16 posts categorized "2014 Offering of Letters"
MSNBC host Ronan Farrow looks at U.S. food-aid policies, and the need to reform them, in the latest installment of his "The World Unseen" series. Farrow pays particular attention to shipped food aid—current policies mandate most U.S. food aid is in this form. Commodities, which are subsidized in the United States with taxpayer dollars, saturate the markets of developing countries, and undercut the very people the aid is meant to assist. “Tax payer dollars sent to help often do the opposite” Farrow reports.
Irene, a farmer in Kenya who struggles to feed her children, tells Farrow that the greatest difficulty farmers face is competing with U.S. food—a problem that originates with policy set in Washington, D.C. Agriculture, Farrow says, is the key to Kenya’s economic independence. "Buy local," a term often used in America to support stimulating local economies, also makes a lot of sense in the context of development. Buying food near the source of a crises supports economic independence and strengthens regional agricultural systems. Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters campaign urges Congress to improve the efficiency of our food aid with more dollars available to purchase local food so we can reach millions more people
Highlighted in the MSNBC report are two of the congressional champions behind food-aid reform in the farm bill: Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.-39) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.-16). As we previously reported, the farm bill authorized and made permanent a provision to use some food aid funding to buy locally—a good first step. But for those provisions to be realized, Congress must also appropriate the funding.
Bread for the World will be examining the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget, expected to be released early next week, for proposals to increase funding for flexible approaches, like local and regional purchase and cash vouchers. We also want to see this flexibility reflected in appropriations bills, which the House and Senate will release later this year. Quality also matters, and supporting policy that increases nutrition will save more lives. The first step, however, will be encouraging our members of Congress to fund the authorized reforms in the farm bill. The farm bill was a start, but much more work needs to be done.
Building the political will to modernize U.S. food aid has human stakes. Irene deserves the opportunity to take care of her family, and if U.S. policies hinder that, we have a responsibility to act. It is, as Farrow says in his segment, about giving the underdog a fighting chance.
Have you ever considered making letter writing a spiritual practice? In this age of electronic communication through emails and texting, a letter written the old-fashioned way—by hand—can make a big difference in a person’s life and actually make your message stand out amid modern-day chatter.
Letters can comfort the grieving, embrace the lonely, uplift the discouraged, and carry love across the globe. A letter can also affect the lives of people you may not even know. Writing to your policy makers in Washington, D.C., can influence the decisions they make—decisions that affect millions of people both here at home and around the world.
Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters campaign, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid," aims to help millions of hungry people overseas. With smart changes to the ways our federal government uses the money we already spend on food aid, we can assist millions more who are refugees, survivors of disasters, or living in a cycle of chronic poverty.
Use the sample letter below as a model for your own letter, and visit the Offering of Letters website to find out more about how you can invite others in your faith community to raise their voices with thousands of Christians around the country on this issue. Take 15 minutes today to write, and think about what it might mean to make writing letters a part of your spiritual life.
Billy Kangas is Bread for the World's Catholic Relations fellow.
Photo: Participants in an Offering of Letter at Woodridge UMC in Woodridge, Ill., on April 28, 2013 (Photo by Christine Darfler, courtesy of Pastor Dave Buerstetta)
The author of this post stands under a boat that came to rest atop a house in Banda Aceh, Indonesia in the devastating December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. While U.S. food-aid programs have provided much-needed assistance to the country, smart reforms would make aid even more effective. (Stephen H. Padre)
By Stephen H. Padre
One thing I’ve learned from my personal and work-related travel around the world is that there is probably no place on earth that has not been touched by the United States. In many places, you see this in a commercial sense. It’s not hard to buy a Coke when you need one when overseas. And everybody knows something about the United States. “Ah, America!” is often the response when you tell someone in Africa or India where you’re from, and chances are they have seen an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie or know that Barack Obama’s family came from Kenya.
