Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

38 posts categorized "Hunger Resources"

Director Linda Midgett Talks About 'The Line'

John_from_the_line
 

Photo: John, a former banker who is one of the subjects of The Line, shops for himself and his three children at a food bank. (Film still from The Line)

By Sarah Godfrey

When Emmy-winning filmmaker Linda Midgett set out to find subjects for The Line, her short film documenting what it means to live at, or below, the poverty line in America, she had no trouble finding people dealing firsthand with hunger and poverty. What was difficult, Midgett says, was finding subjects willing to talk about those difficulties in front of her camera.

"I think it’s easy to find people who are struggling in these ways, but I think what was the bigger challenge was finding people willing to share their struggles publicly," she says. "I talked to food pantries, to various organizations, I talked to the Salvation Army. A lot of people I reached out to were not willing to go on camera. 

"I don’t say that as a criticism," she continues. "But, for me, it highlighted how much shame is associated with being in poverty."

The Line goes a long way toward addressing the shame and the stereotypes that often surround poverty. The film tracks four subjects: John, who lives in the suburbs of Chicago and, after losing his six-figure job in the banking industry, finds himself dependent on food banks to feed his family; Sheila, a Chicago resident who grew up in poverty, escaped its clutches, and finds herself again facing financial difficulty after a debilitating accident; James, who moves from New York City to North Carolina in search of work, and still barely scrapes by, despite working long, hard hours; and Ronald, a Gulf Coast shrimper whose livelihood has been affected by both Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.

The Line was funded by a partnership of organizations, including Sojourners, World Vision, and Bread for the World. The film premieres tonight, at church viewings around the country, at 8 p.m., eastern time. 

One of the things that separates The Line from other films tackling issues of hunger and poverty in America is the fact that Midgett allows the subjects to tell their stories themselves, without interference.

"I felt like one of the most important things I was trying to do with this film was to break down stereotypes of who poor people are, what they look like, what they sound like, and the best way to do that was just to let them talk," Midgett says. "As individuals, they're all so compelling, and have such unique perspectives, just the process of listening to them, in and of itself, breaks down stereotypes," Midgett continues. "Instead of thinking of 'poor people,' it becomes, 'oh, that’s Sheila, that’s John.' The more you know people by name, and know they're human beings, not statistics, the more it changes your heart."

Midgett says she was surprised by what a diverse cross-section of society her subjects represent—one of the most surprising things she learned while working on the film was that the rate of poverty in the suburbs is on the rise.

"I was not personally familiar with that info, so when I came across that, I said, 'whoa.' To see food pantries in these formerly strong middle-to-upper class neighborhoods, that really was shocking," she says. "The first [subject] in the film, John, he was a former president of a bank, and when the banking industry imploded, he got caught in that, and decided to make a career change to become a schoolteacher. His mom was a teacher, his grandmother—it was a noble profession and he felt drawn to it, but he wasn't able to find a full-time teaching job.

"He's in DuPage County, Illinois, one of wealthiest counties in the country—definitely in the Midwest—and he's feeding his three children with food from food pantries, living off of $12,000 per year. That was crazy for me—I went to Wheaton College in DuPage County, I know DuPage County as this very, very affluent community, and now the poverty rate there has skyrocketed, and all sorts of people are in [John's] position now."

Midgett hopes that, after the film's premiere tonight, communities will continue to share it, hold screenings at churches, and use it as a tool to discuss poverty going into the November elections and beyond. "The plan is to keep getting it out there, keep making it available to people, and hopefully people find it valuable and inspirational enough to keep sharing it," Midgett says.

The Line premieres at 8 p.m. ET tonight, at various church viewing parties scheduled around the country. Find one close to you here. If you'd like to host a screening after tonight, consider holding an adult forum and discussing the film along with the Circle of Protection presidential candidate videos. Contact your regional organizer for more information.

Sarah Godfrey is Bread for the World's associate online editor.

