Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

601 posts categorized "Advocacy"

Voting Ensures Communities are Fed, Safe, and Economically Stable

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(Theresa Thompson, Creative Commons)

By Angelique Walker-Smith

How many times have we heard about the tensions between local African-American communities and the police in recent months? Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., Ezell Ford in Los Angeles,  Eric Garner of New York City, and John Crawford III in Beavercreek, Ohio, are a few of the names in the headlines in recent months.  With the use of new technologies that support grassroots photo and video journalism, there appears to be no end in sight of making sure these kinds of stories are told. Such tensions are not the only challenges in the African-American community.   

Hunger and poverty in the African-American community have declined recently, but our community still has one of the largest percentages of hungry people and persons living in poverty. The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013, showed that, in the African-American community, poverty declined slightly from 27.2 percent to 27.1 percent, compared to the decrease of 25.6 percent to 23.5 percent in the Hispanic community.  Nationally, poverty decreased slightly—by 0.5 percent—last year. It is the first time a decrease has been seen since 2006. The bureau announced that 14.5 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2013. Additionally, child poverty declined for the first time since 2000, from 21.8 percent to 19.9 percent.

One of the most important ways we can change these unacceptable numbers of African-Americans who are hungry and living in poverty and at the same time address the incidents of violence between local authorities and the African-American community is to get out and vote. Voting leads to structural changes that can transform communities. Voting for candidates who clearly represent the interests of our communities and not voting only for personalities is important in achieving this goal.  Voting is how we put public servants in office to work to transform our communities so that there is, for example, employment that affirms the dignity of God’s people, a supportive safety net to feed hungry people, and clear strategies for healthy engagement between the police and communities. Voting is how we advance strategies of positive change that come out of mutual conversations, negotiations, and partnerships.  

Sadly, however, African-Americans do not vote in high  numbers, especially in the midterm elections. When we do not vote, we remain silent. Our silence prevents us from addressing the issues that face our communities and from electing a leaders who are in tune and consistent with the needs of our communities.

In  Blacks and the 2010 Midterms: A Preliminary Analysis, presented by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Dr. David A. Bositis points out that national turnout in the 2010 midterm election was up slightly from the 2006 midterm election, with African-Americans contributing to 10 percent of the share of votes and 25.3 percent of African-Americans participating. But this was still a drop from 30.1 percent of African-Americans who voted in 2008 with Barack Obama on the ballot. Additionally, a recent study by the Pew Research Forum's Religion & Public Life Project found that almost three-quarters of the American public—72 percent—believes that religion’s influence is waning in public life, the highest level in Pew Research polling over the past 10 years. This contrasts with further findings from the study that “a growing share of the American public wants religion to play a role in U.S. politics.”

Some of the largest African-American denominations that partner with Bread for the World are responding to this challenge. Freedom Sunday 2014, held on Sept. 21, is being followed by Turnout Sunday on Nov. 2, two days before the midterm election. These faith initiatives seek to encourage the African-American community to vote this year. You can make a difference by voting and encouraging your family, friends, and fellow church members to vote as well. For more information on how to make your vote count, visit www.bread.org/elections.  

Angelique Walker-Smith is the Associate for National African American Church Engagement at Bread for the World.

Nothing Can Get in Our Way This Midterm Election

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By Stephen Padre

Major news outlets from NPR to the Washington Post are reporting that the midterm elections – a little less than a month away – are being called the “Seinfeld election.” In other words, the election is about nothing, just as the popular comedy show of the 1990s was largely about nothing.

Granted, midterm elections don’t attract as much interest or debate from voters as a banner presidential election. Yet it’s important to remember that the entire lower chamber of Congress – the House of Representatives – is up for election as is a third of the upper chamber – the Senate. This is the case every two years, major election or not. That’s a major chunk of our country’s decision makers, those with the power of the purse.

But if this election is about nothing, that’s a problem.

This year, as part of its new campaign to end hunger by 2030, Bread for the World wants to make hunger a prominent issue. With the Bread Rising campaign, Bread wants to make hunger an issue of the midterm elections and of the election two years from now, when we will elect a new president.

Hunger is certainly not a nothing issue. It’s a major something. It’s a big topic that deserves the attention of our nation’s top leaders, especially those who have the power of the purse.

