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22 posts categorized "Hunger Justice Leaders"
For Bread for the World organizers, there is a difference between our work in “remote” states and our work in the states in which we live. Understandably, we are able to be more present, more of the time, in our home cities and states. Our grassroots leaders in our various districts and states are our most valuable asset, and we identify, build, strengthen, and depend on them—especially in places we are not able to visit often.
In states like Nebraska, local leaders do the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to building relationships, organizing teams, and engaging their senators and representatives. When our advocacy efforts succeed in a state like Nebraska, it is abundantly clear that much of the credit goes to these local leaders. One such local leader is Omaha resident Kaela Volkmer, a mother of three and one of this year’s Hunger Justice Leaders.Kaela has taken a lead role in our work to build Bread’s presence in Omaha and to build our relationship with Nebraska’s congressional delegation, especially Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight.”
Photo: Hunger Justice Leaders pose in front of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building after meeting with people working in the White House Office of Public Engagement in Washington, D.C., on Monday, June 11, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Chinook: GPNW Community of Christ, Autumn 2012 edition.
By Lyle Anderson II
We live in a world with enough food for everyone, and yet so many go to bed at night not knowing where their next meal will come from. Caring for, and seeking, an end to the injustices of hunger and poverty has been a part of our story as Community of Christ from our earliest beginnings as a movement, and a part of our calling we have been reminded of in Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a,c: “God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will… Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare…. Prepare new generations of disciples to bring fresh vision to bear on the perplexing problems of poverty, disease, war, and environmental deterioration.”
It was a great honor to be selected as one of 70 young adult ministers from 16 Christian traditions and 26 states to participate in Bread for the World’s 2012 Hunger Justice Leaders Workshop. We descended on Washington, D.C., on June 8; over the next few days, we learned about hunger, poverty, anti-hunger and poverty programs, and citizen advocacy.
We were a diverse group of people from varying backgrounds, but we shared one thing in common: grounded in our faith as disciples of Christ, we had a conviction and passion to end the injustice of hunger.
Forty-five percent of children in Ohio were eligible for the National School Lunch Program this year, but many of those children went without meals during the summer. That fact strikes close to home for Columbus, OH, speech therapist Shannon Schlagbaum, who works with children in the public schools. Shannon knows about the toll that hunger takes.
"It affects children I know and love," said Shannon, a member of Bread for the World since 2007.
Those children were prime motivators for Shannon to come to our nation's capital this June for training as a Hunger Justice Leader—along with 75 other young activists. The training, conducted by Bread for the World, steeped participants in the biblical foundations of anti-hunger advocacy and honed their skills in creative community organizing.
The workshops culminated in Lobby Day 2012, during which Hunger Justice Leaders joined other Bread activists to lobby their members of Congress on behalf of hungry and poor people.
"It was a wonderful experience," said Shannon, who is also a Sunday school teacher at Vineyard Church, a nondenominational evangelical congregation in Columbus. "I believe that by changing policies and programs, we can provide help beyond the community in which we live."
Shannon said that she became a Christian at the age of 18 and shortly thereafter interned at a homeless shelter. "To be a Christian is to help other people," she said. "It really makes sense for people who have enough to help people who are hungry."
"Bread for the World is very blessed to be working with such a thoughtful and authentic minister whose work to end hunger is so clearly driven by a deep and abiding faith," commented Jon Gromek, a regional organizer for Bread.
During her time in Washington, DC, Shannon met with staffers for her elected officials, Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown and Rep. Steve Stivers, lobbying them to protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) under discussion in the farm bill.
"I was nervous," said Shannon, "but I reminded myself that I’m not in here for myself." Shannon was empowered by the notion that the United States is governed by the people. "I'm qualified to be there simply because I am a U.S. Citizen," she said.
