Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

405 posts categorized "Hunger and the U.S. Budget"

Take Part in Virtual Lobby Day Today

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Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

By Bread Staff

Tomorrow, hundreds of Bread for the World members will be in Washington, D.C., advocating for legislation that would help end child hunger in the U.S. and around the world. Real change is possible — and we're on the precipice with three critical pieces of legislation moving in Congress right now:

  1. Child nutrition reauthorization
  2. The Global Food Security Act
  3. Budget bills that fund these programs

We realize that not everyone can make the journey to D.C., but can you take two minutes today to join us virtually ? A quick phone call (800/826-3688) or email from you will help amplify our message in a powerful way.

Please call (800/826-3688) or email Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Tell Congress to:

  1. Support legislation, like the Summer Meals Act of 2015 (H.R. 1728/S. 613), that closes the hunger gap and connects hungry children with the meals they need.
  2. Cosponsor and pass the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567/S. 1252), making permanent the U.S. food and nutrition security program, Feed the Future.
  3. Prevent cuts to programs that invest in children in the U.S. and around the world. Pass a budget deal that prevents sequestration cuts.

Want more information on these bills and talking points? Visit our virtual Lobby Day page at www.bread.org/lobbyday.

Your call or email to Congress today will make a huge impact in our work together to end hunger at home and abroad. I’m so inspired to see and hear so many people of faith, together amplifying calls to enact policies that will further that cause.

Summer Meals Hard for Rural Children to Access

By Jennifer Gonzalez 

The nation’s rural children are hit hardest when it comes to accessing summer meals. The federal Summer Food Service Program provides summer meals for children at congregate sites, but those sites are often difficult to access for families in rural areas.

Lack of transportation and long distances make it hard for children to get the meals they need to grow into healthy adults.

Christine Melendez Ashley, a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World, was recently interviewed by CBN News (Christian Broadcasting Network) for a story focused on child hunger. "For every seven kids getting a free or reduced lunch, only about one gets a meal during the summer. So that's a huge gap in terms of participation,” Melendez Ashley said in the interview.

Urging Congress to reauthorize the child nutrition bill is the focus of the 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children. The bill is set to expire this fall. Make sure to join the hundreds who have already written letters to Congress.

In the meantime, we need your help to ensure Congress doesn’t make harmful cuts to programs that help people keep hunger at bay. Currently, members of the appropriations committees are deciding how much to fund each federal program, and sequestration is making their jobs very hard. Automatic sequestration cuts lower the overall spending limits.

We need your help. Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and U.S. senators today. Urge Congress to oppose cuts to the child nutrition bill and other programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and poverty-focused development assistance.

Tell Congress to address the additional sequestration cuts in a more balanced and responsible way. Congress should be investing in our children, not undermining their food security. 

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

Tell Congress to Protect Child Nutrition Programs

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Federal nutrition programs for children are a critical part of the fight against hunger. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Eric Mitchell

In March, we asked you to tell Congress to protect SNAP and other anti-hunger programs from cuts in the budget. You delivered. Now, we're hitting the next stage in these budget battles, and we need your voice again.

Will you take two minutes to call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators and tell Congress to fully fund programs that help children at risk of hunger in the U.S. and around the world?

Last month, Congress passed a budget blueprint that, if fully enacted, would increase hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world. Now, Congress is trying to figure out how to implement it. 

At this very moment, members of the appropriations committees are deciding how much to fund each federal program, and sequestration is making their jobs very hard. Automatic sequestration cuts lower the overall spending limits. This means there is less money to fund things like education and scientific research, let alone programs that effectively help people struggling to move out of poverty, such as foreign assistance and nutrition assistance for infants and low-income mothers. 

Our federal budget is an outline of the priorities of this country. Our children's health and nutrition must be a priority.

Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators today. Urge Congress to oppose cuts to programs like WIC and international poverty-focused development assistance. Tell Congress to address the additional sequestration cuts with a more balanced and responsible plan. Congress should be investing in our children, not undermining their food security. 

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

Teachers: When Stomachs are Empty, We Can't Fill Minds

By Robin Stephenson

Teachers have a problem with poverty. According to a survey of our nation’s top teachers, poverty – ranking just below family stress – is a barrier to classroom success.