The best way to make hunger an issue for potential members of Congress is for voters and other residents of districts and states to bring the issue of hunger to the attention of candidates. Hunger affects people from all walks of life – people living in poverty, people who are unemployed, immigrants, the elderly, children, single-parent-headed households, and working families. Candidates need to hear from and about people affected by hunger in their jurisdictions.

It’s up to us as activists to speak up. As Christians, we are called to speak out. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it,” says Proverbs 3:27. We have the power already in our democracy to raise concerns with our elected leaders, and an election is an ideal time to do that as candidates speak about their plans for being in office.

With your power as an activist and voice for hunger, Bread can further equip you with tools to speak up. Fact sheets about hunger in the United States and in the states with the highest percentage of people living in poverty and hunger are available.  Pair one of these with information about how your current member of Congress has voted in the past on hunger-related legislation in Bread’s Congressional Scorecard. If you need help getting started, check out Bread’s election materials.

But if we don't speak out - if we let apathy win the day - then the nothing-ness of this election will get in our way, and hunger in our world will persist. But if we speak up in a chorus of concern for what hunger is doing, then nothing can stop us!

Stephen Padre is the managing editor at Bread for the World.

Bread Team Fights Hunger in Missouri

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Besides advocating at the state level, some Bread activists from Missouri attended Bread’s Lobby Day and visited their members of Congress in Washington, D.C., in June. Here participants in Lobby Day prepare to go to Capitol Hill for their meetings. Bread for the World photo


by Beth DeHaven

Note: While Bread for the World engages in advocacy at the federal level, many Bread activists are also involved in efforts to fight hunger at the state government level. Here’s one story.  

On June 20, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed a bill that will help hundreds of hungry people across the state. Senate Bill 680 lifts the lifetime SNAP (formerly food stamps) ban for drug felonies, which is a recommendation of Bread for the World Institute's 2014 Hunger Report, and opens the way for a pilot program making it easier for SNAP recipients to purchase fresh food at farmers markets. The Missouri Association for Social Welfare (MASW) and other faith and justice groups have worked diligently for years to end the ban on SNAP, and the Bread for the World Team in Springfield, Mo., played a part in this success. (See Bread's interview from last year with MASW's executive director.)

For many years, members of Springfield Bread Team have sponsored annual Offerings of Letters in the area's churches, visited the local offices of their representatives in Congress, and traveled to Washington, D.C., for Bread's annual Lobby Day. Team members have hosted informational and letter-writing tables at local events like CROP Walks, Food Day, denominational gatherings, and alternative gift markets. The team has also learned more about hunger issues at its monthly meetings by discussing books like Exodus from Hunger and Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty, and the team has hosted screenings and discussions of the film "A Place at the Table." The team even put together a "Hunger Games" interactive event, complete with costumes and games, followed by discussion about the reality of hunger affecting poor people in our world today. 

About a year ago, the team came to realize that in order to more fully live out Bread's vision of ending hunger, it also need to join forces with advocacy groups fighting hunger and poverty in Missouri. At that time, many team members did not even know the names of their state representatives. Through further research, the team learned that MASW was a well-established and effective state advocacy group and that it has a hunger task force, which the team decided to join.

This year, with support from Bread's regional organizer, the team has worked closely with MASW to advocate for lifting the SNAP ban for drug felonies and also for expanding Medicaid. On April 23, the team traveled to the state capital to participate in a lobby day. Each team member met personally with his or her state senator and representative on these issues. The team even visited the office of the Speaker of the House to urge him to assign SB 680 (the SNAP bill) to committee. 

Efforts to expand Medicaid in Missouri have not been successful yet, but the team will continue to work with MASW on the issue in the year ahead. The team has also signed on as an endorsing organization of the Missouri Health Care for All movement, and members have met with the movement's statewide grassroots organizer to begin planning an educational forum to be held in Springfield in September.

The Springfield team is excited to continue advancing Bread's policy-change agenda and strengthening its partnership with advocacy organizations in Missouri. Hunger is a complex problem, but through collaboration and by addressing related issues like health care, the team believes it can do more to end it.

Beth DeHaven is a leader on the Bread for the World team in Springfield, Mo.

This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's September online newsletter.

The Top Ten Hungriest and Poorest States

 
SNAP-farmers market
Marie Crise is able to use her SNAP benefits to purchase fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables at the Abingdon Farmers Market in Abingdon, Va. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl


by Eric Mitchell

We need to move past the Great Recession of 2008. But for families that are still unable to regularly put food on the table, how can they? The recession caused the number of families at risk of hunger to increase by more than 30 percent! But because of anti-hunger programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps), we haven’t seen that number go up any higher since then. Unfortunately, despite (slight) improvements, nearly 1 in 6 Americans (49 million) were still struggling to put food on the table in 2013. 

