Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

197 posts categorized "Maternal and Child Nutrition"

Quote of the Day: Rev. Laurinda Hafner

Rev. Laurinda Hafner, senior minister at Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ in Coral Gables, Fla., writes to her member of Congress. Lena Isely for Bread for the World.

“As a person of faith, I think there is nothing so contrary to God’s will, for this world, than to have people - and especially children - be hungry. More than anything else, Jesus talked about feeding the hungry, so as members of a Christian congregation it is our faithful and moral imperative to do everything we can to fill the bellies of those who are without food.” 

Bread for the World’s 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children is focused on ensuring Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill. The legislation is set to expire in the fall. It is vital that Congress hears from their constituents, especially since over 16 million children in the U.S. don’t always know where their next meal is coming from.

Call or email your members of Congress today and tell them to support legislation that will feed our children — in the upcoming summer months and all year long. 


Tell Congress: There's No Vacation for Hunger

Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Eric Mitchell

Hunger won’t be taking a vacation this summer. While our senators and representatives are back home for the Fourth of July, five of every six low-income children who received a school lunch daily will not receive those meals during summer vacation. But together we can make sure those meals don’t disappear — and it starts with a phone call. 

Call your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today. Urge them to cosponsor two important child hunger bills:

  1. Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S.613/H.R.1728)
  2. Stop Child Summer Hunger Act of 2015 (S.1539/H.R.2715)

Together, these two bills would help close the child hunger gap. The Summer Meals Act would strengthen and expand access to summer meal programs, while the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act would provide low-income families with additional resources to purchase groceries during the summer months while children are out of school.

Whether you’re a parent of a young child or just care about the children in your local community, we need everyone’s voice to close the child hunger gap. As a father of two myself, I believe this is fundamental.

Throughout the month of July, we will be asking you to join us in taking weekly advocacy actions to end child summer hunger. Start today by calling your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative. Tell Congress to cosponsor the Summer Meals Act and the Stop Child Hunger Act.

Thank you for raising your voice again. Together, we can move Congress to ensure that children are fed through the summer months — and year-round. 

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

Closing the Summer Hunger Gap

Shaw mural
A mural depicting the history of Shaw, Miss. The mural is across from the community center that houses the summer meals site. Lane Riley for Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

A year ago, Lane Riley took a leap of faith. She moved from her home in South Carolina to operate a summer meals site for children in rural Shaw, Miss.

One pastor helped secure a community center to serve as the site and she recruited another pastor to be the cook. She and that pastor worked together to make lunches for the children.

Last summer, roughly 30 children were fed lunch twice a week. This summer, Riley expanded the program, which is serving a lunch and snack daily to approximately 100 children. Children also participate in various activities at the site, including reading, Bible study, art, and recreation. Lane and Joe

Because the site now serves almost three times the number of children compared to last summer, Riley needed help. So, she trained 12 high school students to be leaders for the different age groups.

“Teenagers in Shaw aren’t given a lot of opportunities for leadership development, and this is an amazing way of creating leadership skills and mentoring older kids,” Riley said.

Riley is a program director at Delta Hands for Hope, which runs the summer feeding site. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi (CBFMS) is the financial sponsor of the Summer Food Service program in Mississippi.

This summer there are now five additional summer feeding sites in Mississippi run by Delta Hands for Hope. The CBFMS uses reimbursement funds it receives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support the feeding sites. The six sites are projected to serve about 10,000 meals this summer, Riley said.

Summer feeding sites are crucial to the health of children, especially those who come from low-income families. During the academic year, those same kids receive either a free- or reduced-price lunch at school. But the summer is different.

Accessing meals during summertime can be hard for children, especially for those living in rural areas. Lack of transportation and long distances make it difficult for them to get the meals they need to grow into healthy adults.

The need for a summer feeding site in Shaw is great. The city is located in the Mississippi Delta, where poverty is high. In fact, about half of the adult population in Shaw lives below the poverty line ($23,624 for a family of four with two children).

And roughly 70 percent of Shaw’s children live below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census.

