Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

587 posts categorized "Advocacy"

Discussing Development, World Hunger, and Advocacy at the University of Kentucky

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University of Kentucky One Campus volunteers Ibitola Asalou (l) and Liz Renzaglia (c) with Lesly Webber-McNitt of the Farm Journal Foundation at the April 2 development and world hunger panel. (Courtesy of Deborah Charalambakis)

By Deborah Charalambakis

How can food-aid reform and agricultural investments help feed people around the world? And what can advocacy to do help make those things possible? On April 2, residents of Lexington, Ky., college students, and faculty gathered at the University of Kentucky for an engaging, thought-provoking discussion that explored these questions, as well as others related to development and world hunger.

Jon Gromek, regional organizer with Bread for the World;  Dr. Jerry Skees, president of  GlobalAgRisk; Abby Sasser,  regional field director at ONE Campaign; and Lesly Weber-McNitt director of government relations and program development at Farm Journal Foundation, were the participating panelists. Amanda Milward, field representative from Rep. Andy Barr’s office (R-Ky.-06), was a special guest.  

Among the topics tackled during the panel discussion were agriculture and food-aid reform. Many people don’t realize the importance of investing in agriculture and smallholder farmers, something all of the panelists touched on. Both Gromek and Dr. Skees spoke about the need for U.S. food-aid reform, and the ways we can improve food security for Africa’s most vulnerable people. Investing in farmers and agriculture not only increases income and food security for those populations, it reduces poverty significantly. This has been documented in both Ghana and Burkino Faso, two of the countries profiled in the ONE Campaign report “Ripe for Change: The Promise of Africa’s Agricultural Transformation.” Ghana has seen a decrease in poverty by 44 percent, and Burkino Faso created 235,000 jobs—all because those countries’ governments invested in their agricultural sectors.

The panelists also talked about advocacy, and how it helps make such success stories possible. When I asked our panelists why advocacy is important, they all dove in to answer. Sasser, Weber-McNitt, and Gromek – who all work in advocacy— stressed that our members of Congress represent us; when groups of hard-working advocates contact their senators and representatives about issues such as protecting foreign assistance programs (which account for less than 1 percent of  our federal budget), those elected officials listen. The more politicians hear from their constituents, the better the chance that they will act on the requests of their constituents. . When we become aware of  issues of agriculture, poverty, and development and we continue to stand on the sidelines, this not only skews our view of justice, but calls into question our concern for humanity all together.  That was something the audience truly understood in our advocacy discussion.

Though the event was a great success, and many people had questions for our panelists, it doesn’t end there. When it comes to issues of agriculture, development, and world hunger, let us be persistent in educating those around us about these issues, and become powerful advocates for the world’s poor.

Deborah_one_crop

 

Deborah Charalambakis is president of the ONE Campus chapter at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. ONE was created with assistance from Bread for the World. To learn more about what’s happening in ONE in Kentucky, follow the group on Twitter: @ONE_uky

Immigration Reform: "Government Can Solve This"

Marvin Garcia Salas and his son, Jesus-500px
Marvin Garcia Salas eats breakfast with his son Jesus, 4, in Chiapas, Mexico. Marvin was once an undocumented immigrant in the United States, where he had moved without his family to better support them. Hunger, and a lack of economic opportunity are at the root of much of the undocumented immigration from Mexico. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

"Twelve million people living and working in our country… and there’s no sane path toward citizenship for these 12 million undocumented workers… It’s impossible to deport 12 million people. No one wants to rip families apart, and that’s what would happen with a massive deportation…
 
I have determined, adding more compassion isn’t going to solve it, doing more justice [in the sense of hiring attorneys] isn’t going to solve it, only the government can solve this at this point. So for the first time in my ministry, I’ve been writing op-ed pieces in major newspapers, I’ve gone to Washington to visit the offices of Republicans and Democrats. I’ve stood on the Capitol lawn with dozens of others leaders, doing press conferences, asking for our elected officials to come up with Comprehensive Immigration Reform—because it’s their job, it’s why we elected them, it’s their problem to resolve..."
 
