Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

33 posts from September 2013

Faith Leaders Tell Congress to Avoid a Government Shutdown

Capitol_bldg_flickr_usr_smaedliToday, 33 faith leaders released a letter asking members of Congress to work to set aside political brinksmanship and work to avert a shutdown of the U.S. government. Unless our nation’s leaders come to an agreement on appropriations for the coming months, the U.S. government will close on Oct. 1, the start of the 2014 fiscal year, a move that will have far-reaching negative consequences for the country's economy and increase hardship for the most vulnerable citizens.

“Shutting down the government will do real damage,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, speaking at a press conference today. “Risking our nation’s creditworthiness will do even more damage. Most clearly, the disruption and uncertainty will put a brake on our economy.”

The letter from faith leaders, which is below, called the budget and financial crises "completely avoidable."

"We commit to keeping you in prayer, asking that God continue to give you wisdom as you faithfully serve our nation during this time when the country most needs your principles leadership," the letter stated.

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Stand with David Beckmann and call for an end to the brinkmanship!

Email your members of Congress to pass a responsible budget that addresses sequestration and to raise the debt ceiling without political games. Tell your senators and representative to:

• Pass a budget that adequately funds programs that address hunger and help people move out of poverty in the U.S. and around the world;

• Replace sequestration with a balanced plan that includes revenues and responsible spending cuts; and

• Raise the debt ceiling without political games.

Photo of U.S. Capitol taken by flickr user smaedli.

Quote of the Day: Gary Cook

Food distribution"In the Biblical framework, God made three provisions for hungry people. One was the tithe, which was literally a tax, because the government was the same as the religious order, and allowed widows and orphans to eat. The second provision was that there would always be Sabbath and Jubilee, where every seven years and 50 years, there was land redistribution. This provision was to prevent a class of people who were always hungry. The last was gleaning, where corners of the field were deliberately not harvested so poorer members of the community could gather the remainder and use it to feed themselves.

Here, hungry people have access to food as a matter of right, not as a matter of charity."

    - Gary Cook, director of church relations at Bread for the World, quoted September 21, 2013, in The Christian Post.

As the economy slowly rebounds, 47 million Americans still depend on SNAP to put food on their tables. A recent bill passed in the House would cut the program by nearly $40 billion, putting a greater burden on the already struggling churches and charities that provide about $4 billion in food annually. Learn more about churches and hunger with this fact sheet and tell your member of Congress to protect SNAP in the farm bill.

Photo:  Food distribution in southeast Washington, DC, in November, 2009.  (Mark Fenton)

Farm Bill: Now What?

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Faithful advocacy takes perserverence. Bread for the World members at the June 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World)

By Christine Meléndez Ashley

Last Thursday was not a good day. After months of faithful advocacy against deep cuts to SNAP – in district meetings, local media, more than 7,000 emails and hundreds of phone calls to Congress – the House narrowly passed a bill cutting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by $40 billion. Emotions felt by faithful anti-hunger advocates likely mirrored my own. Defeat. Sorrow. Outrage. A sense of loss and disappointment, along with the question, “Now what?” hanging over my head.

But I woke up Friday morning with Psalm 108 on my heart, a psalm we had read in the office shortly before the vote on Thursday afternoon:

My heart is steadfast, O God! For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. [Psalm 108:1, 4 ESV]

What originally was a prayer for victory became a prayer of comfort to me. Regardless of the wins or losses on Capitol Hill, we stand steadfast, remembering that God is, God has been, and God will continue to be faithful. We may not have won on this bill, but this isn’t the end of the line in our advocacy for a strong SNAP program. With this psalm buoying my spirit, I look forward to the work that needs to be done.

Now that the Senate and the House have each passed a version of the farm bill, it’s time for a conference committee to come together and iron out the differences between the policies passed by each chamber. The Senate previously passed a bill with $4 billion in SNAP cuts. Obviously, it will be a tough negotiation to protect SNAP. 

The farm bill technically expires on Monday, September 30, but it is almost certain we will not have a final bill by then. Historically, farm bills have been allowed to expire for a couple months before a final bill has been passed. This will likely be the case again this year. SNAP is a unique farm bill program in that it can continue past the September 30 deadline as long as the government is open and functioning. This gives us as advocates the time we need to make sure our message is heard loud, clear, and often: SNAP must be protected in any final farm bill.

As Congress works out the parliamentary and procedural details of how to move forward, we continue to press on in our faithful advocacy. Now is a critical time to let your representatives know you were watching how they voted. Call 1-800-826-3688 and express your thanks or your frustration and outrage at their vote. Our calls today could mean a difference in how representatives vote on SNAP cuts in the future!