In recent years, the 10 hungriest states (see chart below) have seen no relief. Since 2001, the percent of households struggling to access food has increased in all 10 of these states. The economy is improving but not fast enough for many Americans who are struggling to feed their families. In 2013, more than 45 million Americans still lived in poverty.

Statistics alone do not tell the full story. Hunger and poverty impacts the lives of children, older Americans, veterans, and the disabled especially hard. (See state fact sheets, which you can link to in the chart above.) In states with the highest rates of poverty and food insecurity, it’s even worse. For example, in Mississippi, 24 percent of people live below the poverty line, including a staggering 1 in 3 children. In Arkansas, more than 1 in 5 Americans are at risk of hunger. People are hurting.

Americans At Risk of Hunger

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Nearly 1 in 6 Americans (49 million) were still struggling to put food on the table in 2013.

View a state-by-state map of Americans at risk of hunger »

You would think these staggeringly high numbers would propel these congressional delegations to do something, fueled by an outrage over the conditions of poverty and hunger in their own states. But that’s not necessarily true. Many have actually voted for proposals that would have made conditions worse. Take this example: In 2013, 217 members of the House of Representatives voted to cut SNAP by nearly $40 billion. Fortunately, this proposal did not make it into through Congress. But if it had, 2 million people would have been kicked off of SNAP, and the number of families at risk of hunger in the 10 hungriest states would have gone up even further.

A job used to be a safeguard against poverty and empty stomachs. That’s no longer true. People who receive SNAP also work. But people are working harder while earning less. Since 2009, most middle- and low-income workers have seen their wages go down. The bottom 60 percent of workers have seen their income decrease by 4 to 6 percent.  Meanwhile, Congress has yet to pass legislation that raises the minimum wage.  Such action would help lift many Americans out of poverty.

To truly end hunger in the United States, we must demand federal policies that boost our economy and ensure a strong safety-net for those in need. That’s why our political leaders must make this a national priority. See how hunger and poverty are affecting the 10 hungriest and poorest states. Then, judge your member’s commitment to ending hunger and poverty. See for yourself if their votes help or hurt those caught in a tough place.

10 Hungriest States

10 Highest Poverty States

1

Arkansas

1

Mississippi

2

Mississippi

2

New Mexico

3

Texas

3

Louisiana

4

Tennessee

4

Arkansas

5

North Carolina

5

Georgia

6

Missouri

6

District of Columbia

7

Alabama

7

Kentucky

8

Georgia

8

Alabama

9

Louisiana

9

Arizona

10

Kentucky

10

South Carolina

(Links in the chart above are for fact sheets on those states produced by Bread for the World.)

Faith by itself is not enough.  It is also important to take action. We do this by holding our elected officials accountable. Each member’s vote counts. Maybe your representative cast a critical vote that blocked SNAP cuts, or maybe your member’s votes are contributing to these startling statistics. Find out and take action.  During this campaign season, remind congressional candidates that we need a Congress that is serious about ending hunger and poverty. 

Churches Get Ready to Celebrate Bread for the World Sunday this Fall

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Rev. Dr. Barbara Rossing, professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, has written a lectionary study for Bread for the World Sunday.

On Oct. 19 or other weekends this fall, thousands of churches around the country will celebrate Bread for the World Sunday. From small outposts in Alaska to gothic sanctuaries in Manhattan, worshippers will be invited to turn their faith into action in support of measures that help end hunger in the United States and abroad.

In previous years, churches have engaged in an impressive range of activities.  Puppet shows have been created, special sermons delivered, and educational hours devoted to hearing from those on the frontlines of hunger. For some, bread baking has been a theme–for use during the Eucharist and for bake sales after worship.

Many churches have a special offering or collection, often dividing the funds between Bread for the World and their denomination’s hunger program. Some churches conduct an Offering of Letters for the first time in the year or as a complement to their spring letter-writing event.

Most churches will distribute bulletin inserts provided by Bread for the World. These inserts include a brief prayer and give interested individuals the opportunity to sign up to receive email messages that will support ongoing prayers for the end of hunger.

