Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

33 posts from September 2013

House to Vote on $40 Billion in SNAP Cuts

Capitol_bldg_flickr_usr_smaedliBy Eric Mitchell

Members of Congress returned to Washington, D.C., this week and their schedule is packed. One of the first things on the docket is a proposal to cut SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $40 billion. If approved, the cuts would be twice the amount included in a bill that House members voted on in June. We cannot allow Congress to pass such an extreme proposal.

On Tuesday, I was on Capitol Hill with Bread for the World staff opposing these outrageous cuts. Congress is under intense pressure to cut SNAP—it’s critical that you raise your voice and tell your representative to protect this vital program! Send an email or call now! If enacted, these cuts would kick millions of people off the program and place a greater burden on churches and charities that are already struggling to provide enough food assistance. For example:

  • Across the country, 2 to 4 million adults without dependents would lose benefits. SNAP already has strict work requirements but this proposal would require individuals to find work at times when jobs are scarce.
  • Nearly 2 million more people, primarily seniors and those in low-income working families, would lose benefits due to changes in eligibility rules.
  • In 2011, private churches and charities provided approximately $4 billion in food assistance, compared to $98 billion provided by federal nutrition programs. Churches and charities would have to nearly double their current food assistance to make up the difference.

On Nov. 1, all SNAP households will see their monthly benefits reduced whether this proposal passes or fails. Now is not the time to cut SNAP.

We expect the House to vote on this proposal as early as Wednesday. Email or call your representative today and urge him or her to vote against deep and harmful cuts to SNAP. Use our toll-free number, 800-826-3688, to be connected to the Capitol switchboard or click here to send an email.

Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.

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

Join the Baker's Dozen

Bakers-Dozen-logo-color

By Jim Lund

When I began working at Bread for the World, I was amazed to learn that more than 4,000 members give gifts on a monthly basis. These incredible members make up our Baker’s Dozen monthly giving program — and their relatively small gifts add up to a significant portion of our revenue each year.

Our Baker’s Dozen members are essential to our work. They provide a reliable stream of support and allow us to plan efficiently for the future. That’s why I joined the Baker’s Dozen program and why I’m inviting you to start giving a monthly gift today.

Our goal is for 60 people to join the Baker’s Dozen program this month. I hope you will be one of those 60 members.

If you join today, your support will assist Bread in the difficult months ahead. The need for our collective voice is especially urgent right now. Congress has returned from its August recess and will soon make far-reaching decisions about programs that are vital to hungry people here in the United States and abroad.

Your monthly gift will help Bread for the World

  • fight to protect funding for programs that help families lift themselves out of hunger and poverty,
  • urge members of Congress to make decisions that protect hungry and poor people, and
  • raise awareness about hunger across the United States — in your community and other parts of the country.

When we come together — each of us doing a small part — we can accomplish great things. Together, we can end hunger. Will you join us today?

Jim Lund is Bread for the World's vice president for development and membership.

Hunger by the Numbers

Soup kitchen
Roughly 49 million Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from. (Film still from A Place at The Table, courtesy of Participant Media)

One thing is for certain—the Great Recession and its aftermath have provided us with a lot of numbers, few of them encouraging. 
  • 63.2 percent of people in the U.S. have a job or are actively seeking work — the lowest labor force percentage since 1978.
  • 10 percent was the peak unemployment rate in October 2009, and dropped to 7.6 percent as of May 2013.  Today there are three unemployed people for every job opening.
  • 47 million Americans have depended on SNAP to put food on the table as of February 2013, compared to just over 26 million in December of 2006 before the recession began (Dec. 2007).
  • 15 percent of the population was living below the poverty line in 2011 and 34.4 percent were considered poor or near poor (living below 200 percent of the poverty line).  Pre-recession the poverty rate was 13 percent (2007).
  • $14,500 is what a person working full-time at the minimum wage earns per year. The official poverty line for a family of three—one parent with two children—is $17,568 and most families need to make twice that to afford basic needs.

But surrounding those numbers is a silver lining: the safety net works. Recent numbers released by USDA show that although too many, 14.5 percent, in the United States continue to struggle with hunger, the system has not failed. While jobs vanished and the poverty rate is the highest in decades, the prevalence of food insecurity – meaning a lack of money or resources to provide for the next meal – remained essentially unchanged since 2008. 

