601 posts categorized "Advocacy"
By Donna Pususta Neste
Justice work is hard. Those who desire their government to work for all its citizens are up against some mighty forces that seek to maintain the status quo. There are those who benefit from others’ poverty, vulnerability, and voicelessness. These people are few in number in a society, but their power runs deep and wide, because they have the funds and know-how to spread misinformation and buy influence. There is a general attitude of indifference among many who are comfortable and refuse to see the root causes of the suffering of people who are poor.
Justice workers are also up against fear. People are often afraid to use their power. They are afraid of retribution by those who want everything to remain the same, a fear not always unfounded. They are also up against a certain kind of powerlessness that comes with poverty.
Their most natural allies—people who struggle to support themselves and their families—have little time for the actions necessary to alleviate the state of their existence: to go to city hall to protest a law that infringes on their rights, to visit their representatives in Washington to advocate for a law that would benefit them, or to study policies that hold them back. Most of their time is used on actions necessary to survive. To walk their children to day care before hopping a bus to a job that barely sustains them. To spend most of their free time visiting clothes closets, food pantries, and community meals in order to make ends meet and feed their children. To keep seemingly endless appointments with government bureaucrats in order to turn in applications, proofs, and justifications of their needs.
Poverty is stressful. When a person is losing sleep over how to come up with the rent, there is little to no extra energy left over to organize around the issue of a living wage. That’s why I do my best to raise my voice with our nation’s leaders, to make the lives of people who struggle a little bit easier.
Donna Pususta Neste is a Bread for the World board member and former coordinator of Neighborhood Ministries in Minneapolis.
By Robin Stephenson
We can end hunger by 2030 if we build the political will to make hunger a national priority by 2017. Electing legislators who prioritize ending hunger is key, says Stephen Hill, senior organizer for elections issues at Bread for the World.
Being politically engaged is also part of living out our faith.
“Just as Jesus regularly went to the public square to minister, advocate, and proclaim the good news,” Hill says, “we too must maintain an active presence in today’s public square in order to preserve justice and order in society and government.”
Hill is elevating hunger and poverty as campaign topics in the tenth congressional district of Virginia. Barbara Comstock, the Republican candidate, will face Democrat John Foust for the empty House seat in the general election on November 4.
Outgoing Congressman Frank Wolf (R) was honored in June by Bread for the World for his work to address hunger in the United States and abroad. He is retiring after more than 30 years in Congress. Hill says that although we may lose Wolf to retirement, we do not need to lose his commitment to ending hunger if the person elected knows his or her voters will not tolerate a legislator who is lukewarm on issues of food insecurity.
Using the influence of voters in the district, Hill wants to get the candidates talking about hunger.
“Our goal will be to educate, inspire, and influence the electorate. From the ballot box to the pulpit, we want to make sure that these issues factor into the conscience of the voters and the political agendas of the candidates.”
Before joining Bread’s staff, Hill was deputy district director for Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio-1). Hill knows first-hand how constituents influence their members of Congress. Politically engaged voters make an impact by building relationships with staff and attending town halls, becoming what he calls more than a voice on the phone.
Hill is looking for interested individuals to join his team in district 10 as he builds a coalition of the willing. Volunteers can assist by distributing literature at events, attending precinct meetings, recruiting others, and helping with polling as well as other election activities.
“This is a very busy district and we need maximum participation to touch as many voters as possible with our message.”
Election work that aims to build the political will to end hunger can also build a renewed sense of purpose for a post-election Congress. Instead of focusing on conflict and apathy, Hill believes faith can build a sense of community.
“Christ, as both the lion and the lamb, reconciles all conflicts and differences,” says Hill. “In him we are conquerors, and through him we have victory, purpose, and a true sense of community.”
Virginians interested in getting involved are encouraged to contact Stephen Hill for more information. In addition to volunteers, he is also looking for a catchy campaign slogan that will inspire. Contact him at 202-270-8180 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Elsewhere in the United States, you can help make hunger a part of the elections with Elections Matter resources.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior organizer at Bread for the World.
