Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

54 posts from December 2013

Down to the Wire: Make a Difference Today!

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A woman does laundry in rural Guatemala (Joesph Molieri/Bread for the World).

By David Beckmann

Today is your last chance to help fill the hungry with good things in 2013. When the clock strikes midnight, your opportunity to give a tax-deductible gift will be gone. 

Bread members everywhere have been helping, giving whatever they can afford. Please take a minute right now to make your donation if you have don so already.

Just yesterday, we learned that all gifts made online before midnight tonight will be matched, up to $50,000!  We’re a mere  $33,000 from hitting that goal. We need your help to close the gap.

Your donation today will help us overcome great obstacles and achieve big victories for hungry people in 2014:

There will be many opportunities to help hungry people in 2014, but Bread needs your support to continue our work. That’s why it’s so vital that you donate before midnight — your gift will be doubled, dollar for dollar, and will have twice the impact.

There are families going hungry everywhere. I know you want to make a difference and help change their lives.

Please don’t wait until tomorrow to create the change you want to see in our world.  You can make a difference today.

David Beckmann is President of Bread for the World.

Counting Our Social Media Blessings

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As the clock winds down on 2013 and we anticipate new opportunities in the next year to end hunger, it is a good time to reflect on the blessings of the past year.

Because of your advocacy in 2013, many of the deepest cuts proposed to programs that help end hunger were thwarted.  Writing letters, making phone calls, and meeting with members of Congress made a difference. We also used social media as another tool to amplify our message. Many of you shared and educated others in your networks with resources and action alerts that we posted on the Bread Blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Social networks are about conversations and national conversations influence members of Congress. Each time one more person calls on his or her member of Congress asking them to act to end hunger, it is a blessing. Each person who joins the mission to end hunger is a blessing.

  • More than 20,000 blessings (followers) on Facebook like and share resources, stories, and action alerts. Your comments and interaction inspire and inform us.

  • Nearly 10,500 blessings (followers) have used Twitter with @bread4theworld to #talkpoverty and help us end hunger. 
  • All year we have worked to make the Bread Blog a resource for of up-to-date news on issues related to our work and we have seen a marked increase in daily readership – a trend we hope to see grow in 2014!

We began last year on the brink of “fiscal cliff” negotiations that threatened to derail the economy.  Instead, we were able to report a final vote that protected important programs to end hunger, such as the 2013 extension of emergency unemployment benefits. One of the year’s first blog posts included a thank you to faithful advocates, who helped urge lawmakers to do the right thing for those who experience hunger. 

Although we end the year with a thank you again to advocates for urging Congress to pass a budget that put aside political brinksmanship, lawmakers failed to extend emergency unemployment for 2014 or pass a farm bill. Comprehensive immigration reform still waits for action by the House of Representatives. Without action on these three issues, many face an uncertain new year clouded by worry.

The first few months of 2014 will be busy. We will ask Congress to extend emergency unemployment, pass a farm bill that protects SNAP (formerly food stamps) and strengthens U.S. food aid. We will urge passage of an immigration reform bill that helps end hunger both here and abroad.

It is possible for us to achieve great things together through faith and action. We can use every tool at hand to change the political will to end hunger–including social media. Continue to read the Bread Blog to stay informed. Share content on your social networks. Help us increase our blessings in 2014.

With just a day and a half before the New Year, thanks to a few generous donors, online gifts will be doubled. Can you make a gift now to help hungry people?

Double Your Year-End Impact

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Rosa tends to the family live stock, a usual task for many children in rural Guatemala where child malnutrition rates are also among the highest in the world. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By David Beckmann

I just received some exciting news! A few Bread members have offered to match online gifts made during these last two days of the year, up to $47,000! Can you make a gift now to help hungry people?

There are so many things we can do to help fill the hungry with good things in the coming year. While there is much work to be done in 2014, your support will help us face the challenges ahead:

  • Reforming international food aid: We can help 2 to 4 million more hungry people each year through simple reforms that will make assistance more timely and responsive to need.

  • Passing comprehensive immigration reform: We must improve economic security and job access for undocumented immigrants in this country through comprehensive immigration reform.

  • Defending the social safety net from attacks: We will continue to push back against efforts to cut and dismantle SNAP (food stamps), refundable tax credits for low-income working families, and poverty-focused development assistance.

Your donation today can mean food on more tables in 2014.

Please don't wait to make your gift — this amazing matching offer only lasts until midnight tomorrow. I know you care deeply about helping hungry people. Can I count on your support during this crucial time, when your gift will have double the impact?

Don't miss this opportunity to have your gift doubled and help millions of hungry people around the world.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

 

 

Poor Was Our Normal

USAID Tacloban

Emergency relief supplies flown into Tacloban City in the Philippines are trucked to a warehouse for distribution. (Carol Han, OFDA)

By Chang K. Park

As the founder of Universal Remote Control, my life is so different today than it was during my childhood in South Korea in the 1960s. My family was quite poor, but everyone around us was poor, too, so I thought it was normal.