But I also learned that in the background in many developing countries, the United States, through our federal government, has been getting into a lot of places and quietly supporting a lot of people. It has been doing this through its food-aid programs. And we should remember that our federal government is doing this with our support—of us taxpayers—and on our behalf. U.S. food aid uses millions of our dollars to provide life-saving food following disasters and to improve the lives of people who live in the “silent disaster” of poverty year-in and year-out. This latter type of work isn’t as flashy and urgent as responding to disasters that get a lot of news coverage. It’s a lot of slow, long-term development focused on people’s economic and social situations. Long-term development can take many forms, from training women in new livelihoods to teaching farmers better growing techniques to educating children. It’s work that is meant to give people a better life by increasing their family’s income or giving them skills that will benefit their household or whole community.
Sure, we know that our federal government is using our tax dollars to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But consider that the U.S. is also using its shared, public resources in other ways—ways that for decades have helped 3 billion people through food aid. As I’ve traveled around the world and visited many places where organizations like Lutheran World Relief, Catholic Relief Services, or Church World Service are carrying out long-term development or disaster relief among people who are poor and hungry, I’ve seen the generosity of Christians in the United States who support these church-related agencies and also the generosity of Americans who support this type of work with their tax dollars. I’ve seen lives being sustained in refugee camps with American-supplied food items distributed to Somalis who fled violence in their country. And I’ve seen farmers learning better growing techniques with the help of an American-supported agency. Lives are being saved, and lives are being transformed.
You may support your denomination’s disaster or hunger program with monetary donations. When you do that, you are choosing to use some of your money to respond to God’s call to help people in need. You can also have a say in how some of your tax dollars are used in our government’s food-aid programs. Have your say by writing to your members of Congress as part of Bread’s 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid." With some smart changes, these programs can be more efficient and effective, enabling them to help millions more people in poor countries. Learn about and be involved in the quiet but powerful ways that our country has touched other corners of the world.
Stephen H. Padre is Bread for the World's managing editor.
More than 30 years ago, Bread for the World president David Beckmann lived and worked in Bangladesh, and saw extreme poverty while in the country. A few years ago, he and his wife went back for a visit, traveling to the northwest region where they once lived, and saw something amazing.
"What was best about this experience was that although people are still extremely poor, they are dramatically less poor than they were 30 years ago," Beckmann said during a talk at the Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale University on Feb. 9. "The changes have been spectacular."
Beckmann spoke about improvements to infrastructure, such as new roads and buildings, as well as how people's lives have changed—he saw children that looked better nourished, and met women who were taking advantage of new literacy education and microcredit programs. And these changes aren't unique to the country he once called home. "This same thing has happened in hundreds of thousands of communities in the world," he said. "The World Bank judges that the number of people in the world in extreme poverty has been cut in half in the last 30 years."
At the Saint More Catholic Chapel and Center to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of its soup kitchen, Beckmann spread the message that the dramatic progress that has been made in alleviating extreme hunger and poverty is evidence that ending hunger is within reach.
"Those of us who believe in God and can read about and understand this huge change in the world, I think we have to understand this as our loving God moving history," he said. "I've come to see this as a great exodus in our own time; this is God answering prayers on a huge scale. And I think our loving God is asking us to get with the program. Because in our time, it is clearly possible to make much, much more progress—probably to virtually end extreme poverty and hunger within a couple decades."
Beckmann also talked about what it will take to accomplish this—namely, building the political will to move our leaders and "change big systems in ways that will move us toward the end of hunger in our country and around the world."
By connecting with members of Congress—through letter writing and participating in Offerings of Letters, in-person visits, and writing letters to the editor, people learn “that we have power, we can change things," Beckmann said. "Learn how you can be an active citizen and make the world more like how you think God wants it to be."
Watch the full video of the tlak above, and then learn more about conducting an Offering of Letters, and what you can do to help move history.
A girl enjoys a meal provided in rural Guatemala. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provides funding for school meals (Food for Education) in some of the most impoverished and malnurished areas. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)
By Ryan Quinn
Thanks in part to your efforts, 800,000 more people could have access to U.S. food aid each year.
Over the last few months, you've sent thousands of emails to Congress asking for reforms to make food aid more effective and efficient. And modest but significant changes have come in a wide-ranging farm law just signed by President Obama and a bipartisan budget agreement. Together these bills will make it easier for the United States to buy food closer to where it's needed and provide more flexibility around "monetization," a practice in which organizations ship U.S. crops overseas, resell them, and use the money to finance nonemergency programs — something that can be costly and burdensome.
