370 posts categorized "Hunger and the U.S. Budget"
By Rev. David Beckmann
I invite you to join Bread for the World and our partners in the Circle of Protection in supporting Caritas Internationalis’ new campaign to end hunger, which is endorsed by Pope Francis. They are calling for people to pray at noon on Dec. 10 in each time zone, starting in Samoa and proceeding west in a “wave of prayer” as the day goes on.
Here in Washington D.C., we will gather to pray inside the U.S. Capitol (Room H-137). We have invited members of Congress and our partners in the Circle of Protection to join us in this prayer event. I ask you pray with us at noon in your time zone to end hunger. You can pray in whatever faith tradition you have, or chose from one of the prayers we have provided online at www.bread.org/prayerwave.
This wave of prayer comes at a critical time when there will most likely be a vote on the fiscal year 2014 budget, the farm bill, and possible additional cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps). The House of Representatives will recess for the holidays on Dec. 13, while the Senate recesses on Dec. 20.
As we pray for an end to hunger, we also give thanks for the victories we have achieved in a year when Congress is so polarized that it resulted in a government shutdown.
Together with our partners, we have maintained a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people. Despite the continuing push to cut federal funds for poor people, our last analysis indicates these cuts amount to only a small fraction of $2.5 trillion in cuts the House of Representatives has been pushing in the last two and a half years. (We will have a full estimate by the end of this Congress.)
No matter what the actual amount is, we could not have done this without your support and advocacy and the active participation of our partners in the Circle of Protection (www.circleofprotection.us). The Circle represents 65 heads of denominations, relief and development agencies, and other Christian organizations, plus more than 5,000 other pastors and church workers. It includes our brethren at Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, and the United States of Conference of Catholic Bishops who have been supportive of our desire to join them in the Dec. 10 wave of prayer to end hunger.
We also give thanks this Advent that hunger and poverty is back on President Barack Obama’s radar — thanks in part to the petitions you sent him. Earlier this week, he delivered a major address on providing more opportunity for low-income and struggling Americans.
The program of action that President Obama outlined in the speech is consistent with our recommendations in the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America (www.hungerreport.org). However, we reminded him that low-income Americans cannot climb the ladder of opportunity that he is promoting if one of the critical parts of the safety net that undergirds the ladder – SNAP – is in shreds.
During this Advent, we also give thanks for the continuing exodus from hunger globally, with the numbers down to 842 million people experiencing chronic hunger. According to the United Nations, that is 1 in 8 people globally.
This achievement is, in part, due to our government’s leadership of international efforts to strengthen agricultural investments in poor countries and ensuring better nutrition for mothers and children.
Your advocacy helped convince our government to pledge $10 billion through fiscal year 2014 toward eliminating malnutrition among women and children in the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday — and it promised to continue funding nutrition programs at this level beyond 2014.
This Advent, we also give thanks for the opportunities and challenges that God has given us in 2014. We look forward to implementing our 2014-2016 plan, the first in a series of plans to implement our long-term vision and plan. This includes celebrating our achievements in the last 40 years at our annual National Gathering( June 9 and 10, 2014 at the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center in Washington, D.C.) and launching our 2014 Offering of Letters, focused on reforming U.S. food aid.
Lastly, during this Advent we give thanks to God for you — for your persistent advocacy, your steadfast support, and your unwavering faith that we can end hunger. Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad!
Rev. David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.
Photo: Night sets over Antigua Guatemala at the Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross).
In his interview on The Tavis Smiley Show, which aired Nov. 22, Beckmann said that while the Hunger Report proposes steps to eradicate hunger in the United States by 2030, Congress is working against that goal by moving forward with cuts to food stamps, which could make it more difficult for millions of Americans to put food on the table. "On Nov. 1, a cut in food stamps went into effect; it has already taken away 300 million meals," Beckmann said. "And then Congress is debating not whether to cut food stamps further, but how much. We don't want more cuts in food stamps. The cuts that the House is proposing would deepen hunger for 6 million Americans."
Beckmann also talked about how safety net programs helped keep hunger in this country at bay in the wake of the 2008 recession, how a strong job market is key to reducing hunger, and why advocates must reach out to members of Congress on these issues.
"I’ve never met anybody who said, 'Oh, I want to make sure kids go hungry,' but there are other things more important to politicians. There are other things that are more important to many of us," Beckmann said. "And on a day-to-day basis, when we really get agitated it’s about something that’s going to affect me, and maybe that’s when I call Congress. But what we need to do is call Congress when hungry kids are getting hurt—and when that happens, that’s when we’re going to end hunger."
