Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

36 posts from August 2013

Help Elect Bread's Board of Directors


By Rev. David Beckmann

Vote now for your representatives on the Bread for the World board of directors.

Each year, the entire Bread for the World membership helps elect one-third of our board members. The elected members will join the existing board in January of next year.

The board is a multidenominational, multicultural, bipartisan group of people from all parts of the United States. Board members set the direction for how Bread can best channel its resources to help end hunger.

This year’s 14 candidates were chosen for the gifts they would bring to the leadership of Bread for the World — they include the heads of relief and development organizations, experienced grassroots activists, and heads of denominations.

Each candidate possesses specific skills that would be valuable to the work of Bread for the World. I’m asking for your vote in this election because I think that each member of Bread for the World has unique insight to share. I want to hear from you. Your vote will help select the people who will help guide us toward our shared goal of ending hunger in the United States and around the world.

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

President Obama: Make a Plan to End Hunger

Gary Cook, director of church relations at Bread for the World, hands Paulette Aniskoff, deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, sheets from the peitions delivered to the White House on August 7, 2013. The signatures emphasize the need for presidential leadership to end hunger. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

Yesterday, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech, President Barack Obama, addressed this nation's economic disparities.  “Change does not come from Washington, but to Washington,” he said. Bread for the World works to end hunger with a faithful grassroots, but change also requires leadership in Washington.

"The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own,"President Obama said. "To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency"

Vigilance is something faithful advocates know about — our vigilance has helped stave off billions of dollars in cuts to programs that help alleviate poverty. Help us send a message to Washington and the president; join us in telling them that although talking about poverty is a good first step, we need concrete action to end hunger. We have already delivered more than 30,000 of your signatures urging the administration to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad. Our new goal is to reach 50,000 signatures. Help us reach that number by asking your family members, neighbors, church members, and friends to sign the petition today.

Bread for the World Applauds President Obama’s Remarks on Ending Economic Injustice.  Read the press release here.

Your Voice is Essential This Fall

When members of Congress return to Washington on Sept. 9, following a five-week summer recess, they face a mountain of urgent issues—and a new round of debate over the federal budget.

Much of the unfinished business Congress will address this month directly affects hungry and poor people. Decisions made this fall will impact the lives of vulnerable people, both at home and abroad, for years to come.

At the top of the list of congressional priorities this month is working to avoid a government shutdown. Legislators have just nine working days from the date of their return to pass a continuing resolution that would temporarily fund the government until Congress finalizes the budget for fiscal year 2014. Failure to reach a compromise could mean a government shutdown that would harm vulnerable groups, some of whom have already suffered through program cuts and reductions because of sequestration, such as Meals on Wheels recipients.

Negotiations around funding the government offer an opportunity for legislation to replace the sequester. Since sequestration began, Bread for the World has been pushing Congress to replace these harmful across-the-board cuts with a balanced approach that includes both revenues and responsible spending cuts that do not harm low-income people or communities. Without this balanced approach, priorities such as international poverty-focused development assistance, WIC, and other safety net programs such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), will continue to be at risk of deep cuts.

SNAP is facing several threats this fall. This month, House leadership will release the full text of their proposal to cut $40 billion from SNAP over 10 years. Earlier in the summer, the House was unable to pass a unified farm bill that included $20 billion cuts to SNAP. In July, the House decided to split the farm bill and passed farm program legislation that did not include the nutrition provisions, the largest of which is SNAP. As expected, splitting the farm bill—historically a single, bipartisan piece of legislation that has connected the numerous pieces of our food system—exposes SNAP to unprecedented cuts.

According to the draft framework for the nutrition-only bill, the $40 billion in cuts come from tougher work requirements, particularly for able-bodied adults without dependents. These requirements would remove millions of people from the program. The House is expected to consider their bill immediately after returning from August recess, during the week of Sept. 9. If passed, there will then be a farm bill conference committee between the House and Senate, where members of Congress will attempt to come to final agreement on a farm bill.

