577 posts categorized "Advocacy"
On Oct. 29, a group of 600 conservative faith, business, and law enforcement leaders from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C., to advocate for immigration reform at the Americans for Reform event. The group met with Republican lawmakers and shared with them the message that our nation has a moral obligation to reform our immigration system—and the time for reform is now.
Bread for the World partners such as Asbury Seminary in Kentucky and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, located in Grand Rapids, Mich., were among the diverse religious delegations participating in the event.
This gathering signaled that, across the political spectrum—from socially conservative evangelical Christians to progressive immigrant rights leaders, from business leaders to labor unions—Americans are #Ready4Reform.
There are approximately 11-12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Once in this country, immigrants typically improve their economic condition, but their legal status means they are blocked from realizing their economic potential and making full contributions to the U.S. economy. The poverty rate for undocumented immigrants is estimated to be between 21 to 35 percent—despite the fact that these individuals have a high workforce participation rate.
Bread for the World views immigration reform as a hunger and poverty issue. Supporting reform that offers undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship will reduce poverty, by giving them access to education and employment opportunities. It will also stimulate national economic growth. Studies show immigration grows the economy, reduces the national debt, and can even create jobs for natives.
It’s easy for lawmakers who are contemplating critical decisions about immigration reform to forget that the reason most people migrate to the United States is because they are seeking to escape crippling poverty in their home countries. They are doing what anyone would do if faced with a similar situation—taking a risk in order to improve their lives and the lives of their family members.
While the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill in June, the House has yet to put any immigration reform proposal to a full vote. Bread for the World and its partners are working to ensure that House leadership puts a vote on immigration reform on the 2013 calendar. The Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), of which Bread is a member, recently released a letter urging the House to continue working on immigration and take up reform that includes a pathway to legalization or citizenship. EIT faith leaders also met with President Obama and Vice President Biden this week to reiterate their support for broad immigration reform that transcends politics.
So what can you do? Email, or tweet, your members of Congress and tell them that America is #Ready4Reform. Urge them to support smart immigration reform that helps undocumented immigrants lift themselves out of poverty follows the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger.
Minju Zukowski, a senior marketing major at Towson University in Maryland, is Bread for the World’s media relations intern.
Bread for the World's government relations department (left to right): Traci Carlson, Christine Melendez Ashley, Eric Mitchell, Amelia Kegan, Ryan Quinn, and Beth Ann Saracco (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).
Bread for the World’s director of government relations, Eric Mitchell, has been named one of 2013's top grassroots lobbyists by The Hill newspaper. Mitchell says the honor may be in his name, but stresses that the accolade recognizes the work of faithful advocates across the nation and Bread for the World’s dedicated staff.
by advocates if they should write yet another letter or make another call to one of their members of Congress, Mitchell's response is always, “lather, rinse, and repeat.” He says
if you find a process that works, you keep at it, over and over again.” He learned this adage when he was working as a congressional staffer. This practice of perseverance has helped Bread for the World shape many policies and programs that help end hunger both in the United States and abroad.
The expert policy analysts of our government relations team, led by Mitchell, track legislation as it moves on Capitol Hill. They determine when action from grassroots can be most impactful, and then ask our members to participate in email calls to action. Each month, on a national grassroots conference call and webinar, Mitchell's team joins Bread's organizing department to give a legislative update that ensures that our members stay informed. And when advocates report in-district visits with their members of Congress to their regional organizers, Mitchell and his team follow up with the D.C. offices, increasing the impact of our members' congressional visits.
Congratulations to Mitchell, his staff, and faithful advocates for this distinction.
Lather, Rinse and Repeat! Even if you have already contacted your member of Congress, call or email them again. Members of Congress are in the process of making decisions about the budget and farm bill, and faithful advocates must tell them that any final budget or farm bill must not increase hunger.
Carrie Newcomer is one of the artists who generously contributed music to Bread for the World's Songs for 1,000 Days CD (Publicity photo, Rounder Records).
By Sara Doughton
For singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer, a long-time activist for causes such as peace-building and protecting the environment, food insecurity and malnutrition are fundamental barriers to a more just and peaceful world.
“Hunger is bracing,” Newcomer says. “It gets right down to the center of the community, because if a child is hungry, they can’t grow, they can’t develop, it’s more difficult to learn. There are a lot of systemic things that happen when a person is hungry.”
