Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Our Final Four

9303717422_458bed2397_bBy Eric Mitchell

The rest of the country might be talking March Madness, but Congress is about to take some important votes that will determine anti-hunger policy for the rest of this year and beyond.

We need your voice these next five days. And not just once. We're going to need you repeatedly. You will be hearing a lot from us because this is our final four to ensure funding for our country’s anti-hunger programs.

Last week, the House and Senate introduced their fiscal year 2016 budget resolutions. Both include drastic cuts to programs that help people in poverty put food on the table and provide for their families. The House cuts SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) by $140 billion over the next decade. This is the equivalent of 220 missed meals annually for each SNAP participant. The Senate’s proposal is less specific, but nearly 70 percent of its $4.7 trillion cuts would be to low-income families and people struggling in poverty.

This week, the House and Senate will vote on these proposed budgets. They will also vote on a host of amendments — some that could be very bad, such as eliminating funding for foreign assistance. Can you commit to taking one action each day this week?

Monday (March 23), Call or email your members of Congress and tell them to protect funding for anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs. Protect SNAP and Medicaid and end sequestration so annually funded programs don't see such drastic cuts — programs like WIC, foreign assistance, and Head Start.

Tuesday (March 24), is a national call-in day. People all over the country will be coming together to call and email their members of Congress, urging them to protect programs like SNAP, Medicaid, foreign assistance, and other anti-hunger programs. Bread for the World is teaming up with other anti-hunger organizations to produce the loudest chorus of voices that we can.

Wednesday (March 25), the Senate may begin voting on the budget. There could be hundreds of amendments. We will know what they are by Wednesday. We may contact you if you live in a state with a senator who is especially critical for a vote. We'll also be posting information throughout the day on our Facebook page, Twitter, and blog.

On Thursday (March 26), we expect the House to vote on its budget. We'll be calling on you to urge your representative to vote no. Be prepared to get an email from Bread for the World with talking points and call-in and email information. The vote could be close, and we'll need you to weigh in.

By Friday (March 27), the Senate should wrap up its votes on the budget. The Senate will vote on hundreds of amendments late into the night.

Are you ready? We are. Get pumped because we need you this week! It's tip-off, and you can start right now. Call (800/826-3688) or email your senators and representative today and urge them to protect funding for anti-hunger programs by ending sequestration cuts and opposing cuts to SNAP and Medicaid.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations as Bread for the World.

Women's History Month: Helping the Poor Among Us


By Bread Staff

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Bread Blog, Institute Notes, and Bread for the World’s social media platforms are celebrating the ingenuity, fortitude, and spirit of women during the month of March.

Today, Mother Teresa’s words ring truer than never before. Last week, the House and Senate released devastating budget proposals that could jeopardize the availability of healthy and nutritious meals for adults and children.

The budget proposals include cuts of $140 billion to SNAP (formerly called food stamps) and $400 billion to Medicaid. Under these cuts, SNAP participants would lose 220 meals a year or 10 weeks’ worth of food.

SNAP is the largest child nutrition program in the country. It provides meals for 21 million children. Medicaid provides coverage for 28 million low-income children. Hungry children cannot learn, and unhealthy children will not reach their full potential.

Mother Teresa was a champion for the poor. Let us all strive to live up to her standard –one in which every human being is afforded the same worth and dignity. 

Bread for the World this week plans to ensure that vital safety-net programs are protected by harmful cuts when the House and Senate vote on their budgets. Make sure to read Bread Blog and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to find out how you can help.

Hunger in the News: Budget Reconciliation, Overcrowded Prisons, Congress, and Poverty

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

Hunger pangs no longer haunt NCAA players,” by J. Brady McCollough, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The NCAA prides itself on giving its athletes a big stage. And certainly, no player did more with his one shining moment than former University of Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier, last year’s tournament Most Outstanding Player. In the minutes after the Huskies triumphed in the national championship game, Mr. Napier, instead of basking in the glory, brushed off the confetti and took the opportunity to provide some real insight into his four years as a “student-athlete.” ‘There are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving,’ Mr. Napier said.”

Despite Good Intentions, Vacancies in Refugee Camp in Jordan for Syrians,” by Rana F. Sweis, The New York Times. “Here in Jordan’s vast northeastern desert, row after row of white steel shelters built specially for Syrian refugees sit empty.”

USDA partners with University of Kentucky to reduce child hunger in rural areas,” by Agri-Pulse. “The USDA will be embarking on a new partnership with the University of Kentucky to reduce child hunger in poor, rural areas of the state and up to 15 other states as well.”

Fruit and vegetable vouchers could buy poorer people a more nutritious diet,” by Alison Benjamin, The Guardian. “Allison Vitalis is using vouchers to buy oranges, apples and plums at her local market in east London. Last week, she exchanged her vouchers, each worth £1, for cassava, plantain and yellow yam at the neighbouring Caribbean stall.”

Retaking the Moral High Ground in the Fight Against Poverty,” by James Abro, The Nation. “If a nation has the ways and means to solve a social problem that is devastating millions of its citizens’ lives, but it fails to act, doesn’t that mean resolving the problem depends more on moral values than on coming up with new economic policies?”