Listen to the full interview below.
Ending hunger in America is possible. It is not an impossible dream. If we decided we really wanted to do it, we could wake up one morning in 2030 and be living in a country where hunger is rare and temporary, not the shared experience of millions of Americans that it is in 2014.
Bread for the World Institute releases its annual Hunger Report today. This year's report, titled "Ending Hunger in America," lands just days before Thanksgiving, at a time when the House of Representatives is pushing to cut food stamps by $39 billion--a proposal that would increase hunger for six million Americans.
“Only this Congress would think that Thanksgiving is a good time to make it harder for people struggling to feed their families amid a weak economy,” says Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and Bread for the World Institute. “Instead of making detrimental cuts to key programs, which would only increase hunger in America, Congress should focus on creating jobs and spurring economic growth.”
The 2014 Hunger Report proposes bold steps to end hunger in the United States by 2030. Returning the economy closer to the full employment level of 2000 would also decrease hunger from today’s rate of 14.5 percent. By making jobs a priority, it would be possible for President Obama and Congress to reduce hunger in America by 25 percent by 2017. In addition to investing in good jobs as a way of ending hunger, the report also recommends ending the political brinkmanship that led to the sequester or automatic budget cuts and focus on investing in people, strengthening the safety net and encouraging community partnerships .
“Developing countries have made great strides towards ending hunger since 2000,” says Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute. “However, U.S. hunger has increased, as evidenced by the record number of Americans receiving food stamp benefits today.”
The 2014 Hunger Report calls on the U.S. government to work with the international community to establish a universal set of goals to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire in December 2015. New global development goals must include goals to end hunger and extreme poverty, and achieve global food security and good nutrition for all by 2030.
Beginning at 9 a.m. today, we'll be live-tweeting the Hunger Report launch, which will include a panel discussion on the issues explained in the report. Participate in the conversation virtually by following the #hungerreport hashtag, and both the @bread4theworld and @breadinstitute Twitter accounts. For more information, and to download a copy of the 2014 Hunger Report, please visit www.bread.org/hungerreport.
Last weekend, hundreds of Catholic youths descended on Washington, D.C., for the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, an annual gathering of college and high school students from Jesuit institutions. They prayed together, networked, reflected, and learned about working for justice in the world. The speakers were inspiring, but even more inspiring were the students! They were bright, passionate, engaged, informed, energetic, and deeply committed to letting the love of Jesus spill out of them in both their personal lives, and in their public service and advocacy. They inspired, rejuvenated, and showed me the face of Jesus over and over again.
As Bread for the World’s Catholic relations fellow, I was given the opportunity to put together a team to hang out with hundreds of these amazing young people, who are looking to explore what it means to be an active Catholic with a public voice.
My fellow Bread staff members and I presented at a number of workshops. Amelia Kegan, a domestic policy analyst at Bread, and I talked about creating a "circle of protection" around essential safety net programs here in the United States, and how to take action by urging policy makers to strengthen programs that help hungry people. Bread’s international policy analysts, Beth Ann Saracco and Ryan Quinn, led a session on maternal and child nutrition, and how providing proper nutrients to women and children during the 1,000 days from the beginning of pregnancy through a child’s second birthday is essential for preventing disease, improving education, strengthening health, and saving lives. These 1,000 days are key!
We also invited participants to come to share with us how they are involved in ending hunger in their own communities, and in the world at large.
On Sunday, we were able to address the group as a whole to discuss the importance of protecting SNAP (food stamps) in the farm bill. We trained groups of students in how to talk to their policy makers when they gathered at the Capitol building on Monday for prayer, praise, and advocacy meetings with their congressional representatives.
We also encouraged the students to message their members of Congress using Twitter, and other forms of social media. Take a look at some of the messages these students tweeted to their representatives as part of our social media campaign:
All of this was very encouraging, but the most powerful takeaway I left with was hope. The media is filled with stories that condemn this young generation, calling them lazy, unmotivated, and unwilling to speak up to change the systems that keep people hungry and poor. But this group, and others like it, is proof that their generation is not only engaged, but immensely creative with their activism and eager to help those suffering from hunger and living in poverty.
Billy Kangas is the fellow for Catholic Relations at Bread for the World.