When approached about contributing music to Songs for 1,000 Days, the CD compilation dedicated to maternal and child nutrition in the critical window between the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday, Newcomer readily agreed. The Rounder Records artist offered a song from Everything is Everywhere, a joint effort with celebrated Indian sarod masters Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Khan, and Ayaan Ali Khan. All proceeds from Everything is Everywhere benefit Interfaith Hunger Initiative (IHI), a not-for-profit organization bringing together two dozen Indianapolis faith communities working to end child and family hunger.
As a long-time Quaker, Newcomer immediately understood the connection between Bread for the World’s Christian faith and its efforts on behalf of poor and hungry people in the United States and abroad.
“There’s a Quaker idea—the light of God in everyone," Newcomer says. "Each person has a piece of the light within them. Every person. No one is excluded. And when you see the world that way, something like Bread for the World just makes sense. If all the people who are walking around in this world are sacred, then treating them as such becomes an important idea. And when people aren’t doing well, or they’re struggling – if they’re hungry –we can’t ignore it.
“Caring for those who are vulnerable is one of the beautiful things about our spiritual tradition," she continues. "We have to pay attention to that and work toward eliminating hunger, poverty, and injustice whenever we can. It’s the work of the compassionate heart.”
In her work as an artist and advocate, Newcomer relies on lyrics and melodies to call for greater compassion, opportunity, and equality.
“I tell a human story…often when you stand on a soapbox, the doors to people's hearts close immediately," she says. "But, if you sing them a song that’s honest and human…then people will leave their hearts open just a little bit longer. And in that moment there’s an opportunity, and also a responsibility, in terms of what you have to offer.”
As Newcomer opens her listeners’ ears and hearts to those in need, she looks forward to partnering with Bread to raise awareness about the importance of maternal and child nutrition.
“Organizations like Bread for the World give me hope,” Newcomer says. “Sometimes people say hope and mean wishful thinking, or optimism. [But] I think of hope as being an incredibly courageous act – hope is about getting up every morning and working toward that better, kinder, more compassionate world. Hope is about not knowing how it’s going to turn out, and not even knowing if you’re going to see it in your lifetime, but working toward it anyway.
“Bread for the World is really a wonderful example of hope and love made visible. And so I’m excited to be part of this, working in community with Bread.”
Sara Doughton, a former intern in Bread for the World's church relations department, is a student at Yale Divinity School.
Bread for the World members Susan and Russell Stall of Greenville, N.C., work to change systems and empower people. The couple recently traveled to Kenya, a trip organized by Dining for Women. Susan serves on the board of the local chapter of this global giving circle dedicated to helping women and girls in the developing world. The Stalls learned about Dining for Women when its founder addressed a JustFaith group that the Stalls facilitated in 2011.
JustFaith is a small-group curriculum that links spirituality and the church’s social justice mission. Bread for the World President David Beckmann, another speaker in the JustFaith series, also made a lasting impression on the Stalls.
“David told about meeting the mother of his adopted child,” Susan recalls. “This woman had made a contribution to Bread for the World. When David asked her what motivated the gift, the woman said that when she was a young, unwed, pregnant woman, she couldn't have survived without the government assistance that Bread for the World helps pass in Congress. Now that her life was stable, she wanted to support Bread’s work.”
“I was struck by how this person was helped—and even more that Bread for the World’s own leader was indirectly impacted by Bread's advocacy through his child’s birth mother. I was also struck by the inclusiveness David exuded when he addressed us. My son asked a question and David answered as though Hampton (the only teenager at the event) was the most important person in the room.”In 2008, Russell founded Greenville Forward, dedicated to improving the Stalls’ home city. The effort mobilizes community conversations, leadership development, and community gardens, to name just a few. The latter is of special interest to Russell.
“Public gardens, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are becoming the new front porch, where people can see each other and visit, and grow healthy food to eat,” he says.
The Stalls are members of Triune Mercy Center, a non-denominational mission church, where affluent members sit shoulder-to-shoulder with homeless people, who make up half the congregation. Susan calls the congregation “an incredible model.” Triune recently hosted a large Offering of Letters. These letters to Congress had a special significance, since many of them were penned by low-income and homeless constituents.
