Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Women's History Month: The Gospel and the Poor

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By Bread Staff

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Woman’s Day, Bread Blog, Institute Notes, and Bread for the World’s social media platforms will be celebrating the ingenious, fortitude, and spirit of women during the month of March.

Women like Dorothy Day have been at the forefront in the fight to end hunger. Like Bread for the World members, Day grounded her work in prayer and scripture and felt called to care for the most vulnerable in our society.  Day’s example reminds us that women of faith are helpers and advocates and act as God’s hands in this broken world.

Women are also the primary agents the world relies on to fight hunger. From the mother in Mississippi who struggles to work full-time at minimum wage and still feed her children to the subsistence farmer in Kenya who prays she can sell enough of her produce at market to make it through the dry season, women feed and nourish the world. Lessons from anti-hunger programs carried out in the past decade have made it clear:  women’s empowerment is key to ending hunger worldwide.

On March 8, thousand of events will be held throughout the world as part of annual International Women’s Day observances.  The theme of this year’s celebration is “Make it Happen” for greater awareness of women’s equality.

Women’s equality is also the subject of the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger. The report looks at discrimination as a cause of persistent hunger and makes policy and program recommendations in order to empower women both in the United States and around the world. Increasing women’s earning potential by boosting bargaining power, reducing gender inequality in unpaid work, increasing women’s political representation, and eliminating the wage gap between male and female labor directly contributes to ending hunger.

For more information on the integral role women play in ending hunger and poverty, make sure to read When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger and also visit Bread Blog.

 

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:45-46

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

When Jesus rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.” (Luke 22:45-46)

(Luke doesn’t like to talk about the failures of the disciples. He excuses their sleep, saying it was “from grief.”)

Twice in the last six verses Jesus tells the disciples to pray that they may not undergo the test. This is the same Greek word Luke used earlier for Jesus’ temptation in the desert, and in the Our Father when Jesus said, “. . . lead us not into temptation.

What is this “test/temptation?” It’s not your run-of-the mill kind. It’s the big one. Is there a God, really? Is evil going to win after all? Am I wasting my time trying to lead a decent life? At death, do I simply dissolve into nothingness?

You can’t go through life without having these kinds of doubts, probably more than once. Jesus faced this question head-on with the devil in the desert, and he’s facing it here in Gethsemane.

It’s a good topic for conversation with the Lord. He was truly human, and had to deal with human thoughts and feelings. It wasn’t always a waltz.

Not that I disbelieve the great truths. It’s just that my belief sometimes has holes in it. When Jesus told the father of the sick boy to have faith, the father replied with words I can make my own: “I do believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:43-44

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

To strengthen Jesus, an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. (Luke 22:43-44)

Artists usually portray Luke’s account of the agony in the garden which says that Jesus is kneeling (Matthew and Mark have him flat on the ground).

Also in Luke, an angel appears. The angel is God’s answer to Jesus’ prayer. And the answer is “no.”

God says, “This cup can’t be taken away, but I will be with you through it all.” This is expressed by the angel at Jesus’ side “to strengthen him.”

It is then that Jesus is in agony. Only Luke uses the word “agony” – the word by which we have come to characterize this whole scene.

“Agony” comes from a Greek word describing the mental and physical tension athletes feel when facing a contest. They may be confident, but one can never be sure of all that will happen.

So the prayer of Jesus now takes a different tone. He knows he will have to face the worst. He prays that he will be able to handle it well. And he begins to sweat profusely.

My prayers are often answered the same way as Jesus’ prayer. The answer is “no” . . . but God says, “I’ll be with you through it all.” I’m grateful for God’s presence, of course, but what I sometimes have to face isn’t easy. It’s agony.

This deserves a heart-to-heart talk. With Jesus. He’s been there.

Join Us: Pray to End Hunger

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Prayer at Bread for the World's 2015 National Gathering, Washington, D.C.  Rick Reinhard for Bread for the World.

By Bishop José García

At Bread for the World, we believe that prayer is foundational to achieving Bread’s goal of helping to end hunger and extreme poverty by 2030. Will you join us in asking God to move our government’s officials to enact laws and policies aligned with God’s Kingdom values and to make ending hunger and poverty a major priority by 2017?

When you commit to joining in praying for the end of hunger, we will email you twice a month with specific prayer requests and sample prayers.

Commit-to-prayThe church season of Lent began last week. Some Christians use Lent to live more simply, fast, and pray more fervently in order to grow closer to God. Many give something up or take something on as a new discipline. Adding prayers for the end of hunger is a good foundation for these faith practices.

Philippians 4:6 tells us to “let your requests be made known to God.” Prayer is the vehicle through which we advocate before God. When we call upon God’s promises, the Scripture assures us that our prayers are being heard (Psalms 10:17) and will be answered (Isaiah 58:9).

Join us in this movement to gather 100,000 people praying faithfully for an end to hunger and poverty.

You can make this prayer part of your regular prayer life. Whenever you pray Give us this day our daily bread, include people who are hungry in our country and around the world in your petition.

