174 posts categorized "Bible on Hunger"
Ellen and Al Fisher from Cedar Rapids, IA, are attending Bread for the World's 2012 Lobby Day.
Q: What brought you to Lobby Day?
Al Fisher (AF): This is our fourth Lobby Day. We came to Lobby Day in 2007, 2009, 2011, and now 2012.
Q: Why do you commit your time and resources to come to Lobby Day?
Ellen Fisher (EF): We both feel strongly that this is a vital part of our faith. I hope to persuade the government to adopt programs to end hunger, and we hope to influence the political process and encourage greater generosity towards the poor.
Q: Are you seeing signs of poverty of hunger in your community in Cedar Rapids?
EF: Our church provides free Sunday night meals and we meet people who come back for four or five servings, and they look to me as people who live on the fringes.
AF: The unemployment rate is lower than the national average, but there is still a lot of hunger and poverty there.
Q: What do you hope to tell your members of Congress when you meet with them today?
AF: That they shouldn't cut federal nutrition programs and cut the budget on the backs of the poor. We met with a staffer last year who said that times are tough and everybody's gotta have skin in the game, but it seems unfair that 60 percent of the cuts are coming from programs for the poor.
EF: Right, saying you have to have skin in the game is one thing, but 60 percent of the cuts isn't having skin in the game, it's getting amputated!
Q: Why is hunger an important issue for you?
AF: When we adopted our two kids from South Korea, our son came into the care of the adoption agency and a very nice caring foster family the day after he was born, and then we adopted him. But our daughter had a difficult first 14 months before we adopted her, during which she was very sick and hungry. When we adopted her, at meals, she would eat with food in one hand and food in another hand. She had known hunger, so this is a personal issue for us.
Photo caption: Al Fisher and Ellen Fisher at Bread for the World's Lobby Day on June 12, 2012.
Just as Jesus fed 5,000 with just five loaves of bread and two fish, one congregation, Peace Lutheran Church in Rogers, AR, is feeding more than 18,000 people a year through their food pantry. With only 375 members, this small church packs a powerful punch when it comes to combatting hunger in their region, which is experiencing widespread rural poverty that extends into four states: Arkansas, southern Missouri, southeast Kansas, and eastern Oklahoma.
Rev. Paul Theiss pastors Peace Lutheran Church and signed Bread for the World’s recent petition to Congress that says churches cannot shoulder the burden of protecting poor and hungry people alone. When signing the petition, Rev. Theiss left this comment: “Our congregation, Peace Lutheran Church, fed over 18,000 people during 2011 through our food pantry and additional children through our subsidized preschool and childcare center. We might have to close our youth and music ministries to find enough money to feed the many more who would come looking for food help.”
I called Paul Theiss to ask him about his ministry, the unique needs in his community, and how an added cost of $50,000 a year to help poor and hungry people would impact his church. Read our conversation below:
We have 375 baptized members and our average worship attendance is about 150. We operate the largest and highest-rated Christian preschool and learning center in Rogers, AR, which takes children from 6 months to kindergarten, and is partially subsidized by federal funds for working poor parents through the state of Arkansas.
Our pantry fed 18,000 people in 2011 and we spend $20,000 to $25,000 a year on food. We also receive many in-kind donations from members, local businesses, restaurants, and friends in the community.
Have you noticed increased need in the recent years since the economic recession?
Compared to the rest of Arkansas, this area has very low unemployment, but it’s surrounded by a large area of rural poverty that extends into four states. Many of the jobs here are minimum wage, which doesn’t support a household. So it’s very common to see people working two or three jobs and still not making it. You might say they are one car breakdown or sick child away from an empty pantry.
Could you share the story of one particular food pantry participant who stands out to you?
One young lady who worships regularly with us has an infant child. She is a single mom and works at a local restaurant, and has her child in our infant care center. She receives food stamps, WIC, and subsidized childcare. Her family also helps her. She is very intelligent and capable and faithful, but she’s living on the edge. And she would be among those affected by the recent cuts enacted by the House of Representatives.
What was your response to the news that the House voted to cut funding to programs for poor and hungry people?
