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31 posts categorized "Hunger Resources"
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.
- Read about Bread’s mini campaign to protect domestic nutrition programs.
- Read tips for making your voice heard at town hall meetings.
Eric Bond is managing editor of Bread for the World.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 is a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World.
In this next installment of hunger resources, I've gathered a collection of articles focusing on international issues and how aid enables global development. Got any hunger resources of your own? Share them in the comments section below:
- The Time is Now for Food Aid Reform: Five Reasons Why U.S. Policies are Ripe for Reform in the Next Farm Bill, (American Jewish World Service): “Recent data indicate that the U.S. remains the world’s largest and most important provider of international food assistance. In FY 2010, the U.S. spent $2.3 billion on food aid programs distributing 2.5 million metric tons of food to 65 million people. Although food aid alone cannot close the world hunger gap—925 million people worldwide experienced hunger in 2010—it still plays a critical role in the lives of tens of millions of individuals and their families.”
- Smallholder Agriculture: A Critical Factor in Poverty Reduction and Food Security in Africa, (Center for Strategic & International Studies): “The majority of the poor and food insecure in Africa live in rural areas, and most of them depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. More than 30 percent of the people in sub-Saharan Africa are chronically hungry and are small farmers. Experts tell us that the population in Africa is expected to double by 2050, and African nations will have to double their food production just to keep pace with population growth. For the last 20 years, however, food production in Africa has lagged behind population growth, and the source of the problem has been low productivity on Africa’s farms.”
- Famine Myths: Five Misunderstandings Related to the 2011 Hunger Crisis in the Horn of Africa, (Dollars & Sense): “The 2011 famine in the Horn of Africa was one of the worst in recent decades in terms of loss of life and human suffering. While the UN has yet to release an official death toll, the British government estimates that between 50,000 and 100,000 people died, most of them children, between April and September of 2011. While Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti were all badly affected, the famine hit hardest in certain (mainly southern) areas of Somalia. This was the worst humanitarian disaster to strike the country since 1991-1992, with roughly a third of the Somali population displaced for some period of time.”
- Food Crops vs. Cotton: How Cheap Fashion is Threatening Food Supply, (Triple Pundit): "There this no doubt that the advent of fast fashion and the rise of cheap, throw-away clothes have put increasing pressure on natural resources. But when fashion starts threatening the global food supply, it takes on great importance.”
- US Aims to Empower World's Women Farmers, (Voice of America): “U.S. aid officials are launching a new way to measure whether their efforts to empower women farmers are working. Women make up nearly half the agricultural workforce in sub-Saharan Africa and East and Southeast Asia, but women’s farm production tends to lag behind their male counterparts.”
- Money or Die: A Watershed Moment for Global Public Health, (Foreign Affairs): “The fight against tuberculosis faces similar problems. As with malaria, successes in controlling tuberculosis are quickly reversed when targeted programs cease -- and here the danger of stop-and-start efforts is even greater -- since interruptions in eradication programs lead directly to the development of drug-resistant bacteria. Thanks to the earlier surge in financing of TB programs, according to the WHO, 200,000 fewer people died annually of the disease in 2009 than in 2003. But about 80 percent of this victory was attributable to Global Fund support, and disbursements plummeted in 2010. While the net number of tuberculosis cases fell, moreover, the burden of multidrug-resistant disease skyrocketed, largely as a result of suboptimal or interrupted treatment. By the end of 2011, according to combined UN agency reports, about 85 percent of highly drug-resistant TB cases were going completely untreated, allowing community spread of the mutant strains.”
- Global Poverty: A fall to cheer, (The Economist): “The past four years have seen the worst economic crisis since the 1930s and the biggest food-price increases since the 1970s. That must surely have swollen the ranks of the poor. Wrong. The best estimates for global poverty come from the World Bank’s Development Research Group, which has just updated from 2005 its figures for those living in absolute poverty (not be confused with the relative measure commonly used in rich countries). The new estimates show that in 2008, the first year of the finance-and-food crisis, both the number and share of the population living on less than $1.25 a day (at 2005 prices, the most commonly accepted poverty line) was falling in every part of the world. This was the first instance of declines across the board since the bank started collecting the figures in 1981 (see chart).”
