Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

640 posts categorized "Advocacy"

Child Nutrition Legislation Kicks Off With a Hearing on Wednesday

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SOCIAL SHARE: Click on the image above to open in a new window, then right click and save it. Tweet it or put it on your Facebook wall and tag your member of Congress. Tell him/her to #FeedOurChildren and pass a child nutrition bill that closes the hunger gap.

By Robin Stephenson

The moment has arrived! 

The first step towards passing a child nutrition bill that can end the hunger gap is here. The House will hold its first hearing titled “Serving Students and Families through Child Nutrition Programs” this Wednesday at 10 a.m. EDT. You can watch the hearing via a live webcast.

“This really kicks off the moment when our Offering of Letters Campaign starts moving in Congress,” said Christine Meléndez Ashley, Bread for the World’s policy expert on child nutrition. 

Every five years, Congress must craft a bill that sets the policy for child nutrition programs, which includes those for school meals, summer feeding, and the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) nutrition program. Many of you have already written letters as part of the 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children, letting Congress know their constituents at home care.

Over 16 million children in the U.S. don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. School lunch or breakfast is sometimes the only nutritious meal children from low-income families receive. It is easier for a nourished child to pay attention in class and learn more quickly. A good education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty later in life.

As we tune into the hearing tomorrow, we look for signs the House Education and Workforce Committee – the committee that will write the first draft of legislation – has the facts and is making ending hunger its target.

“This is the committee’s first chance to hear from experts on child nutrition programs,” Meléndez Ashley said. “The hearing will not only give us insight into the future of programs that keep hunger at bay for millions of kids, but also signal what members are thinking about in terms of child nutrition policy priorities.”

For example, summer is the hungriest time for kids. Pilot programs have shown that we can improve access to nutrition during the summer months. This committee has the opportunity to build on those programs and reach more children.

Another area that Bread will watch closely is whether committee members are viewing child hunger with a wider lens.

Parents who utilize child nutrition programs usually have a job, but low-income paychecks are not stretching to the dinner table - let alone the lunch counter. The last time Congress passed a child nutrition bill, they cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), a program that helps put food on the dinner table. When nearly half of SNAP recipients are children, cutting benefits makes no sense if ending hunger is the priority.

The budget proposals passed by both the Senate and House last month repeat a disturbing trend in Congress to balance the budget by cutting anti-hunger programs, especially SNAP. Tomorrow the House Agriculture Committee will continue their series of hearings reviewing the food stamp program in what some fear is a veiled attempt to cut even more. It's time for a new trend: making ending hunger a priority.

Tell Congress to act for kids. Don’t let the moment slip us by.

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

Building the 2016 Federal Budget: Round 1

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Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.


By Bread Staff

Before Congress left for its spring break, the House and Senate debated and passed their budget resolutions. The House resolution passed 228-199. The Senate resolution passed 52-46. When members of Congress return to Washington, the two chambers will iron out the differences and pass a budget for fiscal year 2016.

Every year, Bread for the World follows the federal budget process to ensure Congress adequately funds programs that provide hope and opportunity to people struggling with hunger and poverty.

This year, Bread is escalating its work on the budget. Unlike the past few years, one party now controls both the House and the Senate. This makes it significantly easier for Congress to cut anti-hunger programs.

Details of the Budget Proposals

Both the House and Senate sought to balance the budget within the next 10 years. They did so without raising taxes, touching Social Security, making any big changes to Medicare within the next decade, or cutting the defense budget. They actually increased funding for defense in some cases. So where did the trillions of dollars in cuts come from? Sixty-nine percent of the cuts in both budgets would be placed on the backs of low-income people.

In some cases, the budgets were clear about their vision for how to accomplish those savings. The House budget cut $140 billion from SNAP (formerly called food stamps). The Senate budget proposed cutting Medicaid by $400 billion. Both budgets also allowed the 2009 improvements to the earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit to expire. Those improvements have kept 16 million people from falling into or deeper into poverty.

Both budgets continued the additional cuts of sequestration, the automatic cuts Congress agreed to in 2011. These cuts are lasting and severe.

The House Budget proposal cut yearly non-defense appropriated spending by another approximately $759 billion on top of these sequestration cuts. By 2025, total funding for these programs (which includes foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, and many other programs) would be at least 33 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

The Senate budget proposal cuts yearly non-defense spending by another $236 billion on top sequestration. By 2025, total funding for these programs would be at least 24 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

This puts even greater strain and heightens competition for every dollar, threatening funding for international foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, low-income housing assistance, emergency food aid, and many other programs. 

