339 posts categorized "Hunger and the U.S. Budget"
Pastor Charlotte Schmiedeskamp of Thompson Falls, Mont., talks about proposed SNAP cuts and sequestration during a visit with her member of Congress during Bread for the World's June 2013 Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. (Robin Stephenson)
July and August offer plenty of opportunities to talk about hunger and poverty with your members of Congress.
Yesterday, during Bread for the World’s monthly grassroots conference call and webinar, members of our policy and organizing staff emphasized that it is important to act now. Director of government relations Eric Mitchell encouraged advocates to take advantage of in-district meetings and town halls during the August recess, a time when members of Congress return to their home districts. “This is the time they need to hear from constituents," Mitchell said. "After August, things will move fast.”
Bread staffers reviewed the last six months and also looked ahead to what may transpire between now and the end of the year. The bottom line: your phone calls make a difference and will continue to be needed.
Noting that the media has largely ignored the effects of sequestration on vulnerable people, Bread policy analyst Amelia Kegan said, “We know if it’s not front page news, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening and isn’t important—if Congress doesn’t hear from you, they won’t think it’s a problem.” Kegan went on to point out that a long-term replacement of the sequester is unlikely at this point, but a short-term fix is still possible this fall, especially as more defense spending cuts take their toll. The question moving forward is how Congress will choose to replace the spending cuts—whether they decide to cut programs like SNAP or taking a balanced approach that includes increased revenues may depend on the pressure that anti-hunger advocates put on their lawmakers.An examination of recent House farm bill activity showed that two wrongs don’t make a right. The first draft of the bill, which included $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP, failed in a floor vote. The version of the bill that the House passed last week does not include the title that authorizes the SNAP program. SNAP will continue to operate at existing levels under current rules and can still be included in a conference with the Senate farm bill (which cuts the program by $4.1 billion). But, as policy analyst Christine Melendez-Ashley cautioned, the way forward for the nutrition title is not yet clear, and that leaves the SNAP vulnerable to cuts in both the farm bill and the appropriations process.
Staff members also provided an update on the latest threats to international food aid, which delivers emergency assistance to hungry people overseas. House proposals in the farm bill and spending bills would slash the program. The Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act, introduced in the House by a bi-partisan group of representatives, was also discussed.
Mitchell also stressed that Bread members must put pressure on their representatives to craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship. The Senate passed a comprehensive bill late last month, but is in unclear how the House will come up with a comprehensive bill or a piecemeal approach to reform.
The next monthly conference call and webinar will be held on Sept. 17.
Students eating school lunch at Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, Va., on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. (USDA photo by Lance Cheung)
Summer break can mean going months without free school meals and snacks for many hungry children. The U.S. Department of Agriculture program provides free summer meals, but with some school buildings closed and limited school bus service, it's hard to get the kids to the food. This weekend, the Washington Post ran a piece about a school bus "bread truck" in Tennessee, a USDA program that brings food to children in communities where the need is great during summer months.
The reporter meets many people while riding the bus, but spends a lot of time with one family in particular, the Laughrens. The mom is struggling to make ends meet—she works 12-hour shifts as a cook at a nursing home, but risks being fired if she brings leftovers home to her kids. She receives SNAP benefits, but they don't stretch as far during the summer months, when her kids aren't receiving two free meals and snacks at school each day.
Hunger and food insecurity has affected each family member in a different way, all of them equally heartbreaking.
"Desperation had become their permanent state, defining each of their lives in different ways," the author writes. Courtney, 13, is "rail thin," while Taylor, 14, has been "stockpiling calories whenever food was available, ingesting enough processed sugar and salt to bring on a doctor’s lecture about obesity and early-onset diabetes." Anthony, 9, has decided to move out of the family's trailer and live with his grandparents. For Hannah, 7, hunger has "meant her report card had been sent home with a handwritten note of the teacher’s concerns, one of which read: 'Easily distracted by other people eating.'"
The comments section of the post is, as comments sections typically are, filled with poor-shaming and judgment, but there is also compassion, smart ideas about reducing hunger and poverty in America, and calls for lawmakers to strengthen, rather than snip, our country's safety net as so many families continue to struggle.
