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House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas released his first draft of the farm bill into committee on Friday. His draft would cut SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $20 billion over 10 years. In this weakened economy, need has increased and participation is high, because the safety net has responded as it should, but Rep. Lucas (R-Okla.) would change that with this bill.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a member of the agriculture committee, said the bill “would make hunger worse and not better.” Last week the congressman gave his tenth End Hunger Now floor speech in advance of the chairman’s draft proposal.
Both the House and Senate will mark up the farm bill this week in their respective committees; the Senate on Tuesday, May 14, and the House on Wednesday, May 15. After the chair offers the first draft, committee members have the opportunity to propose and vote on any amendments, or changes, to the bill. Once a final version is voted out of committee, leadership then adds it to the schedule for a floor vote. Both House and Senate leadership have indicated they would like a farm bill on the summer agenda.
“We are supposed to help people, not hurt people,” said McGovern in his speech.” But if this farm bill goes forward with a $20 billion cut in SNAP, we will be hurting people— millions and millions of people in this country.”
Any cuts to SNAP would prove devastating for vulnerable Americans. SNAP participants are already facing a reduction in benefits—on Nov. 1, a temporary program boost that was included in the 2009 stimulus package will expire. Even more alarming: a recent Institute of Medicine study concluded that the way in which the benefit level is calculated for SNAP is inadequate for a healthy diet. Inadequate as existing levels are, just this expiration will reduce the average benefit to about $1.40 per person per meal, reports the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities. Cutting the program by $20 billion over 10 years would reduce the benefit even further and increase food insecurity even more.
“Outraged” was a term McGovern used repeatedly in his speech. He responded to those who believe cuts would reduce participation. “SNAP isn’t a get-rich scheme,” he said. “People use SNAP to put food on their tables during difficult times. McGovern noted that many people who currently qualify for SNAP do work, but said “[t]he way to reduce the number of people on SNAP is by creating jobs—by helping to get this economy going again.”
In the Senate, the agriculture committee chairwoman’s farm bill draft included a $4.1 billion cut to the SNAP program, which would also create hardship for millions of families. We continue to ask Bread for the World members to call their senators and tell them to ask for a final version with no cuts.
Today, Bread for the World will launch a targeted action alert to our members who have representatives on the committee. During this short window of opportunity, we must get in as many calls as possible to the 44 members who sit on the House agriculture committee. As their constituents, we can demand a final draft that protects programs for hungry people. From Rep. Schrader in Oregon to Rep. Collins in New York, committee members across this nation must hear that any farm bill must help to end hunger now.
Photo: Alex Morris feeds her son, André, in their Bend, Ore., home. Alex depends on SNAP, WIC and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system. (Brad Horn)
Rev. James Forbes, shown in 2006, was the keynote speaker at a North Carolina Bread for the World conference last month. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Scott Griessel, flickr user creatista.
By Paula Well and Rev. Bob Herron
On Saturday, April 13, a dream became a reality—a North Carolina Bread for the World Conference took place at the Christ United Methodist Church in Greensboro, N.C. Thanks to the efforts of the local Bread Leadership Team of the Triad we held a successful conference that brought attention to issues of hunger in our state, our county, and around the world.
The keynote of the day was given by Dr. James Forbes, pastor emeritus of Riverside Church, in New York City. His words inspired and challenged the more than 100 attendees. During the conference, Dr. Forbes also offered a “homiletics teaching,” a workshop for pastors on methods of preaching justice. LaMarco Cable, deputy director of organizing for Bread’s southern hub, gave a presentation on this year’s Offering of Letters and presidential petition.
During lunch, participants wrote letters to Congress and signed the presidential petition while listening to music from hunger advocate and musician Bryan McFarland. The rest of the time was spent networking with people from various parts of the state and sharing ideas about strengthening our advocacy. We were also very blessed to have a local cinema showing the brilliant documentary A Place at the Table the same time that the conference was taking place. We cannot recommend it highly enough.
We hope that other Bread Leadership Teams will be inspired by hearing about our North Carolina event. We pray that the brilliant preaching of Rev. Forbes and the leadership of LaMarco Cable will take us to new heights. We also pray that the exhilaration of learning how our small voices can be used to amplify important issues will not fade.
Recently, our team reconvened to discuss how we could capitalize on the energy of that day, and we became reinvigorated and ready to plan for our next conference. We feel the ways in which the Holy Spirit emboldens us to dream֫—to dream of a day when, instead of one in six Americans going to bed hungry at night, no one is hungry. We dream of a day when Bread for the World won’t be necessary any longer because the problem of hunger has been solved.