  • 42 percent of food-insecure households were aided by the SNAP program in 2012.
  • 15.9 million children lived in food insecure households in 2012, compared to 16.7 in 2011.

Still, 49 million Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from in a country filled with abundance. We must do better and we cannot weaken the safety net without seeing those numbers rise. But some in Congress propose to do just that. Here are some disturbing numbers and consequences. 

  • $40 billion is the amount of SNAP cuts in a House of Representatives proposal that expected to be voted on in the next couple of weeks.
  • 6 million people may lose or receive reduced benefits if the cuts are enacted.
  • $167.5 billion is the estimated cost to the country, directly and indirectly, for hunger in 2011, taking into account its effects on health, education, and economic productivity.
  • $96.9 billion is the amount spent on food benefits in federal nutrition programs in 2011, compared to $4.1 billion in food distributed by private charities during the same period.  Churches and charities cannot fill in the gap if the government were to drastically reduce spending on anti-hunger programs.

The numbers add up to a simple conclusion: protecting and reinforcing the safety net, especially during tough economic times, means fewer people go hungry. The sum is greater than its parts.  Tell your member of Congress to vote NO on SNAP cuts in the House farm bill.

Quote of the Day: Dawn Phipps

IMG_5803
Dawn Phipps from Boise, Idaho tells her story to Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) and his staff during Bread for the World's lobby day in Washington D.C., on June 11, 2013.  Stories give the issue of hunger a face for members of Congress. (Rick Reinhard for Bread for the World)

"Many people think those of us who need food assistance are nothing but deadbeats and leeches; if we would just put down the bon-bons, get off the couch and get a job, life would be splendid. Ah, there’s a nice fantasy. The truth is that most of us are not deadbeats and leeches. We have jobs. We have families who need to eat. We have children who are wondering when dinner will be ready."

— Dawn Phipps, a nurse and hunger activist living in Boise, Idaho who relied on the SNAP program to feed her family during a tough time in her life. Read her story on the Bread Blog.

Within the next couple of weeks, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on a proposal that would cut SNAP by $40 billion over 10 years.  Such a cut would weaken the safety net that helped Dawn and her son put food on the table until she was able to find adequate employment. Under the House proposal, as many as 6 million Americans would either lose nutrition assistance or receive reduced benefits. Tell your member of the Congress to vote NO on cuts to SNAP, the nation's number one defense against hunger.

Tag, Congress: You're It

Natasha
Smart phones can be a powerful tool for advocates who want to make their message public through social media networks. Most members of Congress are on both Twitter and Facebook. Nicole Rushing (left) and Natasha Bisbal (right) listen to Joe Martingale (not pictured) at Bread for the World's Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

It’s time to let members of Congress know that  must help those facing hunger and poverty – tag your members  on social media and remind them of this moral responsibility. Using Twitter and Facebook, you can help amplify the message that a small group of faithful advocates are taking to Capitol Hill today: create a circle of protection around SNAP and make ending hunger a priority.

Over the next couple of weeks, members of the House of Representatives will vote on a nutrition-only farm bill that would cut $40 billion from the SNAP program over 10 years — a devastating prospect that could increase hunger for as many as 6 million U.S. citizens. We have identified 14 members of the House of Representatives who will be key votes and they need to hear from you today.

If you use Twitter, tag your member with a message or make up your own. For example: 

Rep. @bachusal06 vote NO on SNAP cuts and make ending hunger a priority #circleofprotection 

On Facebook, tell your story on the wall of your member or tag him or her in a message on your wall (you need to like your member's official page in order to do this). For example:

I’m asking @Don Young to Vote NO on SNAP cuts that would take food off the table of as many as 6 million Americans. Ending hunger should be a priority and a farm bill that cuts SNAP by $40 billion will only increase the struggle for our most vulnerable citizens during these tough economic times.

Below is a list of key representatives that Bread for the World will be meeting with today. If your member is on this list, tag him or her in a tweet or a Facebook post and help us amplify the message that now is not the time to cut SNAP.

