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— Hunger activist Barbie Izquierdo in the documentary A Place at the Table. Izquierdo, one of four people featured in the film, will speak at Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering. Register today and join us.
Photo: Barbie Izquierdo is a Philadelphia native whose firsthand experiences with hunger and poverty have made her an anti-hunger activist and nationwide speaker on the topic. She lives in Lancaster, Pa., with her two children, Leylanie, 7, and Aidan, 5 (pictured). Barbie has worked with Witness to Hunger in Philadelphia and appears in the documentary A Place at the Table. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
A group of advocates that included (l to r) John Levy of Heart Ministry Center, Beatty Brasch, of the Center for People in Need, Scott Young of the Food Bank of Lincoln, and Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader Kaela Volkmer, visited the office of Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), and encouraged him to protect and strengthen SNAP.
By Kristin Ostrom and Kaela Volkmer
Just one week before the scheduled congressional debate on the farm bill and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), a diverse team of leaders met with Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) in Omaha to talk about SNAP. Sen. Johanns is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and former Secretary of Agriculture under President George W. Bush. Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader Kaela Volkmer organized and facilitated the April 30 meeting with the senator, who was joined by his state director Nancy Johner and agriculture policy assistant Ben Connor. We are grateful for the senator’s time and attention and for Nancy Johner’s assistance in scheduling the meeting.
The team urged Sen. Johanns to protect and strengthen SNAP in the upcoming farm bill debates and to reject amendments that could reduce SNAP's ability to meet the needs of hungry people. Kaela also referred the senator to a letter she delivered several months earlier. The letter, which was signed by more than fifty faith and community leaders in Nebraska, lifted up SNAP as an efficient and effective investment in helping to meet the most basic need for food during difficult times.
The meeting was positive and cordial, and the team felt Sen. Johanns was receptive to their points. They came well-prepared with stories and stats to bolster their ask that Sen. Johanns protect and strengthen SNAP and reject farm bill amendments that would cut SNAP. Johanns confirmed the team was meeting with him at the exact right time for this issue!
Voices of SNAP is a regular feature in which people who have received assistance from the federal program give a first-person account of the experience.
By Dawn Phipps
Many people think those of us who need food assistance are nothing but deadbeats and leeches; if we would just put down the bon-bons, get off the couch and get a job, life would be splendid. Ah, there’s a nice fantasy. The truth is that most of us are not deadbeats and leeches. We have jobs. We have families who need to eat. We have children who are wondering when dinner will be ready.
I had children who were wondering when dinner would be ready. One time, instead of telling my daughters I had nothing in the house to make for dinner, I called my ex-husband and made up some excuse about needing him to watch the kids. That way I could take them to his house and they would get dinner.
I eventually went to a food pantry. I was ashamed that I had to ask for help, but I felt welcomed and not judged. They gave me a big box of food. Healthy food. I was ecstatic that I could put something in the cupboard and fix something for my kids to eat. I am a single mom who has always worked full time, who rarely receives child support, and whose extended family has needs of their own, so I have been the sole means of support for my son and myself for quite some time.
When the recession hit a few years ago, I was laid off by my employer, who was a bankruptcy attorney. Three weeks later, I began to receive unemployment. It was helpful, but certainly did not replace what I was making. And all the while I was looking for a job.
I started to apply for every job that I could. Eventually I found myself applying at McDonald's. They told me I was over-qualified. I was feeling desperate and defeated. I realized that if I was going to adequately take care of my son, I was going to have to ask for help. For me, this was like admitting defeat.
Everything went well at the Health & Welfare office, where I applied for benefits, including SNAP. What I was not prepared for was how society would treat me. The first time I received my food stamps, I went shopping for the whole month. It seemed like the smartest way to plan. When people at the grocery store saw my cart, they were not pleased. I had purchased meat, fresh vegetables and fresh fruit. I didn’t know buying healthy food was frowned upon. There were rude comments, eye rolling, whispering, people pointing at my cart—even some hostility from the cashier. I started shopping late at night so I might avoid all those judging people.
I even considered shopping in another town where no one would know me.
In January 2011, I finally found a full-time job with the state and in May of that year I received my last disbursement of food stamps. While my son and I were standing in line to purchase the last groceries I would have to use food stamps for, a woman in front of me in line started to chat with me. She said, “I should have known better than to come to the store on the first of the month with these losers and their food stamps. Don’t you feel the same?”
Knowing exactly how I am when it comes to judgmental people, my son told me not to say anything to her: “Please Mom, don’t!” I told my son, “I have to!” I had always made sure that my son had no idea that I was receiving food assistance so I quietly told her I received food stamps so she must think I’m quite a loser as well. I said “I’m sorry you feel this way when you don’t even know me.” I was not going to stand in the same check-out with this person. As I moved my cart to another lane she called out, “Well, you don’t LOOK like you’re on food stamps!”