By Stephen Padre
In mid-June, Bread for the World held its National Gathering and Lobby Day. More than 300 anti-hunger activists from across the country came to Washington, D.C., for education, inspiration, and to speak directly to their lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The gathering was an occasion to celebrate Bread’s 40th anniversary and to recognize many of the founders and early staff members who got the organization off the ground. This celebration was possible because so many Bread for the World members have, decade after decade, supported the organization and engaged in advocacy.
Among those attending the gathering were Rev. Roger and Marilyn Timm, a couple from Emmaus, Pa. Roger Timm has been a Bread member since its founding, yet remarkably, he had never attended one of its National Gatherings until this year. “I’ve been a member for 40 years, so I thought I should come celebrate,” he said at the gathering.
Roger had spent his career as a Lutheran pastor. In 1974 he was working at a small church in Bronxville, N.Y., when he heard of Rev. Art Simon. Simon was a fellow Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, not far from Roger’s church on Manhattan’s Lower East Side (Roger later joined the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Simon had founded a new organization called Bread for the World, and Roger became a member.
The final congregation Roger served before he retired in 2011 was in the Chicago suburbs, where he and Marilyn had lived for many years. Besides providing financial support over the years, Roger was involved in other ways with Bread in the congregations and campus ministries he served. He often conducted an Offering of Letters and organized a performance of Bread’s musical, Lazarus.
“Now that I’m retired, I’ve got more time,” Roger said. “One of the things I can do is be more active in advocacy.” This has included the trip to Washington, D.C., to visit his members of Congress as he and Marilyn did on Lobby Day following the gathering in June.
As a pastor, addressing hunger has always been a fundamental biblical tenet for Roger. “Providing food is one thing, but it’s important to go beyond that and advocate for hungry people,” he said. He added that he resonates with Bread’s belief that the government can provide more than churches can.
Marilyn shares Roger’s passion for social justice and global issues. Before she retired in 2007, Marilyn worked for 11 years in the global mission department of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) at its church-wide offices in Chicago. Her positions in different parts of the department gave her a broad view of the denomination’s work around the world through missionaries and with relief and development projects. Both Marilyn and Roger give thanks that Bread is a ministry of the ELCA and is a vital partner in the denomination’s anti-hunger work domestically and internationally.
Roger and Marilyn Timm embody the generous financial support and steadfast involvement in advocacy that have sustained Bread for 40 years. To the Timms and many others who have been with Bread over the decades, we say a hearty thank you.
Stephen Padre is the managing editor at Bread for the World.
Photo: Roger and Marilyn Timm at Bread for the World's National Gathering in June in Washington, D.C. (Stephen Padre/Bread for the World)
This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's August online newsletter.
By Zach Schmidt
What do your faith and experience say about global hunger and how has that compelled you to act?
We are called to widen our circle of concern to serve our neighbors across the street and across the globe. This was the consensus among faith leaders in Chicago’s North Shore communities during recent discussions on faith and hunger. As part of a broader campaign to reform U.S. food aid, we have been hosting a series of conversations with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders in the Chicago area over the summer. Participants have been challenged and enriched by hearing from those of different faiths and practices. While the language and supporting scriptures differ, the leaders have found common ground in the fight against hunger.
Bread for the World’s campaign calls on members of Congress to reform U.S. international food aid, so it can better respond to humanitarian emergencies and strengthen vulnerable communities against future catastrophes. The campaign also includes statewide faith leaders sign-on letters, and the Illinois letter alone has garnered more than 170 faith leaders’ signatures and counting. We continue to urge U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk to lead on this issue.
