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131 posts categorized "Organizing"
From the soundproof room in our D.C. office, Bread experts update grassroots activists and answer questions. Pictured (l to r): LaVida Davis, director of organizing; Marion Jasin, organizing assistant; Eric Mitchell, director of government relations; Christine Melendez-Ashley, policy analyst. (Robin Stephenson)
By Robin Stephenson
"The fight is not over," said director of organizing LaVida Davis during the most recent Bread for the World national grassroots webinar and conference call. "The fiscal cliff is part of a longer conversation. [Members of Congress] still really need to hear from us.”
On the third Tuesday of each month, Davis and Bread's director of government relations, Eric Mitchell, along with other expert staff, gather around a phone to give you the most up-to-date information about our work and answer any questions you may have. The conference calls, which also have a webinar component, give our members direct access to our government relations staff. These are the members of Bread's staff who spend many of their afternoons in the offices of your members of Congress and know the ins and outs of the policy behind each of our campaign priorities.
At Bread, we know that every advocate accesses information differently, so we offer a variety of ways in which our grassroots can stay informed. When Congress is in session, we publish written legislative updates on this blog, we send out monthly newsletters, and, of course, our regional organizers are always available to help you plan local actions and answer your questions. The conference calls are yet another tool the you, as an advocate, can use to prepare for action.
During the most recent call, held on Tuesday, Jan. 15, one caller who identified herself as Joanne wanted to know how school lunches fared in the recent “fiscal cliff” bill passed by Congress on Jan. 1. Ready to answer her question on the other side of the phone was Bread’s domestic nutrition policy expert, Christine Melendez-Ashley. She told Joanne that the school lunch program was not affected and that the sequester (or automatic cuts) scheduled for March 1 would not impact the nutrition program either, because it is one of the programs exempt from these across the board cuts.
Melendez-Ashley said that if the sequester is not averted it will affect discretionary programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA). Both of those programs are part of our 2012 Offering of Letters Campaign and are critically important to hungry and poor people.
She emphasized during the call that funding for WIC and PFDA is especially vulnerable because they are categorized as discretionary, meaning Congress must appropriate funds to pay for the program each year. Mandatory programs are not subject to across the board cuts—the spending levels for these programs are determined each year by the number of eligible participants.
The August 2011 Budget Control Act put spending caps on discretionary programs over 10 years and Congress must decide which programs will see decreased funding as they work through the appropriations process each year. The fiscal cliff bill further lowered those spending caps for the next two years as a way to delay the sequester. Sending Congress a message that these programs need a circle of protection is as critical now as it ever was.
Eric Mitchell cautioned that another perfect storm is brewing, and referred to the events coming down the pike as "March Madness." Between the debt ceiling (scheduled to hit between mid-February and March), the scheduled sequester (March 1), and the expiration of the 2013 continuing resolution (March 27), members of Congress have a lot of decisions to make in less than 60 days.
Mitchell said it is a good time to thank our members of Congress who voted for the fiscal cliff bill— if the bill had not been enacted, poor and hungry people would've suffered dire consequences. The bill extended refundable tax credits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, for five years. Although the credits were not made permanent, this is a huge victory.
“Now through March 1 is critical," said Mitchell. “We urge you to also ask [members of Congress] not to politicize the debt ceiling debate. We want them to take a thoughtful, balanced approach that protects poor and hungry people.”To find out the next chapter of budget negotiations, ask tough questions of the experts, and hear how you can influence your policy makers to protect vital programs, call in to our next grassroots webinar and conference call on Feb 19. We will be waiting for you on the other side of the phone.
National grassroots conference calls and webinars are held on the third Tuesday of every month. These calls will take place at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. EST (Please adjust time zones accordingly). To register, visit www.bread.org/events.
Panelists speak about hunger at the Oregon Faith Roundtable Against Hunger "Hungry for Change" event. Panelists, from right to left: Robin Stephenson (standing), Bread for the World; Patty Whitney-Wise, Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon; Philip Kennedy-Wong, Oregon Food Bank; and Howard Kenyon, Northeast Emergency Food Program.
