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517 posts categorized "Advocacy"
Panelists speak about hunger at the Oregon Faith Roundtable Against Hunger "Hungry for Change" event. Panelists, from right to left: Robin Stephenson (standing), Bread for the World; Patty Whitney-Wise, Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon; Philip Kennedy-Wong, Oregon Food Bank; and Howard Kenyon, Northeast Emergency Food Program.
By Robin Stephenson
On a recent frosty, fog-filled day in Portland, some 65 Oregonians spent the morning learning about hunger in their state, with a focus on moving from awareness to action.
Through the local anti-hunger coalition Oregon Faith Roundtable Against Hunger (OFRAH), of which Bread for the World is a member, Bread staff and the regional Bread Team partnered with Catholic Charities and other Portland-area advocacy and service groups to put on the event "Hungry for Change." The OFRAH program examined the state of hunger in Oregon and highlighted legislative opportunities at both the state and federal level. Advocate voices are critically needed, especially in the coming year as fiscal belt-tightening will likely target programs for poor and hungry people.
In our work in the Portland area, we have benefited greatly by working in partnership. Although policy priorities of different organizations and groups may differ, the common thread of ending hunger creates fertile partnerships where coalitions can bring groups together to focus local energy and grow advocacy. Many of our Bread members are associated with multiple local anti-hunger groups and our working together, with a shared agenda, helps those members focus their advocacy. To our legislative delegations, partnered groups look big, and therefore may be perceived to have a stronger voice. And as each group has a special niche and particular talent, working together can often create a more complex and nuanced picture of hunger in a region.
One of the highlights of the day was a panel that painted a picture of hunger in Oregon that went beyond simple statistics, and showed how often the same issues require advocacy at both the state and federal level.
As a regional organizer for Bread for the World, I talked about critical federally-funded programs that keep people afloat as they struggle through tough economic times—programs that can be a crucial hand up for many escaping poverty. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has long been a priority for Bread for the World and is an example of policy that pulls people out of poverty, especially children. Although the EITC was recently extended as part of the “fiscal cliff” bill, it faces several obstacles in the coming year. Our goal is to make this refundable credit permanent.
Patti Whitney-Wise, executive director at Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon, talked about how Oregon’s working poor and near-poor families pay some of the nation’s highest state income taxes. Whitney-Wise explained that the state EITC helps families bridge the gap by supplementing very low wages and allowing them to afford life’s basic necessities, including food and housing.
Oregon Food Bank’s state policy expert, Phillip Kennedy-Wong, discussed the increasing need in the state and pointed out that state and regional food bank networks have distributed over 1 million emergency boxes in the past year. He also said that cuts to The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) have depleted some of their resources.
But the panelist that made the stark reality of hunger most real was Howard Kenyon, program manager of the Northeast Emergency Food Program. They have felt the pinch of the reduction in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) commodities, but Howard also sees the effect of hunger on the faces that utilize the pantry daily. He made sure that everyone understood that poor people were not lazy when they often had to wait several hours for a food box in their overcrowded facility. He told stories of people he knew who struggled to find work and make it from month to month with meager resources.
The day also included breakout sessions on advocacy, story-telling, and in-depth federal policy. Each session gave participants a variety of ways to get involved and act toward change.
There is strength in numbers, and when our politicians and media have been silent on the needs of low-income Americans, we must come together and be loud enough for them to hear us amid all the competing voices.
If you would like to organize an event like this or join a local coalition but don’t know where to start, contact your regional organizer for ideas.
[Read the Catholic Sentinel article on the "Hungry for Change" event here.]
Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national social media lead/senior regional organizer, western hub.
To see photo captions, please view slideshow in full-screen mode.
We have avoided the fiscal cliff, but we still have mountains to scale. We continue to advocate for programs that help poor as Congress continues tough budget negotiations.
