Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

37 posts from November 2013

Food Banks Say They Can't Fill the Hunger Gap

Food Bank RickMany local newspapers have recently published op-eds written by food bank representatives, all of them with a clear message to Congress: if legislators cut nutrition assistance, charity cannot fill the hunger gap.

Many Christians and others are generous in supporting food banks, but with the needs of struggling families they are anticipating, the food banks simply cannot ramp up their assistance quickly enough and will never have the capacity to fill the gap that Congress has created.

Paul Ash, executive director of the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks, talks about a potential $40 billion cut to SNAP (food stamps) in his op-ed "Food Banks can't make up for food stamp benefit cuts," published Nov. 17, 2013, in SF Gate. "[W]e can raise our voice in protest now, or prepare to watch our neighbors go without enough to eat," he writes.

"It's easy to pass off what goes on in Washington as senseless, unwise, irrational, or out of our control," Ash continues. "But it's more useful to be shouting as loud as we can – through our representatives, to the conferees who will cast the votes, and to the White House – that this is not acceptable."

Ash notes in the op-ed that the Nov. 1 SNAP cuts, combined with the $40 billion in proposed cuts in the House version of the farm bill, would mean that every food bank in the nation would have to double the amount of assistance they provide in order to meet demand. Donors, Ash notes, have shown no signs that they would be willing to double their giving, which would leave food banks unable to provide food to people in need of emergency aid. 

The next few weeks are critical as members of the farm bill conference committee negotiate a final bill. The cuts that have already taken place have made it more difficult for already-struggling families to put food on the table. As food prices increase and benefits decrease, more families will likely find themselves in need of charitable food donations earlier in the month — but cuts to nutrition assistance will leave a hunger gap that cannot be closed by churches, pantries, or food banks.  

Each time a food bank representative speaks out in local papers, which members of Congress read, faithful advocates have an opportunity to amplify that message. When you see such articles, we urge you to write a letter to the editor. Contact your regional organizer if you need assistance or talking points.

With 49 million Americans at risk of hunger, and more than 1 billion people around the world living in extreme poverty, now is the time to raise your voice in protest. SNAP and international food aid programs must be protected in the farm bill. Email or call your member of Congress at 800-826-3688 today.

Photo: A food bank in Alexandria, Va., provides emergency food assistance (Rick Reinhard).

200 Million Meals Eliminated as Thanksgiving Approaches

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The Nov. 1 cut to SNAP (food stamps) means about 10 million fewer SNAP meals each day. That's 200 million meals eliminated so far this month, the equivalent of every child in America going without food for three and a half straight days (photo courtesy of Participant Media).

By Eric Mitchell

We're down to the wire! Members of Congress are working to unveil a compromise farm bill very soon. The farm bill funds SNAP (formerly food stamps), and already, 200 million meals have been eliminated since Nov. 1. As families are preparing their Thanksgiving menus, Congress is negotiating how much deeper to cut SNAP.

Only this Congress would take away food from struggling families as they gather to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Tell Congress that this is the wrong time to prevent families from putting food on the table.

On Nov. 1, all families receiving SNAP saw their benefits cut. The $5 billion cut this year means about 10 million fewer SNAP meals each day. That's 200 million meals eliminated so far this month! Think of it this way: that’s like every child in America going without food for three and a half straight days.

You can make a difference right now for families, especially those with children, struggling to put food on the table. We need you to continue praying and calling or emailing your members of Congress. These simple acts can make the difference. Your senators and representatives need to hear from you again and right now.

As you plan your Thanksgiving and buy your food, keep saying this prayer, and ask your members of Congress to join you: God, empower us and inspire our leaders to fill the hungry with good things.

This long, two-year process for the farm bill may finally come to a close in the next few days. Urge Congress to make it a responsible farm bill. Call (800-326-4941) or email your members of Congress with a prayer and the following messages:

  1. Protect SNAP (food stamps) from cuts in the farm bill.
  2. SNAP encourages work. The program has work requirements, and a majority of households receive SNAP for less than 10 months. 
  3. SNAP cuts that began Nov. 1 have already eliminated 200 million meals. Don't prevent families from eating when Thanksgiving is just around the corner.

Thank you for calling or emailing your members of Congress today and for your prayers.

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

Students Advocate for the Hungry During Teach-In for Justice

Billy_Kangas_and_friendBy Billy Kangas

Last weekend, hundreds of Catholic youths descended on Washington, D.C., for the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, an annual gathering of college and high school students from Jesuit institutions. They prayed together, networked, reflected, and learned about working for justice in the world. The speakers were inspiring, but even more inspiring were the students! They were bright, passionate, engaged, informed, energetic, and deeply committed to letting the love of Jesus spill out of them in both their personal lives, and in their public service and advocacy. They inspired, rejuvenated, and showed me the face of Jesus over and over again.