Unfortunately, no matter what happens with farm bill negotiations, SNAP recipients will still see changes to their benefits this fall on Nov. 1, when the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary increase to SNAP expires. This means that 47 million individuals who rely on this vital program will automatically see their benefits reduced.

Faithful advocates must remain vigilant during this crucial time. Congress cannot allow efforts to reduce the federal deficit to overshadow the people who are most in need of assistance. We must continue to ask members of Congress to move beyond gridlock and come to agreement on these issues while also protecting programs that help hungry and poor people.

Quote of the Day: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr._Martin_Luther_King_Jr._at_a_civil_rights_march_on_Washington_D.C._in_1963"We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Today is the 50th anniversary of March.










Photo: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedon, on August 28, 1963, in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Information Agency)

Realizing the Dream: September's Bread for the Preacher

'Holy Bible' photo (c) 2009, Steve Snodgrass - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Did you know that each month the church relations department at Bread for the World produces a resource specifically for pastors? Whether you are searching for inspiration for a sermon you're writing, or just a lectionary enthusiast, Bread for the Preacher is for you.

After reading this introduction, explore this month’s readings on the Bread for the Preacher web page, where you can also sign up to have the resource emailed to you each month.

By Rev. Gary Cook

A few blocks down the street from Bread for the World’s Washington, D.C., offices, thousands of people crowd the National Mall, marking the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On Wednesday, they will join Americans across the country in commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. There will be some celebration of what has changed in 50 years, but the people on the Mall are keenly aware that the Trayvon Martin verdict, the curtailment of the Voting Rights Act, and the mass incarceration of people of color are all signs that the dream is far from being realized.

Many of those on the Mall are people of strong faith. They know that "Let justice roll down like waters" was a divine mandate long before it was a Dr. King quote. And they come trusting that the God of deliverance is still at work in this world. Remembering that God also had a role for Moses in delivering Israel from bondage, they raise their voices before those who have the power to change things for those who face hunger, poverty, imprisonment, and deportation.

The September lectionary begins with the Letter to the Hebrews admonitions for Christian love that encompasses concern for brothers and sisters in need, for the stranger, and for those in prison. Throughout the month, we are reminded that relationships of solidarity, understanding, and love are essential to the realization of justice.

I pray that your September preaching helps connect your listeners to the faith and passion of those who mark this important moment in our country's history — and rekindle hope that the dream will be realized.

Rev. Gary Cook is director of church relations at Bread for the World.

Closing the Gender Gap: Miles to Go

Heather_turner_and_daughterToday is Women’s Equality Day, a time to commemorate the right of women to vote. Although we've come a long way in the fight for equality, there are still miles to go. The face of poverty is most often that of a woman and the lopsided statistics below help make it clear that hunger and poverty disproportionately affect women.
  • In the United States, single-parent households are the most likely to be poor. A snapshot from the National Center for Law and Economic Justice for 2011 reports 34.2 percent of single-parent homes headed by females were poor, compared to 16.5 percent of those headed by males. During that time, more than 5 million more women than men lived in poverty.
  • U.S. Census figures also show that women are still earning an average of  77 cents on the dollar compared to wages for men. Between 2010 and 2011, the number of men working full time increased by 1.7 million, compared to 0.5 million women.
  • Although women account for a little over 50 percent of the U.S. population, only 19 percent of our representatives in Congress are women. Women make up nearly half the labor force but they still only hold 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions.

We have miles yet to go.

  • Globally, women make up 45 percent of the world’s workforce, yet they are 70 percent of the world’s poor.
  • In impoverished nations, girls are less likely than boys to receive a basic education and globally, 584 million women are illiterate.
  • The World Economic Forum has reported that 82 out of the 132 countries improved economic equality between 2011 and 2012, but globally only 60 percent of the gender gap has been closed.

We have miles yet to go.

