570 posts categorized "Advocacy"
By Zach Schmidt
Only 15 Republicans voted against H.R. 3102, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act, with strong pressure from party leadership to support the bill. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01) of Lincoln, Nebraska, was one of the few who went against his party and opposed the nearly $40 billion cut to SNAP (food stamps), which could result in nearly 4 million people—including 10,000 Nebraskans—losing benefits.
Rep. Fortenberry’s “no” vote was the result of years of advocacy from Bread for the World members and coalition partners in Lincoln, capped by an eleventh-hour surge spearheaded by local Bread leaders and allies. Local directors Scott Young at the Food Bank of Lincoln and Beatty Brasch at the Center for People in Need, and their respective staffs, reached out and urged Fortenberry to oppose the bill. They provided local stories and data on hunger in Lincoln and explained how the bill would harm vulnerable people who were already struggling to get by. Lincoln Bread leader Kristin Ostrom rallied faith leaders across the state to weigh in as well. It was clearly a team effort, and a successful one!
In response to a statewide news article in the Omaha World Herald about how Rep. Fortenberry split with his party to vote against the bill, Ostrom led an effort to generate public comments thanking Fortenberry for his “no” vote. That effort led to 160 people—including faith, education, and nutrition leaders—publically supporting Rep. Fortenberry’s “no” vote on H.R. 3102. He received more than 130 ”likes” on Facebook and more than 30 positive comments on the Omaha World Herald piece. Commenters thanked Rep. Fortenberry not only for his vote, but for his compassion, his courage, and for “standing with the least of these.” One commenter said he was “grateful that Mr. Fortenberry stood with the hungry of Nebraska.”
We wanted to make it clear that Rep. Fortenberry has strong and vocal support for his decision to protect poor and hungry people.
Great, great work to Kristin Ostrom and Bread members and coalition partners in Lincoln and across Nebraska! This is what effective advocacy looks like.
Zach Schmidt is a Bread for the World regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.
Bread for the World policy analyst Amelia Kegan and director of church relations Gary Cook travel to the White House in August to deliver the first set of signatures from Bread for the World members asking the president to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad. (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World)
By Amelia Kegan
You may be overwhelmed by the number of times we have asked you to call your members of Congress lately. You may be so angry at the partisan brinkmanship that you want to ignore the news. I know because sometimes I feel it, too. But I’m not giving up and we won’t stop asking you to speak up. Your voice makes a difference; there is too much at stake to lose faith now.
Soon Congress must pass a responsible budget and the path there will include more partisan fights over a continuing resolution, the debt ceiling, and sequestration. The fate of SNAP in the farm bill is still uncertain as the House and Senate move toward a reconciliation process. At each juncture we must be vigilant and vocal or risk an increase in hunger both at home and abroad.
Bread for the World knows ending hunger requires a long-term vision. We envision transitioning from a political climate of defensive protection to a bold offensive against hunger, transforming the rhetoric of scarcity into one of hope and abundance. We will pull out by the roots this political culture that blames the poor and demonizes those on SNAP. We will replant a new seed of radical commitment to ending hunger within Congress and the White House—a seed that will eventually yield economic security for all and a real opportunity to attain the American Dream. We will grow this transformation with the soil of on-the-ground, person-to-person grassroots organizing, the waters of political accountability, and by radiating the fierce unconditional love of Jesus Christ.
But staring only at that grand vision of ending hunger in our time without attending to the immediate fights in front of us is like driving with our sights on the horizon while ignoring that sharp and dangerous curve in the road right just up ahead. How will we end hunger in this generation if 2014 begins with 4 million Americans kicked off of SNAP and 2 million more people around the world denied lifesaving food aid because of the sequester?
The budget battles we are fighting today are becoming part of the political narrative defining this era. There is no doubt in my mind that if we keep at it we will emerge victorious because we're in the right on this. When those suffering from hunger are able to fill their dinner tables with more than just anxious conversation, we all benefit. History, economics, and scripture have taught us that we are all in this together.
While each new budget fight might bring a level of increased exhaustion, frustration, and irritation, we cannot be discouraged. We must continue the relentless struggle over these fiscal fights. And while some may question the sustainability of our seemingly small efforts, we know the parable of the mustard seed and that with faith, we move mountains.
