Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

241 posts categorized "Hunger in the News"

Failure Is Not an Option: A Migration Story

Stephenson Family to AZ

The Stephenson family in 1938, somewhere in Arizona, where they lived for a while picking cotton on their way west.  (Family photo courtesy of Robin Stephenson).

By Robin Stephenson

My dad was a born a migrant. He likes to talk about the storm that was raging the night of his birth, but there was an even greater urgency than finding shelter from pounding rain that evening: hunger was pushing his family west. In an abandoned shack, having gone without food for several days, my grandmother gave birth. My dad was born on the migrant journey.

In the zeitgeist of the 1940s, migrants were considered lazy and shiftless. An exodus of the hungry fled one of the country’s greatest disasters—the Dust Bowl. Leaving all they knew behind, they were called “Oakies, ” often in hushed tones and with a contempt that implied their fate was their fault. Stirred by years of poor farm policy and practice, the dust storms left in their wake farms in Oklahoma and neighboring states that could no longer employ or support the population that once produced agricultural abundance. Having lost almost everything, families pulled together what little was left, piled into any transportation that could move them forward and headed west—not because they wanted to but because they had to. 

The migrant’s story, whether set in Oklahoma in 1938 or Oaxaca in 2013, shares a common thread:  lack of choice. The human drive to survive is unstoppable, even in the face of enormous odds. A journey fraught with danger and derision is no deterrent. 

In a recent interview with Truthout, U.C. Berkeley physician and anthropologist Dr. Seth M. Holmes talks about the migrant journey he researched for Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farm Workers in the United States. For 18 months, Holmes traveled and lived with a group of families escaping poverty from Oaxaca, Mexico—another once-fertile land gone fallow because of bad policy. Asked how migrants see their options, Holmes says: 

"[W]hen you actually do interviews and do research with immigrants who are crossing from Mexico into the U.S., they do not experience this as a choice. There were several times, and in the book I write about someone telling me 'there’s no other option for us.'"

This week, the House of Representatives have a choice that migrants don’t: they can choose to move an immigration bill forward. If crafted with an understanding of the root causes that drive migration, this bill could be an important step in ending hunger both here and abroad. A special conference with House Republicans is taking place tomorrow, Wednesday July 10, and likely will mark a critical turning point in comprehensive immigration reform. 

Today, I think of the word “Oakie” as a badge of honor.  I come from survivors. Being born in a storm is a great story, but being born into hunger is not.

It’s time for a new narrative and your voice can urge your Representative to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform.  As the House takes up this issue, it needs to know that a faithful constituency is paying attention. Call your representative at 800-826-3688, or email him or her today.

Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national lead for social media and regional organizer, Western hub.

Hunger in the News: SNAP Cuts, Farm Bill, Suburban Poverty

A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

"From the Mouths of Babes," by Paul Krugman, New York Times (op-ed). "[A]s millions of workers lost their jobs through no fault of their own, many families turned to food stamps to help them get by—and while food aid is no substitute for a good job, it did significantly mitigate their misery. Food stamps were especially helpful to children who would otherwise be living in extreme poverty, defined as an income less than half the official poverty line."

"Off food stamps and employed — with taxpayers’ help," by Kyung M. Song, Seattle Times. "Dede O’Loughlin’s mother dropped out of high school and got by on food stamps. Then O’Loughlin herself became that mother to her three sons. O’Loughlin, a 40-year-old single parent from North Seattle, wanted to break the pattern for her children. And thanks to that very food-stamp program, she likely will."

"Poverty finds the suburbs," by Sarah Laskow, Boston Globe. "Moving to the suburbs used to mean having made it—having earned the house, the car, the lawn—and being set for the long haul. But over the past decades, the suburbs have changed. Dream houses have fallen into disrepair; dream jobs have disappeared."

