Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

36 posts from August 2013

Quote of the Day: Bill Shore

"I think Americans basically want to do the right thing. There’s a lot of issues that we could struggle with for a long time. I don’t know how to solve the climate change problem by myself, I don’t know how to come up with a vaccine for AIDS, I don’t know how to, you know, end terrorism, but when it comes to hunger in this country we know the solutions because we have proven it in the past."

—Bill Shore, founder and chief executive officer of Share Our Strength

Photo: Leylanie, 7, daughter of hunger activist Barbie Izquierdo, eats a bowl of cereal. 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. Barbie has worked with Witness to Hunger in Philadelphia and appears in the documentary A Place at the Table (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

Singing Songs for 1,000 Days: Heatherlyn

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Heatherlyn performing at Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering (Eric Bond).

By Sara Doughton

"I think all of us are artists on some level, because I believe we’re created in the image of the Creator, to co-create this world, each with a different gift that we’re given and unique ways that God wants to manifest love, healing, wholeness, and reconciliation in the world," says singer/songwriter Heatherlyn.

For Heatherlyn, music is more than a job—it’s her calling. It's her way of responding to God’s call to do justice and love mercy in the world. Through "storydwelling" she seeks to honor and amplify individuals and communities relegated to the margins of society.

"We all have a voice, we all have a story, we all have a perspective," she says. "None of us will begin to see the ‘big picture’ without the perspective of others coming from various vantages of personality, geography, economy. Some voices have been marginalized, silenced and dishonored. This is a disgrace to the human race."

When asked to contribute an original song for the Songs for 1,000 Days CD project, a collaboration between Bread for the World Institute and Women of Faith for 1,000 Days, Heatherlyn readily agreed. However, at the time she didn’t immediately notice the connection between her own experiences and the issue of maternal and child nutrition.

"I had a difficult childhood," she says. "I was raised by a single mom, and we were on WIC for awhile. I know there were times in my life when I wasn’t exactly hungry, but our resources were limited…the subsidized, highly processed, non-nutritive foods were a huge part of my younger years. And my mom and I both have suffered a lot of health issues in our lives because of that."

While watching A Place at the Table during the 2013 National Gathering, Heatherlyn heard stories of mothers and children struggling to feed themselves, and increasingly saw how hunger, food insecurity, economic systems, and poverty intersect.  She also recognized the importance of multiple levels of support and interventions for her family.

"One of the reasons we weren’t hungry [in terms of lack of food] is because of community," Heatherlyn says. "Our faith community surrounded us. At the same time, it’s significant to note that there were government programs that we needed for awhile, but my mother didn’t seek to stay on them indefinitely. People have that sort of bias about low-income people… I was very aware of socioeconomic prejudice. But it was a both-and for us. We needed [the financial support], and we needed community. And we needed things to get better."

Community continues to play an important role in Heatherlyn’s creative vocation.  She looks forward to the unfolding of her story as an artist in connection with Bread for the World.

"I felt like all the people from Bread were incredible, really sincerely warm and an embracing presence," she says. "I felt like I was a part of Bread right away…it seems like the relationship is continuing and growing, and I’m really excited.”

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Visit the Songs for 1,000 Days web page to learn more about this project, and order a copy of the CD through Bread for the World's store.

Sara Doughton, a former intern in Bread for the World's church relations department, is a student at Yale Divinity School.

Quote of the Day: Muhammad Yunus

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"Humans are not born to suffer the misery of hunger and poverty. They suffer now as they did in the past because we turn our heads away from this issue."

—Muhammad Yunus, economist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient

Use this summer as an opportunity to fight hunger and poverty. Reach out to your members of Congress. Your senators and representative need to hear from you during the August congressional recess.  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. Contact your regional organizer to learn how your voice can make a difference in August.

Photo: Three-year-old Mary plays near her house in Kamuli, Uganda.(Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

A New Occupation in Greece: Hunger

'Assos, Kephalonia, Greece' photo (c) 2012, Paul Wilkinson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

By Jon Gromek

I recall my Yiayia (Greek for "grandmother") telling me stories as a child of what it was like growing up in Greece under Axis occupation during World War II. Food was scarce; life was harsh.

Almost all the food that was grown and collected had to be given to the occupying soldiers, leaving very little for the villagers on the island. Many throughout Greece developed “starvation recipes” which were invented as ways to stay alive—grinding chickpeas when there was no ground coffee, collecting breadcrumbs in a jar to have something extra at the end of the week, and even hunting stray cats and dogs on the streets for food. Others, like my Yiayia, took to breaking curfew at night and smuggling what food they could to the neediest of families, risking their lives while doing so. Time has passed, but in recent years a new occupation has taken hold in Greece, bringing about another wave of hunger and poverty among the country's poor and middle class: austerity.

I recently had a chance to travel back to Greece to visit family. I was prepared for a lot to have changed since my last visit six years ago, but was unprepared for what I saw and learned. 

