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293 posts categorized "Hunger and the U.S. Budget"
A group of advocates that included (l to r) John Levy of Heart Ministry Center, Beatty Brasch, of the Center for People in Need, Scott Young of the Food Bank of Lincoln, and Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader Kaela Volkmer, visited the office of Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), and encouraged him to protect and strengthen SNAP.
By Kristin Ostrom and Kaela Volkmer
Just one week before the scheduled congressional debate on the farm bill and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), a diverse team of leaders met with Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) in Omaha to talk about SNAP. Sen. Johanns is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and former Secretary of Agriculture under President George W. Bush. Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader Kaela Volkmer organized and facilitated the April 30 meeting with the senator, who was joined by his state director Nancy Johner and agriculture policy assistant Ben Connor. We are grateful for the senator’s time and attention and for Nancy Johner’s assistance in scheduling the meeting.
The team urged Sen. Johanns to protect and strengthen SNAP in the upcoming farm bill debates and to reject amendments that could reduce SNAP's ability to meet the needs of hungry people. Kaela also referred the senator to a letter she delivered several months earlier. The letter, which was signed by more than fifty faith and community leaders in Nebraska, lifted up SNAP as an efficient and effective investment in helping to meet the most basic need for food during difficult times.
The meeting was positive and cordial, and the team felt Sen. Johanns was receptive to their points. They came well-prepared with stories and stats to bolster their ask that Sen. Johanns protect and strengthen SNAP and reject farm bill amendments that would cut SNAP. Johanns confirmed the team was meeting with him at the exact right time for this issue!
DeEtte Peck uses her Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card in Portland, Ore., to purchase food. The card helps people with low incomes purchase food through SNAP. (Brian Duss for Bread for the World)
If you were to lose your job or source of income tomorrow, how would you get by? Would you rely on savings? Friends and family members? Government safety net programs?
Marketplace is asking these questions of its readers in a new feature called "Show Us Your Safety Net." The answers are interesting, and surprisingly similar. When it comes to federal safety net programs, it's not so much a question of whether people who fall on hard times will need them or not, but rather how soon they will need them.
Some of the people who responded to the Marketplace survey said they sought out benefits such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) right away. Others drained retirement funds, savings accounts, or the savings accounts of their loved ones before seeking out government assistance. Most people ended up needing a combination of unemployment benefits, federal food programs, and direct service help. Although the user-submitted stories are anecdotal, it doesn't seem that many Americans—regardless of income bracket—are able to scrape by on savings alone when faced with job loss, illness, or other major life events that affects income.
Here are just a few of the stories:
Used up savings, sold assets, got food stamps, got prescription assistance, applied for (but have not yet) received housing assistance.” —Deborah,Tigard, Oregon
I lost my 10-year job in March 2011. I was old enough to take social security but did not take that option right away. I have a child to support and a wife who was also jobless who had run out of unemployment benefits. What kept us going was my unemployment benefits and food stamps, although these did not come to enough to pay rent and COBRA premiums, let alone our food and utilities. So I tapped my savings.” —Geoff, Belmont, MassachusettsI was in a terrible car accident last December getting ready to start back at university after a 13-year gap. I lost both my jobs related to the accident, couldn't work due to a broken shoulder (still can't). I applied for every program I could as soon as I could. Was able to get free medical from the county. Qualified for food stamps and short-term disability, but went with no income for two months. Had some help from friends, relatives, and church. Not sure what's next, hopefully the disability extension is approved.” —Valerie, Canoga Park, California
Federal safety net programs work to keep hunger at bay even as unemployment and poverty remain high. More of us need help right now, and federal safety net programs are there to catch us when we fall.
Right now, Congress is writing the farm bill, and SNAP, one of our country's most important safety net programs, is at risk of cuts, as is international food aid. Your lawmakers need to hear from you. Tell your senators and representative that any farm bill must not increase hunger in the United States or around the world.
Call or email your members of Congress and tell them to ensure a place at the table for all people by protecting and strengthening the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and international food aid in the farm bill.
Rosie often has to fight hunger pangs to concentrate in school. Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures.
