Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Lenten Devotions: "Buttons"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

ButtonsApril 12, 2014

"We tangle in why dress up in because
When below and above heaven's beside us
There for you night and day
Longing to be more then behave
Believe believe be Light be Love."
 
Lyrics from "Be Etc," by Peter Mayer

All the containers of buttons caught my eye when I visited Liberty London. Whenever I see cool things that like, I wish I could sew. Because if I could, I would sew the coolest buttons onto my coats and jackets. I'd spell out words and make very happening designs.

While I've never been perceived to be a "fashionista," I do appreciate nice-looking clothes and clothes that fit well. However, being 6' 5, along with the effects of gravity and my love of carbohydrates, is starting to work against me. I'm glad that I'm in a profession where I get to wear a big, white robe on Sundays.

 I really like what Peter is saying: "We tangle in why dress up in because/When below and above heaven's beside us."

So, heaven is beside us. And this coming week, which starts tomorrow on Palm Sunday, is a week in which all of our emotions, thoughts, and prayers get so intense as we make our way from the parade, to the upper room, to the garden, to the cross, to the empty tomb, and to the walk to Emmaus.    

It's at times like this that I know we all have our "to do" lists, but I'm hoping and praying that you and I can just "be" in the moment.

Photo: The display of buttons at Liberty London. (Courtesy of Pastor Ron Glusenkamp)

Reforming U.S. Food Aid: An Opportunity to Move Forward in the Appropriations Process

Dadaab 21 - 23 Nov 2007 011

U.S. food assistance has been critical in helping more than 3 billion people in over 150 countries over the past five decades. Food assistance saves lives, helps people recover from crises, and breaks the cycles of chronic poverty and malnutrition.

Unfortunately, humanitarian needs and the scope of food crises continue to expand while many countries, including our own, face increasing budget constraints. In 2011 alone, 206 million people were affected by droughts, floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Globally, 870 million people are chronically food-insecure. All of this underscores the critical importance of food aid from our federal government, which has long been a leader in providing this assistance.

Food-aid reform is the focus of Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters. It is a way for many Christians in thousands of churches and other faith communities across the country to collectively voice their concerns in Congress for the neighbors in God's world who live overseas.

The U.S. government must be poised to respond in the timeliest, most effective, and cost-efficient way possible. Fortunately, in January, some initial food-aid reforms were signed into law as part of the new farm bill. But those reforms can’t have any impact if they aren’t fully funded. That means Bread is looking to Congress and the Obama administration with a few key requests in the current appropriations cycle, including:

Flexibility through local and regional purchases

Having the option to obtain food closer to where it is needed would enable our federal government's food-aid programs to save more lives as well as money. The farm bill recently authorized a permanent local and regional purchase (LRP) program at $80 million a year. This money was in the president’s most recent budget request, and Congress needs to hear from constituents to be convinced of the importance of this program.

Currently, most food aid from the United States must be in the form of food grown and purchased in the United States and shipped overseas to the place of need. Shipping goods overseas from American shores is costly in terms of time and money. The alternative practice of buying food from local and regional markets for distribution, proposed in Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters, can be both quicker and more cost effective than the current practice.

Two independent evaluations by the Government Accountability Office and a congressionally mandated study by Management Systems International found that LRP programs have an average cost savings of at least 25 percent compared to similar in-kind food-aid programs. In some cases, these savings can increase to over 50 percent, as a Cornell University study documented, along with a 62 percent gain in timeliness of delivery. The flexibility, cost effectiveness, and timeliness of such programs means that humanitarian organizations can deliver food aid more quickly and at less cost to taxpayers while supporting local markets and communities in developing countries (private relief and development organizations, including those related to U.S. churches, are the entities that actually implement the programs under contracts with the U.S. government).

Other types of flexibility

One significant provision that was included in the president’s budget was language that would provide new authority to use up to 25 percent of funding in emergencies for interventions such as local or regional procurement of food, food vouchers, or cash transfers. As the president's budget request states, this flexibility ensures that emergency food assistance would be timelier and more cost-effective, thereby improving program efficiencies and performance. Bread estimates that the 25 percent provision alone would allow the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government's main implementer of food aid, to reach approximately 2.6 million more people each year with the same level of resources.

