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517 posts categorized "Advocacy"
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).
Photo: John, a former banker who is one of the subjects of The Line, shops for himself and his three children at a food pantry. (Film still from The Line, courtesy Magnolia Pictures)
By Alicia Vela
Recently, I worked with Bread for the World regional organizer Zach Schmidt and a few of my seminary classmates to organize a viewing of The Line--a documentary that takes a look at poverty in America. The event was part of a class called “Mobilizing for Justice,” taught by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, professor at North Park Theological Seminary, and Dr. Dennis Edwards, senior pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis.
After watching the documentary, which follows four highly-relatable stories of Americans living in poverty, we participated in an exercise that shows how poverty cuts across all demographics. We then entered a period of small- and large-group discussion, reflecting on issues surrounding poverty in America and the ways in which the church can and should respond. The night ended with a plea for those present, as future pastors and leaders, to use our power—our pulpit, our congregation members, and our voices—to impact the issue of poverty in our communities and across the country.
During the event, we discussed different ways of responding to poverty, from helping local food pantries and soup kitchens to advocating for policy changes. We had an opportunity to sign Bread’s petition to President Obama, urging him to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger. The conversation was productive in raising awareness as well allowing us to brainstorm more ways to be involved in addressing poverty. We also collected canned food for the North Park Friendship Center, an organization fighting hunger on Chicago’s North Side.
There are several pieces that I personally took away from my experience with Bread for the World, but the idea of using my voice for advocacy really stood out. I had always thought that as a pastor, I shouldn’t get involved in politics. Being an advocate seemed too divisive in my mind. I have always hidden my political affiliation while working in the church because I thought people would try to argue with me if they had different views. Then I realized that fighting for the hungry is not a political opinion or side, but rather a biblical mandate.
If we take seriously Jesus’s call to love the orphan, fight on behalf the defenseless and care for the weak, we begin to see advocacy as an essential response. As Christians we cannot stand alongside and watch those around us hurt because of the broken systems we have created. We are called to fight for them, to call or write our government leaders and ask for better laws and more care for those who are most vulnerable.
Vela earned her B.A. in psychology from the University of Colorado at
Boulder and recently completed her Master of Divinity coursework at North
Seminary. A Colorado native, she is currently interning at Deer Grove
Covenant Church in Palatine, Ill.
God’s willingness to become one of us in the person of Jesus Christ is evidence of God’s deep and abiding love for us. We understand God’s love through Jesus: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 John 3:16). Scripture shows us that Jesus was compassionate to all people, especially the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the hungry, the poor—those most vulnerable in society. Jesus loved all people, rich and poor, and actively cared for those in need. He urged his disciples to do the same, to reflect God’s loving nature.
As followers of Christ, we can reflect Jesus’ love and compassion. Jesus calls us to respond to the reality of hunger and poverty in our world. We can model Jesus’ care for vulnerable people we encounter, whether they live next door, in the next state, or across the world.
Our proclamation of God’s love and our demonstrated concern for others are two sides of the same coin. We work to end hunger and poverty in our communities, in our country, and in other countries because we hear God’s word and see Jesus’ model of compassion and justice.
We express and embody God’s reconciling love at all times and in all places.
In scripture, God calls people into community and sets the expectation that leaders (whether they are kings, pharaohs, or governments) should care for their people. Therefore, we also reflect Christ’s love by challenging individuals and institutions that have the power to change laws and structures that keep people vulnerable. As God’s hands and feet in the world, we work toward a beloved community in which every person has an equal opportunity to thrive.
Read and download this new resource, which can be used for personal reflection, group discussion, or congregational study.
Photo: A young man reads his bible at an Assemblies of God service in Saclepea, Liberia (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).
Rev. Gary Cook, director of Church Relations at Bread for the World, holds up "A Place at the Table," the 2013 Offering of Letters handbook during aconversation with Barbie Izquierdo, who is featured in the documentary film of the same name. Photo taken at Ecumenical Advocacy Days, held April 5-8 in Washington, D.C. (Robin Stephenson)
By Robin Stephenson
More than 700 people gathered in Washington, D.C., last weekend for Ecumenical Advocacy Days, and Bread for the World staff and members were counted among them. This year’s gathering, held April 5-8, began with three days of worship and workshops on the theme "God’s Table: Food Justice for a Healthy World." The conference, of which Bread for the World is a sponsor, culminated in a Capitol Hill lobby day, during which participants told their members of Congress that a faithful farm bill will alleviate hunger and malnutrition, support farms and communities, and protect God’s creation.