The nutrition bill passed but it was a very close vote. Threats to SNAP will continue to come up this fall but victory - protecting SNAP - is within our reach. Stand steadfast and stay tuned for updates from us in the coming weeks.

Christine Meléndez Ashley is a policy analyst at Bread for the World.

Advocacy Isn't a Sprint, It's a Marathon

Ameliarace1By Amelia Kegan

Faithful advocates have been hit with a lot lately—the House decision to cut nearly $40 billion from SNAP, the ongoing nightmare of sequestration, and budget debates that seem to never end, threatening the economic stability of everyone, especially those struggling with hunger and poverty. Yet, Bread advocates across this country continue to keep up the pressure with a sense of urgency and passion that is nothing short of inspiring.

Protecting programs that help poor working families, ensuring that Congress replaces the harmful sequester with a balanced plan, and pushing the President and Congress to set a goal and enact a plan to end hunger—these are things that require a long, sustained push. And while we have a long and difficult road ahead, Bread for the World activists know that ending hunger is about pushing a movement.

Because advocacy isn’t a sprint—it’s a marathon.

During periods of struggle and  hard work is when we remember what faith and perseverance allow us to accomplish. That’s one of the reasons I run actual marathons and ultramarathons—it reminds me of what is possible, that people can push themselves to the limits of endurance and not only make it through, but triumph.

Next weekend, I will run the Oil Creek 100 mile ultramarathon in Titusville, Pa. On Saturday, Oct. 5, from the moment the gun goes off at 5 a.m. until I reach the finish line 100 miles and roughly 30 hours later, I will continue to press on. It would mean completing my first 100 mile race. I know it can be done.

Many distance runners will talk about “hitting the wall,” a period in the race when your legs can’t go any more and your head screams at you to quit. Yet you can manage to press on. I do it not by thinking of the total number of miles left to go, but by focusing on putting one foot in front of the other, going one more step, one more mile. Gradually, those individual steps and miles add up to crossing the finish line.

It is that ability to continue in moments of absolute weakness that I find so empowering. We are reminded in Corinthians 12 that God’s grace is sufficient for us. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  Paul says, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

So it is with our race to end hunger. We hit our own walls, like last week’s passage of the House SNAP bill. But rather than wallowing in defeat and throwing in the towel, rather than thinking that ending hunger is impossible in this political and fiscal climate, we know that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. And by focusing on the battles right in front of us—the farm bill conference, the debt ceiling fight, addressing sequestration for the coming year, we will gradually win one more vote, convert one more hunger champion in Congress, and press on until the political will to end hunger shines brightly upon us all.

So, I’m dedicating this upcoming race to Bread for the World, and I’d like you to join me. Because Bread for the World activists, like ultramarathoners, know what is really possible. As I embark on this 100 mile journey, I hope you will pray for me, send me words of encouragement, and, if you’re able, sponsor to support my run with a gift to Bread for the World of $1 or 50 cents per mile--or another amount of your choosing.

I’m doing this because I believe in Bread for the World. I believe in our mission. I believe in our members. I believe in our staff. I believe in our strategy. And, I believe that in the ultramarathon to end hunger, ultimately, we will succeed. Because Bread for the World members refuse to give up. We may hit a wall, we may think we can’t go on, but our faith moves us forward, and we always find the strength to continue our work. We won’t stop until we reach that finish line, until we witness that exodus from hunger that we know is underway.

Amelia Kegan is a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World.

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Join Amelia’s run! You don’t have to run 100 miles, but you can sponsor Amelia as she runs 100 miles to benefit Bread for the World and to end hunger.  Support her efforts with a gift of $1 per mile or another amount of your choosing. You can also tweet her encouraging words now, and during the actual race, to help her across the finish line!  Use the hashtag #runamelia.

Photo: Amelia Kegan, after finishing the Chicago Marathon (Courtesy of Amelia Kegan)

 

A Window of Opportunity

The Power of 1,000 Days

As Congress uses a vote on a continuing resolution as a political football and a possible government shutdown looms, there are important anti-hunger issues at stake. This video, “The Power of a 1,000 Days,” is a reminder of the potential children hold for the future when they are given the opportunity to thrive. We could lose ground on the strides that have been made toward ending global malnutrition if the sequester is not replaced. The partisan conversation will likely continue as Congress debates the debt ceiling in mid-October, so every opportunity to remind our legislators that ending hunger must be part of the debate is critical.

If passed, the continuing resolution would keep the government running through mid-December, but the automatic across-the-board cuts of sequestration would not be replaced. In the next year, sequestration will mean:

  • More than 570,000 children in developing countries will be denied nutritional interventions during their first 1,000 days of development. These interventions save lives and help prevent the irreversible damage caused by malnutrition.
  • Roughly 2 million people around the world will experience reduced or denied access to lifesaving food aid.

