551 posts categorized "Advocacy"
A number of faith groups, including Bread for the World, sent the following letter to the House of Representatives regarding the version of the farm bill that the House is expected to vote on today. You can also lend your voice by calling your representative today and urging him or her to vote “no” on this farm bill. Call 1-800-326-4941, ask for your representative, and leave a message telling him or her to opposed any farm bill that cuts international food aid and leaves nutrition programs vulnerable to deep cuts.
July 11, 2013
As people of faith working to reduce hunger and poverty and urging sustainable stewardship of our resources, we urge you to oppose proposals to dismantle the farm bill. Proposals to “split” the farm bill will put critical programs, particularly SNAP (formerly food stamps), at risk of deep cuts and harmful policy changes.
Passing a farm bill that contains only the farm policies and commodity provisions would almost certainly lead to a nutrition bill with SNAP cuts that far exceed even the $20 billion proposed in the earlier version of the farm bill. Thus, we view a vote in favor of a separate farm policy bill as a vote in favor of uncertainty and possibly catastrophic cuts to SNAP.
Our nation’s food and farm policies as embodied in the farm bill impact people and communities from rural America to developing countries. Historically, there have been good reasons to connect good nutrition policy with good farm policy, and this partnership is essential to the long-term health of all of the programs involved. Splitting the farm bill and making SNAP vulnerable to deep cuts will not only hamper the ability of low-income Americans to put meals on the table, but will also have negative consequences for food producers as well. According to USDA, 16 cents of every dollar spent on food goes back to farmers.
We urge the House to work on a comprehensive farm bill that protects and strengthens nutrition programs and encourages sustainable stewardship of our resources.
American Friends Service Committee
Bread for the World
Church World Service
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Disciples Justice Action Network
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
National Council of Jewish Women
Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)
Union for Reform Judaism
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society
The morning of June 27 was a hot one in our Nation’s Capital, but that did not stop a dedicated and passionate group of individuals from coming together to pray for just immigration reform.
The #pray4reform campaign, a weeklong event held June 24-28, was planned to coincide with the Senate's vote on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Why gather to pray for immigration reform? The hope was that congressional leaders would vote “yes” on a the bill (S.744), which includes a path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million immigrants working in the United States without authorization. On June 28, the Senate passed that bill, but there is still much work to be done. Members of the House will now take up the issue, and we must continue to urge congressional leaders to create a more just immigration system.
The #pray4reform campaign brought together evangelical leaders for daily prayer at the Peace Circle in front of the Capitol. During our small worship ceremony, a mobile billboard drove around the city with the message “Praying for immigrants. Praying for Congress.” Gathering around the Peace Circle to connect with God as Congress voted on such crucial legislation nearby was an amazing experience.
As the issue moves to the House, we continue to #pray4reform, and we hope you will do the same and continue to urge your members of Congress to support just immigration reform. Together, we can help push the issues of immigration and hunger to the forefront, so that no individual has to live with hunger.
Kiara Ortiz and Minju Zukowski are media relations interns in Bread for the World's communications departmentPhoto: Rev. Noel Castellanos, chief executive officer of the Christian Community Development Association, at the June 27 #pray4reform event at the U.S. Capitol. (Minju Zukowski)
On June 20, 2013, the House of Representatives brought a farm bill to the floor for a vote, but failed to pass the legislation. This was the first time that a farm bill has ever failed in the House. The bill included more than $20 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and $2.5 billion in cuts to international food aid.
"The fact that we were able to speak out and the bill failed is a victory for hungry people in the United States and around the world," says Bread for the World policy analyst Christine Ashley in the short video above. "It sends a message to Congress that these kinds of cuts can’t stand."
"If we really want to end hunger, then you’ve also got to weigh in on laws and structures that affect hungry people," says Bread for the World President David Beckmann in the clip. "The farm bill is a clear example of this."
Stay tuned to the Bread Blog for updates and action alerts related to the farm bill.
By Theresa Martin
More than 3.5 million unauthorized immigrants in America live below the poverty line. Many of them flee hunger in their home countries only to arrive in the United States and find themselves struggling to feed themselves and their families yet again. In a country where 33 million tons of food is wasted each year, and roughly 75 percent of our farm workers are migrants, how is it that so many immigrants go hungry? “For I was hungry and you gave me food… I was a stranger and you welcomed me”—have we forgotten Jesus’ words?
