Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

591 posts categorized "Advocacy"

Praying for Change and Being Changed

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Those in Washington, D.C., gathered in the Capitol building on Dec. 10 to participate in the wave of prayer. Three members of Congress attended the brief prayer service, even though the federal government was shut down due to a snowstorm that day (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

Hundreds of thousands of Christians in the United States – and many more throughout the world – prayed for an end to hunger on Dec. 10 as part of an international "wave of prayer" led by Bread for the World and other organizations fighting hunger.

"We are in front of a global scandal of around one billion people…one billion people who still suffer from hunger today. We cannot look the other way and pretend that this does not exist. The food available in the world is enough to feed everyone," said Pope Francis in a video that the Vatican released on the eve of the day of prayer.

The day of prayer came at a critical time, with Congress considering deeper cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps), the most successful anti-hunger program in the United States. Cuts that took effect on Nov. 1 are already taking away approximately 10 million meals a day that would have fed working poor Americans and families struggling to lift themselves out of the recession. This loss is more than all the food charity that churches and food banks provide.

"We prayed to God for the end of hunger, which is clearly possible in our time. We asked God to guide Congress and to deepen our own commitment," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

"The global wave of prayer changed my own prayer life, and I hope that many Bread for the World members will continue to pray on an ongoing basis for the end of hunger," continued Beckmann. "I have found it helpful to ask for the end of hunger every time I say, 'Give us this day our daily bread.'"

Bread heard about Pope Francis’ plans to encourage a global wave of prayer to end hunger from some of Bread’s board members with ties to Catholic leaders in the United States and the Vatican. After consulting with Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bread reached out to other Christian and interfaith leaders, encouraging them to involve their members in the day of prayer.

At least 17 religious denominations and organizations urged their members to engage in prayer on Dec. 10. This included the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Salvation Army, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), American Jewish World Service, Willow Creek Church, the Islamic Society of North America, the Salvation Army, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, American Baptist Churches, and the National Association of Evangelicals.

Despite a snowstorm that closed federal government offices in the Washington, D.C., area on Dec. 10, Bread and its partners in the Circle of Protection came together in a brief prayer service in the Capitol. Three members of Congress participated.

Although it is not known how many people around the world prayed that day for an end to hunger, the event garnered nearly 159 million media impressions in the U.S. articles that appeared in the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, The Hill, Catholic News Service, and Reuters.

In addition, 7,222 Christians sent emails to their members of Congress asking them to protect funding for hungry and poor people.

"We must empower the poor to shape their own destinies. We need the voice and moral force that Pope Francis – and leaders from all the world's faiths – can provide," wrote Dr. Jim Yong Kim in a blog post after Bread reached out to him for the event. "We need all of you. Together, we can build a global movement to end poverty."

The Dec. 10 prayer wave was the launching event of the "One Human Family, Food for All" campaign of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 164 Roman Catholic charities working in 200 countries. The 15-month campaign focuses on the right to food, with an advocacy goal of having the United Nations call a special session on the topic. 

[This article originally appeared in the January edition of the Bread for the World newsletter.]

They Are Talking About Poverty

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Movie still of Barbie Izquierdo and her children from A Place at the Table, courtesy Participant Media.

By Fito Moreno

Mention the presidency of LBJ, and people who lived during that time will probably remember one of two wars that are his legacy—the Vietnam War and the War on Poverty. Fifty years have passed since President Johnson began fighting the latter battle.

The War on Poverty spawned many well-known social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, and Pell Grants, as well as modern food stamps and WIC nutrition programs. Poverty and hunger where on their way to becoming a distant memory until the mid-70s hit.

Today, an economy in recession, brinksmanship over the budget, and a focus on reducing government spending have all contributed to the increase in poverty, which in 2008 was higher than it had been in 1973. But a key factor that has led to the weakening of the social safety net is the lack of poverty on an administration’s agenda.

Some presidents since Johnson have legacies from their time in office that include an aspect of poverty—Carter and another deep recession, for example—but no president since LBJ has elevated the issue like Johnson did. As for the parties, Republicans today have focused on cutting anti-poverty programs, a stark contrast from the Nixon era. Democrats have focused more on aligning themselves with the middle class than acknowledging the 46 million Americans who live in poverty.

No one, president or party, has talked seriously about ending poverty in the last half century since something as strong as a war was declared on it. Even the word itself has been left in the shadows and ignored. It was almost taboo to mention in the media until just a few weeks ago.

It is easy to focus on the negative fallout that came after the Johnson/Nixon era in regard to poverty. But the programs that came out of that time have helped millions survive during the hard times of the past 50 years. Poverty surged after the financial crisis of 2008, but anti-poverty programs have done much to moderate the hardship.