By Robin Stephenson
On a recent frosty, fog-filled day in Portland, some 65 Oregonians spent the morning learning about hunger in their state, with a focus on moving from awareness to action.
Through the local anti-hunger coalition Oregon Faith Roundtable Against Hunger (OFRAH), of which Bread for the World is a member, Bread staff and the regional Bread Team partnered with Catholic Charities and other Portland-area advocacy and service groups to put on the event "Hungry for Change." The OFRAH program examined the state of hunger in Oregon and highlighted legislative opportunities at both the state and federal level. Advocate voices are critically needed, especially in the coming year as fiscal belt-tightening will likely target programs for poor and hungry people.
In our work in the Portland area, we have benefited greatly by working in partnership. Although policy priorities of different organizations and groups may differ, the common thread of ending hunger creates fertile partnerships where coalitions can bring groups together to focus local energy and grow advocacy. Many of our Bread members are associated with multiple local anti-hunger groups and our working together, with a shared agenda, helps those members focus their advocacy. To our legislative delegations, partnered groups look big, and therefore may be perceived to have a stronger voice. And as each group has a special niche and particular talent, working together can often create a more complex and nuanced picture of hunger in a region.
One of the highlights of the day was a panel that painted a picture of hunger in Oregon that went beyond simple statistics, and showed how often the same issues require advocacy at both the state and federal level.
As a regional organizer for Bread for the World, I talked about critical federally-funded programs that keep people afloat as they struggle through tough economic times—programs that can be a crucial hand up for many escaping poverty. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has long been a priority for Bread for the World and is an example of policy that pulls people out of poverty, especially children. Although the EITC was recently extended as part of the “fiscal cliff” bill, it faces several obstacles in the coming year. Our goal is to make this refundable credit permanent.
Patti Whitney-Wise, executive director at Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon, talked about how Oregon’s working poor and near-poor families pay some of the nation’s highest state income taxes. Whitney-Wise explained that the state EITC helps families bridge the gap by supplementing very low wages and allowing them to afford life’s basic necessities, including food and housing.
Oregon Food Bank’s state policy expert, Phillip Kennedy-Wong, discussed the increasing need in the state and pointed out that state and regional food bank networks have distributed over 1 million emergency boxes in the past year. He also said that cuts to The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) have depleted some of their resources.
But the panelist that made the stark reality of hunger most real was Howard Kenyon, program manager of the Northeast Emergency Food Program. They have felt the pinch of the reduction in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) commodities, but Howard also sees the effect of hunger on the faces that utilize the pantry daily. He made sure that everyone understood that poor people were not lazy when they often had to wait several hours for a food box in their overcrowded facility. He told stories of people he knew who struggled to find work and make it from month to month with meager resources.
The day also included breakout sessions on advocacy, story-telling, and in-depth federal policy. Each session gave participants a variety of ways to get involved and act toward change.
There is strength in numbers, and when our politicians and media have been silent on the needs of low-income Americans, we must come together and be loud enough for them to hear us amid all the competing voices.
If you would like to organize an event like this or join a local coalition but don’t know where to start, contact your regional organizer for ideas.
[Read the Catholic Sentinel article on the "Hungry for Change" event here.]
Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national social media lead/senior regional organizer, western hub.
To see photo captions, please view slideshow in full-screen mode.
By Bread for the World's organizers
The New Year—for many it is a time to flip the page and start a new chapter, a time to begin anew. We resolve to lose weight, to exercise more and eat better, to be kinder. This year, add an advocacy resolution to your list—something that is outward focused and in tune with God’s vision of a world where everyone has enough. Make a resolution that makes a difference.
Here are a few ideas. Pick one (or more than one!) and if you have a suggestion for something not listed here, let us know in the comments.
