641 posts categorized "Advocacy"
July 9, 2015 | By Jennifer Gonzalez
Nothing irks Maria Rose Belding more than hearing legislators say that food pantries can fill in the food gap when SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits are cut.
“No, no, no. That is not how the math works,” she says, fervently.
Collectively, food banks and private charities account for only 6 percent of food aid. The rest is provided by the federal government through programs like SNAP, Belding says.
Recently, she took her knowledge about hunger to Capitol Hill as part of Bread for the World’s Lobby Day. She, along with Bread for the World members from Iowa, met with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). Belding grew up in Iowa but lives as a college student in Washington, D.C.
Belding, 19, believes in the power of lobbying. One vote from a legislator has more influence than all the staffs of a food pantry put together, she says. “Their influence on hungry people is significant. I want them to know that and understand that.”
During her visit with Ernst, Belding spoke about the need for Congress to pass the Summer Meals Act. The bill would strengthen and expand access to summer meal programs for children. Accessing meals during summertime can be hard for children, especially for those living in rural areas. Lack of transportation and long distances make it difficult for them to get the meals they need to grow into healthy adults.
Belding knows Bread well. She interned last year with the Alliance to End Hunger, an affiliate of Bread. “Bread is such a cool Christian community,” she says. “It embraces the Gospel of hungry people. It’s nice to be in an environment that embraces the Gospel and acts on it.”
But lobbying on behalf of hungry people is not the only way she is helping to ensure people have access to food. Earlier this year, she launched the nonprofit MEANS Database, an online system that enables food pantries to communicate with each other and their donors to prevent waste.
The nonprofit has approximately 1,500 partners and agencies in 12 states. MEANS stands for Matching Excess And Need for Stability.
Belding got the idea for the nonprofit after a disheartening experience while volunteering at a church food pantry that ended up throwing out boxes of macaroni and cheese when they expired. She says another food pantry could have used the boxes before they expired if there had been an efficient way to communicate with them.
Belding, who is pursuing an undergraduate degree in public health at American University, hopes to continue to grow the nonprofit. As a food advocate, she is passionate about ensuring that everyone has access to food.
The nonprofit is her way of ensuring that food pantries run efficiently as possible and are able to provide food for the hungry.
Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.
U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL-14), right, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), center, speak about global hunger with Lisa Bos of World Vision at the Justice Conference in Chicago, Ill. Jared Noetzel/Bread for the World.
By Rev. Douglas L. Meyer, Pastor Quentin Mumphery, and Rev. Brian Roots
“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday” (Isaiah 58:10).
Sometimes an intentional effort from faithful advocates is all it takes to move our members of Congress. That has been our experience in Illinois, where Bread for the World members and faith leaders in the Chicago area and across the state are working to get the entire Illinois congressional delegation to cosponsor the Global Food Security Act, a bill that would secure and advance our historic gains against hunger and poverty around the world.
The bill passed the U.S. House last year but was held up in the Senate for procedural reasons. So getting as many cosponsors as possible this time around will help push this bill across the finish line.
Here in Illinois, our strategy has been simple. Leaders have been identified in every congressional district, and they have reached out to the appropriate congressional staffers with a simple message: Along with Bread for the World, I want to make sure my member of Congress is aware of the Global Food Security Act and would like him/her to cosponsor the bill. Can you look into this, and let me know what your boss thinks about the bill, or if there are any questions or concerns?
Leaders began with a phone call, sometimes talking with the intended staffer, and other times leaving a voice mail. Then we followed up with an email and shared Bread’s bill analysis. After that, we followed up again as needed. We have stayed in communication with each other, sharing updates and tips, and encouraging one another as we keep our eyes on the goal. If we are not hearing back from a particular staffer, we adjust accordingly, either having more leaders call, or trying a different staffer.
Before this campaign, there were no members of the Illinois delegation listed as cosponsors of the bill. As a direct result of the work of these Bread members and faith leaders, seven out of 17 representatives (both Democrats and Republicans) and one of our two senators have signed on so far! We thank U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush, Mike Quigley, Danny Davis, Jan Schakowsky, Bob Dold, Randy Hultgren, and Cheri Bustos, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, for their leadership in cosponsoring the Global Food Security Act, and we are now calling on U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and the remaining representatives to join their colleagues in cosponsoring the bill.