Seeing my Google alerts blow up due to the sudden use of the word poverty is encouraging. Both parties are not only talking about it but proposing bold steps to reduce and end poverty. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) proposed shifting the management of anti-poverty programs to the states, but did not talk about cutting the funding for anti-poverty efforts as had been the case in previous months.

Hopefully Obama’s upcoming State of the Union address will be filled with this current anti-poverty fervor. Hopefully both parties can put aside the brinksmanship that has plagued this Congress and embrace the spirit of helping their fellow human beings. Hopefully we can all urge our politicians to do the right thing and make the eradication of hunger and poverty a top priority. Other countries, some in worse economic positions than the United States, have done this, why not us? If the presidents of my day can declare war on terror or weapons of mass destruction, why can’t they fight poverty again with the same spirit?    

Fito Moreno is a media relations specialist for Bread for the World.

Register for February’s Justice Conference

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By Jared Noetzel

The Justice Conference is just over a month away, and here at Bread for the World we’re getting excited! Every year at The Justice Conference hundreds of justice seekers gather to listen, learn, and take action to pursue justice. This year, the conference will host a stellar line-up of speakers, from N.T. Wright and Jim Wallis to Richard Stearns and Dr. Bernice A. King. These and so many other folks have spent countless years struggling to seek the Kingdom of God and see even some small part of it realized among us in the here and now. I’m proud to be joining this movement of committed Christ followers Feb. 21-22 at the Orpheum theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

If you haven’t registered for the main event yet, take a minute to do it now! While you’re at the conference, be sure to stop by Bread’s exhibitor booth or join us for our pre-conference workshop titled Voices that Challenge Injustice: Food Aid, led by Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy, interim director of church relations at Bread for the World.

If you’re looking for a reason to spend a bit more time in L.A., then stick around on Sunday, June  23 for The Justice Conference Film Festival. Bread for the World will be participating, and the award-winning film “A Place at the Table” will be featured. You can get your tickets here.

This year, as we gather in L.A. for the main event, thousands more will come together at venues around the country to experience a simulcast of the L.A. main stage events. Justice Conference partner sites represent a unique opportunity for long-time activists and the newly inducted to gather to learn and grow together.

We would love to keep you up to date on The Justice Conference and so much more! You can do that by following us on Twitter, liking our page on Facebook, or checking back here for the latest blog posts. While you’re at it, you can let your decision makers know where you stand by writing them a quick email. We firmly believe that pursing justice requires faithful advocacy, so thanks for standing up and speaking out!

Jared Noetzel is an Evangelical Engagement Fellow at Bread for the World

 

Make At Least One More Resolution

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Consider facilitating an Offering of Letters in your church or community as one of your 2014 resolutions. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

 
If you’re the sort of person who makes resolutions—to eat better, exercise more, learn a new skill— then you probably already have your list made. But why not add one or two advocacy resolutions that can help end hunger?

Pick one or more of the suggestions below. If you have a idea for something not listed here, let us know in the comments.

For 2014, my advocacy resolution is to:

  • Organize an Offering of Letters at my church. The 2014 Offering of Letter campaign on reforming U.S. food aid launches later this month.
  • 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 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 on the biblical basis for advocacy.
  • Use social media to engage more people and members of Congress in a conversation about ending hunger. Follow Bread for the World on Facebook and Twitter and share action alerts.
  • 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 viewing of “A Place at the Table” in my church or community.
  • 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 9-11 in Washington, DC.

We all know that making a resolution is easier than keeping one. A good way to remind yourself of your advocacy resolution is to print out this page, circle your resolution, and then put it up on your fridge.

And here’s the great thing about Bread advocacy resolutions: they come with trainers! If you need help getting started or have any questions, just give your regional organizer a call.

Counting Our Social Media Blessings

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As the clock winds down on 2013 and we anticipate new opportunities in the next year to end hunger, it is a good time to reflect on the blessings of the past year.

Because of your advocacy in 2013, many of the deepest cuts proposed to programs that help end hunger were thwarted.  Writing letters, making phone calls, and meeting with members of Congress made a difference. We also used social media as another tool to amplify our message. Many of you shared and educated others in your networks with resources and action alerts that we posted on the Bread Blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Social networks are about conversations and national conversations influence members of Congress. Each time one more person calls on his or her member of Congress asking them to act to end hunger, it is a blessing. Each person who joins the mission to end hunger is a blessing.

  • More than 20,000 blessings (followers) on Facebook like and share resources, stories, and action alerts. Your comments and interaction inspire and inform us.

