Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

33 posts categorized "Hunger Resources"

Have You Voted Yet?

School-lunch-in-india

Children in India benefit from meals provided by their school. This lunch program was featured in the "Hunger Report," published by the Bread for the World Institute.

The Bread for the World board of directors helps set the direction for how Bread can best channel its resources to support anti-hunger programs around the world. (Photo by Jim Stipe/Bread for the World)

While you have to wait until November to cast your ballot in the U.S. presidential election, Bread members have a chance to vote now for their representatives on the Bread for the World board of directors.

And unlike in national elections, in which voters are often subjected to divisive, winner-take-all politics, voting for members of Bread’s board is a harmonious action. This multidenominational, bipartisan group of Bread candidates is united in its mission to eliminate hunger—just like you are.

Each year, one-third of our board members are chosen by the entire Bread for the World membership. This year, 14 candidates have put their names forward to represent Bread. Choices range from a former U.S. Presidential candidate to a founder of a food bank. Each of these individuals has already done much to end hunger, and each brings specific insight, skills, and connections to the table. Bread members can vote for seven of them.

Continue reading "Have You Voted Yet?" »

A Hunger Justice Leader from Nebraska

Volkmer 

Bread for the World activist Kaela Volkmer (left) talks with Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) as staffers listen during Bread for the World Lobby Day in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)


More than 60 young religious leaders—"agents of change" from communities around the United States—came to Washington, DC, for Bread for the World's Hunger Justice Leaders training, June 9-11. Their jam-packed schedule included three days of worship, workshops, and a chance to lobby members of Congress on behalf of hungry and poor people. This story of one hunger justice leader comes from Bread's summer 2012 "Legacy of Hope" newsletter.

In two Nebraska congressional offices, newly minted Hunger Justice Leader Kaela Volkmer countered the myth that poor people abuse the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and the Women, Infant, Children food program (WIC).

“It’s painful for me to see the polarization happening now. We must find a solution that doesn’t put poor and hungry people in greater peril, ” Volkmer said.

The night before, Kaela and 60 other young church leaders from across the nation were commissioned as Hunger Justice Leaders. The next day, the Hunger Justice Leaders joined hundreds of Bread for the World members in visiting congressional offices to urge members of Congress to protect funding for programs vital to hungry people.

Kaela calls the three lobbying visits she made “real world experiences in reasonable dialogue.” Face to face with Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), she told him about a mother who handed her baby to Kaela, begging for help feeding her children.

Kaela admits it wasn’t easy to respond calmly to charges that SNAP is “too big and rife with abuse.” But she came armed with the facts, and imparted them—also delivering a petition supporting the maintenance of levels of aid to hungry families signed by scores of her fellow Nebraskans.

Kaela’s Hunger Justice Leader colleagues were similarly impassioned and equipped by the training they’d just completed: “The training empowers the powerless. I thank God!” said Rev. Christina Reed of Washington, DC. “This has been a truly transformative experience. Through worship, conversation, song … I have felt the spirit of God moving.”

Rev. Libby Tedder of Casper, WY, agreed. She said the training program, sponsored by Bread for the World Institute, has enabled her to “speak with courage so that the eyes of the powerful will be opened to the plight of the hungry.”

Kaela Volkmer’s home congregation, St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church of Omaha, invested in her by sponsoring her Hunger Justice Leader training. Kaela serves as a member of the church’s human needs committee. Her particular passion is Catholic social teaching, which centers on addressing the root causes of inequity in addition to charitable acts.

“Catholic social teaching is so beautiful, rich, and needed in today’s world,” Kaela said. Kaela had assured St. Wenceslaus’s pastor that she would return equipped to bring back to the church the voice and the resources they need. “I came home unsettled, but in a good way,” she said. “I am ready to navigate the waters."

One of her first projects will be to help revitalize the parish’s Offering of Letters.

