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10 posts categorized "A Place at the Table"
Letters written by members of Woodridge United Methodist Church during its Offering of Letters last month. (All photos by Christine Darfler)
By Kacie Greer
I recently attended a 10:30 a.m. church service at Woodridge United Methodist Church, in Woodridge, Ill., during which Pastor Dave Buerstetta led an Offering of Letters. This was actually my first time participating in an Offering of Letters. It was very moving, and the way the congregation approached the program was inspiring.
I walked into the church and was immediately greeted by members saying, "You came on the right day, we are doing something very special during service today." In front of me was a table full of letters written by members who had attended the 9:30 a.m. service. These letters were written by adults and children. When seeing letters written by children, I know that a story is being told-nothing beats seeing the truth through a child's eyes.
The service began and was led by a young boy, while the projector in the front of the sanctuary showed an image of Rosie, a young girl featured in A Place at the Table, smiling at the congregation. After a few worship songs, Pastor Buerstetta introduced Bread for the World and the Offering of Letters. A short clip of Rosie, taken from the film, then played. The congregation learned a bit about Rosie's life in rural Colorado, and how going to school hungry impacted her ability to focus on her school work. Some of the most powerful words came when Rosie described the hunger she experiences during school hours. She says sometimes all she can picture is food as her stomach growls. She sees images of bananas and other fruits while trying to concentrate on the school work.
Pastor Buerstetta began to address the congregation on the proper way to write to Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) about food aid reform. He talked about how the president's proposal allows the United States greater flexibility to respond to hunger needs around the world while also better supporting long-term development efforts in food security and agriculture. He addressed the issue of funding for proper nutrition as well, which is one of the main inequalities that Rosie faces. Overall, the congregation was very passionate about the Offering of Letters program and about working to end hunger both at home and abroad.
Kacie Greer is a Bread for the World central hub organizing intern based in Chicago, Ill.
Photo: A screening of A Place at the Table. (Amanda Lucidon for Bread for the World)
By Anneke Essenburg
On April 5, I woke up at 5 a.m., and by 6 a.m., I was on the road with four other Calvin College students and two leaders of the Christian Reformed Church’s Social Justice Office, headed to Washington, D.C. Twelve hours, two stops, and many Twizzlers later, we arrived!
We went south for the weekend to attend the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference. This year, the focus was on food justice, a topic that our student organization, the Social Justice Coalition, is really passionate about. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we learned about all aspects of food justice and the farm bill, and then on Monday we lobbied on Capitol Hill.
At the conference we learned about the movie A Place at the Table, and one of the women featured in the film, Barbie Izquierdo, was there to share her story. Midway through our journey home, we began discussing how we could share what we learned with the Calvin community, in order to widen the advocacy base.
So, on Thursday, May 2, we held a screening of A Place at the Table, followed by a panel discussion. Our panelists were Marge Palmerlee from Degage Ministries, Emma Rosauer from Access of West Michigan, and Chuck Clemence, coordinator of the Grand Rapids Bread for the World team.
The first step in educating others and involving them in ending hunger is just deciding to take action. There are logistical details to work out—contacting panelists, purchasing showing rights, advertising—but it isn’t about having a perfect event, it’s about reaching out and offering knowledge.
Sure, I spent time stressing over whether or not anyone would come. But you know what? They did. Our job is not to force people to come, or to force people to care. Only God can do that. Our job is to be faithful, to act, to do something. Because if we do nothing, then nothing will change.
There are 50 million people in America who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. This is not right. We need to do something. I need to do something. You need to do something.
Anneke Essenburg is a student at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a leader in the student organization Social Justice Coalition (SJC).
Rev. James Forbes, shown in 2006, was the keynote speaker at a North Carolina Bread for the World conference last month. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Scott Griessel, flickr user creatista.
By Paula Well and Rev. Bob Herron
On Saturday, April 13, a dream became a reality—a North Carolina Bread for the World Conference took place at the Christ United Methodist Church in Greensboro, N.C. Thanks to the efforts of the local Bread Leadership Team of the Triad we held a successful conference that brought attention to issues of hunger in our state, our county, and around the world.
The keynote of the day was given by Dr. James Forbes, pastor emeritus of Riverside Church, in New York City. His words inspired and challenged the more than 100 attendees. During the conference, Dr. Forbes also offered a “homiletics teaching,” a workshop for pastors on methods of preaching justice. LaMarco Cable, deputy director of organizing for Bread’s southern hub, gave a presentation on this year’s Offering of Letters and presidential petition.
