Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

252 posts categorized "Hunger in the News"

Hunger and Poverty in the State of the Union Address

Obama1During last night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama focused on income inequality and the growing opportunity gap in America—a regular theme of his recent speeches. “Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success,” he said. “But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

While the president said the word “poverty" only three times, and made no mention of hunger, his speech still referenced several issues relevant to ending hunger and poverty—such as restoring unemployment insurance for those who’ve lost benefits since Jan. 1, and bolstering the earned income tax credit (EITC), one of our government’s most effective anti-poverty measures.

Much of the speech tracked closely with Bread for the World Institute's 2014 Hunger Report: Ending Hunger in America, and Bread for the World's work to end hunger at home and abroad..

Below are five quotes from last night's State of the Union address that touched on hunger and poverty issues, and a brief look at how those remarks connect to Bread’s 2014 legislative agenda.

Unemployment Insurance

“I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy," said Obama. "But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.”

Bread for the World and its advocates are pushing Congress to immediately reinstate unemployment insurance, and help Americans who rely on their unemployment checks to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads while they continue to look for work. Please contact your members of Congress today and urge them to extend unemployment assistance immediately.

Minimum wage

“[I]f you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty,” said the president, after promising that he would give an estimated 560,000 federal contract workers a wage increase to $10.10. He then urged Congress to pass the Harkin-Miller bill and raise the federal minimum wage.

Bread for the World’s 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, outlines a plan to end hunger in America by 2030, and increasing minimum wage is a critical component. The report urged the president to reform federal contracting policies as an important first step. Income from work is the primary buffer against hunger for the vast majority of American families, yet 28 percent of U.S. jobs pay poverty-level wages.

Earned Income Tax Credit

“There are other steps we can take to help families make ends meet, and few are more effective at reducing inequality and helping families pull themselves up through hard work than the earned income tax credit," Obama said. "Right now, it helps about half of all parents at some point. But I agree with Republicans, like Sen. [Marco] Rubio, that it doesn’t do enough for single workers who don’t have kids.  So let’s work together to strengthen the credit, reward work, and help more Americans get ahead.”

Bread for the World supports strengthening the EITC, a refundable tax credit that helps low-income families.  Read more about EITC, and how it helps families.

Immigration

“Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades," Obama said. "And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone.  So let’s get immigration reform done this year."

Bread for the World firmly believes that immigration reform will reduce poverty and hunger, and is advocating for comprehensive, compassionate reform that includes a path to citizenship. Read more about Bread for the World’s immigration work, and our latest update on how Congress will address reform in 2014.

Food Aid

During the State of the Union address, President Obama spoke of work in Africa that would “help end extreme poverty,” and talked about the United States “extending a hand to those devastated by disaster – as we did in the Philippines.” He did not, however, explicitly mention U.S. food aid or food aid reform.

Bread for the World is pushing for smart reforms to U.S. food aid, which does so much good around the world, but simple changes could ensure that the food aid does even more for people in—with no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters focuses on much-needed reform to U.S. food aid. Learn more about U.S. food aid and why reform is so critical.

Why Doesn't the United States Rank Higher in Healthy Eating?

WIC_at_farmers_market
Federal nutrition programs are finding ways to connect the people who rely on them with a healthy selection of foods. Farmers markets that accept food stamps and WIC give program recipients better access to fresh produce (Jim Stipe).

The United States is one of the richest nations in the world, so it reasons that it would do better than most countries in providing access to fresh, nutritious food, right? Not according to a new Oxfam report on the best and worst places in the world to eat—the United States ranks 21st out of 125 countries.

The study evaluated countries based on four factors: Do people have enough to eat? Can people afford to eat? Is food of good quality? What is the extent of unhealthy outcomes of people’s diet? Wealthy nations had an automatic edge in the rankings, but levels of obesity and diabetes kept the United States out of the overall top 10, and placed it in the bottom 10 of countries where diet positively influences health. The United States is a land of plenty when it comes to cheap, high-calorie, nutrient-deficient food, and there's no shortage of expensive health food stores and restaurants, either. Still, options that are both healthy and affordable are more difficult to come by.