Review of the Sequestration Agreements

Back in 2011, when Congress passed the law that established the sequestration cuts, it made an agreement. It was that automatic sequestration cuts would treat defense and non-defense spending equally.

During the committee mark-ups and floor debates, division emerged. Defense hawks protested the lower spending levels from sequestration. Ultimately, both chambers boosted defense spending by $96 billion in a special account that is not subject to the sequestration cuts or spending limit (known as Overseas Contingency Operations). However, a growing number of members of Congress are speaking out against the sequestration cuts, urging Congress to look to other areas in the budget, including revenues and other spending programs.

During the budget debates in late March, Bread stepped up its advocacy efforts, and our members responded. In particular, we urged the Senate to oppose several amendments. In the end, those amendments were either defeated or pulled before they could even get a vote.

Even though the House budget made horrendous cuts to programs that help people move out of poverty and put food on the table, there was a silver lining. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) got an entire section on food-aid reform included. This section: 1) asserted that cargo preference, monetization, and using only food commodities (practices in providing food aid that Bread believes are inefficient or harmful) “fails to use taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively,” and 2) endorsed the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015. This act would make many of the reforms that Bread has been seeking since last year’s Offering of Letters: Food-Aid Reform.

Round 2 and Beyond

When Congress returns after its two-week recess, it will conference the two budget resolutions. Bread will be watching closely to see what Congress agrees upon and the exact funding levels they give to specific programs.

We expect the spring and summer to be busy months as congressional committees mark up various budget bills. This could all come down to some important budget negotiations this fall between Congress and the White House.

Learn more: Budget Basics & Resources

Thank You for Your Advocacy

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Bread for the World staff.

By David Beckmann

Thank you for your advocacy last week! Congress was busy voting on budget proposals, and you heard from us a lot. Because of your efforts, hundreds of calls and thousands of emails went to Congress.

At the end of the week, the House and Senate both passed their budget resolutions. Their budgets included some drastic proposals to cut anti-hunger programs. But we know your voices — your calls and emails — made a difference.

The Senate considered a number of very bad amendments. Some drastically cut foreign assistance funding. Others cut or negatively impacted SNAP (formerly food stamps), the earned income tax credit, and child nutrition programs. Thanks to your advocacy, these amendments failed or were withdrawn, which means they didn’t get a vote.

Your voice helped ensure these troubling proposals were defeated. One amendment to cut international affairs funding by 50 percent only got 4 votes of support. The last time this proposal was up for a vote, at least 20 senators voted in favor of it.

The House and Senate have passed their budget proposals, but our work continues. These budgets set the tone for anti-hunger policy for the rest of this year and beyond. But your faithful advocacy throughout the year will be critical in making sure these proposals do not become law.

We’re asking you to make one more call this week. See how your senators and representative voted on the budget resolution. If they voted against it, call (800-826-3688) and thank them for their vote. If they voted in favor, call and express your disappointment in their vote for a budget that would increase hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Thank you for continuing to raise your voice to end hunger.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

A Season of Preparation

By Jared Noetzel

I don't work at Bread for the World because of its public policy or advocacy mission. Policy matters, and advocacy shapes policy, but in the end that's not what I'm all about. I work at Bread because of my commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because through his death and resurrection we have the opportunity to participate in the reconciliation of the world to God. Part of that reconciliation extends to the ways we choose to order our society. In other words, it extends to politics. The problem is, I forget that order of things too easily. African children

We're nearing the finale of one of my favorite times of the church year. In Lent, we're called to remember our dependence on God through contrition and repentance. By prayer, fasting, and giving we recognize that God has ultimate control over our lives. Through the adoption of new disciplines, we tangibly remind ourselves to both submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and remember who gave us our salvation. That's how we don't forget to love our neighbors and care for people who are marginalized. That's how we don't forget to love our enemies, even when they target people who are hungry.

Advocacy and politics can be toxic to our souls. We can easily get caught up in the short-term wins and "gotcha" moments. The season of Lent calls us as followers of Christ to a time set apart to dig into our own failures and seek God's grace and mercy.

The disciplines of Lent steel us against the corroding influences of the sometimes brutal political world. As James 1:27 puts it: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." At Bread for the World, we care a lot about orphans and widows — and all others on the margins of society. We can't and we won't stop advocating with them — ever.

But we must not forget the other part of James' warning. Lent opens a space for us to take stock of how the world has corrupted us, to ask for mercy, and then seek restoration.

The point of Lent isn't to remain in an introspective posture. Rather, it's about preparation and being ready for Christ's resurrection. As we look forward to celebrating Easter, take time to ask God to ferret out the places the world has corrupted you. Then, turn your heart to Christ, and get ready to celebrate his resurrection and the power of reconciliation.