As we face the next several months, prepare yourself for the trial ahead by taking comfort in the certainty that you are not alone in God’s kingdom and everyone deserves a place at the table.
Amelia Kegan is a senior policy analyst for Bread for the World.
Congress is back in session this week and it’s a busy time for legislators. They have only nine working days before the end of the fiscal year and they are facing multiple priorities and pressure from various special interests. On Tuesday, a group of grassroots advocates from across the nation will walk the marble halls of Congress representing God’s special interest: ending hunger and poverty. We are counting on you to help amplify their messages on SNAP and the budget.
On the agenda for the House is a proposal that would cut $40 billion from the SNAP program over 10 years. We can't let this vote be lost in the noise—the consequences are far too serious. For example:
- Across the country, 2 to 4 million adults without dependents would lose benefits. SNAP already has strict work requirements but this proposal would require individuals to find work at times when jobs are scarce.
- Nearly 2 million more people, primarily seniors and those in low-income working families, would lose benefits due to changes in eligibility rules.
- In 2011, private churches and charities provided approximately $4 billion in food assistance, compared to $98 billion provided by federal nutrition programs. Churches and charities would have to nearly double their current food assistance to make up the difference.
Decisions made during the next few months will impact the lives of vulnerable people, both at home and abroad, for years to come. Failure to reach a compromise could mean a government shutdown that would harm vulnerable groups, some of whom have already suffered through program cuts and reductions because of sequestration, such as Meals on Wheels recipients.
The worst-case scenario? If Congress increases defense investments by cutting anti-hunger programs — something they could quietly do if it weren't for advocates like you paying attention.
Faithful advocates can ensure that members of Congress don’t play partisan games with programs that help people who experience hunger. But in order to do so we must remain vigilant and speak up loudly — or risk losing ground on decades of progress against hunger. We must talk about the real consequences of poverty, both on the Hill and in our hometowns.
Members of Congress need to hear that they must create a circle of protection around programs that decrease hunger. They must enact a responsible budget and replace sequestration with a balanced approach that includes revenue.
Tomorrow, join us from your home or office by making phone calls, emailing, or even using social media to get the message across that ending hunger is a priority. Stay tuned for additional details on how you can join us tomorrow, from wherever you are.
By Justin Fast
Michigan is a gorgeous state and one of the most diverse agricultural states in the country—thanks in large part to the migrant workers who toil to make that possible.
Yet it's also a state where nearly as many children go to bed hungry as go to church on Sunday morning. During the recession, when Michigan had been struggling for some time, I was privileged to work with Michigan food banks connecting families with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). I also managed state and federal advocacy on behalf of these nutrition programs.
Proposed cuts to programs like SNAP or foreign aid that go unchallenged go unnoticed. And as is so often the case, those who can least afford to speak up or speak out, those without a place at the table, are the ones whose voices are silent in the history books. Their stories go untold.
So in the spirit of breaking the silence, I’d like to tell you Germaine’s story.
Germaine was born in Coesse, Ind. She grew up as a Methodist Episcopal preacher’s kid in northern Michigan during the Great Depression. Hunger was a frequent reality, and Germaine told me that truck drivers used to toss fruit from their overflowing trailers to her and her brothers.
As a grown woman, Germaine married, tended house, and ran a successful home business with her husband in rural Michigan. They raised three happy, healthy children who went on to greater things. In short, her life was fruitful.
I have no doubt that both of these experiences—growing up poor and running a home business—had a profound effect on Germaine. To call her frugal or resourceful would be an understatement. She always had a quarter cup of yogurt or a half glass of water in the fridge to keep it from going to waste. The ends of a loaf of bread were better than the silent dread of an empty cupboard.
When I knew her, Germaine wasn't a girl chasing fruit trucks or a businesswoman anymore. Well into her 80s, Germaine's struggle wasn’t putting food on her family’s table, it was putting food on her own. And at that time, when Germaine needed it most, she applied for SNAP benefits to help make ends meet. It was there for her.
Germaine is my Grandma.
I marvel that having worked for the food bank network and in SNAP outreach, federal advocacy, and SNAP education, I never knew that my own Grandma participated in SNAP.
