Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Virginia Church Welcomes All to 'The Table'

Shoppers at The Table food pantry at St. George's Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Va., looking at produce. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Recently, I, along with Bread for the World's multimedia manager, Joseph Molieri, spent the day at a unique food pantry run by St. George’s Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Va.

We went to visit the food pantry as a way to see how the issue of hunger is addressed on the ground. Many of the churches Bread works with do a lot of work around feeding the hungry and poor. 

At most food pantries, the food is canned, boxed, or jarred, and clients are normally given a pre-assembled bag or box of food to take home. 

Not at St. George’s.

At The Table (the food pantry’s name) there are no clients, only “shoppers.” The food pantry is set up in a way that allows shoppers to choose their groceries like they would at a supermarket or an open-air food market. The food pantry is open every day, and shoppers can visit either in the morning or afternoon.

Unlike a more traditional food pantry, The Table offers shoppers fresh produce, such as potatoes, apples, oranges, squash, broccoli, pears, and onions. Fresh bread, such as rye and wheat, is also available. _X1A2041

The food comes from local farms, donations, and the local food bank. St. Gregory’s also gleans from other places, such as convenience stores, for food they can provide, such as sandwiches.

Started in 2012, The Table is the brainchild of Rev. Deacon Carey Chirico, director of outreach ministries at St. George’s. She wanted to create a space where struggling people could shop for food with dignity and respect.

“It’s very much our belief that when we come forward to receive the Eucharist as Episcopalians, we are setting down all our own assurances,” Chirico said. “We are setting down any privilege we have. That there is nothing that makes us unique in receiving this beautiful, beautiful gift. So we try to do the same thing at The Table – approach each other on a person-to-person basis.”

“We’ve tried to really let go of ‘we have, you don’t; we give, you take,’” she said. “And we encounter each person as we are treated at the Eucharistic table.”

The uniqueness of St. George’s food pantry was not lost on me. When I left St. George’s that day, I wondered if there were other food pantries doing the same thing. I got my answer last week when I came across a New York Times article that focused on this idea of the “customer choice pantry” and how some food pantries across the country were converting to this new standard.

The idea is rooted not just in providing dignity to the shopper, but also offering more nutritious food, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. A lot of the packaged food given out at food pantries is not healthy.

This is important given the fact that many families who utilize food pantries are already facing health issues. In fact, 58 percent of households who use food pantries nationwide have a family member with hypertension, and more than 30 percent include someone with diabetes, according to Feeding America.

Historically, St. George’s food pantry began as an emergency food pantry – giving grocery bags filled with food to families in crisis. But Chirico said that set-up really wasn’t working. “We realized that we were not meeting a lot of people’s needs. We were not giving them food that was culturally appropriate or nutritionally sound.”

And so The Table was born after the church found out that people really enjoyed picking vegetables from a garden the church had started. Today, a shopper leaves the food pantry with an average of 25 lbs. of groceries – 60 percent of which Chirico hopes is fresh produce.

“Our goal is to improve the quality of the food people are getting, the quality of the experience they are getting, and invite them to come back every week,” Chirico said.

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

Photo inset: Fresh produce is a staple at The Table food pantry at St. George's Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Va. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.



Fewer Hungry People Around the World, UN Report Says

Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World. 

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Today, there are fewer hungry people around the world. The number has declined from about one billion 25 years ago to about 795 million today, or about one person out of every nine, according to the United Nations.

Out of the 129 nations monitored by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 72 achieved the target of halving the percentages of hungry people outlined in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to the United Nations’ annual hunger report, published by the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the World Food Program

Bread for the World has long championed the MDGs as a way to help the world’s poor move out of a cycle of hunger and poverty.

The following are quotes from the publishers of the annual UN hunger report:

"The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime. We must be the Zero Hunger generation. That goal should be mainstreamed into all policy interventions and at the heart of the new sustainable development agenda to be established this year," said FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva.


"If we truly wish to create a world free from poverty and hunger, then we must make it a priority to invest in the rural areas of developing countries where most of the world's poorest and hungriest people live," said IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze. "We must work to create a transformation in our rural communities so they provide decent jobs, decent conditions and decent opportunities. We must invest in rural areas so that our nations can have balanced growth and so that the three billion people who live in rural areas can fulfil their potential."


"Men, women and children need nutritious food every day to have any chance of a free and prosperous future. Healthy bodies and minds are fundamental to both individual and economic growth, and that growth must be inclusive for us to make hunger history," said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.


Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World. 

Teachers: When Stomachs are Empty, We Can't Fill Minds

By Robin Stephenson

Teachers have a problem with poverty. According to a survey of our nation’s top teachers, poverty – ranking just below family stress – is a barrier to classroom success.

The survey, conducted by Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic Inc., asked 56 Teachers of the Year about the issues that affect public education. Teachers stated that funding anti-poverty initiatives would be their top priority.

The United States ranks near the bottom on measures of child poverty in the developed world, while at the same time continuing to rank among the wealthiest nations. More than 16 million children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level ($23,550 a year for a family of four). The manifestation of poverty is often perceived to be an individual predicament, but poverty is a social problem that must be addressed on a national level.

16348200855_cd67e7b41b_kIt is no surprise that teachers find poverty – a solvable problem – an impediment to classroom success. Studies show that nutrition programs not only improve a child's diet and academic performance, but they also improve behavior – a prized commodity in any classroom.

But for the educator, the fruits of their labor are harvested long after the child leaves the classroom.

“If you don’t fund children for their well-being early on, you’re going to pay for it later on when they graduate from school – or don’t graduate from school,” Mickey Komins, principal of Anne Frank Elementary in Philadelphia, Pa., told Bread for the World.

In 2012, the safety net moved 48 million people above the poverty line – including 12 million children.  At Bread, we are advocating for better child nutrition programs as part of our 2015 Offering of Letters campaign, because children’s health and well-being is correlated with future success. When children have access to anti-hunger programs early on, studies show they are more successful later in life.

We can help teachers focus on educating our future leaders by advocating that the federal government invest in programs that help children.  Members of Congress are debating the future of child nutrition programs, SNAP (formerly food stamps), and deciding funding levels as they go through the budget process.

Instead of a focus on cuts, lawmakers must be urged to consider the future of the nation’s children. These anti-hunger programs must be strengthened if we want to get poverty out of the classroom for good.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Building the Will to End Hunger

NM in DC
Larry and Ellen Beulow and Carlos Navarro, Bread members from Albuquerque, N.M., visit their members of Congress as part of Bread for the World's 2014 Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. Photo: Bread for the World.

By Robin Stephenson

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Imagine a just world. Imagine a world where every person – every child – has enough to eat.

We know such a world is possible, but we need your help to build the political will that forces decision makers to act. To make ending hunger a national priority, it must be a community priority.

Ending hunger by 2030 is a bold but achievable goal. Since 1900, the rate of Americans living in poverty has gone from 40 to 14.5 percent. The world cut extreme poverty in half since 1990.

Behind each hunger-ending victory are ordinary individuals that believe in the possible. Behind every victory is someone in a community making an impact.

People like Peter England from Miami, Fla., know the impact a single person can make.

In 1992, England’s member of Congress, Rep. Dante Fascell (D-Fla.), was the chairman of a powerful committee. Bread for the World needed Fascell to push forward a bill supporting food security in the Horn of Africa, then in the midst of a devastating famine.

England urged The Miami Herald to use the legislation as the focus of an editorial. When England’s member of Congress saw the editorial, he acted quickly.

"Within two weeks, it had passed both houses and been signed into law by President Bush," England recalls with pride.  

Stories like England’s are neither unique nor surprising.  For over 40 years, Bread members have organized in communities across the United States, making a difference – members like Carlos Navarro.

Over 30 years ago, Navarro joined Bread during his college years and committed to the cause of ending hunger.

For the past decade, Navarro has worked tirelessly in his Albuquerque, N.M., community to influence his legislators and build awareness around the issue of hunger.  He empowers others to advocate, attends in-district meetings and town halls, organizes Offering of Letters workshops, and writes an award-winning blog. Most recently, he spearheaded an Interfaith Hunger Coalition, leveraging the power of more voices in his community passionate about ending hunger.

"Ending hunger is so simple, and yet it seems like an insurmountable task,” said Navarro, who sees his role as a facilitator. “The best way to address the problem is to work together, and we can do this via networking and coalition building. " 

Bread is built on the willingness of justice-loving people to get involved. Each action we take matters; each action is multiplied by thousands of others.

When our collective purpose is to end hunger, we bend toward a more just world.