I recently had the opportunity, along with immigration advocates from across the country, to attend the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference, hosted by Esperanza, an organization that works to support Latino communities in the United States. Both Democratic and Republican leaders spoke to the topic of immigration reform, and attendees had the opportunity to lobby members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
With Vice President Joe Biden presiding, yesterday afternoon members of the Senate delivered their one-word votes on comprehensive immigration reform. Sixty-eight said “aye” and, with that, a bipartisan bill (S.744) that includes a path to citizenship for roughly 11 million undocumented U.S. workers passed the Senate.
We are grateful for the phone calls and emails you delivered to Capitol Hill over the last week, spreading the message that immigration and hunger go hand in hand. (You can see how your senator voted here).
The bill, although imperfect, is an important first step in changing a broken immigration system that perpetuates hunger. As undocumented immigrants experience disproportionate rates of food insecurity, legal status would provide greater opportunities to overcome poverty.
Earlier in the day, Bread for the World and other members of the Evangelical Immigration Roundtable participated in a prayer vigil in Washington, D.C. The group reflected on scripture from Matthew 25, which calls Christians into relationship with the stranger, and prayed together for immigration reform that would protect the most vulnerable. “God, when you grip our hearts we are turned toward our brothers and sisters on the margins of society,” said Rev. Noel Castellano, leading the group in prayer.
Advocates will need the perseverance that comes with faith, as there is still much work to be done. The fate of immigration reform in the House of Representatives has yet to be determined. We will continue to urge representatives to include provisions in a final bill that reduce hunger at home and abroad.
At Bread for the World, ending malnutrition is an essential part of the work to end hunger at home and abroad.
Globally, an estimated 165 million children under the age of five are stunted. Inadequate nutrition during the 1,000 day-window from a woman's pregnancy through her child’s second birthday impairs development. Research shows that adults who did not receive adequate nutrition as children can lose up to 10 percent of their lifetime earnings. In the United States, child poverty rates are on the rise, yet the WIC program, proven to lower infant mortality rates and improve school performance, is in danger of losing funding because of sequestration. When a nation’s children begin their lives with challenges created by malnutrition and hunger, it becomes more difficult to make good on the promise of a prosperous future.
But faithful advocacy has the power to change the future.
To advance the millennium development goals of eradicating hunger and extreme poverty while also reducing child mortality and malnutrition, food aid with improved nutrition that targets vulnerable mothers and children must be central to development programs—and it must be properly funded. Yet, unless Congress acts to end sequestration it is estimated that more than 571 thousand children could lose food interventions that can prevent the irreversible damage caused by malnutrition.
God’s kingdom is without borders; nutrition during the first 1,000 days matters as much if you live in Bangladesh or Baltimore. The WIC program provides nearly 9 million pregnant or nursing mothers and vulnerable children access to adequate nutrition, education, and health care referrals. As sequestration continues, it will erode the effectiveness of the program. Congress must replace the automatic cuts with a balanced plan that includes revenues.
Both chambers of Congress are working on spending bills, and the House numbers assume sequestration is here to stay. And unlike the provision in sequestration whereby cuts are split evenly between defense and non-defense programs in the budget, the House proposal moves all cuts to non-defense programs. A unified and faithful chorus of voices must again tell Congress that the federal budget cannot be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable.
Being faithful advocates during one of the most polarized political periods in history, with a constant barrage of proposals to cut programs for poor and hungry, is difficult, but we know that your advocacy on behalf of hungry and poor people works. Even with $2.7 trillion in deficit reduction already enacted, programs that help hungry and poor people have been largely protected. Calls and emails helped stop a recent proposal to cut the SNAP program by $20.5 billion, protecting the program at current levels, for now.
These victories and the challenges ahead in the journey to end hunger are possible because of the engagement and support of Bread for the World members. Please consider joining our summer effort to help hungry people by making a gift to Bread. Because of a few generous donors, between now and July 12 your donation will be doubled!
Do you know what someone on SNAP (food stamps) looks like? I often hear the stereotype that SNAP recipients are deadbeats and leeches who sit on the couch all day, refusing to get a job.
But that is so far from reality. I know because I was on SNAP. Hard times happen, and sometimes people need a hand.
Food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or SNAP — are a lifeline for 1 out of 6 Americans. This week Congress is voting on the farm bill, which funds SNAP. The new bill could cut SNAP benefits for 800,000 families and kick 2 million people off of the program.
But thanks to your support and involvement, Bread for the World is fighting to make sure this doesn’t happen. Just a few days ago, I joined hundreds of compassionate Bread members like you who came to Washington, D.C., to talk with members of Congress.
You can help keep that momentum going by joining our summer effort to help hungry people. A few generous donors will match your gift to Bread with one of their own—up to $85,000!
I never imagined I would need to receive SNAP benefits. I’m a single mom who has always worked full time. But when the recession hit a few years ago, I was laid off.