Dawn Phipps is a nurse and hunger activist living in Boise, Idaho.
DeEtte Peck uses her Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card in Portland, Ore., to purchase food. The card helps people with low incomes purchase food through SNAP. (Brian Duss for Bread for the World)
If you were to lose your job or source of income tomorrow, how would you get by? Would you rely on savings? Friends and family members? Government safety net programs?
Marketplace is asking these questions of its readers in a new feature called "Show Us Your Safety Net." The answers are interesting, and surprisingly similar. When it comes to federal safety net programs, it's not so much a question of whether people who fall on hard times will need them or not, but rather how soon they will need them.
Some of the people who responded to the Marketplace survey said they sought out benefits such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) right away. Others drained retirement funds, savings accounts, or the savings accounts of their loved ones before seeking out government assistance. Most people ended up needing a combination of unemployment benefits, federal food programs, and direct service help. Although the user-submitted stories are anecdotal, it doesn't seem that many Americans—regardless of income bracket—are able to scrape by on savings alone when faced with job loss, illness, or other major life events that affects income.
Here are just a few of the stories:
Used up savings, sold assets, got food stamps, got prescription assistance, applied for (but have not yet) received housing assistance.” —Deborah,Tigard, Oregon
I lost my 10-year job in March 2011. I was old enough to take social security but did not take that option right away. I have a child to support and a wife who was also jobless who had run out of unemployment benefits. What kept us going was my unemployment benefits and food stamps, although these did not come to enough to pay rent and COBRA premiums, let alone our food and utilities. So I tapped my savings.” —Geoff, Belmont, MassachusettsI was in a terrible car accident last December getting ready to start back at university after a 13-year gap. I lost both my jobs related to the accident, couldn't work due to a broken shoulder (still can't). I applied for every program I could as soon as I could. Was able to get free medical from the county. Qualified for food stamps and short-term disability, but went with no income for two months. Had some help from friends, relatives, and church. Not sure what's next, hopefully the disability extension is approved.” —Valerie, Canoga Park, California
Federal safety net programs work to keep hunger at bay even as unemployment and poverty remain high. More of us need help right now, and federal safety net programs are there to catch us when we fall.
Right now, Congress is writing the farm bill, and SNAP, one of our country's most important safety net programs, is at risk of cuts, as is international food aid. Your lawmakers need to hear from you. Tell your senators and representative that any farm bill must not increase hunger in the United States or around the world.
Call or email your members of Congress and tell them to ensure a place at the table for all people by protecting and strengthening the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and international food aid in the farm bill.
Your members of Congress are writing the farm bill right now and they need to hear from you! SNAP (formerly food stamps) and international food aid are critical programs governed by the farm bill. Both are at risk of devastating cuts.
Raise your voice and urge your members of Congress to ensure a place at the table for all God’s people. Tell them 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.
- 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. Call your senators and representative today at 1-800-326-4941 or send them an email.
Did you know that each month the church relations department at Bread for the World produces a resource specifically for pastors? Whether you are searching for inspiration for a sermon you're writing, or just a lectionary enthusiast, Bread for the Preacher is for you.
After reading this introduction, explore this month’s readings on the Bread for the Preacher web page, where you can also sign up to have the resource emailed to you each month.
By Rev. Gary Cook
May’s liturgical observances locate Jesus in heaven, the Spirit among us, and both within the community of the Trinity. By month’s end, all are in place to continue the divine drama of God’s saving work among us. As preachers, our challenge is to help our listeners discover their own place in that drama. The month begins with the reminder from Revelation that the destination of our story is a place for “the healing of the nations.” May your preaching be an invitation to that place.
Rev. Gary Cook is director of church relations at Bread for the World.
"It is only when we have plenty to eat—plenty of everything— that we begin to understand what freedom means. To us, freedom is not an intangible thing. When we have enough to eat, then we are healthy enough to enjoy what we eat. Then we have the time and ability to read and think and discuss things. Then we are not merely living but also becoming a creative part of life. It is only then that we become a growing part of democracy."
—Carlos Bulosan, labor organizer and writer, in the essay "Freedom from Want."
Photo: 17-month-old Adia licks her fingers while eating a fried egg for breakfast on the morning of Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Char Baria village, Barisal, Bangladesh. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
CWS CROP walk participant signs a Bread for the World petition to President Obama asking him to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad. (Robin Stephenson).
By Robin Stephenson
Ending hunger takes a village. Churches, non-profits, and faithful individuals respond to hunger in different ways. Holistic approaches to fighting hunger acknowledge immediate need while also advocating for changes to policies that address the root causes of hunger and poverty.
CROP Hunger Walks, community-wide events sponsored by CWS and organized by local volunteers as a way to raise funds to end hunger, illustrate that action and advocacy can join forces in one event.