Until that dream is realized, we will continue our work.Paula Well and Rev. Bob Herron are team members of the Bread for the World Triad of N.C.
The American Jewish World Service, Bread for the World, CARE, The Modernizing Assistance Network, Oxfam America and Save the Children released the following statement today in advance of the Senate and House committee mark-ups of the 2013 Farm Bill:
“With more than 870 million people suffering from hunger worldwide and Congress looking to ensure wise use of taxpayer funds at home, the 2013 Farm Bill represents a crucial opportunity to make our international food aid programs both more efficient and more cost-effective.
Unfortunately, the current Senate draft Farm Bill, due to be marked up next week, includes the same incremental steps toward reform as last year, but fails to address the fundamental changes that are so badly needed. We urge Senate leaders to work with the Administration to achieve stronger reforms in food aid programs so that American tax dollars can go farther and American compassion can reach more people in need. On the House side, we remain disappointed that the House Agriculture Committee draft once again fails to incorporate any reforms.
In his 2014 budget request, President Obama proposed common sense reforms that would feed millions more people and save lives by delivering aid faster with no additional cost to the taxpayer. This proposal sets an important precedent in building a more modern food aid program. Proposed reforms include allowing for greater flexibility in how the U.S. delivers food to hungry people overseas and ending the inefficient method of having aid groups sell food aid overseas to fund development programs, a practice known as “monetization.” This increased flexibility is a part of a package that would allow food aid to go farther, feeding 2-4 million additional people. These reforms have been greeted with interest by members on both sides of the aisle.
While we are supporting the Administration’s request that the FY 14 Appropriations bills be the vehicle for food aid reform, we recognize that there are several potential paths forward for Congress to achieve these much needed improvements to our international food aid program, and we are fully committed to working with leaders in Congress, including members of the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, to get it done this year."Photo: Somali woman and a malnourished child exit from the medical tent after the child receives emergency medical treatment from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), an active regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations. Somalia is the country worst affected by a severe drought that has ravaged large swaths of the Horn of Africa, leaving an estimated 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. (UN Photo/Stuart Price)
A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.
"Congress Set to Begin Work on Farm Bill," by Ron Nixon, New York Times. A solid, basic look at the what will happen in the Senate and House around the farm bill, the rough timetable, and what is at stake.
"Top Chef star urges Congress to support anti-hunger programs," by Josh Hicks, Washington Post. Tom Colicchio joined Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) at a screening of A Place at the Table and met with members of Congress to encourage them to protect and strengthen programs that fight hunger.
"Food aid for the 21st century," by John Kerry, Tom Vilsack, and Rajiv Shah, Chicago Tribune (op-ed). Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, and USAID administrator Shah on modernizing food aid.
"Twelve Things You Can to To Fight Poverty Now," by Greg Kaufmann, The Nation. Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK Lobby, Marci Phillips of the National Council on Aging, Jim Will of Food Research and Action Center, tell you what you can do, right now to make a difference. (No.11: Tell Congress: Increase, Don't Cut SNAP).
"These Three Charts Show How the World Could End Extreme Poverty by 2030," by Howard Schneider, Washington Post.
Update, 5/13/13: The Senate Agriculture Committee released a draft farm bill proposal on Friday, May 10, but it is not too late to call! If your senator is on the agriculture committee, call 1-800-326-4941 today and tell him or her to 1)Vote for any amendments that eliminate cuts to SNAP and vote against any amendments that cut SNAP, and 2)Vote against any amendments that cut international food aid.
Today we sent the following call to action to Bread for the World members whose senators sit on the Senate Agriculture Committee. These senators' voices will be critical in deciding how SNAP, international food aid, and other vital programs will provide for the needs of hungry and poor people in the future. If your member is on this committee, your voice will be critical in influencing him or her. The committee is comprised of 20 members, including chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and ranking member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.); click here for the full roster.
By Eric Mitchell
The Senate Agriculture Committee is once again writing a farm bill, and they need to hear from you! Time is short before they release their proposal. The farm bill governs SNAP (formerly food stamps) and international food aid, critical anti-hunger programs. Both are at risk of devastating cuts.
If your senator sits on this committee, call him or her today to ensure a place at the table for hungry and poor people by protecting programs vital to them.
Call toll-free: 1-800-326-4941
Raise your voice and urge your senator to ensure a place at the table for hungry and poor people by protecting programs vital to them. Tell your senator to:
- Protect and strengthen SNAP. SNAP effectively and efficiently helps 47 million low-income Americans put food on the table. As unemployment and poverty have remained high, the number of families at risk of hunger has not increased since 2008. SNAP is functioning as it should.