Funding

No reforms matter if funding for food assistance and nutrition programs are cut. Because there have been more conflicts and natural disasters, the needs are actually greater, not less, and require continued U.S. leadership.

Funding international food assistance is essential to building food security around the world and ensuring that aid is not a handout, but a hand up, breaking the cycles of poverty and hunger to allow for sustainable achievements in international development. Not only that, but the types of food aid distributed address nutritional needs as well, especially among vulnerable groups like children and pregnant mothers.

Take part in Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters, Reforming U.S. Food Aid, and hold a letter-writing event at your church or campus. Order your Offering of Letters kit at www.bread.org/store, or download the materials at www.bread.org/ol/2014.

[This article originally appeared in the April 2014 edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.]

 

Lenten Devotions: "Long Arms"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

Photo staircase"Patient in winter's sting
Restless as coming spring
Oh.... Mighty this love
Oh.... Mighty this love
This love is ....
Strong enough to be weak
Brave enough to speak
These arms are longer than we can believe
Kind enough to lift you off your knees
Oh.... Mighty this love
Oh.... Mighty this love"

—Lyrics from "Mighty This Love," by Peter Mayer

I took the picture of the spiral staircase one evening while my wife, Sue Ann, and I were shopping at Fortnum & Mason in London. It is a very elegant store that has been in business since 1707.

I was standing at the top of the staircase and was just taken by the lovely scene. Way at the bottom of the steps, there is a table with all sorts of goodies on it.  I wanted to reach down and pick them up. Of course, that wasn't possible.

However, Peter's lyrics came to mind: "These arms are longer than we can believe/Kind enough to lift you off your knees."

That's what "mighty love" is all about. Long arms reaching out and drawing us into the circle of love and grace. I'm grateful for all the examples of "long arms" that have hung onto me throughout my 60 years. I'm thinking that today would be a good day to "reach out" and let them know how much they are loved. I encourage you to do the same.

Bill Passed by House Could Reduce Impact of U.S. Food Aid

Sudan_food_aid
Women carry their ration of food, after fleeing their homes in the village of Abyei, engulfed by heavy fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army. (UN Photo/Tim McKulka)

By Alyssa Casey

This week, the House passed a Coast Guard reauthorization bill, which includes a provision that could drastically reduce the number of hungry people that U.S. food aid can reach. The provision would significantly increase cargo-preference restrictions, rules requiring that a certain percentage of all cargo funded by the United States – including food-aid products – must be transported on American ships with American crews. The reauthorization bill would require 75 percent of all U.S. food aid to be shipped on U.S. vessels. The resulting increase in shipping costs would reduce funding for programs that help support U.S. humanitarian efforts.

Bread for the World’s 2014 Offering of Letters campaign focuses on the need to reform the federal government's food-aid programs so that funds are used more effectively and efficiently. Local and regional purchase (LRP) – the practice of buying food at or near the site of a humanitarian crisis – gives the United States flexibility in responding to crises, enabling us to act more quickly and save more lives, as we witnessed in the post-disaster Philippines earlier this year. The cargo-preference provision, however, would reduce funding for LRP—and food shipped under cargo-preference law from the United States takes an average of 14 weeks longer to reach people in need than local purchase. Buying local food mitigates the effects of disaster on the local economy and helps local farmers and vendors continue to support themselves and their families. LRP also uses tax dollars more efficiently and costs 25 to 50 percent less than food shipped from the United States—and reaches millions more. In short, this harmful provision could result in the United States spending more money on slower, less effective assistance to hungry people rocked by crisis, and the help we do provide has the potential to undercut local farmers and merchants—some of the very people U.S. food aid seeks to help.

Smart food aid is forward thinking. In 2012, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations World Food Programme (UN WFP) were able to feed more than 72,000 people in Rwanda while supporting Rwandan farmers through local purchase. This drastically reduced costs – saving $243 per metric ton on corn and $899 per metric ton on beans – and allowed food aid to be delivered months sooner than if it had been shipped from the United States.