A special four-page guide is also available to aid planning a Bread for the World Sunday observance. The guide focuses on Scripture study and prayer as key components of nurturing a faith that works to end of hunger. Rev. Dr. Barbara Rossing, professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, has written a commentary on Matthew 22:15-22, the Gospel appointed in the Common Lectionary for Oct. 19.  Her reflection, titled “Even Taxes Belong to God,” will be useful for preachers and Bible studies.

Commenting on Matthew 22, Rossing states, “Inspired by Jesus’ wit and courage in speaking truth to power, we can join our voices with thousands of others. Speaking together, we can keep the pressure on those we have elected to enact just food policies and laws.”

Jack Jezreel, the founder of JustFaith Ministries, has prepared a new litany or responsive prayer that many congregations will use during worship. Among the petitions is the prayer that we “not be satisfied until all people can pray with gratitude for daily bread.”

For the first time this year, a lectionary study for Bread Sunday has been written in Spanish by Rev. Magdalena I. Garcia of Ravenswood Presbyterian Church, Chicago. Javier Bustamante of the Catholic Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., has prepared a Spanish-language litany. A Spanish translation of the Bread Sunday bulletin insert is available at www.bread/domingo.

All of the English-language resources can be viewed and downloaded free at www.bread.org/sunday. Bulletin inserts and offering envelopes may be ordered free of charge online or by phoning 800-822-7323, ext. 1072.

Bread President David Beckmann Encouraged by Latest Trends in Hunger

4699824730_e98fe88d47_bBy Robin Stephenson

Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, told radio host Tavis Smiley that he feels hopeful. 

Encouraged by a recent trend with both political parties addressing poverty in public speeches and decreasing poverty rates, Beckman says a post-recession America is the perfect time to make ending hunger a top priority for lawmakers.

Poverty decreased slightly—by 0.5 percent—last year, according to data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau. It is the first time a decrease has been seen since 2006. The bureau announced that 14.5 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2013. Additionally, child poverty declined for the first time since 2000, from 21.8 percent to 19.9 percent.

“It’s just a start, but it is a change in the right direction,” said Beckmann.

Beckmann made these remarks in an interview on Public Radio International’s “The Tavis Smiley Show” last week.

Beckmann said reduced poverty rates are a result of more Americans returning to the labor market. Food security continues to remain high in the United States – a reality Beckmann sees as unnecessary. He said there are two critical factors in reducing poverty: Economic growth and focused efforts. The United States is lacking a focused effort.

“The last president who made poverty one of his top priorities was Lyndon Johnson,” says Beckmann. The Johnson administration and Congress worked together to cut poverty nearly in half from the mid-1960s through the 1970s.

To build a sustained political commitment that will reduce poverty in the United States, Beckmann emphasizes the importance of making hunger an election issue. Voters must pressure leaders to move from speeches to passing legislation that will end hunger. The elections provide an opportunity to reach out directly to lawmakers.

“We’ve got to elect people to Congress who are going to agree to work together and focus on opportunity for everybody,” said Beckmann.

Smiley is already looking ahead to the next set of elections - the 2016 presidential elections. He said that he recently called for a debate exclusively on income inequality and poverty – something he has never seen in his lifetime.

“I second the motion,” said Beckmann.  “Usually in the presidential debates they never ask a question about the bottom 40-50 percent of the country.”

Listen to Beckmann’s interview on the “The Tavis Smiley Show” podcast here.

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

Return from Recess

Capitol 2
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

As summer draws to a close, members of Congress return to Washington for a short work period before entering the final campaign stretch before the midterm elections. Here are hunger-related items before Congress this fall:

Food-Aid Reform

Over the August recess, Bread has been urging senators to co-sponsor the Food for Peace Reform Act, introduced by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.). This food-aid reform legislation will free up as much as $440 million annually through greater efficiencies in delivering aid and enable U.S. food aid to reach up to nine million more people. Read more about the legislation at www.bread.org/indistrict. While this legislation may not become law this year, more co-sponsors will significantly help push the issue forward in the new Congress.

The Senate Commerce Committee was scheduled to mark up the Coast Guard reauthorization bill (S. 2444), but that mark-up was postponed before the August recess due to unrelated issues. There is no word on when the legislation will come back up in committee, but Bread will continue to encourage senators to omit the harmful cargo-preference provision that the House had. This harmful provision increases the amount of food aid that must be shipped on U.S.-flagged carriers, costing the government an additional $75 million and would leave 2 million hungry people around the world without access to lifesaving food aid.