A sense of disbelief. Our representative is the former mayor of our town and he certainly knows the situation here, and I can’t believe that he would be responding to the need in such a way. So that’s the disbelief part of it.
I also feel overwhelmed when I think about what would happen if these cuts go through. The figure that’s put out there by Bread for the World is that every congregation would have to come up with $50,000 more per year [if House cuts are enacted]. Well, that’s an average. And for a place like Peace Lutheran Church, we’re talking about an exponential growth in need.
What is your greatest concern?
Sometimes when I park my car and walk up to the church door, I think about what it would be like if people were standing in line around the corner waiting for the pantry to open and not having enough to give them.
Where do you find hope?
That’s easy. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You can’t imagine a more hopeless situation than the death of Christ, and yet God brought something wonderful and powerful out of that.
The faith of the people I see who are involved in this ministry gives me hope as well. There was an anonymous note here that was given to one of our food pantry volunteers and I got a copy of it. It said:
“I’m sorry I didn’t know your name, but last month when my sister and I came to the food bank, we got here real early, and we were just sitting in my car waiting. You came out and told us to go ahead and come in. You didn’t know it, but our nephew had been in a really bad car accident. He lives with me and had just been here a few days. I needed to go ahead and do food banks, and he knew I had my cell phone and could reach me if needed. You really took a load of worry off me and my sister. God bless you, and thank you. K--- and J---”
So that’s just a touching thing when you think about how many people this volunteer has to deal with every day and he’s unemployed himself.
Jeannie Choi is associate editor at Bread for the world. Follow her on Twitter @jeanniechoi.
"Six million children die of malnutrition and hunger-related causes every year. That's 16,400 every day. Most of that is preventable. Bread for the World believes that hunger can be wiped out for only a few billion dollars -- peanuts compared with the military budgets of the world powers. If we don't respond, these children will find the door barred in their faces -- and in their case, they weren't 'foolish' but innocent. We will be the fools, but it will be too late for those who already face that closed door.
Jesus is not warning about the last judgment here, but against a judgment already taking place every day. In the world's midnight, Jesus brought the reign of God to humanity. Jesus transformed the world's midnight from a time of destitution into a time of celebration. Will we be at the wedding feast or locked out by our failure to grasp the meaning of that closed door? Perhaps there will be later feasts I can say yes to and be prepared for, but I have for all time missed the chance for this feast. The times we haven't responded to God's invitations to act add up to our unlived life."
--Walter Wink, in his reflection on the parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 25:1-13) for Hunger for the Word: Lectionary Reflections on Food and Justice. Walter Wink died May 10, 2012.
I haven’t. Oh, sure, there’ve been some months when expenses were bigger than income and I didn’t know how to pay some bills. But I’ve always had support -- financial and otherwise -- from my family when needed.
We all know that’s not the case for everyone. Right now:
- 48.8 million Americans are at risk of hunger.
- 15 percent of Americans -- including more than one-in-five children -- live in poverty.
Tragically, the House recently passed a budget that could make more Americans hungry.
This is unacceptable to me.
And this is why the church I serve, Woodridge United Methodist, recently sent 100 letters to Senator Mark Kirk and Senator Dick Durbin urging them create a circle of protection around domestic nutrition programs vital to hungry and poor Americans -- programs such as SNAP and WIC.
I signed Bread’s petition urging Congress not to cut SNAP for the same reason: Deliberately making more people hungry -- and making already hungry people even hungrier -- is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to me as a father, as a pastor, as a Christian, and as a human being, and I need my members of Congress to know that.
So Senator Durbin, Senator Kirk, and Representative Judy Biggert will see my name on Bread’s petition, and I hope your members of Congress will see your name as well. (Sign the petition here.)
To make up the gap created by those proposed cuts to SNAP churches and charities would need to do everything they’re currently doing to fight hunger ... and come up with an average of an additional $50,000 each year!
$50,000!? I know our church does not have that kind of spare change sitting around, and I know that our friends at the West Suburban Community Pantry have already seen demand for their services increase sharply -- from serving 750 families per month to 1200. The pantry does incredible work in our community, feeding more than 35,000 people last year, including more than 15,000 children. They are maxed out too.