Three weeks later, I began to receive unemployment. It was helpful, but didn’t replace what I was making. I started to apply for every job that I could. Eventually, I found myself applying at McDonald's—and was told that I was overqualified.
Feeling desperate, I realized that if I was going to take care of my son, I was going to have to ask for help. This was like admitting defeat. But I learned that the strongest people ask for help.
SNAP was there when I needed it, and we need to make sure it will be there for others. That’s why your gift today is so important. People should never have to face hard times or hunger alone.
Dawn Phipps is a nurse and Bread for the World advocate living in Boise, Idaho.
Photo: Dawn and her son. (Photo courtesy of Dawn Phipps)
Updated, 6:15 a.m., 11:34 a.m., 1:23 p.m. 6/20/13
Debate on the House farm bill began today, with a final vote expected in the next week. The representatives will consider as many as 103 amendments, some of which could increase hunger, and others that would help hungry people. Below is a rundown of some of the key amendments Bread for the World will be closely monitoring. Ultimately, we are pushing for “no” votes on any final legislation that cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) or food aid. Even if you have already done so, please call your representative at 1-800-326-4941 or send an email today.
The SNAP cuts included in the House bill could kick at least 2 million people off of the program, reduce benefits for more than 800,000 families, and leave 210,000 children without free school meals. Cuts to food aid programs could cost lives and hinder the ability of the United States to effectively reach millions of people in need. These cuts must not stand.
Amendments Bread for the World Supports
- McGovern Amendment (No.1): Restores the $20.5 billion in SNAP cuts included in the House bill by cutting commodity programs and crop insurance payments. Bread for the World strongly supports. Amendment No. 1 to restore SNAP funding failed in a recorded vote of 188 yays and 234 nays. To see how your representative voted, click here.
- Royce-Engel Amendment (No. 15): Includes common-sense reforms providing much needed flexibility in the Food for Peace program. Will help the United States reach an additional 4 million disaster victims through overseas food assistance without spending any additional U.S. taxpayer dollars. Bread for the World strongly supports. Amendment No. 15 to reform food aid narrowly failed in a recorded vote of 203 yays and 220 nays. To see how your representative voted, click here.
- Duckworth Amendment (No. 68): Requires USDA to conduct a study and report back to Congress its findings on the impact of SNAP cuts on demand for charitable food services. Amendment No. 68 adopted in a bloc-voice vote.
Amendments Bread for the World Opposes
A number of harmful amendments have been submitted that would reduce benefits or make access to the SNAP program more difficult for qualifying participants.
- Conaway Amendment (No.23): Creates a provision in the SNAP program that would reduce benefits to qualifying participants by 10 percent if Congress fails to pass a farm bill. Amendment No. 23 rejected by voice vote, and withdrawn from recorded vote by Rep. Conaway.
- Kingston, Westmoreland, Austin, and Scott Amendment (No. 24): Repeals the SNAP benefit boost enacted in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This benefit boost is set to expire in November.
- Huelskamp, Goodlatte, Neugebauer, Jordon, DeSantis, Stewart, and Chris Amendment(No. 101): Cuts SNAP funding by $31 billion and also eliminates programs such as SNAP nutrition education and job training, which help participants transition out of poverty. Although the SNAP program has existing work requirements, this amendment imposes additional requirements, making it more difficult for qualifying participants to access the safety-net program when they need it. Amendment 101 adopted in a vote of 175 yays and 250 nays.
- Southerland, Westmoreland, Kingston, Bentivolio, and Schweikert Amendment (No. 102): Creates a state option that allow states to change their SNAP work requirements to match stricter federal welfare work requirements and financially incentivizes states to reduce SNAP caseload by providing states funding based on how much they reduce caseload. Amendment 102 failed in a vote of 227 yays and 198 nays.
- Reed Amendment (No.103): Ex-offenders who have committed a set of specific violent crimes would be permanently banned from ever receiving SNAP. Amendment No. 103 adopted in a bloc-voice vote.
We will update this blog post as each amendment receives a vote over the next few days.
By Robin Stephenson
Each month, Bread for the World’s organizing and government relations departments team up for a grassroots conference call and webinar to make sure our members have the most up-to-date information on polices moving through Congress that affect hungry and poor people. Yesterday, Bread’s director of government relations, Eric Mitchell, began the briefing by stating that there is a lot going on in Washington, D.C., right now—immigration, appropriations, sequestration, and voting the House farm bill, which includes devastating cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) and international food aid.
In the Senate, members continue to debate immigration reform and are expected to vote before the July 4 break. Hunger and immigration are connected and Bread will continue to monitor progress and take targeted action.