—Willow Creek Community Church Senior Pastor Bill Hybels, in a Celebration of Hope message on Sunday, April 13, 2014
 
In Matthew 25, Jesus says, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me ... ." Immigration is an issue related to hunger and is part of the biblical call. As Bill Hybels notes, advocating for immigration reform is a way to answer that call today.
 
Join Bread for the World tomorrow, Tuesday, April 15, for a special webinar/conference call: A Faithful Approach to Reforming a Broken System, Conversations on Immigration with Rev. Gabriel Salguero and Ivone Guillen.
 
Rev. Gabriel Salguero — president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and a former Bread board member — is a leading voice within the immigration reform movement. Ivone Guillen is the Immigration Associate at Sojourners and former immigration policy fellow at Bread for the World.
 
They will be discussing these questions: What are the prospects for immigration reform this year? How can you make a difference? Why are Bread members so critical in pushing immigration reform as a hunger issue?
 
They will also address the biblical support for immigration reform and discuss how you can pressure legislators to act. We will present new fact sheets that will help you in your advocacy efforts. Bread for the World firmly believes that immigration reform will reduce poverty and hunger.
 
Submit your questions ahead of time to organizing coordinator Marion Jasin at mjasin@bread.org. Check out our comprehensive how-to guide on the webinar conference call and register today.

Advocates Help Push Unemployment Bill Through to House

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Bread for the World advocates during a workshop at the 2013 National Gathering, held June 8-11 in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Jon Gromek

Yesterday, the Senate passed a bill to extend emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) benefits by a vote of 50 to 38. If the bipartisan bill passes the next hurdle in the House, it will restore benefits through May, and provide retroactive benefits back to Dec. 28, when EUC expired. More than 2 million out-of-work Americans have been cut off from assistance since the end of last year.

The final passage in the Senate is a testament to the power of advocacy: Bread for the World members made 1,045 calls and sent 24,600 emails to senators. Many people who've been affected by the loss of benefits also told their stories and kept pressure on Congress through social media networks, such as Twitter. Without the loud cry from constituents across the nation, the bill may have died after the first attempt to pass it failed.

Approximately 40,000 people in Ohio are among those who've been cut off from benefits. On March 27, I accompanied Bread members who met with the staff of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in Columbus, Ohio. We relayed our hope that a deal would be reached and a solution implemented—a message the senator also received through calls and emails from across the state. Sen. Portman voted to restore unemployment benefits, and his leadership was critical in crafting the final bill.

In Illinois, where more than 110,000 people have lost benefits, my colleague Zach Schmidt asked several pastors in the state to sign on to a letter urging Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to pass EUC. More than 100 faith leaders— leaders who've see the devastation long-term unemployment has caused in their communities and congregations—responded. Like Sen. Portman, and three other Republicans, Sen. Kirk co-sponsored the legislation, which helped push it through final passage. (See how your senators voted here).

Now, as the bill moves to the House, where its future is uncertain, our advocacy work intensifies. In Ohio, we are already thinking of how we can reach out to Republican legislators who may cast key votes. Ohio Bread members will need to reach out to Reps. Bill Johnson (06), Patrick Tiberi (12), David Joyce (14), Steve Stivers (15), and James Renacci (16). While political observers can wait for Congress to act, our neighbors struggling to find work in a still-weakened economy cannot.

Roll Call reports that House Republicans are not feeling pressure to pass this bill. We must change that. Please call (800-826-3688) or email your representative today and urge him or her to vote to extend unemployment insurance. At the end of the week, House members will leave D.C., and head to their home districts for a two-week recess, providing opportunities for you to engage your representative by attending town hall meetings or setting up an in-district meeting. Your organizer can help you come up with a plan of action.

Bread for the World members in Ohio, Illinois, and other states across the country are thankful for the courage of elected officials like Sens. Kirk and Portman, who are willing to put politics aside and do what is  right for their constituents. And it is clear to us that the strength of your voices in calling on members to renew unemployment made all the difference this round. Let’s do it again.