Bread’s Lobby Day is fast approaching – June 9. Be part of a collective voice that tells Congress to support child nutrition in the U.S. and around the world. You don’t need to be a policy expert. You just need to care. Don’t delay. Register today and make a difference.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social justice and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Bread Affiliate Supports Civil Society to End Hunger Abroad

08 FRA secretariat staff at office w Alliance t-shirts
Staff of the Ugandan Food Rights Alliance receive T-shirts from their U.S. counterparts in the Alliance to End Hunger. Ed Kiely/Alliance to End Hunger

By Nathan Magrath

In November 2014, nearly 40 representatives of an array of organizations committed to ending food insecurity and malnutrition in Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya came together in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Among the organizations in attendance were coalitions representing the three countries. These “national alliances” represent civil society's (nonprofits, churches, and other institutions) earnest effort to gain a foothold in their countries' public policy processes affecting food security, agricultural development, and nutrition. On that day, these coalitions met for the first time under the National Alliance Partnership Program to discuss strategies and techniques for building their strength.

The meeting of these coalitions was the first international conference sponsored by the re-established National Alliance Partnership Program. The Alliance to End Hunger, an affiliate of Bread for the World, is one in a network of national alliances around the world. The U.S. alliance is unique in its diversity of membership and approach to engaging institutions to build the political will to end hunger at home and abroad.

Out of the U.S. alliance's strength and position, the National Alliance Partnership Program was born.  It has provided an opportunity to partner with new or nascent national alliances in developing countries to assist them in building their organizational capacities in outreach, advocacy, and long-term financial sustainability. The program's work in partner countries consists of assessment, planning, and sub-grant stages that build on targeted capacity gaps to help support the work of local groups.

An early success of the program has been a partnership with the Hunger Alliance of Ghana. With support from the program, the Ghanaian alliance was able to convene a series of consultative meetings with the U.S. government, African Union, and Ghanaian officials. The alliance raised the voice of civil society in the food-security development mechanisms such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and the U.S. government's Feed the Future initiative.  A civil society-based task force was established as a result of the consultations, which led to the eventual formation of a hunger caucus in the Parliament of Ghana. This caucus now provides a mechanism through which food security concerns can be voiced to the Ghanaian government.

In October 2013, the Alliance to End Hunger was able to continue its Partnership Program through a Feed the Future grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The three-year, $3 million grant allowed for the hiring of program staff and the expansion of the initiative into seven countries.  Early work has been wrapping up in the initial countries of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, with baseline assessments underway in Guatemala, Malawi, and Zambia. A decision was also made to continue to build on the successes in Ghana and help support their desire for long-term sustainability.

While the Partnership Program continues to be an excellent opportunity to bolster the voice of civil society in food security policy, the true potential of the initiative is the building and maintaining of a worldwide network of support for poverty and rights-focused coalitions. This continues to be a primary goal of the Alliance to End Hunger.

Learn more about the Alliance to End Hunger at www.alliancetoendhunger.org.

Learn more about the National Alliance Partnership Program at www.partnershiptoendhunger.org.

Nathan Magrath is the manager of communications and outreach for the Alliance to End Hunger.


Remembering Fallen Heroes

Austin Knox/U.S. Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons.

Today, on Memorial Day, Bread for the World remembers the men and women who have died while serving in our country's armed services.

We honor them with this prayer: 

Lord God today we remember all those who have served our country, especially those who have given their lives in our defense. Preserve those who serve this day. Strengthen them in their trials. Grant also to our political and military leaders the wisdom and will to tirelessly seek peaceful resolution to all conflicts that we may live quite lives in your service.

Almighty God we pray for veterans who this day face hunger, homelessness, disability, and mental illness. Comfort and heal them in the midst of disease. Teach us to meet them in their need that we might demonstrate the love which you have showed to us in sending your Son our Lord, Jesus Christ. Give wisdom to all those who seek to serve our veterans and stir up our leaders to prioritize ending hunger amongst those who have served the country.

We pray all these things in the powerful name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.


Lobby Day: Your Voice Counts!

Bread for the World members meeting with members of Congress during Lobby Day. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

By Ryan Quinn

It’s not uncommon to hear the question “What difference can I make?” when asked to call or write to a member of Congress.

But the answer is a lot. That’s what Bread supporter Laura Duff from Wisconsin found out when she called U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) last year to encourage him to vote for a food-aid reform amendment.

But this story starts a bit earlier than that. In the summer of 2013, the House voted down the food-aid reform amendment to the House farm bill. One of the nay votes was Rep. Pocan. Despite his history of championing on the issue of poverty and hunger, he still voted against the amendment.

