Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

39 posts from October 2013

Talk to the White House *Today* at 4 p.m. Eastern

White house delivery
Bread for the World staff hand Paulette Aniskoff, deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, sheets from the petitions delivered to the White House on August 7, 2013. The signatures emphasize the need for presidential leadership to end hunger. Pictured (left to right): Amelia Kegan, senior policy analyst; LaVida Davis, director of organizing; Paulette Aniskoff; Gary Cook, director of church relations; Eric Mitchell, director of government relations (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

There is still time to register for today's national grassroots conference call and webinar with  special guest Paulette Aniskoff, deputy assistant to President Obama and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

The one-hour call begins at 4 p.m. Eastern (1 p.m. Pacific). If you are unable to join the webinar portion of the call, the presentation is available below, as both a slideshow and a downloadable PDF.  You can also find a comprehensive how-to guide on the webinar by clicking here.

During the issues update portion of the call, the following resources will be referenced and are available by clicking on the links below:

Fall is a busy time for faithful advocates. The budget negotiations, debt ceiling, farm bill, and immigration are all moving in Congress and have consequences for hunger. Please join us for an informative presentation and update from our government relations and organizing staff.

Download October 2013 PDF Webinar Slides


Can 26 Members of Congress Help End 15 Days of Misery?

Hunger LineIt’s been a miserable 15 days for those Americans who are facing uncertainty and hardship because of an avoidable government shutdown.

The latest news reports indicate that the Senate has crafted a bipartisan extension of the debt ceiling through February, and a continuing resolution that would fund the government through mid-January and end the current shutdown. The proposal, if adopted, would need to pass both chambers and be signed by the president. Reporters are noting that congressional leaders are feeling pressure from an increasingly vocal group of Republicans in the House, which is a factor in these new developments.

Each day the shutdown continues more harm is done—especially to vulnerable populations. Each day makes it that much more difficult for low-income families to rebound. Each day, Main Street loses an estimated $160 million in economic activity. Each day of the shutdown is unacceptable. 

And it is going to get much worse if Oct. 17 comes and goes and Congress doesn’t act to ensure that the United States can pay its bills. 

Failure to raise the debt ceiling would likely send the country into a recession deeper than 2008’s, according to a Treasury Department report. The lesson from the last recession is clear—during times of financial crisis, the most vulnerable suffer and the ranks of the hungry grow. As a result of the last recession, SNAP participation increased—from 26 to 47 million in 8 years. A debt-ceiling default would prove disastrous for the crucial programs that kept hunger a bay and those who need them. The administration could be forced to delay or suspend billions of dollars in benefits for social security, SNAP, and other vital safety net programs.  The U.S. economy is just starting to recover from a period of low employment and high poverty and cannot absorb yet another crushing blow.

The Gospel reminds us again and again that we are to care for the widow, the orphan, and the alien. We are told we see Jesus when we feed the hungry. Advocacy is a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even if you’ve already called your members of Congress about these issues, call again (1-800-826-3688), send an email, and tell your friends to call, too. We cannot stop until this situation is resolved in a responsible way.

If you are a resident of one of the states or districts listed below, your faithful advocacy around these issues is especially important. We have identified the following members of the House of Representatives who may be particularly influential in ending the shutdown and raising the debt ceiling. These members will play a critical role in months to come as Congress works to move beyond the current impasse and craft a final budget. January must not become a repeat of the last 15 days. Support and encouragement from constituents could make the difference. Call them today or, for those engaged in social media, tag them on your Facebook page or in a tweet.  Make sure they hear your story and understand that there is a human cost to inaction. 

