Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

136 posts categorized "Organizing"

You Did It: More Food, Less Shipping

14731995009_ec22ec26b9_kBy Robin Stephenson

This week, faithful advocacy won out over special interests in a modern-day David and Goliath story. Using messages of faith as virtual slingshots aimed at Congress, Bread members across the country told lawmakers to prioritize food for hungry people over profit for shipping conglomerates - and they listened.

This week, in the final days of the 113th Congress, lawmakers passed a bill funding the Coast Guard for 2015 that rolled back proposals to increase subsidies to the world’s largest shipping companies to ship U.S. food aid.

Last spring, a provision was quietly slipped into a Coast Guard bill that the House passed, which called for an increase in the amount of food aid required to be shipped on U.S. vessels.

Bread advocates with the help of Bread organizers responded quickly by targeting key members on the Senate Commerce Committee, the committee that considered the legislation next.

Jon Gromek, a Bread regional organizer whose territory includes West Virginia, supported advocates as they engaged with Sen. Jay Rockefeller. He chairs the Senate Commerce Committee. Committee chairs are important advocacy targets because they are also the gatekeepers that can either allow or prevent bills from moving forward. West Virginia advocates made it clear to Sen. Rockefeller that feeding people was a moral issue.

“Nuns called Senator Rockefeller, echoing the call of faith leaders across the state who wrote to him on food aid reform,” Gromek said.

In Indiana, another member of the Commerce Committee heard from anti-hunger advocates. “Bread activists spent two hours on a Thursday morning before a critical committee vote to ensure Senator Dan Coats voted by proxy,” Gromek said. “His vote was a critical swing ‘yea’ to positively advance food-aid reform.”

Advocates also spoke up on the other side of the country. David Gist, who organizes in California, said persistence and teamwork was key to their efforts.

“The Bay Area Bread team lobbied Sen. Barbara Boxer to the point that Senate staffers became as adept as Bread members at articulating our talking points,” Gist said. Sen. Boxer is also a member of the Commerce Committee.

“A number of churches, unable to confirm local lobby meetings, chose to hand deliver their Offerings of Letters and used these drop-by visits,” Gist added.  “In short, California advocates were relentless!”

From his base in Bread for the World’s Chicago office, organizer Zach Schmidt helped faith leaders in Illinois and Missouri get a message out. Schmidt organized sign-on letters that garnered hundreds of signatures by faith leaders.

In St. Louis, two more committee members were targeted through local media. “A diverse trio of leaders wrote an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in May, urging Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill to reject a provision that would have harmed hungry people,” Schmidt said.  

Meeting congressional staffers locally is another tactic Schmidt encouraged advocates to use.

“And most recently,” Schmidt said, “a group of leaders, led by Rev. Dr. Doyle Sager, met with staff from the senators’ offices to discuss this issue.” Sager is senior pastor at First Baptist Church, Jefferson, Mo.

All of this advocacy happened as part of Bread’s 2014 Offering of Letters: Reforming U.S. Food Aid. Next year’s Offering of Letters will focus on a different topic.

Bread will continue to work on food-aid reform and urge Congress to pass the Food for Peace Reform Act next year. For now, as this campaign and year draw to a close, let’s take a moment and celebrate the power of the faithful voice and the victories advocacy has won for people who are hungry.

“This is the fruit of faithful, persistent advocacy,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in a statement to the press yesterday.

Learn more: U.S. Food Aid Reform

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

Photo: (Bread for the World)

What are the hottest issues in Congress this summer?

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By LaVida Davis

With a few common sense policy reforms, we can take two bites out of hunger this summer. It is possible to pass international food aid and immigration reform in 2014.

During the May grassroots webinar and conference call, our experts will tell you where legislation stands in Congress and how your voice can make a difference. Register for the Tuesday, May 20 webinar: Double Your Impact on Hunger: Food Aid and Immigration Reform in 2014. This month we will talk about:

  • A summer of immigration reform — why June and July are critical and who can move legislation forward in the House.
  • The outrageous possibility of Congress taking U.S. food aid from 2 million hungry people to benefit just a few shipping companies. A bill being considered in the Senate would do just that if we don’t stop it in the next couple of months.