House farm bill negotiations continue, and while a version of the bill that included more than $21 billion in cuts to SNAP failed to pass last month, a current proposal to split the bill would leave vital nutrition assistance programs vulnerable to deep cuts.
Sadly, the Laughrens story isn't unique or even uncommon—50 million Americans are food insecure, one-third of them children. Now is not the time to slash programs that ensure that children don 't go to bed hungry and parents don't have to choose between providing their children with food or shelter. Now is the time to ensure a place at the table for all God’s people by using our voices to oppose cuts to programs that help hungry and poor people.
[This piece originally appeared in Bread for the World's July-August e-newletter.]
On June 27, the Senate approved the most far-reaching reforms to U.S. immigration policy in 50 years. The Senate’s immigration reform bill passed 68-32. Bipartisan support gave the proposal momentum even as it faces a more daunting challenge in the House of Representatives. The bill includes most of the major components of an immigration overhaul: an earned legalization process for 11 million unauthorized immigrants, increased enforcement both at the border and inside the United States, and a revamped guest worker program for both low-skill and high-skill sectors.
The Senate bill does not address root causes of undocumented immigration, such as poverty in countries of origin. However, it will reduce hunger and poverty of immigrants in the United States.
The farm bill remains a main focus of our efforts to ensure a place at the table for all people. During this time of slow economic recovery, more than 47 million of individuals across the United States rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is funded through the farm bill.
The current farm bill deadline is this September. As of press time, the Senate has passed a bipartisan farm bill that includes $4 billion in cuts to SNAP and some international food aid improvements. Meanwhile, the House failed to pass a bill that included over $20 billion in cuts to SNAP and $2.5 billion in cuts to international food aid. It is unclear how the farm bill process will move forward. Congress could take a number of routes, from having the House rewrite its bill, to considering the Senate bill on the House floor, to extending the current law.
Although the House bill failed, several amendments that passed during floor considerations are cause for concern. For example, the Southerland Amendment would impose harsh work requirements on all SNAP recipients. The Reed Amendment would ban ex-offenders from receiving SNAP. In addition, some influential lawmakers have recently floated the idea of splitting the farm bill and administering SNAP separately. This appears to be an effort to reduce funding for SNAP—which Bread would oppose.
In May, the Senate passed its discretionary spending allocations for fiscal year 2014, which was drafted with the assumption that the Budget Control Act of 2011—commonly referred to as sequestration—will be replaced and that scheduled cuts will not go into effect next year. The Senate appropriations spending cap is roughly $1 trillion.
In late June, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its agriculture appropriations bill, with healthy funding levels for programs that help hungry people:
- $7 billion for the Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program—$215 million above FY 2013
- $1.46 billion for international food aid—$33 million above FY 2013
- $185 million for McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program—$1 million above FY 2013
The bill also includes modest changes to international food aid. It eliminates approximately 17 percent of monetization—sale of commodities purchased in and shipped from the United States. This change would help support local farmers and markets. The bill also includes an $18 million increase in emergency funds.
Unfortunately, the House is operating under the assumption that sequestration will remain in place—leaving a gap of $10 billion between the Senate and House bills and making it hard to see how legislation will move forward. As of press time, the House has not drafted or passed its agricultural appropriations bill.
The morning of June 27 was a hot one in our Nation’s Capital, but that did not stop a dedicated and passionate group of individuals from coming together to pray for just immigration reform.
The #pray4reform campaign, a weeklong event held June 24-28, was planned to coincide with the Senate's vote on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Why gather to pray for immigration reform? The hope was that congressional leaders would vote “yes” on a the bill (S.744), which includes a path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million immigrants working in the United States without authorization. On June 28, the Senate passed that bill, but there is still much work to be done. Members of the House will now take up the issue, and we must continue to urge congressional leaders to create a more just immigration system.
The #pray4reform campaign brought together evangelical leaders for daily prayer at the Peace Circle in front of the Capitol. During our small worship ceremony, a mobile billboard drove around the city with the message “Praying for immigrants. Praying for Congress.” Gathering around the Peace Circle to connect with God as Congress voted on such crucial legislation nearby was an amazing experience.