Jon Gromek is regional organizer, central hub, at Bread for the World.

Happy 100th Birthday, Norman Borlaug

Borlaug_field"Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world," —Norman Borlaug (March 25, 1914 – September 12, 2009)

Dr. Norman Borlaug—scientist, father of the Green Revolution, and Nobel Peace Prize receipient— would've been 100 years old today.

Borlaug's work transformed modern agriculture and fed billions of people in the process. His development of high-yield, disease-resistant varieties of wheat and other crops doubled the world's food production, prevented famine across the globe, and showed the world that ending hunger is within our reach. 

In honor of Borlaug's great achievements , there will be celebrations of his life around the world today, including the unveiling of a Borlaug statue in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. The state of Iowa, Borlaug's birthplace, commissioned a 7-ft. bronze statue in his likeness to be displayed in the National Statuary Hall Collection.

Borlaug had special ties to Bread for the World, and served as an early board member of the organization. "No single person has contributed more to relieving world hunger than our friend, the late Norman Borlaug,"said Bread for the World President David Beckmann, in 2009. "Norman was truly the man who fed the world, saving up to a billion people from hunger and starvation."

The World Food Prize, which Borlaug founded, is collecting pledges from people around the world, who have vowed to continue Borlaug's work, in ways both big and small. Some have said they will  reduce their personal food waste, others have said they will work with small-scale farmers.

"Nothing could pay greater homage to the life's work of Norman Borlaug and his Green Revolution than to eradicate hunger around the world,"said Beckmann, who received the World Food Prize in 2010.

While the number of hungry people has dropped significantly over the past two decades, 842 million people continue to struggle with hunger every day. So, advocacy on any scale, whether calling your member of Congress and asking him or her to protect domestic nutrition programs, or sending handwritten letters in support of U.S. food aid reform, is an important, worthy tribute to Borlaug's legacy.

Photo: Norman Borlaug in 1964, scoring wheat plants for rust resistance in wheat breeding plots near Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, northern Mexico. (The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center/CIMMYT)

Advocacy in Action: Gathered and Sent

Advocacy-in-actionOn an unseasonably warm morning in early February in Cincinnati, Ohio, more than 30 new and long-time Bread for the World members from around the region gathered at St. Monica-St. George Catholic Church to renew and recharge their efforts to build the political will to end hunger and to address the realities of hunger and poverty in their community and around the world.

Rev. Dr. K. Nicholas Yoda, pastor of Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church and professor at Xavier University, rallied those in attendance: "Call it a career move for the human race, but we are facing a goal worthy of our generation, of our country, of our religion, and Jesus is leading the way. It is the defeat of humanity’s oldest enemies: poverty, hunger."

Bread for the World has had a long and vibrant history in Southwest Ohio, serving as a prophetic voice to the area’s legislators for more than three decades. Local Bread members hoped to broaden the table at which they gather for fellowship and their work together. The Bread team in Cincinnati also celebrated new relationships, like the one with the HELP program, which is featured in Bread for the World Institute's 2014 Hunger Report: Ending Hunger in America, and deepened connections to long-time partners like Comboni Missionaries, both local organizations that work to end hunger.

In the coming year, Bread members hope to organize educational events in the area, continue to meet and lobby local legislators on hunger-related issues, coordinate Offerings of Letters across the region, and engage new partners and congregations in this work.

The activities of the members in this region are only one example of the similar good work by activists that is going on across the country. Bread organizers have been conducting relational campaigns that have so far seen more than 600 one-on-one meetings with members and citizens working to engage and reinvigorate our work in local communities. From these conversations, events like this one in Cincinnati have sprung up.

Pastor Yoda left those gathered that day with a charge to carry with them, which stands for all of us: "We stand at a crossroads where we need to stop giving excuses and offer solutions. We need to stop the dance of the one step forward and then two steps back and start marching with Christ, who has had his boots on for over 2,000 years!"

