Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Feeding America Report: Reliance on Emergency Food Increasing

By Robin Stephenson

Electricity, rent, or food on the table to feed your kids? This choice is a game of poverty roulette that families like Jim and Christina Dreier grapple with each month and it isn’t fun.

The Dreiers and their three children live in Mitchel County, Iowa. Like many families, they use a patchwork of assistance – WIC, SNAP (food stamps), and the food bank – to make it through the month. Jim Dreier works two jobs, but that is not enough.

“It’s rough every day.  Where’s my next meal going to come from?” asks Christina.

Reading the Dreier’s story in a National Geographic article, “The New Face of Hunger,” one gets the impression that this is a family that lives on the edge of catastrophe.  It’s a life of fear and worry as they are always one step behind.  

“Moneywise,” says Christina, “coming in is a lot less than what has to go out every month.”

The Dreiers are food insecure – a term that describes households that do not have enough food in a given year. And they are not an anomaly. The shocking truth is food insecurity is epidemic in America. A job is no longer insulation from poverty and hunger.

According to a report released this week by Feeding America, one of Bread for the World’s partner organizations, one in seven people - 46.5 million Americans a year- rely on food banks to feed themselves and their families. Over half of the households included at least one person who was employed.

In the past, a trip to the food bank was an emergency situation that followed a job loss or financial crisis. Today, food insecurity is a chronic condition for too many Americans. But instead of helping low-income families, policy proposals in Congress appear to be working against them.

Earlier this year, the House passed the fiscal year 2015 House budget proposal, which makes deep cuts to programs for hungry and poor people in the United States, including cutting food stamps by $125 billion. Just last month, the House voted to reduce the child tax credit to the most vulnerable families, which would push an estimated 12 million people into deeper poverty.

A job that pays a living wage, not an emergency food box, is the only real buffer against hunger. Yet wages have not kept pace with economic productivity since 1950. Today, 28 percent of Americans make poverty level wages. A vote to raise the minimum wage failed earlier this year in the Senate.

It is time for Congress and the administration to set a plan to end hunger in the United States. Churches and charities can only provide a fraction of what is needed and cannot adequately address the root causes of poverty. The status quo is not ending hunger in America; policy targeted at ending hunger needs an overhaul.

We will never food bank our way out of hunger, so let’s stop trying. We also need the government to do its part.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.

 

Quote of the Day: LaVida Davis

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Rick Steves of Washington state speaks to one of his senators, Patty Murray (D), about hunger and poverty during Bread for the World’s 2014 annual Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. (Bread for the World)

“As people of faith, our task is to change the conversation and make ending hunger a priority for our elected officials.” - LaVida Davis, director of organizing and grassroots capacity building at Bread for the World.

We are at a turning point in history, when nations are moving toward a collective goal of ending hunger and extreme poverty by 2030. To end hunger by 2030, faithful advocates must build the political will to end it, which means engaging our elected officials. 

Throughout the month of August, both Senate and House members are in their districts. Many have public appearances scheduled where constituents have an opportunity to talk with them about hunger and poverty. Bread for the World has a special set of resources to help you reach out to your members of Congress, including a voting record to see how senators and representative have voted on hunger issues. 

Learn more here: www.bread.org/indistrict

 

 

 

Hunger in the News: Military Families and Hunger, MDG Momentum, Famine

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

More Military Families Are Relying On Food Banks And Pantries,” by Pam Fessler, NPR Morning Edition. “The survey — conducted in 2013 — found that almost 620,000 of the households using Feeding America services have at least one member currently in the military.”

“What the Rise in Food Stamps Really Means,” by Tim Henderson, The Fiscal Times. “A key indicator of economic hardship—enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps—is higher in every state than it was five years ago, even though unemployment has dropped in every state during the same period.”

“Immigration crisis at border afflicts heartland harvest,” by Ali Watkins, The Modesto Bee. “Over 20,000 U.S. farms employ more than 435,000 immigrant workers legally every year, according to 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture census data. Thousands -probably tens of thousands - more are employed illegally.”

Ending poverty,” by Erik Solheim, Devex. “Extreme poverty has already been halved, and the Millennium Development Goals Report 2014 revealed some other stunning successes.”

“Experts are predicting a famine in South Sudan. Why can’t we stop it?” by Rick Noack, The Washington Post. “The problem is that South Sudan is following a standard pattern for these kinds of problems: The help only really arrives once it's too late.”

Watch the spread of mass incarceration throughout the US,” by Dara Lind, Vox.  “The map shows that the South — and Nevada — were leaders in increasing incarceration, but that most of the rest of the country has followed.”