State (district) 



Phone number

Alaska – at large

Rep. Don Young


(202) 225-5765

Arkansas – 02

Rep. Tim Griffin


(202) 225-2506

California - 22

Rep. Devin Nunes


(202) 225-2523

Florida - 25

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart


(202) 225-4211

Florida – 15

Rep. Dennis Ross


(202) 225-1252

Florida – 13

Rep. Bill Young


(202) 225-5961

Idaho – 02

Rep. Mike Simpson


(202) 225-5531

Illinois – 13

Rep. Rodney Davis


(202) 225-2371

Minnesota – 03

Rep. Erik Paulsen


(202) 225-2871

New Jersey – 02

Rep. Frank LaBiondo


(202) 225-6572

New Jersey – 03

Rep. John Runyan


(202) 225-4765

New Jersey – 07

Rep. Leonard Lance


(202) 225-5361

New York  -02

Rep. Peter King


(202) 225-7896

New York – 11

Rep. Michael Grimm


(202) 225-3371

New York – 22

Rep. Richard Hanna


(202) 225-3665

Oklahoma -04

Rep. Tom Cole


(202) 225-6165

Pennsylvania - 06

Rep. Jim Gerlach


(202) 225-4315

Pennsylvania – 07

Rep. Pat Meehan


(202) 225-2011

Pennsylvania – 08

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick


(202) 225-4276

Pennsylvania – 11

Rep. Lou Barletta


(202) 225-6511

Pennsylvania – 15

Rep. Charlie Dent


(202) 225-6411

Virginia – 01

Rep. Rob Wittman


(202) 225-4261

Virginia – 02

Rep. Scott Rigell


(202) 225-4215

Virginia – 04

Rep. Randy Forbes


(202) 225-6365

Virginia – 10

Rep. Frank Wolf


(202) 225-5136

Washington – 08

Rep. Dave Reichert


(202) 225-7761

*To tag a member on your Facebook wall, you must first like their page.

Photo:  At Our Daily Bread Employment Center in Baltimore, Md., people line up for the Hot Meal Program, 2010. (Jim Stipe)

The Story of the “Shepherd Boy”

Shepherd in the fields

By Minju Zukowski

“Shepherd Boy” is the name of the photograph that graces Bread for the World’s 2013 Christmas cards. As in previous years, Bread for the World members were given an opportunity to help select this year’s Christmas card image— they overwhelmingly voted for this photo, which brings to mind the shepherd who first heard the good news of Jesus’ birth. But who exactly is the boy in the photo and who is the photographer who captured this image?

The photographer’s name is Shehab Uddin — a freelance photographer from Bangladesh who is currently pursuing his doctorate in visual arts. He also teaches classes in photography at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.

Through photography, Uddin aims to not only capture the stories of people in poverty, but to connect those stories with his own life and the lives of others. To make it not just “their story” but “our story,” he says.

So what is the story of the “Shepherd Boy” photo? Uddin shot the photo on the island of Dhal Char, which is south of Bangladesh, a place that he says could “disappear in a short period of time from the map,” due to global warming. He wanted to portray the liveliness and beauty of the island so that it would always be remembered. Uddin says that the village “felt like home because it was similar to how I grew up. I was not a stranger there. I still miss that life.”

The young man in the photo is named Hashem. He lives on the island with his family. Uddin was struck by the interaction between Hashem and the lamb he carried—they weren’t just boy and pet, but friends.

Uddin said the lamb looks as if it’s a statue. This stillness made him feel that if he were to go back to Dhal Char, he would find this exact same moment again. “The child could be myself,” he said.

We thank Uddin for capturing this beautiful image and wish him the best of luck as he continues on his mission to show the beauty and dignity of people from all walks of life around the world.

Minju Zukowski is a communications intern at Bread for the World.

A pack of 10 Bread for the World Christmas cards and envelopes is just $15, shipping included. Order the 2013 card featuring Uddin’s “Shepherd Boy” photo, or cards from previous years, at www.bread.org/store.

Photo: “Shepherd Boy,” the image used for Bread for the World’s 2013 Christmas cards. Photo by Shehab Uddin/Majority World.

Quote of the Day: Rev. David Beckmann


"I am terrified by the likelihood of a financial crisis. It will hurt all of us, and it will hurt hungry and poor people most of all." —Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, during the Circle of Protection faithful filibuster.

