Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

615 posts categorized "Advocacy"

For Third Year, Eric Mitchell Named a Top Lobbyist

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Eric Mitchell, director of government relations at Bread for the World, addresses anti-hunger advocates before the 2014 Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. (Bread for the World).


For the third time in as many years, Eric Mitchell, director of government relations at Bread for the World, has been named in The Hill newspaper as a top grassroots lobbyist.

The tribute is given each year to a selection of individuals deemed by the newspaper as instrumental in shaping federal policy. Mitchell was recognized for his work influencing anti-hunger legislation.

Mitchell and his policy team spend hundreds of hours on Capitol Hill speaking with and providing data to lawmakers and their staffs on legislation that will help end hunger. But, Mitchell stresses, Bread for the World members actually get them in the door.

“We might have the specialized knowledge to speak about the details of a piece of legislation, like how The Food for Peace Reform Act will get more food aid to millions more hungry people,” says Mitchell, “but members of Congress would never listen to us if they were not hearing from voters back home that ending hunger should be a priority.” 

And when advocates report in-district visits with their members of Congress to their regional organizers, Mitchell and his team follow up with the D.C. offices, increasing the impact of our members' congressional visits.

Mitchell says it is a privilege to represent the faith voice on the Hill.  “We bring something special to the table. There is a church in every congressional district in every state.”

Working closely with members of Congress, he knows the influence the faith voice carries.  “Members of Congress constantly say that the faith community’s voice is important on so many issues,” he says. “Probably more so than any other special interest group, the faith community has leverage to influence public policy both at home and in D.C.”

Congratulations to Mitchell, his staff, and faithful advocates for this distinction.

 

Vote to End Hunger

IVoteToEndHunger

By David Beckmann

Make no mistake: This year's midterm election is incredibly important — and it is less than two weeks away.

It's not just our chance to elect the next group of decision-makers in our country. It's our opportunity to bring hunger to the forefront and let the candidates know where voters stand.

If we miss this moment to galvanize our communities of faith and politicians against hunger, we have little chance of making hunger a priority in the next term, and as we pave the way for the next president.

You can help Bread for the World seize this important opportunity by pledging to take a stand for those most in need this election season. By raising your voice, you'll show there is a huge constituency — and political power — ready to demand change in the service of God. And right now, everyone who answers this call to end hunger will receive a FREE car magnet. It's our way of saying thanks for joining this important movement, and it helps share our Christian vision of a world without hunger.

Your voice and your vote are essential to achieving our goal of ending hunger in the United States and globally by 2030. It begins with people just like you, sharing your Christian values and voting for candidates who prioritize hunger issues.

We must make it clear that God wants us to build a future where hunger is a rare and temporary challenge, not the shared experience of approximately 49 million Americans that it is today. It will take education, training, key partnerships, and faithful advocacy to ensure our values reach the floor of Congress and the president's desk.

But before all of that can happen, we need you to join us and stand up for what we believe in. Sign our simple pledge now.

We've set a goal of 5,000 Christians to affirm their faith by pledging to end hunger. This will send a strong message to the president and Congress that there is a key voting bloc that will hold them accountable.

This truly is your chance to tackle one of the most important issues of our lifetime in a meaningful way, plus you'll receive a free car magnet to help share our vision with more people. It's a win-win!

Together, we can make a difference. Will you join me?

David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World

 

A Mercy Story

SU Church Alter
Silliman University church. (Adlai Amor)

By Adlai Amor

Bread staff are often invited to preach in congregations across the country. For Bread for the World Sunday, Adlai Amor, director of communications, was invited to preach at the Union Church in Waban in Newton, Mass., and to make a presentation on "Advocacy in a time of Hyper-Partisanship." Here is an excerpt of his sermon when he shared an experience of mercy and compassion during one of his family's most difficult times.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? 

Micah 6:8

Justice. Mercy. Humility.

I often do not share my mercy story in the United States, other than if I am among Filipinos. But since the late Philippine senator Ninoy Aquino, father of current Philippine president Noynoy Aquio, spent the last years of his life here in Newton, I will share it with you.  

I was just a high school student at Silliman University when Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. Ninoy Aquino, other opposition senators, and hundreds of student activists including many from my alma mater (established by Presbyterian missionaries) were arrested.

The economy tanked amid all the uncertainty. I remember my father, a lawyer, earning only the equivalent of $2 in October, November, and December that year. Two dollars to feed, clothe, and educate a family of 7 children in three months. We made it only because of the compassion of friends who had more than we had and my father’s family pooling all their resources to see us through until better times. 

