Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

21 posts categorized "Hunger Report"

Labor Day: More Than a Three-Day Weekend

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Ofelio, owner of a tamale business in Washington, D.C., is featured in the 2014 Hunger Report. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)


By Robin Stephenson

Barbeques, the end of summer, and a three-day weekend are what Labor Day means for most Americans. For me, the welcome work break was a chance to catch up on neglected household chores. Celebrating the contributions of workers to the strength of our nation or thinking about today’s labor market never entered my mind.

That is, until last night.

My neighbor stopped by and mentioned another neighbor who has been out of work for more than a year and still hasn’t found employment. “She is at her wit’s end,” says my friend with exasperation. “She has a college education, is smart and hardworking, and still gets no offers.”

My unemployed neighbor is not alone. There are 3.2 million long-term unemployed, people out of work for more than 27 weeks. Congress failed to extend emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) in December, cutting off critical assistance to more than a million job seekers. Never before in the history of EUC has a Congress failed to extend the emergency aid when unemployment is so high.

My neighbor’s misfortune affects all of us. Lost productivity to the labor market decreases pressures on wages, which is why many Americans have not seen raises in the last few years. High unemployment means lost productivity and lost tax revenue, causing additional spending by the federal government to fill in the gaps.

There are signs that things are getting better. However, we are not out of the woods yet. The jobless rate, which peaked at 10 percent in 2009, has still not reached pre-2008 levels. Today the unemployment rate is 6.2 percent, although some economists call the number deceptively low. Full employment is a job rate below 5 percent and indicates that anyone who wants to work can find a job.

Infographic_FullEmploymentThe federal government has a role to play in strengthening the labor market and getting the long-term unemployed back to work. The best solution to ending hunger is a job that pays. The number of low-income households could be cut by more than half if a full-time job were available for everyone who wanted one.  

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, it would be possible for President Obama and Congress to reduce hunger in America by 25 percent by 2017.

A first step to full employment includes policies that stimulate the economy as part of a budget strategy instead of the job-killing cuts, such as the automatic spending caps called sequestration. Congress should also raise the minimum wage. If wages had kept up with productivity growth over the years, the minimum wage today would be $18.67.

Perhaps it is time that Labor Day becomes more than a three-day weekend. Labor Day should be a time of reflection and action—a time to ask how we can get people in America, including my neighbor, back to work and into jobs that pay a living wage.

Robin Stephenson is national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Feeding America Report: Reliance on Emergency Food Increasing

By Robin Stephenson

Electricity, rent, or food on the table to feed your kids? This choice is a game of poverty roulette that families like Jim and Christina Dreier grapple with each month and it isn’t fun.

The Dreiers and their three children live in Mitchel County, Iowa. Like many families, they use a patchwork of assistance – WIC, SNAP (food stamps), and the food bank – to make it through the month. Jim Dreier works two jobs, but that is not enough.

“It’s rough every day.  Where’s my next meal going to come from?” asks Christina.

Reading the Dreier’s story in a National Geographic article, “The New Face of Hunger,” one gets the impression that this is a family that lives on the edge of catastrophe.  It’s a life of fear and worry as they are always one step behind.  

“Moneywise,” says Christina, “coming in is a lot less than what has to go out every month.”

The Dreiers are food insecure – a term that describes households that do not have enough food in a given year. And they are not an anomaly. The shocking truth is food insecurity is epidemic in America. A job is no longer insulation from poverty and hunger.

According to a report released this week by Feeding America, one of Bread for the World’s partner organizations, one in seven people - 46.5 million Americans a year- rely on food banks to feed themselves and their families. Over half of the households included at least one person who was employed.

In the past, a trip to the food bank was an emergency situation that followed a job loss or financial crisis. Today, food insecurity is a chronic condition for too many Americans. But instead of helping low-income families, policy proposals in Congress appear to be working against them.