As you prepare your taxes, take some time to reflect on where your dollars are going. Many of those dollars go to pay for the infrastructure that holds us together as a nation. Very few go toward helping people in dire need. But those few dollars may hold the most value. Imagine what one dollar’s worth of food means to a senior citizen with an empty cupboard. Think of what a healthy breakfast means to a fifth-grader who would otherwise have to learn arithmetic on an empty stomach.
“I struggle a lot and most of the time it’s because my stomach is really hurting,” said Rosie, an elementary school student in Colorado, describing what it is like to try to learn when she is hungry. “I start yawning and then I zone out and I’m just looking at the teacher and I look at her and all I think about is food.”
Rosie is one of the individuals profiled in the new documentary A Place at the Table. As the film makes clear, the best efforts by congregation and community groups to alleviate hunger are inadequate. Food banks fill a gap, but federal programs provide 95 percent of the food assistance in this country. Tax dollars go directly to programs that help families like Rosie’s. The effect in the lives of people living in poverty is beyond mere calculation.
Our faith calls us to alleviate hunger and poverty and the Bible tells us that government has an important role in making sure that all people are fed, clothed, and sheltered. Thus, the federal budget is a moral document that reflects our national values. Our taxes are a necessary part of that equation, ensuring that the government can fund its priorities.
By Eric Mitchell
It's April 15. Have you finished your taxes? Even if you find yourself sprinting to the post office today, know that there's a group of people who are even bigger procrastinators when it comes to dealing with taxes: members of Congress.
For two years, Congress has been putting off the budget compromises necessary for a deficit-reduction deal. That procrastination ensures sequestration will continue, causing painful cuts to programs serving the most vulnerable among us.
Low-income pregnant women are at risk of losing access to prenatal care, and infants and children could lose vital nutrition if the cuts continue. Right now there are lotteries taking place in this country to determine which children will get to attend Head Start and which children will be shut out of the program. Some of the poorest families around the world are at risk of losing life-saving food aid. We need a different path to deficit reduction.
Please don’t put off this call! You can make a difference and it will take only a few minutes:
- Call 1-800-826-3688.
- Ask for your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative.
- Say: "I'm [your name] from [your town], and I urge you to stop procrastinating and include taxes as part of a big budget deal. Please enact a deficit-reduction deal that replaces sequestration, raises sufficient revenues, and addresses entitlement spending."
- You can add to your message by discussing the harmful effects of sequestration. To learn more, see Bread's fact sheet on sequestration.
- Thank the office.
Thank you for being a powerful voice for hungry people.
Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.
Rev. Gary Cook, director of Church Relations at Bread for the World, holds up "A Place at the Table," the 2013 Offering of Letters handbook during aconversation with Barbie Izquierdo, who is featured in the documentary film of the same name. Photo taken at Ecumenical Advocacy Days, held April 5-8 in Washington, D.C. (Robin Stephenson)
By Robin Stephenson
More than 700 people gathered in Washington, D.C., last weekend for Ecumenical Advocacy Days, and Bread for the World staff and members were counted among them. This year’s gathering, held April 5-8, began with three days of worship and workshops on the theme "God’s Table: Food Justice for a Healthy World." The conference, of which Bread for the World is a sponsor, culminated in a Capitol Hill lobby day, during which participants told their members of Congress that a faithful farm bill will alleviate hunger and malnutrition, support farms and communities, and protect God’s creation.
With the agricultural and nutrition challenges we face today, food and farm policies that end hunger are something we must get right. Bread for the World Institute dedicated last year’s Hunger Report (PDF) to the concept of the farm bill as a legislative vehicle that can help meet those challenges as we work to address root causes of hunger. With this year’s Offering of Letters calling for a place at the table for all of God’s children, Bread for the World is closely following farm bill negotiations and calling for robust funding for both food aid and SNAP (formerly food stamps) as programs that can end hunger.