  • Nearly 10,500 blessings (followers) have used Twitter with @bread4theworld to #talkpoverty and help us end hunger. 
  • All year we have worked to make the Bread Blog a resource for of up-to-date news on issues related to our work and we have seen a marked increase in daily readership – a trend we hope to see grow in 2014!

We began last year on the brink of “fiscal cliff” negotiations that threatened to derail the economy.  Instead, we were able to report a final vote that protected important programs to end hunger, such as the 2013 extension of emergency unemployment benefits. One of the year’s first blog posts included a thank you to faithful advocates, who helped urge lawmakers to do the right thing for those who experience hunger. 

Although we end the year with a thank you again to advocates for urging Congress to pass a budget that put aside political brinksmanship, lawmakers failed to extend emergency unemployment for 2014 or pass a farm bill. Comprehensive immigration reform still waits for action by the House of Representatives. Without action on these three issues, many face an uncertain new year clouded by worry.

The first few months of 2014 will be busy. We will ask Congress to extend emergency unemployment, pass a farm bill that protects SNAP (formerly food stamps) and strengthens U.S. food aid. We will urge passage of an immigration reform bill that helps end hunger both here and abroad.

It is possible for us to achieve great things together through faith and action. We can use every tool at hand to change the political will to end hunger–including social media. Continue to read the Bread Blog to stay informed. Share content on your social networks. Help us increase our blessings in 2014.

With just a day and a half before the New Year, thanks to a few generous donors, online gifts will be doubled. Can you make a gift now to help hungry people?

Immigration Reform: Looking Ahead to 2014

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Participants in the Fast for Families, join together in prayer (Photo courtesy of Fast for Families).

In spite of the House of Representatives' inaction on immigration reform this year, 2013 ended with a crescendo of activity among advocates, and planning for a harder push for reform in 2014.

In November, faith, immigrant rights, and labor organizations launched the Fast for Families campaign, an effort to move the hearts of members of Congress, and inspire them to pass just and compassionate immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Bread for the World was one the sponsors of Fast for Families, and on Dec. 5, Bread for the World President David Beckmann prayed and fasted at the campaign tent on the National Mall, just a few blocks from Bread’s Washington, D.C., office.

“Immigration reform will allow people to work their way out of poverty,” Beckmann said.  He added that “immigration is part of the great exodus from poverty that is going on today,” and said that nations with comprehensive immigration policies have been able to more efficiently combat poverty than the United States. 

On Dec. 12, the Fast for Families campaign culminated its activities for the year with major direct action in Congress. More than 1,000 activists occupied the offices of 170 congressional representatives who were inactive on reform during 2013. Bread for the World was a full participant in the daylong action, working with our faith partners on several aspects of the event.

Ricardo Moreno, Bread for the World’s national organizer for Latino relations, kicked off Bread’s participation by leading a prayer service at the fasting tents in the morning. In the afternoon, a dozen Bread for the World staffers participated in the congressional action, “occupying” a congressional office and singing, praying, and sharing stories about the personal, real-world implications of the nation’s broken immigration system for families in the United States and overseas.

The Fast for Families campaign promised that the action was a symbol of increased grassroots engagement 2014.

In addition to grassroots action, Bread for the World staff members have been meeting with House Republican offices–including those of Republican leaders such as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)–to discuss the economic importance of immigration to the economy.Lower-skilled immigrants, in particular, revitalize rural and urban areas through their labor and entrepreneurship.

Although House Republicans didn’t act on immigration in 2013, they have repeatedly stated that it will be on the agenda in 2014. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has indicated he would like to tackle the issue next year. Speaker Boehner also signaled that he is serious about addressing immigration reform when he hired Rebecca Tallent, from the Bipartisan Policy Center, to lead his immigration policy work. Tallent is a veteran on immigration reform, and worked on previous congressional attempts at reform as a staffer for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Next year promises to be important for the immigration reform movement and Bread for the World will be fully engaged on the ground in Washington, D.C., and throughout the country.

Fast for Families: La lucha sigue!

Declaration
(Photo courtesy of Fast for Families)

By Dulce Gamboa

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
 to loose the chains of injustice  and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,  and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"

Isaiah 58:6-7 (NIV)

Last week, I had the privilege of standing with participants in the Fast for Families campaign, an effort to move members of Congress to pass compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform.