At Bread for the World, we envision a world by 2030 in which everybody has enough to eat. We need Congress and the president to do their parts, but nothing happens without God. You can invite your friends to pray too. Let us know, and we’ll send you a card that you can share with them.

Bishop José García is the director of church relations at Bread for the World.

World Prayers for March 1-7: Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco, and San Marino

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Picturesque view of Gimmelwald, a tiny, mountaintop village in Switzerland. Stephen H. Padre/Bread for the World.

This is a weekly prayer series that appears each Friday on the Bread Blog.

One aspect of Bread for the World’s new Bread Rising campaign is prayer. The campaign is asking Bread members to pray more, act more, and give more. In this blog series, we will provide a prayer for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.

This prayer series will follow the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, a list compiled by the World Council of Churches that enables Christians around the world to journey in prayer through every region of the world, affirming our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing their challenges and sharing their gifts.

We will especially be lifting up in prayer the challenges related to hunger and poverty that the people of each week’s countries face. In prayer, God’s story and our own story connect—and we and the world are transformed. In a prayer common to all of us—the Lord’s Prayer/the Our Father—we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This line from this prayer can also be a prayer for the end of hunger.

We invite you to join Bread in our prayers for the world’s countries to end hunger. And we encourage you to share with us your prayers for the featured countries of the week or for the end of hunger in general.

For the week of March 1-7: Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco, and San Marino

God of all nations, we thank you for the majestic and tranquil beauty of these countries—for snow-capped mountains and idyllic green valleys. We thank you for the leaders in the Church that Switzerland has produced, both in centuries past and today. Strengthen the work of the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, and other church organizations, the YMCA and YWCA, all with offices in Geneva. We thank you for the witness to peace, diplomacy, and humanitarian work that Switzerland also has provided for decades. We ask you to also strengthen the work of international secular organizations that work in these areas—especially the United Nations and its many agencies and the Red Cross in Geneva. May that city and its residents from around the world continue to foster peace among nations and peoples as they continue to host to formal and informal peace talks. May the annual World Economic Forum that takes place annual in Switzerland remember people around the world who are hungry and poor, and may the people who speak at the event, those who have tremendous power and influence in our world, work more for a world in which the marginalized are at the table.

O Lord, we know that these countries enjoy great wealth but that not everybody enjoys that wealth. We pray for people who struggle with poverty, particularly immigrants, workers in the tourist industry, and expatriates. We pray that governments and private corporations will use this wealth wisely for the benefit of all peoples, both in their own countries and around the world. We pray that the common resources will be used toward the end of hunger and poverty in our world. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Percentage of the population of these countries living below the national poverty rate (below 50 percent of median income):

Austria: 9.0 (2011)
Liechtenstein: Not available
Switzerland: 10.3 (2011)
Andorra: Not available
Monaco: Not available
San Marino: Not available

Source: Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

 

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:39-42

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

Then going out, Jesus went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.” After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:39-42)

Jesus had a strong sense of a God-given purpose in his life:

     • Early in his ministry, when asked to stay in Capernaum, he says, “To the other towns also I must (go) . . . because for this purpose I have been sent.”

     • Later, told of Herod’s death threat, he says: “I must continue on my way today, tomorrow, and the following day.”

     • And now, having arrived in Jerusalem and hours away from death, Jesus says to the Father, “. . . not my will but yours be done.”

Perhaps God is nudging me to do something I don’t want to do. From time to time, a certain thought runs through my mind, an inkling to do something (or stop doing something). I shy away from it, slough it off and figure it’s just one of those odd thoughts, daydreams.

But maybe it didn’t come from me. Maybe it came from the Lord. That makes a difference.

Now, early into Lent, I should take a long look at this. If the Lord is nudging me toward something, I ought to do it.

 

Food Stamp Hearings Begin in House Agriculture Committee

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By Robin Stephenson

When U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas, 11) was appointed to the chairmanship of the House Committee on Agriculture last November, he announced he was forming a new subcommittee that would conduct a full-scale review of SNAP (formerly food stamps). The hearings began Wednesday and are expected to continue with no end in sight.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 11.36.30 AM“Today’s hearing marks the beginning of a top-to-bottom review of the program,” began Conaway’s opening statement. “We will conduct this review without preconceived notions and with a commitment to strengthening the program so it can serve as a tool to help individuals move up the economic ladder.“

Policy change that fosters economic mobility is good news. However, many anti-hunger advocates worry the hearings are a veiled attempt to dismantle SNAP, potentially leading to harmful programmatic changes, such as block granting or cutting benefits.

Bread for the World’s policy expert on nutrition, Christine Melendez Ashley, said she is happy to hear Congress is talking about hunger. “Faithful advocates who care about ending hunger need to be paying attention to these hearings,” she said. “The result of such talks must be to help end hunger and not exacerbate it.”

But there is reason to worry given the proposals that were part of last year’s farm bill negotiations. That bill was finally passed last February after three years of bitter debate. To the disappointment of Bread members, it included a devastating $8.6 billion cut to the SNAP program. Thanks to your letters, phone calls, and meetings with members of Congress, the proposed $40 billion in cuts and harmful programmatic changes were not enacted.