Also, Bread for the World's biggest day of the year is less than 3 weeks away, and we want you to be a part of it! Each year at our National Gathering, participants spend an afternoon taking the faithful call to end hunger to lawmakers in Washington, D.C. But you don’t need to come to D.C. to join us. Register for the webinar and get a sneak peak at June's virtual lobby day.

This summer we must send shock waves across Capitol Hill that demand action. Reforms that can help millions escape hunger both here and abroad are within reach. With so much possible, are you ready to build the political will that will push us over the edge of history?

Register today for the May webinar. Submit your questions ahead of time to organizing coordinator Marion Jasin at mjasin@bread.org. And if you are new to Bread's webinars, check out our comprehensive how-to guide.

LaVida Davis is Bread for the World's director of organizing and grassroots capacity building.

Immigration Reform: "Government Can Solve This"

Marvin Garcia Salas and his son, Jesus-500px
Marvin Garcia Salas eats breakfast with his son Jesus, 4, in Chiapas, Mexico. Marvin was once an undocumented immigrant in the United States, where he had moved without his family to better support them. Hunger, and a lack of economic opportunity are at the root of much of the undocumented immigration from Mexico. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

"Twelve million people living and working in our country… and there’s no sane path toward citizenship for these 12 million undocumented workers… It’s impossible to deport 12 million people. No one wants to rip families apart, and that’s what would happen with a massive deportation…
 
I have determined, adding more compassion isn’t going to solve it, doing more justice [in the sense of hiring attorneys] isn’t going to solve it, only the government can solve this at this point. So for the first time in my ministry, I’ve been writing op-ed pieces in major newspapers, I’ve gone to Washington to visit the offices of Republicans and Democrats. I’ve stood on the Capitol lawn with dozens of others leaders, doing press conferences, asking for our elected officials to come up with Comprehensive Immigration Reform—because it’s their job, it’s why we elected them, it’s their problem to resolve..."
 
—Willow Creek Community Church Senior Pastor Bill Hybels, in a Celebration of Hope message on Sunday, April 13, 2014
 
In Matthew 25, Jesus says, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me ... ." Immigration is an issue related to hunger and is part of the biblical call. As Bill Hybels notes, advocating for immigration reform is a way to answer that call today.
 
Join Bread for the World tomorrow, Tuesday, April 15, for a special webinar/conference call: A Faithful Approach to Reforming a Broken System, Conversations on Immigration with Rev. Gabriel Salguero and Ivone Guillen.
 
Rev. Gabriel Salguero — president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and a former Bread board member — is a leading voice within the immigration reform movement. Ivone Guillen is the Immigration Associate at Sojourners and former immigration policy fellow at Bread for the World.
 
They will be discussing these questions: What are the prospects for immigration reform this year? How can you make a difference? Why are Bread members so critical in pushing immigration reform as a hunger issue?
 
They will also address the biblical support for immigration reform and discuss how you can pressure legislators to act. We will present new fact sheets that will help you in your advocacy efforts. Bread for the World firmly believes that immigration reform will reduce poverty and hunger.
 
Submit your questions ahead of time to organizing coordinator Marion Jasin at mjasin@bread.org. Check out our comprehensive how-to guide on the webinar conference call and register today.

Results Founder and Author Sam Daley-Harris on Creating Champions for a Cause

Final Front Cover PanelSam Daley-Harris knows quite a bit about using advocacy to effect social change. He is the founder of the anti-poverty nonprofit RESULTS, the organization's Microcredit Summit Campaign, and the Center for Citizen Empowerment and Transformation—as well as a longtime Bread for the World member. Daley-Harris is also the author of Reclaiming Our Democracy, in which he offers ordinary citizens strategies to become powerful advocates. He recently released the 20th-anniversary edition of his book, which issues a challenge to organizations to provide a deeper level of empowerment to their members.