I joined the fast for two days, in solidarity with the fasters leading this effort, and my heart was definitely full after meeting immigration reform advocates who fasted for more than 20 days as an act of love, faith, and commitment. I was filled with hope after listening to the stories of fellow fasters and community leaders who have defied the odds to gain the attention of Congress. So many people involved in the immigration reform movement were appalled by the inaction in Congress— the House of Representatives has failed to act on immigration reform—and the idea that reform can wait. In reality, the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country, and their families, cannot wait. Every day, families are torn apart, and millions of people live in fear of deportation.

Bread for the World was one of the sponsors of Fast for Families, which launched Nov. 12 and ended Dec. 12. Several of our staff members, including David Beckmann, fasted, and we participated in both a Dec. 11 prayer service at the fasters’ tent on the National Mall, and a Dec. 12 congressional day of action. During the Dec. 12 action, more than 1,000 people involved with Fast for Families visited 170 offices of members of the House Representatives, in what was called a “day of promise and prayer." We sought to touch their hearts, and move then to enact compassionate reform that includes a path to citizenship for the millions of people living in the shadows.

Bread staff prayed and sang for an hour in the office of Rep. Leon Acton “Lynn” Westmoreland (R-Ga.) of Georgia's third district. We felt re-energized by the prayers, chants, and stories we delivered that day. All the stories we shared of people migrating to the United States had a common thread: each person was escaping poverty and hunger in his or her home country. The stories showed that when we talk about immigration reform, we are talking about people.

Immigrants are making an immense economic contribution to this nation. We are helping to revitalize depressed local economies, everywhere from rural Iowa to Detroit and Baltimore. We are entrepreneurs, dreamers graduating from college. We are part of this nation—a nation of immigrants.

The immigration movement has knocked on many doors for decades now. We have made it this far thanks to the perseverance and sacrifice of great advocates. The fast is now over, but this is the kickoff of the next phase of putting pressure on the House until its members bring immigration reform to the floor for a vote.

Even though we are facing inaction in the House right now, as advocates we must continue to strengthen our resolve and prepare for what’s next.

La lucha sigue! We shall overcome!

Dulce Gamboa is Bread for the World's associate for Latino Relations.

Make Connections at the 2014 Justice Conference

Justice-Conference

By Jared Noetzel

I wouldn’t be working at Bread for the World if it wasn’t for the Justice Conference.

A year ago, I was sitting in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, interning for Paz y Esperanza, a Bolivian-run human rights organization. One day, as I was doing some reading online, I saw an ad for the conference. After some browsing, I sent an email to a group of interns from Wheaton College, who were working for organizations around the world on the same program that took me to Bolivia. Eventually, we decided that the conference was worth the 13-hour road trip from Wheaton, which is in Chicago, to Philly, and we bought tickets.

We’ve all received career advice, and often it has to do with polishing a resume or sharpening answers to interview questions. Maybe some advisers give you inside scoop on networking, but no one tells you to go to conferences with your friends. In other words, I didn’t walk into the exhibitor hall looking for a job.

Then, I walked up to Bread for the World’s table and met Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, the head of national evangelical church relations for the organization. We shook hands, and she made a simple offer: sign this petition, and we’ll give you a shirt. Now, as a college student, a free shirt is a pretty good reason to do most things, but in this case it was an easy decision. The petition was aimed at President Obama, urging him to follow up on his 2012 election pledges to address hunger and poverty, both in the United States and abroad.

Only then did I have the good sense to ask Krisanne a bit more about Bread. She gave me her card and I promised to follow up.

A month or so later, I sat on my friend’s couch and typed out an email to Krisanne. I joked that "this email is going to get me a job!" My friend and I were both graduating seniors, staring down the job market without serious prospects. I hit "send," and went back to editing a paper.

Krisanne got back to me, and we set up an interview. After some consideration on both our parts, I committed to an internship after graduation. In those three months, my work presented a steep learning curve. But, it turned out that I fit in pretty well, and Bread offered me a position to continue engaging evangelicals in the movement to end hunger from Bread’s office in Washington, D.C.

The Justice Conference served as a transition point for me. In Bolivia, I walked with our brothers and sisters in their faithful efforts to challenge unjust systems and create lasting change. Now, as a young professional, I have an amazing opportunity to apply the lessons I learned in Bolivia to Bread’s advocacy here in the United States. It’s an immense privilege, and the Justice Conference played a huge role in getting me here.

If you, your church, or campus would like to help channel burgeoning professionals into the work of justice, please consider joining the Justice Conference, which will be held in February 2014, as a partner site. You’ll receive access to top-notch content from the event in Los Angeles, and support from the Justice Conference team as you organize your own local gathering of justice seekers.

For more information about the Justice Conference, and to register, visit thejusticeconference.com.

Jared Noetzel is Bread for the World's evangelical engagement fellow.