Immigration and Unaccompanied Children

In the weeks before the August recess, Congress was debating and crafting legislation to address the surge of unaccompanied children fleeing Latin America—primarily Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—into the United States. Read Bread’s bill analysis on the pieces of legislation that Congress considered before its recess at www.bread.org/indistrict.

Until recently, the debate has lacked much attention to the root causes of the crisis: poverty, hunger, and violence. However, during July, Bread activists sent over 10,000 emails to their senators and representatives, urging them to include these root causes as part of any legislation addressing the child refugee crisis. In meetings with congressional offices over the past few weeks, Bread staff have noticed that members of Congress are starting to incorporate root causes into their thinking about the issue.

When Congress returns, there will be two opportunities for legislators to address the child refugee crisis. Congress could pass a separate emergency supplemental spending bill as both the House and Senate were attempting to do before the recess. Alternatively, Congress could include provisions to address the crisis in the regular spending, or appropriations, bill, which is a “must-pass” piece of legislation to keep the government open. Congress will pass a short-term measure in September to get through the mid-term elections and will then revisit these appropriations decisions for the remainder of the fiscal year in December. Both periods offer an opportunity for Congress to add language addressing the surge of refugee children in the U.S.

Budget and Appropriations

In September, Congress will have to pass some sort of budget as the government's fiscal year ends at the end of the month. Congress may pass a continuing resolution (CR) to prevent a government shutdown. The easiest route is to pass a clean CR that just extends current funding levels. However, both parties will push for certain spending add-ons, such as funding for the border or wildfires. Some Republicans could also press for additional spending cuts. Any CR is likely to last until mid-December to push any concerns over a shutdown beyond the mid-term elections.

This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's September online newsletter.

Bread's Eric Mitchell Named to The Root 100

EmitchellBread for the World is extremely proud to announce Eric Mitchell, director of government relations, was listed in The Root 100, an annual list honoring the 100 most influential African-Americans.

Mitchell is listed with notable influencers such as U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J), basketball star Kevin Durant, and Beyoncé. The Root is a black news website and compiles a list of the top African-American influencers who are 45 years old and younger.

“This is humbling to be recognized for the great work that we do to end hunger both in the United States and around the world,” Mitchell says.

When he goes to Capitol Hill, Mitchell knows he carries with him the influence of Bread for the World members who call and write their members of Congress about hunger. “This is just a reflection of the strength of our activists around the country who care about issues related to hunger and poverty.”

Mitchell leads Bread for the World’s anti-hunger policy agenda on Capitol Hill. His leadership has been instrumental in protecting domestic nutrition programs like SNAP and WIC from devastating cuts. Just this summer, Mitchell led Bread’s efforts to protect $80 million in danger of being cut from the 2014 farm bill.

This is not the first time Mitchell has been honored for his work as an anti-hunger lobbyist.  For two years running, he has been named in The Hill newspaper as a top grassroots lobbyist.

Around Bread for the World’s offices, Mitchell’s cheerful demeanor is a joy and his passion for ending hunger a source of inspiration. 

Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, says, “Eric Mitchell is a super nice guy but dead serious about winning change for hungry people.”

Please join us in congratulating Eric!

 

What Our Faith Can Bring to Our Country’s Political Discourse

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Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) meets with Margaret Edmondson (center) and Bread for the World President David Beckmann during Bread for the World's Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Rick Reinhard)

By Mike McCurry

One ritual these days in Washington, D.C., is to bemoan the lack of civility in our national discourse and the breakdown in regular order when doing the nation's business. Ask any elected official or congressional staff member why things seem so broken, and you'll get some version of the same answer: No one trusts each other anymore.

When I worked in the White House in the 1990s under President Clinton, we certainly had sharp disagreements with the Republican leaders of Congress. I probably said some things about Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich that went over the top, but when I used vocabulary that was too pointed, either Leon Panetta (our chief of staff) or the president himself took me aside for a scolding and told me to dull the sword. At the end of the day, we – Republicans and Democrats and members of the administration and Congress – had to sit down and come to terms with each other.

I'm not sure there is anyone in official Washington these days telling their hot-shot press secretaries to tone it down. The language gets even more bitter and personal, and the atmosphere for problem-solving and serious legislation gets more poisonous.