As the issue moves to the House, we continue to #pray4reform, and we hope you will do the same and continue to urge your members of Congress to support just immigration reform. Together, we can help push the issues of immigration and hunger to the forefront, so that no individual has to live with hunger.
Kiara Ortiz and Minju Zukowski are media relations interns in Bread for the World's communications departmentPhoto: Rev. Noel Castellanos, chief executive officer of the Christian Community Development Association, at the June 27 #pray4reform event at the U.S. Capitol. (Minju Zukowski)
Rev. Dr. James Forbes speaking at Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).
When the Rev. Dr. James Forbes was a child, his family’s Raleigh, N.C., dinner table was a place not only where meals were shared, but where accomplishments were celebrated and compassion encouraged. After saying grace, the family members ate and talked about how they could best extend kindness and love to each other and the members of their community. “If we had been faithful in caring and sharing then we had the sense that justice and peace had a chance in the world,” Rev. Forbes, senior minister emeritus of the Riverside Church in New York City and president of the Healing of the Nations Foundation, said in a recent sermon.
During Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, “A Place at the Table,” Rev. Forbes offered words to fortify advocates working to ensure that all families can gather around dinner tables filled with compassion, love, and nutritious food. Now, Rev. Forbes, who is often called "the preacher’s preacher," is traveling the country, conveying God’s message that we can end hunger.
In the coming months, he will be preaching in churches across the nation and leading homiletics workshops for ministers, pastors, and others who also preach to end hunger. Click here to see if Rev. Forbes is coming to a church near you and to obtain registration information.
Participants in Bread for the World's 2011 Lobby Day. Pictured (from left to right) Eileen Smith LeVan of Reading, Pa.,Jeff McGlaughlin of Spring City, Pa., Sonja Spangler of Pa., and Miriam Fiorentino of Wyomissing, PA. (Jim Stipe)By Jim Lund
Are you ready for the 4th of July? It’s such a fun and meaningful holiday—a day of barbeques, fireworks, and celebration of the freedoms that come with living in the greatest nation in the world.
But how great are we if we sit by and allow 16.7 million children in the United States to be at risk of hunger? Why are people going hungry in our great nation?
We must take a stand and act. I invite you to make a gift right now to help Bread take these actions:
- Fight to protect funding for programs that help families lift themselves out of hunger and poverty.
- Talk to members of Congress every week and urge them to make decisions that protect hungry and poor people.
- Raise awareness about hunger across the United States— from your community to the other side of the country. The more people talk about hunger, the more lives we can change.
The best part is that right now your gift to support these efforts will be doubled—up to $85,000—by a few generous members! Will you take a stand for hungry people and donate today?
I hope you will also take two minutes to call your members of Congress at 1-800-326-4941. Let them know that no one should go hungry and that nutrition programs can’t take any more cuts.
Have a safe and happy 4th of July. And please do your part to help make this country truly the greatest.
Jim Lund is Bread for the World's vice president for Development and Membership.
Bread for the World advocates during a workshop at the 2013 National Gathering, held June 8-11 in Washington, D.C.
Advocacy requires patience and, like the exodus from Egypt, the exodus from hunger takes struggle, perseverance, prayer, and faith. Our biblical tradition has aptly prepared Christian anti-hunger advocates for this work. Today, faithful advocacy paid off!
With two days of heated debate on the House floor, it was not clear that the chamber’s farm bill—which included $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) and $2.5 billion in cuts to food aid—would fail. Two amendments that would have restored the funding failed yesterday and several harmful proposals that would have increased hunger passed. But there was always hope.
Like David picking up the rock as he faced impossible odds against Goliath, anti-hunger advocates picked up phones, sent emails, and used social media to send the same powerful message to Congress: everyone deserves a place at the table.
Bread for the World strongly urged a “no” vote on any farm bill that included cuts to programs that help hungry and poor people. The House farm bill failed passage today, with a final vote of 195 yays and 234 nays. (To see how your representative voted, click here).