Traditional charities that have long helped families make ends meet, like food banks and soup kitchens, have been strained under austerity. Now, up to 90 percent of families in the poorest parts of Greece are dependent on food assistance to keep them afloat. According to the Greek Orthodox Church, faith-based ministries now feed an estimated 55,000 people a day in Athens alone and the need is still growing. My aunt and uncle, both public school teachers in Athens, told me of the all-too-often occurrence of children going to school hungry—some close to starving.  UNICEF recently estimated that nearly 600,000 children (1 in 3) live under the poverty line in Greece and more than half that number lack basic daily nutritional needs. 

In many ways, Greece’s attempts to get its fiscal house in order have been on the backs of hungry and poor people. We see in Greece what we know at Bread for the World: private charity cannot fill the gap in responding to the needs of those who are hungry. If recent proposed cuts to SNAP take effect and the sequester continues we will see more and more families and children go hungry and be robbed of opportunity—just like an entire generation in Greece. 

When I reflect on what my Yiayia risked her life and fought for in the dark of night those many years ago, it certainly was not this; it was for a world where all have enough and all are fed.  In the coming weeks, urge your members of Congress to protect SNAP and replace the sequester with a balanced approach. Congress needs to hear from you about the world you want to see for the next generation.

Jon Gromek is regional organizer, central hub, at Bread for the World.

Bread for the World Sunday Resources Now Available

Liberian BoyBy Vince Mezzera

We know your church calendar is filling up fast—so don’t wait to start planning your Bread for the World Sunday celebration for October 20 (or another Sunday this fall). This is your chance to join thousands of Christians across the country as we lift up our voices on behalf of hungry people.

Bread for the World Sunday offers an opportunity for your congregation to expand and deepen its commitment to ending hunger through education, prayer, and worship.

Your Bread for the World Sunday can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose, and we have FREE resources, including bulletin inserts, offering envelopes, and a NEW resource kit, that can help you plan your celebration.

The kit includes the following:

  • Step-by-step instructions on how to make your event a success
  • Prayers and a brand-new litany
  • Lectionary study for Luke 18:1-8 by Dr. Greg Carey, professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary
  • Reflection by Jeanette Salguero, co-pastor of Lamb’s Church in New York City

Learn more about Bread Sunday and order your FREE resources today!

Additional materials, including hunger facts, PowerPoint slides, children’s activities, and much more, are available for download on our website.

Vince Mezzera is a resource specialist for members and churches.

Photo:  A boy reads his bible at an Assemblies of God service in Saclepea, Liberia (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

 

One More Reason to Strengthen SNAP: Inflation

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DeEtte Peck uses her EBT card in Portland, Ore., to purchase food (Brian Duss).

By Minju Zukowski

As we know, SNAP is under unprecedented attack— a recent proposal in the House of Representatives would cut the essential nutrition program by $40 billion. This could prove disastrous for the roughly 47.5 million Americans who currently depend on SNAP (formerly food stamps) to feed their families. In addition to any cuts made through the farm bill, all SNAP households will see a cut in SNAP benefits on Nov. 1,  when a temporary increase in benefits expires.

SNAP is also facing another enemy—inflation.

A new USDA report finds that SNAP allotments haven’t kept pace with inflation, meaning the amount of benefits families receive has remained relatively constant, even as food prices continue to climb. The average monthly SNAP benefit per person was $133.41 in 2012, which amounts to less than $1.50 per meal. The findings underscore the need to strengthen, rather than slash, this critical safety net program. Some key statistics from the report:

  • Adjusted for inflation in food prices, the maximum SNAP benefit declined by about 7
    percent, a reduction of about $47 per month for a family of four, between 2009 and 2011.
  • Increasing the maximum SNAP benefit by 10 percent ($69 per month for a family of four) would reduce the number of SNAP-recipient households with very low food security by about 22 percent, while reducing the maximum benefit by 10 percent would increase that number by about 29 percent.

These statistics show that while food-price inflation has eroded some of the value of SNAP benefits, bolstering the program can not only offset the problem, but reduce the number of households categorized as experiencing very low food security.

Help the millions of hungry and poor people who rely on this benefit—contact your members of congress during the August recess and ask them to vote against cuts to SNAP when they return to Washington in September.

Minju Zukowski, a senior marketing major at Towson University in Maryland, is Bread for the World’s media relations intern.

Reaching Mountaintops: 2013 Offering of Letters

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Jeanette Salguero is co-pastor at the Lamb's Church in New York City. Photographed on Sunday, October 28, 2102.
(Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

Bread for the World researches the root causes that drive hunger and poverty. Whether improving nutrition for mothers and children as part of the 1,000 Days movement, which falls under the umbrella of international food aid and development, or improving nutrition for mothers and their children domestically through the WIC program, we advocate for policies that support long-term solutions to hunger.  

This year, as part of the Offering of Letters, faithful advocates are writing to their members of Congress asking that these vital programs be protected. Cuts to food aid will deter progress made combatting malnutrition and hunger globally, and there is potential to improve the program through common-sense reforms. Sequestration, unless replaced with a balanced approach, will make it impossible next year to reach all of the mothers and children needing nutrition assistance through the WIC program.