Resources

We Can Beat Hunger and Poverty

Kid eats

Nearly one in four children in the United States faces hunger on a daily basis. Domestic nutrition programs have been a lifeline during the Great Recession, keeping hunger at bay in many households. Now is the time to contact your representatives in Congress and tell them to maintain a circle of protection around these vital programs as they consider the 2012 Farm Bill. Photo: A Catholic Charities Chicago Summer Food Services Program participant enjoys a healthy lunch. Credit: USDA


"We fought a war on poverty and poverty won.” —President Ronald Reagan

"When people decide they have had enough and there are candidates who stand for what they want, they will vote accordingly." —Peter Edelman

by Eric Bond

In a July 28 New York Times op-ed, “Poverty in America: Why Can’t We End It?” Peter Edelman educates readers about the crucial role that domestic assistance programs have played in the lives of millions of Americans over the past 40 years as wages decreased and the cost of living increased.

While pointing out that 15 million Americans now live in poverty (a number that is rising according to the Census), Edelman asserts  that President Reagan’s infamous quotation about poverty (above) is not entirely true.

[W]e have done a lot that works. From Social Security to food stamps to the earned-income tax credit and on and on, we have enacted programs that now keep 40 million people out of poverty. Poverty would be nearly double what it is now without these measures, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. To say that “poverty won” is like saying the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts failed because there is still pollution.

Edelman, a former aide to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, is the author of So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America, which was published by The New Press in late May of this year. In his book, Edelman analyzes the economic stress that festers in the lower levels of our society and has crept well into the middle. His conclusion is basic and matter of fact: Low (or no) wages breed poverty.

We know what we need to do — make the rich pay their fair share of running the country, raise the minimum wage, provide health care and a decent safety net, and the like.

How the United States reached its current economic state, with income disparity at its widest since the Great Depression, is a tale of incremental cuts: cuts to wages, cuts to job prospects, and cuts to services at the bottom—accompanied by cuts to taxes at the top. The statistics Edelman cites are jarring: “Poverty among families with children headed by single mothers exceeds 40 percent,” for instance.

Restoring the ladder out of poverty and stabilizing the middle class will take both electoral politics and outside advocacy and organizing, according to Edelman. But he believes that, just as the civil rights and women’s movements shifted the foundations of our society against entrenched institutions, so can a movement against hunger and poverty create a more just nation in which poverty is not endemic.

The change has to come from the bottom up and from synergistic leadership that draws it out. When people decide they have had enough and there are candidates who stand for what they want, they will vote accordingly.

One place to draw the line is around the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). As difficult as life can be for the growing number of poor Americans, six million people have no income other than SNAP. Edelman calls SNAP “a powerful antirecession tool … with the number of recipients rising to 46 million today from 26.3 million in 2007.”

As Congress considers ways to reduce economic stress during this time of trial, it can begin by maintaining a circle of protection around the programs that provide nutrition to those who have borne the brunt of the Great Recession— the working poor and their children.  

Contact your representative or senators during their recess, and strongly encourage them to fight against cuts to SNAP and other nutritional programs in the farm bill when they reconvene in September.

Eric Bond is managing editor of Bread for the World.

Have You Thanked a Farmer Today?

Have You Hugged a Farmer

The new Food Resource Bank T-shirt inspires Dulce Gamboa, who had an opportunity to thank many farmers at the FRB annual meeting.

by Dulce Gamboa

Well, I hadn’t had the chance to thank a farmer until I read the slogan on a Foods Resource Bank (FRB) staff T-shirt last Saturday during the FRB annual meeting in Kidron, Ohio. Thankfully, I was in a room full of farmers! It was a good reminder about the key role that they play in our daily lives.

The Foods Resource Bank connects farmers locally and globally as a Christian response to end hunger. Through community growing projects, FRB members and volunteers raise money in the United States to sustain agricultural projects overseas.  The model is straightforward: farmers support farmers.

At the FRB annual meeting, farmers talked about the challenges of small-holder agriculture. Arlyn Schipper, from Iowa, explained common problems, such as excess or scarcity of water, soil erosion, and price volatility.

