"Hope" is one of the photos featured in a Camden, N.J. Witnesses to Hunger exhibit held at a local gallery on Sept. 19, 2013. Of the work, photographer and Witnesses advocate Nia T writes, "'Hunger lives here and so does hope.' I like that saying. That’s something. That’s deep. It means that they’re helping. They’re helping the environment. They’re helping the community." (Photo by Nia T/Witnesses to Hunger)
Denver resident Robin Dickinson and her family rely on two main sources for food: their garden and their SNAP benefits. In November, when across-the-board cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program took effect, Dickinson also saw her garden's yield diminish because of frost. Dickinson took a picture of one of her withered tomato plants; the shot is included in the photo project "Hunger Through My Lens," sponsored by Hunger Free Colorado.
"It seemed especially cruel that SNAP benefits were cut at the same time winter frost killed off the last of our tomatoes," Dickinson wrote in the photo’s caption.
The "Hunger Through My Lens" project gives cameras to SNAP recipients and asks them to document their experiences with hunger. The photos drive home the importance of anti-hunger efforts in ways that statistics often can't: it's one thing to hear about food deserts, but quite another to see one woman's photo collage of beautiful bananas in a grocery store in an affluent neighborhood juxtaposed with bruised, expensive produce at a corner bodega. "Hunger Through My Lens" has received quite a bit of media attention lately, but it isn't the first program of its kind.
Barbie Izquierdo, whose story was featured in the documentary A Place at the Table and Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, became engaged in anti-hunger work through Drexel University’s Witnesses to Hunger program. Izquierdo was given a cell phone with a camera, and asked to document her life through photos of the hunger and poverty in her Philadelphia neighborhood. Izquierdo is a nationally recognized speaker on hunger, lobbies on Capitol Hill in support of anti-hunger programs, and has reached millions through her documentary appearance, but her path to advocacy started, in part, with those photos.
Last year, at a time when the SNAP program was facing especially devastating cuts, the Witnesses program in Camden, N.J., held a gallery show to display some of the photographs taken by project participants. Bread for the World organizer Larry Hollar wrote about the participatory advocacy project and the photos on display, and how they conveyed not defeat at that crucial time, but hope for a world without hunger.
This month, in observance of National Nutrition Month, Feeding America is calling on people to show their support for nutrition through photography—it's holding a Photo-A-Day challenge. Feeding America is asking participants to snap a pic each day, based on a different words or phrase ("hungry," "fresh," "on a budget") and share those photos on social media sites. It's yet another way for people who care about ending hunger and malnutrition—and, in some cases, are dealing with hunger and malnutrition themselves—to use the power of the lens to bring attention to these important issues.
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. This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.
"It's been a long, long road but I'm coming back to find you/Took hold of my heart long ago wanna be back beside you/It's been a long, long road but I'm coming back to find you/One sound came a-tumblin' down Jericho/Breaking the walls that bind you." —Lyrics from the song "Musicbox," by Peter Mayer, Jay Oliver, and Chris Walters
The picture accompanying today's devotion is of the window at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London.
I like the window a great deal. As I sit in morning prayer, I look up at it—is it an egg, a seed, or flying saucer? Some days I can see a cross. Maybe it's a womb, or a tomb. I guess it depends on one's mood and perspective.
In the introduction to his song "Musicbox," Peter Mayer says, "This is a looking-back song." Peter sings about the journey—so often you have to look back to go forward. Like the lovely window at St. Martin's, how one "sees" this song or hears it depends on one's perspective.
It could be a song about the distance between lovers. It could be about a believer's quest for God. Perhaps it is a love song sung by God indicating God's intentionality to find us no matter where we have gone.
"Wanna be back beside you/It's been a long, long road/But I'm coming back to find you."
If you are feeling lost, then this is good news for you.
Psalm 139 reveals this truth: "Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast."
Today, be on the lookout for a God who "breaks down the walls that bind 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. This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos.
March 5, 2014
"Dirty hands, dirty feet/I'm over my head it's made a mess of me/But it keeps you coming back to the/Way of love never stops on easy street/You've gotta walk through the muddy water to come clean." —Lyrics from the song "Dirty Hands, Dirty Feet," by Peter Mayer, R. Scott Bryan, Marc Torlina, and Mac McAnally
It sounds counterintuitive, doesn't it? "You've gotta walk through the muddy water to come clean." We hear the words spoken to Adam and Eve, "you are dust and to dust you shall return," (Gen. 3:19). Ashes are smeared on our forehead. This liturgical action is called "the imposition of ashes." It truly is an imposition because we would rather be thinking about spring training, spring break, or even "the Journey to the Tourney" than receiving the terminal diagnosis that we are "dust and to dust we shall return."