US Port exports FY03-FY12
Since 2002, the U.S. government has reduced purchase of U.S.-grown food aid from 5 metric tons in 2002, to 1.4 million tons in 2012. At the same time, all major U.S. ports have increased overall tons exported. (Source: USAID)

The cargo-preference restrictions, added shortly before the bill was passed, are based on the argument that food aid hurts exports. However, food aid accounts for only one half of one percent of all U.S. exports. Food shipped from our shores yields about 40 cents for every aid dollar spent. The small loss in export revenue becomes much less urgent in comparison to the millions of lives saved and the long-term consequences of resilience. Building resilience in developing countries often leads to future trading partners. South Korea, once a poverty-wracked recipient of U.S. food aid, is now the United States' sixth-largest goods trading partner.

Local purchase may not be the best option in every scenario. What is important is that the United States has the flexibility to respond to each scenario by choosing the method that reaches hungry people in the shortest amount of time.

Now is the time to raise your voice in support of food-aid reform. The Coast Guard bill goes to the Senate next for consideration. Bread for the World will strongly oppose any final legislation that includes cargo-preference restrictions that decrease funding for flexible food-aid programs. We must continue to let our members of Congress know that we support legislation that saves taxpayer dollars and increases efficiency, not legislation that takes food out of the mouths of the world’s hungry. 

Alyssa Casey is a government relations intern at Bread for the World.

Lenten Devotions: "The Beginning of Life"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

DietrichApril 10, 2014

"When morning sun brings the dawn,
Love light my way
Lead me on as world turns 'round
and night enfolds the day
Through spinning seasons, reeling change,
Lord light my way
Each one in rhythm with the song of life you did create
Surprised us with grace
Beside us you stay
Recognized us for who we are and whose we are by name."
 
— Lyrics from "Lord Light My Way," by Peter Mayer and Patricia O'Reilly

Sixty-nine years ago yesterday, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was led from his cell at a prison camp in Flossenburg, Germany. As he was led away to be hanged, it is recorded that he said, "This is the end—for me, the beginning—of life."

It is hard from where we sit today, almost 70 years later, to imagine the horror and darkness of that time. In many ways, it is quite similar to the horror and darkness the earliest disciples of Jesus experienced at the hands of the Romans. Throughout history, these dark periods have been encountered again and again by followers of the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

St. Paul wrote, "For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8).

I think of the way that evening prayer begins. A cantor carrying a candle enters the darkened sanctuary. These words are sung: "Jesus Christ is the Light of the World."

The response, "The Light no darkness can overcome," is from memory—it's too dark to read the hymnbook or the printed page of the bulletin. The cantor makes his or her way down the center aisle.

"Stay with us for it is evening."

"And the day is almost over."

As the cantor approaches the front of the sanctuary, one more prayer is prayed.

"Let your light scatter the darkness."

"And illumine the church"

The candle is placed in the candle holder, and then the cantor sings what is called the "Lucinarium," which means light! "Joyous Light of Glory."

Some of you probably can remember when electricity came to the community in which you and your family were living. It was remarkable. I've been places in the world where electricity, and consequently electrical lights, have only recently come, and it is, as you know and might suspect, quite the game changer.

Moving from darkness to light is a remarkable journey.

Peter sings, "Love light my way, Lead me on as world turns 'round, and night enfolds the day."

Blessings to you this day, may Love and Light lead your way today!

P.S. Dear readers, some folks have asked about a gluten-free communion bread recipe. My suggestion, and practice, has been to substitute gluten-free flour in the recipe, and add a little bit (like a 1/4 teaspoon) of xanthan gum to the mix. The bread turns out quite lovely.

P.P.S.  Here's the Irish Soda Bread Recipe.

Photo: Memorial plaque Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Johannes Grützke at St. Matthew's Church Matthäikirchplatz Berlin-Tiergarten. (Wikimedia Commons)

UConn Player: "We Do Have Hungry Nights"

On Monday night, the University of Connecticut won its fourth national men's basketball title—the UConn Huskies beat the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54. "You're looking at the hungry Huskies," UConn player Shabazz Napier said after the win, a reference to the team's unstoppable determination to bring home the title.

But last week, Napier used his platform as a star college basketball player to bring attention to a different kind of hunger. "Sometimes there's hungry nights when I'm not able to eat, but I still gotta play up to my capabilities," he told news reporters. "[Student athletes] are definitely blessed to get a scholarship to our universities, but, at the end of the day, that doesn't cover everything. We do have hungry nights....there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving."