The survey, conducted by Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic Inc., asked 56 Teachers of the Year about the issues that affect public education. Teachers stated that funding anti-poverty initiatives would be their top priority.

The United States ranks near the bottom on measures of child poverty in the developed world, while at the same time continuing to rank among the wealthiest nations. More than 16 million children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level ($23,550 a year for a family of four). The manifestation of poverty is often perceived to be an individual predicament, but poverty is a social problem that must be addressed on a national level.

16348200855_cd67e7b41b_kIt is no surprise that teachers find poverty – a solvable problem – an impediment to classroom success. Studies show that nutrition programs not only improve a child's diet and academic performance, but they also improve behavior – a prized commodity in any classroom.

But for the educator, the fruits of their labor are harvested long after the child leaves the classroom.

“If you don’t fund children for their well-being early on, you’re going to pay for it later on when they graduate from school – or don’t graduate from school,” Mickey Komins, principal of Anne Frank Elementary in Philadelphia, Pa., told Bread for the World.

In 2012, the safety net moved 48 million people above the poverty line – including 12 million children.  At Bread, we are advocating for better child nutrition programs as part of our 2015 Offering of Letters campaign, because children’s health and well-being is correlated with future success. When children have access to anti-hunger programs early on, studies show they are more successful later in life.

We can help teachers focus on educating our future leaders by advocating that the federal government invest in programs that help children.  Members of Congress are debating the future of child nutrition programs, SNAP (formerly food stamps), and deciding funding levels as they go through the budget process.

Instead of a focus on cuts, lawmakers must be urged to consider the future of the nation’s children. These anti-hunger programs must be strengthened if we want to get poverty out of the classroom for good.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Child Hunger: 'It is just sinful'

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Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ congregants write letters to their elected officials. Lena Isely for Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

“It is just sinful,” said Raul Hernandez, shaking his head, about the fact that some children in the United States go to bed hungry.

As he made his remark, he addressed an envelope to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla). The envelope would later be stuffed with a letter written by one of the many congregants of the Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ in Coral Gables, Fla., taking part in an Offering of Letters on Mother’s Day.

Tables were set up inside the church’s Fellowship Hall, as well outside the church, as a bright sun beat down on congregants writing letters. The idea was to have congregants write letters to their elected officials on behalf of the many mothers who struggle every day to feed their families.

“As a person of faith, I think there is nothing so contrary to God’s will for this world than to have people and especially children be hungry, said Rev. Dr. Laurinda Hafner, the church’s senior minister. “More than anything else, Jesus talked about feeding the hungry, so as members of a Christian congregation it is our faithful and moral imperative to do everything we can to fill the bellies of those who are without food.” LIP_0343

Bread for the World’s 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children is focused on ensuring Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill. The legislation is set to expire in the fall. It is vital that Congress hears from their constituents, especially since over 16 million children in the U.S. don’t always know where their next meal is coming from.

The church’s Offering of Letters was a well-coordinated effort, from the pulpit announcement to the near-precision assembly line of letter writing and envelope stuffing. Hernandez, who lives in Miami, was part of that assembly line – addressing envelopes to speed up the process.

Over 100 letters were written to Sen. Rubio and President Obama on Sunday. For Karen Newpauer of Key Biscayne, sitting down to write a letter to the senator was personal. “We are food-insecure right now,” said Newpauer, a divorced, single mom raising three daughters, including daughter Michelle Murcia, 11, who was also writing a letter to the senator.

“I try to shield the kids from what is going on,” she says. Newpauer said children should not be going to school with growling stomachs.

Sometimes you have to write a letter to correct a wrong. That’s the way Virgin Vanderblugt felt about the letter she wrote. She said too often elected officials get into office and begin to think about themselves and not their constituents.

She hopes the letters from her church will make elected officials think harder about the plight of others. “There are a lot of people who are struggling,” she said.

When Victor Tejera of Miami sat down to write his letter, he thought about the children he encounters every day as a school social worker – many who are hungry. Tejera said he connects students and their families with government services if they qualify. If they don’t, he “gets creative.”

He said he taps into his faith and nonprofit communities contacts to connect struggling families with services such as a local food pantry. He said he knows that his letter alone won’t have much of an impact, but he hopes that the sheer volume of letters elected officials receive will make enough of an impression to ensure that hungry kids get the food they need.

Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day is June 9. Join us to make some real changes in Washington, D.C., when it comes to feeding our children. You don’t need to be a policy expert to participate. You just need to care. 

Registration is free but space is limited. Register today to reserve your spot!

Photo inset: Michelle Murcia, 11, writing a letter to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Lena Isely for Bread for the World.

The Power of the Phone Call

PhoneBy Jon Gromek

Making a call to Congress can be powerful. It is how you can make your voice heard on important issues like ensuring Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill.

We need you to speak up on Tuesday, May 5 and urge Congress to protect the nutrition programs that give hungry children access to the meals they need to thrive. Call (800) 826-3688 and ask for the office or your senators and representative and tell them to protect child nutrition programs by reauthorizing the child nutrition bill.

If you think making a call to Congress can’t make a difference, think again. About a year ago, I got an email late in the evening from my Bread for the World government relations’ colleagues. As is often the case in Congress, an important vote was scheduled last minute in the Senate Appropriations Committee that would provide $35 million for food aid and help feed an additional 200,000 people in need. 

The problem? The vote was set for 10 a.m. the following morning and would most likely fail. We needed our Bread members to make calls to their senators and representative no later than 9 a.m.!

Knowing it was a long shot, especially so late in the day, I nevertheless reached out to some of our most ardent members and activists in Indiana and asked them to contact Sen. Dan Coats (R- Ind.) who happened to be a critical vote. Good news slowly started trickling into my inbox the next morning. Several members committed to make calls before they went to work and followed up with emails. They learned that the senator was actually going to be absent from the vote but with some gentle encouragement and some timely back and forth between Senate staff over email, and phone, they convinced him to cast a yea vote by proxy. 

The vote passed by 16-14, with the senator casting a critical swing vote. A handful of calls one sleepy morning made the difference in the life of 200,000 people in need. Later that day, I got an email from one of the brave few who took a few precious minutes of his early morning to make those calls.  “When I got your note last night I thought ‘I don't have time for this,’ he admitted.  “God is very good. To get this result is great.”

In the coming weeks, members of Congress will begin the serious work of reauthorizing our federal child nutrition programs, including a hearing in the Senate scheduled for Thursday, May 7, at 10 a.m. EDT. Lawmakers will hold in their hands the lives and future well-being of children across the country who depend on the nutritious food they get from services like school meal programs and the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) program. One in five children in the U.S. lives in households that struggle to put food on the table. In a country such as ours that is unacceptable.

We need you to speak up on Tuesday, May 5 and urge Congress to protect the nutrition programs that give hungry children access to the meals they need to thrive. Call (800) 826-3688 and ask for the office or your senators and representative and tell them to protect child nutrition programs by reauthorizing the child nutrition bill.

Jon Gromek is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Hunger: 'Congress Doesn't Get it'

OL2015-Blog

By Alyssa Casey

I love the work I do as a Bread staffer in Washington, D.C., but my roots will always be in northern Illinois. I grew up in Antioch, Ill., a small town where farmlands and suburban neighborhoods merge into one. Antioch is also where I first encountered hunger through service work at my church and local food pantry.

During a visit home to Antioch a few weeks ago, I accompanied my mother one night to a food pantry at Open Arms Mission. I saw many faces of hunger walk through the door. While I was there, I was fortunate enough to talk with Marytherese Ambacher, the director of Open Arms Mission. She confirmed what I saw firsthand- that there is no one face of hunger.

“We see a lot of men in their 50s and 60s, a lot of tradespeople,” she explained. Many tradespeople who work seasonal jobs get laid off during the slow months. While some are able to find another temporary job to fill the gap, others turn to the local food pantry while they continue their job search.

When I asked about SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Ambacher said many of the people coming to the food pantry receive SNAP, but the benefits they receive aren’t enough to get their family through the month. “Most people don’t come every week,” but come to fill the gap when their SNAP benefits run out. 

Open Arms allows clients to come in once per week, and in one visit they receive up to two days’ worth of food based on family size. The majority of these individuals and families rely on SNAP in addition to the food pantry. “That’s what Congress doesn’t get. They think we can feed these people but we only give them 2 days’ worth of food a week,” Ambacher said.

At Bread for the World, we know that while these churches and charities are immensely important, federal programs provide nearly 20 times the amount of food assistance as private sources.