Susan and Russell have a son in college and another in his senior year of high school. Their oldest son, Hampton, worked as an intern at Bread for the World this past summer.
The Stalls’ preferred mode of financially supporting efforts to end hunger is through gifts of stock to Bread for the World Institute.
“We’re not the top of the heap when it comes to income. But we do have resources,” Susan explains. “When we give appreciated stock, Bread for the World Institute gets the full amount—and we are not liable to pay capital gains tax on it. So giving stock has been a great mechanism for us. Being Bread members provides us with a way to advocate for the world’s most marginalized people.”
“Bread for the World could go out and give food to people,” Russell says. “But changing systems? Empowering people to speak out? That’s not teaching a man to fish. It’s transforming the whole pond!”
“The reality is that in order to break free from the bondage [of poverty] in this country and the world, we need elected officials to make good on their words and put 'love thy neighbor' at the center of our legislative agenda.” said Derick Dailey, in a video from Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, "A Place at the Table." (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Robin Stephenson
The shutdown is over and the debt ceiling has been raised — for now. The finish line – a final 2014 budget and a responsible replacement of sequestration – was moved to early next year. For faithful advocates these new developments mean a chance to take a breath, but beware of the chair.
Amelia Kegan, our senior policy analyst, talked about the allure of what runners call “the chair” during this week's grassroots webinar and conference call. Kegan, who recently completed a 100-mile race in Pennsylvania, warned that after you’ve hit the 60-mile mark and come to an aid station, you inevitably see a chair. Tired, you eye it with longing. But, you know that once you sit in that chair and your eyes begin to droop with relaxation, it is much harder to get back up and finish the race.
Our race to end hunger is long and, as the last several months have proved, sometimes frustrating. We share victories, but we also share despair. I’ve heard more than one anti-hunger advocate say that, at times, they’ve wanted to cap their pen, hang up their phone, and never speak to another politician.
I wonder how Moses did it, all those years in the desert? I imagine his often “stiff-necked” charges always asking: are we there yet? I often see this race to end hunger as being similar to crossing that desert — long and tiring, to say the least. At times manna is given to us when we most need it, but like Moses we must wander as servants of the Lord, faithful that the journey is part of the reward.
We know we are not alone as a network of Christians and we know that God is in our midst. Like Moses, we have answered God’s invitation to “come.” Perhaps, like Moses, we might feel inadequate for the job — especially against special interests and the power of money. But we are not inadequate in the eyes of God, whose power is greater than all.
Moses probably saw his share of chairs in the desert. Coming off the mountain, he finds corruption and idol worship among his people. He is angry, but he doesn’t sit down, he travels on.
The coming months will continue to be tough. The farm bill conference is likely to begin soon and our collective responsibility to care for the widow and the orphan will again be called into question as SNAP faces yet another attack. The expected immigration reform legislation in the House and continued budget negotiations reminds us that we must encourage those who have the power of the purse in order to live out the command to love our neighbor.Are we there yet? No, but we have travelled the trail faithfully. Take a moment, say a prayer of thanks that we passed this hurdle, but beware of the chair — we have work to do.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer in the western hub.
Photo from the Evangelical Immigration Table's Pray4Reform gathering, held on the U.S. Capitol grounds in June. (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World)
By Michelle Gilligan
Four years of “off and on” efforts by the "Gang of Seven" in the House to function as a bipartisan voice for comprehensive immigration reform have effectively come to an end. Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) and Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) announced in a joint statement last week that they are withdrawing from the Gang of Seven negotiations, leaving only one Republican in the group. In the absence of agreement on a comprehensive approach, the House is likely to act on immigration issues through a piecemeal process.
In spite of the breakup of the Gang of Seven, there is still hope that some reforms will be enacted. House Republican leaders are seeking to pass several immigration bills of more limited scope. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, explained that this series of smaller House bills is expected to come to the House floor in October. Goodlatte said that the content of the various pieces of legislation still has some details to be worked out, adding, “We don’t know what this bill is going to look like…but whether it’s a legal status or whether it includes a legal status and then a way to earn citizenship through education, military service, or types of employment, whatever the case may be, all of this is being discussed.”
Since the immigration issue is still before Congress, many faith-based advocacy groups are gathering together to make a final push for common-sense immigration reform in 2013. On Oct. 7 and 8 at the CWS Global Summit on Immigration Reform, faith leaders and activists from across the country will advocate for comprehensive reform of the U.S. immigration system. The summit will be held at National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C., where more than 200 priests, lay leaders, and grassroots organizers will come together to discuss the pertinent issues related to immigration reform.
