213 posts categorized "Hunger in the News"
(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.
Marie Crise is able to use her SNAP benefits to purchase fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables at the Abingdon Farmers Market in Abingdon, Va. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
by Eric Bond
On Monday, New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman wrote a tribute to the farmer—and the joy to be had from fresh produce. He points out that as much as chefs are in the spotlight these days, the bulk of the hard work and artistry in a meal happens on the farm:
These are tasks that take weeks, if not months, of daily activity and maintenance. Like anything else, you can get good at it, but the challenges that nature ... and the market ... throw at you are never even close to being under control in the same way that a cook controls the kitchen.
As Bittman revels in the fruits of labor coming to farmers markets in the waning days of summer, he recognizes the reality that many people do not have the access or the finances to enjoy the pleasures of fresh produce. Bittman calls for the following actions, which will better support small farmers, feed more hungry people, and share the bounty of a functioning farm system:
Alex Morris, from Bend, OR, depends on SNAP, WIC, and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system. (Photo by Brad Horn/Bread for the World)
by Christine Melendez Ashley
Misinformation about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) is far too prevalent. Sometimes it seems that I can’t check the news—or even Facebook—without reading another inaccurate claim about the program and its participants.
As a domestic policy analyst at Bread, I know that the facts tell a different story. SNAP served more than 46 million Americans in May. Here are some hard facts about the program:
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.
by Amelia Kegan
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted on two competing tax proposals: H.R. 8 and H.R. 15. News accounts reported that H.R. 15 would extend tax cuts for those earning up to $250,000 and H.R. 8 would extend tax cuts for everyone. But that is not the whole story.
H.R. 8 Would Not Extend Tax Cuts for Everyone
H.R. 8 failed to extend critical tax credits for low-income working families—the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). These are the salient details about the bill:
- H.R. 8 eliminates EITC marriage-penalty relief.
- H.R. 8 prevents families from earning even $1 of the CTC until they make at least $13,000.
- H.R. 8 reduces EITC benefits for families with three or more kids.
Congress has made significant improvements to EITC and CTC, so H.R. 8 would harm millions of low-income working families in 2013 by allowing the improvements to expire. These will be some of the consequences if the bill passes:
- 8.9 million families, including 16.4 million children, would be harmed if earnings below $13,000 are no longer counted toward the tax credit.
- 3.7 million families, including 5.8 million children, would lose the Child Tax Credit entirely.
- 6.5 million families, including nearly 16 million children, would be hurt by the expiration of the EITC improvements.
Heather Rude-Turner, 31, of northern Virginia, was once a single mom receiving WIC, SNAP, and EITC. Because of this, she said she can relate to some of the low-income families who bring their children to the childcare center where she works as a teacher. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.
House of Representatives Pulls Farm Bill Extension from Drought Relief Package
by Christine Meléndez Ashley
We had expected some floor action on food and farm policy in the House of Representatives on Tuesday through Speaker John Boehner’s drought relief proposal, which included a one-year extension of the farm bill. It was the first farm bill proposal we had seen coming out of this Congress that created a circle of protection around programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), which are vital to hungry and poor people.
While we have consistently maintained a preference for a full, five-year re-authorization of the farm bill, we were pleased to see no cuts to SNAP in that proposal.
Late Tuesday night, however, it became apparent there was not enough support to pass a drought relief bill with a one-year farm bill extension attached so they yanked it. The House currently plans to vote on a drought relief package separately from the farm bill this afternoon.
We continue to urge Congress to pass a bill that protects and strengthens SNAP and international food aid.
So far, the House and Senate have both proposed harmful cuts to SNAP. The Senate bill cut $4.5 billion over ten years which would result in roughly 500,000 households losing $90 a month in SNAP benefits. The House bill cut even more from SNAP, $16.5 billion over ten years. These cuts could lead to 2-3 million people losing SNAP benefits and 280,000 kids losing free school meals—in addition to the 500,000 households losing $90 a month in benefits.
