Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Help When I Needed It

Joe-molieriBy Joseph Molieri

My dad worked hard as an auto mechanic when I was young, spending long and difficult hours to support his wife and five children. But the truth is, no matter how hard he worked, it wasn't always enough to feed the whole family, and like many Americans, we relied on school lunches and food stamps to make it through hard times.

There were moments when we felt ashamed for needing that help. It wasn't easy being "the poor kid" at my school — but it was our reality.

The essential child nutrition programs that helped me and my family are set to expire in 2015. If we don't do anything, Congress could enact harmful cuts that put children at risk. Please donate now to Bread for the World to help protect the programs that keep kids from going hungry.

I've worked at Bread for almost two years now, and it's been a blessing to give voice to people struggling to put food on their tables. I've seen firsthand what it takes to protect the programs that kept my family safe —the same programs that millions still rely on today.

As we're putting together our strategy to defend vulnerable kids and families, we urgently need your financial support to:

  • Mobilize individuals and churches to write, call, and meet with their members of Congress
  • Identify and train new leader activists
  • Organize lobby visits with key members of Congress

We know there will be powerful forces pushing for cuts to these programs. We can't let them succeed.

Now is the time to step up and give as generously as you can. Bread for the World has a key role in preserving and improving programs that end hunger, and it's up to you and me to make sure that Bread can continue to protect these programs that help millions of people escape hunger.
I can't imagine what my life would have been like if organizations like Bread didn't stick up for the programs that helped my family years ago, and I'm going to fight to make sure nobody ever has to. 

Are you with me?

Joe Molieri is the multimedia manager at Bread for the World.

Photo: The Molieri Family, 1991. 

Advent Devotions: Weather Report


This Advent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

By Alexander Wendeheart

Isaiah 52:7-10              

This passage tells of the long-expected proclamation of peace and salvation; the good news repeated and called out by those in the watch towers on Jerusalem's walls. It is a long-awaited answer to the prayers of all who anticipated the return of captives taken to Babylon. It is a sign that the Lord has comforted the sorrows of God's people, and they will see the salvation of our God.

Simeon and Anna also are those of the tower watch, those waiting for the consolation of Israel. Simeon proclaimed not from Jerusalem's walls, but by taking the child Jesus in his arms and praising God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, you may dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." In like manner, Anna came up to Mary and Joseph and she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Each announcing as a tower watch, that God has comforted the sorrows of God's people.

Those that stand in our watch tower now proclaim the evening news. This past week our newscasters have broadcasted warning of the approaching weather and alerts of the coming mid-December storm in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their prolific reporting has passed over the reality of the need for rain to fill our reservoirs, and it hasn't halted our fear of rationing, or reduced water restrictions for the future. The TV meteorologists are the ones calling from the watch towers. But, regardless of the fanfare, and the atmospheric disturbances, we cannot forget to speak of the drought, which has changed how some earn their livelihoods and how others lead their lives, especially if they are dependent upon the land.

Though Advent announces the coming of the Christ child, our sole purpose cannot focus on the awaited good news. Let us remember why Christ was born into the world: there is a thirst for the love and grace of God. This thirst is not only for the people of biblical times, but for us as well; we too suffer from a spiritual drought. In John 4:14, Jesus reminds us, "The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." We are in need of Christ's renewing waters that will fill our internal reservoir, halt our fear, and reduce our apprehension of what tomorrow will bring.

As I sit here watching the long anticipated storm, I choose to forget all the fanfare, and conditions, and remember all the good that the rain brings upon the land, to the world, and to our souls. Amen.

Alexander Wendeheart is pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary.



Coffee and Conversation with US Sen. Jeff Merkley

Merkely and me
Sen. Jeff Merkley and Robin Stephenson. Photo: Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office.

By Robin Stephenson

On any given Thursday when Congress is in session, the smell of Oregon’s finest coffee wafts through  U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley’s Washington, D.C., office. Oregonians gather in a bright blue conference room exchanging greetings and stories as they wait to meet the senator for a quick conversation.

As an anti-hunger advocate, I am always trying to get a message to my members of Congress, but I rarely meet with them personally. I usually pass my message through a staff member. Because legislative assistants advise members of Congress, it is important to communicate with them. However, face time with elected officials themselves can leave a lasting impression.