These changes are helping hungry people affected by the crises in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and those affected by the massive typhoon in the Philippines last year.
While these changes are a step in the right direction, there is much more we can do to ensure that our federal government's food-aid policies are better able to help people in times of crisis and in fostering long-term solutions to hunger.
Your participation in Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters campaign is critical to our success. Please take a moment to email your members of Congress. Urge them to fully fund these changes in food aid while enhancing nutritional quality and increasing program flexibility.
Together, we can help ensure that millions more children and families can be reached by food aid. Having grown up living in a lot of different places around the world, I've found that it is a deep and abiding sense of faith, community, and compassion that connects a small town in America to a refugee camp on the border of Syria or Somalia.
With your faith, compassion, and voice, we will convince our nation's leaders to give international food-aid programs the agility they need to be more effective and save more lives. Thanks for speaking out!
Ryan Quinn is senior international policy analyst at Bread for the World.
Join Bread for the World this afternoon, at 4 p.m. ET, for a webinar and conference call on reforming U.S. food aid. Once you have registered, join the webinar (enter your activation code when prompted) or use the call-in number and follow along with the slides below.
If you have any questions or have problems obtaining the call-in and log-in information, please contact our Marion Jasin, Bread for the World's organizing coordinator, at (202) 688-1106 or email@example.com.
You can also follow the webinar on social media. We will be live tweeting the call using the hashtag #BreadWeb.
By LaVida Davis
In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah declared God’s promise that babies would live long and prosperous lives. Register for February's conference call and webinar to learn how your actions can fulfill God’s promise by helping your church, campus, or community write letters that will win reforms to U.S. food aid that can help millions escape hunger.
Thousands of the new 2014 Offering of Letters kits were mailed recently to Bread for the World leaders. And now we are ready to answer all of your questions about how you can use the kits and write hunger into history. (Kits are available to order from our online store here or download materials from the 2014 Offering of Letters website).
When should I conduct an Offering of Letters? Why are we focusing on food aid, and what reforms still need to be made after the farm bill? What if my congregation is more interested in domestic poverty? How many letters do we need to make a difference?
Our experts on the topic will be available just for you. And if you are new the webinars, we have a how-to guide online to help you.
Join us Tuesday, February 18, at 4:00 p.m. ET (adjust for your time zone) to learn all about the 2014 Offering of Letters. You can ask questions during the webinar in our online chat box, or email them in advance to Marion Jasin (firstname.lastname@example.org), Bread's organizing coordinator, and we'll get them to the front of the line.
LaVida Davis is director of organizing and grassroots capacity building at Bread for the World.
By Stephen H. Padre
Imagine losing everything you have—your possessions, your home, your livelihood. And your friends, relatives, children, or spouse. Even your country.
This is the situation that millions of refugees found themselves in during the 22-year civil war in Sudan that ended in 2005. For many years during the war, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese fled the fighting and took refuge in northwestern Kenya. Many of them found their way to Kakuma Refugee Camp, which essentially became their new home.
It’s the responsibility of your country’s government to protect you and look after your welfare. When your government can’t do that—when you are forced out of your country because your government is at war, for example—in most cases, the United Nations becomes responsible for you. As a refugee, you are a citizen of a country but are in exile, and therefore have a particular legal status. You can’t always find a way to make a living in your host country. Therefore, you need someone else to support you, which often means providing things as basic as shelter and food.
The U.N. set up Kakuma Refugee Camp in 1992 to house the thousands of refugees fleeing the civil war to the north in Sudan. Under the care of the U.N., the camp provided shelter, food and water, health care, education, and other essential services to as many as 200,000 people at the height of its operations.
While the U.N. is responsible for the camp, it contracts out many of the services to private organizations. The Lutheran World Federation, an organization that addresses poverty and is supported by Lutheran churches around the world, was contracted to oversee the day-to-day operations of the camp. In this role, it carried out the distribution of food to camp residents. This was one of the most critical services it provided to refugees who had nothing. Biweekly rations of food staples—including flour, beans, cooking oil—kept people alive day by day.