With the agricultural and nutrition challenges we face today, food and farm policies that end hunger are something we must get right. Bread for the World Institute dedicated last year’s Hunger Report (PDF) to the concept of the farm bill as a legislative vehicle that can help meet those challenges as we work to address root causes of hunger. With this year’s Offering of Letters calling for a place at the table for all of God’s children, Bread for the World is closely following farm bill negotiations and calling for robust funding for both food aid and SNAP (formerly food stamps) as programs that can end hunger.
Staff members from Bread for the World—from across our government relations, church relations, and organizing departments—and Bread Institute presented in several workshops during Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Issues workshops Bread staff participated in included "Harvesting a Healthy Farm Bill: What’s at Stake?," "Food Insecurity 101: Hunger in America," "Immigration in the Food System," "1,000 Days: The Foundation for Life," and "The Most Important Policy Conversation This Year: TAXES." Bread staff also led skills workshops on social media and advocacy and conducting an Offering of Letters.
Bread for the World’s Women of Faith for 1,000 Days Movement hosted an opening night reception with Bread president David Beckmann giving an address on the importance of nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window, from a woman's pregnancy through her child's second birthday.
One event highlight was an evening conversation with Barbie Izquierdo, whose story illustrates the importance of domestic nutrition programs. She is featured in the documentary film A Place at the Table, and also in Bread’s 2013 Offering of Letters.
Next up is Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, "A Place at the Table," which will be held June 8-11 in Washington, D.C. The event will offer many informative workshops, as well as the opportunity to hear speakers like Rev. Dr. James Forbes and Rev. Luis Cortes, among others. The National Gathering also includes the premiere of a new arrangement of the musical Lazarus. Take advantage of early-bird registration, and join us in June.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
Two men chatting at Bread for the World’s 2011 National Gathering. (Alisa Booze Troetschel)
By Mary Getz
When I was in college, I had the opportunity to spend a month in Honduras on a service-learning trip. We worked on a variety of projects and spent time talking to those alongside whom we worked. We learned about culture, agriculture, and the economy.
One afternoon after our group had finished putting in a concrete floor to a community building and we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves, we heard chuckling from some of the men with whom we had been working. We could tell that we were the source of their amusement. When we asked to be let in on the joke, the answer turned our perspective on the day upside down.
The men explained that while we did a fine job on the floor, they were capable of doing it more quickly without us. They said that the important work that day was the friendship we built and the details we learned about each other’s lives.
The men told us, “You have something that we don’t have. You have a voice. You can go back to the United States and tell our story.
"Tell about what it means to be a small farmer here. Tell about what you’ve learned about how trade in your country affects people in our country. Tell our story.”
Our friends’ call to us that day mirrored Proverbs call to action:
Speak out for those who cannot speak,
for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)
We are called to advocacy—to work for justice—to speak out for those that cannot.
Advocacy is about building relationships to achieve goals. We tend to focus upward towards our elected officials when we think of advocacy. But that focus can obscure the important relationships that are at the heart of our advocacy—people who are hungry or living in poverty. Our most authentic advocacy is done when we are in relationship with those that we are assisting.
In Matthew we read,
for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me. (Matthew 25: 35-36)
By meeting Christ in those around us, especially those who are in any kind of need—and by being in relationships with them—we can learn their stories and share those stories with people in power.
We can speak up for those who cannot.
Mary Getz is the grassroots and online communications officer for the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations. She manages the Episcopal Public Policy Network, a grassroots network of Episcopalians committed to the active ministry of public policy advocacy.
[This piece originally appeared in the April edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.]
On March 2, 2013, Alliance to End Hunger hosted the 2nd Hunger Free Communities Summit in Washington, D.C. The one-day event provided current and aspiring Hunger Free Community organizers a forum to hear from experts about innovative models for building coalitions to end hunger; learn about best practices to coordinate hunger relief; and share experiences and successful strategies.
The summit brought together nonprofit, religious, private sector, and public sector leaders committed to ending hunger in their communities. Ambassador Tony Hall, executive director of Alliance to End Hunger opened the summit. Rev. David Beckmann delivered the keynote address, focusing on the role of advocacy as fundamental to ending hunger. Beckmann is the president of Alliance to End Hunger and Bread for the World.