Expect At Least Two Continuing Resolutions But No Shutdown This Fall,” by Stan Collender, Forbes. “Congress will return to Washington after Labor Day with little-to-no chance of enacting more than 1 or 2 (and even that’s a stretch) of the 12 regular 2015 appropriations by the time the fiscal year begins on October 1.”

 

World Prayers for Aug. 17-23: Oceania

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A group of women from Aorigi (Santa Catalina) in the Solomon Islans carry baskets pana (breadfruit) on their heads. Photo taken by Irene Scott for AusAID.

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, act, and give. In this blog series, we will be providing 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 August 17 to 23, we will be praying for Oceania: American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia (Maohi Nui), Kanaky, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu:

Creator God, you made the land and the sea for us, and even tiny islands in the middle of great oceans for people to live on. We give you thanks for the amazing diversity of these places, for the people who know how to live in harmony with the sea and their warm hospitality. We pray for the preservation of these island nations in the midst of global warming and rising sea levels. We pray that they and other nations of the world will find just ways to address these problems that can affect livelihoods and land use and, in turn, cause hunger. We also pray for those who are caught up in disasters, which can also cause hunger. Give our brothers and sisters in these places a sense of connection to the world despite their distance from others, and help us to connect with them across the waters or whatever else divides us. Amen.

Poverty and hunger figures for Oceania:

Child Refugee Crisis of 2014: What’s in a Name?

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Ruby Galvez Roblero studies her school work at home in rural Guatemala. Her school is a direct beneficiary of USAID'S Food for Education, a program designed to help disadvantaged children perform better in school through increased nutrition (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

By Arnulfo Moreno

The border crisis: This was the overarching theme at this year’s convention for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Specifically the conference focused on how we should be talking about this humanitarian crisis, literally what words we should be using.

We hear that the unaccompanied minors were held at immigrant detention centers, then taken to an immigration court and had an immigration hearing. Webster’s, Oxford, and Wikipedia all agree that an immigrant is a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country. Is that what these children are looking for, to live permanently in a foreign country? Is that why they left their home countries?

The ravaging effects of hunger, poverty, and violence are diminished under the term immigrant. The stunting and malnutrition that affect many of these children is concealed.   

Jonathan Ryan, executive director of RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services), summed it up perfectly: “They are not coming here for summer camp. They are fleeing violence, seeking protection.”

A person who flees for refuge or safety is a refugee. These children aren’t coming here because they want to leave their loved ones and their countries behind. They are fleeing here because, for many, staying at home means a life of hunger, poverty, and violence. For some, it can mean certain death.

Violence, though only part of this complex issue, has played and continues to play a huge role in this recent migration. Gangs and drug cartels make more on narcotics and sex trafficking than the gross national product of many Central American countries. With this type of power comes the ability to oppress and terrorize. Until the situation in these countries improves, are we supposed to turn our backs on these child refugees just because they are not fleeing organized government oppression but instead organized crime? Should we wait until these crime syndicates declare themselves a government and come clean about the violence they are inflicting on these children?

Hopefully we can acknowledge these children as refugees and not downplay the reality that faces them. I can think of an even better label for these unaccompanied minors: human beings.

Learn more about the Child Regugee Crisis of 2014 here:  www.bread.org/indistrict

Arnulfo Moreno is the media relations specialist at Bread for the World.

Famine Looms: United States Announces Food Aid for South Sudan

14407911395_021caa6586_kBy Robin Stephenson

There has been a lot of bad news in the world lately.  Though it is not always reported, many of the grimmest stories also involve hunger.

The innocent in Iraq evade death on mountaintops where the lucky find food aid dropped from the sky. Elsewhere in the Middle East, families huddle together in refugee camps and pray for peace. Children who flee poverty and violence in Central America arrive at our southern border hungry and traumatized. And in South Sudan, where the atrocities of civil conflict drive families from their homes, hunger is about to get worse.

Famine – a human-made obscenity – looms over the landlocked country of South Sudan in northeastern Africa. The world’s newest country, South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011 but internal conflict has led to widespread food-insecurity. The United Nations is already struggling to feed an estimated 100,000 civilians. Sixteen-year old Nyiel Kutch, her mother, and five siblings made it to a Ugandan refugee camp in December of last year. She told The Guardian, “The place here is good, but the food is not enough for us.”

A hunger crisis becomes famine when four out of every 10,000 children die every day. Experts predict that South Sudan will qualify as early as December. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Reuters that 50,000 children under age five were at risk of dying of malnutrition in the coming months.

Yesterday, the United States announced it will send $180 million in emergency food aid to address the crisis. The funds will be distributed from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust. The trust is a food reserve set aside and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to respond to unexpected food crises in developing countries.

Your advocacy efforts in the past are helping to feed hungry people in South Sudan today. Bread for the World was instrumental in the expansion and restructuring of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust as part of the organization's 1998 Offering of Letters campaign, Africa: Seeds of Hope. Advocacy work started even earlier – 1977 and 1978 – when Bread activists began lobbying their members of Congress to establish the legislation.