This year Arlyn is praying for rain on his own land. He needs five to seven inches of rain to maintain his cattle and crops, but so far has gotten only around three inches. Arlyn stressed that he will be okay even if he doesn’t get more rain, thanks to his insurance. But farmers in developing countries don’t have the same support. That is why the FRB partners with 15 organizations, like Catholic Relief Services and the Mennonite Central Committee, to make sure that small-holder farmers around the world have access to credit, new technology, and best farming practices.

Arlyn’s efforts on behalf of fellow farmers extend to Washington, DC.  He has made Heart of the Hill visits to the nation's capital. This joint effort of FRB and Bread for the World fosters interaction between farmers and their members of Congress. These visits delivery two strong messages at the core of the FRB: local ownership increases the sustainability of agricultural projects overseas and U.S. farmers support an increase in productivity and sustainability by all small-holder farmers.

For example, during the FRB annual meeting, Rory Lewandowski, a Wayne County extension agent, talked about his work in Central America, where he has been working side by side with small-holder farmers.  From earning their trust to implementing and adapting the latest technology under challenging environments, Rory is living proof of what farmers are doing now to end hunger in our time.

Dulce Gamboa is a project coordinator for the church relations department at Bread for the World.

The Sobering Reason Why “Sesame Street” Is Taking on Hunger

by Matt Newell-Ching

 Last October we featured a Breadblog post about a new effort by “Sesame Street” to provide resources and empathy for children and parents experiencing hunger. A recent interview in the New York Times “Motherlode” blog provides a sobering look at why the Muppets are taking on such a serious issue. Blogger KJ Dell’Antonia interviewed Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President for Outreach and Educational Practices at Sesame Workshop:

When we realized that 9.6 million children under the age of 6 are impacted by food insecurity, [said Betancourt] we realized we needed to reach out to those children and their families.

 We also wanted the children to see that they’re not alone …. Hunger can be a very hidden problem. And we wanted to help reduce the stigma of needing help.

The short answer to why they took this on? Because it’s increasingly relevant to Sesame Street’s audience, kids in the United States.

And let’s be clear—it’s relevant not only for kids who are experiencing hunger, but to their peers as well. “Sesame Street” has a unique way of inviting young minds to experience empathy, which—let me tell you, as the father of a toddler—is not an easy task. Growing Hope Against Hunger provides an important opportunity for parents to foster a “do unto others” moment with their kids. I know we’ll be watching it with our kids soon.

In her blog, Dell’Antonia makes another observation that is often overlooked:

The familiar Muppets can help a child through everything from big-kid beds to grieving. But when the average American throws away 33 pounds of food a month, Elmo and Big Bird shouldn’t need to help a child worried about being hungry for anything more than an extra cookie.

This underscores an important point: hunger in America is not a problem of food production. It’s a problem of food access.

The good news is that we know a lot about bridging access to food. And the best bridge to food for struggling families is through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). Yet, at this moment, SNAP is under threat in Congress.

+ Learn more about how to urge decision-makers to stand up for struggling families by defending SNAP.

Matt Newell-Ching is the Bread for the World western regional organizer.

Poor-Shaming ... How Is That Funny?

EBT

DeEtte Peck uses her Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card in Portland, OR, to purchase food. Photo by Brian Duss

There is something I’ve noticed in organizing around hunger and poverty: those who experience need don’t want to admit it.

I’ve often had people come up to me after I’ve given a talk and tell me about that time they depended on food stamps (now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) to get them over a tough patch, but it’s usually in the hushed whispers of shame.

With increased poverty rates brought on by the recession, labels like the “Food Stamp President” as a derogatory appellation, and politicians publicly equating safety net benefits with feeding wild animals, it is easy to understand how poverty can feel like a dirty word.

The fact is some people work full time and don’t make enough money to feed their families. With need growing, calling the poor irresponsible builds the political will to offset funding for the military with cuts to the safety net. Turning poverty into a mark of shame in our national conversation makes it easy for us to diffuse responsibility and blame our neighbors in need instead of helping them.