Oxfam policy adviser Max Lawson told NPR that the obesity and diabetes levels in the United States are largely driven by poverty, rather than excess. "Food is very, very cheap in the U.S., compared to most countries," he explains. "But the fact is you end up with people malnourished in one of the richest countries because they don't have access to fresh vegetables at a cheap enough price to make a balanced diet."

Federal nutrition programs, such as food stamps (SNAP) and WIC, are our nation's best tools in making healthy food more accessible to everyone in the United States. Unfortunately, both programs have faced deep cuts and harmful changes over the last several months. Last week, a group of doctors warned members of Congress of the serious public health consequences that would accompany steep cuts to SNAP.

"If you're interested in saving health care costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition," Dr. Deborah Frank, of Boston Medical Center, told the Associated Press. "People don't make the hunger-health connection."

Even with such programs in place to help people afford healthier diets, benefits don't always stretch far for struggling families, and many people live in food deserts, without easy access to a grocery store. Despite these realities, Congress is still considering cuts to SNAP.

If you want to know if your members of Congress are voting in support of vital programs that keep people healthy and prevent them from going hungry, see Bread for the World's 2013 congressional scorecard. Also visit Bread for the World's action center to learn more about what you can do to ensure that everyone has access to enough healthy, nutritious food.

72,000 Unemployed Lose Benefits Each Week

Greenjobs"We all deserve better than this," writes Tara Dublin of Portland, Ore. In a recent Mom's Rising blog post, Dublin, an unemployed single mother who lost her job in social media, likens her experience to living a nightmare.

In last month’s budget deal, Congress failed to extend EUC - emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed. Every week that Congress delays an extension, 72,000 people lose their benefits. Congress will consider another extension in the next few weeks with the first test this morning in the Senate.

In a Dec. 3 press conference, Labor Secretary Tom Perez talked about the plight of the unemployed missed by statistics. "They have been looking day in and day out for work. They are trying to feed their families," The Durango Herald reported Perez as saying.

Many of the long-term unemployed have used their savings to fill in financial gaps as they look for work, and unemployment benefits are their last lifeline. "They are trying to stave off foreclosure," said Perez. "They are making judgments between food and medicine – judgments that no person in America or anywhere should have to make.”

But more than the bills that pile up, just keeping your head up is difficult, says Tara Dublin. "This is not where I expected to be at the age of 44," writes the exhausted single mother, "especially not when I had my life together so good 4 years ago." Dublin remembers when life was easier. "But then 2009 happened and now here we are, and it is time this Dark Age of Awful comes to an end.”

Although the economy is slowly improving, it is not enough. There are three applicants for every job opening in America. Today's vote will test the temperature of America and our willingness to leave an estimated five million unemployed workers out in the cold this year.

In the Senate, Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Jack Reed have authored a bill that would extend the benefits retroactively for an additional three months. The Senate postponed a vote scheduled last night for 10 EST this morning, allowing senators caught in bad weather time to reach Washington, D.C. It is yet unclear when and if the House, which returns from the holiday recess today, will take up the bipartisan bill.

Call 800-826-3688 now or email your members of Congress today. Tell them to extend unemployment insurance immediately as their first action in 2014.

Photo: Construction workers experienced the highest percentage point increase in long-term unemployment during the recession. Read more how full employment is the first step to ending hunger in America in the 2014 Hunger Report (Rick Reinhard).

Former Sen. Bob Dole Honored by World Food Program USA

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Former Sen. Bob Dole received World Food Program USA's McGovern-Dole Leadership Award last week (Paul Morigi/World Food Program USA).

By Fito Moreno

Last week, World Food Program USA honored former Sen. Bob Dole with the newly renamed McGovern-Dole Leadership Award (formerly the George McGovern Leadership Award). The name was changed to reflect the decades of bipartisan anti-hunger work led by Dole, a Kansas Republican, and the late Sen. George McGovern, a Democrat from South Dakota.