Bread members have been essential in protecting tax credits for low-income families, domestic nutrition programs, and poverty-focused development assistance. However, several key actions by Congress over the next couple of months will again place such vital programs at risk. We encourage you to continue contacting your members of Congress to let them know that you want them to create a circle of protection around these programs. Soon Congress will begin negotiations to replace the sequester (automatic, across-the-board cuts) by March 1 and raise the debt ceiling by at least $1 trillion. The continuing resolution that extended the fiscal year 2013 budget and kept the government funded expires March 27. These events could be accompanied by significant spending cuts. We need you to keep reminding our legislators that they must not balance the budget on the backs of poor and hungry people.
We continue to message members of Congress as part of the 2012 Offering of Letters. Below is an updated sample letter to use when contacting your senators and representative. We will launch Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, “A Place at the Table,” on March 1, and will keep you apprised of any changes or developments on the Bread Blog. We encourage you and members of your community or congregation to personalize your letters to Congress.
Dear Sen. ____________ or Rep. ____________,
Please prioritize hungry and poor people during the next round of budget negotiations. Over the next two months, your leadership is critical, especially as Congress looks to finalize the fiscal year 2013 budget, address sequestration, and raise the debt ceiling.
Specifically, I urge you to ensure adequate funding for programs that address hunger and help people move out of poverty. This will require additional revenues to address our deficits.
I appreciate Congress enacting the American Taxpayer Relief Act. The bill raises revenue for the first time in years, while also extending the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), two of America’s most effective anti-poverty programs. This bill also largely protects important anti-poverty programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Medicaid, and international food aid, from major cuts. But the work is not over. Although this fiscal cliff deal is a tremendous first step, more needs to be done to address our country’s long-term fiscal health and ensure funding for programs that fight hunger and lift people out of poverty. I am concerned about the across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take place if Congress does not develop a more comprehensive deficit-reduction package. I encourage Congress to balance responsible spending cuts with new revenues in order to address the country's long-term deficits without jeopardizing our nation's commitment to alleviating hunger and poverty.
Allowing these across-the-board cuts will hurt programs such as international poverty-focused development assistance and WIC. Cuts to some international development programs would deny life-saving nutrition to some of the poorest nations, while cuts to WIC could hurt hundreds of thousands of poor mothers and young children in the United States.
Our budget choices must not hurt those Jesus called “the least of these.” I urge you to form a circle of protection around funding for programs vital to hungry and poor people. May God continue to bless you and your work.
[City, State ZIP]
Photo: A college group writes letters to Congress. (Bread for the World)
Now that we have made it past the fiscal cliff and the new 113th Congress has been installed, it is time to think about the presidential inauguration taking place on Jan. 21. During the 2012 presidential campaign, people of faith asked the candidates to vocalize their plans to address hunger if elected to office. It is time to remind President Obama of his promise to maintain a circle of protection around programs that are vital to hungry and poor people and to work for a better future for all Americans. We pray that the president and Congress will find common ground and work together to carry out this commitment. Consider using this prayer and sharing it with your faith community in the weeks leading up to inauguration.A Prayer for the President
Psalm 72 (Selected verses)
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.
May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.Long may he live! May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all day long.
May there be abundance of grain in the land; may it wave on the tops of the mountains; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field.May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun. May all nations be blessed in him; may they pronounce him happy.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.
Psalm 72:1-7; 12-19 NRSV
You can turn your faith into action by signing this petition to President Obama. Learn more by visiting the “Make It Happen” website. And please let us know if you and your faith community are praying.
To spread the word using social media, copy and paste the sample tweet below:
Pres @BarackObama remember your promise to maintain a #circleofprotection around programs vital to hungry & poor people http://ow.ly/gw55y
Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national social media lead/senior regional organizer, western hub.