Bread supporters Dan and Peg Geisler noticed this and decided to attend one of the congressman’s “listening sessions.” After thanking him sincerely for his strong support of domestic hunger programs, they spoke to him about food-aid reform. During their conversation, the couple laid out the reasons food-aid reform makes sense, impressing upon him how it would actually feed millions more people around the world faster and more efficiently.

The following June, a vote was held for another amendment focused on food-aid reform. Bread activists were called into action to support the amendment. And as part of that effort, activists contacted hundreds of congressional offices, including Rep. Pocan’s office, during Lobby Day.

Even though she was hesitant and thought her call wouldn’t make much of a difference, Laura Duff called the congressman’s office and urged him to support the amendment. What she didn’t know was that a small army of individuals was doing the same. The outcome? The amendment passed by 223-198 because the congressman and more than 20 other House members had changed their vote to support the amendment.

Bread’s Lobby Day is fast approaching – June 9. Be part of a collective voice that tells Congress to support child nutrition in the U.S. and around the world. You don’t need to be a policy expert. You just need to care. Don’t delay. Register today and make a difference.

Ryan Quinn is a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World.





World Prayers for May 24-30: Botswana and Zimbabwe

This is a weekly prayer series that appears each Friday on the Bread Blog.

One aspect of Bread for the World’s new Bread Rising campaign is prayer. The campaign is asking Bread members to pray more, act more, and give more. In this blog series, we will provide a prayer for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger. Zimcross

This prayer series will follow the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, a list compiled by the World Council of Churches that enables Christians around the world to journey in prayer through every region of the world, affirming our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing their challenges and sharing their gifts.

We will especially be lifting up in prayer the challenges related to hunger and poverty that the people of each week’s countries face. In prayer, God’s story and our own story connect—and we and the world are transformed. In a prayer common to all of us—the Lord’s Prayer/the Our Father—we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This line from this prayer can also be a prayer for the end of hunger.

We invite you to join Bread in our prayers for the world’s countries to end hunger. And we encourage you to share with us your prayers for the featured countries of the week or for the end of hunger in general.

For the week of May 24-30: Botswana and Zimbabwe

In December 1998, the World Council of Churches held its Eighth Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city. Christians from around the world gathered to celebrate their unity and make it more visible. The following was a vision and prayer for the assembly:

We long for the visible oneness of the body of Christ,
affirming the gifts of all,
young and old, women and men, lay and ordained.

We expect the healing of human community,
the wholeness of God's entire creation.

We trust in the liberating power of forgiveness,
transforming enmity into friendship
and breaking the spiral of violence.

We are challenged by the vision of a church
that will reach out to everyone,
sharing, caring, proclaiming the good news of God's redemption,
a sign of the kingdom and a servant of the world.

We are challenged by the vision of a church,
the people of God on the way together,
confronting all divisions of race, gender, age or culture,
striving to realize justice and peace,
upholding the integrity of creation.

We journey together as a people with resurrection faith.
In the midst of exclusion and despair,
we embrace, in joy and hope, the promise of life in all its fullness.

We journey together as a people of prayer.
In the midst of confusion and loss of identity,
we discern signs of God's purpose being fulfilled
and expect the coming of God's reign.

And a simple prayer for Zimbabwe and Botswana as we enter the season of Pentecost, taken from a traditional Zimbabwean hymn:

If you believe and I believe
And we together pray,
The Holy Spirit must come down
And set God’s people free,
And set God’s people free,
And set God’s people free;
The Holy Spirit must come down
And set God’s people free.

Together we pray that God's people will be set free from hunger. Amen.

Percentage of the population of these countries living below the national poverty line (2014 figures):

Botswana: 19.3
Zimbabwe: 72.3

Source: World Bank World Development Indicators as found in the new 2015 Hunger Report.

Prayer is a central part of Bread for the World’s work. To learn more about how you can get involved with prayer at Bread, please go here

Photo inset: Large wooden cross, carved by David Mutasa from Harare, shows Africa at the intersection of the beams. The cross stood at the center of the assembly’s worship tent. Chris Black/World Council of Churches.


Red Nose Day: Shining a Light on Hunger

Christine Meléndez Ashley, a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World, celebrates Red Nose Day while writing her members of Congress and asking them to do their part in feeding hungry children.

By Robin Stephenson

The fact that 16 million children in the United States are not always sure where their next meal is coming from is no comedy, but helping change that fact doesn’t need to be a tragedy.