While in Washington, D.C., last week, I dropped by Merkley’s office for coffee and spent several minutes talking to him about an issue I am really worried about: schools eliminating free and reduced-price lunch programs in rural Oregon, where child food-insecurity rates are as high as 30 percent. I also talked to him about a food-aid reform bill I want him to cosponsor. He asked me some questions before we took a photo together. Afterward, he sincerely thanked me and told me that my advocacy work was very important.

It is no secret that I am a fan of the senator. I learned about the power of advocacy by working on a payday loan campaign in Oregon that he spearheaded. It might be easy to think he doesn't need to hear from me, but my showing up reminds him that he has constituents at home who count on him to continue being a champion for vulnerable people.

Many senators host weekly meet-and-greets for their constituents who are visiting the nation’s capital. Some offices have traditions that go back decades. These events are one way lawmakers can connect with constituents from home.

Using coffee chats as an opportunity to talk about poverty is nothing new to Bread for the World members. U.S. Sen. Tom Udall’s office does coffee with a distinctly New Mexican flair; they serve biscochitos (butter-based cookies flavored with anise and cinnamon) and green chile pistachios, says longtime Bread activist and current board member Carlos Navarro.

In addition to one-on-one time with Udall, Navarro says he enjoys meeting other New Mexicans working on anti-hunger issues in his state. He met AARP state director Gene Varela at a 2013 coffee meet-and-greet in Udall’s office. “The contact turned out to be very important, since I was able to connect with him later about the Hunger Summit in New Mexico in the summer of 2014, which AARP was cosponsoring,” he says.

And there is something about meeting over coffee that makes talking to a U.S. senator less intimidating. Rev. Libby Tedder Hugus has written about how coffee eased her nerves when speaking with Wyoming’s Sen. John Barrasso. I can totally relate. Part of why I like “constituent coffee” is because it brings a little bit of home to our nation’s capital, and I’m just one Oregonian talking to another.

If you are planning to visit Washington, D.C., for any reason, call your senator’s office ahead of time and find out if they host a constituent coffee.

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



Advent Devotions: Keeping Warm


This Advent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

By Rev. Aimee Moiso

Revelation 3:14-22             

I was cold on Thanksgiving. My HVAC unit had chugged along through most of November, but I watched the Macy's Day Parade with my bathrobe on over my clothes, and I kept myself warm over the long weekend by jerry-rigging the HVAC to work sporadically and by sitting by the fire pretending I was camping.

But the wonderful HVAC guys came, and I paid them a lot of money, and they installed a new unit.

And now I'm warm. I can sit on my couch in comfort.

In the letter to the church at Laodicea, warm is the danger zone. Like potato salad sitting out at a picnic. Like stuffing baking inside the turkey. Cold is good; hot is good. Warm is the danger zone.

Laodicea is near a hot springs, and the water that ran down the hill and was probably warm when it reached them. But the writer of the letter isn't talking about water. The writer is talking about heart. If we're too cold, we want to move. If we're too hot, we do something about it.

If we're warm, we can sit comfortably on the couch.

That's why it's the danger zone for Laodicea: it's the zone of comfort. It's the zone that says, "I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing." It's also the zone that says, "I'm not rich, I'm not powerful, I can't do anything."

In these days of protest following the deaths of two more black men and the non-indictment of those who killed them, it's tempting to stay where it's warm. It's tempting to be moderate, to hedge and speak in caveats, to shake our heads and pray for peace from the couch, ignoring that knock at the door.

Being hot and being cold are uncomfortable. That's why we install HVAC units to keep us warm.

But someone is knocking at the door. Until we answer it, they will remain on one side, and we on the other.

Rev. Aimee Moiso is a trustee at San Francisco Theological Seminary.





The Faithful Light the Way to Justice

Church members from various faiths light the way to justice. Jay Mallin/United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Over the weekend, hundreds of people from various faiths stood on the sidewalk along 16th Street, a major thoroughfare in Washington, D.C., from the White House to Silver Spring, Md., in solidarity with those hurting from the recent slate of injustices perpetrated against the lives of African-American men.

“Vigil for Justice: People of Faith Lighting the Way” was organized by clergy from the Greater Washington, D.C., area as a way to respond in a peaceful manner to the recent police shootings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. Roughly 30 churches participated, including those from the Unitarian Universalist, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, and Baptist denominations.

Rev. Robert Hardies, senior minister at All Souls Church Unitarian, said faith traditions contain a promise that all human beings have inherent worth and dignity, but that the criminal justice system is not living up to that promise and that the vigil was “lighting the way to a more just society.”