The 1,000 days from the start of a woman's pregnancy through her child's second birthday offer a unique window of opportunity to shape healthier and more prosperous futures. Similarly, we have a window of opportunity that we can use to tell Congress funding food aid must be a priority.

As the video states, “malnutrition robs children of the ability to grow, learn, and thrive.”  Will our members of Congress forget the children in the din of political rhetoric this week? Or will the 870 million malnourished children worldwide who can be helped by simple and small investments in targeted nutrition be remembered?  It’s up to us to remind them.

Use our toll-free number, 800-826-3688, to be connected to the Capitol switchboard, or send an email.

In June, with Concern Worldwide, The Bread for the World Institute co-hosted the event Sustaining Political Commitments to Scaling Up Nutrition. A report of the summary and highlights in now available online.

Overwhelming Support for Congressman’s Vote Against SNAP Cuts

http://bread.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341d945753ef017eeaca02a3970d-500wi
(USDA photo)

By Zach Schmidt

Only 15 Republicans voted against H.R. 3102, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act, with strong pressure from party leadership to support the bill. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01) of Lincoln, Nebraska, was one of the few who went against his party and opposed the nearly $40 billion cut to SNAP (food stamps), which could result in nearly 4 million people—including 10,000 Nebraskans—losing benefits.

Rep. Fortenberry’s “no” vote was the result of years of advocacy from Bread for the World members and coalition partners in Lincoln, capped by an eleventh-hour surge spearheaded by local Bread leaders and allies. Local directors Scott Young at the Food Bank of Lincoln and Beatty Brasch at the Center for People in Need, and their respective staffs, reached out and urged Fortenberry to oppose the bill. They provided local stories and data on hunger in Lincoln and explained how the bill would harm vulnerable people who were already struggling to get by. Lincoln Bread leader Kristin Ostrom rallied faith leaders across the state to weigh in as well. It was clearly a team effort, and a successful one!

In response to a statewide news article in the Omaha World Herald about how Rep. Fortenberry split with his party to vote against the bill, Ostrom led an effort to generate public comments thanking Fortenberry for his “no” vote. That effort led to 160 people—including faith, education, and nutrition leaders—publically supporting  Rep. Fortenberry’s “no” vote on H.R. 3102. He received more than 130 ”likes” on Facebook and more than 30 positive comments on the Omaha World Herald piece. Commenters thanked Rep. Fortenberry not only for his vote, but for his compassion, his courage, and for “standing with the least of these.” One commenter said he was “grateful that Mr. Fortenberry stood with the hungry of Nebraska.”

We wanted to make it clear that Rep. Fortenberry has strong and vocal support for his decision to protect poor and hungry people.

Great, great work to Kristin Ostrom and Bread members and coalition partners in Lincoln and across Nebraska! This is what effective advocacy looks like.

Zach Schmidt is a Bread for the World regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

A Radical Commitment to End Hunger Takes Faith

Amelia and Gary to White House
Bread for the World policy analyst Amelia Kegan and director of church relations Gary Cook travel to the White House in August to deliver the first set of signatures from Bread for the World members asking the president to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad. (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World)

By Amelia Kegan

You may be overwhelmed by the number of times we have asked you to call your members of Congress lately. You may be so angry at the partisan brinkmanship that you want to ignore the news. I know because sometimes I feel it, too. But I’m not giving up and we won’t stop asking you to speak up. Your voice makes a difference; there is too much at stake to lose faith now.

Soon Congress must pass a responsible budget and the path there will include more partisan fights over a continuing resolution, the debt ceiling, and sequestration. The fate of SNAP in the farm bill is still uncertain as the House and Senate move toward a reconciliation process. At each juncture we must be vigilant and vocal or risk an increase in hunger both at home and abroad.

Bread for the World knows ending hunger requires a long-term vision. We envision transitioning from a political climate of defensive protection to a bold offensive against hunger, transforming the rhetoric of scarcity into one of hope and abundance. We will pull out by the roots this political culture that blames the poor and demonizes those on SNAP. We will replant a new seed of radical commitment to ending hunger within Congress and the White House—a seed that will eventually yield economic security for all and a real opportunity to attain the American Dream. We will grow this transformation with the soil of on-the-ground, person-to-person grassroots organizing, the waters of political accountability, and by radiating the fierce unconditional love of Jesus Christ. 

But staring only at that grand vision of ending hunger in our time without attending to the immediate fights in front of us is like driving with our sights on the horizon while ignoring that sharp and dangerous curve in the road right just up ahead. How will we end hunger in this generation if 2014 begins with 4 million Americans kicked off of SNAP and 2 million more people around the world denied lifesaving food aid because of the sequester?