Across the country, over the past couple months, the list of cosponsors has grown exponentially! Right now, there are 51 cosponsors of the House version, H.R. 1567, and seven cosponsors of the Senate version, S. 1252.
Where do your members of Congress stand on the Global Food Security Act? Click here to see if your U.S. representative is a cosponsor, and here to see if your U.S. senators are cosponsors. If they are, be sure to thank them. If they are not, encourage them to cosponsor the bill!
ACT NOW: Feed the Future can save lives. But it's important to act right now to ensure it continues. Call or email your U.S. representative today. Urge your U.S. representative to co-sponsor The Global Food Security Act.
The blog post was written by Rev. Douglas L. Meyer of Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Lincolnshire, Ill., Pastor Quentin Mumphery of New Hope Covenant Church in Chicago, Ill., and Rev. Brian Roots of Christ United Methodist Church in Deerfield, Ill.
By Eric Mitchell
Hunger won’t be taking a vacation this summer. While our senators and representatives are back home for the Fourth of July, five of every six low-income children who received a school lunch daily will not receive those meals during summer vacation. But together we can make sure those meals don’t disappear — and it starts with a phone call.
- Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S.613/H.R.1728)
- Stop Child Summer Hunger Act of 2015 (S.1539/H.R.2715)
Together, these two bills would help close the child hunger gap. The Summer Meals Act would strengthen and expand access to summer meal programs, while the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act would provide low-income families with additional resources to purchase groceries during the summer months while children are out of school.
Whether you’re a parent of a young child or just care about the children in your local community, we need everyone’s voice to close the child hunger gap. As a father of two myself, I believe this is fundamental.
Throughout the month of July, we will be asking you to join us in taking weekly advocacy actions to end child summer hunger. Start today by calling your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative. Tell Congress to cosponsor the Summer Meals Act and the Stop Child Hunger Act.
Thank you for raising your voice again. Together, we can move Congress to ensure that children are fed through the summer months — and year-round.
Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.
By Bread Staff
Last week, Bread for the World and several of our partners delivered a letter to members of Congress in both chambers urging them to lift the ban on benefits that help the formerly incarcerated rejoin their families and resettle in their communities after serving time in prison.
Federal bans on SNAP (formerly food stamps) and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) for those with felony drug convictions are a recipe for hunger and recidivism. Bread for the World believes that reforming our country’s mass incarceration policies and practices is crucial to ending hunger and poverty.
Tell your members of Congress that it is time to lift the ban. It is time to do the right thing.
Read the full letter below and to learn more about the intersection between mass incarceration and hunger, read our fact sheet here.
As Congress debates criminal justice reform policies this year, we urge you to consider the impact that crime and incarceration have on poverty and hunger. Individuals leaving prison and with criminal records already face significant obstacles to successful reentry. Access to effective assistance programs, like SNAP (food stamps) and TANF, which enable individuals with criminal records to put food on the table and provide for their families, is essential. Therefore, we call upon you to:
(1) Lift the lifetime bans on SNAP and TANF for those convicted of federal drug offences, and
(2) Forcefully oppose any efforts to further restrict federal benefits for individuals with criminal records.
As a broad collection of faith-based organizations, service providers, policy centers, and advocacy organizations, we join together in concern over the ways certain criminal justice policies keep people in poverty. As a practical issue and as a moral one, we ask you to correct existing laws and oppose legislative proposals that prevent those who have served their time from starting a new life and attaining a sense of economic security.
SNAP and TANF effectively help individuals with criminal records get back on their feet. Already, significant barriers exist to formerly incarcerated individuals and individuals with criminal records finding employment. A criminal conviction makes many ineligible for various professional licenses and keeps others from accessing financial aid for higher education. These bans punish the families of individuals with criminal records. They push some of the most vulnerable, including people with severe illness, pregnant women and new moms struggling to get out of poverty, into desperate situations that could lead to recidivism. Moreover, if someone was in prison for a substance abuse disorder but has since enrolled in a treatment program, it does not make sense to continue to deny them the very benefits that foster economic security and mobility.
Programs like SNAP and TANF help formerly incarcerated individuals and individuals with criminal records afford the most basic necessities while searching for work. SNAP is an extremely efficient program. It has less than a three percent error rate, the lowest on record, boosts income for low-wage workers, and a majority of beneficiaries only receive the benefit for nine months.