Earlier this year, the House passed the fiscal year 2015 House budget proposal, which makes deep cuts to programs for hungry and poor people in the United States, including cutting food stamps by $125 billion. Just last month, the House voted to reduce the child tax credit to the most vulnerable families, which would push an estimated 12 million people into deeper poverty.

A job that pays a living wage, not an emergency food box, is the only real buffer against hunger. Yet wages have not kept pace with economic productivity since 1950. Today, 28 percent of Americans make poverty level wages. A vote to raise the minimum wage failed earlier this year in the Senate.

It is time for Congress and the administration to set a plan to end hunger in the United States. Churches and charities can only provide a fraction of what is needed and cannot adequately address the root causes of poverty. The status quo is not ending hunger in America; policy targeted at ending hunger needs an overhaul.

We will never food bank our way out of hunger, so let’s stop trying. We also need the government to do its part.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.

 

Charting a Bipartisan Path Out of Hunger

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Philadelphia, Penn. resident Nadine Blackwell lost everything after a medical emergency. She tells her story in the 2014 Hunger Report. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

An unfortunate trend in the United States is that living costs are increasing but incomes are not – and it’s increasing hunger in America. Recent data from the KIDS COUNT Data Book reports that about 23 percent of children in 2012 lived below the poverty line.

“Whether you are a Republican or Democrat—let’s all agree that America deserves better,” said Chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in a speech today at the American Enterprise Institute. Ryan unveiled a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

“We want to start a discussion,” said Ryan this morning. The discussion draft Expanding Opportunity in America is an important contribution to a serious bipartisan dialogue about ending hunger and poverty.

"We are pleased to see such a high-ranking member of Congress take poverty seriously and offer his own plan to address it," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "We may have disagreements with some of his proposals, but we hope others in Congress will take note and offer their own plans."

Bread for the World supports some of the proposal's recommendations.

  • Bread believes sentencing reform is necessary, starting with reducing sentences for non-violent drug offenders.
  • Bread supports expanding the earned income tax credit (EITC) for adults without children.

However, Bread for the World strongly disagrees with other recommendations.

  • Turning SNAP (formerly food stamps) into a block grant would increase food insecurity when there are spikes in need.
  • Job creation and economic growth are critical to ending hunger and poverty, but work requirements are not effective if there are no jobs available.

Bread for the World Institute outlined its own plan for ending hunger in America in the 2014 Hunger Report. Bread for the World's strategy stresses policies to reduce unemployment and improve the quality of jobs. It also urges a strong safety net, investments in people, and partnerships between community organizations and government programs.

Read Bread for the World’s full press release, “Bread for the World Encouraged by Paul Ryan’s Plan for Poverty”.

New Fact Sheet: Hunger in the African-American Community

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Nadine Blackwell of Philadelphia tells her story in the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

“Dr. [Martin Luther] King gave his life fighting for economic opportunity—a fight that is still important today, as too many African-Americans continue to suffer from hunger and poverty. Ending hunger in America is possible, but in order to effectively address this issue we must honor Dr. King’s legacy by achieving economic opportunity and equality.”

 —Bishop Don DiXon Williams, associate for African American Church Relations at Bread for the World, in a press release today.

Bread for the World has released a new fact sheet, Hunger by the Numbers in the African-American Community: Employment, Wages, and Fairness, in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s work on issues of economic equality. Dr. King was assassinated 46 years ago today.

The fact sheet looks at hunger in the aftermath of the Great Recession, noting that food insecurity has disproportionately increased among African-Americans, as compared to other groups, due to higher unemployment rates and other injustices.  Among the findings:

  • The unemployment rate for the African-American community is 12 percent, higher than the national average of 6.7 percent, and higher than any other major group.
  • In 2012, 5.4 percent of African-American workers earned below the minimum wage, while 13.3 percent earned below the median wage, compared to 4 and 8.7 percent of white workers, respectively.

  • Only 2 percent of African-American women work in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (or STEM) industries, while white women make up 24 percent of the STEM workforce.