Open Arms also coordinates with local schools to close the hunger gap during weekends and summers. The weekend backpack program provides a backpack with food on Fridays for some of the children who receive free- and reduced-price lunch during the week.

“We ran a summer camp for two years,” Ambacher said, “but we had more volunteers than we had kids.” Most summer feeding programs across the country require students to come to a specific site and finish the meal on site. Parents in Northern Lake County, which includes suburban and rural communities, find it difficult to get their children to the site because they are at work during the day.

Feeding students during the summer can be difficult. For every seven children who receive free- or reduced-price lunch, only one also receives food assistance during summer months. That’s why Bread for the World is campaigning this year to close this gap and expand access to summer meals for children at risk of hunger.

Private charities like Open Arms are invaluable partners in the fight against hunger, but they can’t do it alone. Strengthening federal nutrition programs like SNAP and school and summer meals would be a huge step toward ending hunger in the United States.

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

Alyssa Casey is a government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.

 

'From Kids Whose Stomachs Ache to Parents Whose Hearts Break'

OL2015-Blog

By Bread Staff

Editor’s note: This is a first-person account told to Bread staff members by a Bread colleague about the importance of good nutrition, especially during a child’s early years. Proper nutrition plays a significant, time-sensitive role in a child’s growth and development.

Over 16 million American children or 1 in 5 don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. Hungry children are not a rare exception. They are your neighbors. They are my neighbors.   

But statistics and reasoning are often not enough to convince us to take actions.  Real-life stories bring home the critical importance of good nutrition to a child’s growth and development.

I have one such story.

My younger son’s birth mother wasn’t able to provide him with strong pre-natal nutrition. There was no Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) nutrition program.  There were not enough nutritious breakfasts and lunches for the first 7 ½ years of his life.  He was robbed of his best potential because he did not receive critical nutrients.  Each day now and for the rest of his life he will pay the price of malnutrition.

Like many children in developed countries who have been malnourished, my son did not “look hungry.”  Only later, would we know the effects of his hunger – his shorter stature but more importantly the gaps in his brain’s development.

Today, at 17, he uses his fingers to count while doing his math homework because he lost out in having the brain development that supports the memorizing and recalling of elementary math facts.  My son is not lazy.  He does apply himself.  My husband and I support his educational efforts with countless hours of at-home tutoring. But, despite spending the equivalent of months trying to learn the multiplication table, he has not been successful because he does not have the capacity to learn them.

As we look to the future, my husband and I are asking, “Will a college degree pay off?  Who will hire him?  How will he be successful in a world that values speed and high productivity?”  We swallow hard and say a prayer, “Guide us Lord.  We don’t know what to do. We need your grace to figure something out.” 

Hunger is not a partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats know that hunger hurts -- from kids whose stomachs ache to parents whose hearts break.  But, the biggest hurt is the lifetime price that children who have experienced hunger and malnutrition will pay.

A child whose brain does not develop optimally can’t eat extra food as an adult to make up for this deficit.  In our fix-it society, the effects of poor nutrition cannot be fixed later when the budget deficit is lower, when jobs are more plentiful, or when universal access to food is a reality. We need to make sure now that children have access to nutritious food so that they can be all that God intended for them to be.

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

 

 

 

SNAP Safe For Now, But Automatic Cuts Loom in Budget

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The joint budget resolution for the 2016 fiscal year includes deep cuts to anti-hunger programs.  (Screen shot from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media)

By Robin Stephenson

The House and Senate are close to finalizing a deal for the overall parameters of the 2016 fiscal year budget. The joint budget resolution, with deep cuts to anti-hunger programs, could be ratified by votes in the House and Senate this week.

“It’s a budget that fails to prioritize the most vulnerable, but there is a silver lining:  Thanks to our advocates, the joint resolution does not include reconciliation instructions to the agriculture committees,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World.

In the final compromise, instructions were not included that would have put SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) directly on the chopping block.

“This is good news,” said Kegan. “It postpones our fight to protect SNAP. SNAP is always vulnerable and continues to have a target on its back, but this gives us some breathing room.” On the other hand, reconciliation instructions still leave Medicaid, the earned income tax credit, and the child tax credit potentially at risk.