In front of us is yet another opportunity that will pay dividends in the future. Changes in U.S. food aid policy can build resilience against future catastrophes. Food aid that takes into account the quality of food and not just quantity can stem the tide of needless deaths from malnutrition. The future of food aid is the Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421).

We can unlock food aid from archaic policy. By increasing program efficiency, flexibility, and improving the nutritional value of food aid, we can help 9 million more people – people like 16-year Nyiel Kutch – who deserve a future free of hunger.

While the news today may be overwhelming, as people of faith called to end hunger and love our neighbors. We must rise to the challenge and act for tomorrow. Urge your senators to cosponsor the Food for Peace Reform Act.

Learn more about food aid reform here:  www.bread.org/indistrict

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.

Photo:  South Sudan. (Stephen Padre/Bread for the World)

With Child Refugees, Who Are Members of Congress Listening To?

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Legislation passed Friday, August 8, in the House of Representatives revises a 2008 anti-trafficking law. Bread for the World strongly opposes repeals of the key anti-trafficking law that would deny Central American child migrants the right to adjudication before an immigration judge and due process protections.

Former Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader Leani Garcia wrote about this bill, “Who Are Christian Congressmen Listening To?” for Americas Quarterly. Following is an excerpt.

The Congressional Research Service has reported that between 87 and 89.8 percent members of U.S. Congress self-identify as Christian. The House members who voted for Friday’s immigration bills run the gamut of American Christian affiliations. There were members of mainline protestant groups like Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and Lutherans; more conservative Christians like Southern Baptists, Assemblies of God and Church of God members, and non-denominational Christians; many Catholics, some Eastern Orthodox members, and even a few Mormons and Christian Scientists. …

Shouldn’t our representatives, at the very least, pay lip service to their Christian duty to love thy neighbor when they discuss the fate of these children? The fact that many of them can’t bring themselves to even refer to the children as refugees, or accept that violence, sky-high murder rates, and social exclusion—not DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]—are the primary drivers of the surge, speaks volumes.

The Bible says not to mistreat or withhold justice from a foreigner six times in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Zechariah. The Bible even goes so far as to say that the foreigner should be considered native-born, and that anyone who deprives or withholds justice from the foreigner will be swiftly judged and cursed. And just in case the Old Testament isn’t really your thing, both Matthew and Hebrews mention inviting in and showing hospitality to the stranger. Feeling especially protective of your citizenship? Philippians 3:20 tells Christians that their citizenship is in Heaven—no mention of the U.S. there.

But don’t just take my word for it. Christian umbrella organizations made up of members from various denominations—such as Church World Service, Bread for the World and Esperanza USA—as well as individual denominations widely represented in Congress—such as the Catholic Church (through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Episcopal Church, and the United Methodist Church—have been calling for a humanitarian approach to comprehensive immigration reform for years. Even traditionally conservative denominations have been pushing for reform through coalitions such as the Evangelical Immigration Table, Bible, Badges and Business, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and even the Southern Baptist Convention—organizing prayer events, press releases and lobbying members of Congress.

American faith leaders of all stripes feel so strongly about deportations and immigration reform that 112 were arrested for civil disobedience when they protested in front of the White House on July 31.

While the overwhelming majority of members of Congress who voted for the restrictive bills last Friday may think they have nothing to lose in this midterm election, they should at least consider the long-term consequences of alienating Latino and Asian voters when determining their political platform.

And even if a long-term outreach strategy doesn’t factor into their political calculus, their actions beg the question: if the members of Congress who pride themselves on being Christians are not listening to the American people (including their constituents, such as the 59 percent of Tea Party Republicans who favor a path to citizenship), their faith leaders, or even their own holy book, who exactly are they listening to?

To find out more about Immigration Reform and Unaccompanied Children, please visit: http://www.bread.org/what-we-do/resources/toolkits/in-district-meetings/

Hunger in the News: Food Aid in Iraq, Roger Thurow Reports from Uganda, Changing Rural Poverty

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

U.S. airdrops food aid to Iraqis trapped after fleeing militants,” by Patrick J. McDonnell and David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times. “U. S. cargo planes escorted by fighter jets dropped food, water and other supplies Thursday for tens of thousands of people who fled an advance by Sunni militant fighters in northern Iraq and are stranded on a barren mountain in danger of starvation, U.S. officials said.”

India seeking amendments to subsidy as it would hit food aid,” The Economic Times.  “India today said along with the G33 countries, it is seeking an amendments to the 10 per cent subsidy cap of the WTO as it would hit the food aid programmes in the developing countries.”