"The anniversary of Dr. King’s death reminds us that we still have a long way to go in ensuring freedom from hunger and poverty for African-Americans," said Bishop Williams. 

Bread for the World proposes a four-pronged approach to ending hunger in America; it is outlined in the 2014 Hunger Report.

Women: The Missing Link in Ending Hunger


Faustine Wabwire, senior foreign assistance policy analyst for Bread for the World Institute, appears on Africa 54, a Voice of America program about economic growth in Africa and the rural and urban divide. 

When you think of agriculture, is the role of women one of the first things that come to mind?  It should be, especially if you're thinking about agriculture in the context of global development. In developing countries like Bangladesh and Tanzania, women produce the majority of food. They are champions working hard to keep hunger at bay for their families and communities. Faustine Wabwire, senior foreign assistance policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute, calls women "the missing link" in the fight to end global hunger and poverty.

In the paper "A Global Development Agenda Toward 2015 and Beyond," Wabwire, a global affairs expert and frequent guest on Voice of America TV and Radio, says that to increase agricultural outputs, we must also increase gender equality for women. “Startling research findings show that, in fact, almost 55 percent of the reduction in hunger from 1970 to 1995 can be attributed to improvements in women’s status in society," she writes, adding that it's "more than agricultural or technological advances contributed.” Gender equality, she goes on to point out, is a precondition for overcoming poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.

This Saturday is International Women’s Day, which offers a perfect opportunity to start up conversations about women’s empowerment as a solution to ending hunger. It's an issue that Wabwire and the rest of Bread for the World Institute are exploring for the 2015 edition of the Hunger Report, an annual report that helps educate opinion leaders, policy makers, and the public about hunger in the United States and abroad. 

You can talk to Wabwire, and other members of the Institute staff, today between noon and 1 p.m. ET (9 a.m. PT) during a special Twitter chat on women's empowerment and ending hunger. They will answer questions and talk about the conditions and policies will help foster gender equality, and how can faithful advocates can support this work. Follow the hashtag #IWD2014 to join the conversation.

 

Could You Live on the Minimum Wage?

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A woman cleans an office in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

We know the hard facts about minimum wage: the federal rate is just $7.25 per hour, or about $14,500 in yearly income. But exactly how far does that amount stretch?

The New York Times has put together a "Can You Survive on the Minimum Wage?" calculator to help give a sense of just how difficult it is to get by when earning the lowest legal pay. It offers a look at the disheartening financial calculations that low-wage workers are forced to perform each day. Punch in how much you spend on food, transportation, rent, and utilities each month, and it quickly becomes apparent why minimum-wage workers often have to take on two jobs, acquire crushing debt, or do without many of life's essentials in order to survive. 

Maintaining a household while earning the minimum wage is so difficult, if not impossible, that some low-wage employers have taken to advising their workers to take second jobs or find impossibly cheap housing in order to make ends meet.

But the answer is not to tell low-wage earners to work more or spend less, it's to offer them a fair deal by raising the minimum wage. That's one of the key recommendations of the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. This year's Hunger Report points out that 28 percent of U.S. workers earn poverty-level wages, and Congress has raised the minimum wage only three times in the past 30 years.

 Infographic_RaiseMinWage(See the full version of the Hunger Report infographic "Raise the Minimum Wage") 

President Obama said in his State of the Union address last month that he intended to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10. Today, he made good on that promise by signing an executive order that will do so, effective Jan. 1, 2015. Federal contract workers earning the minimum wage make up a small portion of this country's low-wage earners, but the order is an important first step toward ensuring that all Americans can earn a livable wage and care for themselves and their families.

Income from work is the primary buffer against hunger for the vast majority of American families—it's time to raise the minimum wage and make sure that every full-time worker earns enough to keep a family out of poverty.

 

Rep. McGovern Highlights 2014 Hunger Report in #EndHungerNow Speech

During his latest End Hunger Now speech on the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) highlighted the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America.