- Put equality first, (New Internationalist): “Two things you can say about the global financial system today: it’s unstable and unequal. A third thing: the two are deeply connected. Vanessa Baird explains why a fair and sustainable economy matters.”
In this next installment of hunger resources, I've gathered a collection of articles on the Millennium Development Goals, U.S. poverty, Africa, and more. Got any hunger resources of your own? Share them in the comments section below.
- Meditations and Devotions on the Millennium Development Goals, (Faith in Action - UMC).
“[This] 232-page book is a collaboration of some 150 people from around the world addressing the eight MDGs. The eight goals are to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empowerment of women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.”
- The Americans No One Wants to Talk About, (The Washington Post):
“…Many Americans are being overlooked in this bipartisan conspiracy of economic abstraction. A significant and growing portion of the population lives in poverty. In 2007, the rate was 12.5 percent. By 2010, it was 15.1 percent. The share of Americans in extreme poverty — with an income less than half the poverty line — is the highest in the 35 years that the Census Bureau has kept such records.”
- Improved Nutrition, Agricultural Development Helps Bring Hondurans Out of Poverty and Hunger, (U.S. Department of State):
“As part of the USAID ACCESSO initiative that targets 18,000 poor rural households in Honduras, the Diaz family was given assistance in the form of training, fertilizer, seed, and irrigation that allowed them to grow better and more nutritious food for their family. It also allowed them to produce a surplus that can be sold to generate income. Thanks to this, Mr. Diaz did not need to leave his family in search of work in the city, or abroad.”
- Africa Begins to Rise Above Aid, (IPS News):
“Currently, at least a third of African countries receive aid that is equivalent to less than 10 percent of their tax revenue. They include Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Libya. This is a significant change from years of high dependency on aid.”
- State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority, (United for a Fair Economy):
“A major demographic shift is underway in the United States. According to the 2010 Census, White babies now make up a little less than 50 percent of all babies in the country. By 2030, the majority of U.S. residents under 18 will be youth of color. And by 2042, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other non-Whites will collectively comprise the majority of the U.S. population. For the first time since Colonial days, the United States will be a majority-minority country.
- How US Policies Fueled Mexico’s Great Migration, (The Nation):
“Roberto Ortega tried to make a living slaughtering pigs in Veracruz, Mexico. 'In my town, Las Choapas, after I killed a pig, I would cut it up to sell the meat,' he recalls. But in the late 1990s, after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) opened up Mexican markets to massive pork imports from US companies like Smithfield Foods, Ortega and other small-scale butchers in Mexico were devastated by the drop in prices. 'Whatever I could do to make money, I did,' Ortega explains. 'But I could never make enough for us to survive.' In 1999 he came to the United States, where he again slaughtered pigs for a living. This time, though, he did it as a worker in the world’s largest pork slaughterhouse, in Tar Heel, North Carolina.”
- Leveraging Limited Dollars: How Grantmakers Achieve Tangible Results by Funding Policy and Community Engagement, (National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy):
“This paper will help philanthropic executives and trustees explore three innovative strategies to achieve greater results with their limited grant dollars. It distills findings from more than 400 pages of research amassed over three years as part of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy’s Grantmaking for Community Impact Project.
- Food Stamp Benefits too Low for a Healthy Diet, New Study Confirms, (Poverty Insights):
“In 2008, Children’s HealthWatch and partners reported on a unique study aimed at finding out whether food stamp benefits enable low-income families to buy what they need for a healthy diet. Now we’ve got a followup. The answer now, as before is no. And though the follow-up was conducted only in Philadelphia, the findings are generally applicable to other urban areas, including the District of Columbia.”