405 posts categorized "Hunger and the U.S. Budget"
By Robin Stephenson
For Christians, the term reconciliation is a sacred calling to heal the broken world – a call for heaven on earth. However, in the hands of the 114th Congress, budget reconciliation could become a tool that widens the gap of inequality and pushes more people – especially children– into hunger.
Reconciliation, in the legislative sense of the word, is expected to be included in the 2016 budgets the House and Senate plan to release next week. Both chambers are likely to call for deep cuts in non-defense spending.
Budget reconciliation is a set of instructions sometimes added to the yearly budget resolution – the overall amount Congress decides the U.S. government will spend in one year. Once the budget is passed, each committee is given its share of the total to distribute between all of the programs in its jurisdiction. When budget reconciliation instructions are included, certain committees are instructed to meet spending and revenue criteria – even if it includes finding additional savings by changing policy.
Budget reconciliation makes it easy to slip controversial changes through Congress that are hard to reverse, which is all the more reason we must pay attention to the process. To learn more, read Budget Reconciliation 101.
Under reconciliation, committees could include deep cuts to program funding or pass harmful policy changes to anti-hunger programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Medicaid, and the earned income tax credit (EITC) - programs, we believe, that have giant targets on them. In this scenario, children will pay a hefty price.
Our 2015 Offering of Letters aims to feed our children. The child poverty rate is already unacceptably disproportionate to our resources, but has improved since the height of the recession–nationally, we stand at 18 percent. Without government interventions, the rate would be 33 percent, according to a recent analysis.
Deep cuts to a program like SNAP, in which half of the participants are children, would be a move in the wrong direction. The earned income tax credit and child tax credit moved 5 million children out of poverty in 2013 and must be protected to make further progress on reducing child hunger. Medicaid, another piece of the poverty-ending puzzle, provided healthcare to 32 million children in 2012.
Defending SNAP from the chopping block is becoming the new normal. Just last year, your faithful advocacy halted deep cuts to SNAP in the farm bill. Up to $40 billion in cuts were proposed during the two-year negotiations. Without SNAP, many families would go hungry. Food banks and pantries, already stretched thin, cannot make up the difference.
Every time there is talk of fiscal belt-tightening, the most vulnerable in our society are targeted as notches. This is not the kind of reconciliation that God calls us to and not the kind of reconciliation people of faith should stand for from our leaders. We must speak up early and ensure these programs don't become a bull's-eye for lawmakers' cuts.
Christians across this nation must do the real work of God’s reconciliation--urging Congress to prioritize and protect critical anti-poverty initiatives in any budget reconciliation bill, especially programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and tax credits for families struggling to make ends meet. We have done it before, and we must do it again.
Find more resources to understand the budget process here.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior organizer at Bread for the World.
By Christine Melendez Ashley
On Monday morning, President Obama released a budget outlining his vision for our country’s priorities. Many of the policies in his budget reflect what Bread’s research has found: Investing in people is key to ending hunger.
One critical investment is feeding our children. Giving children a healthy start in life pays off for years. This is the heart of this year’s Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children.
The child nutrition safety net serves children at risk of hunger through school lunch and breakfast programs, summer feeding programs, after-school and child care feeding programs, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
The president’s budget includes strong support for child nutrition programs, including $67 million for summer feeding pilot programs. This is a particularly needed investment – for every seven low-income children who receive a school lunch, only four also get breakfast, and only one also gets summer meals.
We need to get Congress to act! You have a unique opportunity to urge your members of Congress to strengthen investments in our nation’s children. Congress is working on its budget and child nutrition priorities right now!
Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress. Tell Congress to prioritize children at risk of hunger and invest in strong child nutrition programs.
Learn more about the 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children. Order an Offering of Letters kit, or visit the OL website where you can find downloadable resources in English and Spanish. For more information about how you can host an Offering of Letters, contact your regional organizer today.
Christine Melendez Ashley is a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World.
By Jennifer Gonzalez
Americans who experience hunger are not doing so because of a shortage of food in the United States. A visit to any supermarket or farmer’s market would confirm that. Rather, they are hungry because they live in a cycle of poverty that prevents them from earning enough money to provide adequately for their families.