“Having this feeding program takes the stress off parents,” said Riley, who studied sociology and Spanish at Lander University in South Carolina. “They’ll know that their kids will be getting a meal in the summer.”

Riley first visited Shaw several years ago as part of a volunteer trip with Wilton Baptist Church in Wilton, Conn. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. K. Jason Coker, is originally from Shaw and would take teams of volunteers to the city during the summer to work with children.

Riley began to visit the church after moving from South Carolina to Connecticut to work as a nanny. When the idea to start a summer feeding site in his hometown of Shaw surfaced, Coker thought Riley would be a good candidate to spearhead the project.

“There are a lot of people who are needed to create generational and systemic change, and the people of Shaw are only a small handful of people who are trying to combat hunger and poverty,” Riley said. “But by working in Shaw, with CBFMS, and many other churches and organizations, we are noticing a difference, and creating a positive environment for the kids of Shaw.”

The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but nearly 16 million children are food-insecure. Act now! Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators to close the hunger gap today.

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

Photo inset: Lane Riley, left, with cook and pastor, Joe Jackson. Lane Riley for Bread for the World.




A Carefree Summer Should Not Include Hunger

Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World

Editor's note: This article first appeared on the website of the Alliance to End Hunger, an affiliate of Bread for the World.

By Minerva Delgado

I recently heard a summer camp director say he was taken aback upon hearing one boy’s answer to his typical question to the children as they were leaving camp, “What were your favorite parts of the summer?” He was expecting the answer to be horseback riding, swimming, playing baseball or any of the other activities the children had enjoyed that summer.  However, the boy simply answered, “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”  It was a moment that stuck with the camp director as a reminder that eating 3 meals-a-day can be a luxury for many of the children in his community during the summer.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), or summer meals, provides reimbursements to participating organizations for serving healthy meals to children at no charge during the summer months.  Last summer, approximately 3.2 million children participated in the program.  That’s 161 million meals served at 45,200 sites.  Summer meals sites are among the most accessible federal nutrition programs, where children up to age 18 can go right in and have breakfast or lunch without any applications or restrictions.

While the number of children served by SFSP has increased significantly in recent years, it pales in comparison to the 15.7 million children living in food-insecure households across the country. Why does only one child in six who needs summer meals receive them? What can be done to improve access to this vital resource?

One issue is the insufficient number of meal sites and providers to meet the need. Maybe the children who need summer meals live in remote locations where you don’t find the organizations that typically serve summer meals.  Perhaps they live in areas that do not meet the income threshold to have sites that are open to the public. Or maybe there are organizations that would like to participate but are hampered by the program rules.

From my experience at a small food bank, I can tell you the summer meals program can be difficult to operate.  I once wanted to operate a summer meals site in conjunction with a mobile food pantry operation.  Unfortunately, I ran into a wall with one rule that says that the meals have to be eaten on-site, as opposed to being taken home or to another location.  Our mobile food pantry operated out of a parking lot; there was no place for children to eat the meals.  At the time, I was very frustrated that we couldn’t find a way to help feed more hungry children when there was a clear need–especially since the food bank is located in a suburban community that was not eligible to operate public sites.

While there are many organizations that have the capacity to meet all of the programs rules and provide safe, enriching environments for children to learn, play and eat during the summer, it is clear that more must be done to address the unmet need.  Many children lose ground during the summer because they don’t have access to consistent, healthy meals.  The consequences of not improving the summer meals program are severe.  In addition to suffering and anxiety children experience when they haven’t had enough nutritious food to eat, researchers point to spikes in food insecurity during the summer and educators lament “summer learning loss” come fall.

Congress now has the opportunity to make significant changes to improve summer meals as part of the child nutrition reauthorization bill.  Improving access to this program is imperative.  Ideally, Congress will consider many of the recommendations being made by organizations like Share Our Strength, Feeding America and Food Research & Action Center.  It is important to increase flexibility in the program models to engage even more children because children shouldn’t have to take hunger along on their summer vacations.

