit(CTC). Bread for the World maintains that these tax credits for low-income families are a critical weapon against hunger and must be part of the circle of protection.

In the study’s summary conclusion, the researchers write the following: 

What is clear from this research is that there is substantial variation in the United States in the prospects for escaping poverty. There are some areas in the U.S. where a child’s chances of success do not depend heavily on his or her parents’ income.  Understanding the features of these areas - and how we can improve mobility in areas that currently have lower rates of mobility - is an important question for future research that we and other social scientists are exploring.

This research should make it clear that members of Congress must keep in place policies that support programs, like the EITC and the CTC, that help create those pathways out of poverty. The tax credits were extended for five years as part of the fiscal cliff deal earlier this year, but are still in danger of being cut. The credits should be made permanent.

As Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) begin proposing reform in their tax writing committees this year, it remains to be seen how they will treat tax credits for working families. In the Senate Finance Committee, Chairman Baucus and ranking member Orin Hatch (R-Utah) have called for a blank slate and are asking for input from fellow members of Congress. 

With automatic cuts already in place, and additional cuts proposed as part of budget negotiations, Bread for the World is urging Congress to take a balanced approach to our fiscal future and protect anti-poverty programs like tax credits for working families. Tax reform must also include the needed revenue to continue these and other programs that support a strong safety net.

For as much elbow grease that has oiled the American dream, sound government policies that set a course for prosperity have laid the foundation for individuals to escape poverty. This study shows that cutting and weakening the EITC and CTC could lead to a new American narrative: a reversal of fortune.

The Time for Immigration Reform is Now

Pray_for_reform_gatheringBy David Beckmann

Today, I’m meeting with members of Congress, calling on them to pass an immigration reform bill that creates a path out of poverty for hard-working families. We will be joined by hundreds of evangelical leaders gathering in Washington to pray and take action for reform. Amplify my voice and the voice of all these other faith leaders by asking your representative to support an immigration reform bill that is rooted in biblical teachings.

Our faith calls upon us to care for our neighbors and speak out on behalf of those in need. Undocumented immigrants in the United States disproportionately experience hunger — and many are driven to the United States by hunger and poverty in their countries of origin. That is why Congress must approach immigration as a hunger issue, both in this country and abroad.

Compassionate and inclusive reform will reduce hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world, create jobs, and help reduce the national deficit.

Call or email your U.S. representative and urge passage of an immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship. Use our toll-free number: 1-800-326-4941.

You can learn more about immigration reform and Bread's position here.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Photo: Bread for the World and other organizations participated in a Pray4Reform prayer vigil for just immigration reform in Washington, D.C., on June 27, 2013. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

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