During lunch, participants wrote letters to Congress and signed the presidential petition while listening to music from hunger advocate and musician Bryan McFarland. The rest of the time was spent networking with people from various parts of the state and sharing ideas about strengthening our advocacy. We were also very blessed to have a local cinema showing the brilliant documentary A Place at the Table the same time that the conference was taking place. We cannot recommend it highly enough.
We hope that other Bread Leadership Teams will be inspired by hearing about our North Carolina event. We pray that the brilliant preaching of Rev. Forbes and the leadership of LaMarco Cable will take us to new heights. We also pray that the exhilaration of learning how our small voices can be used to amplify important issues will not fade.
Recently, our team reconvened to discuss how we could capitalize on the energy of that day, and we became reinvigorated and ready to plan for our next conference. We feel the ways in which the Holy Spirit emboldens us to dream֫—to dream of a day when, instead of one in six Americans going to bed hungry at night, no one is hungry. We dream of a day when Bread for the World won’t be necessary any longer because the problem of hunger has been solved.
Until that dream is realized, we will continue our work.Paula Well and Rev. Bob Herron are team members of the Bread for the World Triad of N.C.
After seeing the documentary A Place at the Table, Lori Abshire participated in a SNAP challenge and her church's Offering of Letters. Photo: Participants at the National Hunger-Free Communities Summit watch a preview of A Place at the Table. (Amanda Lucidon for Bread for the World)
By Lori Abshire
This winter I took a poverty class at my church, King Avenue United Methodist. The class, led by Pastor John, was amazing and touched my heart in many ways, but I was overwhelmed by what I learned. What could I do to make a difference when faced with such an enormous problem? The class culminated in a trip to see the documentary A Place at the Table, which highlights the hunger epidemic in the United States.
The documentary shook me to my core. I couldn’t get the image of Rosie, a 12-year-old Colorado girl, out of my head. “ I struggle a lot,” Rosie said in the documentary. “Most of the time it is because my stomach is really hurting and I zone out. I’m just looking at the teacher and all I am thinking about is food.” I had to do something so I decided for the first time I would be one of “those people” on Facebook—I was going to make people aware of the facts about food insecurity and food stamps, or SNAP.
This is a personal issue for me. My family had to be on food stamps when I was growing up. My mom worked hard—there wasn’t a lazy bone in her body—but we couldn’t make it sometimes without food stamps. I am thankful that safety net was there for us. Growing up, I thought anyone with a full refrigerator was wealthy. I will never forget the first time, as an adult, that my refrigerator was full. I had learned by then that it didn't make you wealthy, but I was grateful.
A couple weeks ago, Pastor John spoke about seeing things through Jesus’ eyes. I tried to see this issue that way. I made a commitment to stick to a SNAP food budget for a week, starting Monday, March 25. Can you guess the food stamp allotment for an adult for seven days? It’s about $31 per adult, per week—or $4.45 a day.
I went to Wal-Mart to get the cheapest prices. I tried to make the best choices possible. Produce was so expensive, but I was lucky to be able to buy a banana for each day, an apple, and two oranges. I couldn’t believe the apple I bought was 83 cents!
The only meat I was able to purchase was two cans of tuna. My protein sources were milk, yogurt, peanut butter, black beans, and that tuna.
I can certainly see why someone would buy a bag of chips for $1.50 instead of the carrots I bought. Chips have 800 plus calories and my carrots had maybe 200 total. I can see why people make the choices they make.
I did this to help educate our children and my friends and family. I found that I was OK with being one of those people on Facebook. I opened up a lot of dialogue. I hope I opened some people’s eyes. Hopefully, they started to see things through Jesus’ eyes.
We live in the world’s wealthiest nation, yet more than 50 million Americans struggle to put food on the table. My church has conducted an Offering of Letters, asking our president and members of Congress to enact a plan to end hunger. I hope you’ll join us.
Lori Abshire attends King Avenue United Methodist Church and lives in Columbus, Ohio.