Roughly 45 million Americans live at or below the poverty line. Twenty-one million of those are children who are living either in poverty or extreme poverty. These children are more likely to experience hunger.
On Wednesday, the Children’s Defense Fund released a report demanding an end to child poverty with an immediate 60 percent reduction. Ending Child Poverty Now calls for investing an additional 2 percent of the federal budget to expand existing programs and policies that would lead to increase employment, make work pay, and ensure children’s basic needs are met. As a result, 97 percent of children living in poverty would benefit, and 60 percent of them could escape poverty immediately.
Seventy-two percent of black children living in poverty, who have the highest poverty rates in the United States, would no longer be poor.
“America’s poor children did not ask to be born; did not choose their parent, country, state, neighborhood, race, color, or faith,” said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, during a press briefing at its national headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“It’s way past time for a critical mass of Americans to confront the hypocrisy of America’s pretension to be a fair playing field while almost 15 million children languish in poverty,” she added.
The report outlined several policy improvements to reduce child poverty by 60 percent. Among them:
- Increase the earned income tax credit for lower-income families with children.
- Increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.
- Make child care subsidies available to all eligible families below 150 percent of poverty.
- Make the child and dependent care tax credit refundable with a higher reimbursement rate.
- Base SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits on USDA’s Low-Cost Food Plan for families with children.
- Make the child tax credit fully refundable.
Many of the policy changes that the Children’s Defense Fund advocates for in its report are similar to those Bread supports already. At Bread, we know all too well the impact poverty has on hunger. That’s why we work hard to ensure that the nation’s safety net is protected from budget cuts.
The earned income tax credit along with the child tax credit are among our country’s most effective anti-poverty tools. Bread is calling on Congress to ensure that these two measures stay intact. Both expire in 2017. Making the 2009 improvements to these credits permanent would prevent 16 million people—including 8 million children—from falling into or deeper into poverty.
And this year, the Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of nutrition among children. In 2013, 15.8 million children—more than one-fifth of all children in the United States—lived at risk of hunger. Bread plans to work diligently this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall.
The link between poverty and hunger is well established. Let’s not continue to look the other way as millions of children in the United States continue to live in poverty and suffer from hunger.
Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.
By Robin Stephenson
Tonight at 9 p.m. EST, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address – a time-honored tradition – and outline his priorities for next year. Immediately afterward, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) will deliver the Republican response. Will hunger and poverty rank as priorities?
“The State of the Union matters to those of us working to end hunger,” says LaVida Davis, director of organizing and grassroots capacity at Bread for the World. “Both the president and the response will give clues as to what will be prioritized in next year’s budget. If they aren’t talking about ending hunger, they won’t fund the programs that will.”
Although the economy is improving, millions of families still struggle to make ends meet - 45 million Americans live at or below the poverty line. Policies that marginalize groups of individuals increase food insecurity in the United States. Laws passed with the aim of ending hunger make an impact. Internationally, the implementation of smart policies has achieved dramatic progress against hunger and poverty; the number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut in half since 1990. We believe that we can end hunger and poverty by 2030 if our nation’s leaders make it a priority.
Tonight we will listen for hunger-ending key words. Below is a list of the words or phrases we hope to hear. Positive reinforcement helps, so we will praise each mention as we live tweet the speeches from @bread4theworld.
Child nutrition: When one in five children lives in families that struggle to put food on the table, passing a child nutrition bill with improvements will give more children at risk of hunger access to healthy food. Protecting SNAP (formerly food stamps) will also be key to reducing child hunger.
The earned income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit: Low-income tax credits pull more children out of poverty than any other government program. It is time to make the credits permanent.
Paid family leave: The president will take executive action to extend paid leave to federal employees, reflecting a key recommendation in the Bread for the World Institute’s 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. Congress should follow suit with policy changes that will benefit all U.S. workers
Mass incarceration: Policies that regulate our criminal justice system are increasing hunger and poverty in low-income communities, especially communities of color. Passing smarter sentencing laws and improving the re-entry process for returning citizens would help restore fairness in our justice system.