Photos: (top) Billy Kangas and a friend at the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice (Gary Cook). (Bottom) The group of Jesuit students gathered on the mall for the event (Billy Kangas).
During the upheavals over the budget in recent years, Bread for the World and our partners have been successful in maintaining funding for U.S. programs that help hungry and poor people around the world. We have driven a major U.S. initiative focused specifically on hunger, and we have helped to improve the quality of U.S. foreign assistance. Bread will continue to advocate for the protection of programs that provide lifesaving food aid, help thousands of farmers learn increase their yields and incomes, and educate children.
Aid Remains Strong in Tough Budget Climate
During the George W. Bush and early Obama years, U.S. funding for programs that help reduce poverty around the world tripled to $22 billion annually, in part because of the persistent advocacy of Bread for the World members.
This poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA), which accounts for less than one percent of the federal budget, along with increased aid from industrialized nations, has supported rapid economic progress in poor countries.
Despite huge budget pressures, we have managed to protect foreign assistance programs that help poor people.
There was a tragic surge in hunger in 2008, driven by the global financial crisis and soaring prices for rice, wheat, and corn. The incoming Obama administration responded, leading the world in increasing investment in agriculture and nutrition in the most-affected countries. Bread for the World and our members rallied around this initiative, called Feed the Future.
In 2011, more than 4.3 million farmers around the world benefitted from U.S. agricultural development assistance through projects like Feed the Future.
In 2008, major research findings gave the world new knowledge about how to tackle the scourge of child malnutrition. One conclusion was that nutrition assistance should target the 1,000 days from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through her child’s second birthday. Bread for the World Institute played a leadership role in urging U.S. and international officials to incorporate this new knowledge into the global food security program. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the 1,000 Days initiative, and Bread for the World organized a network of U.S. women across Christian denominations — Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement — to support this effort.
Bread for the World Institute convened international meetings on nutrition during Bread’s 2011 and 2013 National Gatherings. At this year's meeting, Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told Bread advocates, "You form one of the greatest movements alive today—the fight to make hunger, malnutrition, and extreme poverty permanently a thing of the past."
This year, world leaders committed $4.15 billion over three years to scale up direct nutrition interventions and an additional $19 billion for nutrition-sensitive programs in agriculture and other sectors. Shah is leading a review of nutrition-related programs in the U.S. government in order to use available dollars most effectively.
The number of hungry people in the world has dropped below the pre-2008 level and is continuing to decline—partly because of U.S. leadership in promoting agriculture and nutrition among the poorest countries of the world.
When President Bush decided to increase assistance to poor countries, he set up new institutions within the U.S. governmen t— the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Bread for the World helped secure congressional support, and both of these institutions have been effective.
Still, the entire U.S. foreign assistance system was badly in need of reform. In response to this, Bread helped set up the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), a foreign assistance reform coalition that has been supported by both the Hewlett and Gates foundations.
In 2009, Bread for the World's Offering of Letters campaign was a push for foreign assistance reform. When the legislation Bread supported passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Obama administration announced it would work on the issue.
The administration has since improved coordination among the government agencies that work in developing countries, and President Obama issued a directive that established international development policies and priorities for the entire government.
USAID has set up an excellent system of evaluation, and information on the aid projects of U.S. agencies is now available to the public at www.foreignassistance.gov.
"Those of us who push for more dollars for programs of assistance need to work just as hard to make sure those dollars are used well," says Bread for the World President David Beckmann. "Bread for the World's members have been willing to study up on these issues and push for both funding and effectiveness."
This month, South Carolina resident Leon Simmons saw his SNAP (food stamps) allotment drop by $9, because of the Nov. 1 cut to the anti-hunger program. That amount may seem small to some, but it's nearly a quarter of his monthly benefit. Amy Jezler, a mom living in the Chicago area, saw her SNAP benefit reduced by $30, dropping from $193 to $163. And in Washington, D.C., single mother Debra lost $73—her benefit is now $130, down from $203.
All three SNAP recipients told reporters that they will likely run out of food toward the end of the month—a month that ends with the Thanksgiving holiday.
These are just three of the Americans who will now find it more difficult to feed themselves and their families because of the Nov. 1 SNAP reduction. Across the country, millions are feeling the pain of these cuts. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put together a map (above) that shows exactly how many individuals, including children, will be affected in each state.
