Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

587 posts categorized "Advocacy"

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

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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.

 

Giving Thanks for Being Able to Help Others


(USDA photo)

By Fito Moreno

Waking up to the smell of a marinated turkey baking in the oven is what solidified Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday. My family’s Thanksgiving dinner table has always held dishes from many countries. There are pupusas, patatas bravas, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sofrito, tamales, and, of course, the turkey.

Growing up Hispanic, food was always at the heart of all gatherings — graduations, first communions, birthday parties, and especially Thanksgiving. The one concern my mom has always had is making sure everyone has enough to eat and enough to take home. Yet for many families, making sure everyone has enough to eat is a privilege.  

Data released yesterday shows that in 2012, more than 35 percent of Latinos lived 130 percent below the poverty line, and 3.6 million Latinos lived in food-insecure households.

At a glance, those statistics are just numbers. But as I reflect on previous Thanksgiving dinners, I imagine the family members and friends behind those numbers. My mom has always been concerned about making sure everyone has enough to eat because some of our friends and relatives sometimes just don’t have enough. Sometimes friends would be ashamed taking food home, but my mother wouldn’t hear of it. She believes that it is wrong to invite people to your home and have them go hungry; if you are able to feed them, then you are obligated to do so.

As a country, we have the same responsibility. We invite the tired, the poor, the huddled masses; it is our job to ensure that they have enough to eat. 

As I pack my bag and get ready to go to my mother’s place for Thanksgiving, I am thankful to live in a country where I can be a gracious host, and help ensure that all are fed. I am thankful to living in a country where I can have an impact on my government by reaching out to my members of Congress and urging them to ensure that people of all means are nourished.

Fito Moreno is Bread for the World's media relations specialist.

Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform

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

In February 2004, Sang Hyuk Jung left Korea and came to the United States, full of hope for a better future. He had visited the country a year earlier to prepare his paperwork and meet with several  "experts," who told him that everything would be fine as long as he paid his "immigration fees." 

Several years passed, and Jung learned that his case had gone nowhere. He was out a huge sum of money, and the "immigration consultant" he'd been working with threatened to turn him in to authorities if he contacted him again. Jung later applied to change his visa status through the proper channels, but his application was denied. He fell into a deep depression and even thought about going back to Korea, but didn't want to uproot his children, who had been living in the United States for five years at that point. He continues to live in this country without legal documentation.

Jung is one of people participating in Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform. On Nov. 12, faith, immigrant rights, and labor leaders launched the fast in an effort to move the hearts of members of Congress, and inspire them to pass compassionate immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Bread for the World is one of the sponsors of Fast for Families, and several Bread staff members are fasting.

Jung says he is participating because he is tired of living in the shadows.

"I don’t want to be ashamed of who I am," he wrote in a recent blog post. "I want to tell you, tell others that we should not be discouraged. I know how difficult it is to live as an undocumented immigrant. Yet, I (and my family still) have hope. I believe we can pass comprehensive immigration reform together.

"I also have a message to the members of Congress," he continued. "We, the undocumented, are not different from you. We are just like your friends and families. We also work hard and pay taxes to make this nation better. We’ve been a part of this great nation. If you continue to deny our rights as human beings, if you use us for your political advantage, if you continue to break our families, you will find yourself isolated and you will be held responsible when immigrant families stride to polling places."

We ask that you join us in standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are seeking U.S. citizenship. Sign up to fast, participate in an action in your area, and be sure to contact your representative and tell him or her that it's time for the House of Representatives to move immigration reform forward.

Students Advocate for the Hungry During Teach-In for Justice

Billy_Kangas_and_friendBy Billy Kangas

Last weekend, hundreds of Catholic youths descended on Washington, D.C., for the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, an annual gathering of college and high school students from Jesuit institutions. They prayed together, networked, reflected, and learned about working for justice in the world. The speakers were inspiring, but even more inspiring were the students! They were bright, passionate, engaged, informed, energetic, and deeply committed to letting the love of Jesus spill out of them in both their personal lives, and in their public service and advocacy. They inspired, rejuvenated, and showed me the face of Jesus over and over again.

As Bread for the World’s Catholic relations fellow, I was given the opportunity to put together a team to hang out with hundreds of these amazing young people, who are looking to explore what it means to be an active Catholic with a public voice.

My fellow Bread staff members and I presented at a number of workshops. Amelia Kegan, a domestic policy analyst at Bread, and I talked about creating a "circle of protection" around essential safety net programs here in the United States, and how to take action by urging policy makers to strengthen programs that help hungry people. Bread’s international policy analysts, Beth Ann Saracco and Ryan Quinn, led a session on maternal and child nutrition, and how providing proper nutrients to women and children during the 1,000 days from the beginning of pregnancy through a child’s second birthday is essential for preventing disease, improving education, strengthening health, and saving lives. These 1,000 days are key!

We also invited participants to come to share with us how they are involved in ending hunger in their own communities, and in the world at large.

On Sunday, we were able to address the group as a whole to discuss the importance of protecting SNAP (food stamps) in the farm bill. We trained groups of students in how to talk to their policy makers when they gathered at the Capitol building on Monday for prayer, praise, and advocacy meetings with their congressional representatives.

We also encouraged the students to message their members of Congress using Twitter, and other forms of social media. Take a look at some of the messages these students tweeted to their representatives as part of our social media campaign:

All of this was very encouraging, but the most powerful takeaway I left with was hope. The media is filled with stories that condemn this young generation, calling them lazy, unmotivated, and unwilling to speak up to change the systems that keep people hungry and poor. But this group, and others like it, is proof that their generation is not only engaged, but immensely creative with their activism and eager to help those suffering from hunger and living in poverty.

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Billy Kangas is the fellow for Catholic Relations at Bread for the World.

Photos: (top) Billy Kangas and a friend at the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice (Gary Cook). (Bottom) The group of Jesuit students gathered on the mall for the event (Billy Kangas).

Coming in February: The Justice Conference

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Bread for the World staff at last year's Justice Conference.  Left to right:  Michael Smith, Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, Sarah Miller, and Kyle Dechant (Robin Stephenson).

By Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
                                                                                               —Isaiah 43:19

Does your church or campus community want to share God’s concern for poor and hungry people? Seek inspiration for the long haul of its social justice journey? Desire to connect with a national, biblically-grounded rising of teachers, business people, artists, stay-at-home moms, and others who have a passion for justice?

For the past three years, Bread for the World has been a sponsor of The Justice Conference, an annual national gathering that educates, inspires, and connects a generation of men and women around a shared concern for biblical and social justice, and the vulnerable and oppressed.

In February, Bread for the World will again bring its proven Christian legislative advocacy experience to the conference, and look to find new ways to collaborate around addressing global hunger and poverty. 

Here’s how your faith community can get involved with this year's Justice Conference, which will take place Feb. 21 to 23 at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles:

If you, or your church, are participating in this year’s conference, either attending or serving as a host site, please let us know—we’d like to connect with you. To learn more about this year's conference, watch the conference promotional video, featuring poet Micah Bournes, below.

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy leads national evangelical church relations at Bread for the World.

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