Immigration reform: An estimated 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants live in the shadows where hunger and poverty persist. Reform should include a path to citizenship and also address the root causes of migration to the United States.
Feed the Future: A global hunger and food-security initiative, Feed the Future is a driver behind recent progress against global hunger. It is time to codify the initiative into permanent law.
Food-aid reform: By updating our food-aid policies, we can help feed millions more with no additional tax dollars.
AGOA: The African Growth and Opportunity Act seeks to increase mutually beneficial trade ties between the United States and Africa and can help move millions out of poverty.
Join the conversation on Twitter, and help us empower our leaders tonight. When they talk about hunger, make sure they hear us applaud with a tweet. Let’s start by asking them to talk about hunger now.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.
Editor’s note: Bread Blog is running a six-part series highlighting Bread for the World’s legislative wins in 2014. Today’s post looks at appropriations funding for programs that prevent hunger and promote economic development.
By Bread Staff
In the final days of the 113th legislative session, Congress passed a $1.01 trillion spending bill, funding most government programs through September 2015. Despite a very tough fiscal climate, programs that address hunger and poverty did fairly well.
On the domestic front, the spending bill includes $6.23 billion in funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), enough to cover current and projected caseloads. The money will also go toward funding breastfeeding peer counselors, infrastructure, and management information systems.
Other funding includes $25 million for school equipment and breakfast expansion grants and $16 million for summer food demonstration projects. This gives us a leg up on our 2015 Offering of Letters campaign, which will focus on child nutrition programs. These programs include school and summer meals programs. Bread is seeking expansion of these programs when they are reauthorized in 2015 so more children can get the meals they need.
Congress also approved increased funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which ensures low-income seniors get adequate meals. The funding included $2.8 million to expand the program to seven new states: Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Internationally, Congress increased funding for poverty-focused development assistance to $27 billion, a significant increase from last year’s level of $24 billion. The boost is largely due to the Ebola supplemental funding that President Obama had requested. The funding will go toward international disaster assistance, global health, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) operating expenses.
The additional supplemental funding will help ensure that the United States responds not only to the crisis in West Africa, but also continues to support ongoing development and humanitarian efforts in other regions in the world.
Bread also saw another win this year when USAID launched its multi-sector nutrition strategy in May. This strategy ensures nutrition remains a focus across development projects from education and hygiene to agriculture and gender equality. It scales up work targeted at children’s first 1,000 days from pregnancy to the child’s second birthday. Maternal and child nutrition during this period has lasting effects on long-term growth and cognitive development.
Bread for the World and Bread for the World Institute have been active participants in the 1,000 Days advocacy movement and in the development of USAID’s nutrition strategy. The launch of the strategy represents a major success for the global health and nutrition advocacy community.
“Our legislative wins aren’t always grabbing headlines, but they’re significant and affect millions of lives,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World. “This list of legislative accomplishments reminds us that sustained, faithful advocacy really works and really does bring change. We’ve got our work cut out for us in 2015, but let these successes of 2014 motivate, inspire, and energize us for the path ahead.”
The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act is set to expire September 2015. We’ll need your help to ensure that Congress continues to make nutrition for children a priority. Stay informed about the key issues regarding child hunger in the United States.
Photo: Students eating lunch at Wolcott Elementary School in West Hartford, Conn. Vivian Felten/USDA.
By Eric Mitchell
The clock is counting down to December 11. On that day, the bill that is currently funding the U.S. government will expire. To prevent a government shutdown, Congress will need to pass a bill to continue funding federal programs.
This moment is an important opportunity! I believe we can secure key funding in this bill to address the violence, hunger, and poverty that is driving thousands of migrant children from their homes in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. I believe we can get Congress to include a comprehensive strategy to address these root causes of the child refugee crisis on our southern border.
Congress is finalizing this bill, and they need to hear from you today. Urge your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators to include the following provisions in any final spending bill:
- $300 million for the State Department to address the conditions causing children to flee their home countries. This funding would support programs that promote economic development, repatriation and reintegration efforts for children who return to their home countries, services for at-risk young people, and help improve governance in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
- A strategy to address the poverty, lack of educational and employment opportunities, and the high rates of criminal gang activity that are driving children to flee to the United States and provide $100 million to implement this strategy.