As we engage our hearts and minds with the story of God's redemptive work in the world, we declare that ultimate authority lies with God. That's why, at Bread for the World, we value prayer right alongside activism (see Let Us Pray to End Hunger).

In the work of advocacy, we can forget to acknowledge that all authority, including the authority to govern, stems from God. Prayer helps us stay grounded in God's love and undergirds all of our advocacy efforts.

The work of advocacy doesn't stop because of Lent, but Lent does make us better advocates. We write, call, and meet with elected officials not because good policy is an end in and of itself. We do these things because God has called us to love all the people made in God's image. Lent helps us remember that.

Jared Noetzel is a project coordinator at Bread for the World's church relations department.

Photo: A Ugandan family shares a meal together. Kendra Rinas for Bread for the World.

Urgent: Say No to Vote-A-Rama Amendments That Target Poor People

http://bread.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341d945753ef017d42340f38970c-piBy Bread Staff

As budget debate and voting continue in the Senate today, Bread for the World is deeply concerned about several proposed amendments that would cut critical programs that serve vulnerable populations.

Yesterday, the House passed a budget resolution, which would balance the budget on the poorest in our nation. We need your voice to tell the Senate they must not do the same. 

Budgets are moral documents. A faithful budget values ending hunger and protecting the most vulnerable - not cutting programs that would make it harder to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Please call 800-826-3688 and tell your senator that this budget is unacceptable.  

  1. OPPOSE any amendments that cut foreign assistance or the 150 account including Paul Amdt #940, which increases the defense budget by cutting the entire international affairs budget by 50% over two years or a $42 billion reduction. These proposed cuts can severely impact funding for humanitarian and poverty-focused development assistance, including critical life-saving programs like maternal child health treatment, agriculture development and nutrition interventions, and humanitarian relief to millions of refugees. Amendment #940 failed in a recorded vote of 4 yays and 96 nays.
  2. OPPOSE any amendments that cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), change eligibility, or reduce benefits and oppose amendments that cut or make harmful changes to school nutrition programs. SNAP and school meals provide more than 21 million children with meals they need to learn and grow. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #375 and Rubio Amdt #547. Withdrawn.

  3. OPPOSE any amendments that cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), change eligibility, or establish barriers that make it more difficult for low-income working families to put food on the table. TANF is often the only source of support for families who receive it. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #372,which creates a financial burden on taxpayers and states while unfairly punishing children and familiesWithdrawn.

  4. OPPOSE any amendments that prevent individuals from claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Child Tax Credit (CTC), including Grassley Amdt #469. The EITC and CTC prevent more people from falling into poverty than any other program in the United States (outside Social Security). These tax credits reward work, promote economic mobility, and have a long history of bipartisan support. Withdrawn.

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators now - even if you have already reached out to them. This message is so important it must be repeated until they hear us and act. Call 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

If you use Twitter, please tweet your senators here: Aid Saves Lives.

 

Join National Call-in Day on the Budget

6a00e551df2162883401bb080d8688970d-320wiBy Eric Mitchell

Today, the Senate and the House of Representatives start debating their 2016 budget resolutions. As we told you yesterday, votes on these budgets will determine anti-hunger policy for the rest of this year and beyond.

If passed, the proposed budget cuts could lead to devastating increases in hunger and poverty in the United States and abroad. For example:

  • The House budget proposal drastically cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) by at least 34 percent, the equivalent of up to 220 missed meals annually for each SNAP participant.
  • Lifesaving international programs would be cut by 16 percent in the House budget. Funding for the international budget has already been cut by 22 percent. We can’t afford any further cuts.
  • 69 percent of the budget cuts in both the House and Senate come directly from programs benefiting low-income people – placing the burden on those who are already suffering.
  • Both budgets keep the automatics budget cuts of 2011 (called sequestration) in place – and cut even further. This puts programs like WIC, food aid, and poverty-focused development assistance in grave danger.  

Raise your voice with thousands of faithful advocates. Call your senators and representative at 800-826-3688 in the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations as Bread for the World.

Our Final Four

9303717422_458bed2397_bBy Eric Mitchell

The rest of the country might be talking March Madness, but Congress is about to take some important votes that will determine anti-hunger policy for the rest of this year and beyond.

We need your voice these next five days. And not just once. We're going to need you repeatedly. You will be hearing a lot from us because this is our final four to ensure funding for our country’s anti-hunger programs.