The path the food took to get to refugees was somewhat complex. But much of it originated in the United States. It had been purchased with American taxpayer dollars and had been sent by the U.S. government to the World Food Program, one of the many U.N. agencies that worked in the camp. The U.S government is the largest donor to the World Food Program.
We as Americans and taxpayers should be proud of our role in providing food to Sudanese refugees. It meant survival for many of them—continuing to live, sometimes for longer than a decade, before they could return to their country.
Bread for the World’s 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid," focuses on our government’s role in providing food to help refugees, survivors of disasters, and people living in the cycle of chronic poverty. While U.S. food-aid programs provide admirable assistance in many ways around the world, they can work even better. With smart reforms, these programs can help up to 17 million more people—and at no additional cost to taxpayers.
Take part in an Offering of Letters, and urge your members of Congress to support changes to policies and practices that will enable U.S. food aid to help more people.
Stephen H. Padre is Bread for the World's managing editor.
Children in the Sunday school at Erwin First United Methodist Church in Syracuse, N.Y., wrote letters to President Obama about ending hunger as part of the congregation’s participation in the 2013 Offering of Letters.
As we enter a new Offering of Letters season, Bread for the World organizers are often asked, "How do I get started with the Offering of Letters?" Organizing a letter-writing event to urge our leaders to help hungry people around the world is easier than many think. Here are two examples of congregations that conducted their first letter-writing events in 2013 and how they got involved in that important first advocacy step.
Deacon Grace Marable of Bethel Presbyterian Church in North Philadelphia has been a long-time activist and church leader. Illness prevents her from pursuing paid employment, so her volunteer work is her passion — one she shares with three generations of family members, including four-year-old great-grandson Devin.
Several years ago, the hunger action leader in Philadelphia’s presbytery introduced Marable to Bread for the World. She realized that advocacy, along with a strengthened food cupboard at her church, was a key response to hunger and that the two could be linked in creative ways.
Marable attended an Offering of Letters workshop last April in downtown Philadelphia and vowed that 2013 was the year that she would organize an offering among the recipients and volunteers at her church’s weekly food cupboard. She tailored the sample letter to each group and got an enthusiastic response from all who participated. One pantry recipient even returned after finishing his letters and asked, "Are there more letters to write?"
After the offering, Marable gathered all of the letters, got in her car, and drove to Washington, D.C., to give the letters to other Pennsylvanians attending Bread's 2013 National Gathering last June. She asked them to hand-deliver the letters to members of Congress during Bread's annual Lobby Day that week. After some time had passed, Marable had a pantry recipient excitedly run up to her, waving the response she had received from one of her senators. The woman was undeterred that the senator was not supportive. She was actually proud to have taken part and eager to do more.
Since becoming an active part of Bread, Marable speaks about hunger and justice advocacy each Sunday in worship and with the church’s women’s group, which she helps lead. Members of her church often remark that she has “found her voice.”
Sometimes "outside voices" draw advocates to Bread. Rev. Karen Bellimer, minister of music at Erwin First United Methodist Church in Syracuse, N.Y., says she and her husband first learned about Bread when they saw Jon Stewart interview the producers of the hunger documentary A Place at the Table on The Daily Show.
Moved by what she heard, Bellimer ordered the video and showed it twice — in a local theater and later at her church. With that grounding, in May 2013 she organized the church’s first Offering of Letters, building on its existing food pantry outreach and engaging children and adults alike. Children in the Sunday school at Erwin First United Methodist Church wrote letters to Obama about ending hunger as part of the congregation’s participation in the 2013 Offering of Letters. During worship, one family in the congregation shared that its members receive federal food assistance through SNAP (formerly food stamps), and they talked about their own journey with hunger, sparking a good conversation in worship. Now, the Erwin church has pledged to make hunger and advocacy a key part of its ministry.
These are just two examples of creative ways to take that first key step toward advocacy in your church or campus. Contact your Bread for the World regional organizer for more suggestions and resources to deepen your connection to Bread and the 2014 Offering of Letters campaign. Thousands of other hunger activists in churches and on campuses across the country have found their voices through Bread, and you can too.
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