The faithful held candles, flashlights, and even lanterns. Thousands of luminaries dotted the east side of 16th Street. Every now and then a chorus of “This Little Light of Mine” broke out, and candles were raised high when passing drivers honked their horns.

I was one of the many standing in the cold on Friday. I participated out of my conviction for the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings. What has happened in our country lately has been shameful. Rev. Ruben Tendai, interim senior minister at Lincoln Congregational Temple United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C., likened the current injustices to a festering wound that erupts from time to time in this country.

“Garner’s words, ‘I can’t breathe,’ is a metaphor for the marginalized people in our nation,” Tendai said. “We actually can’t breathe how God intended us to.”

Vigilpic3After the Ferguson grand jury decision, I figured the demonstrations would just peter out like they have so many times before. Instead, I have been heartened to see the protests continue.  Most recently, medical students organized a massive “die-in” protest across the country. Students from institutions such as Howard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard University dropped to the ground in their white coats.

The hunger and poverty experienced by people of color is deeply rooted in the racial injustices they have experienced. Education, healthcare, housing, and employment opportunities grow dim when the lives of African-Americans don’t matter. That’s when programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) can help families and individuals move out of poverty.

On Saturday, thousands descended on the National Mall to protest the police shootings and the larger issue of racial injustice. I don’t know what is going to happen next. But I am hopeful like I have never been before. As a person of faith, I have to believe that justice will prevail and that goodness will be done.

Bread for the World is ending the year with the theme of “Shine your light. Give life,” taken from John 8:12. My hope is that more lights like those that were on the streets of our nation’s capital on Friday night will pierce the darkness of injustice. It is only when we shine a light on injustice that life in its fullness can be lived by everybody.

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

Inset photo: Luminaries light the sidewalk along 16th Street, near the border of Washington, D.C. and Silver Spring, Md. Jay Mallin/United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

Advent Devotions: Waiting to Be Embodied


This Advent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 

By Andrew K. Lee

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16             

What are we supposed to do with Advent?  There's no baby Jesus, no descent of the Holy Spirit, no cross or empty tomb.  There's just waiting.  Sure, we light a new candle every Sunday, but what does that liturgy symbolize?  There is no mourning our imperfections, celebrating the risen Christ, or going out to preach the Word.  There's just waiting.  That's what each candle means: four weeks of waiting.  Where's the high, holy, deeper meaning in that?

In our Scripture passage for today, David seems to have had the best of intentions, but he suffered from a lack of vision. Equating God's presence with the Ark of the Covenant, David had confined God to a box (pun intended).  From that restricted perspective, David assumed that God's embodied presence was limited by what he, David, could build.

We make a similar mistake when we assume God's plans rest on our shoulders.  We take on the responsibility to build God's church, and frantically scramble to create new programs and bring in new members. We commit ourselves to ushering in God's Kingdom, and shout ourselves hoarse advocating for justice and peace.

Those are not bad things to do; they can in fact be very worthwhile.

But the discipline of waiting to which Advent calls us-and in our frantic, action-oriented culture waiting is a discipline-bids us remember that it is not our responsibility to make God's plan happen. In fact, it's not even within our capability. Because God's plan is bigger than us, spanning millennia and ultimately the entire course of human history. God rejected David's plans because God cannot be confined to a single building-or to a single person's vision. God is truly embodied over the course of countless generations, and in the throne that God will establish forever.

Advent is the most contemplative of seasons, drawing us into the spiritual practice of doing nothing but waiting. Waiting teaches us to let go of the weight of responsibility and results, to cease our efforts at trying to force God's embodied presence to appear in a particular way. Rather, we allow ourselves to be embodied (notice the passive language) as we play our small part in God's great plan, waiting for God to finish what God started. In the meantime, we live in the middle of the plan. The beginning happened long before we were born, and we have no idea when it will conclude. Someday. And so we light our candles, and we wait.  

Andrew K. Lee is studying for a master's degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary and Graduate Theological Union.



Hunger in the News: Food Aid, Food Stamp Committee, Ferguson, School Lunch

Hunger in News Graphic
A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

Potentially damaging food aid reform cut from Coast Guard bill,” by Tom Murphy, Humanosphere.  “Advocates for international food aid claimed victory this week after the Senate cut a provision that they say would have hurt efforts to deliver food effectively to people in need around the world. The new version of the bill passed both the Senate and House on Wednesday.”