I thought of this recently as Democrats responded to a proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to fundamentally change our national programs that help the poor.  There are ample reasons to worry about Ryan's concept. Turning many of the federal programs critical for those at the economic margin – SNAP (formerly food stamps), housing benefits, temporary assistance for the needy – to the states in one giant block grant might put at risk people who live in states that take a dim view of helping those less fortunate. And given enormous budget pressures at the federal level, some in Congress might be tempted to gut funding for these programs altogether, although Ryan made clear his proposals were not being put forward to reduce deficits.

Whatever the substantive merits of his ideas, Ryan immediately came under criticism about his motives, his ambitions, his authenticity as someone who "claimed" to care about the poor. The attacks were political and personal, not directed at policy.

I kept thinking: Here is a true conservative who has spent time learning these programs, who has spent hours and hours visiting with those in need to hear their stories, and who is the first Republican leader in a long time to proclaim that government has an important role in dealing with shortcomings in our society that markets and individual effort cannot solve. Instead of "Hurray, let's talk," it was "let's demonize and ignore."

We are making such progress in fighting hunger, both here in the United States and around the world. We now have strategies for ending childhood hunger as states use school-based food programs combined with the private efforts of the faith community and other local organizations to make sure kids are surrounded by better nutrition and information about healthy eating. Groups like Share Our Strength (which I serve as a board member) are helping enlist governors and other state officials in campaigns called "No Kid Hungry."

Meanwhile, we are seeing serious progress in combating malnutrition and famine globally with strong leadership from Bread for the World. We won't quite meet the ambitious targets set out in the original Millennium Development Goals, but as work begins on the next round of targets for global development, hunger and malnutrition seem to be at the top of the list for world leaders.

Those are things to celebrate. When there are moments when the political right and left come together on an agenda, the church should be there to say, "Amen!"  And people of faith can help build trusting relationships that will allow leaders work through their differences on the way to real progress and solutions. That's what public theology can bring to a dispirited national government.

Mike McCurry, former White House press secretary to President Bill Clinton, is a distinguished professor of public theology at Wesley Theological Seminary and a supporter of Bread for the World.

This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's September online newsletter.

Eleven Days and Three Big Issues: Will Congress Act?

Capitol
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)


By Robin Stephenson

An expiring budget, food aid reform, and a humanitarian crisis at the border await Congress. After hearing from the voters, will Congress return from a five-week recess on September 8 ready to act on these connected issues?

Asked if it is possible, Amelia Kegan, Bread for the World’s deputy director of government relations, answers emphatically. “Absolutely. If they have the political will and make ending hunger a priority, they will work together.”

“These issues are too important for Congress to sit on any longer.”

The 2014 budget expires October 1. Congress has only 11 working days to pass a temporary extension before going on another break or face a government shutdown.

In addition to simply extending the budget, Congress should protect funding for WIC and maintain a strong safety net as the United States continues to recover from the Great Recession. As the economy slowly improves, further cuts could sink more Americans into deeper poverty.

Looming famine in South Sudan, drought in Latin America, and Ebola in West Africa are wreaking havoc with global food security – not to mention the millions of conflict-displaced families needing help in the Middle East. Efforts to address global hunger today mitigate food prices and global security concerns in the future.

Boosting poverty-focused development assistance is an investment that will decrease hunger in future food emergencies. Programs like Feed the Future, which take a long-term approach to building food security, are saving lives and building resilience in countries like Tanzania.

There is an opportunity to make our U.S. food aid—programs that respond to global disasters—do more with reform. Senators can build momentum for even more flexible and efficient food aid by cosponsoring the Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) and holding a hearing during this session.

Funding smaller reforms passed in the farm bill will free up the funds needed to help more people now and expand programs that are already working. For example, Guatemala has some of the highest rates of malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere and is one of the countries children are fleeing for the U.S. southern border. Catherine Pascal Jiménez, who is featured in the 2014 Offering of Letters, can keep her children at home thanks to a U.S.-funded food-aid program.

Ignoring the humanitarian crisis at the border or criminalizing children who flee poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America will not stop the flow of migrants. Funding global anti-hunger programs that can address economic stability in the sending countries is a first step in stemming the tide of hungry people seeking refuge. Congress must act quickly with emergency funding on its return to Washington.

Swift action may be a tall order, and there is certainly a reason to be pessimistic with this unproductive Congress. However, this is a democracy, and as Kegan points out, “Members who don’t listen to voters don’t stay in Washington.”

Kegan says faithful advocates need to make a lot of noise as Congress returns to the nation’s capitol next week. “If enough people demand action, they will act.” 

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

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