Once you've picked out your advocacy resolution, print out this page, circle your resolution, and then put it on your fridge or bulletin board as a way to remind yourself of your commitment throughout the year.
For 2013, my advocacy resolution is to:
- Organize an Offering of Letters at my church.
- Call my members of Congress on each Bread action alert and encourage three more friends to join me.
- Organize a meeting with my member of Congress this year about an important issue that affects hungry people.
- Develop a relationship with the local and D.C.-based staff of my members of Congress.
- Organize a local Bread team.
- Attend a town hall (PDF) and ask a question about a program that helps hungry and poor people.
- Write an op-ed, letter-to-the-editor, or blog post that educates on hunger issues in my area or around the world or the biblical basis for advocacy. Encourage others to get involved.
- Create an educational event around hunger issues and invite my member of Congress.
- Join a local anti-hunger coalition and represent Bread for the World.
- Host a house meeting (PDF) on a pressing issue around hunger.
- Host a viewing of “The Line” in my church or community and have the evening end with an Offering of Letters.
- Invite three friends or family members, and two other churches, to join Bread to enhance our advocacy impact.
- Come to Bread’s National Gathering and Lobby Day June 8-11 in Washington, DC.
- Attend a viewing of a “Place at the Table” feature film in March and get involved in Bread’s 2013 Offering of Letters campaign.
- Use social media to spread the word about Bread’s issues.
And the great thing about Bread advocacy resolutions is they come with trainers! If you need help getting started or have questions, just give your regional organizer a call.
Get started today and Make it Happen!
[UPDATE, 11 p.m. The fiscal cliff bill has passed the House by a vote of 257 to 167 and is expected to be signed by the president soon. Thanks to all those who prayed and advocated for programs that help hungry people. While this is not a perfect deal, and does not fully address our long term fiscal outlook, it is an important first step. We believe that the revenues raised will help reduce the deficit and support initiatives that lift people out of poverty.]
By Eric MitchellYour calls over the past few weeks have been working. Senate leadership and the administration produced a deal that reduces the economic risk of the fiscal cliff and largely protects hungry and poor people.
The Senate overwhelmingly passed the deal 89-8, but its fate in the House is uncertain.
Specifically, the bill accomplishes the following:
- Extends the current Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit benefit levels for five years, including the 2009 improvements. This is something Bread for the World has been pushing for over the past three years and represents an enormous victory.
- Extends emergency unemployment benefits for one year, preventing 2 million people from losing unemployment benefits just one week after Christmas.
The deal postpones for two months the "sequester" (across-the-board cuts) that was mandated by the Budget Control Act last year. The sequester would cut some anti-poverty programs. Cuts to some international development programs would literally cost lives. But some of the biggest anti-poverty programs—including SNAP ( formerly food stamps), child nutrition programs, tax credits for poor working families, and Medicaid—are exempted from sequestration. Bread for the World will be working in the coming months on a more thoughtful approach to spending cuts and protecting poverty-focused international development assistance and WIC.
While this deal isn’t perfect, it will reduce the risk of recession and higher unemployment. It also includes important benefits to hungry and poor people.
Use our toll-free number (1-800-826-3688) to urge your members of Congress to pass the deal.
In these critical times, we also ask that you pray for the president and Congress. Pray that God will give them wisdom, a spirit of concord, and a shared sense of responsibility for hungry and poor people here and abroad.
Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.
[While all eyes are focused on the fiscal cliff, we are pleased to inform you that the House has passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012. This bill helps to ensure that our foreign assistance efforts are more efficient and more effective in reaching our brothers and sisters abroad. The Senate also seems likely to pass it this week. We have been pushing for foreign assistance reform legislation for the past three years.]
Click here for a larger version of the "Understanding Bread's Campaigns" graphic.
"Circle of Protection," "Make it Happen," "A Place at the Table" — all of these Bread for the World initiatives could confuse anyone, even those already deeply involved in the organization. To help our members and friends understand our advocacy work better, we've developed a chart that explains our various campaigns.