Whenever I hear Peter sing those words—"You've gotta walk through the muddy water to come clean"—I think of Naaman and Elisha (2 Kings 5:1-19). Naaman was a general in the King's army. He was used to giving orders and having those orders obeyed. But, he had a disfiguring disease called leprosy. The prophet Elisha instructs him to bathe seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman is deeply offended by this ridiculous prescription. However, his staff reminds him that if the prophet had instructed him to do something quite difficult, he would have been open to do it. Naaman does as he is instructed and is healed by the God of Israel. "You've gotta walk through muddy water to come clean."
King David was caught up in the scandal of his day—"Bathsheba-gate." He had stolen another man's wife (2 Samuel 12). The secrets, intrigue, and politics of his time seem like a precursor to the show House of Cards. Tradition has it that after King David was confronted by the prophet Nathan regarding his sinfulness, he wrote Psalm 51 as his prayer of forgiveness: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit."
"You've gotta walk through muddy water to come clean."
So, what part of you needs to go through the muddy water to come clean? What's going on in your life that needs to die so that new life might blossom and grow? This season we will be praying for one another as we make our way from ashes to alleluias.
Blessings on your steps today to come clean. Be confident that there is a mighty love for you.
Janitors and food workers in government buildings received a wage boost to $10.10 by presidential order recently. Income from work is the primary buffer against hunger for the vast majority of U.S. families, yet too many jobs pay poverty-level wages. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)
By Robin Stephenson
Having been a certified nurse's aide (CNA), I can tell you it is backbreaking work—rewarding certainly, but challenging. After graduating high school in a small town, I worked in a nursing home for a short time. At the end of the day, my paycheck didn’t feel like it matched the job.
Many of the other assistants, who were primarily women, were married, and their wages supplemented their husbands' incomes. Although things were beginning to change then, the bulk of blue-collar jobs held by women in my small town in the 1980s rarely offered health insurance or retirement plans.
I made my way to college eventually, and as my job opportunities increased, so did my wages. As a CNA, I had the privilege to care for my elders, and the work felt useful. God’s command to care for the widow really resonates in a nursing home. But today, I’m thankful that I have a job where I don't need to choose between a new tire or adequate food. I’m thankful that I no longer fear a bank balance in double digits with a week before my next paycheck.
So, when I came across an article in The Baxter Bulletin that told the story of 38-year-old Heather Prichard, who is making ends meet as a CNA earning $7.25 an hour, I’m ashamed to say I was relieved my life took a different turn. Not because I think Heather’s work is less valuable than mine; I admire what she does and know how hard she works. In the video segment that accompanies the story, the worry and frustration in Prichard’s voice is clear, and that is what I’m glad I left that work behind. Living month to month and barely getting by means dealing with a constant and nagging worry about what could go wrong. Prichard is frustrated, and with good reason—working a full-time job should allow one to live above the poverty line.
“When you are the kind of parent that is willing to get up every day and work as many hours as you can, and your still just not making it…it’s frustrating,” Prichard says in the video.
A shocking, but not surprising, fact I learned while reading the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, (a fact also is captured in this infographic): if the minimum wage were tied to productivity growth on par with the 1950 wage, Heather Pritchard would be paid over $18.67 for the work she does caring for others. This year, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) are expected to introduce bills in the House and Senate to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 over a period of three years — a step in the right direction. Media reports have painted this as a partisan issue. To me, raising the wage is a moral issue — it’s about valuing humanity.
Some day I may need the assistance of a CNA. When the time comes that I need to be cared for with the dignity God intended, I hope society provides my caregiver with a wage that values his or her dignity.
Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national lead for social media and senior organizer, Western hub.
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)
"If someone told me I could get some decent wages and get some benefits doing anything, I'll do it."
—Kevin Meyer, a New Jersey man who lost his job in 2012, and then his federal unemployment benefits in December, to the Los Angeles Times.
The Senate is expected to vote on extending unemployment insurance this week. A few weeks ago, Congress failed to advance this bill by just one vote. It is likely that one vote will again determine the outcome. It is also likely that one of three Republicans holds that decision in his hands: Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, or Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana.
If your senators are on record with a vote to renew benefits, call them and tell them they have your support. You may even ask them to reach out to their colleagues Kirk, Portman, and Coats, and ask them to vote to renew emergency unemployment benefits (EUC) immediately. If you are from Indiana, Illinois or Ohio, it is even more urgent that you call 800-826-3688, or send a personal email.
