Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

38 posts categorized "Hunger Resources"

Poor-Shaming ... How Is That Funny?


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

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


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

7.25.12 blog.faithful.taxes
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 is a  senior policy analyst at Bread for the World.


Hunger Resources: Foreign aid. Global Development. Women Farmers.

Photo by Flickr user Gerald Perera.

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.”
  • 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.”

+Click here for a full list of what we're reading at Bread for the World.

Chris-Matthews Chris Matthews is the librarian at Bread for the World Institute.




Hunger Resources: MDG's. Poverty in America. Food Stamps.

Photo by Flickr user Gerald Perera.

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.”

Chris-MatthewsChris Matthews is the librarian at Bread for the World Institute.


Give Me an 'O'!: Cheering on the Offering of Letters



Our communications team started putting together the materials for this year’s Offering of Letters way back in August, so we’re excited they’re finished and that many of you are starting to use them.

As you know, this year’s Offering of Letters is comprised of an overall campaign and four mini-campaigns. This week, we’re telling you about our overall campaign, including the resources we created to help make this campaign as effective as possible.  

The word “Offering” works as a handy mnemonic device for listing these resources – so check them out!

O  Offering of Letters handbook. Your go-to resource for information about the entire campaign. Remember that our website has the latest information, plus many Web-only resources.

F  Facts. These hunger and poverty facts can help make the case for action. This glossary will also help clear up unfamiliar terms and concepts.

F  Frequently asked questions? Here are some general questions and answers.

E  Endorsements. Find out what church and denominational leaders are saying about this campaign.  

R  Real people. Hear Tara Marks and Rev. Judith VanOsdal talk about why the issues at stake in this campaign are so important. View their stories in video and print form and share them with others.

I  Inserts for your church bulletin can help your church discuss the issues, write letters, and pray.

N  Need more visuals? Our PowerPoint presentation gives an overview of the campaign with photos, pertinent stats, and talking points. All you have to do is advance the slides, but these 10 tips will help you get the most out of this resource. Download the PowerPoint, called “Presenting Bread for the World’s 2012 Offering of Letters.”

G  Get back to us! Tell us how your Offering of Letters went with this feedback form. Your comments help us follow up with members of Congress and also measure the campaign’s impact.

There are lots more resources on our website, including posters, an activity, display board images, an order form for ordering supplies, and a sign-in sheet to use at your Offering of Letters. But your regional organizer is your most important resource, so be sure to call or send them an email if you have questions.

Thanks for your important work on this campaign! We need your voice.

Molly-marshMolly Marsh is managing editor at Bread for the World.



+Learn more about the overall campaign for the 2012 Offering of Letters.

Photo by Flickr user Listen Missy!

When Was the Last Time You Wrote a Letter?



When was the last time you wrote a letter? Do you remember sitting down to write out your thoughts, folding up the letter, sliding it into an envelope, licking the envelope closed, addressing it to the recipient, sticking a stamp on, and dropping it off in the mail?

Indeed, letter-writing is a lost art these days, but not for thousands of Christians around the country who participate in Bread for the World's annual Offering of Letters.

Each year Bread for the World invites churches and groups across the country to write personal letters and emails to their members of Congress on issues that are important to hungry and poor people. These letters send a powerful message to our country’s political leaders and help us as a nation move closer to our goal of ending hunger.

This year, we need you to raise your voices more than ever.

Bread’s 2012 Offering of Letters is designed to make our advocacy as effective as possible, and our overall campaign  focuses on protecting funding for programs for hungry and poor people.

We hope you will join us in asking our representatives to create a circle of protection around vital programs for hungry and poor people in the United States and abroad. But we know that writing a letter can be somewhat intimidating, so throughout this week, we'll be publishing posts on the Bread Blog about how you can write this letter, and how you can get others to write letters along with you. The blog series will feature:

  1. A compelling video that tells the stories of people who advocate for poor and hungry people;
  2. How-to resources that teach you to organize a letter-writing event in your community;
  3. Biblical grounding on how to view these campaigns as people of faith;
  4. and a lot more!

So, visit the Bread Blog each day to learn something new about the Offering of Letters, and set your pen to paper (or your fingers to your keyboards) and get to writing!

Photo caption: Members of Templo Calvario (Assembly of God church) in Santa Ana, CA, participated in Bread for the World's Offering of Letters and wrote letters to their members of Congress on Sunday, October 16, 2011. Photography and video by Laura Elizabeth Pohl.

JCHOI_SMWKNDJeannie Choi is associate editor at Bread for the World. Follow her on Twitter @jeanniechoi.


+Learn more about the overall campaign for the 2012 Offering of Letters.

The Power of Letter Writing: A Personal Story

120201-letterwritingI recently listened in on a conference call with David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, and others who are knowledgeable about what is happening in Washington. They said that 2011 was a tumultuous year with many hunger programs in peril of major reductions. Millions of vulnerable people in the U.S. and abroad could have been put in great danger. But then David Beckmann said gratefully, “There have been no substantial cuts in the programs we support,” and expressed his gratitude for grassroots letters and phone calls that have bombarded the offices of members of Congress urging for a circle of protection around programs that help poor and hungry people.

I immediately thought of people I knew who had written some of those letters out of their conviction that cutting deficits and balancing budgets on the backs of poor people is unfair and immoral. I had seen the personal words of those letters, knew they were backed by deep concern and prayer, and now knew those words had been effective! I felt enormous gratitude to have had a small part in that impressive result.

Shortly after that conference call, during a coffee hour at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, I was standing near a young mother whom I had noticed before, when our church conducted our Offering of Letters. I remember she laid down a tiny infant on the table, got a toddler daughter busy doodling on a blank sheet of paper, and sat down to write a letter to Congress. That scene stuck with me, and now I got to talk to her again. She held her little boy, now 8 months old, and her daughter played nearby.

“Oh, hello, you remember us!” she said, and told me that she occasionally visited the Bread for the World website and was especially interested in materials for children. She told me she intended to teach her children about hunger. Then she said almost off-hand, “Oh, and I’ve been writing to Washington and calling, too.” I was stunned. I did not expect that the message had gotten so deep into her soul. I thought about how I’d love to introduce her to David Beckmann and say, “Here’s one very good reason those program cuts didn’t happen.”

David Beckmann and the others who led that conference call made very clear that the battles are far from over. The electoral politics of 2012 will keep poverty-focused foreign assistance and domestic hunger-relief programs in limbo. Sustaining a circle of protection must continue. Bread for the World’s 2012 Offering of Letters calls for four unique emphases during 2012, beginning with the upcoming farm bill, but continuously, in the background, the emphasis will be on the circle of protection.

Some of you reading this blog post may still be considering joining this effort. I assure you it continues to be vitally important—and it’s truly rewarding. I hope you will promote an Offering of Letters at your church or in any caring group you are part of.

+Find out how you can organize an Offering of Letters at your church. Find resources, stories, videos, and more at www.bread.org/OL.

Jim-andersonJim Anderson is a Bread activist in Portland, OR, and retired pastor of the Evangelical Covenant Church. Soon, he will travel to Tanzania to see first-hand the benefits of a circle of protection around poverty-focused development assistance.

Photo caption: A member at Templo Calvario (Assembly of God church) in Santa Ana, CA, writes a letter to Congress as part of Bread for the World's Offering of Letters on Sunday, October 16, 2011. Photograph by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Stay Connected

Bread for the World