The first row illustrates Bread for the World’s 2012 Offering of Letters: “Expanding the Circle of Protection.” This campaign will continue through the lame duck session of the 112th Congress, likely concluding early in the 113th Congress. We anticipate that many of the legislative issues in the 2012 Offering of Letters, which focused on protecting vital programs, will be carried over to 2013.
The second row roughly indicates in the timeline for Congress as it moves through their lame duck session and reconvenes in the new year.
The third row shows recent and new initiatives, starting with releasing of videos this fall by both presidential candidates. "What About Hungry and Poor People: Barack Obama's and Mitt Romney's Views" focused on raising hunger and poverty as election issues during the campaign.
After the November election, we segued to "Make it Happen, President Obama." Through that campaign, we are encouraging prayers for the president, especially at his January 21 inauguration. At the same time, we are petitioning President Obama to set a goal and work with Congress to enact a plan to end hunger.
On March 1, we will launch Bread for the World’s 2013 Offering of Letters: "A Place at the Table," just as the feature length documentary A Place at the Table begins showing in theaters. We are working with the producer, Participant Media, to ensure that the social action campaign for the movie integrates seamlessly with our 2013 Offering of Letters.
While these campaigns may seem disparate activities, they work together as a cohesive whole.
All of the advocacy work of 2012 brings us to Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters: "A Place at the Table." Our current work with "Make it Happen" will be amplified in the first goal of our 2013 Offering of Letters—petitioning the president to set a goal and work with Congress to enact a plan to end hunger. We will be collecting signatures for an online and printed petitions to President Obama.
We have not achieved all that we advocated for in last year’s Offering of Letters, "Expanding the Circle of Protection." That is just the nature of law making. So our 2013 Offering of Letters will continue to focus on congressional action needed to ensure a place at the table for poor and hungry people. This part of the 2013 Offering of Letters will be similar to past campaigns, focusing on letters and personalized emails to members of Congress.
If you have any questions, contact your regional Bread for the World organizer.
Bread for the World organizer Larry Hollar answers questions as Bread advocates prepare to meet their members of Congress at the 2011 Bread for the World Lobby Day. Thousands of citizen advocates provide the support for Bread's campaign to end hunger. Photo by Jim Stipe
By Larry Hollar
Looking back at the past year and forward to the year ahead, I’m reminded that the prayers and spiritual support Bread for the World receives are vital to our perseverance and strength.
As a Bread organizer, I am privileged to work with churches, campuses, and allies of all types in the Northeast. My role is to offer tools, encouragement, and up-to-date information and advice so our grassroots activists feel prepared to invite others to advocate to our nation’s leader on hunger issues.
It’s joyous work—and exhausting. Weariness comes not just because I have a large territory to cover, but because the political process these days is challenging and the issues we work on are often complicated. Sometimes I need to hear good news again and find a spiritual center to sustain me, so I can keep serving our members and leaders well.
That’s why getting this heartening letter recently from one of our most active Bread churches in the Philadelphia area meant so much to me:
Greetings from the Wayne Presbyterian Church! Each week during our Sunday services we select particular mission partners and pray for you and the work you do. The persons who sign this letter want to offer a word of encouragement and thank you for your dedication to the cause of Jesus Christ and the work of God’s kingdom and to let you know that we are also praying for your health and safety.
Our love and prayers are with you in a special way this day. We also offer a word of blessing from the Book of Jude: "To those who have been called by God, who live in the love of God the Father and the protection of Jesus Christ; may mercy, peace, and love be yours in full measure."
The letter, dated Dec.16, 2012, was then personally signed by more than 100 parishioners at Wayne Presbyterian. It reminded me that I am not alone—that I’m buoyed in my work by those who write their letters to Congress, give generously to help Bread financially, and also take time to pray for all of us in the Bread movement, including staff members like me.
Thank you, brothers and sisters at Wayne, for lifting my spirits and giving me heart today.