Break out sessions included discussion around such topics as amplifying the voices of hungry and poor people, leveraging federal nutrition programs, strategies for reaching vulnerable populations, and ensuring access to healthy and affordable food. Speakers included former Congresswoman Eva Clayton (D-N.C.); Rosemary Johnston of the Maryland Governor’s Office on Children; Jeremy Everett of the Texas Hunger Initiative; Dave Miner of the Indianapolis Food Resource Network; and Barbie Izqierdo of Witnesses to Hunger (Izquierdo is featured in the documentary on hunger A Place at the Table).
To view photos from the event, visit our Flickr page or view the slideshow below.
[This piece originally appeared in the April 2013 edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.]
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.”
Why not use Letter Writing Month as an opportunity to write to your senators and representative and ask that they provide adequate funding for programs that address hunger and help lift people out of poverty? Also consider conducting an Offering of Letters through your church, campus, or community group.
In this digital age, it may seem anachronistic to write personal letters to Congress, but it tells your member that you are so concerned about hunger and poverty that you've taken time to put pen to paper and write him or her about it. While any contact you make with Congress is great, hand-writing a letter is a very personal way to connect. And if you're conducting an Offering of Letters with a group, hand-writing letters together and then praying over them before sending them off is a powerful experience.
Need help getting started? Check out Bread for the World's writing tips and download our sample letter—but remember that the best letters have a personal touch. Use our form as a template, but please expand on it. Share what motivated you to write—personal stories show that there are actual people behind hunger statistics and help members of Congress connect legislation to the real lives of their constituents.
If you're interested in organizing an Offering of Letters, order our 2013 Offering of Letters kit, which contains everything you need. You can also contact your Bread for the World regional organizer for assistance.
And if you're so inclined, add one more person to your list to receive a letter this month—the editor of your local newspaper. Letters to the editor placed in local papers are a great way to make hunger part of public dialogue and advance the goal of eradicating hunger in our time.
Photo: Arlene Barela, a mother of two in Orange County, Calif., writes letters to Congress at Templo Calvario (Assembly of God church) in Santa Ana, Calif., on Sunday, October 16, 2011. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
Tohomina Akter attempts to feed her daughter Adia, 17 months, in Char Baria village, Barisal, Bangladesh, on Thursday, April 19, 2012. Tohomina finished 7th grade and hopes she can help educate her daughter to be a doctor. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Mary Pat Brennan
Do conversations matter? Do my conversations matter? Do yours? If conversations are about connecting with others then the morning conversation with my housemate over coffee, the Skype chat with my daughter, and the small talk I make on the elevator all matter, even if only to me and perhaps one other person.
But some conversations matter more than others. Some have the power to inform and plant seeds for the future–and even contribute to making the world a better place.
When we discuss maternal and child nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday, we’re having a conversation that could change the world. According to information in Bread for the World Institute’s 2013 Hunger Report , “[h]unger during this time is catastrophic, because the resulting physical and cognitive damage is lifelong and irreversible.”
Bread for the World
member Jeanette Mott Oxford is a former Missouri state representative who now
directs the Missouri Association for Social Welfare. Jeanette played a leading
role in Bread’s recent actions in Missouri.
She recently sat down with me to talk about her time as
an elected official and her years of faith-based advocacy.
Tell us about your faith journey. Were there any significant shifts or defining moments?
I grew up in the Christian fundamentalist tradition in rural southern Illinois. My parents were in a gospel quartet, and my uncle was a tent evangelist. As a child, I attended a lot of revivals! We were encouraged to personally witness to others, and I have carried with me the belief that there should be unity between what you say you believe and what your actions demonstrate.
I left the church for a while and then came back through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA]. Eventually, I settled on a United Church of Christ [UCC] congregation and have stayed with the denomination ever since. I found that these denominations had a focus on “corporate sin.” This was a significant shift for me, from a focus primarily on individual practices and a pious life to thinking about who we are as a part of systems and nations, and thinking corporately about questions like, “Are people being fed? How are we treating the least of these?”
How did you come to see advocacy as an important part of helping people in need?
Bread for the World played an integral role. When I first discovered Bread in the 1980s, I thought it was about sending money to care for someone in a famine-torn corner of the world. All I had known about responding to hunger was through charity-type actions. Then I started getting letters from Bread encouraging me to write to my members of Congress, and I quickly became an advocate and tried to learn as much as I could about how domestic and international policy affect hunger.
I also worked with Bread as an intern while studying at Eden Theological Seminary in the St. Louis metro area. At the time, Bread was working on a campaign to increase funding for WIC, and it was an eye-opening experience for me to learn that we could save four dollars in health costs with one dollar of healthy food!