Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

37 posts from November 2013

Negotiations in Congress Will Have Long-Term Effects

Capitol_bldg_flickr_usr_smaedliAs we move toward the end of the year, members of Congress have many important decisions before them. Legislators will be dealing with the farm bill, immigration reform, sequestration and ongoing gridlock over the budget. The choices our legislators make now will affect people struggling with hunger for years to come.

Budget and Sequestration

On Oct. 16,Congress passed a bill that ended a 16-day government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling to avoid a U.S. default. The deal funds the government at current levels through Jan. 15, 2014, and raises the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, 2014. The deal also created a conference committee to negotiate a budget for the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year and address the automatic cuts of sequestration. The committee, which holds its next hearings on Nov. 13, has until Dec. 13 to emerge with a deal.  

These budget talks could play out in a couple of ways. The committee could emerge with a big, multi-trillion dollar, decade-long budget deal and succeed where all previous attempts have failed. However, members of Congress have said they don’t expect a big deal to emerge.

Alternatively, the committee could come up with a smaller deal that resolves the overall funding level for FY 2014 and replaces some or all of the sequester for one, or even two, years. If this happens, there are two issues to watch: the overall funding level and the makeup of any package that replaces sequestration. The size of the budget they agree on will determine the amount of funding available for all anti-hunger discretionary programs. If the committee agrees on a plan to replace sequestration, we will be focused on whether it includes revenues and protects important anti-poverty programs.

Finally, the committee could emerge with no deal. At that point, Congress will have until Jan. 15 to prevent another shutdown and potentially address sequestration.

We must continue to urge members of Congress to pass a moral budget that adequately funds programs that combat hunger and poverty, and replace sequestration with a balanced plan that includes revenues and smart spending cuts that won’t increase poverty.

Farm Bill and Food Aid

Members of the House and Senate have begun negotiating a farm bill to renew our nation’s agriculture and nutrition policies.

Last month, the congressional conference committee on the farm bill met for the first time to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The Senate version cuts $4 billion from SNAP over 10 years, while the House’s nutrition-only version cuts $39 billion. Any cuts to SNAP would make it more difficult for struggling families to put food on the table. Still, SNAP isn’t the only point of contention.

The farm bill conferees will also negotiate agricultural provisions, including food aid reform. The Senate passed provisions in its farm bill for more effective and efficient food aid policy that would allow U.S. food aid to reach more hungry people with better, more nutritious food. While an amendment to include similar provisions in the House version failed to pass, a bipartisan letter signed by 53 members of the House was recently sent to farm bill conferees supporting Senate-passed provisions in the bill.

In the coming months, we will ask our members with senators and representatives who sit on the conference committee to ask them to ensure that hungry people aren’t harmed in any final farm bill.

Immigration Reform

Bread for the World and its partners are working to ensure that House leadership puts a vote on immigration reform on the 2013 calendar. The Evangelical Immigration Table, of which Bread is a member, recently released a letter urging the House to continue working on immigration and take up reform that includes a pathway to legalization or citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

 Bread for the World will continue to ask members of Congress to come to agreement on these issues while also protecting programs that help people suffering from hunger.

Challenging Lawmakers to Prioritize Smart Immigration Reform

R4RSocialGraphic_EN_lgBy Minju Zukowski

On Oct. 29, a group of 600 conservative faith, business, and law enforcement leaders from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C., to advocate for immigration reform at the Americans for Reform event. The group met with Republican lawmakers and shared with them the message that our nation has a moral obligation to reform our immigration system—and the time for reform is now.

Bread for the World partners such as Asbury Seminary in Kentucky and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, located in Grand Rapids, Mich., were among the diverse religious delegations participating in the event.

This gathering signaled that, across the political spectrum—from socially conservative evangelical Christians to progressive immigrant rights leaders, from business leaders to labor unions—Americans are #Ready4Reform

There are approximately 11-12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Once in this country, immigrants typically improve their economic condition, but their legal status means they are blocked from realizing their economic potential and making full contributions to the U.S. economy.  The poverty rate for undocumented immigrants is estimated to be between 21 to 35 percent—despite the fact that these individuals have a high workforce participation rate.  