Back in Ohio, now a full-fledged Hunger Justice Leader, Shannon refused to rest. She immediately set up in-district meetings with Sen. Brown and Rep. Stivers. She said that one of the best aspects of those follow up meetings is that she had the opportunity to express gratitiude to Sen. Brown for getting the word out about SNAP and for supporting the summer lunch program that serves many of the children in her teaching district.
Shannon is also sharing the work of Bread for the World in her church community as well as leading efforts to form a Bread Team in Central Ohio.
"She is the true embodiment of a Hunger Justice Leader," said Jon Gromek.
Eric Bond is Bread for the World's managing editor.
Dr. Barbara Clawson at the Bread for the World dinner honoring Hunger Justice Leaders. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
This profile of Dr. Barbara Clawson comes from Bread's Summer 2012 "Legacy of Hope" newsletter.
Bread for the World founder Art Simon calls Dr. Barbara Clawson “…a doer, one whose call to hunger ministries was shaped by her international experiences.” Indeed, Barbara’s life has been marked by international travel. The longtime Bread for the World member has visited and worked in at least 40 countries, many repeatedly.
“God has blessed me with many opportunities, especially overseas,” she said, “and with good health.” During decades of teaching and mission visits overseas, Dr. Clawson has witnessed global hunger and its effects.
Before she retired, Dr. Clawson worked as a teacher, most recently as a teacher educator at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In her free time, Barbara likes to read and walk. And of course, travel, which she says has afforded her the opportunity to interact personally with people of all types.
I sat in my cubicle mesmerized by my student’s depiction of his life for 13 years in rural Africa: raised beds of vegetables, dusty dirt roads stretching to the horizon, smiling faces dripping with sweat in the bright orange sun.
As a professor at Eastern University, I traded in my life in humanitarian aid, development, and missions for the privilege of training Christian relief workers with a powerful set of program planning and economic tools set within the framework of Kingdom principles. But on days like this one, I still feel like the student.
As David recounted stories of his narrow escape from war-torn South Sudan, he transported me to the joys and struggles of life as a refugee. I learned that David alone survived from his family. I heard the story of his settlement within a refugee camp outside of his nation’s borders, the new farming techniques he mastered, and the privilege given to him to travel to other sites to teach the art of soil cultivation, crop rotation, and farming.
Bread for the World activists from Texas listen to a staffer in Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's office talk during Bread's Lobby Day in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl for Bread for the World.
As you’ve hopefully heard, the Senate finished their work on the Farm Bill yesterday afternoon. The bill passed by a vote of 64-35. While the final bill included $4.5 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next ten years, our work and voices did make a difference.
Harmful amendments to further cut, and even dismantle, SNAP were defeated on a strong bi-partisan basis. This will certainly help us in sending a strong message to the House of Representatives that deeper cuts to SNAP are unacceptable.
Additionally, the final bill included some common sense reforms to international food aid and to crop insurance. An amendment by Sens. Coburn and Durbin to limit crop insurance premium subsidies to wealthy farmers also passed on a strong bi-partisan basis.
The process now turns to the House where the Agriculture Committee will be marking up their own bill on July 11. Stay tuned for details and possible actions around the markup. We expect much deeper cuts to SNAP likely in the range of $14 billion over ten years.
We want to thank all of our activists for your work advocating for SNAP and international food aid as the bill made its way through the Senate. There is still much to be done, but we are glad to see the Farm Bill process moving forward.
Christine Meléndez Ashley is policy analyst at Bread for the World.
(Left to right): Kay DeBlance, Rebecca Walker, Aaron Marez and David Ramos of Texas walk through the Russell Senate Office Building on their way to a meeting in Sen. Kay Hutchison's office (R-TX). They visited the office as part of Bread for the World's Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World
Each year during Bread for the World’s Lobby Day, some participants experience the sheer joy of being heard by a decision maker and possibly changing someone's mind. Others find comfort in knowing that they did not remain silent, but spoke boldly for justice. And others need the comfort of faith as they are met with callousness while speaking to the need in God’s world. But one thing is for certain: All come away with stories.