Each new policy that supports full inclusion and equality as it related to economics, politics, education, and health are mile markers on the road toward closing the gender gap. Closing the gender gap is part of the journey to end hunger. In the United States, policy is influenced and driven by the will of the people through exercising our voting rights. A day that reminds us how precious that right is, especially for women, is a good day to remember how powerful our voice as faithful advocates can be.

Part of the process to build the political will to end hunger includes keeping our legislators accountable, which is why Bread for the World has created the 2013 midyear voting scorecard.  For Christians, voting is part of the work we do to realize a just and equitable society where every man, woman and child has enough to eat. 

Photo: Heather Rude-Turner, 31, kisses her daughter Naomi, 5, after attending church, October 2, 2011.  (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).


Quote of the Day: Rep. John Lewis


“I’m not tired, I’m not weary. I’m not prepared to sit down and give up. I am ready to fight and continue to fight, and you must fight.”

—Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Photo: Rep. John Lewis addressing Bread for the World members during the 2013 National Gathering on June 11, 2013, in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

Jobs and God’s Concern for the Poor

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at a press conference in March of 1964 (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division).

The following is an excerpt from remarks given by Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, at the March on Washington Anniversary Praise and Worship Service at Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., on August 22, 2013.

It comes as no surprise that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man guided by God’s love for all people, would speak passionately about economic justice for all, especially for African Americans.  Dr. King said this in a speech titled “Showdown for Nonviolence,” just before his assassination, when American cities had erupted in riots:

A nationwide nonviolent movement is very important.  We know from past experience that Congress and the president won’t do anything until you develop a movement around which people of goodwill can find a way to put pressure on them . . . This really means making the movement powerful enough, dramatic enough, morally appealing enough, so that people of goodwill, the churches, labor, liberals, intellectuals, students, poor people themselves begin to put pressure on congressmen...

Our idea is to dramatize the whole economic problem of the poor. . . We call our demonstration a campaign for jobs and income because we feel that the economic question is the most crucial that black people and poor people generally are confronting.  There is a literal depression in the Negro community.  When you have mass unemployment in the Negro community, it’s called a social problem; when you have mass unemployment in the white community, it’s called a depression.  The fact is, there is a major depression in the Negro community.  The unemployment rate is extremely high, and among Negro youth, it goes up as high as forty percent in some cities.

 We need an economic bill of rights.  This would guarantee a job to all people who want to work and are able to work.  It would also guarantee an income for all who are not able to work.  Some people are too young, some are too old, some are physically disabled, and yet in order to live, they need income . . . It would mean creating public-service jobs, and that could be done in a few weeks.  A program that would really deal with jobs could minimize ---I don’t say stop---the number of riots that could take place this summer.  Our whole campaign, therefore, will center on the job question, with other demands, like housing, that are closely tied to it. Much more building of housing for low-income people should be done. . .

On the educational front, the ghetto schools are in bad shape in terms of quality . . . They need more and special attention, the best quality education that can be given.

These problems, of course, are overshadowed by the Vietnam War. We’ll focus on the domestic problems, but it’s inevitable that we’ve got to bring out the question of the tragic mix-up in priorities.  We are spending all of this money for death and destruction, and not nearly enough money for life and constructive development. 

In his final Sunday sermon — at the National Cathedral on March 31, 1963 — Dr. King spoke of the need to eradicate poverty in our nation and around the world. 

There is another thing closely related to racism that I could like to mention as another challenge.  We are challenged to rid our nation and the world of poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, poverty spreads its nagging, prehensile tentacles into hamlets and villages all over our world.  They are ill-housed, they are ill-nourished, they are shabbily clad.  I have seen it in Latin America; I have seen it in Africa; I have seen this poverty in Asia. . . .Not only do we see poverty abroad. I would remind you that in our own nation there are about forty million people who are poverty-stricken. . . . I have seen them in the ghettos of the North; I have seen them in the rural areas of the South; I have seen them in Appalachia. 