We were happy to see the Senate’s international food aid provisions and disappointed that the House did not include similar provisions in its bill.
In fact, the House bill cuts international food aid quality programs so deeply that it would effectively end international food aid programs that focus on nutritional deficiencies and targeted populations.
Judging from the history of the 2008 Farm Bill, we do not discount the possibility of short-term extensions of the current legislation. The farm debate could very well spill into the next Congress, as has happened in the past. Stay tuned for updates as the 2012 Farm Bill process continues to unfold.
- Learn more about Bread's mini campaign for domestic nutrition assistance.
Christine Meléndez Ashley is an analyst 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.
Screen shot of North Carolina Bread activists taken from WFMY-TV.
Bread’s engine runs on the fuel of dedicated and faith-filled advocates across this nation who continually address decision makers on issues of hunger and poverty. When organizers see members independently creating events like the Bread for the World North Carolina Team did on Wednesday, we know we are doing our job right. With song and prayer, over 20 religious leaders and activists surrounded the Guilford County Department of Social Services, making public their concern for protecting programs that are critical to people experiencing hunger and poverty.
Vital domestic nutrition programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps) are facing severe cuts by Congress that could send more hungry to already overburdened church pantries. The Greensboro Urban Ministry got a small taste of the daunting task of feeding the recipients of such programs when a computer glitch stopped local SNAP benefits. Over a two-month period, 1,500 more people needed food, compared to the same period in the previous year.
Bread activist Bryan McFarland has a history of going the extra mile—advocating for an end to hunger by creating programs like “Jacob’s Join” that educate with song. Yesterday was no exception. With the help of Robert Herron, Frank M. Dew, Christine Byrd, Mike Aiken, and other organizers with Bread for the World’s Triad Chapter, the leaders sent a public call—not only to Greensboro, but also to North Carolina’s Senators Kay Hagen and Richard Burr— to maintain SNAP funding. Listen to what they had to say in a WMFY news story:
You don’t need Bread staff to create an event in your region. However, your Bread organizer can help you with press contacts, resources, and information about which issues are the most critical and timely. Creating the political will to end hunger is noisy business, but when advocates are empowered, active, and public, change happens.
Thank you for your fantastic work, Triad Team!
+Make the conversation about hunger public at a town hall meeting this month while Congress is on recess. We have resources for you here.
Robin Stephenson is regional organizer at Bread for the World.
Last night, David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, appeared on PBS NewsHour to discuss the drought in the United States and its impact on food prices around the world.
Here's a highlight from the interview:
Ray Suarez: David Beckmann, is there any give in the world food system than there used to be? Some food experts are referring to a post-surplus world, where the number of mouths more closely matches the amount of food we're making.
Does this kind of event, this unusual drought, worst in 56 years, put more people in risk than we even realize?
David Beckmann: The system has changed in that world's population is growing wonderfully. A lot of people are getting out of poverty around the world. And so they are eating more food.
And there's going to be a growing demand for food, already is, all over the world. So that change has taken place. I think one thing that we're doing right as a world is investing in agriculture in poor countries around the world, helping poor farmer produce more, take advantage of higher prices to make a living and also meet local needs.
Screenshot from CNN.com
On Monday, July 9, we attended a briefing at the White House, during which President Obama called for extending tax cuts for the middle class and small business owners. While we were overwhelmed by this amazing opportunity to listen to our president, we also wanted to take a critical look at some parts of his speech.
During his speech, President Obama noted that he has cut taxes for Americans by an average of $3,600 per year during his tenure. He urged Congress to extend tax cuts for the middle class and small-business owners who make less than $250,000 for another year. He also called on Congress to allow tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire by the end of the year. President Obama emphasized that 97 percent of U.S. business are small businesses, and are the economic root of the nation.
In an ongoing effort to strengthen the middle class President Obama said that we need to “widen the circle of opportunity” for middle class Americans. We found the president’s use of this phrase interesting. Since early 2011, Bread for the World and other organizations have called on Congress and the Obama administration to create a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.