- Action: As 2012 comes to a close, we value your prayers for the Bread for the World and your generous financial support to continue our efforts to end hunger. A generous donor has committed to matching any other donation that comes in before the end of the year. Your gift today will go that much farther.
Thank you for your spiritual and financial support.
Larry Hollar is a senior regional organizer for Bread, working from Dayton, Ohio, and serving Pennsylvania, Delaware, and parts of New Jersey and New York as well as assisting in New England.
By Dan Such
On Thursday, Dec. 6, members of the Peace and Justice Committee from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Oklahoma City met with Craig Smith, a field representative for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss federal programs that protect poor and hungry people. The discussion, which lasted an hour, was honest and direct and covered the many programs currently in place. Mr. Smith informed us that if no agreement is reached on the so-called fiscal cliff, the SNAP program will experience no cuts. Still, plenty of other important programs would be hit. "Going off" the cliff would result in significant cuts to a section of the budget called discretionary spending that houses programs such as WIC and poverty-focused development aid.
SNAP is an important program to Oklahomans, with 272,189 households receiving this benefit in the year 2011 alone. WIC is also vital, as a preliminary report from the USDA shows that 123,095 women and young children utilized this program in Oklahoma in 2012. If either of these programs experience cuts then the impact on poor and hungry people in Oklahoma would be significant. We must continue to urge our members of Congress to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff that includes a circle of protection around programs that protect poor and hungry people.
During the meeting, our committee told Mr. Smith that hunger and poverty should not be political issues. Our Peace and Justice Committee includes both Republicans and Democrats, and everyone realizes that any division on this subject will only prove to harm those in the most vulnerable positions. This is unacceptable, especially at a time of such great need.
We have seen need increasing in our own congregation. Father Tim Luschen, of St. Charles, brought to Mr. Smith’s attention that our church’s food bank has grown from 327 users to over 900 in just over two years. And the free clinic that St. Charles runs has doubled in usage during the same time frame.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Smith promised to keep in touch, via email, regarding pending legislation or proposed bills concerning these issues so important to all of us. We are grateful for his time and continue to urge Sen. Coburn to help establish a circle of protection around vital programs such as WIC and SNAP that serve hungry Oklahomans.
Dan Such is a member of Bread for the World and the Peace and Justice Committee at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Action: Call your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today. Use our toll-free number (1-800-826-3688) and tell them to pass a deal that includes a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.
For more information on how the various budget proposals to address the fiscal cliff would affect poor and hungry people, see Bread for the World's fiscal cliff fact sheet.
We are at a critical moment in the fiscal cliff negotiations. The decisions made now will determine our country’s ability—over the next decade and beyond—to fund programs that effectively address hunger and poverty.
We don't have much more time. It is imperative you call your members of Congress at 1-800-826-3688 today! Even if you've recently called your members of Congress, please call again. At this crucial moment, they cannot hear from you too often!
This fiscal cliff deal will have wide-reaching implications on so much of what we hold dear. The deal will determine our ability to provide assistance to babies here in the United States, such as eight-month-old Andre (pictured). It will also greatly impact our ability to provide assistance overseas. The future of these programs and the lives they touch are in jeopardy. If you don't raise them in the fiscal cliff discussions, who will?
This is more than a budget debate: it is a moral decision.
Call your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today. Use our toll-free number (1-800-826-3688) and tell them to pass a deal that includes a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.
Any deal must do the following:
- Explicitly protect low-income entitlement programs for hungry and poor people from harmful cuts and changes — programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit.
- Include sufficient new tax revenue by raising rates and eliminating unnecessary tax loopholes — so that our country can reduce its deficit.
- Prevent further cuts to discretionary programs, like poverty-focused development assistance and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
Congress must reach a deal, but it must also adhere to our values. An imbalanced package will severely undermine our ability to address hunger and poverty for years to come. Call Congress today. We cannot let up now. Time is running out, and Congress needs to keep hearing from us.