I agree that budget deficits, especially at our current level, are unsustainable. But reducing our deficit by making hungry people hungrier is immoral.
The biblical witness is clear: As followers of God in the way of Jesus we are called to protect hungry and vulnerable people. We are called to speak with them. Signing this petition is a terrific, and, let’s be honest, easy way to do exactly that.
Photo caption: Rev. Dave Buerstetta dedicates letters written during an Offering of Letters on April 22, 2012, at Woodridge United Methodist Church in Woodridge, IL.
+Learn more about budget proposals and Bread's online petition telling Congress that churches can’t be the only ones responsible for feeding hungry people, on Thursday, May 17. Join Bread National Grassroots Conference Call and Webinar and hear more from Rev. Dave Buerstetta, the organizing staff, and one of our government relations policy analysts. Follow the webinar on Twitter with the hashtag #breadweb.
[This article was originally posted on The Huffington Post.]
When I open my Bible, it isn't hard to find a verse that underscores our responsibility as Christians to care for the least among us. Proverbs 19:17 tells us, "Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed." Unfortunately, some members of Congress don't buy into this notion. They believe instead that taking care of the most vulnerable people in our society is for the church to do alone.
Recently the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget resolution for fiscal year 2013 that places a heavy burden on poor Americans who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) to feed their families. The House recommended cutting more than $169 billion from SNAP. Some representatives even argued that feeding hungry people is really the work of churches, not government.
But churches can't be solely responsible for feeding poor women, children, seniors and disabled people. We also need strong government programs. In fact, all of the food churches and charities provide to hungry and poor people in the United States amounts to only about 6 percent of what the federal government spends on programs such as SNAP and school meals for students.
The Hartford Institute for Religion and Research estimates there are 335,000 religious congregations in the United States. If the House's proposals to cut SNAP by $133.5 billion and $36 billion are enacted, each congregation will have to spend about $50,000 more annually to feed those who would see a reduction or loss of benefits. Some congressional leaders are essentially saying that every church in America -- big or tiny -- needs to come up with an extra $50,000 to feed people every year for the next 10 years to make up for these cuts.
In response, Bread for the World asked people to tell members of Congress that churches can't be solely responsible for feeding hungry people. Thousands from around the country answered our call, telling us they just can't afford to do more than they're currently doing. Here are a few of their comments:
"As a small church in the middle of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, we are inundated with needs all around us. The proposed cost is more than we pay our full-time minister for compensation, the only full-time staff we have. We contribute to multiple charities that distribute food to those who are in need in order to ensure the best stewardship of our resources. And, yet, we are still not able to meet all of the needs. These cuts will overwhelm us." --Sarah from Arlington, Texas
"Feeding the hungry is not a choice -- it is a moral imperative. But the food pantries and soup kitchens in this area funded by the generosity of church members already are serving those in need at capacity and beyond in these tough economic times. We are doing our part. We expect that our government will do the same." --Alexandra from Troy, N.Y.
"Addressing the needs of the hungry and poor is something that requires BOTH local congregation action and ALSO local and national government support. I urge our legislators at all levels to maintain strong support of government programs that help the poor and needy." --Brian from Fond Du Lac, Wis.
"Already we get innumerable calls for emergency assistance. We have no idea how these families are sufficiently getting the necessary nutrients for their children and family. To increase the number of people would be overwhelming and those churches who try to help with their shrinking congregations might totally give up." -Tempe of Jamestown, N.C.
"We fed over 32,000 people last year and we are tapped! We can barely pay our own bills, and if we are pushed any further we won't be able to keep our doors open, thus NOT being able to feed the ones we already are!! PLEASE DON'T cut any feeding programs." -Kirk of Sparks, Nev.
It's time for members of Congress to tell people -- like Brian from Wisconsin, Alexandra from New York, Tempe from North Carolina and Sarah from Texas -- that they're going to do their part and support legislation that creates a circle of protection around programs that are vital to hungry and poor people.