With budget cuts looming and SNAP a target of many proposed cuts, now is the time to address misrepresentations. Poverty is not a sin, and using the safety net is responsible parenting when your children need to eat.

In a recent Colorlines blog post, Akiba Solomon writes about a joke she heard about Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards made at the expense of the poor. She then relates the story of a family doing all the right things and still needing food assistance.  Solomon argues that with the Farm Bill negotiations in process, now are not the time for “food stamp humor,” especially by women of color (her target audience) who disproportionately experience hunger.

Solomon writes:

“I have a wild suggestion for comedians, commenters, moralists and opinion-shapers of color, particularly women: At least until the 2012 Farm Bill passes, let’s create a moratorium on unfunny, uninformed, poor-shaming EBT talk.”

As Christians we are called to help our neighbors, not shame them.  Irresponsibility is increasing poverty and ignoring truth. So here is a Christian suggestion:  Let’s create a moratorium on unfunny, uniformed, poor-shaming EBT talk period.

+ Read more about Bread's mini campaign to extend domestic nutrition assistance.

6a00d8341d945753ef0168e847f0a0970cRobin Stephenson is Western regional organizer for Bread for the World.

 


Hungry Farmers and the Challenges of African Agriculture

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Francis Wanjala Mamati praying for rain. Photo by Roger Thurow.

by Roger Thurow

In Lutacho, Kenya, the rains were late. It was mid-March 2011, and the farmers of western Kenya were still in the grip of the brutally hot dry season. The year before, the seasonal rains that usher in the corn planting began at the end of February; by March of that year the first shoots of the stalks were already pushing through the soil. Now, though, the fields remained parched and the farmers nervous.

And every day the farmers’ worry increased. They knew that a drought, bringing great hunger, was spreading across the eastern and northern realms of their country and throughout the Horn of Africa. Western Kenya, one of the breadbaskets of the region, was usually blessed with good rains. But the extended dry season had made some of them anxious that the drought might reach them as well.

“What if it doesn’t rain?” I asked Agnes Wekhwela, one of the farmers. She was 72 years old, two decades beyond the average life expectancy in Kenya. Her face was creased with wrinkles and wisdom. She had more experience divining the weather than most anyone else.

“It will rain,” she said firmly.

It was a cloudless day, with a brilliant blue sky. “How can you be so confident?” I pressed.

“God knows where we live,” she said, again with great certainty. “God knows who we are.”

A few days later, her bedrock faith was confirmed. The rain began falling, the farmers planted, the heat and the anxiety broke.

That conversation with Agnes became a touchstone for me. Yes, I thought, God knows where the farmers live, God knows who they are. But do we?

That conversation and those questions drove my efforts to report on the lives of these farmers, their hopes and fears, their struggles and triumphs. Every day I was with them, my conviction grew stronger: we must know who they are.

Continue reading "Hungry Farmers and the Challenges of African Agriculture" »

Raising a Family on a Not-for-Profit Salary: The Blessing of Tax Credits

Family-saying-grace

Photo courtesy © Royalty-Free/Corbis

As a husband and father of four, I want to provide for my family—on my own. I am striving toward this end and believe I will get there. At the same time, we have received countless blessings along the way, from a wedding check we found hidden in Frugal Living for Dummies six months after our honeymoon to interest-free car loans and mortgage down payment assistance from generous parents. And those are just two drops in the well.

At times we have written these blessings in a journal. Always, we try to notice and to thank God for them. It is in this same grateful spirit that my wife and I anticipate the blessing of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit as the tax documents begin hitting our mailbox in January.

We live frugally and have made decisions to cut unnecessary expenses. I see the dollars slip out of our air-conditioned home when the front door is left ajar. On the train last week, some fellow commuters were bewildered when I told them we do not receive any television channels. We use coupons and shop at our local Aldi and wholesaler. Our mortgage payment is less than what most families pay for rent.

Some people (like my young children) just don’t seem to care as much about pinching pennies as I do! These means of stretching our dollars—which I happen to enjoy and my wife tolerates—are also a blessing.

