Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

611 posts categorized "Advocacy"

Faith Leaders Tell Missouri Senators to Protect Food Aid in Op-ed

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Lutheran Development Service distributes cooking oil to people affected by a 2004 drought in Swaziland. Many U.S. food-aid items are distributed by private relief and development organizations supported by U.S. churches.  (Stephen Padre)

Local newspapers can be a powerful and public way to message your members of Congress as well as bring attention to hunger issues.

Faith leaders in Missouri published an op-ed last week in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opposing a harmful change to U.S. food aid. In the editorial, titled "A provision in Congress that hurts taxpayers and the hungry," Rev. Roger R. Gustafson, Dr. Jim Hill, and Meg Olson call on Missouri senators to reject a provision slipped in to the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 that would increase cargo preference.

The bill, which recently passed the House, increases the percentage of U.S. food aid required to be shipped on private U.S. shipping vessels. In effect, this takes away an additional $75 million per year from much-needed U.S. international food-aid programs. Both senators for Missouri, Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), sit on the commerce committee, which will soon consider this issue.

"As we read in the Book of Proverbs, 'A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but an accurate weight is his delight.' A present-day “false balance” that harms taxpayers and hungry people was tucked into a bill heading to the U.S. Senate, and it must be removed," the faith leaders wrote in the op-ed.

"The false balance in question is an obscure, one-sentence provision in an otherwise unrelated bill passed recently by the U.S. House of Representatives. This provision would tilt the balance in the wrong direction — against fiscal responsibility and against millions of hungry people around the world. As faith leaders called to be stewards of our resources and to serve our neighbors both here and around the world — and especially 'the least of these' — we find this unacceptable, and we call on our U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill to correct the balance and remove this unjust provision."

Read the editorial in its entirety on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website.

*

If your member of Congress also sits on the commerce committee, now is the time to speak up.  The committee will soon begin drafting their own version of the bill and without an outcry from faithful advocates, the cargo-preference stipulation could take food from nearly 2 million hungry people. This provision, as the authors write, is an unjust balance. Both taxpayers and the hungry deserve better.

Every member of Congress relies on local media to gauge public opinion on legislation and determine their constituents' priorities. Learn more about how to influence the media on Bread's website and call your regional organizer if you would like to help organize an editorial in your own state.

Facing Goliath: Faithful Advocacy and Food Aid Reform

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Because of policy changes allowing flexibility in how we deliver food aid, USAID was able to commit $10 million dollars to be used to purchase food in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.  (USAID photo)

I have a confession to make: I occasionally have moments of despair as an anti-hunger advocate. Then I go through a few stages that remind me faith has the power to move mountains – or topple giants as the case may be. 

Despair weighed me down when I learned a harmful bill, which cuts international food aid to starving people in deference to shipping companies hungry for profit, passed the House. Three private, foreign-owned shipping companies would largely reap the benefits of a cargo preference provision quietly added to the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 (HR 4005). Their profit would come at the expense of U.S. food=aid programs. The bill  now sits in the Senate Commerce Committee for consideration

I’m now hopeful that we can fight this harmful provision, but it took me a little while to get here. If you sometimes feel hopeless in your work to end hunger, don’t worry—it’s normal and necessary. Sometimes we must feel sadness and despair—they are the very things that move us to act. Usually, I experience this in four stages: 

I feel sad and tired.

I recall a scene broadcast on the news after Typhoon Haiyan devastates the Philippines: A distraught teenager wails and beats on the one remaining wall of what was once his family’s home– his lifeless mother lies in the rubble nearby and his father looks at the camera and pleads for help. I cry. The next scene shows international compassion for humanity as helicopters drop food and water to survivors. 

Flexibility on where food can be purchased is a major factor in getting life-saving aid to the Philippines quickly. Reforms in the 2014 farm bill could help up to 800,000 additional people at no additional cost. It is good to see the results of advocacy as lives are saved.

But some want to turn back the clock. Food shipped under cargo-preference law from the United States takes an average of 14 weeks longer to reach people in a crisis. Increasing cargo preference, as stipulated in the Coast Guard bill, would deny an estimated 2 million hungry people access to food aid and reverse improvements made in the farm bill. I wonder how lawmakers could make such a choice: a few shipping companies over 2 million lives.

I feel outraged.

Powerful maritime lobbyist versus a group of Christian advocates seems like a losing battle. However, time and time again, our collective Christian voice wins victories by using gifts of citizenship. The Bible is full of inspirational stories that remind me that faith and “right” is more powerful than money and might. I turn to scripture.

I feel hopeful.

I read 1 Samuel 17 — the story of David and Goliath. The odds of a little guy defeating a giant warrior seem laughable. The soldier’s tools of battle are too heavy, so he is left with a sling and some stones. But David does not go into battle alone and he knows this is the Lord’s fight — David answers a call to act. With a single stone, David topples a giant.

I feel called and ready to act.

There are always giants on Capitol Hill, whether special-interest lobbyists, or lawmakers themselves. Like David picking up the rock as he faces impossible odds against Goliath, anti-hunger advocates can pick up phones, send emails, visit their members of Congress and send a powerful message to the Senate: reject any actions that would increase transportation costs for food aid and prevent hungry people around the world from receiving U.S. food assistance.