Photo caption: Senior Pastor Judith VanOsdol leads the noon church service at El Milagro (The Miracle) Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN. The parish, which is Spanish-English bilingual, is made up of many members who depend on WIC and SNAP to feed their families. VanOsdol spent 17 years as a missionary pastor in South America. Photograph by Laura Elizabeth Pohl
Photo by Flickr user mrsdkrebs
"Make us worthy, Lord, to serve those throughout the world who live and die in poverty or hunger. Give them, through our hands, this day their daily bread; and by our understanding love, give peace and joy."
--Mother Teresa of Calcutta
"Make us worthy, Lord, to serve those throughout the world who live and die in poverty or hunger. Give them, through our hands, this day their daily bread; and by our understanding love, give peace and joy. Amen."
~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta
(From left to right) Peter Vander Muelen, Office of Social Justice at the Christian Reformed Church in North America; David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Andrew Ryskamp, director of Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC); and Ida Kaastra Mutoigo, director of CRWRC Canada gathered in Grand Rapids, MI, to celebrate CRWRC's 50th anniversary on Friday, May 4, 2012. Photo by Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy.
While Bread for the World’s niche is Christian policy advocacy, we often partner with dozens of church entities that respond to global poverty with relief and development programs and ministries. Organizations such as Catholic Relief Services (CRS), United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), and Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) operate as the “official development arms” of the national church bodies reflected in their names. The on-the-ground wisdom and best development practices of these organizations inform Bread’s policy advocacy analysis and policy platforms about what works.
This past Friday evening, Bread for the World had the honor of celebrating the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee in Grand Rapids, MI. The Christian Reformed Church, with about 280,000 members in the United States and Canada, and its relief arm, CRWRC, with an impressive budget of about $40 million, celebrated its five decades of work in 86 countries.
Along with tens of thousands of Christian activists and thousands of congregations, relief and development organizations help to strengthen Bread’s “collective Christian voice to end hunger.” It was an honor for Bread’s president David Beckmann to reflect with CRWRC staff, board, and donors and consider the unique contributions CRWRC made in the life of Bread for the World.
CRWRC is a partner of the Alliance to End Hunger. Also, the Christian Reformed Church has faithfully supported Bread’s Hunger Report for the last 20 years.
Andy Ryskamp, CRWRC’s executive director in the U.S., has been closely involved with two of Bread’s more recent high-profile religious-leader events aimed to engage influential evangelicals in foreign assistance reform: the evangelical consultation hosted at Wheaton College 2010 and its predecessor consultation hosted by Dallas Baptist University in 2011. Ryskamp’s involvement in these initiatives helped attract other CEO’s from evangelical development organizations to participate in these events and to articulate why evangelical Christians should engage in advocacy, especially around U.S. foreign assistance.
CRWRC will change its name to World Renew this summer to reflect the wider reach of its relief and development ministries across the globe.
CRWRC’s commitment to local leadership, capacity building, empowerment, collaboration, and integral mission has impacted thousands of communities around the world. These aspects of CRWRC’s development work shape the kinds of effective development programming and policies that Bread for the World advocates for stateside.
Thank you for you partnership CRWRC. Happy 50th anniversary!
Photo by Flickr user silent shot
The dramatic cuts of $169 billion to SNAP proposed this year in the U.S. House would have a devastating impact on all of our congregations’ efforts to address increasing need.
Every church across America would need to come up with, on average, an extra $50,000 dedicated to feeding people — every year for the next 10 years — to make up for these cuts.
Sign our petition now to say feeding hungry people is not the sole responsibility of churches. Here’s what a few people who have already signed the petition shared with us:
- “My church is situated in a community of high need in Los Angeles County. Our church's Food Pantry already serves over 400 people per week out of a garage. We are already at the breaking point! The need is real and raw. We absolutely cannot do this without the help of our elected leaders!”
— Daniel in Bellflower, CA
- “Our area churches are already collecting and handing out food in massive amounts simply to SUPPLEMENT those on SNAP and yet the shelves run empty time and time again. This is not a time for cutting programs that affect our most vulnerable, but a time to stand in solidarity with them.”