The 2014 Hunger Report urges President Obama and Congress to lead the country in setting a goal to end hunger by 2030, and it offers a four-part plan to accomplish this:

    1. A jobs agenda
    2. A stronger safety net
    3. Human capital development or “investing in people”
    4. Public-private partnerships to support innovative community-led initiatives against hunger

“We in this Congress are not doing nearly enough,” to help an estimated 49 million food-insecure Americans, McGovern said in the above video. In six months, Congress has enacted $19 billion in combined cuts to food stamps (SNAP), which is the nation’s number-one defense against hunger. “We are going backwards,” noted McGovern.

The congressman expresses his disappointment that the Obama administration has not been able to make good on an early promise to ameliorate child hunger in America by 2015.“[W]hile children make up roughly 24 percent of our total population, they comprise one-third of the nation’s poor," he said, citing a statistic from the Hunger Report.

Still, he added that we should not give up on the goal of ending hunger in America—solutions, such as those outlined in the Hunger Report, exist.

“It is refreshing that this report is honest and blunt,” McGovern said about what he calls the Hunger Report’s "achievable goals," which would end hunger by 2030. “It rightfully states that hunger is a subset of poverty, and that we can’t truly end hunger without addressing poverty.”

A common refrain from McGovern in this series of speeches is that hunger is a political condition — and we whole-heartedly agree.  The 2014 Hunger Report outlines a comprehensive plan to end hunger by 2030, but as the Rep. McGovern noted in his speech, advocates must build political will in order to put that plan into action.

David Beckmann Talks 2014 Hunger Report on Public Radio

HR14-cover-highrez_resizeBread for the World President David Beckmann recently discussed Bread for the World Institute's 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, with talk show host Tavis Smiley.

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: The 2014 Hunger Report

HR14-cover-highrez_resizeEnding 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

Coming months bring busy Congressional agenda for hunger and poverty issues

Lobby Day Photo by Jim Stipe / Bread for the World
We will be calling on you during the coming months to protect SNAP and food-aid reform, help end the sequester, and advance immigration reform. Photo: Lobby day activists (Jim Stipe for Bread for the World).

The Oct. 16 budget deal in Congress re-opened the government and raised the debt ceiling for a few months longer. This deal and new deadlines have set off an intense period in which Bread for the World will have to work extremely hard to protect funding for programs that address hunger and help people move out of poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

From now through January, Bread for the World’s primary focus will be on three legislative priorities:

  1. Protecting SNAP and international food-aid reform during the final negotiations on the farm bill
  2. Advocating for a 2014 budget agreement that ends the sequester and provides revenues
  3. Advancing comprehensive immigration reform

Last week, some parts of this busy fall and winter legislative agenda got underway. Congress' budget conference committee held an organizing meeting and its first public meeting, and the farm bill conference committee held its first public meeting. Meanwhile, on Nov. 1, $11 billion in food stamp (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) cuts went into effect.

We will need your help in order to achieve our legislative priorities, especially since the timing that these issues will be dealt with is tight. Here are key dates to note:

November 2013

  • 13: Budget conference committee holds its second public meeting
  • 25: Bread for the World Institute releases its 2014 Hunger Report: Ending Hunger in America

December 2013

  • 13: Deadline for the budget conference committee to reach an agreement

January 2014

  • 1: Certain effects of expired farm bill begin (milk prices, etc.)
  • 15: Continuing resolution for federal budget expires. Congress must pass a spending bill to prevent another government shutdown.

February 2014

  • 7: Debt-ceiling extension expires. Treasury Department begins using extraordinary measures to prevent default.

March 2014 or later

  • Treasury Department exhausts all extraordinary measures, and Congress must raise the debt ceiling to prevent a default.

Throughout this intense period, we will be calling on you again and again to help urge your members of Congress to advance our legislative priorities. Thank you for your commitment to ending hunger and for going with us into these busy few months.

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