In a year filled with harmful proposals in Congress to anti-hunger programs, Bread members have been busy—and you have our gratitude for all your work.  SNAP is under unprecedented attack, faithful immigration reform could bring millions who are hungry out of the shadows if enacted, and decisions around the budget and taxes can affect our mission to end hunger for years to come. Some of the decisions will be made in the next few months and we continue to ask for your prayers, your vigilance, and your voice.

In this year's Offering of Letters video, Pastor Jeannette Salguero beautifully articulated the work we do as an advocacy organization grounded in faith: 

"Being a Christian to me is advocating—is reaching out, extending the hand. If someone is being thrown from a mountain, the church is very good at asking if they can help you—can I heal your wounds. However, the church also needs to ask who was launching them from the mountaintop." 

There is still time to conduct an Offering of Letters through your church or even with a small group—your voices matter. Learn more about how your voice can reach mountaintops with this year's Offering of Letters and watch the full video below.

Quote of the Day: Art Simon

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Bread for the World members en route to meetings with members of Congress at the U.S. Capitol during Bread's annual Lobby Day (Rick Reinhard for Bread for the World).

"We do not know the time for justice to emerge regarding hunger, but we do know that we are called in Christ to seek on this earth the love and justice of God for those who hunger."

—Art Simon, founder of Bread for the World

Members of Congress need to hear from faithful advocates during the August recess! Urge your senators and representative to maintain a circle of protection around the programs that help hungry and poor people in our country and abroad. 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. Contact your regional organizer to learn how your voice can make a difference in August.

Quote of the Day: Cynthia Changyit Levin

Letter writing 

By 2001, I'd done plenty of fundraising and service charity work, but 'advocacy' was an odd, scary sounding word to me...until I realized that it's simply speaking out about something you care about. It took some Bread for the World members at my church to show me that it could be just a simple act of writing a letter, an email, or making a phone call. Yet that didn't mean it was easy. I was rather afraid someone from a Senate office would call me back to challenge me, saying, 'What did you mean by that!?' For me to write that first letter was not the most natural thing. My heart raced when I made my first phone call to my U.S. representative."

—Cynthia Changyit Levin in "When Force of Will Becomes Force of Habit," part of the blog series, Anti-Poverty Mom:  Fighting poverty at home & around the world.

Learn more about this year's Offering of Letters and start making letter writing to end hunger a habit.

Photo: An Offering of Letters at Templo Calvario (Assembly of God church) in Santa Ana, Calif., on Sunday, October 16, 2011 (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

Cuts Cost Lives: Nutrition Funding in Danger

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Khato Rana plays with her daughter Rita, 2, at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal. The facility, run by Nepali NGO Rural Women's Development Unity Center (RUWDUC), restores malnourished children back to health (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

That four in 10 Nepali children are stunted because of malnutrition is outrageous. We have the knowledge to solve widespread malnutrition — but will we?

The 2013 Offering of Letters video "Malnutrition is Everywhere" shows targeted investments in nutrition work. The short video, shot at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home (NRH) in Dhangadhi, Nepal tells a story of hope. Nutrition interventions result in positive outcomes for mothers and their children in the first 1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2.

“Within a month or so, you can see the change in a child,"said Pinky Singh Rana, board member at the Rural Women’s Development Unity Center. "You can see the positive attitude of the mothers in how seeing a child who had almost died overcoming that. It’s really a such a satisfying feeling for us also.”

The NRH and organizations like it are saving lives and helping children reach their full potential with support from U.S. development assistance. Each year, 3 million children die from causes related to malnutrition and 165 million suffer from its consequences. Food aid, currently in danger of severe cuts, not only mitigates and prevents hunger but also shows that our nation values children all over the world—something Christians strongly believe. 

Food aid does more than just save lives; it's an investment in a stable and peaceful future. In the briefing paper "Sustaining U.S. Leadership and Investments in Scaling Up Maternal and Child Nutrition," senior foreign policy analyst Scott Bleggi writes, “There is solid evidence that demonstrates that improving nutrition – particularly early in life, in the 1,000 days between a women’s pregnancy and a child’s second birthday, has a profound impact on a country’s long-term economic development and stability.”

Progress on improving nutrition for vulnerable children like those in Nepal would be undermined if proposals to slash food aid become law. In the House version of the farm bill, food aid would be cut by $2.5 billion dollars. The Senate version would reform the food aid program, making it more flexible and able to reach more vulnerable mothers and infants in the first 1,000 days.

Sequestration is also chipping away at global anti-hunger programs. This year has already seen a $1 billion cut to poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) because of these automatic across-the-board cuts. A recent appropriations bill approved in the House would further slash PFDA by a devastating 26 percent.

Our nation’s leaders have an opportunity to make history with small investments in anti-hunger programs – PFDA comprises less than 1 percent of the federal budget.  Reforms to food aid could save even more lives. But, Congress needs motivation. They need to hear from their constituents that investing in human lives is a priority. During the month of August, reach out to your members of Congress and let them know that cuts can and do cost lives.

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