Last Sunday, Church World Service, Bread for the World, and the Portland, Ore., community came together around the issue of hunger. Nearly 100 participants, old and young—some participating as congregational teams—walked through sunny downtown Portland on a spring day. The walkers, who carried banners and hand-made signs, raised awareness of hunger and drew questions from others enjoying the warm afternoon.
Volunteer Lisa Wenzlick coordinated the walkers, and Steven Anderson served as treasurer. First Christian Church provided hospitality as well as a starting and ending point. Participants raised funds which will be used support local efforts to address hunger as well as CWS’s global work.
The day was rounded out with an advocacy action on behalf of hungry and poor people as individuals signed Bread for the World’s petition asking the president to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad.
Bread for the World has long had a close relationship with CWS and many CROP Walks nationwide are a reflection of this partnership.
If you would like to get involved, find out if there is a CROP Walk near you or learn how you can organize one in your community.
By Larry Hollar
As a new Bread for the World staff member in the late '80s, I had the chance to perform in the original cast of a new musical on hunger and poverty called Lazarus. Joel Underwood, who was also on Bread’s staff at the time, had taken the story of Lazarus at the rich man’s gate (Luke 16:19-31) and set it to music. He added some twists and turns in the story to challenge people of faith to consider their own responses to the tragedy of hunger in our midst.
Early in my career as a hunger advocate—which has now spanned nearly 30 years—Lazarus gave me a chance to use my musical talents to engage others in the call to justice for hungry people. I was delighted that my then-9-year-old daughter Gillian was also a member of the early cast of the musical, confidently singing a solo as a young girl asking the poignant question, “Where Can I Find Bread?” Later, I had the chance to help stage and perform in this versatile musical in two churches in Arlington, Va., and also sing on the CD of the Spanish-language version, Lázaro. Without question, this musical shaped me in my journey with Bread for the World.
I have come to believe that no movement for social justice can succeed without memorable songs to sustain and enspirit it. Joel’s musical offered singable, engaging songs for the hunger movement of its time. But times change.
So what a joy it is for me to again be part of a new—and very different—production of Lazarus that premieres in June. An entirely new cast will perform a revamped Lazarus, using Joel’s lyrics but with updated, jazzy music by the talented composer Dr. Bill Cummings. The new Lazarus premieres on Saturday, June 8, at 7 p.m. at the Mead Center in Washington, D.C., as part of the first day of Bread’s 2013 National Gathering.
You will not want to miss this special presentation, a result of the passion of my Bread colleague Don Williams, who had the vision to see Joel Underwood’s original compelling work recast for a modern vocal and instrumental idiom. Look for me in the chorus—and my now grown-up daughter will be there, too.
Bread engages us to lift our voices when we advocate to our nation’s leaders on key policies and programs for hungry people. Let’s again lift our voices—this time in song—to give us heart and a fresh dose of the Spirit as we gather June 8-11 in Washington, D.C., for the National Gathering. Join us for Lazarus and much more! For more Gathering details, see http://www.bread.org/gathering.
Larry Hollar is senior regional organizer, eastern hub states, for Bread for the World.
The second day of Bread for the World's 2011 Gathering at American University in Washington, D.C., on June 12, 2011. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl)
By Dr. Alice Walker Duff
Do you love a bargain and hate to miss a deadline? Register today for Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering on June 8-11 and save almost 20 percent. The National Gathering will be wonderful.
You'll hear powerful speakers: Rev. Dr. James Forbes, senior pastor emeritus of the Riverside Church in New York City, whom Newsweek magazine called one of the top preachers in the English-speaking world, will preach at the Sunday, June 9 worship service. On June 10, Rev. David Beckmann, World Food Prize laureate and president of Bread for the World, will talk about the journey ahead to end hunger. Visit www.bread.org/gathering to learn about the workshops and speakers.
You'll meet powerful people: Barbie Izquierdo and Pastor Bob Wilson and his wife, Michaelene — whom you’ve seen in the documentary A Place at the Table — will meet and greet you after they talk about their experiences with hunger and their calls to advocacy. You can hear from and meet Rev. Luis Cortes, Jr., founder and president of Esperanza, whom Time magazine has called one of the world’s most influential evangelicals. Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of USAID, will be a keynote speaker at the international meeting focused on maternal and child nutrition. We will join more than 150 participants at that meeting — at which significant announcements regarding maternal and child nutrition will be made.
You'll witness great things: Enjoy the exciting musical Lazarus, which is based on a message from God. The original music and words are by Joel Underwood, former director of Church Relations at Bread. Bill Cummings has written new music and arrangements—you’ll be singing as you leave the theater. It all takes place at the beautiful Mead Center, home of the award-winning Arena Stage.
You'll do great things: Act on your faith collectively — with others from around the nation — during Lobby Day, June 11, the culmination of the National Gathering.
Register today. Come hear and meet these amazing, inspirational speakers, and join us as we work to set a place at God’s abundant table for everyone.Dr. Alice Walker Duff is managing director of Bread for the World