"There needs to be an understanding on how to coach volunteers to go deeper with their advocacy," he says. "I spent the first 31 years of my life like most people — hopeless about solving big problems. I got involved in [California anti-hunger nonprofit] the Hunger Project in 1977 and met my member of Congress, the late Bill Lehman (D-Fla.) about a year later. He’s the one who told me about Bread and urged me to join."

Daley-Harris says he "cut his teeth" at Bread for the World, where he was introduced to advocacy work, then went on to found RESULTS in 1980, and wrote the first edition of Reclaiming Our Democracy in 1993, based on what he'd learned about grassroots activism. The updated version of the book still focuses on strengthening advocacy efforts but includes new information on using current technologies and social media in advocacy work. Daley-Harris says that although social media has expanded advocacy efforts in many ways, it's still important for nonprofits to offer their volunteers a way to engage that goes beyond a mouse click. Namely, organizations must offer their activists "a deep curriculum and rich support" — in other words, prepare advocates with useful information and offer them help in engaging with their elected officials.

He says the Bread model of not just asking advocates to sign an online petition or send a form email, but encouraging them to contact members of Congress through personal letters, phone calls, and in-person meetings — as well as writing letters to the editors of local papers — is key to "creating champions in Congress and in the media."

"If someone is in an organization that does significant online 'mouse-click advocacy,' I’m not saying to stop that," he says. "I'm just saying that if you have a million members, or half a million members, or 100,000 members, or 50,000 members, there's a small percentage of your members who want to go much deeper than that. And if you allow them to do that, major change is possible. [Those are the things] that get to the root of changing a member of Congress' position and really dealing with things like climate change and global poverty, which are systemic issues."

Letters to the editor, in particular, Daley-Harris says, are a tool that many organizations are no longer emphasizing, even though they are still incredibly effective. "Are newspapers struggling? Yes. Are they cutting back on the number of their editorial writers? Yes," he says. "But when I wake up in the morning, the first thing that I do, I wake up and I read my emails, I read Google news, and I read the New York Times online. I think we all still go to the newspaper — we just might not go to the front yard to pick it up." (See Bread's guide to writing a successful letter to the editor.)

Finally, Daley-Harris says, he learned from his time at RESULTS and his early work with Bread that advocates are capable of, and want to do, a tremendous amount of work for worthy causes. Too many organizations are afraid of giving their grassroots too much to do, but there will always be a core group who wants to do more, not less. "People really want to make a bigger difference," he says.

Recap: June Conference Call and Webinar

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By Robin Stephenson

Each month, Bread for the World’s organizing and government relations departments team up for a grassroots conference call and webinar to make sure our members have the most up-to-date information on polices moving through Congress that affect hungry and poor people. Yesterday, Bread’s director of government relations, Eric Mitchell, began the briefing by stating that there is a lot going on in Washington, D.C., right now—immigration, appropriations, sequestration, and voting the House farm bill, which includes devastating cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) and international food aid.

In the Senate, members continue to debate immigration reform and are expected to vote before the July 4 break. Hunger and immigration are connected and Bread will continue to monitor progress and take targeted action. 

Both the House and Senate are grappling with appropriation bills, and the size of each pie is currently very different, reported policy analyst Amelia Kegan. The appropriations committees differ on several points, including sequestration, in their calculations, and if there is no agreement by Sept. 30 when the government’s fiscal year ends, the vast distance between drafts will likely result in a continuing resolution. Sequestration, which harms both long and short term responses to hunger, could be averted through debt ceiling negotiations, but that depends on voters. Kegan said that during her meetings with congressional offices on the Hill, she is often asked to tell Bread members to speak up by making calls to Congress. “Just because it's not in the news, doesn't mean it doesn't matter,” she said.