Congress Fails to Act on Poverty,” by Russell Berman, The Atlantic. "Tackling income inequality and poverty, or at least talking about it, has become a priority for leaders in both parties, as politicians respond to the increasingly populist bent of the American electorate. Lawmakers have quite a long way to go, according to a new report that details the dismal record Congress amassed on issues related to poverty in 2014.”

Are Overcrowded Prisons Unconstitutional?” by Leon Neyfakh, Slate. “The ongoing effort to address America’s mass incarceration problem has thus far focused on lawmaking. There are bills working their way through legislatures around the country that would reduce the severity of drug sentences, allow certain inmates to leave prison early by completing rehabilitation programs, and allow judges to be more lenient in doling out punishment. Advocates for reform have placed far less emphasis on the potential role of the appellate courts—institutions that have a long history of identifying systemic problems in American society and using their legal authority to force change, from Brown v. Board of Education to Gideon v. Wainwright.”

Budget Reconciliation Explained Through Chutes And Ladders,” by Ailsa Chang, NPR. “There's a word you're going to be hearing a lot as Congress tries to pass a budget this year: reconciliation. It's a procedural fast-track lawmakers get to use after they approve a budget. Republicans are hoping to repeal the Affordable Care Act — or, at least parts of it — through reconciliation, but they're not likely to win that game.”



Lent Devotions: Luke 23:26


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

As they led Jesus away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. (Luke 23:26)

When Mark and Matthew describe this scene, they simply say that Simon was pressed into service to “carry the cross.” But Luke adds that he carried it “behind Jesus.” Luke wants Simon to express in action what Jesus had said earlier.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Simon was blindsided. He was on his way in “from the country” minding his own business, when all of a sudden the soldiers seized him and made him carry the cross. He didn’t volunteer for the job, and this wasn’t part of his plans when he got up that morning.

Some of the toughest crosses are the ones I don’t expect or volunteer for. Why this? Why now? Why me?

There’s no answer this side of the grave. I just do what Simon did: Put my shoulder to the cross as best I can, and walk behind Jesus one step at a time, just trying to get through a day.

Had any crosses like that?


Lent Devotions: Luke 23:24-25


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord. 

The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted. So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished. (Luke 23:24-25)

Pilate does everything he can to win Jesus’ release, short of releasing him. Three times he says publicly that Jesus is innocent. I see him turning, twisting, squirming as he tries to avoid standing up for what he knows to be true. His final verdict: “He handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.” Pilate leaves the scene, a pathetic figure.

The last phrase in the above passage would be more accurately translated, “he handed Jesus over to their will.” Jesus had wrestled with his will, and the Father’s will (“not my will but yours be done”). Now he faces “their will.”

It doesn’t seem fair.

It’s tough enough to face physical suffering. But to be victimized by malicious people who “get their way” at my expense . . . that’s too much.

A billion years from now such trivialities won’t matter. All that will matter is that I did my best to do what is right, tried to treat others with kindness, and put the rest in the hands of God.

There are a few things I can’t change that I should probably put in the hands of God right now.

World Prayers for March 22-28: China, Hong Kong, and Macau

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Temple of Confucius in Beijing, China. Stephen H. Padre/Bread for the World.

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 more, act more, and give more. In this blog series, we will provide 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 March 22-28: China, Hong Kong, and Macau

God Almighty, we gives thanks for the watchful eye you keep over persecuted Christians and Christian churches in China, Hong Kong, and Macau. These are deeply faithful people who continue to struggle for human rights against great odds.

We pray for people who have faced atrocities and indignities such as those forced to work in labor camps, miners who face hazardous working conditions, and those suffering from forced sterilizations, abortions, and infanticide. We ask you to comfort them in their time of need, always knowing that you are not far from them in mind and spirit.

We lift up women and children who do not have equal status or opportunity, marginalized groups such as the aged, disabled, single parent families, and migrant workers, and those who are unemployed in cities and also those who are unable to find housing.

Lord, we in the United States share this earth with China, the world's most populous nation and biggest economy. We lift up to you the struggles China has to care for so many people as it becomes more modern and urban. Help our two nations as enormous consumers of resources and all nations on this same planet find ways to work together so that all in our countries can be fed and live a life of dignity while respecting natural resources and your creation.

We ask all these things in the name of your glorious son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Percentage of the population of these countries living below the national poverty line (2014 figures):

China: 13.4 (2011)
Hong Kong: Not available
Macau: Not available

Source: The CIA World Fact Book

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:20-23


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

Again Pilate addressed the crowd, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed. (Luke 23:20-23)

The shouted response of this crowd-become-a-mob is chilling. The word “crucify” comes like a thunderbolt.

This is the first time in Luke’s Gospel that this horrible word appears in any form – and not once, but twice: “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

It was already clear that the crowd wanted to kill him. But does it have to be this way – a tortured, crude, cruel death by crucifixion?

The cross comes into my life in many forms. But the cross, different for each person, is when I say: “Anything but that.” I cry from the depth of my soul, “O Lord, anything but that . . . anything!”