Photo: A woman prays during the second day of Bread for the World's 2011 Gathering at American University in Washington, D.C. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl)
By Bread for the World's organizers
The New Year—for many it is a time to flip the page and start a new chapter, a time to begin anew. We resolve to lose weight, to exercise more and eat better, to be kinder. This year, add an advocacy resolution to your list—something that is outward focused and in tune with God’s vision of a world where everyone has enough. Make a resolution that makes a difference.
Here are a few ideas. Pick one (or more than one!) and if you have a suggestion for something not listed here, let us know in the comments.
Once you've picked out your advocacy resolution, print out this page, circle your resolution, and then put it on your fridge or bulletin board as a way to remind yourself of your commitment throughout the year.
For 2013, my advocacy resolution is to:
- Organize an Offering of Letters at my church.
- Call my members of Congress on each Bread action alert and encourage three more friends to join me.
- Organize a meeting with my member of Congress this year about an important issue that affects hungry people.
- Develop a relationship with the local and D.C.-based staff of my members of Congress.
- Organize a local Bread team.
- Attend a town hall (PDF) and ask a question about a program that helps hungry and poor people.
- Write an op-ed, letter-to-the-editor, or blog post that educates on hunger issues in my area or around the world or the biblical basis for advocacy. Encourage others to get involved.
- Create an educational event around hunger issues and invite my member of Congress.
- Join a local anti-hunger coalition and represent Bread for the World.
- Host a house meeting (PDF) on a pressing issue around hunger.
- Host a viewing of “The Line” in my church or community and have the evening end with an Offering of Letters.
- Invite three friends or family members, and two other churches, to join Bread to enhance our advocacy impact.
- Come to Bread’s National Gathering and Lobby Day June 8-11 in Washington, DC.
- Attend a viewing of a “Place at the Table” feature film in March and get involved in Bread’s 2013 Offering of Letters campaign.
- Use social media to spread the word about Bread’s issues.
And the great thing about Bread advocacy resolutions is they come with trainers! If you need help getting started or have questions, just give your regional organizer a call.
Get started today and Make it Happen!
Click here for a larger version of the "Understanding Bread's Campaigns" graphic.
"Circle of Protection," "Make it Happen," "A Place at the Table" — all of these Bread for the World initiatives could confuse anyone, even those already deeply involved in the organization. To help our members and friends understand our advocacy work better, we've developed a chart that explains our various campaigns.
The first row illustrates Bread for the World’s 2012 Offering of Letters: “Expanding the Circle of Protection.” This campaign will continue through the lame duck session of the 112th Congress, likely concluding early in the 113th Congress. We anticipate that many of the legislative issues in the 2012 Offering of Letters, which focused on protecting vital programs, will be carried over to 2013.
The second row roughly indicates in the timeline for Congress as it moves through their lame duck session and reconvenes in the new year.
The third row shows recent and new initiatives, starting with releasing of videos this fall by both presidential candidates. "What About Hungry and Poor People: Barack Obama's and Mitt Romney's Views" focused on raising hunger and poverty as election issues during the campaign.
After the November election, we segued to "Make it Happen, President Obama." Through that campaign, we are encouraging prayers for the president, especially at his January 21 inauguration. At the same time, we are petitioning President Obama to set a goal and work with Congress to enact a plan to end hunger.
On March 1, we will launch Bread for the World’s 2013 Offering of Letters: "A Place at the Table," just as the feature length documentary A Place at the Table begins showing in theaters. We are working with the producer, Participant Media, to ensure that the social action campaign for the movie integrates seamlessly with our 2013 Offering of Letters.
While these campaigns may seem disparate activities, they work together as a cohesive whole.
All of the advocacy work of 2012 brings us to Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters: "A Place at the Table." Our current work with "Make it Happen" will be amplified in the first goal of our 2013 Offering of Letters—petitioning the president to set a goal and work with Congress to enact a plan to end hunger. We will be collecting signatures for an online and printed petitions to President Obama.