Please call or email Congress today (Capitol switchboard: 800/826-3688)! Demonstrate your commitment to the least and most vulnerable among us. These boys and girls from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador deserve to live in a world free of hunger, violence, and poverty. By funding programs and initiatives that address such problems, we can ensure a more dignified, hopeful, and promising future for them and all of God’s children.
Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.
Feed the Future programs help families like the Aktars in Barisal, Bangladesh become food secure. There is an opportunity to authorize the program during the 2014 lame-duck session if Congress acts. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
On Wednesday, the 113th Congress returns for its final session before the holiday break. Members are expected to work through December 11.
The short, upcoming session, commonly referred to as a lame-duck session (or a lame-duck Congress), is the work period after an election but before newly elected members replace outgoing members – those who are retiring, moving chambers, or have lost their seats during the election. For outgoing members of Congress, it is an opportunity to leave a legacy – passing important legislation that can help end hunger.
As our thoughts turn to holiday preparations of feasting and family gatherings, we should not forget those who face the season hungry. There are opportunities during the lame-duck session to address global food security, increase our ability to deliver food aid, and address the hunger causing the child refugee crisis on our southern border.
- Appropriations: Congress cannot leave town without making some provision for government funding, which expires December 11, or it faces a government shutdown. Legislators could pass a short funding extension or start the new year off with the government fully funded. A bill that would fund the remainder of fiscal year 2015 could come in the form of an omnibus – combining several small funding bills into a large bill requiring a single vote – or Congress could pass a straight-up extension of all programs at current funding levels, also known as a continuing resolution (CR), or a combination of the two. Congress should include funding that would address the violence, hunger, and poverty that have forced more than 68,000 children to flee their homes in Central America.
- The Global Food Security Act – Since 2010, Feed the Future programs have helped millions of farmers increase crop production and food security around the world. It is time to codify the program into law. With enough pressure from constituents, bills introduced in the House and Senate (H.R. 5656/S. 2909) could be voted on and passed during the lame-duck session.
- Food for Peace Reform Act: With multiple food crises dominating the news, there is an opportunity to build the political will to pass food-aid reform in the new year by increasing cosponsors to S.2421, The Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014.
January 2015 will usher in the 114th Congress, which will include those members who won seats in last week’s elections. If you are in a district or state with a newly elected member of Congress, now is a good time to introduce them to Bread for the World and talk to them about making ending hunger a legislative priority. Contact your regional organizer for more information on how you can set up an in-district meeting.
Congress acts when there is a tipping point of pressure from back home. By taking the time to reach out to our members of Congress now, we can help ensure a better and more prosperous 2015 for everyone.
By David Beckmann
On Tuesday, while the Senate shifted to Republican control, 18,000 children around the world died unnecessarily. Nearly half those deaths were caused by hunger. And in the United States, 16 million children still live in families that struggle to put food on the table.
Bread for the World’s members work for justice for hungry people in the United States and around the world regardless of how power shifts between our nation’s political parties. We pray that all our nation’s leaders will work to end hunger.
The number of people in extreme poverty in the world has been cut in half since 1990, and there has been progress in all kinds of countries, from Bangladesh to Brazil to Great Britain. If Congress and the president make opportunity for everybody a priority, we can end hunger in the United States and support continued progress toward ending hunger worldwide.
Bread for the World’s top priority for the 114th Congress will be the scheduled reauthorization of the nation’s child nutrition programs. Republicans and Democrats should work together to strengthen school and summer nutrition programs. But House Republicans have been pushing for deep cuts in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). Churches and food banks across the country have been unable to make up for the groceries that Congress took away from hungry families last year.
Bread for the World also notes with optimism bipartisan interest in other issues important to people in poverty:
- When Congress returns later this month, the leaders of both houses seem inclined to steer away from another budget crisis and finalize appropriations for the current fiscal year.
- The parties should be able to work together on continued progress against world poverty–the fight against Ebola and bills to reform food aid, strengthen agriculture and nutrition in poor countries, and promote trade with Africa.