Tell your members of Congress that our nation's economy and creditworthiness are not bargaining chips. Contact your representative and senators and tell them they must protect our economic recovery and credit; end the government shutdown and pass a responsible budget that funds programs serving poor and vulnerable populations; and replace sequestration with a balanced plan that includes revenues and responsible spending cuts.

Photo: Mealtime at a soup kitchen (movie still from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media).

Tell Congress 'No More Excuses'


By Eric Mitchell

Enough is enough! This government shutdown must end and the United States must be able to pay its bills without the threat of default.

Are you tired of our nation’s economy being held hostage? Are you tired of political decisions leaving hundreds of thousands of people furloughed and without paychecks? Are you tired of a small group of people in Washington preventing poor moms from accessing prenatal care, keeping seniors from food baskets, and threatening funding for life-saving emergency food aid? If so, make your voice heard now!

Your members of Congress must hear your outrage! Tell them that they must resolve this fiscal crisis in a way that prioritizes and protects those struggling with hunger in the United States and around the world.

Even if you’ve already called your members of Congress about these issues, call again (1-800-826-3688), send an email, and tell your friends to call, too. We cannot stop until this situation is resolved in a responsible way. Call your members of Congress today and tell them to:

  • Protect our nation’s economic recovery and credit — they are not bargaining chips.
  • Open the government and pass a responsible budget that funds programs serving poor and vulnerable populations.
  • Replace sequestration with a balanced plan that includes revenues and responsible spending cuts.

A deal on this budget crisis may soon emerge. Make sure you members of Congress hear from you as they shape the legislation.

Call or email today and urge your members of Congress to reopen the government, pass a responsible budget that addresses sequestration, and to raise the debt ceiling without political games. Use our toll-free number, 1-800-826-3688, to be connected to the Capitol switchboard.

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

Changing the Conversation: The #FaithfulFilibuster

Rev. David Beckmann calls for an end to the government shutdown that affects our most vulnerable citizens on Oct. 9, 2013, outside of the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of Circle of Protection)

Religious leaders are gathering on Capitol Hill each day Congress is in session for a "Faithful Filibuster" that will continue until the government shutdown ends. In contrast to the dialogue centered on blame and gamesmanship inside the Capitol, people of faith are reading from more than 2,000 biblical verses reminding our nation's leaders that a moral government places caring for the most vulnerable before of political gain. 

An inability to agree on a budget and the raising of the debt ceiling is weakening our economy and harming our most vulnerable citizens; each day the stalemate continues, the impacts on hunger compound. Before the shutdown, 33 religious leaders sent a letter to Congress warning that a shutdown would adversely affect the economy and people struggling with hunger. With one in seven Americans living below the poverty line and the nation's fragile economy recovering from one of our worst recessions in decades, playing political games right now is irresponsible and foolish. "It is time to move from the blame game to some resolution," said Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann.

The Circle of Protection organized the “faithful filibuster.” Speaking to the human cost of inaction at the Wednesday opening, Rev. Beckmann said, "I am appalled by the harm that the government shutdown is doing to poor people. When I was leaving my office on Friday, one of the cleaners told me that four of janitors in our building have been laid off because of the government shutdown." 

Today, 800,000 furloughed federal employees live in uncertainty and the collateral damage radiates throughout the private sector. Yesterday, the Department of Labor reported a surge in unemployment claims.

"I am terrified by the likelihood of a financial crisis," said Rev. Beckmann.  "It will hurt all of us, and it will hurt hungry and poor people most of all." (Read "What Does the Government Shutdown Mean for Hunger?" on the Bread Blog for more information on how the government shutdown will impact anti-hunger programs.)

Grounding our actions in faith and hope, Beckmann reminded the gathered that we work in relationship to the Creator. "God is with us, God hears the cries of the poor," he said before he began reading verses from Isaiah 40 and 41.