When I was in elementary school, the teachers would often ask us to bring in a bag from home. I didn't have a bag, so I would fold a newspaper and glue the edges. The next day, they would have us line up outside the storage room, where there was a huge paper drum of powdered milk, bearing the USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) logo. They would shovel powdered milk into our bags, and ask us to take it home, boil it, and drink it. That was our source of nutrition.

As a child growing up in South Korea, my life was deeply influenced by the generosity of this country. That's why I am a member of Bread for the World. Bread helps ensure that our nation is working to alleviate hunger, both at home and abroad.

During these final days of 2013, I hope that Bread can count on your support so the organization can continue its work in the coming year. Bread works hard to defend food aid, foreign assistance, and vital federal nutrition programs that change the lives of so many people — just as they did for me.

When you make a gift to Bread, you are helping people who suffer from hunger. The U.S. humanitarian response to the devastation in the Philippines this year is just one example of how vital foreign assistance can be when disaster strikes. We must ensure that our government protects such programs, which offer a lifeline to people in desperate need.

The hardships I experienced in South Korea may be over, but there are still so many people in so many countries experiencing hunger now. We must work to alleviate such suffering. That is why Bread for the World is so important.

I hope you will choose to help fill the hungry with good things by making a special gift to Bread. Hunger is a part of too many people's lives. Please do what you can to help.

Chang K. Park is a Bread for the World Board Member and President and CEO of Universal Remote Control.

Staying Afloat in a Recovery

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For the 4.1 million long-term unemployed who are treading water in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the latest rounds of proposed cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) and the loss of emergency unemployment benefits could be the rock that sinks them.

Denise Acosta, a 36-year-old mother of four in Texas, is one of those people. Her story was reported in The Guardian this week. Acosta is among the nearly 4.1 million Americans who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks. Although recent gains in employment indicate the economy is recovering, it’s not enough, and the long-term unemployed have not seen their circumstances improve.

Laid-off seven months ago as a healthcare administrator, Acosta struggles to feed her four children - a situation made worse by a cut to SNAP benefits in November.  “Acosta has learned to be creative,” reports The Guardian, “with the children's meals, with juggling bills, with trying to keep the kids from noticing the dwindling food on the table and in their schoolbags as her job search drags on.”

While looking for work, SNAP has helped millions of families stave off hunger. Congress will return in January to take up the farm bill, and a proposal to slash the nutrition assistance program by nearly $40 billion more is on the table. “That would make it really difficult for people who struggle to find work like me to get back on their feet,” Acosta told The Guardian.

The struggle to stay afloat is likely to get more difficult as long-term unemployment benefits expire next week for 1.3 million unemployed. The benefits were not extended as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.

Congress allowed benefits to expire despite the fact that unemployment remains 44 percent higher than it was at the start of the recession and nearly 30 percent higher than when the federal emergency unemployment compensation program was enacted. There are still three job seekers for every job opening.

Investing in jobs that pay a living wage and getting people back to work instead of removing assistance makes more economic sense. A study by Rutgers University showed that individuals receiving unemployment benefits do more to find a job than unemployed workers not receiving unemployment insurance (UI). Recipients of UI spend more time seeking work and look at more job postings.

Without unemployment insurance, the number of individuals living in poverty would have doubled between 2010 and 2011. Further, UI has acted a stimulus to the economy. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) consistently ranks unemployment insurance as one of the most effective ways to generate economic growth and create jobs. Out of 11 different policies to boost economic growth and employment, the CBO rated UI as number one.

Many Americans like Acosta, who saw their jobs vanish during the recession, need a lifeline to shore and not an anchor in poverty.

During the holiday recess you can still write or email your senators and representative. Urge them to pass a farm bill that protects SNAP and extend unemployment benefits immediately upon returning in the new year.

Quote of the Day: David Beckmann

Captol and tree
"At its core, Christmas is about the seemingly impossible becoming a reality. An unwed girl can conceive the divine, and a child born in a manger can usher in the kingdom of God. Our faith teaches that all things are possible through Christ who strengthens us. The Gospel message that the hungry will be filled is attainable here and now."

--David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, in "A Wave of Prayer to End Hunger, Protect SNAP" printed in The Huffington Post Relgion Blog on December 6, 2013.

Protecting SNAP (formerly food stamps) in the farm bill is attainable. As we head toward the new year and members of Congress finalize the farm bill, urge them to protect programs like SNAP and international food aid.  Now is not the time to take food from hungry people.

Photo: The 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony was held on the west lawn of the Capitol building on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Forest Service/Robert H. Westover).

Merry Christmas from Bread for the World

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A PAISANO program participant. PAISANO is a food security program in Guatemala that seeks to reduce child malnutrtion (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

                                                                                                        - Luke 2:10-14 NIV

 

Thank you for your support and advocacy to end hunger this year. May Christ’s birth among us be your source of light and hope throughout the new year.

Advent Reflection: Joy to the World

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Editor's note: This Advent season, Bread Blog will be running a series of
reflections written by lay members of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission, from the church's 2013 Advent Meditations booklet.

By Youssoupha Nyam

Lectionary Readings:

Isaiah 52:7-10; 62:6-7, 10-12
Luke 2:8-20
John 1:1-14;
Titus 3:4-7
Hebrews 1:1-12

 ‘’I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people […] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord’’ (Luke 2:10-11).