Last week, the House and Senate introduced their fiscal year 2016 budget resolutions. Both include drastic cuts to programs that help people in poverty put food on the table and provide for their families. The House cuts SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) by $140 billion over the next decade. This is the equivalent of 220 missed meals annually for each SNAP participant. The Senate’s proposal is less specific, but nearly 70 percent of its $4.7 trillion cuts would be to low-income families and people struggling in poverty.

This week, the House and Senate will vote on these proposed budgets. They will also vote on a host of amendments — some that could be very bad, such as eliminating funding for foreign assistance. Can you commit to taking one action each day this week?

Monday (March 23), Call or email your members of Congress and tell them to protect funding for anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs. Protect SNAP and Medicaid and end sequestration so annually funded programs don't see such drastic cuts — programs like WIC, foreign assistance, and Head Start.

Tuesday (March 24), is a national call-in day. People all over the country will be coming together to call and email their members of Congress, urging them to protect programs like SNAP, Medicaid, foreign assistance, and other anti-hunger programs. Bread for the World is teaming up with other anti-hunger organizations to produce the loudest chorus of voices that we can.

Wednesday (March 25), the Senate may begin voting on the budget. There could be hundreds of amendments. We will know what they are by Wednesday. We may contact you if you live in a state with a senator who is especially critical for a vote. We'll also be posting information throughout the day on our Facebook page, Twitter, and blog.

On Thursday (March 26), we expect the House to vote on its budget. We'll be calling on you to urge your representative to vote no. Be prepared to get an email from Bread for the World with talking points and call-in and email information. The vote could be close, and we'll need you to weigh in.

By Friday (March 27), the Senate should wrap up its votes on the budget. The Senate will vote on hundreds of amendments late into the night.

Are you ready? We are. Get pumped because we need you this week! It's tip-off, and you can start right now. Call (800/826-3688) or email your senators and representative today and urge them to protect funding for anti-hunger programs by ending sequestration cuts and opposing cuts to SNAP and Medicaid.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations as Bread for the World.

Black History Month: I Am Reminded

PP7By Brittany Gray

 

I am not into celebrating the lives of my ancestors for just one month out of the year. Rather, I take a moment each and every day to reflect on the lives of my ancestors, on the lives of greatness. Black History Month is not all that exciting for me, but it does serve as a reminder, nevertheless.

During the month of February, I am reminded, especially by others who celebrate the lives of black people, of how educated, beautiful, radiant, talented, driven, brilliant, intelligent, innovative, and legendary my people are. I am reminded that no matter how we are perceived today, that we were once kings, queens, inventors, innovators, educators, leaders, architects, and rulers of great nations, to name a few. I am reminded of how resilient and strong that we have always been and must continue to be.

Having grown up in the rural Mississippi Delta, I am reminded of my sharecropping grandparents who spent many years on a plantation in Leflore County. Many years in which they worked to provide housing and basic necessities for their eldest children. Many years in which they were short-changed daily by their “landlord” and barely made ends meet. It’s similar to the plight of so many residents in the Mississippi Delta, who struggle to provide for their families in 2015. I am reminded of the systemic issue of hunger and poverty that has always been pervasive in the Mississippi Delta due to blacks having little to no access to land or resources. I am reminded of the local, statewide, and federal policies that have allowed these systemic issues to remain commonplace.

I am reminded of great leaders who organized in an effort so that others and I would one day have better lives, opportunities, and a chance to live in a more just society void of systemic issues that plague black communities. I am reminded of Fannie Lou Hamer. I am reminded of June Johnson. I am reminded of Euvester Simpson. I am reminded of Victoria Gray Adams. I am reminded of Annie Devine. I am reminded of Unita Blackwell. I am reminded of Sam Block. I am reminded of Willie B. Peacock. I am reminded of Jesse Harris. I am reminded of Silas McGhee. I am reminded of Hollis Watkins.

In 2015, as we fight to prove that “black lives matter,” I am reminded of why I have chosen what I dare not call a career, but a way of life. I am reminded that the battles that my ancestors fought have not been won yet. The torch has been passed on. The fight must continue.

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” –Assata Shakur, an African-American activist (b. 1947)

Brittany Gray is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Photo: Brittany Gray at a Moral Movement Rally in Jackson, Miss. Brittany Gray/Bread for the World.

 

 

 

Rick Steves and the Whirling Dervish

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Rick Steves talks to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), about food-aid reform during the 2014 annual Bread for the World Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Robin Stephenson

Can we turn our faith into action and become conduits of God’s love as leaders in our communities?

Travel writer and Bread for the World member Rick Steves thinks so. Steves talked about the importance of advocacy as an act of faith during the Faith Action Network (FAN) annual fundraising dinner in Seattle, Wash., last November.