Napier made the remarks after being asked his opinion of college athletes unionizing, the latest development in the ongoing debate over whether college sports players should be considered employees and receive some of the profits they help pull in for their schools.  A few outlets (and a lot of their commenters and social media followers) are discussing whether it's possible for Napier to be hungry. Some have pointed out that he has a meal plan as part of his scholarship package, and that most colleges go to great lengths to ensure their top-tier athletes are well-fueled. Others countered that student athletes who burn thousands of calories each day may require extra sustenance, and long practices and frequent road trips may mean grabbing dinner at a campus dining hall before a 7 p.m. closing time isn't always feasible.

Although Napier's story has sparked some heated debate, everyone seems to agree that no college student should ever have to worry about having enough to eat.

We've written about college hunger before. As the economy limps toward recovery, and the cost of higher education continues to skyrocket, students are increasingly seeking out food stamps (SNAP), food banks, and other community resources in order to feed themselves. While college isn't a particularly flush time for most, there's a difference between being a "broke" student subsisting on ramen noodles and iced coffee, and being a student dealing with chronic food insecurity and even homelessness

Unfortunately, most students don't qualify for SNAP benefits, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, notes that there are quite a few exceptions. And while it's heartbreaking to think of college students needing them, food pantries that cater to students are becoming more common on campuses.  Still, the fact that university students, young people seen by so many as having "made it," are facing hunger and food insecurity shows just how pervasive the problem of hunger is in this country. It also underscores the need to strengthen and expand safety net programs, so that students can focus on acing their midterms, and winning championship titles, instead of wondering where they'll find their next meal.

Lenten Devotions: "Where Are You?"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

'45th parallel' photo (c) 2007, Julia Manzerova - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

April 9, 2014

"Tried to run fast enough
Tried to fly high enough
Thought that I could dive deep enough
To lose your hold on me

The end of the road the bottom of the glass
The grip of fear that holds you fast
Lost in the valley no song to sing
When you're brushed by an angel's wings

And you're Still in One Peace
Still in One Peace
We are blessed we are broken
Given one more chance to be
Found in you we are
In One Peace."

--Lyrics from "Still in One Peace," by Peter Mayer

Halfway between the equator and the North Pole. I just love that sign because it reminds me, and hopefully you, that we always have choices. Sometimes, I think we can feel like there aren't many options or choices for us. But, when you stop and think about it, there is a whole world just right outside your door.

Peter sings about trying to run away from God. He's not the first one to try that act. Adam and Eve also wanted to hide from God. I'm sure you've seen other people trying to hide from God, as well. But, this amazing God we have is everywhere, so where can one go?

The answer is nowhere! And the good news is that God is "now here!" God is here in the very basic stuff of our lives. So, rejoice in the one peace that binds our hearts and souls together in unity.

Advocates Help Push Unemployment Bill Through to House

Advocates_during_Gathering
Bread for the World advocates during a workshop at the 2013 National Gathering, held June 8-11 in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Jon Gromek

Yesterday, the Senate passed a bill to extend emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) benefits by a vote of 50 to 38. If the bipartisan bill passes the next hurdle in the House, it will restore benefits through May, and provide retroactive benefits back to Dec. 28, when EUC expired. More than 2 million out-of-work Americans have been cut off from assistance since the end of last year.

The final passage in the Senate is a testament to the power of advocacy: Bread for the World members made 1,045 calls and sent 24,600 emails to senators. Many people who've been affected by the loss of benefits also told their stories and kept pressure on Congress through social media networks, such as Twitter. Without the loud cry from constituents across the nation, the bill may have died after the first attempt to pass it failed.

Approximately 40,000 people in Ohio are among those who've been cut off from benefits. On March 27, I accompanied Bread members who met with the staff of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in Columbus, Ohio. We relayed our hope that a deal would be reached and a solution implemented—a message the senator also received through calls and emails from across the state. Sen. Portman voted to restore unemployment benefits, and his leadership was critical in crafting the final bill.