Similarly, TANF is often the only source of support for families who receive it. Absent those benefits, they often have no cash income to meet their individual, and in many cases, their children’s, basic needs. The Sentencing Project estimates that more than 180,000 women may be affected by the TANF ban. SNAP and TANF are barriers against poverty and springboards into the middle class. Banning SNAP and TANF for individuals with a felony drug conviction for life is overly harsh, doesn’t reduce drug use, and can actually increase recidivism. We urge you to include a provision lifting this ban in any relevant legislation.
Furthermore, we believe instituting additional barriers that prevent formerly incarcerated individuals and individuals with criminal records from accessing safety-net programs is ill-advised and immoral. Restricting federal assistance for formerly incarcerated individuals can promote recidivism. A significant proportion of the prison population has a history of substance abuse, mental health issues, homelessness, or physical or sexual abuse. Many are likely to continue struggling with these problems when leaving prison unless they have the proper support. Federal assistance that helps individuals provide for their basic needs is essential to this support. Therefore, we will forcefully oppose any proposals or legislation that institute additional benefit bans for formerly incarcerated individuals and individuals with criminal records.
The prison population is already disproportionately poor. Two-thirds of those detained in jails report annual incomes below $12,000 prior to arrest. Denying federal assistance programs to people leaving prison—programs that successfully help millions of families climb out of poverty every year—can mean an additional sentence of poverty and a recipe for recidivism.
If our country is to embody the values of redemption and renewal, we must give individuals leaving prison and with criminal records a fair shot at a new start. We cannot deny them the tools that millions of Americans employ each year to escape poverty and find economic opportunity.
Alliance for a Just Society
Boston Workmen's Circle
Center for Jewish Culture & Social Justice
Bread for the World
Center for Community Change Action
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Christian Community Development Association
Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church
Church of the Brethren, Office of Public Witness
Church of Scientology National Affairs Office
Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE)
Coalition on Human Needs
Community of Christ
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Drug Policy Alliance
Ecumenical Poverty Initiative
The Episcopal Church
Evangelical Covenant Church
Families for Justice as Healing
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Habonim Dror North America
JCRC of Greater Boston
Jewish Community Action
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
Bishop W. Darin Moore, Presiding Prelate, Western Episcopal District and the North Carolina
Conference of The AME Zion Church
Moishe Kavod Jewish Social Justice House
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc.
National Association of Social Workers
National Council of Churches
National Employment Law Project
National Health Care for the Homeless Council
National Immigration Law Center
National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
National Women’s Law Center
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
The Salvation Army National Headquarters
Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team
SOME (So Others Might Eat)
Student Peace Alliance
Treatment Communities of America
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Union for Reform Judaism
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society Uri L’Tzedek
By Stephen Padre
Last week, in one of the Supreme Court’s major announcements, the highest court in the land affirmed the power of words. The Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act was based on the interpretation of just four words (established by the state) among the millions of words in thousands of pages of legislation. Whether you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision or not, there’s no denying the huge deal the case became for the court, the Obama administration, the health care industry, and for millions of Americans who are covered under Obamacare.
Words also matter in advocacy. We live in a country that generally does not take political action with our bodies. Except for extraordinary times, political change does not happen in the U.S. through widespread strikes, rioting, or violence, as it does in some other countries. Of course, one or thousands of us are allowed to show up in front of the White House, but usually protesters are trying to get the president’s attention with words—with a sign or by shouting in a bullhorn.
Our democracy is built on the exchange of ideas. We exchange those ideas through words—discussion, debate, broadcasting through the media, etc. One of the best aspects of our democracy is the power of the individual, the right of a citizen to speak up and be heard by our government. It’s the power of the words and ideas that the individual is allowed to bring before the government—one of, by, and for the people. And Bread for the World is built on the idea of individuals using their words to speak to their government and to work with it. Motivated by their faith and supported by Bread, people are encouraged to use their own words to influence the decisions that are made for their fellow Americans and for others around the world.
Earlier this month, Bread hosted its annual Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. People from across the country came to visit the offices of their representative and senators on Capitol Hill and advocate for child nutrition legislation. Most of these types of visits last only 10 or 15 minutes – not much when you consider it. But many of these visits and the few words they convey are powerful. A short story told in an in-person congressional visit can hold a lot of weight. And just a few lines in a piece of legislation can mean millions of dollars are put toward a critical anti-hunger program.