As Bread for the World’s Catholic relations fellow, I was given the opportunity to put together a team to hang out with hundreds of these amazing young people, who are looking to explore what it means to be an active Catholic with a public voice.

My fellow Bread staff members and I presented at a number of workshops. Amelia Kegan, a domestic policy analyst at Bread, and I talked about creating a "circle of protection" around essential safety net programs here in the United States, and how to take action by urging policy makers to strengthen programs that help hungry people. Bread’s international policy analysts, Beth Ann Saracco and Ryan Quinn, led a session on maternal and child nutrition, and how providing proper nutrients to women and children during the 1,000 days from the beginning of pregnancy through a child’s second birthday is essential for preventing disease, improving education, strengthening health, and saving lives. These 1,000 days are key!

We also invited participants to come to share with us how they are involved in ending hunger in their own communities, and in the world at large.

On Sunday, we were able to address the group as a whole to discuss the importance of protecting SNAP (food stamps) in the farm bill. We trained groups of students in how to talk to their policy makers when they gathered at the Capitol building on Monday for prayer, praise, and advocacy meetings with their congressional representatives.

We also encouraged the students to message their members of Congress using Twitter, and other forms of social media. Take a look at some of the messages these students tweeted to their representatives as part of our social media campaign:

All of this was very encouraging, but the most powerful takeaway I left with was hope. The media is filled with stories that condemn this young generation, calling them lazy, unmotivated, and unwilling to speak up to change the systems that keep people hungry and poor. But this group, and others like it, is proof that their generation is not only engaged, but immensely creative with their activism and eager to help those suffering from hunger and living in poverty.

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Billy Kangas is the fellow for Catholic Relations at Bread for the World.

Photos: (top) Billy Kangas and a friend at the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice (Gary Cook). (Bottom) The group of Jesuit students gathered on the mall for the event (Billy Kangas).

Coming in February: The Justice Conference

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Bread for the World staff at last year's Justice Conference.  Left to right:  Michael Smith, Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, Sarah Miller, and Kyle Dechant (Robin Stephenson).

By Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
                                                                                               —Isaiah 43:19

Does your church or campus community want to share God’s concern for poor and hungry people? Seek inspiration for the long haul of its social justice journey? Desire to connect with a national, biblically-grounded rising of teachers, business people, artists, stay-at-home moms, and others who have a passion for justice?

For the past three years, Bread for the World has been a sponsor of The Justice Conference, an annual national gathering that educates, inspires, and connects a generation of men and women around a shared concern for biblical and social justice, and the vulnerable and oppressed.

In February, Bread for the World will again bring its proven Christian legislative advocacy experience to the conference, and look to find new ways to collaborate around addressing global hunger and poverty. 

Here’s how your faith community can get involved with this year's Justice Conference, which will take place Feb. 21 to 23 at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles:

If you, or your church, are participating in this year’s conference, either attending or serving as a host site, please let us know—we’d like to connect with you. To learn more about this year's conference, watch the conference promotional video, featuring poet Micah Bournes, below.

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy leads national evangelical church relations at Bread for the World.

Protecting Foreign Assistance

During the upheavals over the budget in recent years, Bread for the World and our partners have been successful in maintaining funding for U.S. programs that help hungry and poor people around the world. We have driven a major U.S. initiative focused specifically on hunger, and we have helped to improve the quality of U.S. foreign assistance. Bread will continue to advocate for the protection of programs that provide lifesaving food aid, help thousands of farmers learn increase their yields and incomes, and educate children.

Aid Remains Strong in Tough Budget Climate

During the George W. Bush and early Obama years, U.S. funding for programs that help reduce poverty around the world tripled to $22 billion annually, in part because of the persistent advocacy of Bread for the World members.

This poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA), which accounts for less than one percent of the federal budget, along with increased aid from industrialized nations, has supported rapid economic progress in poor countries.

Despite huge budget pressures, we have managed to protect foreign assistance programs that help poor people.

There was a tragic surge in hunger in 2008, driven by the global financial crisis and soaring prices for rice, wheat, and corn. The incoming Obama administration responded, leading the world in increasing investment in agriculture and nutrition in the most-affected countries. Bread for the World and our members rallied around this initiative, called Feed the Future.

In 2011, more than 4.3 million farmers around the world benefitted from U.S. agricultural development assistance through projects like Feed the Future.

In 2008, major research findings gave the world new knowledge about how to tackle the scourge of child malnutrition. One conclusion was that nutrition assistance should target the 1,000 days from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through her child’s second birthday. Bread for the World Institute played a leadership role in urging U.S. and international officials to incorporate this new knowledge into the global food security program. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the 1,000 Days initiative, and Bread for the World organized a network of U.S. women across Christian denominations — Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement — to support this effort.