 

State/Dist

Representative

Twitter

Facebook

AL-06

Spencer Bachus

@BachusAL06

@Spencer Bachus

AK-at large

Don Young

@repdonyoung

@Don Young

KY-05

Hal Rogers

@RepHalRogers

@Harold Rogers

NJ-02

Frank LoBiondo

@replobiondo

@Frank LoBiondo

NJ-04

Chris Smith

@RepChrisSmith

@Christopher Smith

NJ-11

Rodney Frelinghuysen

@USRepRodney

@Rodney Frelinghuysen

NY-11

Michael Grimm

@repmichaelgrimm

@Rep. Michael Grimm

NY-19

Chris Gibson

@RepChrisGibson

@Congressman Chris Gibson

NY-22

Richard Hanna

@RepRichardHanna

@U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna

NY-02

Peter King

@RepPeteKing

@Peter King

OH-14

David Joyce

@RepDaveJoyce

@Rep. Dave Joyce

PA-07

Patrick Meehan

@RepMeehan

@Congressman Patrick Meehan

PA-08

Michael Fitzpatrick

@RepFitzpatrick

@Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick

VA-10

Frank Wolf

@RepWOLFPress

@Congressman Frank Wolf

 

If you don't see your member's name listed here, that doesn't mean that their vote isn't important or that it isn't critical to get in touch with them today! Find him or her on Facebook or Twitter and send them a message asking them to protect SNAP.

If you’re not active on social media your voice can still make an difference.  Email or call your representative today and urge him or her to vote against $40 billion in cuts to SNAP. Use our toll-free number, 1-800-826-3688, to be connected to the Capitol switchboard or click here to send an email. 

Quote of the Day: Tara Marks

Tara Marks lobby"This was not a question of availability of food, but a question of affording it. I did not live in a food desert; I lived in a food mirage. I had many grocery stores around me, but I could not afford to go in and shop."

— Bread for the World advocate Tara Marks telling the Senate Budget Committee what it was like to live under the poverty line as a single mother during her Feb. 13, 2013 testimony.

Thanks to federal nutrition assistance programs like SNAP and WIC, a dependable safety-net helped Tara overcome poverty and hunger. Tara is now a law student in Pittsburgh, Pa. Within the next couple of weeks, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on a proposal that would cut SNAP by $40 billion over 10 years. In Pennsylvania, 1,784,566 people participated in SNAP in May of 2013.  If the House proposal is enacted, many Pennsylvanians would have their benefits reduced or lose them altogether. Roughly 63 percent of households would need to reapply for benefits. Tell your member of Congress to vote NO to cuts to the SNAP program.

Photo: Tara Marks, a Bread member from Pittsburgh, Pa., lobbies in the office of Sen. Robert Casey on hunger and poverty issues. Bread for the World members headed to Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., on Tuesday, June 14, 2011. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

Join Us on the Hill Tomorrow: Travel Not Required

IMG_5736
Faithful advocates during Bread for the World's annual lobby day in Washington D.C., on June, 11, 2013 (Rick Reinhart).

Congress is back in session this week and it’s a busy time for legislators. They have only nine working days before the end of the fiscal year and they are facing multiple priorities and pressure from various special interests. On Tuesday, a group of grassroots advocates from across the nation will walk the marble halls of Congress representing God’s special interest: ending hunger and poverty. We are counting on you to help amplify their messages on SNAP and the budget.

On the agenda for the House is a proposal that would cut $40 billion from the SNAP program over 10 years. We can't let this vote be lost in the noise—the consequences are far too serious. For example:

  • Across the country, 2 to 4 million adults without dependents would lose benefits. SNAP already has strict work requirements but this proposal would require individuals to find work at times when jobs are scarce.
  • Nearly 2 million more people, primarily seniors and those in low-income working families, would lose benefits due to changes in eligibility rules.
  • In 2011, private churches and charities provided approximately $4 billion in food assistance, compared to $98 billion provided by federal nutrition programs. Churches and charities would have to nearly double their current food assistance to make up the difference.

Decisions made during the next few months will impact the lives of vulnerable people, both at home and abroad, for years to come. 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.

The worst-case scenario? If Congress increases defense investments by cutting anti-hunger programs — something they could quietly do if it weren't for advocates like you paying attention. 

Faithful advocates can ensure that members of Congress don’t play partisan games with programs that help people who experience hunger. But in order to do so we must remain vigilant and speak up loudly — or risk losing ground on decades of progress against hunger. We must talk about the real consequences of poverty, both on the Hill and in our hometowns. 