Today’s snow day is an inconvenience for members of Congress who can’t get to work, but the snow cannot be blamed for the fact that they have been frozen by inaction around renewing emergency unemployment benefits. That Congress continues to leave 2 million job seekers out in the cold without help, while the market is still weak, is irresponsible and unacceptable.
While senators bicker over how to pay for the extension, 38-year-old former medical biller Trista Selmar-Steed wonders how she can pay for basic necessities, like food. While senators talk about the deficit, Illinois resident Jennifer listens as her phone rings with calls from bill collectors, but no job offers. Without benefits, she doesn’t have access to the resources that could help her find a job, she recently told PBS Newshour.
The stories of the long-term unemployed all follow a similar path – downhill. Congress can change that by reinstating their benefits. These are people who once got up and went to work each day, paid their bills, and contributed to the economy, but now live the daily nightmare of unemployment. An estimated 200,000 are veterans, and new people are joining the ranks of the long-term unemployed everyday.
There are still three applicants for each job opening in this country; the United States has not reached full employment and January’s jobs report shows growth is anemic and wages are lagging.
For the third time, the Senate is expected to vote on extending unemployment insurance this week. A few weeks ago, Congress failed to advance this bill by just one vote. It is likely that one vote will again determine the outcome. It is also likely that one of three Republicans holds that decision in his hands: Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, or Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana. They must hear from constituents, as well as their colleagues, and be urged to do the right thing.
If your senators are on record with a vote to renew benefits, still call them and tell them they have your support. You may even ask them to reach out to their colleagues Kirk, Portman, and Coats, and ask them to vote to renew emergency unemployment benefits (EUC) immediately. If you are from Indiana, Illinois or Ohio, it is even more urgent that you call 800-826-3688, or send a personal email.
It is easier to build a fence at the top of a cliff than to drive an ambulance to the bottom, goes the adage. Each week that passes without action, more and more Americans are headed in the wrong direction when Congress could easily act on their behalf and help them change course.
Photo: Washington D.C. March 3, 2013 (courtesy of Robyn Johnson).
When Martin Luther King Jr. came out against the war in Vietnam in the 1960s, his justification was that it was draining resources needed to implement the Great Society social programs and hampering the government’s ability to finally deliver on a promissory note guaranteeing that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. King was drawn to the antiwar movement because his faith compelled him to work toward systemic change.
His opposition to the war broke down the silos of seemingly disparate movements and fused them together in one overarching desire for open, honest, and responsive government—a moral government.
Today, that desire involves pushing our government’s leaders to play a significant role in stemming hunger, poverty, and disease at home and abroad. However, just as King had the Vietnam War in his time, we too face enormous competition for government resources to help those whom Jesus called “the least of these.” We too are outraged by government waste, fraud, and abuse; but we are just as outraged by the government’s misplaced priorities and devolution from social responsibility. Even getting the attention of congressional leaders is a competition. The wealthy and powerful are able to steer government policy through campaign contributions and special-interest lobbying firms. How do the voices of those who can’t afford to “pay to play” get heard?
Bread for the World is unlike the special-interest firms that crowd the Capitol, bestowing gifts and favors on members of Congress who support their motives. The organization instead serves as a proxy for those who lack the income and wealth to gain access to these corridors of power.
Bread uses its influence to call for policies that are characteristic of a moral government. It speaks with authority on behalf of the church, God’s primary agent for transformation in the world, and supplies the vigilance needed to ensure the government plays an active role in addressing poverty and hunger.
In the Gospel according to St. John, chapter 5, Jesus encounters a lame man who is lying by the pool of Bethesda because no one would help him enter its healing waters. His blessing was being deferred by the selfish motives of others, who were out to get their own blessings. That’s how it often is in Washington—powerful interests rush in, seeking to receive from the government trough.
When Jesus healed the lame man by telling him to “take up your bed and walk,” he demonstrated the power the church has in advocating on behalf of the most vulnerable.
In the Master of Arts in Transformational Urban Leadership program (MATUL) at Azusa Pacific University, our students are engaged in social entrepreneurship and community transformation in the poorest communities around the world. They are working outside traditional structures to empower the poorest of the poor. Bread similarly engages in social entrepreneurship by embracing civic engagement and advocacy to bring the faith community together to pray, act, and think about new ways to establish a moral government.
Paul Turner is director of Mission Implementation at West Angeles Community Development Corporation, adjunct professor of the MATUL program at Azusa Pacific University, and elder at Abundant Life Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Los Angeles, Calif.