However, given that 69 percent of the cuts put low-income people at risk, Kegan warns there is still much work to do. “The decisions of what programs get funded and what programs get cut is part of a complex process. There will be a few key opportunities and threats over the next five months in particular,” she said.

A budget resolution sets the top-line numbers for annually appropriated programs – the overall size of the pie that is then sliced up in what is called the appropriation process. Those slices fund individual programs administered through the federal government. Because the budget was balanced by cuts exclusively and not through revenue, the slices are thin. Making matter worse, unless Congress acts, the slices will shrink even more because of a process called sequestration.

Sequestration was offered as a stick during 2011 budget negotiations. In 2011, negotiators were given a choice: They could decide where to enact entitlement cuts and raise revenue or accept additional cuts that shrink the annual appropriations budget. The group of lawmakers, dubbed the Super Committee, failed to compromise. That result triggered the draconian policy to shackle spending even more.  

Since then, Congress and the Obama administration enacted moderate and temporary measures that eased the impact of the cuts.  Lawmakers must enact measures soon that would again ease cuts that affect anti-hunger programs like The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The domestic nutrition program, which is already stretched to meet unprecedented need, provides funding for food banks to purchase nutritious foods and to help transport and deliver that food to Americans in need.

“Sequestration is unacceptable and unsustainable. It is a decision that can be changed, if,” Kegan stressed, “Congress makes it a priority. But they have to hear from their constituents.”

There are several programs under the jurisdiction of the agricultural committee that are critical in our efforts to end hunger, but would be subject to a sequestration squeeze. The WIC program supports nutrition for children from low-income families so they grow healthy but would lose vital funding if the automatic cuts are not removed. The dollars that fund food aid and increase our ability to buy food closer to disasters like Nepal would be in jeopardy if sequestration goes into effect.  And the poverty-assistance programs like low-income housing assistance and Head Start would also be at risk.

Bread members are urged to tell their members of Congress to enact measures that will remove sequestration from the budget and develop a bipartisan, balanced approach to deficit reduction.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Churches and Charities are Key Partners, But Can't Fight Hunger Alone

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Federal nutrition programs are finding ways to connect the people who rely on them with a healthy selection of foods. Jim Stipe for Bread for the World.

By Alyssa Casey

“Many people call SNAP a safety net, but for me it was like a trampoline – bouncing my family back into work and a brighter future,” said Keleigh Green-Patton, a working mother and former SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) recipient, who recently testified on Capitol Hill.

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives held two separate hearings, both on critical anti-hunger programs. The House Agriculture Committee focused on the relationship between SNAP and the charitable sector, while the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing on serving students and families through child nutrition programs.

During the SNAP hearing, Green-Patton told her story of turning to SNAP after losing her job, participating in a job-training program through the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and then finding employment and moving off SNAP. While the three-month training program was facilitated by the food depository, the program was unpaid, and so to keep food on her family’s table, Green-Patton turned to SNAP.

In addition to Green-Patton, expert witnesses from food banks and anti-hunger programs emphasized the critical role of SNAP, even in the midst of the innovative work being done by private charitable organizations. “We are proud of our daily impact on hunger, but it pales in comparison to the tremendous job done by federal nutrition programs, including SNAP, WIC, CACFP, School Lunch and Breakfast and Summer Meals,” said Kate Maehr, chief executive officer of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) echoed this theme by citing Bread for the World’s research on charities and hunger. “I think the message that’s loud and clear is that churches and charities cannot do it on their own. To put it in perspective, I have a fact sheet here from Bread for the World… it says federal assistance for food and nutrition programs [in 2013] was at about $102 billion. Assistance from churches and charities was at $5.2 billion.”

It is encouraging to see members of Congress acknowledge the hard work of charitable organizations in feeding hungry people. But with federal nutrition programs – including SNAP, school meals, and WIC – providing 19 times more food assistance than private charities, these hearings couldn’t have been timelier. Members of Congress in the Education and Workforce Committee also heard from a panel of witnesses who spoke to the effectiveness of and need for strong child nutrition programs.

Charitable organizations, including food banks and pantries, churches, and faith organizations, are critical partners in the fight against hunger because they are on the ground in so many local communities. Yet many of these organizations rely largely on donations, work with extremely limited resources, and their presence varies by region. They cannot provide the certainty and consistency of SNAP or child nutrition programs.

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

Alyssa Casey is a government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.

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