Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

143 posts categorized "Organizing"

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


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


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


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

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.

Strength and Precision Lead to Strong Week of Advocacy in the Show-Me State

'Telephone' photo (c) 2010, Sh4rp_i - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

By Zach Schmidt

Last week was a successful one for Bread for the World’s advocacy in Missouri, as a blitz of phone calls at the beginning of the week paved the way for one crucial, targeted phone call at the end of the week. Here’s how it happened:

On Monday, March 18, Missourians delivered a record 145 phone calls to the offices of Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)! With support from pastors, directors, and lay leaders across the state, advocates called on their elected officials to replace the sequester with a balanced plan of smart spending cuts combined with additional revenuea plan that, most importantly, protects hungry and poor people. Thanks to all who made phone calls and especially to those who encouraged others to call as well. Well done!

Four days later, on Friday, March 22, the Senate debated the budget resolution and considered various amendments, some of which caused Bread for the World concern. Sen. McCaskill was again a priority for advocacy, especially on an amendment to cut categorical eligibility for SNAP, which would result in 1 million program participants losing access to benefits. Bread for the World wanted to make sure Sen. McCaskill voted “no” if that amendment came up for a vote. Given the need to deliver a rapid, precise message to the senator’s staff in Washington, Bread’s regional organizer for Missouri called on a respected and informed state leader, Jeanette Mott Oxford.

Bread provided analysis of how this amendment would impact SNAP at both the national and state level. Jeanette shared the information with key staff members in Sen. McCaskill’s office and promptly heard back from Gary Gorski, the senator’s legislative assistant for agricultural policy, who asked for more information on how Missourians would be affected. Thanks to a team effort between Jeanette and Bread’s organizing and government relations staff, the information was delivered, leaving no doubt that this amendment would be disastrous for Missouri.

Thankfully, the harmful amendment ended up being withdrawn, and an important dialogue has now been initiated with Sen. McCaskill’s office—a dialogue that can be built upon during the upcoming farm bill negotiations.

Zach Schmidt is a Bread for the World regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

Record Day of Advocacy in Kansas and Nebraska


By Zach Schmidt

Last Wednesday, March 13, was a big day for hunger advocates in the Great Plains states. On that “game day” leaders across Kansas and Nebraska scored an impressive, triple-digit number of phone calls to the offices of Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). More than 200 phone calls were logged between the states—an all-time high! And many callers reported having substantive conversations with the senators’ staffers.

The calls targeted a bill recently introduced by Sen. Roberts and cosponsored by Sen. Johanns, the Improve Nutrition Program Integrity and Deficit Reduction Act (S.458), which would cut $36 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and result in nearly 1 million recipients losing benefits. Hunger advocates, joined by faith leaders in both states, find this unacceptable, and they let their elected officials know that now is not the time to cut nutrition assistance.

The strong showing on March 13 was a result of leadership and teamwork. A dozen key players, including bishops, pastors, directors and lay leaders, encouraged their contacts and connections to make phone calls. Communication was key: leaders shared updates on whom they had asked to make calls, who had committed to call, and what the callers heard back from the offices of the senators. Each of the leaders got behind this, and they delivered the bulk of the calls. Congratulations and thanks to everyone who made a call and especially to those who led others to call! This was one for the books.

Less than a week later, hunger advocates in Kansas and Nebraska enjoyed another big day. On Monday, March 18, two separate opinion pieces from respected local leaders were posted in the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal-Star, Nebraska’s two largest newspapers. In their own unique way, these leaders voiced their support for SNAP, pointed out the damaging impact of S.458, and urged Sen. Johanns to reject the bill. There hasn’t been enough said about hungry and poor people during these budget debates—not from the mainstream media and not from members of Congress on either side of the aisle. These op-eds—and others like them—help to break this silence.

With these big days of phone calls and op-eds, hunger advocates in Nebraska and Kansas are standing with people in their communities, in their states, and in our nation who stand to lose the most in the budget debates. It is a privilege to work in partnership with them.

Zach Schmidt is a Bread for the World regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

Anti-Hunger Advocates: Get Ready for a Busy Year

Johanns photo

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) listens as Bread for the World activist Jana Prescott speaks during Bread for the World Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson

While the 113th Congress is new, many of the issues it will tackle are not. Funding for both domestic nutrition programs and refundable tax credits is still in jeopardy. Poverty-focused  development assistance is also in danger, and any cuts made to PFDA would result in lives lost and an increase in hunger and poverty around the world.

Given the urgency surrounding congressional budget negotiations and the fact that the fate of programs that benefit hungry and poor people is uncertain, anti-hunger advocates need to be ready for a busy year. Here are three questions you should ask yourself in preparation for your 2013 advocacy efforts. 

Do you have a new representative or senator in your region?  

If so, introduce yourself to staff in the new member's local office, and also use the opportunity to introduce them to the issues in the 2013 Offering of Letters.

Relationships are key to successful advocacy and making contact with local staffers is important.  They can help you connect with the D.C. legislative staff, and since they live in the member's district and work directly to address the concerns of constituents, they often have an understanding of how poverty and hunger are affecting a community. Local meetings also give our experts on Bread’s staff the opportunity to follow up with the legislator’s D.C. staff.  Check out the Congressional Management Foundation list "Five Key Ways to Engage Freshman Legislators," and if you are able to set up a local office meeting, be sure to contact your regional organizer. Bread's organizers can provide you with talking points and handouts that you can use during your visit. 

Check out this example, from the New Mexico Bread team, on finding your members in district.

Is your member on a relevant committee?

At Bread, when critical decisions are being made we target those senators and/or representatives whose voices and votes in committee can impact what will eventually reach the floor for a vote.  We may encourage more in-depth advocacy on a single issue in that member’s region. For a list of relevant committees, see this blog post.

Are you planning a hunger summit or site visit that your member of Congress could possibly attend? 

Members of Congress typically spend three days a week in Washington, D.C., and travel home on the weekends.  Members also have longer periods of time spent in their home states or districts (called recess), which are dictated by each chamber’s calendar.  Recess is a great time to connect with your member of Congress, but it's important to plan ahead. If you want to request a meeting with your member, find out scheduled town hall dates, or invite your member to an event during one of those periods, do it well in advance. 

As part of a local faith roundtable, our Oregon Bread team often partners on events that educate our community.  Last year, the newly elected Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore., District 1) dropped by the annual Oregon Faith Roundtable Against Hunger breakfast in Portland and then wrote about it in a Facebook status update!

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

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