- Leaders in both parties are calling for reforms to correct injustices in the criminal justice system that have crowded U.S. prisons and deepened the poverty of many communities.
- Tax credits for low-wage workers reduce poverty while encouraging work.
God has made it possible in our time to virtually end hunger in our country and around the world, so Bread for the World is pushing with urgency to make hunger, poverty, and opportunity for everybody a priority for our political leaders. We will push for change over the next two years and in the next round of elections for president and Congress.
Rev. David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World.
Fact Sheet: Churches and Hunger (updated).
By Christine Meléndez Ashley
A new survey released this week by the Food Research and Action Center and Tyson Foods reveals eye-opening trends about American attitudes toward hunger in the United States.
Not only do a majority of Americans believe hunger is a bipartisan issue, but 71 percent also believe the federal government has a fair amount to a great deal of responsibility in dealing with it. Fifty-seven percent responded that local nonprofits, churches, and food banks have a fair amount to a great deal of responsibility.
These results make clear that ending hunger is a partnership among federal, local, and community-based entities.
In 2012, Bread for the World analyzed the cost of drastically cutting federal nutrition programs to churches. If cuts of the magnitude proposed by the House of Representatives had been enacted, each church would have had to come up with $50,000 a year for 10 years to feed people.
Clearly, churches and charities alone cannot feed everyone who is hungry. As food bank demand has increased, charitable donations to houses of worship have decreased, making the role of federal nutrition programs even more crucial.
To show the great importance and reach of federal nutrition programs, Bread analyzed federal funding of nutrition programs compared to the cost of food distributed by private charity. Food benefits from federal nutrition programs amounted to $102.5 billion in 2013, compared to $5.2 billion of food distributed by private charity.
In other words, federal nutrition programs delivered nearly 20 times the amount of food assistance as did private charities.
Members of Congress should take note. According to the survey, 61 percent of Americans believe we should do more to support and improve government-sponsored food-assistance programs. Yet, this Congress has voted at least 13 times to cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), our country’s largest anti-hunger program.
Christine Meléndez Ashley is senior domestic policy analyst at Bread for the World.
Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, told radio host Tavis Smiley that he feels hopeful.
Encouraged by a recent trend with both political parties addressing poverty in public speeches and decreasing poverty rates, Beckman says a post-recession America is the perfect time to make ending hunger a top priority for lawmakers.
Poverty decreased slightly—by 0.5 percent—last year, according to data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau. It is the first time a decrease has been seen since 2006. The bureau announced that 14.5 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2013. Additionally, child poverty declined for the first time since 2000, from 21.8 percent to 19.9 percent.
“It’s just a start, but it is a change in the right direction,” said Beckmann.
Beckmann made these remarks in an interview on Public Radio International’s “The Tavis Smiley Show” last week.
Beckmann said reduced poverty rates are a result of more Americans returning to the labor market. Food insecurity continues to remain high in the United States – a reality Beckmann sees as unnecessary. He said there are two critical factors in reducing poverty: Economic growth and focused efforts. The United States is lacking a focused effort.
“The last president who made poverty one of his top priorities was Lyndon Johnson,” says Beckmann. The Johnson administration and Congress worked together to cut poverty nearly in half from the mid-1960s through the 1970s.
To build a sustained political commitment that will reduce poverty in the United States, Beckmann emphasizes the importance of making hunger an election issue. Voters must pressure leaders to move from speeches to passing legislation that will end hunger. The elections provide an opportunity to reach out directly to lawmakers.
“We’ve got to elect people to Congress who are going to agree to work together and focus on opportunity for everybody,” said Beckmann.
Smiley is already looking ahead to the next set of elections - the 2016 presidential elections. He said that he recently called for a debate exclusively on income inequality and poverty – something he has never seen in his lifetime.
“I second the motion,” said Beckmann. “Usually in the presidential debates they never ask a question about the bottom 40-50 percent of the country.”
Listen to Beckmann’s interview on the “The Tavis Smiley Show” podcast here.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media at Bread for the World and a senior regional organizer.
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