This is a great victory, but there is still much work to be done. As congressional leaders decide how to move forward, we will make sure that our members are equipped with the information they need in order to remain vigilant. Some options for moving forward include sending the House farm bill back to the agriculture committee for changes, another short- or long-term extension of the farm bill (the bill we are functioning under expires Sept. 30), or leadership may choose to vote on the Senate bill.
Beyond the farm bill, work on immigration, the budget, and replacing sequestration will take center stage. The fearless and faithful advocacy it takes to say “no” in the face of those who may seem bigger and stronger will be needed again and again.
Like David who faced the Philistine not with a sword, but with faith and courage, faithful advocates will again be challenged, but we can continue to overcome great obstacles. Thank you to everyone who used his or her voice and made a difference today.
Your support and involvement made it possible for Bread for the World to fight cuts to SNAP and food aid. You can help keep that momentum going by joining our summer effort to help hungry people and making a gift to Bread.
Updated, 6:15 a.m., 11:34 a.m., 1:23 p.m. 6/20/13
Debate on the House farm bill began today, with a final vote expected in the next week. The representatives will consider as many as 103 amendments, some of which could increase hunger, and others that would help hungry people. Below is a rundown of some of the key amendments Bread for the World will be closely monitoring. Ultimately, we are pushing for “no” votes on any final legislation that cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) or food aid. Even if you have already done so, please call your representative at 1-800-326-4941 or send an email today.
The SNAP cuts included in the House bill could kick at least 2 million people off of the program, reduce benefits for more than 800,000 families, and leave 210,000 children without free school meals. Cuts to food aid programs could cost lives and hinder the ability of the United States to effectively reach millions of people in need. These cuts must not stand.
Amendments Bread for the World Supports
- McGovern Amendment (No.1): Restores the $20.5 billion in SNAP cuts included in the House bill by cutting commodity programs and crop insurance payments. Bread for the World strongly supports. Amendment No. 1 to restore SNAP funding failed in a recorded vote of 188 yays and 234 nays. To see how your representative voted, click here.
- Royce-Engel Amendment (No. 15): Includes common-sense reforms providing much needed flexibility in the Food for Peace program. Will help the United States reach an additional 4 million disaster victims through overseas food assistance without spending any additional U.S. taxpayer dollars. Bread for the World strongly supports. Amendment No. 15 to reform food aid narrowly failed in a recorded vote of 203 yays and 220 nays. To see how your representative voted, click here.
- Duckworth Amendment (No. 68): Requires USDA to conduct a study and report back to Congress its findings on the impact of SNAP cuts on demand for charitable food services. Amendment No. 68 adopted in a bloc-voice vote.
Amendments Bread for the World Opposes
A number of harmful amendments have been submitted that would reduce benefits or make access to the SNAP program more difficult for qualifying participants.
- Conaway Amendment (No.23): Creates a provision in the SNAP program that would reduce benefits to qualifying participants by 10 percent if Congress fails to pass a farm bill. Amendment No. 23 rejected by voice vote, and withdrawn from recorded vote by Rep. Conaway.
- Kingston, Westmoreland, Austin, and Scott Amendment (No. 24): Repeals the SNAP benefit boost enacted in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This benefit boost is set to expire in November.
- Huelskamp, Goodlatte, Neugebauer, Jordon, DeSantis, Stewart, and Chris Amendment(No. 101): Cuts SNAP funding by $31 billion and also eliminates programs such as SNAP nutrition education and job training, which help participants transition out of poverty. Although the SNAP program has existing work requirements, this amendment imposes additional requirements, making it more difficult for qualifying participants to access the safety-net program when they need it. Amendment 101 adopted in a vote of 175 yays and 250 nays.
- Southerland, Westmoreland, Kingston, Bentivolio, and Schweikert Amendment (No. 102): Creates a state option that allow states to change their SNAP work requirements to match stricter federal welfare work requirements and financially incentivizes states to reduce SNAP caseload by providing states funding based on how much they reduce caseload. Amendment 102 failed in a vote of 227 yays and 198 nays.
- Reed Amendment (No.103): Ex-offenders who have committed a set of specific violent crimes would be permanently banned from ever receiving SNAP. Amendment No. 103 adopted in a bloc-voice vote.