Those 2014 farm bill cuts came on the heels of another benefit reduction months earlier. Congress passed the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act with provisions that increased funding for school lunch programs and improved child nutrition programs – but they paid for the improvements by cutting SNAP benefits. In essence, funding for food at the dinner table was siphoned to fund the food at the lunch table. We need to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The child nutrition bill is up for reauthorization again this year and the focus of Bread’s 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children.

During yesterday’s inaugural hearing, the connection between child hunger and SNAP came up in several comments. U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga., 13)  noted that 45.3 percent of all of those who are on SNAP are children – 1 in out 5 live in households that are food insecure.

SNAP, which provides a modest $1.40 per person per meal for those who qualify, is a critical part of our nation’s safety net. During the Great Recession, millions of families who experienced hardship depended on the program. As the economy recovers, SNAP caseloads are dropping – participation rates have dropped by 1.5 million over the last 18 months.

Hearings like these matter because they help us understand what Congress is prioritizing and give the public an opportunity to react before policy changes are made. SNAP and the child nutrition programs are both vital pieces of the safety net that feed our children. Faithful advocates need to make sure Congress is paying attention to both the dinner and lunch table - especially when it comes to our nation’s children.

Act Today: Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress. Tell Congress to prioritize children at risk of hunger and invest in strong child nutrition programs.

Read Bread for the World’s latest resource:  Get the Facts About SNAP.

Photo: screenshot of U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway convening nutrition hearings, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015.  Hearings dates and times are posted on the committee’s website.

 

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:35-38

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

Jesus said to the apostles, “When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything?” “No, nothing,” they replied. He said to them, “But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely, ‘He was counted among the wicked;’ and indeed what is written about me is coming to fulfillment.” Then they said, “Lord, look, there are two swords here.” But he replied, “It is enough!” (Luke 22:35-38)

Earlier, when Jesus sent out the 72 disciples, he spoke of “a money bag, sack, and sandals.” Now he speaks of “a money bag, sack, and sword.” He is speaking symbolically, referring to a new time of persecution.

The disciples miss the point, take him literally, and produce two swords. His response amounts to: “Enough of that.”

We’re sometimes taught to be quick with the sword, and we’ve all got our own “swords” – glaring daggers at someone, making cutting remarks.

Throughout this Lent, I’ll watch Jesus face some “swords:” Mockery, manhandling, torture. The early Christians applied a passage from Isaiah to him:

                     He was led like a sheep to the slaughter and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)

How did he do that? How could I do that? Ask him.

Let's Keep the Momentum on Food-Aid Reform Going This Year

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Indian women and children bundle grain stalks after the harvest. Margaret W. Nea/Bread for the World.

By David Gist, Jon Gromek, and Zach Schmidt

The purpose of U.S. international food aid is to provide food to people who need it, so let’s do it well.

Bread for the World members wrote letters, made phone calls and met with their members of Congress last year as part of the annual Offering of Letters. They urged senators and representatives across the country to reform U.S. food aid so we could help more hungry people overseas and better utilize U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Our efforts paid off. Modest reforms were included in the 2014 farm bill, and as a result of our persistent advocacy, we won important victories that ensure more food aid will reach the people who need it. That’s good news! But more work remains to be done, and as people of faith, we continue to call on Congress to reform U.S. food aid to help our brothers and sisters around the world.

It’s a message that’s worth repeating. Greater flexibility in food-aid policies would allow more food to be purchased closer to where it’s needed, helping millions more people receive life-saving food aid up to two months faster. Not only that, but purchasing food locally means our government helps farmers and their communities around the world become self-sufficient and, therefore, less likely to need U.S. aid in the future.

So, more food to more hungry people at no extra cost. Faster delivery. Food that’s more nutritious and culturally appropriate. And local farmers and local economies getting stronger. In the fight against hunger, food-aid reform is a no-brainer. We just need a few more members of Congress to join the movement.

So where are we in 2015? Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading supporter of food-aid reform, recently introduced the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015. This bill would make the kinds of reforms Bread has been advocating for possible and is a positive sign that Congress wants to address food-aid reform this year. We will likely see other approaches to food-aid reform in the coming weeks and months, and Bread policy analysts stand ready to follow these developments closely.

Stay tuned! Your voice is needed as we continue to pray and advocate for food-aid reform and for a world in which everybody has enough to eat.

David Gist, Jon Gromek, and Zach Schmidt are regional organizers at Bread for the World.

 

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:31-34

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.” But he replied, “I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31-34)

Jesus looks ahead to the imminent failure of the disciples – they will abandon him. Peter will do worse. After abandoning Jesus along with the rest, he’ll deny him – not once, but three times.

So, looking ahead to this, what does Jesus say to Peter? He says that he has prayed for him – that Peter may not ultimately fail as a disciple.

Imagine that. Jesus prayed for Peter, was on Peter’s side. Imagine. Jesus praying for me. Jesus on my side.

No need to “imagine” it. In John’s account of the Last Supper, Jesus says, “I pray not only for them but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”

That’s me.

Do I ever really think of Jesus praying for me, not only back then, but now?

If Jesus were to pray for me right now, what would he especially pray for?

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