Bread for the World views immigration reform as a hunger and poverty issue. Supporting reform that offers undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship will reduce poverty, by giving them access to education and employment opportunities. It will also stimulate national economic growth. Studies show immigration grows the economy, reduces the national debt, and can even create jobs for natives.

It’s easy for lawmakers who are contemplating critical decisions about immigration reform to forget that the reason most people migrate to the United States is because they are seeking to escape crippling poverty in their home countries. They are doing what anyone would do if faced with a similar situation—taking a risk in order to improve their lives and the lives of their family members.  

While the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill in June, the House has yet to put any immigration reform proposal to a full vote. Bread for the World and its partners are working to ensure that House leadership puts a vote on immigration reform on the 2013 calendar. The Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), of which Bread is a member, recently released a letter urging the House to continue working on immigration and take up reform that includes a pathway to legalization or citizenship. EIT faith leaders also met with President Obama and Vice President Biden this week to reiterate their support for broad immigration reform that transcends politics.

So what can you do? Email, or tweet, your members of Congress and tell them that America is #Ready4Reform. Urge them to support smart immigration reform that helps undocumented immigrants lift themselves out of poverty follows the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger.

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

Typhoon Haiyan: How to Help


Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines, was one of the area most ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan. (Caritas/ CAFOD)

Rev. Edwin Amor is pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Tacloban City on Leyte Island in the Philippines — a city that news reports are calling the center of the disaster zone created by Typhoon Haiyan. His house was badly damaged, and there's no water, no power, no food, and no milk for his grandchild. Still, Amor, who is the local director of the Adventist Relief and Development Association, has opted to stay in Tacloban to help in the relief and recovery efforts.

He is helping coordinate the work of medical teams and performing other vital tasks in the aftermath of a storm that has left thousands dead, and hundreds of thousands without food, clean water, or shelter.

Many of Bread for the World's partners, including denominational disaster programs and faith-based relief agencies, are involved in emergency response. We encourage you to give to your denomination's relief and development agency, or support the efforts of organizations such as World Vision and Church World Service, both of which have mounted disaster-response campaigns.

Interaction, an alliance of more than 180 nongovernmental organizations around the world, including Bread for the World, has compiled a list of its member organizations that are responding to the crisis.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has said it is sending emergency shipments of food to hard-hit areas of the Philippines, providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance in the wake of this tragedy. We ask that, in addition to making generous donations to service organizations, you continue your work to support U.S. food aid programs, which allow the U.S. government to respond quickly and effectively to such disasters, and help our brothers and sisters around the world in times of great need.

Your concern, your generosity, your advocacy, and your prayers are greatly appreciated.

Mary’s Story: An Advent Bible Study

MarystorypicFB1

By Amanda Bornfree

The season of Advent is a time of great expectation, filled with hope and promise. Advent calls us to gather in preparation for the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. We bring our gifts in praise, and our songs in celebration as we express our endless love for Jesus, and our support for Mary.

This season has much in common with the times in which our loved ones are expecting new additions to their families. We find ourselves taking care of the expectant mother by giving her food, and showering her with attention. We find ourselves in prayer for a safe and healthy delivery. And, of course, we pray for a healthy baby, blessed to live a life filled with happiness, love, and great opportunity. 

Bread for the World's Advent Bible study, Mary’s Story, explores the relationship between Mary and Jesus in light of the movement to improve nutrition for women and children and ensure that all children everywhere can reach their full potential. Mary’s Story focuses on the window of opportunity that is the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday — this is the most vital time for receiving nutrition for a healthy future. 

The Bible study calls us, as Christians, to use our faith, gifts, and resources to advocate for better health and nutrition for all. As God’s children, we believe that preparing for the birth of a child should always be a time filled with great expectation, hope, and promise.

We encourage you to use Mary’s Story for your Advent Bible study. Every hour of every day, 300 children die as a result of malnutrition — please dedicate just one hour each week during the season of Advent to learn more about how you can advocate for better nutrition during the 1,000-day window. Order this free resource today at www.bread.org/store , and visit the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement Facebook page to engage in conversations about the Bible study and maternal and child nutrition.  

Amanda Bornfree is a consultant in Bread for the World's church relations department.

