Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

43 posts from July 2013

Awakening Compassion Toward Hungry People

Photo: Chang K. Park boards a bus to Capitol Hill during Bread for the World's Lobby Day on June 11, 2013, to urge his senators and representative to maintain programs for hungry people in the farm bill. (Eric Bond)

Early one morning during Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, Chang Park laced up his running shoes and took a jog around the National Mall. He stopped at the Korean War Memorial and read its inscription: “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”

Those words mean a lot to Park, whose parents escaped from North to South Korea as refugees when the country was divided, and again after the war broke out. “It touches me very much,” says Park of the words etched on the memorial. “I think that it symbolizes the humanity of this nation.”

Park is not only grateful for the military support that the United States gave to South Korea; he is also thankful for the programs and people that helped feed the nation and rebuild it: “Our generation—people who received all of that benefit—has a loving memory of the United States for providing that humanitarian aid.”

“I remember when I was in elementary school,” says Park, “the teacher would ask us to bring in a bag. I didn’t have a bag, so I would fold the newspaper and glue the edges.

“The next day after class the teacher would line us up outside the storage room. Inside was a huge paper drum with the USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] logo. I remember that logo with the shaking hands and shield. In that drum was powdered milk. They would shovel that powdered milk into our bags, and they asked us to take it home and boil it and drink it. That was our source of nutrition.”

“That image still remains with me,” Park says quietly. “We were quite poor. But everyone was poor after the war, so I thought it was normal at that time.” The annual income per capita in South Korea was just $80 in the 1960s, which explains Park’s memories of children subsisting on little more than boiled potatoes.

“Those days are over for South Korea, but there are still many people and many countries going through that. And that is why Bread for the World is so important,” he says.

During those tough years, Park was also impressed by the missionaries, many of whom came from the United States, to help build hospitals, orphanages, and schools—and provide food for the extreme poor “I felt as a child that if these people are doing all of these good things for God, then I am in favor of that,” says Park. “In that sense I have been a member of Bread even before Art [Simon] founded Bread nearly 40 years ago.”

Now a Bread for the World board member and a congregant at the Riverside Church in New York, Park came to the United States as a teenager, with just $200 to his name. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Michigan Tech and a master's in business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. After stints in engineering and banking, Park founded Universal Remote Control in the mid-1980s, where he is still the president and chief executive officer.

Despite his success, Park has never forgotten the hunger that he saw all around him in his youth. When he saw Bread President David Beckmann speaking on the PBS News Hour two years ago, he was struck by Beckmann’s statements about the large and important role of government in alleviating hunger: less than 5 percent of food assistance comes from all the charitable organizations combined; federal nutritional programs account for more than 95 percent.

“I told myself, ‘That’s an organization that I want to work with.’”

Continue reading "Awakening Compassion Toward Hungry People" »

God, Grip Our Hearts

July 2013 Newsletter

(Left to right) Amanda Wojcinski, Wynn Horton, Moeun Sun, Aminata Kanu, Rebecca Land, and Robert Mauger, students at Houghton College in upstate New York, navigate Capitol Hill during Lobby Day on June 11, 2013. The students met with their senators and representative and urged them to preserve funding for food assistance in the farm bill. (Eric Bond)

Recently, Rev. Noel Castellanos prayed, “God, when you grip our hearts we are turned toward our brothers and sisters on the margins of society.”

Rev. Castellanos, chief executive officer of the Christian Community Development Association, offered this invocation as we and our colleagues in the Evangelical Immigration Table gathered for a vigil at the Capitol just before the Senate began voting on the comprehensive immigration bill.

Thanks be to God, our prayers—and your advocacy—worked. The Senate passed its version of the comprehensive immigration reform bill on June 28 with a vote of 68-32. Now we turn to the House of Representatives to see what action it will take. We anticipate a more partisan approach in the House. So we pray that God will grip the hearts of our representatives and bring both parties together to pass immigration reform legislation that will benefit struggling families in our nation.

House Farm Bill Fails

We have another major reason to be thankful to God and to you for your faithful advocacy. On June 21, the House version of the farm bill was voted down, 234-195. Had it become law, it would have meant a $20 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). More than 47 million Americans depend on this vital food assistance program.

When the current farm bill was authorized in 2008, we won the largest increase ever for food assistance. Since then, the nutrition portion of the farm bill has been targeted for cuts. We are thankful that God has gripped the hearts of our representatives, until now, and stayed those cuts.

As you read this, Congress is be preparing to recess for the summer. This means that your members of Congress will be back in your district. I encourage you to visit or call them, referring to their voting record on amendments to the new farm bill and other food and nutrition bills (see Bread for the World's 2013 Midyear Congressional Scorecard). If they voted in favor of hungry people, thank them. If they did not, still thank them for being your public servants, but express disappointment for the way they voted and remind them that you are counting on them to vote on behalf of hungry and poor people.