Maybe you, like me, come from a part of the country or a part of your state where it's shameful to talk about SNAP—where people are ashamed to tell their stories, because people speak shamefully about them. But there’s no room for shame in a community characterized by grace.
The vast majority of those impacted by the largest proposed cuts in the history of SNAP are people just like my grandma: senior citizens, the disabled, or families with children. And when half of all Americans will participate in SNAP at some point in their lives, their stories can’t be that much different from yours.
None of us lives very far from food insecurity.
Nutrition programs are not the sole solution to a hungry and hurting world—nor are they the Bread of Life. But with them, the world looks a whole lot more Christlike. Thanks to SNAP, children no longer starve in the United States. And last year alone, the program helped raise nearly 4 million people out of poverty.
As you work to make our society closer to what Jesus intended through your advocacy, I challenge you to take the following actions:
- Continue getting to know people facing hunger, people eligible for or participating in SNAP. Learn their stories.
- Try living on the average SNAP benefit. And then imagine living on less, as do many of our brothers and sisters in developing countries—you’ll have a much better appreciation for foreign aid.
- Help someone apply for the programs you are preserving.
- Pray for your legislators and follow up to let them know you are doing so—even if your legislators are already supportive of these programs.
As Christians, we know God in the breaking of bread. And we know that in communion with one another we can declare God’s promise that those who hunger will be satisfied. In my tradition when the congregation has taken communion, the pastor asks “Have all been served?”
The answer is always “no.” There are more to serve.
Justin Fast is a Hunger Justice Leader and a social initiatives specialist with the Michigan Fitness Foundation. This is a shortened version of the speech that he gave at Bread for the World’s 2013 Lobby Day on Monday, June 10.
The anti-hunger community has long known that poverty and obesity go hand in hand. One in eight preschoolers in the United States is obese, and the percentages are higher in black and Hispanic populations. This week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported modest declines in the obesity rates of low-income preschoolers in 19 states – proof that advocating for better nutrition is bearing fruit. It’s a good start, but the gains could be derailed if current proposals in Congress to take an axe to nutrition programs are passed into law.
The CDC collected data on low-income preschoolers ages 2 to 4; many of the children were enrolled in WIC. In a briefing on the report, CDC director Tom Friedan said that the federal program has improved nutritional standards. The report recommends helping low-income families get affordable and nutritious foods through federal programs like WIC.
However, WIC is one of the programs that has been subject to automatic cuts under sequestration. This past year, WIC has been able to maintain its caseloads with reserve and contingency funds mitigating cuts that could have affected as many as 600,000 women, infants, and children. But back-up funds won’t be available next year. If Congress does not act and replace the sequester with a balanced approach that includes revenue, the program will not have the ability to serve all the mothers and children who need it. More disturbing, appropriations bills in the House would shift cuts affecting defense spending onto programs like WIC and SNAP, reversing positive trends toward reducing both hunger and obesity.
In 2010, Bread for the World and our partners urged Congress to improve nutritional quality in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and make it possible to reach more low-income children with nutritious food. In the past two years, Bread for the World members have successfully advocated to create a circle of protection, mitigating cuts to programs like SNAP, WIC, and tax-credits such as the EITC, all of which help hard working low-income families stave off hunger and buy nutritious food.
More progress is needed and more progress is possible. Both quantity and quality of food make a big difference in the health of children. In communities that are considered food deserts, distance to a supermarket may be an insurmountable obstacle to healthy eating. Low-income households with limited resources often need to stretch their food budgets and opt for cheaper, low-density, calorie-rich processed foods in lieu of more expensive fruits and vegetables. Nutrition assistance programs like SNAP and WIC provide these families with healthier options.
Taking into account health, education, and economic productivity, a group of Brandies University economists calculated the cost of poverty in 2011 to be a staggering $167.5 billion. Poverty, complex as it is, affects everyone. Investing in programs now will mean a lot less expense down the road, helping ensure a labor force that is healthy and productive.