Veterans Hit Hard by Cut to SNAP

Today, as we observe Veterans Day and recognize those who served in the U.S. military, some veterans may be spending the day wondering where their next meal will come from.

This year, Veterans Day comes a little more than a week after an $11 billion cut in food stamp benefits went into effect. Millions of Americans, including many veterans, will see their grocery budgets shrink because of this change. 

According to Census figures, roughly 900,000 veterans, in any given month, lived in households that relied on SNAP in 2011. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in a recent study on how the Nov. 1 cut will impact veterans , found that thousands of vets in every state will be affected. "For low-income veterans, who may be unemployed, working in low-wage jobs, or disabled, SNAP provides an essential support that enables them to purchase nutritious food for their families," the study found. 

Philadelphia vet Bill Olsson recently told a local TV station that he is one of the 59,300 veterans in Pennsylvania who relies on SNAP, and that the Nov. 1 cut affects his ability to buy enough groceries to feed himself. "I have no income, and then no food stamps, how am I supposed to live?" Olsson said in an interview with KYW-TV. "Elderly people like myself have worked their whole life, and now can’t work, and depend on food stamps."

Congress is currently negotiating the farm bill, which will impact SNAP and other vital anti-hunger programs. Additional cuts to SNAP would make it even more difficult for millions of Americans, and thousands of veterans like Olsson, to eat.

Florida resident and Vietnam veteran Charles Boykin says, in the clip above, that he can't understand why legislators would do anything to reduce his SNAP allotment. "Why take it away from us?" he asks of Congress. "We were there for them, why can't they be there for us?"

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Forty-nine million Americans live at risk of hunger — SNAP must be protected in the farm bill.   Email your members of Congress now and tell them that any final farm bill must not increase hunger.

Quote of the Day: Luke 3:11

"Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." (Luke 3:11)

Congress has just a few weeks to reverse the harmful cuts put in place by sequestration and to pass a farm bill. Funding for many anti-hunger, anti-poverty programs — including international emergency food aid, poverty-focused foreign assistance, nutrition assistance for struggling seniors and pregnant women, and Head Start — is at risk. Tell your members of Congress that they must not cut programs that help struggling families at home and abroad.

Photo: Four brothers share a meal in Uganda. (Kendra Rinas)

Act Now: 80 Million Meals Eliminated Since Last Friday

A+ABy Eric Mitchell

Only the current Congress would allow cuts to critical anti-hunger programs, taking food away from parents struggling in this economy to put food on the table for their kids. Last Friday — on the first day of a month in which we celebrate bounty with a national feast—all families receiving SNAP (formerly food stamps) saw their benefits cut. The average family of four lost up to $36 a month.

This $11 billion cut over four years equals nearly 10 million meals each day. That's 80 million meals eliminated since the SNAP cut went into effect last Friday! This is as if nearly all of the residents of the states of California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Colorado did not eat for a day. And some in Congress are pushing for far more extreme cuts to SNAP.

Email your members of Congress now and tell them this is unacceptable!

As we move toward Thanksgiving and Christmas and prepare to gather with friends and family around big meals and parties with lots of food, we know you will be making many trips to the grocery store. We encourage you to use your trips to the store as an occasion to give thanks to God for our bounty and as a reminder to take action on behalf of those who have experienced SNAP cuts. We invite you to say this prayer every time you visit the grocery store this season: God, empower us and our leaders to fill the hungry with good things.

In the coming weeks, as the number of eliminated meals from SNAP cuts grows, we will call upon you to continue saying this prayer as you buy food and share this message with your members of Congress.

Right now, Congress is debating whether to allow cuts to nutrition assistance for low-income women and children to continue under sequestration. Already, struggling seniors have had to go without 4 million meals because of cuts to the Meals on Wheels program, and if sequestration continues, another 4 million meals could be cut.

We can make a difference this fall, but there’s not much time. Congress has just a few weeks to reverse the harmful cuts put in place by sequestration and to pass a farm bill. And these cuts threaten so much more—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.

Tell your members of Congress that all should share in the bounty and they must not cut programs that help struggling families.

Thank you for your continued prayers and action during this critical time.

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

Photo: Alex Morris feeds her son, André, in their Bend, OR, home. Alex depends on SNAP, WIC and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system (Brad Horn).