- Improve international food aid in ways that make the program more efficient while also targeting the nutritional needs of women and children in the 1,000 day window from pregnancy to age 2. The emergency food aid program, Food for Peace, reached over 53 million people last year.
Cuts to these programs will mean no food on the table for millions of our brothers and sisters. Urge your senator to ensure a place at the table for hungry and poor people by opposing any cuts to SNAP and international food aid.
This week is critical as the Senate Agriculture Committee finalizes its farm bill. Call your senator at 1-800-326-4941 or send an email today. Please contact your senator no later than Friday, May 10.
Thank you for using your voice to help ensure a place at the table for all God's people.
Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.
You might not know it by looking at me now, but I was two months premature when I was born, barely weighing three pounds. My birth and the weeks that followed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit must have been a harrowing time for my parents, especially my mom. It took some time, but I eventually grew strong, gained weight, and became a healthy child—and eventually a healthy adult. One of the things I credit to my recovery was the healthy food I received both before and after I was born. My parents thankfully had the resources to make sure I had all the nutrition I needed, yet because of the sequester’s 5.3 percent cut to the WIC program, more than 600,000 moms and babies are going to find those resources harder to come by.
I recently got to sit down with some of the staff at the “Moms-2-Be” program in Columbus, Ohio. Moms-2-Be (M2B) is a unique program designed to help pregnant women who live in Weinland Park /near Eastside of Columbus have healthy pregnancies, deliveries, and babies.
The Weinland Park neighborhood has the highest density of poverty in all of Franklin County and, until recently, an alarmingly high infant mortality rate. For the moms who reside in the neighborhood, WIC is one the best resources they have to help their babies. The sequester means that more than 18,000 Ohio moms like the ones in Moms-2-Be in Weinland Park are going to have a harder time beating the odds and giving their babies what they need to grow and develop. Staff told stories of the struggles moms will go through to make ends meet and the tough choices they will have to make to be sure their children are fed. Sometimes that means cutting formula with water to make it last or having to graduate their babies to solid food long before they are ready.
With Mother’s Day around the corner, take a moment to reflect on everything that moms do to fight for their children. This Mother’s Day, tell Congress to stand up for mothers and children. Email Congress right now and tell your senators and representative to stop these cuts and instead enact a balanced, responsible budget deal that protects our mothers, our children, and our economy. Mothers protect us. Make sure Congress protects them.
Jon Gromek is regional organizer, central hub states, at Bread for the World.
Photo: Jon Gromek, as a newborn, being held by his mother, Angie Vrettos-Gromek. (Photo courtesy of Jon Gromek)
"There are genuinely sufficient resources in the world to ensure that no one, nowhere, at no time, should go hungry." —Actor and activist Ed Asner
Photo: A young girl sells oranges in the market in Lusaka, Zambia. (Margaret W. Nea)
By Alice Walker Duff
How will you honor your mother this Mother’s Day? What will you do to let your mom, grandmas, aunties, and mentors know that you learned their lessons of love and care for others?
This Mother's Day, honor your mom, and all the amazing women in your life, by telling Congress to stand up for mothers. Congress can act quickly and decisively—its members recently fixed flight delays caused by sequestration cuts. But nutrition and other programs that help moms in the United States and around the world are still on the chopping block.
There’s only one way to fix this and protect mothers and children from harmful cuts!
Email Congress right now and tell your senators and representative to stop these cuts and instead enact a balanced, responsible budget deal that protects our mothers, our children, and our economy. As a thank you, we will send a free e-card to any of the women in your life. We will let them know that you honor them by standing with mothers everywhere!
Mothers protect us. Make sure Congress protects them! Email Congress now and celebrate Mother's Day in a way that makes a difference. Together, we can make sure that mothers and children in the United States and around the world have the nutrition they need to thrive.
Thank you for joining me in standing with mothers everywhere.Alice Walker-Duff is Bread for the World's managing director.
After seeing the documentary A Place at the Table, Lori Abshire participated in a SNAP challenge and her church's Offering of Letters. Photo: Participants at the National Hunger-Free Communities Summit watch a preview of A Place at the Table. (Amanda Lucidon for Bread for the World)
By Lori Abshire
This winter I took a poverty class at my church, King Avenue United Methodist. The class, led by Pastor John, was amazing and touched my heart in many ways, but I was overwhelmed by what I learned. What could I do to make a difference when faced with such an enormous problem? The class culminated in a trip to see the documentary A Place at the Table, which highlights the hunger epidemic in the United States.