Photo: Alex "Alli" Morris, from Bend, Ore., depends on SNAP, WIC, and other safety net programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system. (Brad Horn)
Photo by Flickr user nicolasnova
Budget negotiations to avoid the "fiscal cliff" are now underway. The president and Congress are working intensely toward a deal — so pressure to cut federal spending, particularly to programs for hungry and poor people, has never been higher.
For the next six weeks, every Washington interest group will be pounding the halls of Congress to weigh in on a multi-trillion dollar deal that will affect every federal program and every person in this country for decades to come. Unfortunately, the media and politicians are not talking about the tremendous impact that the deal will have on hungry and poor people. If we don’t speak up, vulnerable people could easily be forgotten.
Congress needs to hear your voice! We need your help to remind Congress to take the deficit seriously without balancing the budget on the backs of hungry and poor people. Proverbs calls us to speak for those without a voice. We must remind Congress that their budget decisions are moral choices that could have devastating consequences.
Call your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today! Use our toll-free number (1-800-826-3688) and tell them to pass a budget deal that includes a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.
Explain that any deal must
- Explicitly protect low-income entitlement programs for hungry and poor people—like SNAP (formerly food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit—against cuts or harmful changes.
- Include additional tax revenue, balanced with responsible spending cuts, so that our country can reduce its deficits while continuing its commitment to reducing hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.
- Prevent further cuts to non-defense discretionary programs, including poverty-focused development assistance, international food aid, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
Congress must reach a deal, but it is critical that Congress get it right. An imbalanced package will severely hamper our ability to address hunger and poverty for years to come. Call Congress today. If we wait, it will be too late.
Grace and Peace,
Bread for the World
As the president and Congress continue to negotiate a deficit reduction plan, we must continue to ask that programs for poor and hungry people be prioritized. At a time when so many other issues are competing for center stage, your voice is especially crucial.
We are asking Bread members to use every tool at their disposal during this critical period—and that includes local media. Use the sample letter to the editor below as a template, and be sure to check out these helpful hints on how to get published in your local paper. Please let your regional organizer know if your submission is selected so that we can amplify it through our social media channels.
Sample Letter to the Editor
Thanksgiving has passed and budget negotiations to avoid the “fiscal cliff” are now underway. The president and Congress are working intensely towards a deal—so pressure to cut federal spending, particularly to programs for hungry and poor people, has never been higher.
For the next six weeks, every Washington interest group will be pounding the halls of Congress to weigh in on a multi-trillion dollar deal that will affect every federal program and every person in this country for decades to come. Unfortunately, the media and politicians are not talking about the tremendous impact that the deal will have on hungry and poor people. That’s why I am speaking out on their behalf.
As a member of Bread for the World and [Your church's name and location], I believe that the moral measure of our federal budget is how it treats those whom Jesus referred to as "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45). We must remind Congress that their budget decisions are moral choices that could have devastating consequences on hungry and poor people.
Reaching a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff will require bipartisan compromise. But we cannot allow a hastily crafted bill to sacrifice our country's commitment to feeding hungry people. The policies in any deal must explicitly protect programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps); the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); and the child tax credit. Any deal must also include additional tax revenue, balanced with responsible spending cuts, and it must prevent further cuts to the non-defense discretionary portion of the budget, which Congress has already cut by well over $1 trillion and funds programs like poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) and international food aid each year.
There are many working families in my state who rely on SNAP to keep food on the table and many others who are able to provide vital nutrition for their children through WIC. Poverty-focused development assistance programs help the poorest people in the poorest place lift themselves out of poverty and are important to our national security.
I know Congress and the President can reach a deal that reduces the deficit and maintains a circle of protection around programs that support hungry and poor people. An imbalanced package will severely hamper our ability to address hunger and poverty for years to come.
Photo: Arlene Barela, a mother of two in Orange County, Calif., writes letters to Congress at Templo Calvario (Assembly of God church) in Santa Ana, Calif., on Sunday, October 16, 2011. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)