So far, the Nov. 1 cut has eliminated roughly 150 million meals. And some members of Congress are pushing for even more cuts to program. Senators and representatives are in final negotiations on the farm bill, and they're making decisions about SNAP right now. Please call (800-326-4941) or email your members of Congress today, and tell them that struggling families simply cannot absorb additional cuts to their SNAP benefits. Even if you have already reached out to your members of Congress, please do so again.
As we move toward the end of the year, members of Congress have many important decisions before them. Legislators will be dealing with the farm bill, immigration reform, sequestration and ongoing gridlock over the budget. The choices our legislators make now will affect people struggling with hunger for years to come.
Budget and Sequestration
On Oct. 16,Congress passed a bill that ended a 16-day government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling to avoid a U.S. default. The deal funds the government at current levels through Jan. 15, 2014, and raises the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, 2014. The deal also created a conference committee to negotiate a budget for the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year and address the automatic cuts of sequestration. The committee, which holds its next hearings on Nov. 13, has until Dec. 13 to emerge with a deal.
These budget talks could play out in a couple of ways. The committee could emerge with a big, multi-trillion dollar, decade-long budget deal and succeed where all previous attempts have failed. However, members of Congress have said they don’t expect a big deal to emerge.
Alternatively, the committee could come up with a smaller deal that resolves the overall funding level for FY 2014 and replaces some or all of the sequester for one, or even two, years. If this happens, there are two issues to watch: the overall funding level and the makeup of any package that replaces sequestration. The size of the budget they agree on will determine the amount of funding available for all anti-hunger discretionary programs. If the committee agrees on a plan to replace sequestration, we will be focused on whether it includes revenues and protects important anti-poverty programs.
Finally, the committee could emerge with no deal. At that point, Congress will have until Jan. 15 to prevent another shutdown and potentially address sequestration.
We must continue to urge members of Congress to pass a moral budget that adequately funds programs that combat hunger and poverty, and replace sequestration with a balanced plan that includes revenues and smart spending cuts that won’t increase poverty.
Farm Bill and Food Aid
Members of the House and Senate have begun negotiating a farm bill to renew our nation’s agriculture and nutrition policies.
Last month, the congressional conference committee on the farm bill met for the first time to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The Senate version cuts $4 billion from SNAP over 10 years, while the House’s nutrition-only version cuts $39 billion. Any cuts to SNAP would make it more difficult for struggling families to put food on the table. Still, SNAP isn’t the only point of contention.
The farm bill conferees will also negotiate agricultural provisions, including food aid reform. The Senate passed provisions in its farm bill for more effective and efficient food aid policy that would allow U.S. food aid to reach more hungry people with better, more nutritious food. While an amendment to include similar provisions in the House version failed to pass, a bipartisan letter signed by 53 members of the House was recently sent to farm bill conferees supporting Senate-passed provisions in the bill.
In the coming months, we will ask our members with senators and representatives who sit on the conference committee to ask them to ensure that hungry people aren’t harmed in any final farm bill.
Bread for the World and its partners are working to ensure that House leadership puts a vote on immigration reform on the 2013 calendar. The Evangelical Immigration Table, of which Bread is a member, recently released a letter urging the House to continue working on immigration and take up reform that includes a pathway to legalization or citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Bread for the World will continue to ask members of Congress to come to agreement on these issues while also protecting programs that help people suffering from hunger.
Today, as we observe Veterans Day and recognize those who served in the U.S. military, some veterans may be spending the day wondering where their next meal will come from.
This year, Veterans Day comes a little more than a week after an $11 billion cut in food stamp benefits went into effect. Millions of Americans, including many veterans, will see their grocery budgets shrink because of this change.
According to Census figures, roughly 900,000 veterans, in any given month, lived in households that relied on SNAP in 2011. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in a recent study on how the Nov. 1 cut will impact veterans , found that thousands of vets in every state will be affected. "For low-income veterans, who may be unemployed, working in low-wage jobs, or disabled, SNAP provides an essential support that enables them to purchase nutritious food for their families," the study found.
Philadelphia vet Bill Olsson recently told a local TV station that he is one of the 59,300 veterans in Pennsylvania who relies on SNAP, and that the Nov. 1 cut affects his ability to buy enough groceries to feed himself. "I have no income, and then no food stamps, how am I supposed to live?" Olsson said in an interview with KYW-TV. "Elderly people like myself have worked their whole life, and now can’t work, and depend on food stamps."