Together, the two men had a huge impact on nearly every U.S. program designed to help feed poor children—including the expansion of the National School Lunch Program, which feeds more than 31 million children, and the creation of Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). They also worked to strengthen school meals and nutrition programs internationally: The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program has provided meals to more than 22 million children in 41 countries.

This award recognizes work that has contributed to progress in the fight against hunger, a fight that has helped reduce hunger globally by as much as 17 percent since the 1990-92 period. Sens. Dole and McGovern were able to contribute greatly to the eradication of hunger because of the bipartisan support they cultivated in Congress. They were able to put partisan politics aside, and work toward helping the most vulnerable, not because it would win them votes, but because it was–and is–the right thing to do.

It seems almost inconceivable that such a partnership could occur today, but although Congress is working slower, and running into more roadblocks than in the past, it is still working. The Congressional Budget Agreement is a step in the right direction. Although it is worrisome that the bill doesn’t include provisions to extend emergency unemployment rates, it does take steps to end the sequester, and hopefully will allow Congress to focus on other issues, such as working together to end hunger. 

Fito Moreno is Bread for the World’s media relations specialist.

Waiting for the 8th: Family Feels the Sting of Recent SNAP Cuts

Food_distrubutionMuch has been written about the Nov. 1 cuts to food stamps (SNAP), and how the abrupt reduction in benefits has affected struggling families across the country. But few articles have been as moving as the Washington Post's "Waiting for the 8th," a profile of Raphael Richmond, a Washington D.C.-area mother who is attempting to feed herself and her children in the wake of the biggest cut to the food stamp program in 50 years.

The reporter follows Richmond, and her daughter Tiara, to a local food pantry. Since the cuts took effect, the family members have compiled a list of various food giveaways around the city, visiting those places to help them stretch their SNAP dollars. The service providers, as valuable as they are, clearly are having difficulty meeting the increased demand. This is most evident during Richmond’s visit to Bread for the City, a wonderful D.C.-based non-profit that helps provide food, medical care, and other vital services to vulnerable populations.

They walked into Bread for the City, where 40 people were crowded into the waiting room, and where the food line was a steady procession toward disappointment."No more deer meat," read one sign. "Pick a holiday bag OR a regular bag. You cannot receive both," read the next. "Only one visit per month," read another. "Food is intended to last for three days," read the last notice, right by the counter, where Raphael handed over her number to a volunteer and waited for her bag of food."

"Thank you," she said when the bag came back three minutes later, filled with turkey, applesauce, yams and five cans of greens. Raphael turned away from the counter, doing the math in her head.

"So that's three days," she said to Tiara on their way out the door. "What are we supposed to do about the rest?"

Charity alone can’t feed everyone who’s hungry. Churches, food banks, and private food charities have all been stretched thin by our economic downturn—food bank demand has increased nearly 50 percent since 2006. The role of federal nutrition programs, including SNAP, is more crucial than ever.

Congress will soon leave town for the year without passing a new farm bill, which determines funding levels for SNAP. We ask that you continue to pray for hungry families and urge members of Congress to protect SNAP.

Photo: People in Baltimore, Md., line up to receive donated food (Mark Fenton).

Join Pope Francis in Prayer Today at Noon

Woman-prayingBy David Beckmann

The day has come! A multitude of Catholics rallied by Caritas Internationalis and millions of other Christians and people of other faiths around the world are raising their voices in a "wave of prayer" today at noon (local time in every time zone) to end hunger.

Pope Francis has released a message in support of this worldwide effort. We hope his words will inspire you to join this prayer wave!

Would you join us today at noon? Pray individually or ask others to join you.

Today a clear and loud message of ending hunger in our time will rise to God. Hopefully it will also touch the hearts of our nation’s leaders in Congress when they are finalizing — at this very moment — a decision on the farm bill and harmful cuts to nutrition programs. At this critical time, they need to hear from you.

After you pray, please take action and call (800-326-4941) or email your members of Congress. Tell them not to cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), but to take actions that will help end hunger in our country and around the world.

If you need a prayer for this occasion, consider the prayers — from various Christian traditions — we have assembled at www.bread.org/prayerwave.