Bread for the World Institute convened international meetings on nutrition during Bread’s 2011 and 2013 National Gatherings. At this year's meeting, Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told Bread advocates, "You form one of the greatest movements alive today—the fight to make hunger, malnutrition, and extreme poverty permanently a thing of the past."

This year, world leaders committed $4.15 billion over three years to scale up direct nutrition interventions and an additional $19 billion for nutrition-sensitive programs in agriculture and other sectors. Shah is leading a review of nutrition-related programs in the U.S. government in order to use available dollars most effectively.

The number of hungry people in the world has dropped below the pre-2008 level and is continuing to decline—partly because of U.S. leadership in promoting agriculture and nutrition among the poorest countries of the world.

When President Bush decided to increase assistance to poor countries, he set up new institutions within the U.S. governmen t— the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Bread for the World helped secure congressional support, and both of these institutions have been effective.

Still, the entire U.S. foreign assistance system was badly in need of reform. In response to this, Bread helped set up the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), a foreign assistance reform coalition that has been supported by both the Hewlett and Gates foundations.

In 2009, Bread for the World's Offering of Letters campaign was a push for foreign assistance reform. When the legislation Bread supported passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Obama administration announced it would work on the issue.

The administration has since improved coordination among the government agencies that work in developing countries, and President Obama issued a directive that established international development policies and priorities for the entire government.

USAID has set up an excellent system of evaluation, and information on the aid projects of U.S. agencies is now available to the public at www.foreignassistance.gov.

"Those of us who push for more dollars for programs of assistance need to work just as hard to make sure those dollars are used well," says Bread for the World President David Beckmann. "Bread for the World's members have been willing to study up on these issues and push for both funding and effectiveness."

Help Bread this Christmas and Receive a Special Gift

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Travel show host Rick Steves in Ireland (photo courtesy of Rick Steves).

By Rick Steves

If these times seem tough for our friends and family, imagine how tough they are for hungry and poor people. To add meaning to the holiday season, every Christmas I raise funds for Bread for the World through my traveling friends and network at Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door. This year the needs are particularly great. But that means the rewards are too! I'd love to send you a special Christmas package as thanks for a $100 gift to empower Bread's work. This gift package was so popular last year that I want to offer it again so you too can get on board—and even share this challenge with your loved ones.

I believe hungry people need a strong and compassionate advocate like Bread for the World—especially when there are so many interests competing for attention on Capitol Hill.

While the charitable work we do as caring people is important, we must remember that all the food provided by all the charities in our country amounts to only 4 percent of the food assistance available for poor and hungry people. Our government provides the rest. That means Bread's advocacy work has a huge impact on caring for the most vulnerable people among us. I'm convinced that supporting Bread is the very best way to leverage my charitable giving. That's why I've been a Bread member for 30 years.

I'd like to offer you this personal challenge: I'll match all gifts up to $100,000. I'm that excited about this opportunity to give hungry people a voice in our halls of government. Imagine, as an extended family of caring (and traveling) citizens, together we can empower Bread for the World’s work with $200,000.

David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, recently told me how Bread's work is particularly needed now and how our financial support can translate into real help so desperately needed:

"We are at a point at which ideologues in Congress are threatening deep cuts in programs that provide help and opportunity to poor people in our country and abroad—programs such as SNAP [formerly food stamps] and international food-aid," he said. "Of course, all Americans can be enthusiastic about our government running a tight fiscal ship. But if the budget is to be balanced on the backs of poor people, innocent children will suffer, and the civility woven into the fabric of our society will be threatened."

I see Bread for the World not as a charity, but as a service. Bread is transforming my concern about hunger into effective action by smartly—and doggedly–working to protect struggling people in our country and around the world.

So here's my challenge to you this Christmas: Help Bread for the World with your gift of $100 or more. As a thank you, I'll match that gift and send you three gifts (worth $50) from my Rick Steves' European Christmas collection:

  • "Rick Steves' European Christmas" DVD (our PBS-TV special celebrating a traditional, non-commercial, and sacred Christmas in seven different countries)
  • "Rick Steves' European Christmas" coffee-table book (the fun insights and best photos I gathered while producing the special)
  • "Rick Steves' European Christmas" music CD (produced while filming, featuring our 20 favorite European carols—this is my personal favorite for fresh new Christmas-time music)

I'll happily pay for the cost of these three gifts, as well as the shipping, so that Bread for the World can put 100 percent of your donation to work giving a voice to hungry people. Make your gift by Dec. 10 to receive this offer—and you'll get everything (along with our latest travel newsletter) in time for Christmas.