But the main issue of the day, on which the current call to action is focused, is the House farm bill which, in its current form, includes $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP and $2.5 billion in cuts to food aid. As of last night, Mitchell reported that the House Rules Committee had received 225 amendments—including 75 that impact nutrition and two on food aid—some that threaten to increase hunger. We will monitor those amendments and, if they reach the floor, provide updates here on the Bread Blog. Not all of the amendments are harmful, though—Bread for the World is actively asking for support of the McGovern amendment, which would restore SNAP funding. An amendment on food aid by Reps. Royce and Engle would also decrease hunger by increasing the flexibility and efficiency of food aid programs. Ultimately, a final bill that includes any cuts to programs that help hungry and poor people, either at home or abroad, must be met with a resounding “no.” But that will only happen if  you make calls and get your networks to speak up.

Stating the sad reality that has remained true with each cost-cutting proposal since the budget negotiations began, LaVida Davis, Bread's director of organizing, said that “the people that are the most vulnerable get thrown under the bus first, so we have to be vigilant.” The sounds of ringing phones should be echoing throughout the halls of Congress today and continue until a final vote has been taken. Let them know you are listening.

We will continue to follow and report on any new developments around immigration, sequestration, the budget, and the farm bill. The next conference call and webinar will be July 16.  Below is the slide show from last night’s webinar portion.

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

Mobilizing for Justice: Future Pastors Respond to Poverty

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Photo: John, a former banker who is one of the subjects of The Line, shops for himself and his three children at a food pantry. (Film still from The Line, courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

By Alicia Vela

Recently, I worked with Bread for the World regional organizer Zach Schmidt and a few of my seminary classmates to organize a viewing of The Line--a documentary that takes a look at poverty in America. The event was part of a class called “Mobilizing for Justice,” taught by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, professor at North Park Theological Seminary, and Dr. Dennis Edwards, senior pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis.

After watching the documentary, which follows four highly-relatable stories of Americans living in poverty, we participated in an exercise that shows how poverty cuts across all demographics. We then entered a period of small- and large-group discussion, reflecting on issues surrounding poverty in America and the ways in which the church can and should respond. The night ended with a plea for those present, as future pastors and leaders, to use our power—our pulpit, our congregation members, and our voices—to impact the issue of poverty in our communities and across the country.

During the event, we discussed different ways of responding to poverty, from helping local food pantries and soup kitchens to advocating for policy changes. We had an opportunity to sign Bread’s petition to President Obama, urging him to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger. The conversation was productive in raising awareness as well allowing us to brainstorm more ways to be involved in addressing poverty. We also collected canned food for the North Park Friendship Center, an organization fighting hunger on Chicago’s North Side.

There are several pieces that I personally took away from my experience with Bread for the World, but the idea of using my voice for advocacy really stood out. I had always thought that as a pastor, I shouldn’t get involved in politics. Being an advocate seemed too divisive in my mind. I have always hidden my political affiliation while working in the church because I thought people would try to argue with me if they had different views. Then I realized that fighting for the hungry is not a political opinion or side, but rather a biblical mandate.

If we take seriously Jesus’s call to love the orphan, fight on behalf the defenseless and care for the weak, we begin to see advocacy as an essential response. As Christians we cannot stand alongside and watch those around us hurt because of the broken systems we have created. We are called to fight for them, to call or write our government leaders and ask for better laws and more care for those who are most vulnerable.

Alicia Vela earned her B.A. in psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder and recently completed her Master of Divinity coursework at North Park Theological Seminary. A Colorado native, she is currently interning at Deer Grove Covenant Church in Palatine, Ill.

Bread for the World Triad of North Carolina Holds Successful Conference

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Rev. James Forbes, shown in 2006, was the keynote speaker at a North Carolina Bread for the World conference last month. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Scott Griessel, flickr user creatista.

By Paula Well and Rev. Bob Herron

On Saturday, April 13, a dream became a reality—a North Carolina Bread for the World Conference took place at the Christ United Methodist Church in Greensboro, N.C.  Thanks to the  efforts of the local Bread Leadership Team of the Triad we held a successful conference that brought attention to issues of hunger in our state, our county, and around the world. 