Together in prayer we can change the world.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Giving Thanks for Being Able to Help Others


(USDA photo)

By Fito Moreno

Waking up to the smell of a marinated turkey baking in the oven is what solidified Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday. My family’s Thanksgiving dinner table has always held dishes from many countries. There are pupusas, patatas bravas, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sofrito, tamales, and, of course, the turkey.

Growing up Hispanic, food was always at the heart of all gatherings — graduations, first communions, birthday parties, and especially Thanksgiving. The one concern my mom has always had is making sure everyone has enough to eat and enough to take home. Yet for many families, making sure everyone has enough to eat is a privilege.  

Data released yesterday shows that in 2012, more than 35 percent of Latinos lived 130 percent below the poverty line, and 3.6 million Latinos lived in food-insecure households.

At a glance, those statistics are just numbers. But as I reflect on previous Thanksgiving dinners, I imagine the family members and friends behind those numbers. My mom has always been concerned about making sure everyone has enough to eat because some of our friends and relatives sometimes just don’t have enough. Sometimes friends would be ashamed taking food home, but my mother wouldn’t hear of it. She believes that it is wrong to invite people to your home and have them go hungry; if you are able to feed them, then you are obligated to do so.

As a country, we have the same responsibility. We invite the tired, the poor, the huddled masses; it is our job to ensure that they have enough to eat. 

As I pack my bag and get ready to go to my mother’s place for Thanksgiving, I am thankful to live in a country where I can be a gracious host, and help ensure that all are fed. I am thankful to living in a country where I can have an impact on my government by reaching out to my members of Congress and urging them to ensure that people of all means are nourished.

Fito Moreno is Bread for the World's media relations specialist.

Food Banks Say They Can't Fill the Hunger Gap

Food Bank RickMany local newspapers have recently published op-eds written by food bank representatives, all of them with a clear message to Congress: if legislators cut nutrition assistance, charity cannot fill the hunger gap.

Many Christians and others are generous in supporting food banks, but with the needs of struggling families they are anticipating, the food banks simply cannot ramp up their assistance quickly enough and will never have the capacity to fill the gap that Congress has created.

Paul Ash, executive director of the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks, talks about a potential $40 billion cut to SNAP (food stamps) in his op-ed "Food Banks can't make up for food stamp benefit cuts," published Nov. 17, 2013, in SF Gate. "[W]e can raise our voice in protest now, or prepare to watch our neighbors go without enough to eat," he writes.

"It's easy to pass off what goes on in Washington as senseless, unwise, irrational, or out of our control," Ash continues. "But it's more useful to be shouting as loud as we can – through our representatives, to the conferees who will cast the votes, and to the White House – that this is not acceptable."

Ash notes in the op-ed that the Nov. 1 SNAP cuts, combined with the $40 billion in proposed cuts in the House version of the farm bill, would mean that every food bank in the nation would have to double the amount of assistance they provide in order to meet demand. Donors, Ash notes, have shown no signs that they would be willing to double their giving, which would leave food banks unable to provide food to people in need of emergency aid. 

The next few weeks are critical as members of the farm bill conference committee negotiate a final bill. The cuts that have already taken place have made it more difficult for already-struggling families to put food on the table. As food prices increase and benefits decrease, more families will likely find themselves in need of charitable food donations earlier in the month — but cuts to nutrition assistance will leave a hunger gap that cannot be closed by churches, pantries, or food banks.  

Each time a food bank representative speaks out in local papers, which members of Congress read, faithful advocates have an opportunity to amplify that message. When you see such articles, we urge you to write a letter to the editor. Contact your regional organizer if you need assistance or talking points.

With 49 million Americans at risk of hunger, and more than 1 billion people around the world living in extreme poverty, now is the time to raise your voice in protest. SNAP and international food aid programs must be protected in the farm bill. Email or call your member of Congress at 800-826-3688 today.

Photo: A food bank in Alexandria, Va., provides emergency food assistance (Rick Reinhard).