"Poverty as a Childhood Disease," by Perri Klass, M.D., New York Times' Well blog. "At the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies last week, there was a new call for pediatricians to address childhood poverty as a national problem, rather than wrestling with its consequences case by case in the exam room. Poverty damages children’s dispositions and blunts their brains. We’ve seen articles about the language deficit in poorer homes and the gaps in school achievement. These remind us that...poverty in this country is now likely to define many children’s life trajectories in the harshest terms: poor academic achievement, high dropout rates, and health problems from obesity and diabetes to heart disease, substance abuse and mental illness."

Hunger in the News: Farm Bill, SNAP, Global Nutrition

"Senate votes to make small cut to food stamps in farm bill," Associated Press. Last night, the Senate voted to keep a $400 million annual cut to the SNAP (formerly food stamps) program as part of a major five-year farm bill. The chamber rejected an effort by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) to expand the cuts and an amendment by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to eliminate them.

"Revoking Food Stamps for Millions of Americans Endangers Our Classrooms, Our Future," by Gerald S.J. Cassidy, Roll Call (op-ed)."The mere mention of food stamps on Capitol Hill conjures up long held political stereotypes of Republicans reaching for the budget ax while Democrats reach out their hands, both a gross mischaracterization and oversimplification of a complex problem."

"A crucial moment for global nutrition," by Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), The Hill (op-ed). "The moment for turning the corner on global nutrition is here, and it is time for our elected leaders to demonstrate anew how American leadership is the driving force for building a healthier, safer and more prosperous world." 

"Food stamp cuts feared by veterans," by Michael McAuliff, Huffington Post. SNAP "has been—and still is—vital to people who served their country. For Iraq veteran Don Martinez, 33, food stamps kept his children fed while he struggled with getting recognition for the traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress he suffered after close encounters with several rocket and mortar attacks and a humvee rollover."

Hunger in the News: Farm Bill, SNAP, Food Aid


A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

"Congress Set to Begin Work on Farm Bill," by Ron Nixon, New York Times. A solid, basic look at the what will happen in the Senate and House around the farm bill, the rough timetable, and what is at stake.

"Top Chef star urges Congress to support anti-hunger programs," by Josh Hicks, Washington Post. Tom Colicchio joined Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) at a screening of A Place at the Table and met with members of Congress to encourage them to protect and strengthen programs that fight hunger.

"Food aid for the 21st century," by John Kerry, Tom Vilsack, and Rajiv Shah, Chicago Tribune (op-ed). Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, and USAID administrator Shah on modernizing food aid.

"Twelve Things You Can to To Fight Poverty Now," by Greg Kaufmann, The Nation. Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK Lobby, Marci Phillips of the National Council on Aging, Jim Will of Food Research and Action Center, tell you what you can do, right now to make a difference. (No.11: Tell Congress: Increase, Don't Cut SNAP).

"These Three Charts Show How the World Could End Extreme Poverty by 2030," by Howard Schneider, Washington Post.

Hunger in the News: SNAP and Seniors, Poverty in America


A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

"In Florida, a food-stamp recruiter deals with wrenching choices," by Eli Saslow, Washington Post. Dillie Nerios travels the state signing up hungry senior citizens for SNAP and spreading the message that there is no shame in receiving benefits.

"City Report Shows More Were Near Poverty in 2011," by Sam Roberts, New York Times. About 46 percent of New Yorkers were making less than 150 percent of the city's poverty threshold in 2011. "[M]issing rungs in the ladder make it really hard to climb out of poverty,” Nancy Rankin, vice president for policy research and advocacy at the Community Service Society, told the Times.

"Here’s why 10.4 million American workers are still in poverty," by Brad Plumer, Washington Post's Wonk Blog. One of the most troubling take-aways from Wonk Blog's analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data: “Among families with at least one member in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, those families with children under 18 years old were about 4 times more likely than those without children to live in poverty.”

"Does Max Baucus’s retirement make tax reform easier?" by Ezra Klein, Washington Post's Wonk Blog. Klein wonders if the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee's upcoming retirement will make tax reform more likely.