It's my hope that these gifts will add a wonderful new twist to your family celebrations for years to come (as they have for mine), while also enticing you to empower Bread for the World with your donation.

By the way, for every dollar Bread raises, it leverages $100 in terms of assistance and funding that is vital to hungry and poor people in our country and abroad. Assuming that ratio holds, if we hit our $200,000 target, that will mean that, together, we’ll generate $20 million of life-giving, hope-instilling funding for this cause.

Rick Steves is the host of public television's most-watched, longest-running travel series, "Rick Steves' Europe," and the author of more than 50 travel guidebooks.

Quote of the Day: Nelson Mandela

Child_eating_sandwich"Let there be justice for all.  Let there be peace for all.  Let there be work, bread, water, and salt for all.  Let each know that for each the body, the mind, and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves."

—Nelson Mandela

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next few days are critical. Congress has only a handful of legislative days remaining to reverse the harmful cuts put in place by sequestration and to pass a farm bill. Besides affecting SNAP, these cuts also threaten funding for international emergency food aid, poverty-focused foreign assistance, nutrition assistance for struggling seniors and pregnant women, and Head Start for low-income children. Take a few moments to call (800-326-4941) or send an email right now.

A child eating a sandwich (Margaret W. Nea).

How Many Are Affected by SNAP Cuts in Your State?

This month, South Carolina resident Leon Simmons saw his SNAP (food stamps) allotment drop by $9, because of the Nov. 1 cut to the anti-hunger program. That amount may seem small to some, but it's nearly a quarter of his monthly benefit. Amy Jezler, a mom living in the Chicago area, saw her SNAP benefit reduced by $30, dropping from $193 to $163. And in Washington, D.C., single mother Debra lost $73—her benefit is now $130, down from $203.

All three SNAP recipients told reporters that they will likely run out of food toward the end of the month—a month that ends with the Thanksgiving holiday.

These are just three of the Americans who will now find it more difficult to feed themselves and their families because of the Nov. 1 SNAP reduction. Across the country, millions are feeling the pain of these cuts. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put together a map (above) that shows exactly how many individuals, including children, will be affected in each state.

So far, the Nov. 1 cut has eliminated roughly 150 million meals. And some members of Congress are pushing for even more cuts to program. Senators and representatives are in final negotiations on the farm bill, and they're making decisions about SNAP right now. Please call (800-326-4941) or email your members of Congress today, and tell them that struggling families simply cannot absorb additional cuts to their SNAP benefits. Even if you have already reached out to your members of Congress, please do so again.

Quote of the Day: Dawn Phipps

Isaac_eating_fruit"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, former SNAP (food stamps) recipient and anti-hunger activist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Nov. 1, all families receiving SNAP saw their benefits cut. The $5 billion cut this year is about 10 million fewer SNAP meals each day. That's 130 million meals eliminated since Nov. 1! That's equivalent to the entire city of Los Angeles going without food for 11 days. If there ever was a moment to contact Congress about protecting SNAP (food stamps), this is it. Take a few moments to call or send an email right now.

Photo: A child enjoys fresh fruit (Laura Elizabeth Pohl).

A Critical Moment for SNAP – 130 Million Meals Eliminated Already

We_accept_SNAP2By Eric Mitchell

If there ever was a moment to contact Congress about protecting SNAP (food stamps), this is it. Members of Congress are in final negotiations around the farm bill, and they're making decisions about cutting SNAP right now!

Only this Congress has been intent on taking away food from struggling American families recovering from the recession. Tell Congress that enough is enough. Even if you have already reached out to your members of Congress, please do so again.

We've seen enough cuts to SNAP already. On Nov. 1, all families receiving SNAP saw their benefits cut. The $5 billion cut this year is about 10 million fewer SNAP meals each day. That's 130 million meals eliminated since Nov. 1! That's equivalent to the entire city of Los Angeles going without food for 11 days.

This is a critical time. Negotiations have reached an important stage. Your call and email today to your members of Congress may make the difference.

As Congress draws closer to a deal on the farm bill and the budget, we urge you to keep praying for our elected leaders and for people who are affected now — families who struggle to put food on the table. Many working poor people will have to buy fewer groceries this month because of the recent cuts to SNAP. As you visit the grocery store this week, we invite you to say this prayer: God, empower us and inspire our leaders to fill the hungry with good things.

The next few days are critical. Congress has 14 legislative days remaining to reverse the harmful cuts put in place by sequestration and to pass a farm bill. Besides affecting SNAP, these cuts also threaten funding for international emergency food aid, poverty-focused foreign assistance, nutrition assistance for struggling seniors and pregnant women, and Head Start for low-income children. Take a few moments to call (800-326-4941) or send an email right now.

Thank you for calling or emailing your members of Congress today and for your prayers.

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

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