Sometimes I get the same answer Jesus got.

And so I take the Lord’s hand and take what I have to face . . . sometimes with none but the Lord who understands how hard it is. And I just hold on to him.

Faith Leaders: Sign the Letter to Help Feed Our Children

Christian anti-hunger leaders walking to the White House to meet with President Obama. Bread for the World.

By Zachary Schmidt

This fall, the legislation that funds child nutrition programs will expire. The bill funds five major programs: National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the WIC Program. These programs serve roughly 40 million adults and children nationwide.

Your support is needed to ensure that these important investments in nutrition for all our children are protected. This letter will be hand-delivered to Congress on June 9, 2015. The deadline for signatures is Friday, June 5.

More than one in five children in our country live in households that struggle to put food on the table. Wherever you live, there are children around you who are hungry. As people of faith—called to serve our communities and especially those who are most vulnerable—we need to pay attention. The effects of child malnutrition are profound and well-documented: greater susceptibility to sickness and disease, difficulty concentrating in school, and behavioral problems are among the most damaging. These effects can be lifelong and can affect not only the individual and family, but our society as well. When a child is prevented from reaching his or her potential, we are all impacted.

Thankfully, in our country, child nutrition programs provide healthy meals to millions of children every day, helping them and their families. These programs include school lunch and breakfast, after-school snacks, summer meals and WIC. The Child Nutrition bill authorizing these programs expires at the end of September, and as people of faith, we need to stand together and tell Congress to protect these programs, improve access for children who need them, and make sure other vital programs are not used as funding offsets. Congress will be working on the bill this year, so let’s make sure our voice is counted!

If you live in one of the states listed below and are a faith leader, please click on the highlighted link and add your signature – it only takes a minute! If you are a parishioner, please consider asking leaders in your faith community to sign. For more details, contact the regional organizer listed below each state. We will hand deliver the letters during Bread’s Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on June 9. If your state is not included, you can also help by leading your congregation in an Offering of Letters this year.

Thank you for standing with us, and stay tuned as this campaign moves forward!

Zachary Schmidt is a regional organizer for Bread for the World.

Sign-on letter
Organizer: Zach Schmidt

Sign-on letter
Organizer: Jon Gromek

Sign-on letter
Organizer: Kristin Ostrom

Sign-on letter
Organizer: Kristin Ostrom

Sign-on letter
Organizer: Jon Gromek

Sign-on letter
Organizer: Zach Schmidt

Sign-on letter
Organizer: Brittany Gray

Sign-on letter
Organizer: Zach Schmidt

Sign-on letter
Organizer: Kristin Ostrom

New York
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Margaret Tran

North Dakota
Sign-on letter
Organizer: Kristin Ostrom

Sign-on letter
Organizer: Jon Gromek

Sign-on letter
Organizer: Robin Stephenson

Congress Wants to Cut Food Stamp Benefits by 220 Meals a Year

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SNAP is our nation's largest child nutrition program and provides 21 million children with meals. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Eric Mitchell

The House and Senate Budget Committees just released their budget proposals. Both proposals contain enormous cuts to effective anti-hunger programs. I'm outraged!

The House budget proposes cutting $140 billion from SNAP (formerly called food stamps). The Senate budget proposes cutting Medicaid by $400 billion. Medicaid provides health coverage for 28 million children.

Under these cuts, participants in SNAP would lose 220 meals a year. That’s 10 weeks worth of food!

Congress repeatedly wants to use anti-poverty programs as their piggy bank for deficit reduction. I’m tired of it. I need your voice.

Will you call or email your members of Congress? Tell them to protect SNAP and Medicaid from cuts.

SNAP is our country’s largest child nutrition program. It provides nearly 21 million children with meals when many would have gone without them otherwise. Medicaid provides health coverage for 28 million low-income children. Hungry children can't learn, and unhealthy children won't reach their full potential.

The federal budget is a statement on the priorities of our country. Our children's health and nutrition must be taken seriously. How can Congress propose cutting a program that helps nearly 23 million households, with 21 million children, put food on the table?

Call (800/826-3688) or email your senators and representative today, and urge them to oppose these budgets. Tell your members of Congress to oppose SNAP cuts and  to oppose Medicaid cuts. Congress should be investing in our children—not undermining their health and taking meals away from them.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:13-18


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord. 

Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, “You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”

But all together they shouted out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.” (Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder.) (Luke 23:13-18)

Pilate says (again) that Jesus is innocent and that Herod agrees. He offers to have Jesus flogged (despite his innocence) and released. “Flogging” was a disciplinary beating. “Scourging” was part of killing a victim slated for crucifixion. That will come later, when Jesus has been condemned to die. The proposed flogging is part of Pilate’s plea bargaining.

Suddenly Barabbas is brought into the act – a prisoner who had been imprisoned for murder. All four Gospels have the crowd choose him to be freed rather than Jesus.

Why is there such a turnaround on this kindly person named Jesus? It happens. Public opinion can be affected by polls, knee-jerk reactions, a certain mob psychology.

There’s a little bit of that “crowd” in all of us.

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