I have just been in the process of touring many areas of our country, and  I must confess that in some situations I have literally found myself crying. . . America has the opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots.  The question is whether America will do it. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty.  The real question is whether we have the will.     

Dr. King was right that the moral character of poverty has changed, because we now know how to get rid of it.  Since Dr. King’s time, lots of countries have, in fact, reduced poverty — countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Great Britain.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, our country cut our poverty rate in half.  The economy was strong, and the Civil Rights movement and the War on Poverty made a difference.  But we never built the broad movement for economic justice that Dr. King called for, and our poverty rate is now higher than it was in 1974.

But we have an opportunity now to build the movement against poverty that Dr. King envisioned.  African-Americans, Latinos, white people of modest means, and young people came out to vote in large numbers in the last election.  The faith community has been effective in fending off the powerful forces that are pushing to decimate programs for poor people.  The movement for immigration reform has become electric.  And just recently, we have seen growing awareness of the injustice of mass incarceration.  Right now, we are seeing courageous labor actions among fast-food and Walmart workers.   

God, help us to build the broad movement against poverty that Dr. King envisioned.

Quote of the Day: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


"Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children. "

— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in his "I Have a Dream" speech

Photo: Dr. Martin Luther King at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963, in Washington, D.C.  A weeklong commemoration of the March on Washington—August 28, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of this historic event—is taking place in Washington, D.C.  (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Walking, We Find Our Name

La_muna_picBy Natalie Serna

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) “As for me, this is my covenant with you. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 17:4-6)

I like the smell of warm tortillas and the feel of the air before the sun rises and the heat has settled in. My home is Nogales, a city split by a wall. On this side of the border it’s called Nogales Sonora, on the other side it’s Nogales Arizona.

Every morning I make my way to el comedor (dining area), where I pass around plates of refried beans, mole, eggs, pozole (a pork stew), and cantaloupe juice—along with piles of warm tortillas to the dozens of men and women who arrive hungry to our tables.

Marla calls it the point of first contact, where a plate of salsa y arroz allows us to feed a hungry stomach and discover a hungry heart. Each heart is unique; some hearts arrive broken, some hopeful, some grateful, and some desperately confused.

Often, my surveys are the footnote of a tragedy. Just a week ago, Eduardo was sitting at the table with his two girls in California, today he is sitting in a dusty border town receiving a free plate of beans and a survey. I ask for name, age, and place of origin. Were you deported? From where? Were you separated from family? Were you abused in any way?

There is no lesson in geography that can help these unwilling travelers make sense of the dislocation that they feel. There are no words to mend the sudden shattering of a lifetime made in the United States. I take the survey gently from their hands. I look them in the eyes and thank them,

“Gracias, Eduardo; Gracias, Maria; Gracias, José; Gracias, Ezequiel; Gracias, Juan ….”

Nogales is one of the main stops migrants make on their journey north and it is one of the main spots to which migrants are deported. Some are deported while attempting to cross; others are deported after living a lifetime in the United States. Politics tell me much about the causes but little about the essence of migration, the Bible, however, tells me quite a lot.

To be on earth is to be named and to be human is to journey.

To be named you see, is to be stamped unique by God and therefore created for a specific purpose. To be named is to receive a promise. The migrant holds onto the promise by walking. By walking he or she refuses to become another victim of the politics that breed violence, family separation, poverty, and oppression. By walking migrants refuse to deny their names. For many, holding on to that name will cost them their lives, yet they leave country and kindred, because staying will cost them their humanity. So, between platefuls of warm tortillas and mole I wonder, do I understand the fullness of my name? And how far would I go to find out?

Natalia Serna aka La Muna is a volunteer with the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and is currently working on a border-based album to release in 2014. Natalia contributed a song to Songs for 1,000 Days, Bread’s new CD that raises awareness about the importance of proper nutrition during the 1,000 Days from pregnancy through a child’s second birthday.

Photo: Natalia Serna with fellow volunteer Oscar Limon in the Kino Border Initiative’s comedor. Photo courtesy Natalia Serna.

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