How does one reconcile being a "foodie" with working to fighting hunger? The two things might seem to be at odds, but a lot of people who dedicate their time to cooking and enjoying the best possible meals are also passionate about fighting to ensure that everyone has access to beautiful, fresh, amazing food. Whether it's chef Tom Colicchio trying to makeover public school lunches or New York Times food writer Mark Bittman writing about SNAP, people who love food, and make their living cooking and writing about food, can be powerful anti-hunger advocates. That idea is at the heart of Food Bloggers Against Hunger.
Today, 200 food writers from around the blog-o-sphere are donating their posts to raise awareness about the documentary A Place at the Table and issues of hunger. And, most importantly, they are asking their readers to send letters to Congress to protect SNAP funding and make anti-hunger legislation a priority.
Many of the bloggers shared their tips for cooking healthy on the cheap, some chose to highlight facts about hunger in America and their thoughts on A Place at the Table. But a few of the bloggers also offered moving personal accounts of their own experiences with hunger and poverty.
Kate in Kitchen, who shares delicious recipes through her blog, bravely shares her past experience with hunger:
I have never, ever taken one bite of food for granted. I’ve never shunned a meal due to any reason because I can’t forget what it was like to not have enough. To lay hungry in the night. To walk past trash cans spilling over with half eaten foods, to see food thrown out, to hear people say “I’m STARVING!” as if they had any idea what that’s like, and me trying to focus the meager tips I made on purchasing something decent for my boy and I to eat when the bank account was bare.For a list of participating blogs, visit the Food Bloggers Against Hunger website, or find the posts on Twitter, by searching the #takeyourplace hashtag.
Barbie Izquierdo at the National Hunger Free Communities Summit. (Amanda Lucidon)
While in the middle of one of the scariest, most stressful days of her life, Barbie Izquierdo took her first step toward becoming an advocate.
The Philadelphia mother and her two children had been living in an unheated apartment, and the cold temperatures were exacerbating her infant son’s chronic eye problems. After months of doctors’ visits, Barbie was told her baby, then three months old, would need surgery to correct the problem, or risk losing his sight.
Each time Barbie took her son to the hospital for his eyes, she was encouraged to participate in a survey and answer questions about her life and living conditions—a woman from Drexel University asked whether she had heat in her house, a working stove, enough to eat. Barbie usually found the questions intrusive, but on the day she found out her baby needed surgery, she decided to open up.
“I was just so frustrated, so sad and overcome with the information the doctor gave me,” Barbie said, recounting her story during the Hunger Free Communities Summit in Washington, D.C., last month. “That day, I decided to answer her questions, and instead of just telling her that I didn’t have any gas in the home, I told her my whole life story.”
That researcher kept in touch with Barbie and eventually connected her with Dr. Mariana Chilton of the Drexel University Public School of Health, who asked Barbie to take photos documenting her life. “She explained to me she had done work with trying to fight hunger and people just weren’t understanding her because she didn’t have the story—but, she knew that I did.”
By Sarah Godfrey
Americans underestimate the problem of hunger in the United States—even at a time when so many in this country are experiencing it firsthand.
According to a recent public opinion poll from Participant Media, the company behind the documentary A Place at the Table, roughly 61 percent of Americans have, at some point, received assistance from the government or from a food bank or soup kitchen to help feed themselves, and more than 7 in 10 Americans know someone who has struggled to put food on the table. And while 4 out of 5 survey respondents said that they thought food insecurity is a problem in America, the majority of them were unaware of the scope of the problem.
"Most Americans are surprised to hear that there are 50 million suffering from food insecurity in America," according to "Food Insecurity in America: U.S. Public Opinion About Solving Hunger and Obesity." On average, those polled thought the number to be around 19 million.
In a Takepart.com piece about the poll that ran last week, writer Allan MacDonnell wrote that the most outstanding finding that this data brings to light is that "[w]e haven’t summoned the will to feed the people who live here."
Americans definitely want to work to address hunger, though. The report found that more than 90 percent of Americans have previously made a food donation, either physical or monetary, to help those in need, but less than a quarter of those polled said they'd be willing to call their congressional representative to advocate for policies to end hunger in America—even though the vast majority of food for the hungry comes from federal programs. Considering ongoing federal budget negotiations that place key anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs at risk, that attitude toward advocacy must change—and fast.
Sarah Godfrey is Bread for the World's associate online editor.
Write your members of Congress and urge them to ensure a place at the table for all people by providing adequate funding for programs that address hunger and help lift people out of poverty. Then take to social media and tell your friends and family to follow your lead!