Members of Congress need to hear that they must create a circle of protection around programs that decrease hunger.  They must enact a responsible budget and replace sequestration with a balanced approach that includes revenue. 

Tomorrow, join us from your home or office by making phone calls, emailing, or even using social media to get the message across that ending hunger is a priority. Stay tuned for additional details on how you can join us tomorrow, from wherever you are.

Quote of the Day: Bob Aiken

Second Helpings dock

Photo: In 2011, federal nutrition programs delivered more than 23 times the amount of food assistance as private charities.  Leo Scott, a long-time volunteer at Second Helpings in Indianapolis, weighs bags of donated bread on Monday, October 15, 2012. Second Helpings is a nonprofit that rescues prepared and perishable food and then creates nutritious meals for distribution to hungry people (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

"If divided evenly across Feeding America’s national network of food banks, every food bank would need to provide an additional 4 million meals each year for the next ten years, and that is just not possible. There is no way that charity would be able to make up the difference. We are already stretched thin meeting sustained high need in the wake of the recession. We simply do not have the resources to prevent hunger for the millions of people who would be impacted by these cuts—the low-income working families, seniors, children, and individuals struggling to get by."

   —Bob Aiken, Feeding America president and CEO, in the piece "Severe cuts to food programs in House farm bill would increase need, overwhelm charities," The Grio, May 17, 2013.

This month, House leadership will release the full text of their proposal to cut $40 billion from SNAP over 10 years, potentially eliminating food assistance for as many as 6 million low-income people. All SNAP households will see their monthly benefits reduced on Nov. 1, yet Congress continues to propose drastic cuts to the program. Get the facts about SNAP, our nation's number one defense against hunger, learn more about why charity alone can't feed everyone who is hungry, and then tell your member of Congress to protect SNAP funding.

Turn Your Faith into Action: Celebrate Bread for the World Sunday

Young_man_in_liberia_reads_bibleBy Vince Mezzera

Bread for the World Sunday is just around the corner, but there is still time to join the celebration!

On or around October 20, thousands of churches across the United States will lift up their good work fighting hunger throughout the year and pray for the ministry of Bread for the World.

For those already involved in efforts to combat hunger and poverty, activism through Bread for the World Sunday is a logical next step. Congregations can choose to host a speaker, petition the president, write letters to Congress, or find other activities to engage their members.

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

Additional materials, including hunger facts, PowerPoint slides, children’s activities, and more, are available for download at www.bread.org/sunday.

Turn your faith into action by encouraging your church to observe Bread for the World Sunday this year.

Vince Mezzera is Bread for the World's resource specialist for members and churches.

Photo: A young man reads his bible at an Assemblies of God service in Saclepea, Liberia (Laura Elizabeth Pohl).

A Hunger Justice Leader Setting 'A Place At the Table'


By now, many Bread members have viewed the eye-opening documentary A Place at the Table and are sharing it with their churches, friends, and communities. The feature-length film – now available for purchase on DVD and streaming on Netflix – tells the story of hunger in America through the lives of three people. 

Hunger Justice Leader Libby Tedder Hugus will be hosting a showing tomorrow in Casper, Wyo.,  as part of Hunger Action month. In an interview with Wyoming's KTWO News (see above), Libby said it is time to ask ourselves, "why is that in the wealthiest nation in America we have one in six of our American neighbors that are currently hungry?" For Libby, awareness is just the first step and must lead to action. "When I realized how dire the situation of hunger is in the U.S., I realized something has to be done," she said.

The 2013 Offering of Letters, also called "A Place at the Table," offers an opportunity to act.  This year, we're asking faithful advocates to sign a petition to the president in addition to writing letters to Congress. The movie has been key tool in raising awareness of the hunger problem in the United States. We have created a set of resources tied to the film – including a study guide to order or download – specifically for communities of faith.

Libby is a graduate of the 2012 Hunger Justice Leader training in Washington, D.C. The participants in this program are passionate, faith-filled leaders who, through action and awareness , work to end hunger both at home and abroad. Libby has written for the Bread Blog about her advocacy to end hunger and the faith that grounds her in the work.

With passionate and dedicated advocates like Libby, together we can work to ensure that everyone has a place at the table.

If you have shown A Place at the Table in your community, tell us about your experience, and how this tool has helped you in your efforts to build awareness and take action, in the comments below.

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