Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

135 posts categorized "Organizing"

Oklahoma Bread Members to Congress: Protect Vital Programs

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Photo: A young girl enjoys breakfast. (Margie Nea)

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

Time Is Running Out: Congress Needs to Hear From You

Alli_and_andre_1We 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)

Call Congress Now! Fiscal Cliff Negotiations Threaten the Circle of Protection

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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

Write a Letter to the Editor and Help Safeguard the Circle of Protection

Woman_writing_letterLetters to the editor, op-ed pieces, and even personal blog posts are important ways in which we can influence public opinion and dialogue in our advocacy for poor and hungry people.

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. 

Sincerely,

[Your name]

City, State

*

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)

Persistence Pays Off in Advocating for Poor and Hungry People

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Bread members in Ohio are still working to set-up a formal meeting with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), but they snapped a picture with the senator (center) after a meeting with one of his staffers during Bread for the World's 2012 Lobby Day. (Photo courtesy of Jon Gromek)

By Jon Gromek

When I started my career as an organizer, one the first lessons I learned was in the value of persistence in building a good public relationship. I remember talking to a pastor with whom I had been working for many months, and introducing him to the ministry of the organization I was with at the time. He was generally supportive but reluctant—doubtful it would fit prominently into the already busy life of his church. It was an important church in the community so I persisted, talking with the pastor every couple of months, sending him articles related to our conversations that I thought he might find interesting, and inviting him and other members to meetings. 

Eventually, my work paid off—not only did the congregation become one of the strongest and most active churches involved, but the pastor even took on a leadership position within the organization. Much later I asked him what changed his mind and he admitted it was my persistence and the trust we built.  He knew that because I persisted that it must have been important and worth his time.

About a month ago, Bread for the World members and other circle of protection allies gathered in Cincinnati, Ohio, to meet with staffers of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) at Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church. There was an impressive showing of clergy and faith leaders from almost every major denomination (including Bread for the World president David Beckmann).  

The group shared some truly powerful stories of feeding programs and ministries at work in Ohio, and of members who struggled despite the best efforts of the church to provide support. The staff person was very gracious and listened intently. Then Rev. Beckmann politely interrupted and asked a pointed question: "If this is important to the senator, why is it that we’ve never been able to get a meeting with Senator Portman or his senior staff ?" Beckmann pointed out the strength and broad diversity of the group present, no doubt representing millions of Ohio Christians, all coming together for a single purpose. It wasn’t that the issue wasn’t important, the staffer said, but because so many important groups were jockeying for their time and attention, they just couldn’t meet every request.

We know in our work and ministry at Bread for the World that merit is not enough to win victory for poor and hungry people. Moving our elected officials to do the right thing takes persistent effort. It means following up with Senator Portman’s state director with a tour at the local St. Vincent De Paul Society, to give an in-person look at the reality of hunger and poverty.

And it means having dozens and dozens Ohioans call the office of Sen. Rob Portman on Monday Nov. 26 at 800-826-3688 to tell him that we want to see a bipartisan plan to address our deficits, one that explicitly forms a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people (including SNAP, WIC, the EITC, and poverty-focused development assistance).

It means being persistent and balancing the fierce urgency of the here and now with the long view that we are building the Kingdom of God.

Jon Gromek is a Bread for World regional organizer in the central hub, which includes Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan.

Action: Ohio Bread members, please be sure to call the office of Sen. Rob Portman this Monday, Nov. 26, and tell him that you want to see a bipartisan plan that addresses our deficits without balancing the federal budget on the backs of poor and hungry people. You can reach Sen. Portman's office at: 800-826-3688 


A Tireless Hunger Justice Leader in Nebraska

Kaela_v_HJLBy Zach Schmidt

For Bread for the World organizers, there is a difference between our work in “remote” states and our work in the states in which we live. Understandably, we are able to be more present, more of the time, in our home cities and states. Our grassroots leaders in our various districts and states are our most valuable asset, and we identify, build, strengthen, and depend on them—especially in places we are not able to visit often.

In states like Nebraska, local leaders do the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to building relationships, organizing teams, and engaging their senators and representatives. When our advocacy efforts succeed in a state like Nebraska, it is abundantly clear that much of the credit goes to these local leaders. One such local leader is Omaha resident Kaela Volkmer, a mother of three and one of this year’s Hunger Justice Leaders.

Kaela has taken a lead role in our work to build Bread’s presence in Omaha and to build our relationship with Nebraska’s congressional delegation, especially Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight.”

Continue reading "A Tireless Hunger Justice Leader in Nebraska" »

Bread Members in Nebraska Message Sen. Mike Johanns

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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 Zach Schmidt

On Halloween, dozens of men and women in the Cornhusker State wore powerful costumes. While indistinguishable from ordinary citizens on the outside, on the inside their hearts beat for hungry and poor people. They were wearing costumes that don’t come off—their advocate costumes.

This group of advocates seeks justice to pour down like a waterfall. They join their voices in calling for protection for their most vulnerable neighbors—those in their communities, their country, and their world. On Oct. 31 they joined their voices in calling the congressional office of Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.).

Through the work of a handful of leaders, more Bread for the World phone calls were made to Sen. Johanns on Oct. 31 than on any other previous call-in day! We set a sizeable goal of 50 calls, but exceeded expectations! A total of 67 phone calls were placed asking Sen. Johanns to protect domestic and international food security programs, including SNAP and WIC in the United States, and development assistance and food aid abroad.