In Illinois, where more than 110,000 people have lost benefits, my colleague Zach Schmidt asked several pastors in the state to sign on to a letter urging Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to pass EUC. More than 100 faith leaders— leaders who've see the devastation long-term unemployment has caused in their communities and congregations—responded. Like Sen. Portman, and three other Republicans, Sen. Kirk co-sponsored the legislation, which helped push it through final passage. (See how your senators voted here).

Now, as the bill moves to the House, where its future is uncertain, our advocacy work intensifies. In Ohio, we are already thinking of how we can reach out to Republican legislators who may cast key votes. Ohio Bread members will need to reach out to Reps. Bill Johnson (06), Patrick Tiberi (12), David Joyce (14), Steve Stivers (15), and James Renacci (16). While political observers can wait for Congress to act, our neighbors struggling to find work in a still-weakened economy cannot.

Roll Call reports that House Republicans are not feeling pressure to pass this bill. We must change that. Please call (800-826-3688) or email your representative today and urge him or her to vote to extend unemployment insurance. At the end of the week, House members will leave D.C., and head to their home districts for a two-week recess, providing opportunities for you to engage your representative by attending town hall meetings or setting up an in-district meeting. Your organizer can help you come up with a plan of action.

Bread for the World members in Ohio, Illinois, and other states across the country are thankful for the courage of elected officials like Sens. Kirk and Portman, who are willing to put politics aside and do what is  right for their constituents. And it is clear to us that the strength of your voices in calling on members to renew unemployment made all the difference this round. Let’s do it again.

Jon Gromek is regional organizer, central hub, at Bread for the World.

Lenten Devotions: Baking Communion Bread

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.

Communion_bread
Communion bread, baked by Pastor Ron, at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. (Courtesy of Pastor Ron Glusenkamp)

April 8, 2014

"Pass it on
Break the bread,
Lift the cup
Pass it on
The broken will be lifted up
 
Every gift grand and lowly
Every purpose great and small
At this feast they are made holy
By your name you have been called
By your name you have been called."
 
—Lyrics from "Pass It On," by Peter Mayer and Patricia O'Reilly

There is something wonderful about making communion bread. It doesn't take very long to do, and the results are just fantastic. I've put together a video on how I make communion bread according to the Luther Seminary recipe. It's pretty simple. I know for certain that each time you do it, you'll find that it's easier and also more fun.

Why do I think this is important? Well, I believe it is important to use bread as often as one can for communion. At our congregation we don't always use bread, but when we do, people seem to notice. I will also say that not everyone likes real bread at communion. I'm not certain of the reasons for that, but my hunch is that it's too "earthy."

In other words, I think for some people it's simply not spiritual enough. Now, I don't necessarily agree with that viewpoint, but I've been doing this long enough to realize that, ultimately, the "delivery system" — chalice or individual cups, wafers or bread — doesn't matter. What matters are, as Martin Luther said, the words "given and shed for you."

That's what Peter is singing about:

"Break the bread,
Lift the cup
Pass it on
The broken will be lifted up."

It's all about being in communion.

Quote of the Day: Abe Gorelick

Job_fair_line
A job seeker reads a copy of the California Job Journal as he waits in line to enter the California Job Journal HIREvent February 10, 2009 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)

"Since my unemployment benefits have run out, I’m just trying to make a little money with these part-time jobs. But, for perspective, if I combined my income from all of them, that would still be half of what my weekly unemployment benefits were."

—Abe Gorelick, a marketing professional with a  master’s in business, who has been unemployed for more than a year. Gorelick told the New York Times that he is currently working three jobs—driving a cab and picking up shifts at Lord & Taylor and Whole Foods—but has still fallen into credit card debt, wiped out his retirement accounts, and has even contemplated selling his house since losing his unemployment benefits.

Gorelick is one of more than 2 million people who are classified as long-term unemployed, meaning they’ve been out of work for more than six months. The obstacles this class of workers face to find employment is even more difficult than it was pre-recession; emergency unemployment insurance is their lifeline.

Today, the Senate is expected to vote on a bill to extend long-term unemployment benefits through May, and make them retroactive to the Dec. 28 expiration. As the bill moves over to the House, even more pressure will be needed to push the it through.

Congress must renew emergency unemployment insurance today. Call 800-826-3688 today and tell your senators and representative to act.

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