Striving for Better Grades

Better grades blog 8.24.12

(Photo courtesy Meals on Wheels)

by Kristen Archer

We can all recall the nervous anticipation of waiting to receive our report cards in school—hoping we were able to bring that C+ in chemistry up to a B, praying we were able to maintain a solid A in history, dreading the look on our parents’ faces when our geometry grade was finally revealed. 

Our days of receiving quarterly report cards for our own academic performance may be over, but there is one report card we should take note of: The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger’s Senior Hunger Report Card

Distributed at an aging conference earlier this week—Perspectives on Nutrition and Aging: A National Summit—the report card grades our nation in eight areas with regards to senior hunger:

  • overall performance,
  • economics
  • geography
  • women’s studies
  • multicultural studies
  • home economics
  • health and physical education
  • and ethics.

Surprisingly, the nation failed to score higher than a C-minus in any of the categories. 

Continue reading "Striving for Better Grades" »

Can You Make It Through the Month?

 Spent. 8.24.12

(image courtesy Urban Ministries of Durham)

by Robin Stephenson

Simulating poverty does not give one the lived experience of poverty, but it can begin to expose the truth about choices—or lack thereof—that people working low-wage jobs face every day.

We are called to compassion—meaning to suffer together, but it can be hard to make a compassionate connection when paths don't cross. So when I’m invited to speak to church groups, I  emphasize personal stories, knowing that statistics don’t always engender compassion and solidarity.

A few years ago I gained greater compassion and  insight into the realities of poverty when I participated in an elaborate simulation. Even though it was imaginary, the activity made me stop and think about poverty as a time consuming and complicated condition.

Continue reading "Can You Make It Through the Month?" »

Eating on $4.30 per day

Girl-eating

A young girl enjoys breakfast at a local farmer's market. (Photo by Margaret W. Nea)

by Eric Bond

How much will you spend on food today?

For breakfast I ate two bananas (40 cents each), a handful of almonds (let’s say $1.00), a whole wheat bagel (65 cents), two eggs (21 cents each), and a cup of coffee from the corner café ($1.79). Having spent a total of $4.68, I felt thrifty, and I ate fairly well. I also broke the SNAP budget for an entire day.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) allots about $4.30 per person per day. Figuring out how to purchase 2,000 nutritious calories on that amount is a test of creativity and resources.

Try stretching those dollars when you live in a food desert, miles from a well-stocked, economical grocery store. What if you haven’t got any cooking appliances or the money to power them? What if you are working full time, earning barely enough to cover the rent?  Would you have the time and energy to search for, purchase, and cook enough food to sustain yourself on $4.30 per day? Somehow you would have to find a way.

This is reality of the farm bill—which funds SNAP.

Continue reading "Eating on $4.30 per day" »

Ten Ways Christians Can Help End Hunger During Elections

10 ways to end hunger 8.15.12

Maryland activists participate in Bread for the World's 2011 Lobby Day. (Photo by Jim Stipe/Bread for the World)

  1. Develop an “elevator speech” for why ending hunger is important to you as a Christian.
  2. Register to vote.
  3. Write a letter to your local paper saying that ending hunger is a priority for you as a voter.
  4. Learn what the candidates are saying about ending hunger.
  5. Speak about the importance of ending hunger at candidates’ town hall meetings.
  6. Engage your friends. Make sure they are registered and know what the candidates are saying about ending hunger.
  7. Magnify your voice by combining it with those of thousands of other Christians. Become a member of Bread for the World; organize an Offering of Letters.
  8. Engage your church.
  9. Give money and volunteer time to candidates who are committed to ending hunger.
  10. VOTE for candidates who are committed to ending hunger.

During the August recess, as we lead up to the lame duck session, Bread members are setting up meetings with members of Congress and their staff at local offices to make sure that hunger issues are part of the campaign conversations. 

Contact your Organizer who can help you set up a meeting or find a town hall or just check out our elections resources and keep ending hunger a priority and part of the conversation.

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.

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