Programs like SNAP and WIC help stave off both hunger and obesity, but both programs continue to be at risk of grave cuts. August recess presents an opportunity to get in front of your senators and representative and help influence the decisions they make when they return to Washington in September. Set up in-district meetings with your members of Congress, attend any town hall meetings that they hold, and write letters to the editor about protecting and strengthening SNAP and replacing the sequester with a balanced approach.
What members of Congress hear over the next few weeks will determine the decisions they make this fall.
Next Wednesday, I will attend a meeting at the White House and hand-deliver Bread for the World’s petition. We are asking President Obama to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger.
More than 25,000 people have signed thus far, but we want the strongest possible showing for this meeting with White House staff. Help us get to 30,000 signatures! Please take a moment to add your name to this effort by signing the petition. Once you sign, we'll keep you updated on our efforts.
Let’s show the president that the movement to end hunger has momentum. Let’s show him that there’s a strong constituency waiting for him to speak up about poverty.
Together we can compel our leaders to show moral courage and work to end hunger. That’s why we started this petition, and that’s why we need your voice.
God's grace in Jesus Christ moves us to help our neighbors, whether they live in the next house, the next state, or on the next continent. Adding your name to the petition is a simple but powerful way to help your neighbors. Speak out against hunger just as the Hebrew prophets spoke out against injustice in their time.
I invite you to stand with us by signing the petition. I would be honored to bring your name with me to the White House next week.
If you can get 10 of your friends to sign, we’ll send you a pack of 10 Bread for the World Christmas cards to say "thank you." The deadline for signatures is 11:59 p.m. on Monday, August 5. Your friends can indicate that you referred them when signing the petition. You can use Bread’s online petition recruiting page or share the petition using Facebook.
"But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14: 13-14 (NIV)
Many Bread members have introduced their churches to JustFaith, an adult education program that explores the biblical prescription to heal our broken world and foster congregational and individual wholeness. The 30 weekly sessions are carefully planned for faith sharing that includes prayer, study, and immersion. Each week’s curriculum deepens the participants' understanding of the biblical basis for advocacy.
Bread members Bob and Janet Raes facilitated the program at West Linn Lutheran in Oregon and saw how it transformed lives.
The immersion part of the program helps break down invisible barriers that hide suffering in the world. Bob and Janet recalled how simply listening to a homeless couple’s experience opened up a new world to their group. The homeless couple told a story of selling bracelets on the sidewalk with their dog and feeling that they weren't treated with dignity. A passerby offered them money to feed their dog, but ignored them as people. The message to the couple was that the dog deserved compassion, but they did not.
"Our groups said 'we are going to really see people,'" said Janet. "Some ride the bus now and that has just changed them." Their congregation sponsored 3 months of rent to transition a homeless family into stable housing, and spent the time to help them move in and listen to their goals. Bob and Janet know that compassion is relational.
Through JustFaith, participants learn about both charity and advocacy—the latter is often harder for churches to embrace. "People are so allergic to the word 'advocate'—instead of advocating we say we are 'seeking justice,'" said Bob. JustFaith has helped their church to take a deeper look at the root causes of hunger and write letters as part of Bread for the World’s yearly Offering of Letters campaign, which asks Congress to create programs and policies that end hunger and poverty.
Even though participants in JustFaith are a small subset of any congregation, as other parishioners see the group transform it leads to changes in the church. “It’s an invasive species,” said Janet, with a smile.
With fall—the typical starting time for a JustFaith group—just around the corner, many churches are posting information and forming groups. If you would like to learn more and find out how you can start a group, contact your regional organizer.
By Traci Carlson
Despite the toll that the recession has taken on hungry and poor people, and the rising cost of food and other basic necessities, Congress hasn't raised the federal minimum wage for four years.
With the rate stuck at $7.25 per hour since 2009, workers earning the federal minimum wage find themselves struggling to make ends meet—even when holding down multiple full-time jobs, in some cases. An increase in wages would reduce hunger and poverty in the United States.
Today, as senators held a hearing on the 75th anniversary of the federal minimum wage, activists gathered at the Methodist Building, in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, to pray for a living wage.
Those gatherered reflected on the fact that the federal minimum wage would be $10.74 today, had it kept pace with inflation over the last 40 years. They shared stories of real people struggling to feed their families and they prayed for political leaders to act justly on this issue and raise wages for millions of America's lowest-paid workers.