Advocacy goes beyond models of charity. For Steves, it is the implementation of God’s love to address structural poverty. It is an extension of stewardship that considers community and neighbor. "We are so richly blessed," Steves said. "I think if we are honest with our faith, we take that stewardship seriously."

Steves used the image of a Whirling Dervish to show how people of faith can be tools of God.

“He plants one foot in community - his home - and his other foot goes around the world, acknowledging the beautiful diversity of God’s great creation," Steves said. "He raises one hand up to God to accept the love of his maker, the other hand, like the spout of a tea kettle, goes down and showers God’s love on his great creation as he whirls - one foot in his home with his loved one, the other celebrating the diversity in his community.”

Steves’ worldview is shaped by his faith and travel. He said that one of the reasons he values travel is that he can view his own country from a distance but also see the different ways communities across the globe deal with similar challenges. “We can learn from other people's experiences, we can share notes,” he said.

Whirling_DervishesSteves’ book, Travel as a Political Act explores how travel can connect people and engender a mutual understanding. Travel opens our eyes because it exposes the similarities and diversities of various approaches to living. Sometimes what we see is gross inequality. But for Steves, that pushes him to engage his elected officials - the leaders who make policies that affect vulnerable people around the world.

Last year, Steves spoke out about a policy provision in a Coast Guard Reauthorization bill that would have increased the percentage of food aid required to be shipped on U.S. vessels from 50 to 75 percent. If passed, it would have reduced the reach of food-aid programs by 2 million people annually. Steves sees short-term profit over feeding hungry people as a problem of perspective.

“Sure, we have our economic challenges,” Steves wrote in The Seattle Times last June. “But 90 percent of humanity would love to have our crisis. Half of humanity is struggling to survive on $2 a day. When you travel, you understand that’s a real crisis.”

By speaking up in your communities and with your elected officials, advocates like you and Rick Steves, helped put a stop to the harmful provision. God’s love for humanity channeled through God’s people triumphed. That is faith in action!

A Whirling Dervish, perpetually in motion and radiating God’s love and promise out to the world, is a nice metaphor for what we do as faithful advocates. By urging our elected officials to craft programs and policies that celebrate human diversity, while acknowledging that we are one people tied together by God’s love, we most certainly do turn our faith into action.

Watch the video of Rick Steves' presentation on the Rick Steves' Europe Blog.

As the 114th Congress begins its work, we’ll need your help to ensure that food-aid reform is a priority. Bread will continue to work on this issue and urge Congress to pass legislation that helps those who need food the most to get it. Learn more: U.S. Food-Aid Reform.

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

Photo inset: Whirling Dervishes. Tomas Maltby/Wikimedia Commons.

Using Videos to Introduce Your Church, Campus, or Community to the 2015 Offering of Letters

OL2015-Blog

By Jon Gromek

We live in a country where nearly 16 million children (1 in 5) live in homes that struggle to put food on the table.  This year, Congress will debate the funding and policies for the programs that feed our children and nourish the minds and bodies of our brightest future. We will hear a great deal of facts and figures, statistics, and the minutiae of policies and programs. As important as these things are to the debate, one of the most important aspects in this national discussion is YOUR VOICE.

The decisions made this year will affect the health and well-being of mothers and children for years to come.  Last week, Bread for the World officially launched its 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children, which means it’s time for Bread members across the country to start writing letters to their members of Congress!  The Offering of Letters kit is a great resource for people everywhere to engage in advocacy and raise their Christian voice. Some of the most effective tools are the videos produced for the 2015 Offering of Letters campaign.

Be sure to watch the “Lunch ‘n’ Learn: The Importance of Child Nutrition Programs,” video and also the 60-second trailer.  Share them with a friend, or show them in preparation for a congregation-wide Offering of Letters.  Use the videos as a tool to engage and educate people in your congregation or community. Share them with friends and your congregation on Facebook. Post them on blogs. Show them during a Sunday school class, and invite reflection and discussion afterward. The videos not only put the issue of hunger in context, but also help put a face to what we are fighting for and the children who struggle with hunger every day.  

Through these short videos you can meet Barbie Izquierdo and her children, Aidan and Leylanie, a Philadelphia family that has benefited from child nutrition programs; hear from staff at elementary and high schools in Pennsylvania and Maryland who speak first-hand about the importance of investing in our children’s growth, development, and education. Use the stories as inspiration to go out into your own community to meet and talk with students and educators who live these programs. They are representative of families and community members in every corner of our country, and they are the reason to write, call, email, and visit your congressional leaders and tell them to “feed our children.”

Jon Gromek is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

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