The keynote of the day was given by Dr. James Forbes, pastor emeritus of Riverside Church, in New York City. His words inspired and challenged the more than 100 attendees. During the conference, Dr. Forbes also offered a “homiletics teaching,” a workshop for pastors on methods of preaching justice.  LaMarco Cable, deputy director of organizing for Bread’s southern hub, gave a presentation on this year’s Offering of Letters and presidential petition.

During lunch, participants wrote letters to Congress and signed the presidential petition while listening to music from hunger advocate and musician Bryan McFarland.  The rest of the time was spent networking with people from various parts of the state and sharing ideas about strengthening our advocacy.  We were also very blessed to have a local cinema showing the brilliant documentary A Place at the Table the same time that the conference was taking place.  We cannot recommend it highly enough.

We hope that other Bread Leadership Teams will  be inspired by hearing about our North Carolina event. We pray that the brilliant preaching of Rev. Forbes and the leadership of LaMarco Cable will take us to new heights. We also pray that the exhilaration of learning how our small voices can be used to amplify important issues will not fade.

Recently, our team reconvened to discuss how we could capitalize on the energy of that day, and we became reinvigorated and ready to plan for our next conference. We feel the ways in which the Holy Spirit emboldens us to dream֫—to dream of a day when, instead of one in six Americans going to bed hungry at night, no one is hungry. We dream of a day when Bread for the World won’t be necessary any longer because the problem of hunger has been solved.

Until that dream is realized, we will continue our work.

Paula Well and Rev. Bob Herron are team members of the Bread for the World Triad of N.C.

Nebraska Bread and Community Leaders Meet with Sen. Johanns as Farm Bill Heats Up

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A group of advocates that included (l to r) John Levy of Heart Ministry Center, Beatty Brasch, of the Center for People in Need, Scott Young of the Food Bank of Lincoln, and Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader Kaela Volkmer, visited the office of Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), and encouraged him to protect and strengthen SNAP.

By Kristin Ostrom and Kaela Volkmer

Just one week before the scheduled congressional debate on the farm bill and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), a diverse team of leaders met with Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) in Omaha to talk about SNAP. Sen. Johanns is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and former Secretary of Agriculture under President George W. Bush. Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader Kaela Volkmer organized and facilitated the April 30 meeting with the senator, who was joined by his state director Nancy Johner and agriculture policy assistant Ben Connor. We are grateful for the senator’s time and attention and for Nancy Johner’s assistance in scheduling the meeting.

The team urged Sen. Johanns to protect and strengthen SNAP in the upcoming farm bill debates and to reject amendments that could reduce SNAP's ability to meet the needs of hungry people. Kaela also referred the senator to a letter she delivered several months earlier. The letter, which was signed by more than fifty faith and community leaders in Nebraska, lifted up SNAP as an efficient and effective investment in helping to meet the most basic need for food during difficult times.

The meeting was positive and cordial, and the team felt Sen. Johanns was receptive to their points. They came well-prepared with stories and stats to bolster their ask that Sen. Johanns protect and strengthen SNAP and reject farm bill amendments that would cut SNAP. Johanns confirmed the team was meeting with him at the exact right time for this issue!

Continue reading "Nebraska Bread and Community Leaders Meet with Sen. Johanns as Farm Bill Heats Up" »

Educate and Advocate: Portland’s CROP Walk

CWS CROP walk participant signs a Bread for the World petition to President Obama asking him to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad. (Robin Stephenson).

By Robin Stephenson 

Ending hunger takes a village. Churches, non-profits, and faithful individuals respond to hunger in different ways. Holistic approaches to fighting hunger acknowledge immediate need while also advocating for changes to policies that address the root causes of hunger and poverty.

CROP Hunger Walks, community-wide events sponsored by CWS and organized by local volunteers as a way to raise funds to end hunger, illustrate that action and advocacy can join forces in one event.

Last Sunday, Church World Service, Bread for the World, and the Portland, Ore., community came together around the issue of hunger. Nearly 100 participants, old and young—some participating as congregational teams—walked through sunny downtown Portland on a spring day. The walkers, who carried banners and hand-made signs, raised awareness of hunger and drew questions from others enjoying the warm afternoon.