Meet the Journalist: Roger Thurow Reports on the 1,000 Days,” by Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. “In northern Uganda, the mothers, who are smallholder farmers, are growing orange-flesh sweet potatoes rich in Vitamin A and a bean variety with higher iron levels.”

“Jesuits tell their alumni in Congress: Protect border children,” by David Gibson, Religion News Service. “American Jesuits are pushing members of Congress who were educated at the Catholic order’s schools to pass aid for thousands of refugee children who have surged across the border in Texas in recent months, calling proposals to swiftly deport them “inhumane and an insult to American values.”

“How rural poverty is changing: Your fate is increasingly tied to your town,” by Lydia DePillis, The Washington Post. “That’s the story of the new rural poverty in America: If your hometown went south, you probably did with it, unless you managed to get out and had the wherewithal to not come back.”

No More Hearings, No More Bills, Congress Is Headed Out for Summer,” by Becca Stanek, Time. “Especially because this is an election year, many members will be campaigning, visiting offices and town halls in their home states and holding town meetings.”

World Prayers for August 10-16: Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia

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Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. (Rexness, Creative Commons)

This is a new 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, act, and give). Staff of Bread for the World in Washington, D.C., gather every Friday morning for prayer, and as part of our participation in the Bread Rising campaign, we will be praying for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.
 
We will be following 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 staff 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 August 10 to 16, we will be praying for Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia.

Loving God, Master of all Creation, we come to you today in fervent supplication for our brothers and sisters in Christ on the other side of the world. Despite the distance on our vast earth, we are still connected by your eternal love and mercy as we are called to be in solidarity with all, especially those suffering from hunger and poverty in Australia and New Zealand. Poverty and hunger anywhere, experienced by anyone, is an affront to the dignity and potential of your wonderful and amazing creation. Lord, we know, just as we experience here, that hunger and poverty are in large part our creation. You provide us with all we will ever need and yet we, your servants, fail to realize the vision of your Kingdom. To you, we ask for strength, compassion, and persistence to lend our voices in prophetic call and in solidarity to urge our global leaders to prevent the tragedy of any child going to sleep at night with an empty stomach. We ask this and all things in your name, Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Aotearoa/New Zealand:  27% of children live in poverty (The Annual Child Poverty Monitor)

Australia: 17.3% of  children live below the poverty line (ACOSS).

Illinois Faith Leaders Reflect on Global Hunger, Call for Food Aid Reform

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(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

By Zach Schmidt

What do your faith and experience say about global hunger and how has that compelled you to act?

We are called to widen our circle of concern to serve our neighbors across the street and across the globe. This was the consensus among faith leaders in Chicago’s North Shore communities during recent discussions on faith and hunger. As part of a broader campaign to reform U.S. food aid, we have been hosting a series of conversations with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders in the Chicago area over the summer. Participants have been challenged and enriched by hearing from those of different faiths and practices. While the language and supporting scriptures differ, the leaders have found common ground in the fight against hunger.

Bread for the World’s campaign calls on members of Congress to reform U.S. international food aid, so it can better respond to humanitarian emergencies and strengthen vulnerable communities against future catastrophes. The campaign also includes statewide faith leaders sign-on letters, and the Illinois letter alone has garnered more than 170 faith leaders’ signatures and counting. We continue to urge U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk to lead on this issue.

Some of the leaders and their congregations, like Rabbi Wendi Geffen and North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, Illinois, are already well-acquainted with advocating for reform. Rabbi Geffen’s congregation wrote letters last year in support of food aid reform in partnership with American Jewish World Service, an ally with Bread for the World on this issue. Others leaders are deeply committed to global development projects but have not yet engaged in advocacy. But once the issue is presented and the case is made that we can help millions more hungry people, more quickly, while building long-term resilience, and more efficiently utilize our taxpayer dollars, the response becomes, “Well, what are we waiting for?”

Over the past few months, there have been a handful of votes in Congress that affect food aid. Faith leaders have been briefed and have weighed in on these votes. But we can help even more people through reforms embodied in the bipartisan Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014 (S. 2421). This bill would make our food aid more flexible and efficient, freeing up as much as $440 million per year to feed up to 9 million more people faster. The bill makes common sense reforms, including ending the constraints that require our food aid to be grown in the United States and shipped on designated (and more costly) vessels. This adds substantial time and cost to the delivery of food aid, a matter of life-and-death when we are responding to hunger and humanitarian disasters in places like Haiti, Syria and South Sudan.

Faith leaders in the Chicago area—and across the country—are saying the status quo is unacceptable and indefensible, and it’s time for change. Urge your senator to co-sponsor S. 2421 and help build momentum to pass the bill.

Fact Sheet: International Food Aid Reform

Bill Analysis: Food for Peace Reform Act

Zach Schmidt is regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

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