The Difference a Ride Can Make

Girl_carrying_groceriesBy Sarah Godfrey

Sterling Farms, the buzzed-about grocery store chain started by Wendell Pierce, the actor best known as "Bunk" from the HBO show The Wire, is now open for business.

Pierce, along with his business partners, has been working to place markets and convenience stores in food deserts in his native New Orleans. Sterling Farms is not just putting nutritious, fresh food where there was none before—the people behind the business are working to figure out how to tackle the problem of food access from many different angles. One perk the stores offer is especially greatthe chain gives free rides to those who spend more than $50.

When I first saw the clip below, I was watching TV with a good friend who once received SNAP, and she thought the ride program was a brilliant idea. She told me that when she received benefits, trying to find a way to get to the store was a monthly source of stress.

She lived near an upscale supermarket, but the prices were high—her money stretched further if she could get to Shoppers Food Warehouse, Aldi, Bottom Dollar, or one of the other bargain grocery store chains in Virginia. Unfortunately, those stores weren't easily reached by bus. Besides, a bus ride meant her food purchases were determined by what she could carry, rather than personal taste, nutritional value, or cost. Every month she had to find a ride to the store, come up with a few bucks of gas money to offer the driver, and then worry if the person would actually come through for her. 

Lack of transportation can be an insurmountable barrier to food: Bread for the World has explored how the suspension of school bus service during the summer affects the effectiveness of school lunch programs during those months, and the ways in which cutting city bus service can hinder the ability of people to get to food. 

As we work to ensure that everyone has a place at the table by petitioning the president and writing to Congress, it's nice to know that businesses are thinking about how they too can tear down the obstacles that stand between hungry people and affordable, nutritious food. 

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

Pastoral Advice for Our Nation's Political Leaders

By Rev. Gary Cook

It may sound a little silly to write a “pastoral” letter to the president and congressional leaders.  Politicians, after all, usually respond to power and money, not the advice of clerics. But right now, as the sequester looms and it is obvious that the political process is stuck— if not broken—it may be time for a little pastoral counseling.

Today nearly 100 Christian leaders from across the wide spectrum of the church spoke with one voice to our nation’s leaders. National leaders of Catholic, protestant, Orthodox, Pentecostal, and evangelical churches—leaders representing broad racial and ethnic diversity—offered encouragement and wise counsel in the form of a joint letter. We thanked them for their efforts and told them that we're praying for them. We urged them to skip the brinksmanship and compromise on spending cuts and revenues. We asked them to remember that the Bible tells us that the government has responsibilities concerning poor people. We told them to be clear about the moral choices they are making. 

Our leaders would be wise to listen to such advice.  But it is the paragraph that begins with “Finally” that is most exciting to me:

Finally, we ask both parties to work together toward ending hunger and poverty. The Circle of Protection continues to be committed to protecting vital programs for people in or near poverty in our country and around the world, but that is not enough. Help us reduce hunger and poverty by expanding opportunity and justice, promoting economic growth and good paying jobs, stabilizing family life, and protecting the well-being of children. We celebrate the progress the world is making against hunger, poverty, and disease, and we are encouraged by the possibility of ending extreme hunger and poverty globally. Dramatic progress against hunger and poverty in our richly blessed country is also possible. Please, protect the poor and help create the opportunities that make them poor no more.

After two years of being in the defensive “please don’t cut” mode, Christian leaders are asking Congress and the president to look beyond their current squabbles toward a goal of actually ending hunger and poverty. That’s good pastoral advice.

Rev. Gary Cook is director of church relations at Bread for the World.

Read the Circle of Protection letter here or below. Pastors, please click here to add your name to the letter.


Hunger in the News: Poverty Awareness Month, Food Waste


Looking for news on hunger and poverty? Hunger in the News is a regular roundup of notable links from around the Web.

"Poverty rates reflect 'serious moral failure'"

In recognition of Poverty Awareness Month, Bishop Jaime Soto writes an op-ed piece for the Washington Post. "Christ said, 'The poor will always be with you,'" he writes. "That is why the U.S. bishops and partners in the Circle of Protection remain steadfast in the call to protect poor and vulnerable people in the debates around the deficit reduction."