— Katherine in Arlington, VA
- "2,000 folks per month pass through one of our ministries in Gary, IN, homeless and without food. This would be devastating both to them and to us. We are barely making it now.”
— Bob in Donaldson, IN
We have to tell Congress — and tell them again and again — that they must create a circle of protection around programs that are vital to hungry and poor people. And then we must pray hard that they will listen to their conscience as upright, moral persons of faith.
Thank you for your voice!
Photo by Flickr user by visual.dichotomy
Last week, we shared with you that the House of Representatives just proposed to cut more than $169 billion from SNAP, formerly the food stamps program. Some representatives argued that feeding hungry people is really the work of the churches.
These representatives are essentially saying that on average every church across America — big, small, and tiny — needs to come up with an extra $50,000 dedicated to feeding people — every year for the next 10 years — to make up for these cuts. Bread for the World launched a petition and asked everyone to sign on and tell Congress that churches cannot be the only ones responsible for feeding hungry people.
Thousands of people signed the petition, and many shared their own stories and comments. Here are comments that some of you left:
"A good number of our students at Ancilla College have an expected family contribution (EFC) of $0.00. Some of them rely on SNAP for food for themselves and sometimes for their families (non-traditional students). In their effort to better themselves and thus be better prepared to make contributions to society [they] need the support of SNAP." --Carleen from Donadlson, IN
"Alfred Parish UCC is already sending a lot of food through 2 different feeding programs and providing a monthly free meal to people who come through the doors. We don't have the means to 'pick up' and do the kind of work that our Federal Government can do. The SNAP Program must be continued." --Bruce from Alfred, ME
"As a small church in the middle of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, we are inundated with needs all around us. The proposed cost is more than we pay our full-time minister for compensation, the only full-time staff we have. We contribute to multiple charities that distribute food to those who are in need in order to insure the best stewardship of our resources. And, yet, we are still not able to meet all of the needs, these cuts will overwhelm us." --Sarah from Arlington, TX
"As program manager of the Northeast Emergency Food Program of the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, we serve 11,000 unduplicated individuals each year. We do so through a wonderful partnership of congregations, businesses, individuals, other nonprofits, and the government. In the past three years, the number of our clients has increased by over 40%. There is no way we can make up for either the loss of food provided by the USDA or the influx of clients who would lose benefits such as SNAP. And there is no way our church partners could fill the gap." --Howard from Portland, OR
"Feeding the hungry is not a choice -- it is a moral imperative. But the food pantries and soup kitchens in this area funded by the generosity of church members already are serving those in need at capacity and beyond in these tough economic times. We are doing our part. We expect that our government will do the same." --Alexandra from Troy, NY
"It is a sign of a healthy country when the government cares for its poor. It is a sign of an abuse of power when the government determines that only the religious communities are responsible for caring for its poor. The move to cut billions from funding that will care for the poor will show the world that the leaders of the US care only about power, dominance and control. We stand at risk of losing our way, our heart, our very notion that all are created equal and ought to have equal access to meeting basic needs." --Jan from Raleigh, NC
Thanks to everyone who signed this petition -- and if you haven't yet, join your voice with thousands of other people of faith who believe that we must all work together to end hunger.
At Bread for the World, we employ a diverse group of individuals from various backgrounds. Often, this creates cause for robust dialogue on current events. We thought we’d let you peek into one of these very exchanges – this time between Amelia Kegan, senior policy analyst in our government relations department, and Sister Margaret Mary Kimmins, OSF who manages Bread’s relations with Catholic churches in our church relations department. The two discussed the recent comments made by Rep. Paul Ryan about the House proposed budget, Catholic social teaching, and its implications on U.S. budget policy.
Check out their exchange below, and weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments section!
Amelia: Last month, the House of Representatives passed a budget resolution, and its author, Congressman Ryan, recently spoke about how that budget fits with Catholic social teaching. At Bread, we’ve been pretty critical of that budget because it has some fairly extreme cuts to programs to poor and vulnerable populations and fails to create a circle of protection around those programs. Sister Margaret, how does Catholic social teaching inform your view of this budget? How and why is it different from Chairman Ryan’s view?