We have not achieved all that we advocated for in last year’s Offering of Letters, "Expanding the Circle of Protection." That is just the nature of law making. So our 2013 Offering of Letters will continue to focus on congressional action needed to ensure a place at the table for poor and hungry people. This part of the 2013 Offering of Letters will be similar to past campaigns, focusing on letters and personalized emails to members of Congress.
If you have any questions, contact your regional Bread for the World organizer.
Bread for the World organizer Larry Hollar answers questions as Bread advocates prepare to meet their members of Congress at the 2011 Bread for the World Lobby Day. Thousands of citizen advocates provide the support for Bread's campaign to end hunger. Photo by Jim Stipe
By Larry Hollar
Looking back at the past year and forward to the year ahead, I’m reminded that the prayers and spiritual support Bread for the World receives are vital to our perseverance and strength.
As a Bread organizer, I am privileged to work with churches, campuses, and allies of all types in the Northeast. My role is to offer tools, encouragement, and up-to-date information and advice so our grassroots activists feel prepared to invite others to advocate to our nation’s leader on hunger issues.
It’s joyous work—and exhausting. Weariness comes not just because I have a large territory to cover, but because the political process these days is challenging and the issues we work on are often complicated. Sometimes I need to hear good news again and find a spiritual center to sustain me, so I can keep serving our members and leaders well.
That’s why getting this heartening letter recently from one of our most active Bread churches in the Philadelphia area meant so much to me:
Greetings from the Wayne Presbyterian Church! Each week during our Sunday services we select particular mission partners and pray for you and the work you do. The persons who sign this letter want to offer a word of encouragement and thank you for your dedication to the cause of Jesus Christ and the work of God’s kingdom and to let you know that we are also praying for your health and safety.
Our love and prayers are with you in a special way this day. We also offer a word of blessing from the Book of Jude: "To those who have been called by God, who live in the love of God the Father and the protection of Jesus Christ; may mercy, peace, and love be yours in full measure."
The letter, dated Dec.16, 2012, was then personally signed by more than 100 parishioners at Wayne Presbyterian. It reminded me that I am not alone—that I’m buoyed in my work by those who write their letters to Congress, give generously to help Bread financially, and also take time to pray for all of us in the Bread movement, including staff members like me.
Thank you, brothers and sisters at Wayne, for lifting my spirits and giving me heart today.
- Action: As 2012 comes to a close, we value your prayers for the Bread for the World and your generous financial support to continue our efforts to end hunger. A generous donor has committed to matching any other donation that comes in before the end of the year. Your gift today will go that much farther.
Thank you for your spiritual and financial support.
Larry Hollar is a senior regional organizer for Bread, working from Dayton, Ohio, and serving Pennsylvania, Delaware, and parts of New Jersey and New York as well as assisting in New England.
By David Beckmann
This weekend, as faithful congregants across our nation gather for their final service of 2012, we are mindful of the great significance of the budget discussions taking place among our political leaders. Whatever the outcome of these discussions—whether that means striking a deal or going over the fiscal cliff—hungry people in the United States and around the world will feel the effects the most.
We urge Bread members, Bread churches, and every concerned citizen to pray that our leaders choose a wise and just course. Please pass this prayer along or compose your own:
"Almighty and loving God, we pray for our nation. We are divided by ideology and interest groups. Our leaders find it difficult to make decisions together. We face pressing problems. Our economy is still fragile. But urgent questions go unresolved.
"We pray for the president and Congress as they continue to negotiate taxes and government spending. Give them wisdom, a spirit of concord, and a shared sense of responsibility for hungry and poor people. Open doors to a solution that will serve the common good. Amen."
Sister Simone Campbell leading evening worship at Bread for the World's Hunger Justice Leaders Program in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, June 10, 2012. Sister Simone participated in conference call on faith and the fiscall cliff earlier this month. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Kyle Dechant
Earlier this month, the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs (DHN) hosted a conference call on faithful advocacy and the fiscal cliff.