Both the House and Senate are grappling with appropriation bills, and the size of each pie is currently very different, reported policy analyst Amelia Kegan. The appropriations committees differ on several points, including sequestration, in their calculations, and if there is no agreement by Sept. 30 when the government’s fiscal year ends, the vast distance between drafts will likely result in a continuing resolution. Sequestration, which harms both long and short term responses to hunger, could be averted through debt ceiling negotiations, but that depends on voters. Kegan said that during her meetings with congressional offices on the Hill, she is often asked to tell Bread members to speak up by making calls to Congress. “Just because it's not in the news, doesn't mean it doesn't matter,” she said.
But the main issue of the day, on which the current call to action is focused, is the House farm bill which, in its current form, includes $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP and $2.5 billion in cuts to food aid. As of last night, Mitchell reported that the House Rules Committee had received 225 amendments—including 75 that impact nutrition and two on food aid—some that threaten to increase hunger. We will monitor those amendments and, if they reach the floor, provide updates here on the Bread Blog. Not all of the amendments are harmful, though—Bread for the World is actively asking for support of the McGovern amendment, which would restore SNAP funding. An amendment on food aid by Reps. Royce and Engle would also decrease hunger by increasing the flexibility and efficiency of food aid programs. Ultimately, a final bill that includes any cuts to programs that help hungry and poor people, either at home or abroad, must be met with a resounding “no.” But that will only happen if you make calls and get your networks to speak up.
Stating the sad reality that has remained true with each cost-cutting proposal since the budget negotiations began, LaVida Davis, Bread's director of organizing, said that “the people that are the most vulnerable get thrown under the bus first, so we have to be vigilant.” The sounds of ringing phones should be echoing throughout the halls of Congress today and continue until a final vote has been taken. Let them know you are listening.
We will continue to follow and report on any new developments around immigration, sequestration, the budget, and the farm bill. The next conference call and webinar will be July 16. Below is the slide show from last night’s webinar portion.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
By Robin Stephenson
This week the Senate passed its version of the farm bill, with 66 “yes” votes and 27 “no” votes. The Senate version included $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP, the program that serves as our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. As high rates of unemployment and underemployment and a tough economic climate persist, this safety-net program has been a godsend for those struggling to make ends meet. Now is not the time to cut a program that is reducing hunger in America.
Next week, the House of Representatives is expected to begin voting on its version of the farm bill, which includes even more drastic cuts to the domestic nutrition program than the Senate’s bill: SNAP would be slashed by $20.5 billion under the House proposal. If these huge cuts become law, millions of families would see a reduction in their nutrition assistance – vulnerable populations such as the elderly and children would be hit especially hard. Churches and charities, for all they do, cannot absorb such an increase in need.
It is critical that Bread members speak out now. Even if you have already done so, contact your representative again. House members must hear repeatedly from constituents that a farm bill with any cuts to SNAP should be met with a “no” vote, and such extreme cuts need to be met with extreme outrage.
Silence is approval, but a loud response from voters calling for protection of programs for hungry and poor people can have a long-term effect. “If you defeat the SNAP cuts in the farm bill, they’ll start taking anti-hunger advocacy seriously,” says Eric Mitchell, Bread for the World’s director of government relations. “When it comes to the farm bill,” he explains, “many members of Congress cater to all the different special interests; it‘s time they take nutrition seriously.”
Coalition partners are gearing up for a coordinated call-in day on Tuesday, June 18. Early next week, expect to receive an action alert from Bread for the World asking you to contact Congress, even if you called or emailed as recently as last week. “This is a critical time,” says Mitchell.
Mitchell, along with the government relations team and the organizing department, will give an update on the farm bill and other key issues during next Tuesday’s national grassroots conference call and webinar, so be sure to register for this session. SNAP, food aid, and the latest news on the sequester will be discussed.
Bread for the World opposes any cuts to SNAP in the farm bill and is asking members of Congress to vote “no” if the bill comes to the floor. If the House version passes, then the House and Senate bills enter conference, meaning they come up with a compromise between the two bills, which would then be voted on by both chambers. Going into conference with $20.5 billion in SNAP cuts as a starting point would make it extremely difficult to come to a compromise that would protect programs that help hungry and poor people.
If the House version of the farm bill is defeated on the floor, some options for moving forward might include sending the draft back to the agriculture committee for changes, another short- or long-term extension of the farm bill, or leadership may choose to vote on the Senate bill.
But no matter what is decided, Bread for the World will continue to spread the message that SNAP works and should not be cut in any final piece of farm bill legislation.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.