Some of the leaders and their congregations, like Rabbi Wendi Geffen and North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, Illinois, are already well-acquainted with advocating for reform. Rabbi Geffen’s congregation wrote letters last year in support of food aid reform in partnership with American Jewish World Service, an ally with Bread for the World on this issue. Others leaders are deeply committed to global development projects but have not yet engaged in advocacy. But once the issue is presented and the case is made that we can help millions more hungry people, more quickly, while building long-term resilience, and more efficiently utilize our taxpayer dollars, the response becomes, “Well, what are we waiting for?”
Over the past few months, there have been a handful of votes in Congress that affect food aid. Faith leaders have been briefed and have weighed in on these votes. But we can help even more people through reforms embodied in the bipartisan Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014 (S. 2421). This bill would make our food aid more flexible and efficient, freeing up as much as $440 million per year to feed up to 9 million more people faster. The bill makes common sense reforms, including ending the constraints that require our food aid to be grown in the United States and shipped on designated (and more costly) vessels. This adds substantial time and cost to the delivery of food aid, a matter of life-and-death when we are responding to hunger and humanitarian disasters in places like Haiti, Syria and South Sudan.
Faith leaders in the Chicago area—and across the country—are saying the status quo is unacceptable and indefensible, and it’s time for change. Urge your senator to co-sponsor S. 2421 and help build momentum to pass the bill.
Zach Schmidt is regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
By Robin Stephenson
Members of Congress will leave behind a lot of unfinished business when they head to their home states and districts for August recess at the end of the week. Anti-hunger advocates should send them back to Washington, D.C., in November with clear orders to get to work on ending hunger.
This is an election year and all 435 members of the House and 33 senators are running for reelection. There will be many public events where anti-hunger advocates can talk to their elected or soon-to-be elected officials about hunger and poverty. Bread for the World has created a set of resources to help advocates start a conversation. These include a guide to speaking up about hunger at Town Halls and updated voting records so you know how your members of Congress have voted on issues of hunger and poverty.
If outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning loss earlier this year taught elected officials anything, it’s that they can’t ignore district concerns. Bread wants to help end hunger by 2030. To do that, we need to help build the political will to make hunger a national priority by 2017. “All politics are local,” said Bread for the World’s director of government relations Eric Mitchell during last month’s national webinar and conference call. “There won't be pressure to change anything unless they hear from local constituents.” And there is plenty to talk about.
The United States is poised to make huge strides in improving food aid that does more than just feed people in a crisis but helps build resilience so they can weather the next storm. Urging lawmakers to cosponsor The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) will help build the political will to reform U.S. food aid. Furthermore, Congress should be reminded that faithful advocates oppose provisions that would decrease food aid by increasing transportation costs by shipping more food from the United States.
At public events, we must get members of Congress talking about how they will address the root causes that are driving millions of children to flee Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Lawmakers are focused on the border between the United States and Mexico and not on the source of the problem. Congress should allocate funds in the 2015 budget for programs that can help alleviate hunger and poverty in Central America. However, appropriators are proposing to cut poverty-focused development assistance.
Recent data reports the job market is finally improving, yet more than 3 million long-term unemployed are left without emergency unemployment benefits. The end of the recession has not reached all Americans. Safety net programs to alleviate hunger for low-income families are still the first items on the chopping block. Prioritizing a jobs agenda will make ending hunger in America possible.
“We are not advocating electing one party or another,” said director of organizing LaVida Davis. “As people of faith, our task is to change the conversation and make ending hunger a priority for our elected officials.”
Hunger affects all of us. Making hunger an election issue is how we can build the political will to end it.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.
The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book by the Anne E. Casey Foundation shows that child poverty in the United States is on the rise. (Rick Reinhard)
In a disturbing trend that prioritizes the wealthy over the most vulnerable Americans, the House today passed H.R. 4935 by a vote of 237 to 171. Bread has dubbed it the “reverse Robin Hood” bill, which takes from the poor to give to the rich. The bill could push 12 million people—including 6 million kids--into poverty or deeper poverty while giving a tax break to households making $150,000 to $205,000.