If you follows movie news, you've probably noticed that publicity for Catching Fire, the sequel to the 2012 film The Hunger Games, has begun in full force. Fans are chatting about the casting choices and movie posters and trading bits of gossip about the film, scheduled to be released later this year. If you know a young person who is excited about Catching Fire, you have an opening to talk to them about issues of hunger and poverty.
Around the time of the last film's release, Oxfam and Imagine Better launched the "Hunger is NOT a Game" campaign as a way to educate Hunger Games fans about international food justice and spur them to action. Whether there will be another large-scale social action campaign around Catching Fire remains to be seen, but the movie (and the book) offer an opportunity to introduce adolescents and teens to anti-hunger efforts. The books and the movies in the series all center around a young woman who leads an uprising against a system that has kept her people impoverished and starving for generations. The works fall under the umbrella of science fiction and fantasy, so there are special effects and outlandish costumes, and, yes, some violence, but the core message is about fighting injustice and challenging the status quo.
The trilogy's key messages are especially timely now, as people suffering from hunger and poverty are particularly vulnerable, thanks to the sequester and ongoing budget negotiations in Congress.
Catching Fire isn't out until later this year, but it's not too early to start a conversation about its themes. Consider reading the books yourself, or watching the first movie, and talking to an adolescent or teen about the poverty and hunger described in the trilogy (there are a ton of discussion guides about the books available online, most of which include questions about class, poverty, and hunger). For teens and older adolescents, consider showing them the documentary A Place at the Table as a way to explain that hunger isn't something faced by fictional young people in a faraway land, but a very real problem that may be affecting some of their friends and classmates. Consult Bread for the World's companion discussion guide "No Place at the Table" for help. If a kid is impressed by the efforts of The Hunger Games’ protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, to take on the Capitol and fight for a world in which everyone has enough to eat, he or she should be excited by the real-life equivalent: help a young person write a letter to Congress to ask for adequate funding for programs that address hunger and help lift people out of poverty.
Sarah Godfrey is Bread for the World's associate online editor.
Jon Stewart isn't a man who is easily shocked, but on last night's episode of The Daily Show, the host seemed stunned to learn that 17 million children in American go to bed hungry each night.
Stewart talked about hunger with guests Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson, the directors of A Place at the Table, which opens on March 1. Silverbush and Jacobson talked about their documentary, dispelled common myths surrounding food assistance in America, and spread the word that hunger in this country can be eradicated.
"This is really solveable," said Silverbush. "This is one of those issues of our time that we can fix, we know how."
The directors also urged the public to get involved in the fight to end hunger, and to engage their members of Congress through the film's social action campaign, which is cosponsored by Bread for the World.
"We've been talking to legislators about this for two years and they're saying 'Our phones aren't ringing, we're not getting texts, we're not tweets on this, once we do, we're gonna start to change how we vote,'" said Silverbush.
Check out the interview above.
Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, "A Place at the Table," will be launched on March 1. This year's campaign shares a name with the major documentary A Place at the Table, which can be seen in theaters, on iTunes, and On Demand nationwide beginning on March 1.
The Offering of Letters kits will be ready for mailing mid-February. If you conducted an Offering in your church last year and reported the number of letters to us by using the report form, you will automatically receive a free kit. If not, order yours today. The kit will also be available online beginning March 1, along with the full website for this year’s campaign.
This year's Offering of Letters will look very similar to last year's, as we continue to ask Congress to make sure that budget negotiations include explicit protections for programs that help end hunger. This year, our campaign will include two parts:
- Petitioning the President: We will collectively ask the President to enact a national plan to end hunger.
- Writing Congress: Our letters will push for legislation to protect key programs, including SNAP, WIC, poverty-focused development assistance, and the EITC and CTC; and also raise revenue to support anti-hunger programs.
In the meantime, if your church or group has already planned an Offering of Letters for this month, continue to use the sample letter and campaign information on the 2012 Offering of Letters website, which is still active.
Over the next couple of months continue to follow this blog feed for updates, information, and tools that will help you engage in successful advocacy to end hunger in 2013. And be sure to register for this month’s grassroots conference call and webinar. If you have questions and would like additional assistance in planning your Offering of Letters, contact your regional organizer.
And check out this short video introducing the 2013 Offering of Letters:
Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national social media lead/senior regional organizer, western hub.