Join us on Twitter or Facebook, and remind Congress that shared needs must take precedence over political victories. What biblical verse calls you to end hunger?  Tell and tag your member of Congress in a tweet or on Facebook and use the hashtag #FaithfulFilibuster

It is critical Congress hear from faithful advocates. Send your members of Congress an email (your calls may not get through during the shutdown) and use the power of your local paper to message them through letters to the editor. Each day the impasse continues, people suffer—and each day, Rev. Beckmann and other religious leaders will gather to read scripture until common sense and a spirit of cooperation prevail.

Pray for Comprehensive Immigration Reform Oct. 12 - 20

Pray for reform
Photo from the Evangelical Immigration Table's Pray4Reform gathering, held on the U.S. Capitol grounds in June. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

Beginning this Saturday, Oct. 12, and continuing through Oct. 20, faithful advocates across the country will join in prayer for comprehensive immigration reform. Christians will be gathering in Jesus’ name to lift up our representatives in Congress, the immigrants in our communities, and our churches.

Bread for the World views immigration reform as a hunger and poverty issue, as people cross borders to escape poverty and improve their livelihoods. Immigration reform will help reduce poverty and hunger among undocumented immigrants.

In partnership with the Evangelical Immigration Table, we will proclaim a biblical vision of immigration reform that respects the rule of law, reunites families, and upholds human dignity. Bread for the World members are invited to join either by participating in a gathering that is already planned or by hosting and planning your own event. This guide provides contact information and step-by-step instructions on how to plan a Pray4Reform gathering. 

For more information and links, see "Action Needed: Pray and Act for Immigration Reform."

If you are unable to attend, set aside a quiet moment and pray this prayer, courtesy of the American Baptist Church, or one of your own. You can also follow the action on Twitter or share your own prayer using the hashtag #Pray4Reform.

O God, we speak of our country as One nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all but we come to you today because liberty is threatened and justice is an orphan. We cry out to you for you are the defender of the alien, a shelter for the dispossessed, a mighty rock in a weary land. We lift our voices this morning for dreams deferred and hope held hostage; for families divided and sojourners incarcerated.  We pray for legislators whose intransigence is breaking the backs of the poor and the immigrant.

Raise up within their ranks those with an uncommon heart for  the common good, with vision that sees past the next election and moral courage that isn't subservient to the next poll.  Fill their hearts with compassion and give them a belly full of courage that freedom's bell might ring in welcome in every corner, every hamlet, every village, every city of our land. Make us again what we have always been:  a haven for those seeking a better life. 

Strengthen the hands and hearts of those who join with us today in petitioning congress and in nonviolent protest of injustice.  May their trust in you and in the basic fairness of this country be rewarded.

In your name we pray.

Keep the Conversation Going: A Place at the Table

Kaela and friends
Kaela Volkmer (middle) is a member of St. Wenceslaus Catholic parish in Omaha, Neb. She is pictured here with St. Wenceslaus staff. (Photo courtesy of Kaela Volkmer)

By Kaela Volkmer

On Sept. 19, as members of the House of Representatives were debating how much funding to cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), I had the good fortune to be in a place of positive energy, care, concern, and compassion for our hungry and vulnerable neighbors. In Omaha, Neb., about 300 concerned citizens gathered at Aksarben Cinema for a special free screening of A Place at the Table, a powerful new documentary related to hunger, health, and poverty. 

Through support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Active Voice, Hunger Free Heartland, whose mission is to end childhood hunger and obesity in our greater community, was able to mobilize an amazing team of coalition partners to host a wonderful event.  The evening included a resource fair, a reception, and a thought-provoking panel discussion following the viewing of this critically-acclaimed film. 