UN resumes food aid for Syrian refugees,” Al Jazeera.  “The UN World Food Programme will restart its food aid for 1.7 million refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt after it received enough donations to fund the suspended programme.”

House Agriculture Chief Plans ‘Thoughtful," Look at Food Stamps,” by Tennille Tracy, The Wall Street Journal.  “Rep. Mike Conaway (R., Texas), the newly appointed chair of the House Agriculture Committee, is pledging to undertake a “thoughtful” review of food stamps.”

The fury of Ferguson,” The Economist. “Solving the problems of places like Ferguson is less about passing more anti-discrimination laws than about rekindling economic growth and spreading the proceeds.”

Health groups fear bill could lead to return of pizza, fries in schools,” by Lydia Wheeler, The Hill. "The bill known as “cromnibus,” contains language that would allow states to exempt struggling districts from having to offer all whole grain products and eases requirements for schools to reduce sodium levels.

Advent Devotions: Sing, Sing a Song!


This Advent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

By Tad Hopp

Psalm 96:1-13             

"As long as we live, there is never enough singing." - Martin Luther

Do you know what I love to do more than almost anything else in the world?  (And no, the answer isn't watch Netflix -- although that is a favorite activity of mine!)  The answer is: Sing.  I've been singing for almost as long as I could talk.  It's something that has always brought me great joy and has always made me feel more alive.  It is why the words of this psalm really resonate with me.  The very first words of this psalm are "sing."  The psalms were meant to be sung because the ancient Israelites knew that some things could really only be expressed in song.

I don't think we do enough singing in our daily lives.  Sure, not all of us have the best voices, but we can still all sing a song to God.  A song of thanksgiving.  A song of despair.  A song of anger.  A song of praise.  A song of grief or mourning.  A song because nothing else seems appropriate.  When you run out of words to say, sing them instead.  That seems to be the best approach.

What are we doing to embody the act of singing to God in our daily lives?  What are we doing to hear others' songs to God in our daily lives?  How can we be better at more fully engaging with the music that is in our hearts?  We all have a song inside us. Time to let it out!

Tad Hopp is pursuing his Master of Divinity degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary.



Advent Devotions: What Now?


This Advent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

By Nicole Trotter       

John 1:6-8, 19-28             

"'I am not the Messiah.' And they asked him, 'What then? Are you Elijah?' He said, 'I am not.'"

I've been confronted lately by the passing of time. The kind of confrontation that presents itself randomly, at the kitchen counter, while simply pouring a glass of water.  In one moment, I hear and see my grandmother, my mother, and myself, generations apart, all pouring water for our children, all of whom are no longer children and have left the nest.  And in one moment I am fully aware of my impossible longing.  A longing to grab hold of time, if I can, only for a moment.

But I can't.

We are a part both of what has been and is gone, as much as we are a part of what is to come and is unknown. Our longing holds us in between. It is not a static moment but a moment of transition with a foot in both worlds.

John the Baptist knew who he was not. He was not the past Elijah, nor the future Messiah.  John embodied a moment in time, placed within the larger narrative of past and future, an embodied state of transition, calling us to live with him in it.

Our longing, in any given moment, is not satisfied by who we are but by who we arenot.  In that moment at the kitchen counter I am not my grandmother, my mother or myself as a young mother.  But in the promise of Christ I am all three, timelessly.

Only in the promise of Christ do we begin to understand the fullness of our longing as fulfilled both by what has been and what is to come. But it requires us to stand still, and recognize our powerlessness in who we are not. In that moment, that in-between time, that discomfort, that longing, comes our recognition. And so we breathe and hope and wait and prepare...

Nicole Trotter is studying for her Master of Divinity degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary. 



Advent Devotions: As I Speak Now


This Advent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

By Lucas Walker

Luke 1:67-80             

As I speak now -
so shall you.
Into darkness
              through a trumpet
              that will burn your lips
Loud enough
to make the sand dance spirals
before the LORD.

As you spoke -
so did I.
I said the Word, I made
             an oath before the world began:
             Walk out of the sun
a path of water, wood and stone
Until My people find Me
I promised they would find Me

As I speak now -
so shall you.
A held breath will
              set everything in flame
              a Spirit coming down
The khamaseen
off the heights
howl down to the sheltering ones of the LORD.

As you spoke -
so shall we.
Fearless and tender outstretched
              before the horns of God.
              hanging on the Word,
Hanging everything
off the one promise
the breathing body You share 

Lucas Walker is a pastoral care associate at San Francisco Theological Seminary



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