In a media statement today, Bread for the World president, Rev. David Beckmann said, “It is unacceptable that we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world and have one of the highest child poverty rates among developed countries. Our policies should help lower-income working families climb out of poverty - not push them deeper into it.”
We do not expect the Senate to take up the Child Tax Credit Improvement Act of 2014. Instead, the bill, which does not extend critical improvements to the child tax credit for millions of low-income working families, could be considered as part of a tax extenders bill after the November mid-term elections. Tax credits, like the child tax credit (CTC) and the earned income tax credit (EITC), keep more people – including children – out of poverty each year than any other federal anti-hunger program.
Although H.R. 4935 passed, 173 members of Congress still opposed the bill, thanks to the calls Bread for the World’s anti-hunger advocates made to their representatives – including hundreds of calls this morning! Bread is calling for any final bill on the child tax credit to include the 2009 improvements, which enable more low-income working families to receive a larger credit. Your advocacy helped build momentum and educate lawmakers that this is an issue the faith community cares about.
In 2009, Congress made the CTC available to low-income working families, enabling them to begin to receive part of the credit once earnings reached $3,000. Under the recent House-passed bill, a single mother with two children who works full-time at the minimum wage (earning about $14,500 a year) would completely lose her CTC of $1,725.
Bread for the World has long championed refundable tax credits as a way to reduce hunger in America and will continue to do so. We encourage advocates to bring up the importance of tax credits with their legislators during the August recess and make hunger an election issue. We will also continue to keep advocates apprised as legislation moves forward this year and use every opportunity to restore the 2009 improvements.
Today’s vote was extremely disappointing, but we should use it to energize our conviction that the direction in Washington, D.C., must change. It is time to buck the trends and make ending hunger a priority. Child poverty is far too high in the United States - in 2012, 23 percent of U.S. children lived in poor families. Congress unleashed its own version of Robin Hood on millions of children today, but we as the faith community will continue to fight for what’s right.
See here how your representative voted, and read Bread for the World’s press release “Bread for the World Disappointed with House Child Tax Credit Bill.”
Poverty and violence are push factors that have caused a surge in child migration to the U.S. from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. U.S. food aid assistance help Catarina Pascual Jiménez find a path out of hunger. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).
By Eric Mitchell
Emilio is a 16-year-old boy from Honduras.
A fifth grade dropout, Emilio has no job and often goes hungry. "When we were hungry, we endured it ... Some days, you would eat. Other days, you wouldn't," he says.
A smuggler promised to help Emilio get into the United States. However, during the journey, he and two companions were sold to a man who locked them inside a house in Guatemala, threatening to kill them unless their families each paid $2,000. The journey is dangerous, and some children die on the way, but conditions in his home country are so desperate that Emilio says he will try again.
Emilio is one of tens of thousands of children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador attempting to flee violence and extreme poverty. We as people of faith must act to address the root causes of this humanitarian crisis.
There are two things you can do right now to help.
- Pray. Pray for these children, their parents, and the often poor and violence-stricken communities they have left behind. And pray for the children who still remain in Central America, many of whom, like Emilio, go without enough food for days on end. You can use these prayers or your own.
- Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators! Simply say: I urge you to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Please pass legislation that addresses the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America that are forcing them to leave.
The Bible tells us that Jesus has a special concern for children who belong to the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14). Christians must speak up for children like Emilio.
Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are crossing the border, fleeing unspeakable conditions in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Since October, over 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed our borders. By year’s end, we are expecting that number to grow to between 70,000 and 90,000.
Emilio’s story isn’t unique, considering what he is fleeing. More than half of the citizens of Honduras live on less than $4 a day, and violence is rampant.
While the debate raging in Washington focuses on detention centers and how fast the government can send these children back, few members of Congress are asking: What are we sending these children back to? Solutions to this crisis must look beyond the border.
If we support successful development programs in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, we can help ensure children like Emilio will not have to risk their lives to escape poverty and hunger.
The situation is urgent. Please call (800-826-3688) or email now.
Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.
Elections aren't all about winning, are they? A group of Bread activists in the Birmingham, Ala., area realizes that they have an uphill battle in getting their issues heard by candidates in this fall's elections, but they are staying focused on what's important: just being faithful in their advocacy.
Alabama's 6th Congressional District, based around the suburbs of Birmingham, is represented by Republican Spencer Bachus, who is retiring from Congress when his current term ends in 2015.
A runoff election in July will determine which Republican candidate will compete for Bachus' seat in the general election in November. The Republican nominee is almost certain to win in the district, which the National Review Online called "the reddest district in the country."
In the meantime, the Bread activists in the area are deciding how to raise issues of hunger and poverty with the final two candidates as well as getting themselves organized for general and ongoing advocacy activities for Bread.
Suzanne Stigler Martin has done most of the coordinating of the Bread group and reviving its membership after a previous leader, who had built a strong group over a number of years, left and members fell away.
The earlier group of activists had worked hard to win Bachus over on issues related to hunger, and the congressman had actually changed his mind about debt relief in the Jubilee Campaign of 2000. The current group is looking to continue the legacy they've had with Bachus with his successor.
With Martin, the current group has organized itself into teams so that leadership is not so dependent on one person and so the work is spread out.
The teams divide the work into areas such as outreach to churches, advocacy, and elections strategy. The group started a Facebook page to promote their work and provide education on hunger and poverty issues. During the slower summer months, the group plans to add educational items on immigration reform.
The group has been actively trying to engage new congregations in the area in Bread work, encouraging them to hold an Offering of Letters or move to the "next level" by adding advocacy if they have a food pantry or soup kitchen, for example. The group has used the visits of Bread's regional organizer, LaMarco Cable, to encourage congregations to connect with issues being debated in Washington, D.C.
For its congressional campaign work, Martin said the group tried to contact all of the candidates running in the primary with three basic questions related to hunger and a deadline to respond. They planned to post the responses on their Facebook page.
Martin said that it was a challenge for the group to try to contact seven or eight candidates, so it has decided to wait until there are just two candidates in the general election. She said in a primary campaign candidates tend to be focused more on winning the nomination and less on issues.
Martin has other tips for similar groups that want to be involved in congressional campaigns:
- Appoint a person to monitor candidates' campaigns for events that Bread activists can attend.
- Try to get to know the candidates as human beings. Befriend them so that you become a trusted source or adviser on hunger issues.
- Work your networks. If nobody in your group knows a candidate directly, maybe a friend knows a candidate and can make an introduction.
Overall, Martin says advocacy work is for the long-haul. "There's a lot of opportunity. It just takes time," she said. Her group's work shows that it's about developing relationships with not only political candidates in a campaign but also with church members. She adds: "We are not called to win; we are just called to be faithful."
This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's July newsletter.
Bread for the World President David Beckmann, at approximately age 5. To see the complete #5thbday photo gallery, visit 5thbdayandbeyond.org. (Photo courtesy of David Beckmann)
By Beth Ann Saracco
If you are on Facebook, and follow Bread for the World President David Beckmann, you may have noticed he recently updated his profile picture to a photo of himself as a young boy. The change commemorates the 5th Birthday and Beyond celebration, which recognizes the significant progress that has been achieved in child survival over the past 25 years, and the many contributions the United States has made in reaching this milestone.
Thanks in large part to bipartisan support from members of Congress, current and past U.S. administrations, private-sector partners, nongovernmental organizations (including Bread for the World), and other multilateral organizations and donor nations, the number of deaths of children under five has dropped by half since 1990. In the past twelve years alone, 700,000 fewer children have died from pneumonia, 300,000 fewer children from malaria, and 100,000 fewer children from AIDS.