The documentary shook me to my core. I couldn’t get the image of Rosie, a 12-year-old Colorado girl, out of my head. “ I struggle a lot,” Rosie said in the documentary. “Most of the time it is because my stomach is really hurting and I zone out. I’m just looking at the teacher and all I am thinking about is food.” I had to do something so I decided for the first time I would be one of “those people” on Facebook—I was going to make people aware of the facts about food insecurity and food stamps, or SNAP.
This is a personal issue for me. My family had to be on food stamps when I was growing up. My mom worked hard—there wasn’t a lazy bone in her body—but we couldn’t make it sometimes without food stamps. I am thankful that safety net was there for us. Growing up, I thought anyone with a full refrigerator was wealthy. I will never forget the first time, as an adult, that my refrigerator was full. I had learned by then that it didn't make you wealthy, but I was grateful.
A couple weeks ago, Pastor John spoke about seeing things through Jesus’ eyes. I tried to see this issue that way. I made a commitment to stick to a SNAP food budget for a week, starting Monday, March 25. Can you guess the food stamp allotment for an adult for seven days? It’s about $31 per adult, per week—or $4.45 a day.
I went to Wal-Mart to get the cheapest prices. I tried to make the best choices possible. Produce was so expensive, but I was lucky to be able to buy a banana for each day, an apple, and two oranges. I couldn’t believe the apple I bought was 83 cents!
The only meat I was able to purchase was two cans of tuna. My protein sources were milk, yogurt, peanut butter, black beans, and that tuna.
I can certainly see why someone would buy a bag of chips for $1.50 instead of the carrots I bought. Chips have 800 plus calories and my carrots had maybe 200 total. I can see why people make the choices they make.
I did this to help educate our children and my friends and family. I found that I was OK with being one of those people on Facebook. I opened up a lot of dialogue. I hope I opened some people’s eyes. Hopefully, they started to see things through Jesus’ eyes.
We live in the world’s wealthiest nation, yet more than 50 million Americans struggle to put food on the table. My church has conducted an Offering of Letters, asking our president and members of Congress to enact a plan to end hunger. I hope you’ll join us.
Lori Abshire attends King Avenue United Methodist Church and lives in Columbus, Ohio.
"Eating's incredible; eating is good," sings Lazarus, the main character in the Bread for the World eponymous musical. "You have to be grateful ... for each tiny plateful ... of life-giving food," continues the hungry man at center stage of this parable.
Bread members and anti-hunger partners will get a chance to see the revival of this tale of food, justice, and redemption at the 2013 National Gathering on June 8, 2013.
Lazarus debuted in 1987 when Joel Underwood, then director of Church Relations at Bread for the World, decided to shine a light on one of Jesus’ fundamental lessons. The story, found in Luke 16, features a rich man, Dives, who refuses to share with a beggar, Lazarus, in life, but finds that he is the one in need in the afterlife. The musical brings Luke's narrative into today’s world—and into places where extreme wealth and poverty rub against each other.
I was given the gift of bringing new arrangements to Lazarus, learning a great deal in the process. I’ve always loved music: when I was young, our family sang in our little Southern church, and I knew every song in our worn-out hymnal. Throughout my life, from elementary through graduate school, God opened doors allowing me to share my music.
In December of last year, my friend Bishop Donald DiXon Williams, associate for African-American Church Relations at Bread for the World, sent me copies of the original musical score of Lazarus. For weeks I studied it with passion. I ate with Lazarus. I slept with Lazarus.
Music has changed since the debut of Lazarus, and I wanted to make sure that the melodic and harmonic structure felt contemporary—from the very first song, "the Ballad of Lazarus," to the last, "Mustard Seed Faith."
When arranging "Hunger and Poverty Blues," I expanded the bluesy melody to make sure that it would appeal to all music lovers. I know that younger listeners might not be as familiar with the blues as those of us who are lightly over 49.
"Brothers Awake" was created in my mind while jogging. A Latin beat kept it going around in my head until I was back home. I’ve learned that if you have a melody inside of you and you want to keep it forever, you had better hurry and write it down.
While the arranging the music was my first concern, this project also opened my heart—giving me deeper understanding of how hunger and poverty unjustly touch some people in our country and in the world. If this new arrangement of Lazarus can change other hearts and bring about an awareness of hunger and poverty in our country and the world, I feel that my journey with Lazarus will have been particularly harmonious.
Dr. Bill Cummings is a renowned musical director and a producer of Lazarus.
The premiere of this new arrangement of Lazarus will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, 2013, in the Kreeger Theater at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington, D.C. The performance is open to the public, but you need to secure a general admission pass or ticket online.