Comedy is behind the Red Nose Campaign taking place today, a nationwide effort to raise money for children and young people living in poverty. Some of the proceeds go to our partner organizations like Oxfam America and Feeding America, two organizations doing amazing work on the ground to fight hunger and poverty.

Far too many young people experience hunger both in the U.S. and abroad. Bread’s 2015 Offering of Letters campaign aims to feed our children by strengthening the policy and programs that can help move children out of poverty. For the millions of children in the U.S. who benefit from a federally subsidized school lunch and breakfast, they are getting more than a nutritious meal – they are getting a chance at the future. Studies show that school breakfast improves diet, but it also improves achievement and behavior.
Many of our Bread members are generous contributors of both time and money to charities that address the immediate hunger faced by food-insecure Americans, but the government is also a key. Food benefits from federal nutrition programs amounted to $102.5 billion in 2013, compared to $5.2 billion of food distributed by private charities during the same time period. Other anti-hunger programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps), free lunch, breakfast, and summer meals are another part of the solution that keeps hunger at bay for our nation’s children.

At Bread, we focus on advocacy because we know that we cannot "food bank" our way out of hunger. We need both charity and advocacy if we want to make serious progress against hunger.  As Congress begins reauthorizing our child nutrition programs, we must make sure that they strengthen those programs that feed children by speaking up.

Many of our staff at Bread are participating in Red Nose Day to support the good work our partners do everyday. We hope you will too, but we would ask you to do one more thing: Contact your member of Congress and tell them that our government must do its part for children as well. Urge your members of Congress to support legislation that will feed our children and give them the building blocks for a hunger-free future.

Read more: Churches and Hunger

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media at Bread for the World and a senior regional organizer.




Food Aid and Feed the Future: 2 programs, 1 mission

An African woman farmer. Sarah Rawson/World Food Program USA.

By Alyssa Casey

Bread for the World is excited to see two different international food-security issues being acted upon in Congress - Feed the Future and food-aid reform! The issues are currently in two separate pieces of legislation, but there has been some discussion in Congress about combining them into a broader food security bill.

It is common for people - even members of Congress - to confuse the two issues. As they both move forward, we at Bread want to clarify the differences between these two vital but distinct pillars of food security.

Food Aid
Food-aid programs provide immediate assistance, usually in the form of actual food, but occasionally as cash or vouchers to purchase food. Aid is mostly provided in response to emergencies that immediately disrupt a country’s food supply, such as the recent earthquakes in Nepal and the prolonged crises in Syria and South Sudan.

The largest U.S. food-aid program, Food for Peace, originated in the 1950s following the aftermath of World War II. While largely successful, certain restrictions have remained virtually unchanged since that time. This includes the fact that nearly all food must be bought in the United States and transported mostly (at least 50 percent) on U.S.-flagged ships. With small changes and increased flexibility, this program can feed more people at no extra cost to U.S. taxpayers.

The Food for Peace Reform Act reforms the Food for Peace program by increasing flexibility and avoiding inefficiencies. Allowing more money to be spent purchasing local food is on average 30 percent cheaper and reaches people in need up to two months faster.

Feed the Future
Feed the Future is a much newer initiative, started in 2009 in response to the devastation caused by the spike in global food prices in 2007 and 2008. It assists countries in strengthening their agriculture sector in order to increase farm yields and develop better opportunities for trade and economic growth. Feed the Future integrates many aspects of food security into a smart, inclusive approach.

The program places significant focus on empowering women farmers to improve food security, since the majority of women in developing countries are smallholder farmers. It also integrates nutrition into agriculture so they are not just growing more food, but growing more nutritious food; and implements climate-sensitive agriculture so they are preserving fields and natural resources for future generations.

Feed the Future is currently dependent on the goodwill of Congress for yearly appropriations. The initiative could end in 2016 if it is not made into permanent law. The Global Food Security Act would authorize Feed the Future into legislation, allowing the program to continue beyond the Obama administration.

Why Do We Need Both?
Food aid targets today’s hunger – the immediate needs. Meanwhile, Feed the Future targets tomorrow’s hunger by investing in long-term agricultural solutions so communities are better prepared to deal with persistent hunger. When long-term development gives communities resilience – enables them to bounce back faster, they can rely less on emergency food aid and instead feed themselves. We need both programs to address the hunger of today and tomorrow.

Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day is June 9. Join us to make some real changes in Washington, D.C., when it comes to feeding our children. You don’t need to be a policy expert to participate. You just need to care. 

Registration is free but space is limited. Register today to reserve your spot!

Alyssa Casey is government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.

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