It was a time when I, driven by a sudden lack of freedom, began to take my faith more seriously. But we were luckier than many. Other students, family and friends who were arrested by the military suffered much more. In our worship services, our pastor often drew on Micah 6:8. He stressed that in those times, mercy, compassion, and kindness were our best weapons in fighting injustice and in ensuring that our imprisoned families and friends were cared for.

Several Silliman Church leaders were models of compassion – being kind not only to those who were imprisoned, but also to their jailers. Young soldiers who did not fully understand what they were doing there and why these people were in a military jail.

Thinking back on it, I realize that many members of the Silliman Church and the university community were actually modern Micahs, but working quietly underground. Their roles were certainly not minor, but huge to those who were in prison and to those who imprisoned them. Our weapon of choice was kindness and mercy. Kindness and mercy not only to our friends and family, but also to our foes, the jailer-soldiers and their military commanders.

Justice. Mercy. Humility.

These are what God requires of us. Not just one of them, but all three. I must confess that advocacy is hard work. Advocating justly, mercifully, and with humility is especially difficult to do. There are times when I doubt that God has called me to be an advocate, but God refuses to give up on me. With such love, I cannot simply give up on God.


October Webinar Recap: Elections to Lame Duck

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Congress returns to Washington, D.C. November 12.  (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson    

The halls of Congress remain relatively quiet as members are in their home districts and states during the last couple of weeks before the midterm elections. They will return to Washington, D.C., on November 12 to get back to the nation’s business. Will they bring back a new commitment to end hunger?

Stephen Hill, Bread for the World’s senior organizer for elections, says that depends on how Bread members are engaging current and potential members of Congress in the next two weeks.

Speaking to Bread for the World members during the monthly legislative update, Hill said, “Making hunger an elections issue requires advocates to build capacity, build relationships, and build for the future.”  Hill has been pioneering new practices to make hunger an election issue in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, just outside Washington, D.C.

Bread for the World believes we can end hunger by 2030 by building political will to make ending hunger a priority for our nation’s lawmakers. Sending lawmakers to Washington, D.C., with a mandate to end hunger begins on the campaign trail when voters engage them on the issues publicly.  Hill urged advocates to use the election resources designed to make hunger an issue in the next few weeks and in the next couple of years as we head toward the presidential elections of 2016.

Senior domestic policy analyst Christine Meléndez Ashley told Bread members what to expect in the post-election landscape. 

In November, Congress will return to the nation’s capital for what is referred to as a lame duck session:  the final session of the previous Congress before the newly elected 114th Congress begins work in the new year. The first order of business will be the budget, which was extended earlier in the year but expires on December 2. Congress must also pass the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act and work on a bill to renew $85 billion in tax breaks for individuals and businesses before the short session ends, which is expected to be on December 11.

Several issues that affect hungry people remain unresolved in the 113th Congress.

With two pieces of legislation affecting international hunger, Meléndez urged Bread for the World members to continue asking their members of Congress to cosponsor key bills: In the Senate, The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) would free up much-needed food-aid resources to feed millions more people in need. Also in the Senate and House is The Feed the Future Global Food Security Act of 2014 (S. 2909/ H.R. 5656) – legislation that will give the U.S. government the tools and resources it needs to better combat chronic hunger and malnutrition as well as to expand and better coordinate U.S. investments in improving global food security. Bread for the World will continue to press members on passing immigration legislation that addresses hunger both here and in sending countries.

The next national grassroots conference call and webinar is scheduled for November 18.

 

Voting Ensures Communities are Fed, Safe, and Economically Stable

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(Theresa Thompson, Creative Commons)

By Angelique Walker-Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing Can Get in Our Way This Midterm Election

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By Stephen Padre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bread Team Fights Hunger in Missouri

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


by Beth DeHaven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Top Ten Hungriest and Poorest States

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


by Eric Mitchell

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

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

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

Americans At Risk of Hunger

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

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

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

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

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

10 Hungriest States

10 Highest Poverty States

1

Arkansas

1

Mississippi

2

Mississippi

2

New Mexico

3

Texas

3

Louisiana

4

Tennessee

4

Arkansas

5

North Carolina

5

Georgia

6

Missouri

6

District of Columbia

7

Alabama

7

Kentucky

8

Georgia

8

Alabama

9

Louisiana

9

Arizona

10

Kentucky

10

South Carolina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bread President David Beckmann Encouraged by Latest Trends in Hunger

4699824730_e98fe88d47_bBy Robin Stephenson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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