 

Quote of the Day: Ingrid Mock

“I try to get most of the things my daughter eats because I can hold the hunger — I’m an adult — but she cannot. They don’t understand when there’s no food in the fridge.”  

— Ingrid Mock, a New York City resident who uses food stamps to feed herself and her 12-year-old daughter, in the New York Times article "Cut in Food Stamps Forces Hard Choices on Poor." Mock saw her SNAP allotment drop from $275 per month to $250 as a result of $11 billion in SNAP cuts that went into effect on Nov. 1.

Forty-nine million Americans live at risk of hunger, and more than 1 billion people around the world live in extreme poverty. 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 distribution in Virginia (Rick Reinhard). 

Cutting Poverty and Expanding Opportunity


Good jobs that pay a living wage are key to addressing U.S. income inequality. Photo: Roofers install solar panels on a home in the District of Columbia (Courtesy of Mt. Pleasant Solar Coop).

By Allie Gardner

The U.S. economy is continuing to slowly, steadily recover, but too many families are not sharing in the nation’s economic growth, according to a new report from Half in Ten

“Resetting the Poverty Debate: Renewing Our Commitment to Shared Prosperity” finds that income inequality remained high even as the economy grew during the last year. This annual report tracks the nation’s progress toward cutting poverty in half over the next decade, and recommends a set of policy priorities that would help more families escape poverty and enter the middle class. The report cites job creation, boosting wages, and investing in family economic security as means of accomplishing this, and also calls on Congress to end sequestration, and invest in programs that keep Americans out of poverty.

Increasing the minimum wage would help narrow the gap between productivity and compensation, as well as boost the income of low-wage workers, the report finds. While the top five percent of U.S. income earners are the only group that has seen an increase in income since the end of the recession, poorly compensated workers have seen the largest declines in their wages over the last ten years.

The importance of federal safety net programs, such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) and Social Security, is also noted. The former has helped stabilize the food-insecurity rate in recent years, and the latter lifted the income of 25.6 million Americans above the supplemental poverty line. Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, stressed the importance of these programs at the launch event for the report. Beckmann explained that SNAP “is very vulnerable to deep, deep cuts,” as many members of Congress do not prioritize it. “All of us need to rally around SNAP,” Beckmann added. 

Cutting poverty in half over the next ten years is an important mission.  In order to achieve this goal, Bread for the World believes that hunger and poverty must be put on the national agenda during the next election. Additionally, we must continue to remind our members of Congress that our nation's budget has to be a moral document that reflects our nation's concern for the most vulnerable. 

Allie Gardner is an editorial intern at Bread for the World.

Supporters Buy Bread for the World’s Shepherd Boy Christmas Card

By Vince Mezzera

Christmas

The image of the shepherd and lamb that graces Bread for the World’s 2013 Christmas cards resonated with Barbara Rockow, a Phoenix, Ariz., resident who has served on Bread’s board. Instead of sending a card bearing a family picture this year, she decided to send Bread’s card to her extensive list of family and friends. "I hope that the recipients will understand that my husband and I are sending a message of good news, which will bring joy," Rockow says. "And I want folks to know that I am still a strong supporter of Bread."

New supporters are finding Bread for the World through the Christmas cards, too. "I decided this year to send Christmas cards that supported a cause," says Julie Forzano of Birmingham, Mich. "I really just wanted the money I spend on Christmas cards to make a contribution to a worthy cause, and I felt that Bread for the World was such an organization." While she isn’t trying to send a message to the friends and family on her Christmas card list, Forzano adds, "if they receive one that would be an added blessing."

Regional church offices, denominational bodies, and other religious organizations choose to order and send Bread for the World cards in large quantities. Last year, Kirby Hughes Gould, vice president of the Christian Church Foundation in Kansas City, Mo., found Bread’s cards to be a cost-effective and convenient option for thanking donors and church investors. She opted to order from Bread again this year.

While the image of the young shepherd has captivated the hearts of a diverse group, Bread for the World’s past Christmas card designs still remain favorites, too. To view all five designs available, visit www.bread.org/cards.

Vince Mezzera is Bread for the World’s manager of member resources.

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