Volunteer Lisa Wenzlick coordinated the walkers, and Steven Anderson served as treasurer. First Christian Church provided hospitality as well as a starting and ending point. Participants raised funds which will be used support local efforts to address hunger as well as CWS’s global work.

The day was rounded out with an advocacy action on behalf of hungry and poor people as individuals signed Bread for the World’s petition asking the  president to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad.

Bread for the World has long had a close relationship with CWS and many CROP Walks nationwide are a reflection of this partnership.

If you would like to get involved, find out if there is a CROP Walk near you or learn how you can organize one in your community.

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

 

Immigration is a Hunger Issue

Marvin Garcia Salas and his son, Jesus-500px

Marvin Garcia Salas eats breakfast with his son Jesus, 4, in Chiapas, Mexico. Marvin was once an undocumented immigrant in the United States, where he had moved without his family to better support them. Hunger, and a lack of economic opportunity are at the root of much of the undocumented immigration from Mexico. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World


“Immigration is a hunger issue,” emphasized organizer David Gist during Bread’s monthly grassroots webinar and conference call yesterday. Mixing personal narratives with biblical principles and policy, the call focused on today’s release of a bipartisan Senate bill on immigration reform.

Since 2010, Bread for the World Institute has researched immigration’s connections to hunger and poverty. Moving forward, Bread for the World will act as an ally on immigration reform, mobilizing people of faith and aligning with partners who seek reform that respects the dignity of immigrants in the United States while addressing poverty and hunger overseas. We recognize that poor conditions in home countries is a major cause of unauthorized immigration to the United States, and we have identified five principles (PDF) that are crucial to craft policy that addresses hunger as a root cause of immigration.

Illustrating the often stark choices that drive migration to the United States, organizer Tamela Wallhof told the callers about Antonio, a man with whom she worked in Hilipo, Nicaragua. A subsistence farmer, Antonio was driven from his land by a combination of Nicaraguan and international policies that encourage large cash-crop farming in place of family-farming for local consumption. If Antonio had stayed in Nicaragua, his only option would have been to work for one of the large coffee plantations for less than a dollar a day, a sum that would not feed his extended family. Facing that future, Antonio was willing to risk entering the United States without authorization. 

Later in the call, Ana, a woman in her 20s,  spoke about her parents who left Peru nearly 15 years ago amid threats of kidnapping. Her parents left because of their concern for the wellbeing of their children. Ana escaped danger in Peru, but now lives in the United States without authorization. As her tale unfolded, Ana expressed raw fear about the fact that she could be deported from the only home she has ever known. She lives with that reality every day.

These stories show the human faces behind immigration and speak to our hearts. Bread for the World is driven by a biblical call to love our neighbor. And the Bible is full of immigration stories.

“We are called to ground our treatment of the stranger in scripture,” said Rev. Walter Contreras during the call. The Bible instructs us on how we should treat strangers. The model is hospitality, from the stories of God’s people as immigrants in Genesis to Jesus's teachings in Mathew 25—in which he tells us that what we do for the stranger we do for the savior.

As a faith-based organization dedicated to ending hunger, immigration reform falls squarely in Bread’s mission. Situations that push families like Antonio's and Ana’s to migrate are far too common and illustrate poverty beyond our borders.

But as David Gist points out, “it’s also a hunger issue here in the U.S. Thirty-four percent of U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrant adults lives in poverty—34 percent! That’s almost double the rate for children of U.S.-born adults.”

There is a lot of work to be done and the introduction of a Senate bill is just the first step. The House of Representatives will go through an independent process, but it is important people of faith to talk to Congress:  reformed policies must respect human dignity and alleviate hunger and poverty both here and abroad.

“The opportunity for immigration reform process to move forward is now,” says government relations director, Eric Mitchell.

Today offers such an opportunity as religious leaders visit Capitol Hill for a day of prayer and action and you can join them. Learn more here.

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