Students Advocate for the Hungry During Teach-In for Justice

Billy_Kangas_and_friendBy Billy Kangas

Last weekend, hundreds of Catholic youths descended on Washington, D.C., for the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, an annual gathering of college and high school students from Jesuit institutions. They prayed together, networked, reflected, and learned about working for justice in the world. The speakers were inspiring, but even more inspiring were the students! They were bright, passionate, engaged, informed, energetic, and deeply committed to letting the love of Jesus spill out of them in both their personal lives, and in their public service and advocacy. They inspired, rejuvenated, and showed me the face of Jesus over and over again.

As Bread for the World’s Catholic relations fellow, I was given the opportunity to put together a team to hang out with hundreds of these amazing young people, who are looking to explore what it means to be an active Catholic with a public voice.

My fellow Bread staff members and I presented at a number of workshops. Amelia Kegan, a domestic policy analyst at Bread, and I talked about creating a "circle of protection" around essential safety net programs here in the United States, and how to take action by urging policy makers to strengthen programs that help hungry people. Bread’s international policy analysts, Beth Ann Saracco and Ryan Quinn, led a session on maternal and child nutrition, and how providing proper nutrients to women and children during the 1,000 days from the beginning of pregnancy through a child’s second birthday is essential for preventing disease, improving education, strengthening health, and saving lives. These 1,000 days are key!

We also invited participants to come to share with us how they are involved in ending hunger in their own communities, and in the world at large.

On Sunday, we were able to address the group as a whole to discuss the importance of protecting SNAP (food stamps) in the farm bill. We trained groups of students in how to talk to their policy makers when they gathered at the Capitol building on Monday for prayer, praise, and advocacy meetings with their congressional representatives.

We also encouraged the students to message their members of Congress using Twitter, and other forms of social media. Take a look at some of the messages these students tweeted to their representatives as part of our social media campaign:

All of this was very encouraging, but the most powerful takeaway I left with was hope. The media is filled with stories that condemn this young generation, calling them lazy, unmotivated, and unwilling to speak up to change the systems that keep people hungry and poor. But this group, and others like it, is proof that their generation is not only engaged, but immensely creative with their activism and eager to help those suffering from hunger and living in poverty.

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Billy Kangas is the fellow for Catholic Relations at Bread for the World.

Photos: (top) Billy Kangas and a friend at the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice (Gary Cook). (Bottom) The group of Jesuit students gathered on the mall for the event (Billy Kangas).

Veterans Hit Hard by Cut to SNAP

Today, as we observe Veterans Day and recognize those who served in the U.S. military, some veterans may be spending the day wondering where their next meal will come from.

This year, Veterans Day comes a little more than a week after an $11 billion cut in food stamp benefits went into effect. Millions of Americans, including many veterans, will see their grocery budgets shrink because of this change. 

According to Census figures, roughly 900,000 veterans, in any given month, lived in households that relied on SNAP in 2011. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in a recent study on how the Nov. 1 cut will impact veterans , found that thousands of vets in every state will be affected. "For low-income veterans, who may be unemployed, working in low-wage jobs, or disabled, SNAP provides an essential support that enables them to purchase nutritious food for their families," the study found. 

Philadelphia vet Bill Olsson recently told a local TV station that he is one of the 59,300 veterans in Pennsylvania who relies on SNAP, and that the Nov. 1 cut affects his ability to buy enough groceries to feed himself. "I have no income, and then no food stamps, how am I supposed to live?" Olsson said in an interview with KYW-TV. "Elderly people like myself have worked their whole life, and now can’t work, and depend on food stamps."

Congress is currently negotiating the farm bill, which will impact SNAP and other vital anti-hunger programs. Additional cuts to SNAP would make it even more difficult for millions of Americans, and thousands of veterans like Olsson, to eat.

Florida resident and Vietnam veteran Charles Boykin says, in the clip above, that he can't understand why legislators would do anything to reduce his SNAP allotment. "Why take it away from us?" he asks of Congress. "We were there for them, why can't they be there for us?"

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Forty-nine million Americans live at risk of hunger — SNAP must be protected in the farm bill.   Email your members of Congress now and tell them that any final farm bill must not increase hunger.

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