Congress is currently negotiating the farm bill, which will impact SNAP and other vital anti-hunger programs. Additional cuts to SNAP would make it even more difficult for millions of Americans, and thousands of veterans like Olsson, to eat.
Florida resident and Vietnam veteran Charles Boykin says, in the clip above, that he can't understand why legislators would do anything to reduce his SNAP allotment. "Why take it away from us?" he asks of Congress. "We were there for them, why can't they be there for us?"
Forty-nine million Americans live at risk of hunger — SNAP must be protected in the farm bill. Email your members of Congress now and tell them that any final farm bill must not increase hunger.
Only the current Congress would allow cuts to critical anti-hunger programs, taking food away from parents struggling in this economy to put food on the table for their kids. Last Friday — on the first day of a month in which we celebrate bounty with a national feast—all families receiving SNAP (formerly food stamps) saw their benefits cut. The average family of four lost up to $36 a month.
This $11 billion cut over four years equals nearly 10 million meals each day. That's 80 million meals eliminated since the SNAP cut went into effect last Friday! This is as if nearly all of the residents of the states of California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Colorado did not eat for a day. And some in Congress are pushing for far more extreme cuts to SNAP.
As we move toward Thanksgiving and Christmas and prepare to gather with friends and family around big meals and parties with lots of food, we know you will be making many trips to the grocery store. We encourage you to use your trips to the store as an occasion to give thanks to God for our bounty and as a reminder to take action on behalf of those who have experienced SNAP cuts. We invite you to say this prayer every time you visit the grocery store this season: God, empower us and our leaders to fill the hungry with good things.
In the coming weeks, as the number of eliminated meals from SNAP cuts grows, we will call upon you to continue saying this prayer as you buy food and share this message with your members of Congress.
Right now, Congress is debating whether to allow cuts to nutrition assistance for low-income women and children to continue under sequestration. Already, struggling seniors have had to go without 4 million meals because of cuts to the Meals on Wheels program, and if sequestration continues, another 4 million meals could be cut.
We can make a difference this fall, but there’s not much time. Congress has just a few weeks to reverse the harmful cuts put in place by sequestration and to pass a farm bill. And these cuts threaten so much more—funding for international emergency food aid, poverty-focused foreign assistance, nutrition assistance for struggling seniors and pregnant women, and Head Start for low-income children.
Tell your members of Congress that all should share in the bounty and they must not cut programs that help struggling families.
Thank you for your continued prayers and action during this critical time.
Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.
Photo: Alex Morris feeds her son, André, in their Bend, OR, home. Alex depends on SNAP, WIC and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system (Brad Horn).
Good jobs that pay a living wage are key to addressing U.S. income inequality. Photo: Roofers install solar panels on a home in the District of Columbia (Courtesy of Mt. Pleasant Solar Coop).
By Allie Gardner
The U.S. economy is continuing to slowly, steadily recover, but too many families are not sharing in the nation’s economic growth, according to a new report from Half in Ten.
“Resetting the Poverty Debate: Renewing Our Commitment to Shared Prosperity” finds that income inequality remained high even as the economy grew during the last year. This annual report tracks the nation’s progress toward cutting poverty in half over the next decade, and recommends a set of policy priorities that would help more families escape poverty and enter the middle class. The report cites job creation, boosting wages, and investing in family economic security as means of accomplishing this, and also calls on Congress to end sequestration, and invest in programs that keep Americans out of poverty.
Increasing the minimum wage would help narrow the gap between productivity and compensation, as well as boost the income of low-wage workers, the report finds. While the top five percent of U.S. income earners are the only group that has seen an increase in income since the end of the recession, poorly compensated workers have seen the largest declines in their wages over the last ten years.
The importance of federal safety net programs, such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) and Social Security, is also noted. The former has helped stabilize the food-insecurity rate in recent years, and the latter lifted the income of 25.6 million Americans above the supplemental poverty line. Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, stressed the importance of these programs at the launch event for the report. Beckmann explained that SNAP “is very vulnerable to deep, deep cuts,” as many members of Congress do not prioritize it. “All of us need to rally around SNAP,” Beckmann added.
Cutting poverty in half over the next ten years is an important mission. In order to achieve this goal, Bread for the World believes that hunger and poverty must be put on the national agenda during the next election. Additionally, we must continue to remind our members of Congress that our nation's budget has to be a moral document that reflects our nation's concern for the most vulnerable.
Allie Gardner is an editorial intern at Bread for the World.
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