As a Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader, I was humbled and privileged to be part of this collaborative effort to keep the conversation going in our community about hunger, health and public policy. Here are some of the highlights of the event:

  • Sue Arment, director of Hunger Free Heartland, pulled together and guided a strong and resourceful planning team comprised of various community partners for the event.
  • Andrea Barstow, manager of Aksarben Cinema, graciously donated the theater and reception space for our gathering.
  • Lucy Wilson of Edible Omaha moderated our panel, and her personal story of what it felt like being a child who knew the pangs of hunger touched our hearts and inspired us.
  • Our expert panel included Lauren and John Levy of the Heart Ministry Center, John Bailey from the Center for Rural Affairs, Sen. Sara Howard, and Craig Howell from United Methodist Ministries. The panelists helped us to reflect on different aspects of the film, from personal experiences to public policy considerations, and they helped us think about steps we can take to be part of the solution.
  • Whole Foods donated an amazing amount of delicious and healthy food for the public reception. 
  • More than 15 community organizations were represented at the resource fair before and after the film, offering information about how citizens can get involved in concrete actions related to hunger and poverty issues in our community.

It truly was an inspiring evening that brought us together to learn, to share, and to talk about the role we all share in contributing to the multi-faceted solutions that will bring about an end to hunger in our community.

While at the event, I received the message confirming that the House of Representatives had just voted to cut an unthinkable $39 billion from SNAP.  I took a deep breath and felt a deep sadness and sorrow in my heart, knowing that such actions will only increase poverty, hunger, and suffering in our state and in our nation. I thought about the nearly 4 million food insecure people in our country who would lose nutrition assistance under this scenario, including 2 million low-income working families and seniors. And then I looked up at the hundreds of people who showed up for the screening and the staffers from organizations who are working tirelessly with and for our most vulnerable neighbors. My heart swelled with gratitude for their presence, for their willingness to ask questions and find solutions to the scandal of hunger and deprivation that confronts more than 49 million people in our country.

As a Bread for the World Hunger Justice leader and advocate for poor and hungry people, I am deeply grateful to have been part of this event and to stand together with others who are working to create a place at the table for all people.

Kaela Volkmer is a 2012 Hunger Justice Leader who lives in Omaha, Neb.

Want to Talk to the White House?

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 petitions 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).

As the government shutdown drags on, the impact on hunger compounds. How will the SNAP program be affected? How will furloughed federal employees make ends meet? What would it mean for our economy and anti-hunger programs if we don’t raise the debt ceiling?

Do you wish you could pick up the phone and talk to someone at the White House about these issues? Register for the next monthly grassroots conference call and, on Oct. 15, you can. The one-hour conference call and webinar begins at 4 p.m. Eastern (1 p.m. Pacific).

You won’t want to miss our special guest Paulette Aniskoff, deputy assistant to President Obama and director of the Office of Public Engagement – a department created to facilitate dialogue between the administration and the public. Aniskoff is watching the government shutdown up close.

Some of you may remember seeing Aniskoff’s name in a report written by Amelia Kegan last August, after she and other Bread staff delivered more than 30,000 of your petition signatures to the White House. As part of the 2013 Offering of Letters campaign A Place at the Table, many of you have and continue to send in petitions asking the president to work with Congress on a plan to end hunger. During the call, you’ll hear how your signatures made a big impression.

October will be a busy month for faithful advocates. Congress will make decisions on the budget and sequestration, the farm bill, and immigration reform – all with far-reaching consequences for hunger. This month’s call will equip you with important information that will help you in your work to end hunger.

As usual, our expert policy analysts from the government relations team will provide you with the latest updates on how key bills are moving in Congress and what you can do to protect and strengthen anti-hunger policy and programs. Below are new informative resources you won’t want to miss.

And if you would like a comprehensive how-to-guide on our monthly webinars:

If you’d like to ask Aniskoff, or Bread staff, about the presidential petition, or any piece of anti-hunger legislation on our issues agenda, submit your questions ahead of time to organizing coordinator Marion Jasin at mjasin@bread.org.  And register today

Quote of the Day: Nelson Mandela

"We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.  Let there be justice for all.  Let there be peace for all.  Let there be work, bread, water, and salt for all."

— Nelson Mandela, during his inauguration as president of South Africa, Pretoria, May 1994

Photo: People hold a candlelight vigil at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on October 22, 2011, to pray for a Circle of Protection around U.S. federal programs that help poor and hungry people in the United States and abroad.(Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

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