Sen. Johanns is a member of the “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of senators working on a framework to address the federal budget deficit and avert the “fiscal cliff.” The term fiscal cliff is being used to describe the combination of $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts and the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, beginning in January.

Everything is on the table for this group of senators, and they’re working hard to come to agreement. They want to be able to unveil a proposal very soon, which is why we took action when we did. We made dozens of phone calls to the senator’s Washington office telling him that Congress cannot balance the budget on the backs of poor and hungry people.

The feedback that organizers heard from callers was that the senator’s staffers were friendly and receptive to listening to them and noting their concerns. For this, we'd like to thank the senator and his staff. And most of all, we'd like to thank those who made phone calls to protect hungry and poor people—especially those who not only made calls themselves, but got others to do so, too!

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

Washington Was Down but Hunger Advocates in Illinois Were Not

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Bread for the World regional organizer Zachary Schmidt (far left) meeting with Chicago pastors and community leaders to organize a call-in day targeting Sen. Dick Durbin. (Photo courtesy of David Swanson).

By Zach Schmidt

Congressional offices in Washington, D.C., shut down on Tuesday, Oct. 30, due to Hurricane Sandy, but that didn't stop hunger advocates in Illinois from pulling off a successful call-in day targeting Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

With our thoughts and prayers with those who lost loved ones to the ravages of Sandy, Illinoisans worked doubly hard to preserve the circle of protection that helps so many, both at home and abroad. Many activists placed not one, but two calls that day, making the effort to reach Sen. Durbin's district office in Chicago—which was open and operating last week—after learning that his D.C. office was closed.

Those who follow Bread for the World's issues may wonder why we focused energy on Sen. Durbin, one of the strongest champions for hungry and poor people in Congress. The answer is simple: to encourage him to “keep it up” in these turbulent times. When it comes to finding a way forward for our nation, everything is on the table, from spending cuts (including cuts to vital safety net programs) to tax increases. On Capitol Hill, there is great pressure to come to a budget agreement—any agreement—especially for Sen. Durbin, who is in a position of leadership. But we in Illinois say, “not on the backs of our most vulnerable neighbors.”

We Illinoisans say, “Senator Durbin, thank you for protecting poor and hungry people. As a leader in the Senate and with the 'Gang of Eight,' the bipartisan group of senators working on a framework that will address our nation’s deficit. Continue to push your colleagues to protect programs such as SNAP, WIC, and tax credits in the U.S., and poverty-focused assistance abroad. We support you as you do this.”

The successful call-in day started as a distant idea that steadily built momentum and force through the joint effort of Bread members and faith and community leaders. Bread's regional organizing team got to know community leaders and pastors on Chicago’s South Side and in the city’s western suburbs. These leaders know that the church is called to serve the broken both by meeting their needs and by advocating for them. They shared stories of people in need, and those stories motivated us and moved us forward together.

Continue reading "Washington Was Down but Hunger Advocates in Illinois Were Not" »

A Circle of Protection Vigil: Prayer, Songs, and Letters

Circle2newOn Saturday, Oct. 13, a group of Bread members in Albuquerque, New Mexico held a vigil to bring attention to the circle of protection and issues surrounding hunger. Bread for the World board member and New Mexico team leader Carlos Navarro led the event, and wrote about the experience for the Bread New Mexico Blog. His account is reprinted below.

There were 30 to 35 people gathered at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque for our circle of protection prayer vigil on the second Saturday of October.  Just as we did with a similar vigil last year, we had intended to start outside on the front porch of the church with candles and the song "Come and Fill," but the wind gusts were too strong and they would have extinguished our candles.  So we decided to start inside in the chapel where we could better center ourselves.

Surely enough, the calm, quiet wind of the Spirit was present inside in our prayers and reflections and songs from Taizé. We reflected on hunger, poverty, justice, and inequality, just as we did last year. And the circle of protection campaign remained the focus of our prayers and reflections.

In our reflections, we put some emphasis on the mini-campaigns in Bread for the World's 2012 Offering of Letters. And we invited representatives or volunteers from partner organizations to join us in the reflections: New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps, Roadrunner Food Bank, Medical Mission Board, Interfaith Power and Light (representing the National Council of Churches), and Sojourners.

Continue reading "A Circle of Protection Vigil: Prayer, Songs, and Letters " »

Will the Fifteen Percent Matter on Debate Night?

'Microphone' photo (c) 2009, Grant - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

By Robin Stephenson

The second presidential debate takes place tonight, providing yet another opportunity for President Obama and Governor Romney to talk about hungry and poor people. Solutions to poverty, in both the United States and abroad, have received little attention on the campaign trail, even though, according to a new poll by the American Values Network, voters prefer candidates who talk about the working poor.

Elections are about choosing the officials we think will best represent our values. As Christians who care deeply about hunger and poverty, knowing how candidates intend to work on behalf of vulnerable members of our society is an important criterion when voting. Simply put: elections matter

A couple of stark facts illustrate the seriousness of these issues and the critical need to talk about hunger and poverty in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 elections.

  • Fifteen percent of this country's population—or more than one in seven Americans—lived below the poverty line in 2011.
  • Almost 870 million of the world's people were chronically undernourished in the period from 2010 to 2012. The vast majority lived in developing countries, where about 850 million people—or slightly less than 15 percent of the population—are estimated to be undernourished. Progress is being made, but those numbers remain unacceptably high.

Continue reading "Will the Fifteen Percent Matter on Debate Night?" »

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