Over the course of the two days, participants will divide into denominational teams to hold dialogues on a variety of questions. One significant theme will be the importance of building stronger and more welcoming communities for immigrants. In addition to the team dialogues, there will also be presentations by guest speakers, among them several refugees who have volunteered to share their personal stories.
October will be an important month for immigration reform legislation in the House since the House Judiciary Committee is likely to address the issue after several months of inactivity. Faith advocates will continue to play a key role in the outcome of this year’s immigration debates.
Michelle Gilligan is the immigration policy intern at Bread for the World Institute.
Faithful advocates have been hit with a lot lately—the House decision to cut nearly $40 billion from SNAP, the ongoing nightmare of sequestration, and budget debates that seem to never end, threatening the economic stability of everyone, especially those struggling with hunger and poverty. Yet, Bread advocates across this country continue to keep up the pressure with a sense of urgency and passion that is nothing short of inspiring.
Protecting programs that help poor working families, ensuring that Congress replaces the harmful sequester with a balanced plan, and pushing the President and Congress to set a goal and enact a plan to end hunger—these are things that require a long, sustained push. And while we have a long and difficult road ahead, Bread for the World activists know that ending hunger is about pushing a movement.
Because advocacy isn’t a sprint—it’s a marathon.
During periods of struggle and hard work is when we remember what faith and perseverance allow us to accomplish. That’s one of the reasons I run actual marathons and ultramarathons—it reminds me of what is possible, that people can push themselves to the limits of endurance and not only make it through, but triumph.
Next weekend, I will run the Oil Creek 100 mile ultramarathon in Titusville, Pa. On Saturday, Oct. 5, from the moment the gun goes off at 5 a.m. until I reach the finish line 100 miles and roughly 30 hours later, I will continue to press on. It would mean completing my first 100 mile race. I know it can be done.
Many distance runners will talk about “hitting the wall,” a period in the race when your legs can’t go any more and your head screams at you to quit. Yet you can manage to press on. I do it not by thinking of the total number of miles left to go, but by focusing on putting one foot in front of the other, going one more step, one more mile. Gradually, those individual steps and miles add up to crossing the finish line.
It is that ability to continue in moments of absolute weakness that I find so empowering. We are reminded in Corinthians 12 that God’s grace is sufficient for us. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Paul says, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
So it is with our race to end hunger. We hit our own walls, like last week’s passage of the House SNAP bill. But rather than wallowing in defeat and throwing in the towel, rather than thinking that ending hunger is impossible in this political and fiscal climate, we know that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. And by focusing on the battles right in front of us—the farm bill conference, the debt ceiling fight, addressing sequestration for the coming year, we will gradually win one more vote, convert one more hunger champion in Congress, and press on until the political will to end hunger shines brightly upon us all.
So, I’m dedicating this upcoming race to Bread for the World, and I’d like you to join me. Because Bread for the World activists, like ultramarathoners, know what is really possible. As I embark on this 100 mile journey, I hope you will pray for me, send me words of encouragement, and, if you’re able, sponsor to support my run with a gift to Bread for the World of $1 or 50 cents per mile--or another amount of your choosing.
I’m doing this because I believe in Bread for the World. I believe in our mission. I believe in our members. I believe in our staff. I believe in our strategy. And, I believe that in the ultramarathon to end hunger, ultimately, we will succeed. Because Bread for the World members refuse to give up. We may hit a wall, we may think we can’t go on, but our faith moves us forward, and we always find the strength to continue our work. We won’t stop until we reach that finish line, until we witness that exodus from hunger that we know is underway.
Amelia Kegan is a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World.
Join Amelia’s run! You don’t have to run 100 miles, but you can sponsor Amelia as she runs 100 miles to benefit Bread for the World and to end hunger. Support her efforts with a gift of $1 per mile or another amount of your choosing. You can also tweet her encouraging words now, and during the actual race, to help her across the finish line! Use the hashtag #runamelia.
Photo: Amelia Kegan, after finishing the Chicago Marathon (Courtesy of Amelia Kegan)
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.
Get updates on issues and actions to take on behalf of hungry people.