Words in Washington have power. The words from politicians and decision makers have power. But so do yours as a citizen or resident of the United States. Claim your power. Speak up. Advocate with Bread. As we saw last week, the whole government might be moved by just a few words.
The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but nearly 16 million children are food-insecure. Act now! Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators to close the hunger gap today.
Stephen Padre is the managing editor at Bread for the World.
By Jon Gromek
We are at a tipping point. We’ve made progress on hunger; but globally, one in four children doesn’t get the nutrition he or she needs to grow and reach full potential. One in seven children in the United States will face a hungry summer when he or she loses access to free- and reduced-price meals at school. But we can change that.
Congress will protect and strengthen programs for children when enough of us speak up – or they will cut funding. That's why today, Bread for the World activists are visiting Capitol Hill as part of Bread's annual Lobby Day.
Meeting with your members of Congress is important. From California to Washington, D.C., Bread members are speaking out and getting results! My colleague had just such an experience last week in Los Angeles.
David Gist, the regional organizer who leads our efforts in California, joined advocates from Oxfam, ONE Campaign, and CARE for a meeting on global hunger with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s staff in May at her Los Angeles office. His goal was to ask Feinstein to cosponsor the Global Food Security Act (S. 1252) – a bill that would make permanent the U.S. food and nutrition security program, Feed the Future.
Five days later, Feinstein cosponsored the bill.
“Letters and calls from Bread advocates laid the groundwork for a meeting that truly made a difference on global hunger,” Gist said. “Without that meeting, our senator wouldn’t have co-sponsored the Global Food Security Act.”
Local meetings are important for another reason: building long-term relationships with staff. Gist said he can now reach out to Feinstein’s staff on other issues that affect hunger, such as mass incarceration.
Many of Bread's members are spending today on Capitol Hill asking lawmakers to protect and strengthen programs that help feed children. Unfortunately, many activists couldn’t make the trip, but that’s not stopping them from taking action in local ways.
In Indiana, over 1,000 letters have been written over the past two weeks and delivered to local offices of Indiana Sens. Dan Coats (R) and Joe Donnelly (D) and Reps. Susan Brooks (R-5), André Carson (D-7), Todd Young (R-9), and Luke Messer (R-6).
Members in my home state of Ohio will be meeting with Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D) state director. The Ohio Bread team recently published several letters to the editor in local news outlets, building awareness about child hunger.
Next door in Pennsylvania, faithful advocates plan to meet with Congressman Tom Marino (R-10) next week.
Bread members around the country have conducted or planned over 40 grassroots actions from Oregon to Maine to Iowa. They are dropping off thousands of letters to local offices, holding in-district lobby visits, and ratcheting up awareness of hunger in local media on the anti-hunger issues Bread members care about!
Lobby Day doesn’t occur in Washington, D.C., only once a year. Bread members treat every day as an opportunity to influence members of Congress on anti-hunger policy!
Your voice can add to the groundswell of faithful advocates today. Please take a moment to call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today. Visit our Virtual Lobby Day page for talking points and more information.
Photo Inset: Bread members meet with staff of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in South Florida in June. Peter England for Bread for the World.
Jon Gromek is a regional organizer at 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.
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.
By Patricia Bidar
Over the past decade, Bread has brought together hundreds of young leaders. Through the Hunger Justice Leadership training program, these young people are equipped to work to change the policies and conditions that allow hunger to persist. As with many Bread gatherings, these trainings in Washington, D.C., have resulted in some fruitful partnerships.
One is a serious partnership — the marriage of Terrance and Kiara Ruth, who met at the 2010 Hunger Justice Leaders training. Just over a year ago, their son, Miles, was born.
Both Terrance and Kiara were speakers at the 2015 Bread for the World Convention in mid-April in Raleigh, N.C., where the couple lives. The gathering galvanized over 200 people from throughout North Carolina and generated 223 letters to members of Congress.
Kiara feels God brought Terrance and her together. "The Hunger Justice Training was the first time anyone in my family had ever been on a plane," she remembers. "Few from my African Methodist Episcopal church back home have ever left Arkansas."
"Terrance and I were assigned to the same work hub," Kiara continues. "Over the course of days, I saw his selflessness and his passion for justice. We were assigned to sit together at the culminating dinner the night before Lobby Day. Our tablemates all assumed we were a married couple."