We make a difference and we carry with us a sacred call to end hunger. When we live that call out together, giants topple.

Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national lead for social media and regional organizer, western hub.

Advocacy in Action: 'Glocal' Thinking

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Bill Clark of Philabundance, a Philadelphia-area food bank, makes the case to participants of a workshop that the government has long had the ability to address hunger as a social crisis. (Stephen Padre)

[This story originally appeared in the May edition of Bread for the World's newsletter.]

"We [as a nation] have done very little to end hunger," declared Bill Clark, executive director of Philabundance, a food bank serving the Philadelphia area. "The problem next week is the same problem we were facing last week. We really haven’t done anything, and we haven’t been engaged in any way to actually end hunger. But I believe we can do that, and some of these large movements that we've seen historically give me faith that we can."

Clark was one of three local anti-hunger leaders and activists who addressed 62 hunger advocates in Southeastern Pennsylvania March 29 at Villanova University. The advocates gathered for a day of information, inspiration, and being equipped for activism at a workshop organized by Bread for the World.

Clark spoke to participants, who included dozens of students from area colleges and seminaries, about his work assisting the nearly 1 million people in the Delaware Valley who face hunger every day. He provided a national context for his work in the area by explaining that the federal government and social movements have each played key roles in ending other societal ills such as slavery and child labor.

He and the other two speakers, who presented in the short, information-intensive style of the popular TED Talks, were at the workshop as examples of local practitioners, people who are fighting hunger in local communities day-byday. Clark spoke about the success of Philabundance’s new nonprofit grocery store, Fare and Square, in Chester, Pa., a former food desert.

A fourth speaker at the workshop, Bread's director of government relations, Eric Mitchell, provided a national perspective on ending hunger in his talk, titled "Why Do Elections Matter?"

"I like to call elections marching orders," said Mitchell. "It's constituents telling their member of Congress, 'When you go to D.C., you better vote on this issue and that issue.'" He explained to advocates that all elections, even midterm elections, like the ones approaching in 2014, can and do have long-lasting effects because of who gets elected to Congress and how they vote.

Following these speakers, which provided different aspects of fighting hunger, advocates received training on carrying out a letter-writing event in their church or on their campus as part of Bread's Offering of Letters campaign. Bread offers workshops similar to the one at Villanova for Bread’s biggest church- and campus-based legislative campaign every year to provide background on the campaign's topic and to hone the advocacy skills of advocates.

Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters focuses on reforming the U.S. government's programs that provide food aid overseas, which provided yet another perspective, an international one, to the workshop's participants.

In small-group discussions, which occurred between speakers throughout the day, advocates wrestled with the truth that hunger is not well-known in communities where it exists. They agreed that it is crucial to emphasize reality-based, compelling stories told by those directly experiencing hunger and poverty. One participant noted, "We need to bridge the gap between people who have stories about hunger and those who have the mental space to campaign."

To see if there is a workshop scheduled near you (or to request one), contact your Bread regional organizer, who can also assist you with organizing an Offering of Letters.

Updated Resource: The Biblical Basis for Advocacy to End Hunger

Biblical_Basis_for_Advocacy“Throughout the Scriptures, God calls people into community and sets the expectation that leaders (whether they are kings, pharaohs, or governments) should care for their people (Psalm 72:2). Therefore, we also reflect God’s love by challenging individuals and institutions given the power to change laws and structures that keep people vulnerable. We work toward a just world in which every person has an opportunity to thrive. We participate in showing God’s love and honor the dignity and worth of our neighbors.”

Excerpt from The Biblical Basis for Advocacy to End Hunger.

As a collective Christian voice, Bread for the World grounds our work to end hunger with Scripture. The Biblical Basis for Advocacy to End Hunger outlines nine biblical themes that guide our mission.

  1. God loves us. Jesus’ greatest commandments are that we love God and each other.
  2. Humankind was created out of God’s love and in God’s Image, so we are to respect the dignity of every person.
  3. God has a special concern for poor and vulnerable people.
  4. God provides out of God’s abundance.
  5. All creation is reconciled with God through Jesus Christ, and we are to be agents of reconciliation.
  6. God loves justice and requires us to do justice and love kindness.
  7. Jesus said, “Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.” We do Christ’s work when we act with and for hungry and poor people.
  8. We hear God’s voice in Scripture and respond with the faithful use of our own voices.
  9. God has a role for government to play in the protection and development of people.

Each section in the pamphlet includes Bible verses and references to people and stories that illuminate the call to end hunger through advocacy. We encourage you to use the brochure as the basis for a conversation in your church or community, and explore how God calls us to end the brokenness of hunger and poverty in our world.

The free resource is available online for download; print copies can be ordered through our store.  Let us know in the comments how you were able to use the resource: as an individual exploration, as a Christian educator leading an adult forum or study group, or as a small spiritual-formation group seeking to ground your understanding of how the Bible talks about hunger and 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.

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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"

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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.

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