We will update this blog post as each amendment receives a vote over the next few days.
By Robin Stephenson
Each month, Bread for the World’s organizing and government relations departments team up for a grassroots conference call and webinar to make sure our members have the most up-to-date information on polices moving through Congress that affect hungry and poor people. Yesterday, Bread’s director of government relations, Eric Mitchell, began the briefing by stating that there is a lot going on in Washington, D.C., right now—immigration, appropriations, sequestration, and voting the House farm bill, which includes devastating cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) and international food aid.
In the Senate, members continue to debate immigration reform and are expected to vote before the July 4 break. Hunger and immigration are connected and Bread will continue to monitor progress and take targeted action.
Both the House and Senate are grappling with appropriation bills, and the size of each pie is currently very different, reported policy analyst Amelia Kegan. The appropriations committees differ on several points, including sequestration, in their calculations, and if there is no agreement by Sept. 30 when the government’s fiscal year ends, the vast distance between drafts will likely result in a continuing resolution. Sequestration, which harms both long and short term responses to hunger, could be averted through debt ceiling negotiations, but that depends on voters. Kegan said that during her meetings with congressional offices on the Hill, she is often asked to tell Bread members to speak up by making calls to Congress. “Just because it's not in the news, doesn't mean it doesn't matter,” she said.
But the main issue of the day, on which the current call to action is focused, is the House farm bill which, in its current form, includes $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP and $2.5 billion in cuts to food aid. As of last night, Mitchell reported that the House Rules Committee had received 225 amendments—including 75 that impact nutrition and two on food aid—some that threaten to increase hunger. We will monitor those amendments and, if they reach the floor, provide updates here on the Bread Blog. Not all of the amendments are harmful, though—Bread for the World is actively asking for support of the McGovern amendment, which would restore SNAP funding. An amendment on food aid by Reps. Royce and Engle would also decrease hunger by increasing the flexibility and efficiency of food aid programs. Ultimately, a final bill that includes any cuts to programs that help hungry and poor people, either at home or abroad, must be met with a resounding “no.” But that will only happen if you make calls and get your networks to speak up.
Stating the sad reality that has remained true with each cost-cutting proposal since the budget negotiations began, LaVida Davis, Bread's director of organizing, said that “the people that are the most vulnerable get thrown under the bus first, so we have to be vigilant.” The sounds of ringing phones should be echoing throughout the halls of Congress today and continue until a final vote has been taken. Let them know you are listening.
We will continue to follow and report on any new developments around immigration, sequestration, the budget, and the farm bill. The next conference call and webinar will be July 16. Below is the slide show from last night’s webinar portion.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
We expect two amendments to be considered and voted on today that Bread for the World strongly supports. Please urge your representative to
1. Vote against any cuts to SNAP and vote for Rep. McGovern’s amendment to restore SNAP funding. The SNAP cuts included in the bill could kick at least 2 million people off of the program, reduce benefits for more than 800,000 families, and leave 210,000 children without free school meals.
2. Oppose cuts to food aid and vote for the bipartisan Royce-Engel amendment to make food aid more efficient. The amendment will feed at least 4 million more people at no additional cost to taxpayers by making the food aid system more flexible and efficient.
By Eric Mitchell
This week, the House of Representatives is considering a farm bill that includes more than $20 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) and $2.5 billion in cuts to international food aid programs. Numerous harmful amendments submitted to the bill threaten to cut SNAP further or make dangerous changes to the way the program works.
Your representative needs to hear from you today.
The SNAP cuts included in the bill could kick at least 2 million people off of the program, reduce benefits for more than 800,000 families, and leave 210,000 children without free school meals. Cuts to food aid programs could cost lives and hinder the ability of the United States to effectively reach millions of people in need. These cuts must not stand.
Call your representative today and urge him or her to vote against a farm bill that includes cuts to SNAP or international food aid. Tell your representative that you
- Oppose any cuts to SNAP and support efforts to restore funding to the program, and
- Oppose cuts to food aid and support efforts to make the program more efficient.
Thank you for continuing to use your voice to help ensure a place at the table for all God’s people.
Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.