At the April convention in North Carolina, Kiara spoke about her family's struggle. As a teen growing up in Arkansas, she and her family turned to a shelter to keep a roof over their heads. "Later, when we received food aid and were able to go to the grocery store — that was like Disneyland for us," she remembers.
Terrance grew up in Florida. His father was a military man; his mother, a nurse. After earning his Ph.D., Terrance became principal of AMIkids, a public high school for students who have been suspended from traditional schools. Ninety-five percent of the students qualify for free lunches. For many, that is the only meal they eat each day.
At the school, the day starts at 10:00 a.m., too late to provide free breakfast. So Terrace recruited a local donor to bring breakfasts to the school.
The school also has a garden to grow produce for students' families. At first, the students weren't taking the vegetables because they didn't know how to prepare them. Terrance and the teachers are now working with parents to ensure the vegetables are used.
Terrance writes a series of articles for EducationNC. The articles are framed as letters to Terrance and Kiara's son. The letters describe the reality of African-American students and express hope as Miles grows up.
Kiara and Terrance worship at St. Paul AME Church in Raleigh. Terrance's faith inspires him to note that "Bread for the World's work is important because Scripture calls for it…Again and again, the Bible connects the holiness of God and food. Scripture correlates spirituality and nourishment. How can Christians possibly ignore hungry people?"
Kiara adds, "At the time I was participating in the Hunger Justice Leader training, my mother and my grandmother were both on food stamps. Bread for the World's work is much more than talking to elected officials about the hunger issue. We are here to do more than that. We are here to make something happen."
Kiara aims to keep her activism strong. "The more who join us, the more we can accomplish. And my job is to make clear to my congregation, my aunties and cousins, my neighbors, that they can help. Then change will happen. Lives will finally improve."
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!
Photo: Kiara and Terrance Ruth with their son Miles. Photos courtesy of the Ruths.
Patricia Bidar is a freelance writer.
By Robin Stephenson
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead, cultural anthropologist
Each time hunger is reduced, we find ordinary people, called by faith, urging their leaders to create a world where everyone has a place at the table.
Connie Wick was one of those ordinary people who took the time to reach our to her member of Congress with a handwritten letter. Although she is no longer alive, the impact of Wick’s advocacy reverberates today.
Wick led a Bread for the World group at the Robin Run Retirement Center in Indianapolis, Ind. In 2003, Bread's Offering of Letters campaign worked to establish the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). The MCA provides large grants to fund country-led solutions for reducing poverty. Wick wrote to her member of Congress, Sen. Richard Lugar, asking him to support funding for the program.
Not long after Wick mailed her letter, Bread’s president, David Beckmann, was at an event on the White House lawn. When asking President George W. Bush to help get full funding for the MCA, Beckmann was encouraged to talk to Lugar - the senior Republican member on the committee with power over funding.
Lugar responded to Beckmann’s request by saying, “I was just answering a letter from a constituent, Connie Wick, and she was saying – well, she was also urging us to fully fund the Millennium Challenge Corporation.”
The person with the most influence on Lugar wasn't a U.S. president, or the president of Bread for the World – it was Lugar’s constituent, Connie Wick.
We can look at Wick’s story to see a direct connection between a single letter and the political will to halve extreme poverty. To date, MCA has invested over $10 billion in partner countries and improved the lives of millions of people across the world.
Faith motivated Wick to write a letter that changed lives. "As Jesus told us, we are charged to take care of our neighbor,” she said. “That's as simple as I can put it."
History has taught us that we can make progress against hunger when our decision makers are willing to change the systems and laws that keep people in poverty.
Advocacy – telling decision makers to act on an issue - helped put food on millions of U.S. tables that would otherwise be empty. In 1900, about 40 percent of all Americans were poor. That number hovers around 15 percent today, due in large part to a strong safety net of anti-hunger programs.
We have made unprecedented strides against hunger globally in recent decades. Programs, like MCA, that address the underlying causes of poverty, has helped the world cut extreme poverty in half since 1990.
Changing policy and programs rarely happens overnight; change requires committed people willing to call, write, or meet with their members of Congress over and over again. The policies set by our government affect hunger in our communities and far from our shores. One of the most powerful gifts Christians in the U.S. have is our citizenship. Because our leaders are elected, they listen to what their voter’s value.
Like Wick, you too can make a long-lasting impact on ending hunger– sometimes it starts by putting pen to paper.
Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.
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