This year, the utmost privilege of writing the devotional for Christmas Day has been bestowed upon me. Although I was enthralled by that opportunity, by the same token, I felt both a mixture of humility and the self-inflicted strain to deliver a message that would be up to par with the significance that special day holds for me. Because the Nativity season, year after year, as far as I can remember, has consistently been the triggering event that brings back a flood of bittersweet memories.

In my native country [of Cameroon], situated in the heart of Africa and aptly dubbed ''Africa in miniature'' for its assortment of landscapes that can be found throughout the continent and its patchwork of ethnic and religious groups, Nativity is undoubtedly the most celebrated holiday. It is only rivaled by New Year or when the iconic soccer team, nicknamed the Indomitable Lions, is involved in an international competition, such as when they won their qualification for the upcoming World Cup. Soccer, or football, as it is termed in my motherland, is itself a “religion.”

Growing up, Advent has always been the most exhilarating season of the year. The atmosphere seemed to be filled with particles of joy, magnanimity, Christmas carols, the fragrances of Christmas trees, a regain of faith in God and humanity. I still recollect this period as the catalyst for many first and unique moments of the year; for some, the first and unique time of the year to set their feet in a worship house. I also recall it was during that time most of the less fortunate of us could enjoy our favorite dishes to one's fill, or new sparkling clothes and shiny shoes recently bought exclusively for that special occasion. We could go to the movie theater, sometimes to watch the screening of the same movie about Jesus Christ for the umpteenth time. In short, it was the time of the year when we could indulge ourselves with the hard-earned money collected by wishing ''Merry Christmas'' handed to us by generous acquaintances or unknown passers-by. It was about the only time the least of us could afford what usually seemed out of our reach.

As I grow older, many of the childhood myths I had entertained about Christmas have been debunked one after another by the rationality linked to adulthood. And today, this day, I am celebrating my eighth Nativity far away from the familiar warm weather, dusty roads, and modest surroundings of my native land. Yet I can still experience, amid the wintry weather of my new homeland, the warmth of its melting pot and the universal magic of Christmas, thanks to the adopted Jewish Son of a carpenter, born of Immaculate Conception in the humble setting of a manger thousands of years ago. Have yourself a little Merry Christmas!

Youssoupha Nyam is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C.

Advent Reflections: A Gift of Grace

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Editor's note: This Advent season, Bread Blog will be running a series of
reflections written by lay members of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission, from the church's 2013 Advent Meditations booklet.

By Nathan Moon

Lectionary Readings:

Isaiah 9:2-7
Luke 1:1-20
Titus 2:11-14

I think it's possible that the word “humbug” doesn't appear in any of the versions of the Bible that I'm familiar with. Yet as I see commercial Christmas advertising swing into high gear before Halloween has even passed—and getting earlier every year—I'm filled with exasperation, dread, and an urge to cover my head and avoid the season altogether. But my love for the music and liturgy of Advent does overcome, in part, my distaste for commercial Christmas. My experience of community and closeness to friends is my handrail that prevents my complete fall from the spirit of the season. Daunting continual life challenges have made it hard for me to keep my hand on the rail, though. Isaiah says in the familiar text, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” He also says that they have “multiplied the nation,...increased its joy; they rejoice before [the Christ] as with joy at the harvest.” Hard for many to feel joy when they have been living in need.

I feel gratitude for blessings of better health for myself and others of my family. I also feel a tendency to love myself less due to an incapacity to give of material gifts in the way that I might wish. For me, that's the trap, a poison potion of obligation and lack. Paradoxically both a fear of the future and the lack of one. I expressed this thought recently to a group of friends. They immediately chided me gently for not valuing the gifts I have and my willingness to share them with others whose lack is deeper and more sharply felt.

The account of the birth of Christ given by the evangelist Luke is familiar to many. His telling doesn't begin with Jesus, though. It begins in the previous chapter with John the Baptist. His parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, come from good backgrounds and strive to be “righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord.” But they felt keenly the lack of offspring “because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.” The Archangel Gabriel appears to Zechariah and tells him not to be afraid. They are to be blessed with a son. “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” Gabriel says, “...even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him,... to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Nice gift, yes? It's the gift that we're all given, in my view—to have the privilege of a legacy of a difference made. A gift of grace. Not a material gift but a lasting one. Reformed and always reforming. Seldom easily given. And very valuable. Abundant and self-renewing. The gift that keeps on giving.

In the words of Titus, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety (selfishness) and worldly passions (greed), and in the present ageto live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

With gratitude for Grace and in hopes for the manifestation of abundant good for everyone.

Nathan Moon is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C.

Quote of the Day: Rick Steves

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Night sets over Antigua, Guatemala, at the Cerro de la Cruz (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

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.

-- 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.

Help fill the hungry with good things this holiday season. Your year-end gift supports Bread for the World’s efforts to change the policies, programs, and conditions that allow hunger and poverty to persist. Every dollar you give helps Bread win more than $100 in assistance for hungry and poor people. Will you help with a special gift?

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