Minerva Delgado is the director of coalitions and advocacy at the Alliance to End Hunger.

Women Farmers: 'The backbone of Africa'


By Bread Staff

It’s imperative that the Global Food Security Act of 2015 (GFSA) is approved by Congress this year. Passage would make permanent the U.S. food and nutrition security program, Feed the Future.

So far, 48 House members and 6 Senators have cosponsored the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567/S. 1252). We expect to get even more cosponsors after our successful Lobby Day last week.

In fact, one Bread activists told her senator during last week's Lobby Day that it was important that the legislation pass because women farmers are the "backbone of Africa."

To date, Feed the Future has achieved impressive results, helping more than 7 million small-scale farmers increase crop production and providing nutritious food to more than 12.5 million children in 2013 alone. The GFSA would provide a first-ever comprehensive U.S. strategy to fight hunger and malnutrition, promote nutrition among pregnant women and newborns, and prioritize women smallholder farmers.

Both bills stress the importance of nutrition interventions, especially during the critical 1,000-day window from a woman’s pregnancy until her child’s second birthday. Such interventions help reduce stunting, lifelong poor health, impaired cognitive and physical development, and diminished productivity.

Similarly, both bills focus strongly on women’s economic empowerment, a significant component, considering that women are often heads of households and smallholder farmers, making them especially vulnerable to food insecurity. By further engaging women, Feed the Future aims to increase women’s farm yields and total agricultural output and close the significant 20 to 30 percent yield gap that currently exists between male and female farmers. This could result in 100 million to 150 million hungry people getting the food they need.

The bills are moving in Congress. H.R. 1567 has moved out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is ready for a House floor vote. S. 1252 is still in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Even though there is progress, we still need your help to ensure that the bills make it to the House and Senate floors for a vote.

Act now! Call/email your U.S. representative and U.S. senators today (800-826-3688). Urge them to support this legislation to improve global food security and better combat chronic hunger and malnutrition!


The Danger of a Hungry Summer

USDA/Lance Chueng

By Robin Stephenson

The reporter’s voice on the radio instantly wakes me up as my 6 a.m. alarm goes off. There is an element of danger, urgency, and even resolution as he ticks off the headlines: a South Korean MERS outbreak is slowing, two New York escaped prisoners are still missing, and the Supreme Court is expected to soon announce its decision on Obamacare subsidies. The reporter goes on and on.

But there is nothing about the danger of the hungry summer that millions of children are facing as schools release students for a long break.

Millions of low-income children, who normally receive a nutritious meal at school, will go without in the coming months. Summer meal programs reached more children in need in recent years, but according to a 2015 annual summer meals report by Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), only one out of every six children who qualify for free- and reduced-priced meals at school will also receive meals during the summer.

Hunger is dangerous. Even brief periods of hunger carry consequences that can last a lifetime for growing children. Lack of adequate nutrition can cause physical and mental health problems and impede academic performance.

Hidden hunger - a growing problem in the United States - has long-term health and economic consequences. Food-insecure children may not “look” hungry, but suffer from zinc, iron, or calcium deficiency due to poor diets. Obesity is a common symptom of hunger because of the lack of access to healthy foods. Not only do well-fed students do better in school and graduate at a higher rate, they earn more as adults and help the national economy. 

Studies on the cost of hunger lead to one conclusion: invest a little now in nutrition programs or pay a lot later. The national economic impact of hunger is expensive. A team from Brandeis University estimated hunger cost the country a staggering $167.5 billion in 2011 alone.

Hunger is a dangerous but not an insurmountable problem, especially when reaching more children in the summer months. New approaches to summer meals funded during the last child nutrition reauthorization have proven we can reduce summer food insecurity.

And now there is opportunity to even make more strides around combating child hunger with the introduction of two new summer meals bills.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.-53) introduced the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act of 2015 last week (S. 1539 and H.R. 2715). This bill would help close the summer hunger gap – especially in rural areas - by providing low-income families with children a Summer EBT card. A Summer EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card is like a debit card, which can be used to purchase food at stores during the summer. Similar pilot projects reduced child hunger in the summer by 33 percent.

The Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S.613/H.R.1728) introduced earlier this year will strengthen and expand the summer meals program. Working together, the two bills will allow states to be more innovative and reach more children in need.

Are we are habituated to hunger, lulled into complacency by a sense that hunger is inevitable? It is not. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, nearly 16 million children are food-insecure. This fact is not headline news, but it should be.

Act now! Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators to close the hunger gap today.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

G-7 Commits to Ending Hunger and Malnutrition for Millions

Bread for the World

By Bread Staff

Early this week, the G-7 leaders during their annual summit in Schloss Elmau, Krun Germany, committed themselves “to lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.”

The theme of the summit—Think Ahead. Act Together — focused on food security and nutrition, the post-2015 development agenda, climate protection, and women’s economic empowerment, among other topics.

“We welcome the G-7’s decision to continue its focus on food security by committing to lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030,” said Asma Lateef, director of the Bread for the World Institute. “It builds on previous G-7 commitments on hunger and nutrition, specifically the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, and ensures these actions continue to empower women, smallholder and family farmers.”

The G-7 is composed of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In advance of the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on all G-7 countries to end hunger and absolute poverty by 2030.

As a result of the G-7’s decision, Bread for the World is urging Congress to demonstrate the United States’ pledge to this goal by passing the Global Food Security Act. The bill would make permanent Feed the Future, which has helped more than 7 million small-scale farmers increase crop production and has provided nutritious food to more than 12.5 million children in 2013 alone.

Feed the Future works hand-in-hand with partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors and break the cycles of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.

“The United States’ leadership has been important in focusing global attention on hunger and malnutrition. Congress should demonstrate similar leadership by passing the Global Food Security Act,” said Eric Mitchell, director of government relations at Bread for the World. “This legislation has strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, and we urge congressional leaders to move this legislation forward and support its passage.”

Last month, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization announced that world hunger had dropped by 167 million in the previous decade, to 795 million. This was due in part to programs like Feed the Future, which are investing in small farmers in developing countries, increasing their productivity and their incomes.

Feed the Future can save lives. But it's important to act right now to ensure it continues. Call or email your members of Congress today. Urge your U.S. representative and U.S. senators to co-sponsor The Global Food Security Act.

Take Part in Virtual Lobby Day Today

Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

By Bread Staff

Tomorrow, hundreds of Bread for the World members will be in Washington, D.C., advocating for legislation that would help end child hunger in the U.S. and around the world. Real change is possible — and we're on the precipice with three critical pieces of legislation moving in Congress right now:

  1. Child nutrition reauthorization
  2. The Global Food Security Act
  3. Budget bills that fund these programs

We realize that not everyone can make the journey to D.C., but can you take two minutes today to join us virtually ? A quick phone call (800/826-3688) or email from you will help amplify our message in a powerful way.

Please call (800/826-3688) or email Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Tell Congress to:

  1. Support legislation, like the Summer Meals Act of 2015 (H.R. 1728/S. 613), that closes the hunger gap and connects hungry children with the meals they need.
  2. Cosponsor and pass the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567/S. 1252), making permanent the U.S. food and nutrition security program, Feed the Future.
  3. Prevent cuts to programs that invest in children in the U.S. and around the world. Pass a budget deal that prevents sequestration cuts.

Want more information on these bills and talking points? Visit our virtual Lobby Day page at www.bread.org/lobbyday.

Your call or email to Congress today will make a huge impact in our work together to end hunger at home and abroad. I’m so inspired to see and hear so many people of faith, together amplifying calls to enact policies that will further that cause.

Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation


By Christine Melendez Ashley

Across the country, children are counting down the days until summer. Most children look forward to a summer filled with vacations and fun. Yet for some children, summer vacation means long months without nutritious school meals. 

Call or email your U.S. representative today. Tell your U.S. representative that child hunger doesn't take a vacation. Urge your U.S. representative to support legislation that gives hungry children access to meals during the summer months, like the Summer Meals Act (H.R. 1728).