Staff members from Bread for the World—from across our government relations, church relations, and organizing departments—and Bread Institute presented in several workshops during Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Issues workshops Bread staff participated in included "Harvesting a Healthy Farm Bill: What’s at Stake?," "Food Insecurity 101: Hunger in America," "Immigration in the Food System," "1,000 Days: The Foundation for Life," and "The Most Important Policy Conversation This Year: TAXES." Bread staff also led skills workshops on social media and advocacy and conducting an Offering of Letters.
Bread for the World’s Women of Faith for 1,000 Days Movement hosted an opening night reception with Bread president David Beckmann giving an address on the importance of nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window, from a woman's pregnancy through her child's second birthday.
One event highlight was an evening conversation with Barbie Izquierdo, whose story illustrates the importance of domestic nutrition programs. She is featured in the documentary film A Place at the Table, and also in Bread’s 2013 Offering of Letters.
Next up is Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, "A Place at the Table," which will be held June 8-11 in Washington, D.C. The event will offer many informative workshops, as well as the opportunity to hear speakers like Rev. Dr. James Forbes and Rev. Luis Cortes, among others. The National Gathering also includes the premiere of a new arrangement of the musical Lazarus. Take advantage of early-bird registration, and join us in June.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
By Robin Stephenson
The fiscal year 2014 budget resolutions from both the House and Senate budget committees are now public record. Yesterday, President Obama introduced his budget proposal. These three budgets may seem confusing because they make very different choices on spending, cuts, and taxes. We will explain what it all means, what’s next, and why hunger advocates should care.
It’s important for advocates who care about hunger issues to understand budgets because they set the foundation for policy that either addresses or ignores hunger and poverty. Combined with spending caps and the automatic cuts created through sequestration as part of the Budget Control Act, the FY2014 budget will be an important legislative vehicle to watch. Faithful advocates must demand a balanced approach with love of neighbor at its center. Budgets are moral documents that reflect our national priorities.
The House budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), is bad news for poor and vulnerable populations. If enacted, it would dramatically increase poverty. By balancing the budget in 10 years without raising revenue, the proposal from Ryan, who is House Budget Committee chairman, prioritizes defense spending and decimates programs that alleviate hunger (such as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which would force millions back into poverty. While defense spending receives $550 billion more than under sequestration, non-defense discretionary spending is cut $700 billion below sequestration levels, forcing cuts to programs including poverty -focused development assistance and the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)—both of which save lives and provide stepping stones out of poverty.
It is currently unlikely that we’ll see such draconian cuts become reality through this budget process. The Senate’s resolution, by contrast, reflects a more balanced approach and, unlike the House version, replaces sequestration, the automatic cuts currently in effect (see a side-by-side comparison of the two budget proposals).
They found everything from longer emergency medical response times in Nebraska to kids being kicked out of Head Start programs in Pennsylvania. Most of the cuts impact hunger and poverty in some way—closed facilities and furloughs affect the ability of people to put food on their tables. Below is a sampling of just a few of the cuts, all attributed to the sequester, that had immediately measurable consequences for hungry and poor people:
By Zach Schmidt
Last week was a successful one for Bread for the World’s advocacy in Missouri, as a blitz of phone calls at the beginning of the week paved the way for one crucial, targeted phone call at the end of the week. Here’s how it happened:
On Monday, March 18, Missourians delivered a record 145 phone calls to the offices of Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)! With support from pastors, directors, and lay leaders across the state, advocates called on their elected officials to replace the sequester with a balanced plan of smart spending cuts combined with additional revenue—a plan that, most importantly, protects hungry and poor people. Thanks to all who made phone calls and especially to those who encouraged others to call as well. Well done!
Four days later, on Friday, March 22, the Senate debated the budget resolution and considered various amendments, some of which caused Bread for the World concern. Sen. McCaskill was again a priority for advocacy, especially on an amendment to cut categorical eligibility for SNAP, which would result in 1 million program participants losing access to benefits. Bread for the World wanted to make sure Sen. McCaskill voted “no” if that amendment came up for a vote. Given the need to deliver a rapid, precise message to the senator’s staff in Washington, Bread’s regional organizer for Missouri called on a respected and informed state leader, Jeanette Mott Oxford.