Amelia Kegan, senior policy analyst at Bread for the World, started off the call with an update on the latest fiscal cliff negotiations. Rabbi Steve Gutow, president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, then moderated a conversation with Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK and lead organizer of Nuns on the Bus, and Ambassador Tony Hall, executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger.
Sister Simone Campbell spoke to her vision of an America that truly cares for those most vulnerable in society; Ambassador Hall gave insights from his experience as a congressman and U.S. ambassador; and they both testified to the importance of faithful advocacy in the fiscal cliff negotiations.
Rabbi Gutow closed out the call by taking listener questions from some of the 100-plus participants from across the country and urging people of faith to take action.An audio recording of the conference call is below. [The audio was edited for length and clarity. The conversation between Sister Simone and Ambassador Hall begins at the 7-minute mark].
Kyle Dechant is a fellow in Bread for the World's government relations department.
By Eric Mitchell
Christmas is the time when we reflect on God's love and the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a time of hope and promise. As we celebrate this Christmas season with our friends and families, let us not forget that the Good News was first delivered to poor and humble people.
But this holiday season has a different tone for our congressional leaders, who are primarily focusing on the wealthy as they negotiate a deficit reduction package with the president that will prevent going over the fiscal cliff. What's at stake is our nation's ability to feed the hungry, care for the poor and less fortunate, heal the sick, and tend to the elderly. Now, more than ever, is the time for us to pray for our leaders and ask that they fight for hungry and poor people.
Our faith teaches us that we have a responsibility to the most poor and vulnerable people. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up — how it treats those Jesus called "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45). Of all days, this is a time when Christians must bring that spirit to our political leaders struggling to agree.
A diverse group of Christian leaders have agreed on policy recommendations that will best accomplish this. You can amplify their message by sending a special holiday message to the members of Congress at the negotiating table, and ask them to create a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people.Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.
By Dan Such
On Thursday, Dec. 6, members of the Peace and Justice Committee from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Oklahoma City met with Craig Smith, a field representative for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss federal programs that protect poor and hungry people. The discussion, which lasted an hour, was honest and direct and covered the many programs currently in place. Mr. Smith informed us that if no agreement is reached on the so-called fiscal cliff, the SNAP program will experience no cuts. Still, plenty of other important programs would be hit. "Going off" the cliff would result in significant cuts to a section of the budget called discretionary spending that houses programs such as WIC and poverty-focused development aid.
SNAP is an important program to Oklahomans, with 272,189 households receiving this benefit in the year 2011 alone. WIC is also vital, as a preliminary report from the USDA shows that 123,095 women and young children utilized this program in Oklahoma in 2012. If either of these programs experience cuts then the impact on poor and hungry people in Oklahoma would be significant. We must continue to urge our members of Congress to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff that includes a circle of protection around programs that protect poor and hungry people.
During the meeting, our committee told Mr. Smith that hunger and poverty should not be political issues. Our Peace and Justice Committee includes both Republicans and Democrats, and everyone realizes that any division on this subject will only prove to harm those in the most vulnerable positions. This is unacceptable, especially at a time of such great need.
We have seen need increasing in our own congregation. Father Tim Luschen, of St. Charles, brought to Mr. Smith’s attention that our church’s food bank has grown from 327 users to over 900 in just over two years. And the free clinic that St. Charles runs has doubled in usage during the same time frame.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Smith promised to keep in touch, via email, regarding pending legislation or proposed bills concerning these issues so important to all of us. We are grateful for his time and continue to urge Sen. Coburn to help establish a circle of protection around vital programs such as WIC and SNAP that serve hungry Oklahomans.
Dan Such is a member of Bread for the World and the Peace and Justice Committee at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Action: Call your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today. Use our toll-free number (1-800-826-3688) and tell them to pass a deal that includes a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.
For more information on how the various budget proposals to address the fiscal cliff would affect poor and hungry people, see Bread for the World's fiscal cliff fact sheet.