And yet, as frugally as we live and as greatly as we have been blessed, we still struggle to make ends meet. The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit help keep our family afloat financially. It is difficult for me to imagine how families carry on with less.

Thank you, faithful God, for providing for us. And I will continue doing what I can to protect my family and the many families that need these credits even more—much more—than we do.

+ Find out more about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC)—and what you can do to help keep it in the budget.

Zach Schmidt is the Central Midwest field organizer at Bread for the World.

Senator Coons Stands for a Circle of Protection

As Congress debates ways to balance the U.S. budget during these difficult times, Bread for the World has urged our political leaders to form a circle of protection around funding for programs that are vital to hungry and poor people here in the United States and abroad.

This theme was picked up by Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) as he spoke from the Senate floor yesterday. Sen. Coons said that in times of fiscal pressure, Congress must not shirk its responsibility to the most vulnerable members of our society:

(starting at 1:15 in the video above)

"Cuts, as you know, Mr. President, to essential services and programs are already deep. Although this isn't broadly known throughout the country, sacrifices have already been made here and pennies are already being pinched from programs that, in my view, serve the people who can least afford them. ...

"We must continue to make cuts across the board to move our way toward a sustainable federal deficit. But, Mr. President, cuts alone cannot responsibly make our path forward. ...

"We need to bring balance back to how we solve these problems and we need to do it in a way, that forms a circle of protection, Mr. President, around those who are most vulnerable in our society.

"In previous generations ... when they came together and reached the resolutions that solved our country's fiscal problems ... they put a circle of protection around the most vulnerable Americans. They chose not to slash or cut or eliminate those programs that are focused on the most vulnerable in our society: the disabled, low income seniors, children in the earliest stage in life.

"I think that it's important that we remember those values as we look at the choices we make here today, and as we come together in the months leading up to the election and, hopefully, after the election to craft a solution to our structural problem."

Thank you, Sen. Coons for taking a stand for all of us.

+ Read more about expanding the circle of protection.

A Faithful Tax Policy Requires More From the Most Fortunate

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Bread for the World members headed to Capitol Hill on Tuesday June 14, 2011, to lobby their members of Congress on behalf of poor and hungry people. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

At Bread, we talk about the budget as a moral document outlining our country’s priorities. Taxes are a necessary part of that equation. We often hear that Washington has a spending problem. But really, what we have is a deficit problem. Since a deficit occurs when you spend more than you take in, when people say “spending problem,” they’re ignoring half of the equation.

With all of the heated discussion about taxes, it would be convenient to turn away from the deficit issue and say, “Let’s ignore taxes: they’re complicated; they’re controversial; and they’re boring.” However, as devoted followers of Jesus, we are not the types who choose a path based on convenience. We don’t talk only on those issues that make everyone comfortable. As Christians, we speak from an understanding of the way things could be—when the stranger is given something to eat and widows and orphans are cared for. 

Thus, the budget debates and the fiscal problems faced by this country lead us to talk taxes. To help move the conversation, Bread has published a new action guide on taxes, which combines our specific public policy prescriptions with underlying biblical principles—to help you speak up.

 We must start talking about taxes, and we need to start talking today. If we do not push our elected leaders to bring in more tax revenue, then our voices will call out in vain to fund vital programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), poverty-focused development assistance, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, Food for Peace, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids, school lunches, and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

There simply will be no money.

Our deficit situation is so severe in the long-term, that without additional revenue we will be unable to fund programs for hungry and poor people at anything close to their current levels over the long term—unless Congress makes unthinkable and politically impossible cuts. Nearly all mainstream economists agree that we simply cannot cut our way out of this situation. This is not calculus or complex economics. It is simple arithmetic.

Major deficit reduction packages over the past quarter century have not only maintained a commitment to not increase poverty, they’ve also all included substantial tax revenues.

Amelia-kegan

Amelia Kegan is a  senior policy analyst at Bread for the World.

 

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