Sister Margaret Mary: Catholic social teaching is integral to how we act on our values and on our mission. One of the basic principles of Catholic social teaching is the principle of human dignity. Every person, regardless of race, sex, age, religion, health, or other differences is worthy of respect. It’s not what you do or what you have that establishes this respect. It’s simply by being human that establishes this dignity. It’s the Catholic view that human dignity is not a means. It’s always an end. So we don’t separate any group from what they need to live.
Amelia: So, how does the House proposed budget violate some of the basic concepts of Catholic social teaching?
Sister Margaret Mary: There are two significant pieces of Catholic social teaching: charity and justice. Everyone is deserving of both. In the House passed budget, it explains the concept of charity without the concept of justice. Neither one — charity or justice — is the total responsibility of the church. This budget seems to put everything of the charity on the churches.
Congressman Ryan talks about subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is certainly a part of Catholic social teaching that teaches us how we need to act. But solidarity is being at one with all of humanity, and needs to go hand-in-hand with Catholic social teaching. That’s the principle of human equality, and is part of what we teach our children—to be fair.
Amelia: Should our governmental leaders take cues from Catholic Social teaching when they are not even Catholics?
Sister Margaret Mary: Catholic social teaching is for everyone. It comes from scripture and tradition, but it’s broader than that. Fairness and human dignity are values that everyone has; they’re not exclusively Catholic. Catholic social teaching shows us that each one of us is sacred. We carry the spirit of Jesus within us. The principle of the common good requires establishing social structures that preserve the good of the community. Absence of any concern for or sensitivity of the common good is a sure sign of a society in need of help.
Some in Congress talk about how programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps), unemployment insurance, the EITC, and WIC other similar programs create government dependence, but a community is interdependent. We’re not looking at independence or dependence. We’re related to each other and interdependent in the human community. In this budget, the House of Representatives seems to be legislating for some small percentage of abuse. We shouldn’t be legislating for abuse; it’s morally wrong. We should be legislating for dignity.
Amelia: At Bread, we recognize that our long-term deficit situation is of serious concern. Congress must put the country on a fiscally sustainable path. Those in Congress who support the House passed budget argue that these cuts are necessary to address our deficits, while we at Bread have argued for a more balanced approach. What does the Catholic faith have to teach us about these types of decisions?
Sister Margaret Mary: Catholic Social teaching includes the principle of preferential treatment for the poor and vulnerable, and we must adhere to that principle if the good of all is to prevail. We are called to political responsibility as faithful citizens.
What do you think about these decisions, Amelia?
Amelia: Most economists and most in Congress agree about the need to address our long-term deficits and debt and that doing so will require some very tough decisions. However, whether to cut programs for the poor should not be a tough decision. I’m mystified that we’re even having these conversations about whether we should cut SNAP by $133 billion and potentially throw 8 to 10 million people off the program. I’m amazed that when the House Agriculture Committee is asked to find an additional $33 billion in savings, they take every penny of it from SNAP. I’m astounded that the Ways and Means Committee just passed recommendations that would mean one million families could no longer claim the Child Tax Credit, affecting millions of children primarily in low-income immigrant families. And we’re hearing all of these attacks upon poor and vulnerable families struggling to put food on the table at a time when we have 2.8 million children living on less than $2 a day. I often ask myself, how can this be? How can we amplify the level of outrage about the fact that these cuts are even on the table?
Sister Margaret Mary: I agree with you. I would like Congress to take 30 minutes or an hour of quiet and imagine having little or no access to food or health care or transportation, education, housing. If you don’t have access to what you need to live in dignity and if you don’t have access to the funds that enable you to live, it’s frightening. What we’re lacking is imagination to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes. How many people have said to members of Congress, this is not right? We have a poverty of imagination. We have to act together in this. We have to act together in faith.
Amelia: Thanks for this conversation, Sister Margaret.
Sister Margaret Mary: My pleasure!
Amelia Kegan is senior policy advisor at Bread for the World, and Sister Margaret Mary Kimmins, OSF is Catholic Church relations person at Bread for the World.
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