Photo: President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meet at the White House, 1966. (Yoichi R. Okamoto, White House Press Office)
MSNBC host Ronan Farrow looks at U.S. food-aid policies, and the need to reform them, in the latest installment of his "The World Unseen" series. Farrow pays particular attention to shipped food aid—current policies mandate most U.S. food aid is in this form. Commodities, which are subsidized in the United States with taxpayer dollars, saturate the markets of developing countries, and undercut the very people the aid is meant to assist. “Tax payer dollars sent to help often do the opposite” Farrow reports.
Irene, a farmer in Kenya who struggles to feed her children, tells Farrow that the greatest difficulty farmers face is competing with U.S. food—a problem that originates with policy set in Washington, D.C. Agriculture, Farrow says, is the key to Kenya’s economic independence. "Buy local," a term often used in America to support stimulating local economies, also makes a lot of sense in the context of development. Buying food near the source of a crises supports economic independence and strengthens regional agricultural systems. Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters campaign urges Congress to improve the efficiency of our food aid with more dollars available to purchase local food so we can reach millions more people
Highlighted in the MSNBC report are two of the congressional champions behind food-aid reform in the farm bill: Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.-39) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.-16). As we previously reported, the farm bill authorized and made permanent a provision to use some food aid funding to buy locally—a good first step. But for those provisions to be realized, Congress must also appropriate the funding.
Bread for the World will be examining the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget, expected to be released early next week, for proposals to increase funding for flexible approaches, like local and regional purchase and cash vouchers. We also want to see this flexibility reflected in appropriations bills, which the House and Senate will release later this year. Quality also matters, and supporting policy that increases nutrition will save more lives. The first step, however, will be encouraging our members of Congress to fund the authorized reforms in the farm bill. The farm bill was a start, but much more work needs to be done.
Building the political will to modernize U.S. food aid has human stakes. Irene deserves the opportunity to take care of her family, and if U.S. policies hinder that, we have a responsibility to act. It is, as Farrow says in his segment, about giving the underdog a fighting chance.
The prospects for immigration reform in 2014 were diminished in recent days when House Speaker John Boehner questioned whether an immigration bill could pass the House, due to Republicans’ “widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws.” Rep. Boehner added, “It's going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”
After raising advocates’ hopes for reform this year with the release of House Republican principles for reform, Rep. Boehner’s comments put the short-term viability of immigration reform in limbo. Still, advocates continue to push for reform, both with Congress and the administration. Boehner’s apparent call for delaying immigration reform hasn’t prevented other Republican leaders and constituencies at the local, state, and national levels to continue to push for updating the nation’s outdated immigration system.
During a meeting with the National Governors’ Association in Washington, D.C., Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said, "I'm a Republican and I'm happy to help lead the charge to say, 'Let's embrace immigration.'" Snyder described himself as being “probably among the most pro-immigration governors in the country."
In Congress, many of Boehner’s colleagues, including Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart are reportedly working on legislation that will meet a majority of Republican representatives’ doubts regarding enforcing immigration provisions. Rep. Diaz-Balart also said it would meet many Democratic congressional members’ requirements. “Can you draft legislation that has serious border and interior security, with sufficient leverage to force this or future administrations?” Rep. Diaz-Balart said. “I think we have drafted a way to actually do that.”
Major Republican constituencies have also stepped up their pressure on Congress to bring immigration reform legislation to the House floor this year. U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue re-emphasized the economic need for immigration stating, “The case for immigration reform is clear. The need is undeniable. The time is now.” Donohue’s statement was followed by a multi-industry letter on immigration reform signed by 636 businesses. “Failure to act is not an option,” the letter stated.
Faith-based groups across the political spectrum also continue to lead the push for reform. Catholic and evangelical Christian leaders united to urge Congress “to move forward and create a new immigration process.” Leaders participating in the call urging Congress to act included National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference Rev. Sam Rodriguez, and Catholic Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
Bread for the World continues to partner with the broad spectrum of faith-based groups in pushing for reform. Bread for the World Institute’s research on the economic impact of immigration is also impacting how immigration is viewed in economic terms. In February, the Detroit News published on op-ed by the Institute on the potential of immigration to help fuel the city’s revitalization.
"One in six Americans are food insecure…if you’re on a crowded subway in New York, most likely there are people that are hungry sitting next to you; they’re in your community, you may know them."
—Tom Colicchio, celebrity chef and anti-hunger activist
Photo: A young girl eats breakfast. (Margaret W. Nea)
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