Join us tomorrow, Thursday, June 21, for the grassroots webinar and conference call to hear an inspiring story from one of our Hunger Justice Leaders, who went from serving coffee to her Senator back in her home state, to visiting him on Capitol Hill to ask him to make policy changes that help hungry people.
Also, Bread for the World’s President David Beckmann will walk us through the legislative process and both the challenges and victories around the circle of protection so far this year, including the Farm Bill being debated in the Senate now.
The call starts promptly at 4 p.m. EST (1 p.m. PST) and lasts one hour. You will have the chance to ask questions to both our guest Hunger Justice Leader, as well as Rev. Beckmann. Please register now.
Q: What signs of poverty and hunger do you see in your communities?
A: I am an associate pastor and director of worship ministries in the Community of Christ. The church in Salem, OR, is really aware of hunger and poverty and they are engaging. They are trying to provide food for the weekend for kids in schools who otherwise would go without.
Q: Why do you work to advocate for hungry and poor people?
A: Hunger is a part of my own story. Even though I wasn’t necessarily aware of it, my mother’s shared stories from my childhood. As a follower of Christ, it’s just part of my essential calling to embrace the worth of all persons and caring for creation and for people.
Q: What have you learned through the Hunger Justice Leaders training?
A: I learned about the connection across the wide spectrum of Christianity. Despite all the things that divide us, there’s that common awareness and strength that we can be united in reflecting Christ when we work on hunger. I also learned that I’m not the only one who struggles to think about how to best engage our churches. And through our meetings with the White House, I realized that our voice really does have an impact. I learned not to give that up.
Q: Can you share one of the stories that your mom shared with you?
A: When we were children, one of the stories she told is how at times, even with the help of WIC, which was the only thing we had food-wise, we were still struggling financially. At one point, my mother had gone to try to get help from the faith community. A church member came and brought a box full of food and my sister and I were unpacking it and putting things away. My sister was so excited when she saw a gallon of milk that she said, does this mean we can have milk with our cereal again? It was then that the church member saw how bare our cabinets were.
This shows that sometimes you’re not necessarily aware of what the person sitting next to you at church is going through.
Ellen and Al Fisher from Cedar Rapids, IA, are attending Bread for the World's 2012 Lobby Day.
Q: What brought you to Lobby Day?
Al Fisher (AF): This is our fourth Lobby Day. We came to Lobby Day in 2007, 2009, 2011, and now 2012.
Q: Why do you commit your time and resources to come to Lobby Day?
Ellen Fisher (EF): We both feel strongly that this is a vital part of our faith. I hope to persuade the government to adopt programs to end hunger, and we hope to influence the political process and encourage greater generosity towards the poor.
Q: Are you seeing signs of poverty of hunger in your community in Cedar Rapids?
EF: Our church provides free Sunday night meals and we meet people who come back for four or five servings, and they look to me as people who live on the fringes.
AF: The unemployment rate is lower than the national average, but there is still a lot of hunger and poverty there.
Q: What do you hope to tell your members of Congress when you meet with them today?
AF: That they shouldn't cut federal nutrition programs and cut the budget on the backs of the poor. We met with a staffer last year who said that times are tough and everybody's gotta have skin in the game, but it seems unfair that 60 percent of the cuts are coming from programs for the poor.
EF: Right, saying you have to have skin in the game is one thing, but 60 percent of the cuts isn't having skin in the game, it's getting amputated!
Q: Why is hunger an important issue for you?
AF: When we adopted our two kids from South Korea, our son came into the care of the adoption agency and a very nice caring foster family the day after he was born, and then we adopted him. But our daughter had a difficult first 14 months before we adopted her, during which she was very sick and hungry. When we adopted her, at meals, she would eat with food in one hand and food in another hand. She had known hunger, so this is a personal issue for us.
Photo caption: Al Fisher and Ellen Fisher at Bread for the World's Lobby Day on June 12, 2012.