"Criminalizing Poverty"

Bobbie Ibarra, executive director of the Miami Coalition for the Homeless, writes a Huffington Post piece exploring the disturbing trend of criminalizing the behavior of the homeless: "Passing criminal ordinances does not solve this problem; it only makes the situation of persons experiencing homelessness worse by giving them a criminal record that prevents them from obtaining the employment or housing that would allow them to overcome their current circumstance(s)."

"Almost half of the world's food thrown away, report finds"

The Guardian reports that nearly half of the world's food—as much as 2 billion tons—ends up in the trash. The piece cites a study from the UK's Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which blames the waste on "poor engineering and agricultural practices," inadequate infrastructure,  poor storage facilities, and, in the Western world, unnecessarily strict sell-by dates, buy-one-get-one free deals that encourage shoppers to buy more than they need or can use, and consumer demand for cosmetically perfect food.

Hunger in the News: Cory Booker, Jim McGovern, Teen Poverty


Looking for the latest news on hunger and poverty? Here's a roundup of links from around the Web.

"#SNAPChallenge Day 7 Reflections": Cory Booker wraps up his weeklong SNAP challenge, offers some thoughts on the experience. "I will end the SNAP Challenge today but my attention and commitment to addressing food access does not stop here. I ask you to join me and those in your community who are working towards a just and sustainable food system that nourishes everyone," the Newark, N.J., mayor writes. 

"Congressman Jim McGovern Calls on President to End Hunger": Rep. McGovern (D-Mass.), in an op-ed piece, writes that "[i]t's time to act boldly."

"What $5 more an hour could buy a low-wage worker": Marketplace Radio looks at what a few more bucks an hour can mean to those who earn just above the minimum wage. His diet went from fast food dollar menus, to fresh food, now and then. “I thought I hit the jack pot,” he says. Johnny Smith, who received a $5/hr. pay increase after finding a job at Trader Joe's says his diet went from fast food dollar menus, to fresh food, now and then. “I thought I hit the jack pot,” he says. 

"In Rust Belt, A Teenager's Climb from Poverty": The Washington Post profiles New Castle, Pa., teenager Tabitha Rouzzo, who is working to escape the poverty of her hometown.

"When Even Santa Can't Get A Job:" The latest installment in the Nation's "This Week in Poverty" series follows eastern Ohio resident Richard Crowe as he looks for work. “It’s funny, but it’s pathetic—a lot of people think you’re out here for a handout,” Crowe says.

Hunger in the News: Cory Booker, Jo Ann Emerson, Mark Bittman


Looking for the latest news on hunger and poverty? Here's a roundup of links from around the Web.

"The Good Farmer: Howard G. Buffett's Crusade to Eliminate Hunger in America": Parade profiles Howard G. Buffett—farmer, philanthropist, and son of Warren—who is working to fight hunger, through his own philanthropic foundation and work with Feeding America. 

"Hunger in Plain Sight": New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman says that SNAP and food banks need more funding, not less—something that should be apparent to anyone who looks at hunger "from a moral perspective (love thy neighbor, remember?) or a practical one[.]"

 "What's Behind Cory Booker's Food Stamp Challenge?": Time takes a hard look at the Newark mayor's SNAP challenge, which kicked off yesterday. Coverage also includes an excellent companion piece, "The Problem With Food Stamp Challenges."

"For the Poor, Recovery Is A Mirage": USA Today visits Troy, Ohio, a rural community that has seen a sharp increase in poverty over the last four years. "As lawmakers in Washington grapple with the "fiscal cliff" and Americans do their holiday shopping, thousands of people in Miami County are managing on little or no income."

"Jo Ann Emerson to Retire from House": Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), an anti-hunger champion who introduced the Feeding America’s Families Act with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), has announced that she will resign from Congress in February. 

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