International Coalition Pledges to Fund Maternal and Child Nutrition

We are also thankful that God has gripped the hearts of President Barack Obama and other world leaders to increase investments in maternal and child nutrition in developing countries hardest hit by malnutrition. Since we started our work on this issue four years ago, much progress has been made. Last month, at a high-level event in London, world leaders pledged $21.9 billion for maternal and child nutrition programs between now and 2020. The United States pledged $10 billion through fiscal year 2014 toward eliminating malnutrition in the 1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2—and it promised to continue funding nutrition programs at this level beyond 2014.

On June 10, during Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C., Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide hosted an international meeting to mark the progress that has been made over the last 1,000 days and to recognize the important role that civil society has played in building the political will to scale up nutrition. The event marked the official launch of the Civil Society Network of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, which will help coordinate the efforts of the 40 SUN countries.

Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, recognized the role that activists— like the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement— have played in elevating the voices of poor and hungry people as policy makers set priorities. In addition, Bread for the World and partners hosted a congressional briefing on maternal and child nutrition to raise awareness on Capitol Hill about the critical role of U.S. leadership.

After the briefing, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) introduced a bipartisan resolution to draw attention to the scourge of malnutrition during the critical 1,000-day window.

This will be a busy autumn and winter for Bread, with important advocacy work around sequestration and other budget issues. We will also be finalizing our plans for the next three years—the first triennial plan within the framework of our long-term vision to end hunger. We will be planning our campaigns for 2014 and launching the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America.

As we enjoy the summer, I give thanks to God for your faithful support and for gripping all our hearts to advocate with those whom Jesus calls “the least among us.”

[This piece originally appeared in Bread for the World’s July-August newsletter.]

We Only Need $25 From 68 People by Midnight

Smiling kid

By David Beckmann

There are fewer than 13 hours until this matching opportunity is over—and we're so close to reaching the full $85,000! Compassionate Bread members like you have already given more than $83,300. Can you donate right now to help us reach the goal by midnight?

If just 68 people give $25, we will reach our goal! Will you be one of the 68 and help right now with whatever you can afford?

We’re fighting hard for programs that help hungry and poor people, and the timing couldn’t be more urgent. Just yesterday, the House passed a farm bill without SNAP, purposely leaving a SNAP-only bill exposed to cuts at astronomical levels! We are pushing back hard, and with your support, we can make a huge difference. Thank you for giving generously.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Tell President Obama to Address Poverty

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As part of the 2013 Offering of Letters campaign, Bread for the World is petitioning the President to make ending hunger a priority. (Robin Stephenson).

Ignoring poverty won’t make it go away, but if one were to listen to our nation’s leaders, you might think that is their plan.

Allotting only 26 percent of his presidency addressing poverty—ranking last among all presidents since John F. Kennedy, according to the Washington Times—President Obama has not yet proposed a comprehensive strategy to alleviate growing poverty. We are petitioning the president to show leadership on this issue.

A recent Kids Count report by the Annie E. Casey foundation shows that child poverty is on the rise. In 2011, 23 percent of children lived in poverty—an increase of 3 million since 2005. Poverty, especially child poverty, impedes the future potential that can move our nation forward. As Christians we know that there is enough of everything to go around, from food to shelter, but what there is not enough of is political will. We are called to a vision where all have a place at the table.

We need to remind President Obama of his promise, made during the last election campaign, to earnestly address hunger and poverty. With enough pressure, we can show that there is a large constituency of people who want to take hunger out of the shadows. We can start the conversation.

Tell President Obama to make ending hunger a top priority of his administration. Add your name to this petition and ask others to join you and talk poverty.

Faith Groups Address the House Farm Bill

Gathering_worshpA number of faith groups, including Bread for the World, sent the following letter to the House of Representatives regarding the version of the farm bill that the House is expected to vote on today.  You can also  lend your voice by calling your representative today and urging him or her to vote “no” on this farm bill. Call 1-800-326-4941, ask for your representative, and leave a message telling him or her to opposed any farm bill that cuts international food aid and leaves nutrition programs vulnerable to deep cuts.

July 11, 2013

Dear Representative:

As people of faith working to reduce hunger and poverty and urging sustainable stewardship of our resources, we urge you to oppose proposals to dismantle the farm bill. Proposals to “split” the farm bill will put critical programs, particularly SNAP (formerly food stamps), at risk of deep cuts and harmful policy changes.

Passing a farm bill that contains only the farm policies and commodity provisions would almost certainly lead to a nutrition bill with SNAP cuts that far exceed even the $20 billion proposed in the earlier version of the farm bill. Thus, we view a vote in favor of a separate farm policy bill as a vote in favor of uncertainty and possibly catastrophic cuts to SNAP.