Photo: Bread for the World activists come together at local and national gatherings for inspiration and to be equipped for service. Rick Reinhard for Bread for the World.

Sen. Kirk Signals Support for Jobless Aid as Clergy Letter Tops 100 Signatures

'Unemployment Office' photo (c) 2011, Bytemarks - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

By Zach Schmidt

In mid-February, a dozen clergy from Chicago’s North Shore and South Side began signing and circulating a letter calling on Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to reinstate emergency unemployment compensation (EUC), which expired last December. Sen. Kirk had previously voted “no” twice, even though Illinois struggles with the third highest unemployment rate in the nation (8.9 percent). A group of clergy—led by Rabbi Ike Serotta of Lakeside Congregation in Highland Park (Sen. Kirk’s hometown) and Rev. Brian Roots of Christ United Methodist in Deerfield—have also asked for a meeting, so that they can tell Sen. Kirk in person why his vote is important to them. We will continue pushing for this meeting.

One month later, our list of religious leaders has grown tenfold, and Sen. Kirk has put his name on a bipartisan bill to extend EUC! We are excited about this victory, and we thank Sens. Kirk and Durbin for working together to help craft a short-term compromise that will bring relief to the more than 120,000 Illinoisans (and 2 million Americans) who have been cut off from this vital assistance.

But our work is not finished! The Senate is on recess next week, and the bill will not receive a vote until after the Senate is back in session on March 24, so we need to continue calling on Sen. Kirk to vote “yes” until it happens. Plus, this is a retroactive, five-month bill, so our long-term unemployed neighbors will again face an expiration of emergency assistance at the end of May. We also need to encourage our U.S. representatives to extend EUC, as the House will consider the issue once it passes the Senate.

There are still three job seekers for every job available in the United States, and until the economic recovery truly reaches our neighbors, we will continue calling on Sen. Kirk to support EUC—for the good of our communities and for the good of Illinois.

If you are a religious leader in Illinois, please sign and share our letter.

If you have been personally impacted by the expiration of EUC, we want to hear from you. Please share your story at the Circle of Protection "Faces and Facts" website.

Zach Schmidt is a Bread for the World regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

In the Beginning: Art Simon on the Origins of Bread for the World

Member-profile-artBy Rev. Arthur Simon

As Bread for the World begins its 40th anniversary year, a host of treasured memories come flooding to my mind. Let me share a few of them with you:

The church and the people in the poverty-stricken neighborhood in New York City that became the birthplace of Bread for the World [Trinity Lutheran Church on the Lower East Side].

Our awareness in those early days that providing emergency assistance, though essential, did not get at the underlying causes of hunger and poverty.

The discovery that almost nothing was being done to challenge Christians as citizens to use their influence on members of Congress for national action against hunger.

The group of faithful Christians (seven Catholics and seven Protestants) who served as an informal "think tank" to explore the idea of a "citizens lobby" against hunger.

All of these things led us to our vision of a faith-based, politically nonpartisan movement that might mobilize people in every state and congressional district to serve as an outcry for action by Congress on specific measures to reduce hunger here and abroad. From the start, we made the decision to anchor our work in the Gospel of God’s providential care and saving love in Jesus. And we decided to help people link their faith in Christ with our stewardship as citizens in order to obtain justice for hungry people.

It seemed a simple and obvious way of following Jesus. But it also seemed a gamble. Would it work? Some told me it would not work, that Christians are wedded to direct aid only. They said a response that moves into the political arena would press a button too hot to touch. Stick to Band-Aids, they advised.

We prayed for wisdom and invited God's blessing, then decided to launch Bread for the World nationally. We were full of hope but also prepared for possible failure. To our astonishment, an initial mailing brought in several thousand members, and Bread for the World was off and running.

Our first major initiative, a Right to Food Resolution, was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Republican Mark Hatfield (Ore.) and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Democrat Don Fraser (Minn.). At first, no one paid any attention. Then folks like you began to write, and churches across the country joined the campaign. Members of Congress began hearing from their own voters—first a few letters, then dozens, then hundreds. The Right to Food became a lively issue that attracted the support of religious leaders and the press. And after vigorous debate, Congress passed it.