Bread provided analysis of how this amendment would impact SNAP at both the national and state level. Jeanette shared the information with key staff members in Sen. McCaskill’s office and promptly heard back from Gary Gorski, the senator’s legislative assistant for agricultural policy, who asked for more information on how Missourians would be affected. Thanks to a team effort between Jeanette and Bread’s organizing and government relations staff, the information was delivered, leaving no doubt that this amendment would be disastrous for Missouri.
Thankfully, the harmful amendment ended up being withdrawn, and an important dialogue has now been initiated with Sen. McCaskill’s office—a dialogue that can be built upon during the upcoming farm bill negotiations.Zach Schmidt is a Bread for the World regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.
By Robin Stephenson
Much of the Senate budget debate, which began yesterday, focused on the effects that the fiscal year 2014 budget proposal would have on wealthy and middle-class Americans. Yet one voice rang out loud and clear in calling for a circle of protection around programs for poor and hungry people: Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) spoke yesterday morning on the Senate floor, with Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), in support of a balanced budget approach rooted in our country's shared values. Bread for World has said that the Senate budget proposal embodies the principles of the circle of protection by replacing the series of cuts known as the sequester and protecting vital anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs.
Earlier in the day, the House chamber passed a budget that would keep sequestration in place, but shield defense cuts, exemplifying a very different set of national values. The House budget resolution includes provisions that would decimate critical programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), that have kept deep poverty at bay for millions. Cutting anti-poverty programs is the wrong approach, Sen. Coons said in his floor speech. He said that a good budget is one that "embrace[s] a circle of protection for the most vulnerable in our society."
Sen.Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) put a face on the indiscriminate cuts by reading excerpts from letters sent to her from constituents. One elderly woman wrote Sen. Hirono to say that sequestration, if not replaced, would likely mean she would lose her housing benefits. Her social security allotment was too small to make up the difference, so unless Congress replaces the sequester, she may become homeless.
In a press conference later in the day, Senator Coons further reiterated that a successful budget must be true to our core values. He recalled a letter that the leadership of the House, the Senate, and the president received from religious and faith community leaders across the U.S., together representing “a remarkably broad community” calling for a circle of protection. The idea, Coons said, led the Senate to propose a budget that “continues to protect programs on which the most vulnerable— the disabled, low-income seniors, children—rely for their sustenance, their support, and their advancement in this society.”
You can read that letter from faith leaders here and then call your member of Congress today. Demand they replace the sequester and pass a budget that is balanced, raises revenue, and includes a circle of protection or thank them for protecting programs for hungry and poor people.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
Faith leaders including (l to r) Rabbi Kimelman-Block of Bend the Arc; Bishop Don Williams of Bread for the World; Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness; Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK Lobby, and Jennifer Butler of Faith in Public Life, at a press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol for the Loaves and Fishes Day of Action. (Nina Keehan/Bread for the World)
By Nina Keehan
Yesterday, faith leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., and in 13 states across America, for a “Loaves and Fishes” day of action. The effort emphasized the need for Americans to demand that their political leaders protect hungry and poor people during federal budget negotiations.
In a country that’s blessed with abundance, the faith leaders argued that what America really needs is not more food for the hungry, but a budget that doesn’t ignore the most vulnerable citizens. The event culminated in activists delivering baskets containing loaves of bread and fish to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and to local offices of members of Congress around the country.
“We are standing here to tell our elected officials that there is enough food to go around if we share,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, during the D.C. press conference kicking off the action. “Sharing is the way forward.”
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, emphasized the importance of pushing for a budget that considers all Americans, not just the rich. "How can we declare that the haves in America should have more while the have-nots should have less? We are better people than that."
Bread for the World’s Bishop Don Williams, associate for racial-ethnic outreach, stated the importance of looking out for others. “We live in something called the ‘real world,’” he said. “For some people that means living in a real nightmare. Fifty million people live in poverty and hunger. And we can spout numbers all day, but behind each one of those numbers is a face and a family.”
As the Biblical story goes, Jesus was able to feed five thousand with just five loaves and two fish—a miracle. Yet feeding everyone hungry in America doesn't require a miracle, just a mandate.
Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.