Our nation’s food and farm policies as embodied in the farm bill impact people and communities from rural America to developing countries.  Historically, there have been good reasons to connect good nutrition policy with good farm policy, and this partnership is essential to the long-term health of all of the programs involved.  Splitting the farm bill and making SNAP vulnerable to deep cuts will not only hamper the ability of low-income Americans to put meals on the table, but will also have negative consequences for food producers as well. According to USDA, 16 cents of every dollar spent on food goes back to farmers.

We urge the House to work on a comprehensive farm bill that protects and strengthens nutrition programs and encourages sustainable stewardship of our resources.


American Friends Service Committee

Bread for the World

Church World Service

Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

Disciples Justice Action Network

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Jewish Council for Public Affairs     

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Catholic Rural Life Conference

National Council of Jewish Women

Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)

Union for Reform Judaism

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

Final Matching Gift Hours: Don't Wait!

Final SM Email 2 Graphic

By Rev. David Beckmann

Only a few hours remain to double your donation! Don’t miss out on this chance for your gift to go twice as far for hungry people. A few generous donors will match everything we raise—up to $85,000—by July 12.

Thanks to hundreds of kind and noble people like you, more than $78,000 has been given so far!

Will you step up in these final hours to help raise money to fight for hungry people?

We can only count gifts made by midnight tomorrow, so please don’t wait to give. You’ve taken a stand for hungry people by taking action, and now I hope you’ll take the next step and make a donation. It will make a huge difference if you give now, when your gift will be doubled and go twice as far.

Thank you for your meaningful support—we're so glad we can count on you!

Rev. David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Action Needed: House Farm Bill Vote Today


Late Wednesday, in a last-minute move, House leadership released a farm bill that does not include the nutrition title, which is the section in the bill that includes SNAP (formerly food stamps). The House is expected to vote on the bill early today. Bread for the World strongly opposes this splitting of the farm bill—which leaves nutrition programs such as SNAP vulnerable to deep cutsand the passage of any farm bill that cuts SNAP and food aid.

In this period of slow economic recovery, more than 47 million of individuals across the United States depend on the SNAP program to put food on their tables.  

Bread for the World is urging our members to call their representatives early today and urge them to vote “no” on this farm bill. Call 1-800-326-4941, ask for your representative, and leave a message telling him or her that any farm bill that cuts international food aid and leaves nutrition programs vulnerable to deep cuts.

Earlier this year, the Senate passed a bill that included $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP but included needed improvements to food aid.  The House bill that failed passage last month would have slashed SNAP by nearly $21 billion, and international food aid by $2.5 billion (Bread for the World opposed these cuts).  Any final bill out of the House must be reconciled with the Senate version in a conference for final passage, and then must be signed by the president.

Vulnerable populations both here and abroad should not pay the price for partisan gridlock in Congress. Splitting the farm bill not only harms a program that has kept millions of struggling families on stable ground during tough economic times, it’s not an economically sound move. With 16 cents of every dollar spent on food going back to farmers and other producers, splitting the farm bill and making nutrition programs such as SNAP vulnerable to deep cuts will not only hamper the ability of people to buy food, but have consequences for those involved in the farming, manufacturing, and processing of our food.

Farm-bill-spending blog

"Easily distracted by other people eating"

Students eating school lunch at Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, Va., on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. (USDA photo by Lance Cheung)

Summer break can mean going months without free school meals and snacks for many hungry children. The U.S. Department of Agriculture program provides free summer meals, but with some school buildings closed and limited school bus service, it's hard to get the kids to the food. This weekend, the Washington Post ran a piece about a school bus "bread truck" in Tennessee, a USDA program that brings food to children in communities where the need is great during summer months.

The reporter meets many people while riding the bus, but spends a lot of time with one family in particular, the Laughrens.  The mom is struggling to make ends meet—she works 12-hour shifts as a cook at a nursing home, but risks being fired if she brings leftovers home to her kids. She receives SNAP benefits, but they don't stretch as far during the summer months, when her kids aren't receiving two free meals and snacks at school each day. 

Hunger and food insecurity has affected each family member in a different way, all of them equally heartbreaking.

"Desperation had become their permanent state, defining each of their lives in different ways," the author writes. Courtney, 13, is "rail thin," while Taylor, 14,  has been "stockpiling calories whenever food was available, ingesting enough processed sugar and salt to bring on a doctor’s lecture about obesity and early-onset diabetes." Anthony, 9, has decided to move out of the family's trailer and live with his grandparents. For Hannah, 7, hunger has "meant her report card had been sent home with a handwritten note of the teacher’s concerns, one of which read: 'Easily distracted by other people eating.'"

The comments section of the post is, as comments sections typically are, filled with poor-shaming and judgment, but there is also compassion, smart ideas about reducing hunger and poverty in America, and calls for lawmakers to strengthen, rather than snip, our country's safety net as so many families continue to struggle.