The campaign for the Right to Food brought us thousands of new members and showed that a relatively small number of citizens could wield influence way out of proportion to our numbers — and get Congress to take action against hunger.

Forty years later, Bread for the World members are still at it. Thanks to you, our efforts to end hunger have been blessed beyond measure. And again thanks to you, Bread for the World’s future looks even more promising.

Rev. Arthur Simon is the founder and president emeritus of Bread for the World.

Celebrate Bread's anniversary with us!Plan to join us June 9 to 10 in Washington, D.C., to celebrate our 40 years of working together to end hunger. There will be a 40th anniversary dinner on Monday evening, June 9, and our annual Lobby Day on June 10. More details will be provided at www.bread.org/40 as they become available.

Photo: Matt Newell-Ching

Chicago-area Clergy Call on Sen. Mark Kirk to Help Illinois’ Unemployed

Unemployment

By Zach Schmidt

More than 100 religious leaders from the North Shore and elsewhere in the Chicago area have sent a letter to Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), calling on him to help families struggling with unemployment. The clergy have asked Sen. Kirk to support the extension of emergency unemployment compensation (EUC), a federal program that provides unemployment aid after state benefits have been exhausted. This aid helps families pay bills and put food on the table, while they seek work in a difficult job market. EUC expired last December, and Congress has so far been unable to reinstate it, causing more than 2 million people to lose this vital assistance, including more than 110,000 from Illinois.

Sen. Kirk has twice voted against reinstating EUC, even though the unemployment rate in Illinois is 8.9 percent—the third highest in the nation. The last vote, which happened in February, fell one vote short of passage. Sen. Kirk’s “no” is widely seen as decisive in killing that bill, and he will hold the key vote when the Senate again considers the bill, which may be as early as next week. [Update, 3/13: On March 13, Sen. Kirk added his name to a bipartisan bill to restore EUC. This issue will remain important in the weeks ahead, and we are still gathering signatures.]

Clergy in Illinois: to add your signature, please send your title, name, congregation, and email address to Zach Schmidt at zschmidt@bread.org.

The letter and signatures follow.

Continue reading "Chicago-area Clergy Call on Sen. Mark Kirk to Help Illinois’ Unemployed " »

Photography as an Act of Advocacy

Nia T. Photo
"Hope" is one of the photos featured in a Camden, N.J. Witnesses to Hunger exhibit held at a local gallery on Sept. 19, 2013. Of the work, photographer and Witnesses advocate Nia T writes, "'Hunger lives here and so does hope.' I like that saying. That’s something. That’s deep. It means that they’re helping. They’re helping the environment. They’re helping the community." (Photo by Nia T/Witnesses to Hunger)

Denver resident Robin Dickinson and her family rely on two main sources for food: their garden and their SNAP benefits. In November, when across-the-board cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program took effect, Dickinson also saw her garden's yield diminish because of frost. Dickinson took a picture of one of her withered tomato plants; the shot is included in the photo project "Hunger Through My Lens," sponsored by Hunger Free Colorado.

"It seemed especially cruel that SNAP benefits were cut at the same time winter frost killed off the last of our tomatoes," Dickinson wrote in the photo’s caption.

The "Hunger Through My Lens" project gives cameras to SNAP recipients and asks them to document their experiences with hunger. The photos drive home the importance of anti-hunger efforts in ways that statistics often can't: it's one thing to hear about food deserts, but quite another to see one woman's photo collage of beautiful bananas in a grocery store in an affluent neighborhood juxtaposed with bruised, expensive produce at a corner bodega. "Hunger Through My Lens" has received quite a bit of media attention lately, but it isn't the first program of its kind.