Bread with Your Coffee, Senator?

'Coffee' photo (c) 2012, Steven Lilley - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/This is a story of how Bread for the World advocacy methods work. The elements of our story include a Republican senator, a barista, prayer, worship, an Offering of Letters, and a wealthy fundraiser, but this isn't a tale of inside-the-Beltway intrigue.

The senator is Dr. John Barrasso of Wyoming. He is not an ordinary senator, but he is chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee (RPC) and fourth ranking member of Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate. The RPC advances Republican policies by providing positions on legislation, floor debate, and votes.

The barista is Rev. Libby Tedder Hugus of First Church of the Nazarene in Casper, Wyo. She was a barista at a Starbucks in Casper frequented by Sen. Barrasso and his wife, Bobbi.

In summer 2012, Hugus came to Washington, D.C., for training as one of Bread for the World's Hunger Justice Leaders. On Lobby Day during the event, she paid a visit to Sen. Barrasso's office on Capitol Hill. Nervously, she introduced herself as his barista in Casper. He then offered her coffee, apologizing that it was not as good as the one she brews for her.

"What others might consider ironic, I consider the imaginative humor of our Creator-God. I had travelled all the way from serving coffee to Sen. Barrasso in our Wyoming hometown to being served coffee by the senator in his office of power in Washington, D.C.," she writes on Bread Blog. "As I shared my story with Sen. Barrasso and used my voice to ask that he consider poor and hungry people while making vital legislative decisions, my jitters were swept away by God's spirit."

In October of this year, a group of ten churches in St. Louis all wrote letters about hunger and the budget debate to their members of Congress. They brought all of their letters to an event where Rev. David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, preached. They offered the letters up to God before sending them off to Washington, D.C.

After the event, a leader of one of the churches, Roy Pfautch, approached Beckmann to set up meetings for him with several senators, including Sen. Barasso. Pfaustch contributes and raises money for Republican politicians.

Upon returning to Washington, Beckmann almost immediately got an appointment to meet with Sen. Barrasso.  The senator told Beckmann right away that he knows all about Bread for the World. 

"I went to church in Casper last Sunday, and the preacher was Libby Tedder Hugus," Sen. Barrasso recounted. "She got everybody in churches to write letters to their members of Congress about hunger and poverty. She didn't see me in the back of the church, but the senior pastor did, and he said, 'You know, I think we could save some money on stamps here.'"

In their meeting, Beckmann and Barrasso focused specifically on food stamps and international food aid. Beckmann said Bread is working for reforms in international food aid that would allow the United States to help an additional 2 to 4 million of the world's most desperate people every year at no additional cost — mainly by buying more of the food from local farmers. 

Sen. Barrasso was already convinced that reform would be good policy. He was, however, against it because of a sense that Wyoming farmers would be against it.

"Overall, I think Senator Barrasso changed his judgment about the politics around this issue," said Beckmann. "All because Roy Pfautch used a chit to set up the meeting and, even more, because of Libby Tedder Hugus' activism and the constituents' concern about hungry people that he experienced at that church in Casper."

It's proof that Bread-style advocacy can work — or that God can work among us in surprising but wonderful ways.

Author Shares Book Proceeds with Bread

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Jason Dykstra is a diagnostic radiologist and youth mentor based in Holland, Mich. He is also a Bread for the World member.  He recently published a book entitled Healing Hereafter—and advised Bread for the World that part of the book’s proceeds will directly benefit our work to end hunger in God’s world. Recently, we spoke with Jason about the project.

Can you tell us about the book?

Sure. Healing Hereafter is an exploration of God’s biblical plan. In an atmosphere of positivity and gratitude, it combines answering some of the complex questions about the Christian faith with encouraging positive action. My hope is that the book stimulates considerations and ways to improve the world.

 How did you decide the book profits would go to four nonprofit organizations?

One of the major goals of the book is to raise awareness and donations for organizations approaching world problems in strategic and cost-effective ways. Bread for the World was one of four I thought were ideal. Already, people are responding positively to the book’s charitable aspect. Knowing they are contributing makes them feel good!  

Why do you support Bread for the World?

About three years ago, my wife and I decided to look at issues the Bible calls us to care about. Hunger was a big one. Then we looked to see what was being done about those issues. It was easy to find groups providing direct aid. But Bread for the World had a model we found unique and easy to get behind. Bread for the World embraces comprehensive, long-term relief. We are proud to be monthly donors. 

To read Jason’s blog, or purchase Healing Hereafter, visit jasondykstrawrites.com. The book is also available on Amazon.com.

 

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