House farm bill negotiations continue, and while a version of the bill that included more than $21 billion in cuts to SNAP failed to pass last month, a current proposal to split the bill would leave vital nutrition assistance programs vulnerable to deep cuts.

Sadly, the Laughrens story isn't unique or even uncommon—50 million Americans are food insecure, one-third of them children. Now is not the time to slash programs that ensure that children don 't go to bed hungry and parents don't have to choose between providing their children with food or shelter. Now is the time to ensure a place at the table for all God’s people by using our  voices to oppose cuts to programs that help hungry and poor people.

Singing Songs for 1,000 Days

By Tracy Howe

Would musicians volunteer to write, sing, and donate songs about the importance of nutrition and food security during the crucial 1,000 days between the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy and a child’s second birthday? I pondered that question when Bread for the World asked me to produce a CD on the theme. After all, the general public gravitates to some concerns more than others. Would artists be willing to sing about this issue?

Worldwide, poor nutrition causes 45 percent of deaths in children under age 5, according to the latest studies published in the Lancet. Stunting occurs in 40 percent of children living in poor countries. Yet low interest in maternal and child nutrition reveals general lack of knowledge about the effects of poverty and poor prioritizing by governments. This situation compels groups like the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement and Bread for the World Institute to raise awareness.

So I enthusiastically agreed to direct the CD project, knowing that I would find artists who also respond to this vital issue. I approached activists and artists with an international presence who understood the importance of nurturing life at every stage. I asked that they write songs that embody the 1,000 Days campaign, and I searched for existing songs that would help people connect nutrition, advocacy, and faith.

 The result is Songs for 1,000 Days, a compilation project that unites 14 artists around maternal and child nutrition, faith and justice, and God’s love—with tunes ranging from acoustic balladry to new gospel ruckus to Colombian folk.

The CD demonstrates the power of a diverse coalition sharing its passion, knowledge, and talents to live God’s call for peace and justice in the world.

Music, advocacy, and faith have enriched my life from my earliest years. When I began playing and writing music full time, I understood that this was not only my work, but my calling—to serve and love people. I played traditional venues, but I also played prisons, drug rehabilitation centers, and homeless shelters.

We have to remind each other that transformation is possible. We have to show that reality to each other in ways big and small. We have to continue making that which is beautiful in the face of ruin, and so doing, transform it.

As Songs for 1,000 Days reaches an audience of potential allies in the movement to end hunger, I hope that artists and listeners alike will consider how they can make justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God, whatever their vocations.

Listen and learn more about Songs for 1,000 Days at www.bread.org/1000days.

Tracy Howe is the founder of Restoration Village Arts, a nonprofit that facilitates international artistic collaboration and mobilizes artists as effective advocates for positive change.

An Afternoon at the D.C. Central Kitchen

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Bread for the World interns Katy Merckel, Theresa Martin, and Hampton Stall volunteering at D.C. Central Kitchen. Bottom photo: Bread for the World interns assembling salads at D.C. Central Kitchen. (Photos by Bread for the World intern Donald Soffer) 

By Theresa Martin

Clad in aprons and hair nets, Bread for the World interns were busy chopping onions and arranging salads on the eve of July 4. While our time at Bread is usually spent working on advocacy in the office rather than direct service, we spent the afternoon volunteering at D.C. Central Kitchen.

D.C. Central Kitchen is an organization that focuses on providing both food and skills training for those in need. However, as its website reads, it is “not a soup kitchen.” Through programs like the 14-week culinary job training program for the unemployed, D.C. Central Kitchen provides those it serves with tools for ending the cycle of poverty. Rather than just offering food, the organization teaches others how to prepare food and then deliver meals to food pantries and other agencies around the city. Fresh Start Catering, D.C. Central Kitchen’s revenue-generating arm, which employs culinary job training program graduates, catered Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering.

As volunteers, we had the opportunity to work alongside culinary students and to get to know some of the people we advocate for and with at Bread.

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“D.C. Central kitchen gave me a great chance to get to work for a good cause while learning a lot about the people I [volunteered] with!” says Bread intern Hampton Stall. 

Intern Sara Doughton said the experience “was a powerful reminder that, although we may seem to be on different paths, or using different tools, we’re traveling together – and with countless others – as we work to end hunger.”

It was encouraging to learn about the work of the DCCK, and above all, it was a reminder to be creative in the pursuit of a just food system. Through their passion for cooking, the founders of D.C. Central Kitchen’s culinary training program have "changed the lives of over 1,000 men and women." Are you passionate about cooking? Writing? Politics? Music? Use what YOU are passionate about in the fight against hunger!

Theresa Martin is an intern in Bread for the World's Church Relations department.

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