The budget battles we are fighting today are becoming part of the political narrative defining this era. There is no doubt in my mind that if we keep at it we will emerge victorious because we're in the right on this. When those suffering from hunger are able to fill their dinner tables with more than just anxious conversation, we all benefit. History, economics, and scripture have taught us that we are all in this together.

While each new budget fight might bring a level of increased exhaustion, frustration, and irritation, we cannot be discouraged. We must continue the relentless struggle over these fiscal fights. And while some may question the sustainability of our seemingly small efforts, we know the parable of the mustard seed and that with faith, we move mountains. 

As we face the next several months, prepare yourself for the trial ahead by taking comfort in the  certainty that you are not alone in God’s kingdom and everyone deserves a place at the table

Amelia Kegan is a senior policy analyst for Bread for the World.

Bread for the World at the Wild Goose Festival

Heatherlyn at Wild Gooseresize
Heatherlyn, one of the artists features on the Songs for 1,000 Days CD, performing during the Wild  Goose Festival in Hot Springs, N.C. (Nancy Neal)

By Rev. Nancy Neal

As in years past, Bread for the World was represented at the Wild Goose Festival, which was held in Hot Springs, N.C., in August. With upwards of 3,000 participants and a booth space along the main entrance to the camp ground, we got to see lots of familiar faces and to make some new friends.

Our booth featured the Songs for 1,000 Days CD, and with the daily afternoon rains, it became a little oasis where folks could stay dry and visit with each other. The festival this year was not only on the camp grounds of the Hot Springs Resort and Spa, but it spilled into the surrounding small town with events in its community center and other venues.

I was interviewed on the Doug Paget Radio Show to talk about Bread for the World, the CD, and the 1,000 Days movement. Heatherlyn, who wrote an original piece for Songs for 1,000 Days was the featured musician for the show. We also sponsored a concert featuring the CD. The artists with us included Tracy Howe, who also wrote a song and produced the CD, Heatherlyn, and Bryan McFarland, who is a long-time Bread activist and singer-songwriter. A nice crowd of folks gathered, interested to learn more.

Wild Goose is a community gathered at the intersection of justice, spirituality, music, and art. The main annual event is a four-day, outdoor festival hosted each summer in North Carolina. This year, artist such as Indigo Girls and Speech from Arrested Development were on the main stage; speakers included Vincent Harding, Krista Tippett, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and William Barber.

The Songs for 1,000 Days CD is an initiative that came out of our presence at last year’s festival. It is a collection of songs from 14 artists, four of whom wrote original songs with themes around advocacy and the 1,000 days movement to improve nutrition for women and children in the 1,000 days between the beginning of woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. The CD is available for order in the Bread store.

Rev. Nancy Neal is Bread for the World's associate for denominational women's organization relations.

Voting on SNAP: Let Them Know You Were Watching

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Bread for the World members on Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., June 11, 2013. (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World)

By David Beckmann

We were so close! Thank you for your advocacy last week.  You and other anti-hunger advocates sent more than 3,000 emails and made hundreds of phone calls opposing a House proposal to cut SNAP  (formerly food stamps) by nearly $40 billion.

Despite our best efforts, this nutrition bill passed by a vote of 217 to 210 on the House floor. The seven-vote margin reflects the pressure you exerted on your representatives.

Now it is critical that you hold your representative accountable—let him or her know you were watching! Find out how House members voted and then call your representative. Either thank your representative for voting “no” or express your outrage over a “yes” vote.

This bill not only includes nearly $40 billion in cuts to SNAP, it would kick almost 4 million Americans off of the program next year. Churches and charities would have to nearly double their food assistance to make up the difference.

Our advocacy on the farm bill is far from over. As Congress moves to finalize a farm bill, we press on, reminding our legislators that any farm bill must protect hungry and poor people.

We will call on you again in the coming months. Last week’s vote was close, and we must win the next one. We will continue to advocate with and for the most vulnerable in our country and around the world.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

For Peace

Mandy
Lord Christ,

at times we are like strangers on this earth,
taken aback by all the violence, the harsh oppositions.

Like a gentle breeze, you breathe upon us the Spirit of peace.

Transfigure the deserts of our doubts,
and so prepare us to be bearers of reconciliation
wherever you place us,
until the day when a hope of peace
dawns in our world.

Amen.

Brother Roger of Taizé, Book of Common Worship (WJKP, 1993) 795.

Reprinted via Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Photo: Worship service, Washington D.C. June 11, 2013 (Robin Stephenson).

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