As we celebrate these significant gains, we also reflect on the role Bread for the World has played, throughout its own 40-year history, to significantly improve child survival. In the last 25 years alone, Bread for the World has helped craft and pass major legislation that has reduced child mortality, including a bill that established the international Child Survival Fund. Each year, this fund helps immunize more than 100 million children in the developing world; since its establishment, the number of children dying daily from malnutrition and preventable diseases has fallen by 50 percent.
In 1999, Bread for the World led the creation of the Jubilee Campaign, which was part of a worldwide movement that successfully urged Congress to forgive the debts of some of the world’s poorest countries. As a result, relief has reduced the debts of 36 of the world’s poorest countries by 90 percent. Many of these countries have been able to reinvest and expand basic education and health services.
In the new millennium, Bread for the World and its partners successfully advocated for the establishment of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which provided a new, innovative way of administering U.S. foreign aid. Through its unique approach focused on good governance, accountability, and poverty reduction, MCC has supported nearly 40 countries with more than $8.5 billion in aid, ranging from food-security programs and health initiatives to water and sanitation projects.
Most recently, thanks in part to analysis from Bread for the World Institute, we are pushing to improve the nutritional quality of U.S. food aid. In addition, through the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Civil Society Network, which supports civil society alliances at the country level, we are learning about the opportunities and challenges of scaling up nutrition in some of the countries most affected by malnutrition. This is helping inform our advocacy and our push for greater investments in maternal and child nutrition programs.
Working with a number of U.S. civil society partners, our advocacy efforts helped encourage and shape the U.S. Agency for International Development’s new nutrition strategy, which will better integrate and coordinate nutrition and nutrition-related programs across U.S. development assistance programs. Since we know the many links that exist between child survival and the right nutrition and care during the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday, these efforts will translate into even more mothers and children living longer, healthier, more productive lives.
Proudly, Bread for the World joins with other partners in recognizing the 5th Birthday and Beyond celebration, and extends particular gratitude to Congress and the administration for their continued support of vital programs that promote child survival and wellbeing. Together, we are working to ensure that all children not only survive to their fifth birthdays, but thrive well beyond them.
Beth Ann Saracco is an international policy analyst at Bread for the World.
Margaret Edmondson, an Idaho constituent, talks to Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) during Bread for the World's 2012 Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. (Rick Reinhard).
By Amelia Kegan
What does it mean to live out the Lord’s Prayer and seek to build heaven on earth? How can we be the light that can transform a broken world? I believe, especially for Americans, the answer lies in using our gifts of citizenship. When we live out our faith in the public arena, the world can change.
I’m fortunate that I have a job that allows me to live out my faith. I’m a domestic policy analyst for a faith-based anti-hunger organization. My job is to understand public policy moving through Congress and analyze how it affects hunger.
I spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill urging members of Congress to vote for legislation that can end hunger and poverty. I know the impact the faith community has in the nation’s capital. When I lift up the needs of those struggling with hunger and poverty to members of Congress, I feel that I am living out my faith. When I hear from congressional staff that they received a pack of letters from a church back home in their state or district, so they already know about the issue I’m bringing up, I see God moving in our time and through our work to end hunger.
I meet many Christian leaders on Capitol Hill, and they, too, can be moved by your faith. There's a power in the Christian voice that the special interests just can't compete with. When we testify to God’s love for all in the public arena, we build a better world.
In Deuteronomy 6, Moses preaches: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” The city gates! You don't get more public than that.
Talking with people of influence – our elected leaders, as well as our friends, family, and fellow church congregants – about a world without hunger is part of living out our faith. Advocating about issues of hunger opens the gates for those left on the margins of society.
Our love of God should show up in everything we do. It is tempting to act out of that love when it's easy and convenient, but God's love is a love we cannot contain — it shines. It must be present and visible in all the public spaces of our lives — including in our role as citizens.
Each June, Bread for the World members gather in Washington, D.C., for our annual Lobby Day. If you cannot join us in person in Washington, consider taking the pledge to join our virtual Lobby Day. Our whole community must come together in order to really make an impact, so we hope you’ll join us.
Amelia Kegan is deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World.
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