Please join them in praying for those who are hungry, those who have the political power to increase the minimum wage, and also for people of faith, who can help pressure this nation's leaders to change wage policy.
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had." (Acts 4:32)
"[T]hat there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need." (Acts 4:34-35)
To learn more about how jobs that pay a living wage help fight hunger and poverty, click here.
Traci Carlson is Bread for the World's government relations coordinator.
(Left to right) Amanda Wojcinski, Wynn Horton, Moeun Sun, Aminata Kanu, Rebecca Land, and Robert Mauger, students at Houghton College in upstate New York, navigate Capitol Hill during Lobby Day on June 11, 2013. The students met with their senators and representative and urged them to preserve funding for food assistance in the farm bill. (Eric Bond)
Recently, Rev. Noel Castellanos prayed, “God, when you grip our
hearts we are turned toward our brothers and sisters on the margins of
Rev. Castellanos, chief executive officer of the Christian Community Development Association, offered this invocation as we and our colleagues in the Evangelical Immigration Table gathered for a vigil at the Capitol just before the Senate began voting on the comprehensive immigration bill.
Thanks be to God, our prayers—and your advocacy—worked. The Senate passed its version of the comprehensive immigration reform bill on June 28 with a vote of 68-32. Now we turn to the House of Representatives to see what action it will take. We anticipate a more partisan approach in the House. So we pray that God will grip the hearts of our representatives and bring both parties together to pass immigration reform legislation that will benefit struggling families in our nation.
House Farm Bill Fails
We have another major reason to be thankful to God and to you for your faithful advocacy. On June 21, the House version of the farm bill was voted down, 234-195. Had it become law, it would have meant a $20 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). More than 47 million Americans depend on this vital food assistance program.
When the current farm bill was authorized in 2008, we won the largest increase ever for food assistance. Since then, the nutrition portion of the farm bill has been targeted for cuts. We are thankful that God has gripped the hearts of our representatives, until now, and stayed those cuts.
As you read this, Congress is be preparing to recess for the summer. This means that your members of Congress will be back in your district. I encourage you to visit or call them, referring to their voting record on amendments to the new farm bill and other food and nutrition bills (see Bread for the World's 2013 Midyear Congressional Scorecard). If they voted in favor of hungry people, thank them. If they did not, still thank them for being your public servants, but express disappointment for the way they voted and remind them that you are counting on them to vote on behalf of hungry and poor people.
International Coalition Pledges to Fund Maternal and Child Nutrition
We are also thankful that God has gripped the hearts of President
Barack Obama and other world leaders to increase investments in maternal
and child nutrition in developing countries hardest hit by
malnutrition. Since we started our work on this issue four years ago,
much progress has been made. Last month, at a high-level event in
London, world leaders pledged $21.9 billion for maternal and child
nutrition programs between now and 2020. The United States pledged $10
billion through fiscal year 2014 toward eliminating malnutrition in the
1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2—and it promised to continue
funding nutrition programs at this level beyond 2014.
On June 10, during Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C., Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide hosted an international meeting to mark the progress that has been made over the last 1,000 days and to recognize the important role that civil society has played in building the political will to scale up nutrition. The event marked the official launch of the Civil Society Network of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, which will help coordinate the efforts of the 40 SUN countries.
Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, recognized the role that activists— like the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement— have played in elevating the voices of poor and hungry people as policy makers set priorities. In addition, Bread for the World and partners hosted a congressional briefing on maternal and child nutrition to raise awareness on Capitol Hill about the critical role of U.S. leadership.
After the briefing, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) introduced a bipartisan resolution to draw attention to the scourge of malnutrition during the critical 1,000-day window.
This will be a busy autumn and winter for Bread, with important advocacy work around sequestration and other budget issues. We will also be finalizing our plans for the next three years—the first triennial plan within the framework of our long-term vision to end hunger. We will be planning our campaigns for 2014 and launching the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America.
As we enjoy the summer, I give thanks to God for your faithful support and for gripping all our hearts to advocate with those whom Jesus calls “the least among us.”
[This piece originally appeared in Bread for the World’s July-August newsletter.]
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
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