Here in Washington, D.C., Congress is busy examining and considering child nutrition programs. This week, the House committee responsible for writing a new child nutrition bill will meet. Its hearing is blatantly titled "Addressing Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Federal Child Nutrition Programs." In other words, they will consider ways to cut and gut these programs at a time when our children need these services most. Do they care more about waste, fraud, and abuse or getting children the meals they need?

Your representative needs to hear from you. Children are more likely to be at risk of hunger during the summer months. Six out of every 7 low-income children lack access to regular, nutritious meals during the summer. We can't allow Congress to take even more away from children who already lack so much.

Call your U.S. representative today. Urge your U.S. representative to support legislation that will feed our children — in the upcoming summer months and all year long. 

Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day is June 9. Join us to make some real changes in Washington, D.C., when it comes to feeding our children. You don’t need to be a policy expert to participate. You just need to care. 

Registration is free but space is limited. Register today to reserve your spot!

Christine Melendez Ashley is a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World.

Lobby Day: A Bread Staffer Makes Her Voice Heard

Kierra Jackson (left), a Bread for the World staffer, talks with activists while staffing a Bread literature table during Bread's Lobby Day. Rick Reinhard for Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: Bread for the World’s Lobby Day is on June 9. Ahead of Lobby Day, Bread Blog chats with Kierra Jackson, a major gifts coordinator/development officer at Bread, about her experience attending Lobby Day.

Q. Why have you attended Lobby Day in the past?

A.  I’ve always been nervous about lobbying – afraid that I didn’t know enough and that what I could contribute to a conversation around food justice wasn’t significant enough. But then I met with Bread organizers who equipped us about the issues, provided us with the facts, and encouraged us to share our stories about how hunger had touched our lives, our families, our communities. I felt a sense of strength, purpose, and a feeling that I belonged in those Hill offices when I came equipped with anecdotes about those affected by hunger.

I’ve continued to attend Lobby Day because I want to debunk the myth that the men and women in Congress are inaccessible and that our voices don’t matter. They do. I also lobby each year to be reminded that those in office are public servants. They are in office to serve the wills and the needs of the people they represent.

I want to debunk the myth that the men and women in Congress are inaccessible and that our voices don’t matter. They do.

Q. What has your previous lobby day experience been like?

A.  Last year, I lobbied with a small group of folks from Washington, D.C. We met with staffers with the office of Eleanor Holmes Norton, a congressional delegate from the District of Columbia. Many people think that, because D.C. doesn’t have a vote, visiting with Holmes Norton doesn’t matter. But it does. She is currently in her 13th term and has professional relationships and friendships with those who do have a vote. She also has access to the president. So, her buy-in—when it comes to the issues Bread cares about—really matters because she has great influence.

Q. What do you like most about participating in Lobby Day?

A. My favorite part is the reception at the end. Bread provides time and space to present awards to members of Congress who have been champions for hungry people.  I also am grateful for time when we’re encouraged to share from our experiences. There’s always a lot of positive energy at that final debrief. I leave feeling so proud to be a Bread staff member, supporter, and a lobbyist on behalf of those who experience hunger.

Q. This year’s Lobby Day is focused on ensuring Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill. Why is lobbying on this issue important to you?

A. I’m an aunt, a child-birth doula, and a neighbor to many children on my block. When it comes to children, you can’t use the excuse that poverty is their fault. Adults are responsible for the well-being of children. Hunger causes physical and emotional stress. I believe that it’s my personal responsibility to help those around me – especially the most innocent and vulnerable – to grow, develop, and become their best. Supporting the child nutrition bill promises positive outcomes for so many children in this country. It’s advantageous to see successive generations thrive. I feel a personal responsibility to that end.

Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day is June 9. Join us to make some real changes in Washington, D.C., when it comes to feeding our children. You don’t need to be a policy expert to participate. You just need to care. 

Registration is free ,but space is limited. Register today to reserve your spot!

This blog post interview was conducted, edited, and condensed by Jennifer Gonzalez, associate online editor at Bread for the World.




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