Barbie Izquierdo, whose story was featured in the documentary A Place at the Table and Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, became engaged in anti-hunger work through Drexel University’s Witnesses to Hunger program. Izquierdo was given a cell phone with a camera, and asked to document her life through photos of the hunger and poverty in her Philadelphia neighborhood. Izquierdo is a nationally recognized speaker on hunger, lobbies on Capitol Hill in support of anti-hunger programs, and has reached millions through her documentary appearance, but her path to advocacy started, in part, with those photos.

Last year, at a time when the SNAP program was facing especially devastating cuts, the Witnesses program in Camden, N.J., held a gallery show to display some of the photographs taken by project participants. Bread for the World organizer Larry Hollar wrote about the participatory advocacy project and the photos on display, and how they conveyed not defeat at that crucial time, but hope for a world without hunger.

This month, in observance of National Nutrition Month, Feeding America is calling on people to show their support for nutrition through photography—it's holding a Photo-A-Day challenge. Feeding America is asking participants to snap a pic each day, based on a different words or phrase ("hungry," "fresh," "on a budget") and share those photos on social media sites. It's yet another way for people who care about ending hunger and malnutrition—and, in some cases, are dealing with hunger and malnutrition themselves—to use the power of the lens to bring attention to these important issues.

The Road to Advocacy: A Conversation at The Justice Conference

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Lynne Hybels listens as Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy speaks during the "Women in Social Justice: Educating Yourself for Advocacy" panel discussion at the 2014 Justice Conference in Los Angeles, Calif., on Feb. 21. (Robin Stephenson)

Once you have seen injustice in the world, it cannot be unseen. You want to do something – but what? How can we work toward restorative justice in our communities, our nation, and our world?

Restoration of God’s vision of the world as it should be, as opposed to how the world is, was a theme of this year’s Justice Conference, which took place in Los Angeles last week. Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy, interim director of church relations at Bread for the World, participated in the panel "Women in Social Justice: Educating Yourself for Advocacy" with teacher and advocate Belinda Bauman, Willow Creek Community Church co-founder and Ten for Congo founder Lynne Hybels, Kilns College vice president of development Melissa McCreery, and moderator Chelsie Frank.

The road to advocacy had different on-ramps for each of the women. For Vaillancourt-Murphy it began by living and working with migrant workers in Oregon after finishing college. Frustrated with a system that prevented people from flourishing, she needed to do something. Biblical examples of advocates like Nehemiah and Ruth pointed her toward Bread for the World, and the need to address root causes of injustice. “When we connect our story and God’s story, the world transforms,” Vaillancourt-Murphy said.

McCreery used her training as an educator as her foothold in justice work. The response to injustice is often driven by emotion, but she pointed out that injustices also have political, cultural, and even economic roots that must be considered. A holistic approach is vital to avoiding burnout. “We need to educate people to be successful leaders, so they don’t spin their wheels around the emotional context,” McCreery said.

Bauman's journey to advocacy began with a sputtering engine. “The pothole I fell into,” she told the audience, “was because I was waiting for someone to give me permission.” She emphasized that once you have found something you are deeply passionate about, finding good resources and educating yourself is your responsibility. The moral of her story is that persistence pays off. “Failure is one of our greatest assets and we learn from it,” she said. Bauman encouraged new advocates to keep moving forward in their roles as citizens, and said they must push through fear to change the world. “Capitol Hill feels like Kansas, but you begin,” she said.

When Frank asked the panel how an advocate without a position in an organization could begin, Hybels turned to Vaillancourt-Murphy and said, “That is why I’m grateful for Krisanne and Bread for the World. They make it easy.” Hybels said her view of the church’s role as praying and building awareness expanded to include advocacy once she saw that transforming unjust systems required changes at the policy level. “The first thing I did was I got on the computer, found my representative and my senators, and emailed them," said Hybels. "They just need to know.”

Searching for a foothold in transformational advocacy can feel lonely for the new faithful advocate, but Bauman offered a piece of advice for them: find others who are passionate at the soul level and, “stir each other up to good works.” The most important thing, she advised, is to “fearlessly, courageously, humbly, and intelligently begin.”

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