Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Mass Incarceration: 'Spitting in the Face of God'

Brother Mike Murphy, on left, founder of the HELP program, a re-entry program for ex-offenders in Cincinnati, Ohio, prays with program participants.

By Bread Staff

Over the weekend, Bishop Jose Garcia, the director of church relations at Bread for the World, gave the keynote sermon at Ecumenical Advocacy Days.

The conference’s theme was “Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation.” At Bread, mass incarceration is an issue we are following legislatively, especially as it intersects with hunger and poverty.

Here is an excerpt from Garcia’s sermon:

“Every day and every hour, the systems of unjust detention of our nation are spitting in the face of God.

When men, women, children, and families are treated as assets to fill quotas that will fatten the dividends of the shareholders whose greed has no regard for the dignity of those created in God’s image, the systems of unjust detention of our nation are spitting in the face of God.

When the formerly incarcerated, who supposedly have paid their debt to society, are denied food, employment, health, job opportunities, adequate housing and education, the systems of unjust detention of our nation are spitting in the face of God.

When women and children, who are facing hunger, extreme poverty, domestic violence, human trafficking, oppression and gang violence, are placed in family detention centers that are pits that trample over these vulnerable ones, the systems of unjust detention of our nation are spitting in the face of God.

This offends God, and offends the church.”

Bread plans to continue its own work around the issue of incarceration – highlighting whenever possible its impact on hunger and poverty.  Keep following Bread Blog for updates and actions you can take.

Wanted: Singers to Join the Anti-Hunger Chorus

Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World

By Stephen Padre

The university I attended provided all students with a few extra academic credits every semester to take non-academic classes like music lessons or sports. In my senior year, I decided to take group singing lessons. My only experience in using my singing voice up to that point had been singing hymns with the congregation at church.

I remember how our teacher, a professional opera singer, taught us to use specific muscles in our lower torso to support our breathing. And she taught us to let the sound from our throat resonate in the cavities of our face. It was an odd feeling to use parts of my body that I didn’t even know existed. It felt awkward to be learning a skill in a new way.

In a way, I was learning something I had known all over again. I had used my voice before—speaking in my daily life and singing every Sunday at church. But to make one use of my voice more effective, I learned that I needed to support my voice and project it.

Bread for the World is an advocacy organization that encourages Christians to use their voices to influence Congress on legislation that affects people who are hungry and poor. In the same way that the singing teacher taught me to use my singing voice, Bread helps its members use their voices in advocacy. We encourage hunger advocates to support their voices and project them.

What do support and project mean for an advocate?

Supporting your voice means having some facts to share as evidence and having a story to tell that’s compelling. Both of these things are helpful in convincing someone to support something you believe in. Bread helps you find these or gives them to you. We can supply you with facts and information about hunger and its solutions. And you probably have a story about encountering hunger in your church or community. Perhaps you’ve volunteered at a soup kitchen or traveled abroad on a mission trip.

Projecting your voice means directing it toward people who can hear it. Bread also supplies this. We give you the means to communicate with your members of Congress and the times to do so. We alert you to legislation that is being considered and invite you to call, email, write to, or even visit your members of Congress.

Bread is here to help you and equip you in using your voice. Like my singing teacher, we can help you find your own voice, to bring out what’s beautiful about your tone and expression, and to choose what you want to sing.

One thing you can use your voice for today is the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567), which was reintroduced in the House recently. This legislation would make Feed the Future a permanent program. Feed the Future is a global hunger and food-security initiative of our federal government that would save many more lives if it were passed into law.

Call or email your U.S. representative today. Urge him/her to co-sponsor The Global Food Security Act.

Also, please join us on June 9 in Washington, D.C., for Bread for the World's annual Lobby Day - our "choir" of voices on Capitol Hill. It’s a chance to speak to your members of Congress directly about these vital U.S. government programs that are helping to end hunger in so many ways. Visit our website to learn more and register.

Stephen Padre is the managing editor for Bread for the World.

Hunger in the News: EITC, Child Nutrition, Mass Incarceration, and Gwyneth Paltrow

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

5 things to know about the Earned Income Tax Credit, a proven poverty reliever,” by Megan Verlee, Colorado Public Radio. “Quick -- name the country’s largest cash assistance programs for poor families. You probably guessed welfare and food stamps. But there’s a big one that most people overlook: the Earned Income Tax Credit.”

The Power of Nutrition formed to combat children’s nutrition,” by Eric Schroeder, Food Business News. “The World Bank Group and UNICEF are among a group of organizations that are teaming up to try to raise $1 billion to tackle problems with children’s nutrition in some of the world’s poorest countries.”

Congress Must Hear the Cries of Hunger From Abroad,” by William Lambers, The Huffington Post. “As Congress debates the foreign aid budget, they should hear the cries of hunger from abroad. They should also listen to the echoes of history.”

John Legend launches campaign to end mass incarceration,” by Mesfin Fekadu, Associated Press via MSNBC. “John Legend has launched a campaign to end mass incarceration. ‘We have a serious problem with incarceration in this country,” Legend said in an interview. “It’s destroying families, it’s destroying communities and we’re the most incarcerated country in the world, and when you look deeper and look at the reasons we got to this place, we as a society made some choices politically and legislatively, culturally to deal with poverty, deal with mental illness in a certain way and that way usually involves using incarceration.’”

Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t understand how America’s poor live. But unless you’re poor, neither do you,” by Lisa Gustaveson, The Washington Post. “Last Thursday, Gwyneth Paltrow snapped a photo of $29 worth of groceries. It lit the Internet on fire.”

Prayers to End Hunger: Food Matters to Children

Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

Editor's note: Bread for the World has launched a Pray to End Hunger campaign. Please commit to pray with us to end hunger. 

By Bread Staff

Food matters to children. In fact, it’s more critical to them than to adults. Proper nutrition in a child’s earliest years is essential for well-being as he or she grows. Well-fed children are healthier, have fewer behavioral problems, and learn more easily. Yet nearly 16 million children in the United States–one in five–live in households that struggle to put food on the table.

We know intuitively that children need our collective protection. Jesus told us to embrace children, “for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matthew 19:14). In this season of Easter, let’s pray for the children of the world as well as those who care for them.

Join us as we pray for: 

  1. Children around the world, that they would have the food they need for healthy development. 
  2. Those who care for children, that they would have access to the resources necessary to provide for those under their care. 
  3. Our leaders, that they would support children and their caregivers in the decisions that they make for this country.

God’s heart is given to all, with a special place for our children. We must work together for a world in which everyone has enough food. Thanks for taking the time to pray for children and those who care for them. 

When you commit to joining in praying for an end to hunger, we will email you twice a month with specific prayer requests and sample prayers. To learn more about how you can get involved with prayer at Bread, please go here

April Webinar: Linking Incarceration and Hunger

Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By LaVida Davis

It seems the news media is picking up on what many have known for a long time: Our criminal justice system is broken. But the explosion of the U.S. prison population is not just a criminal justice issue. It’s a hunger issue.

Register today for Bread for the World's webinar on Tuesday, April 21 at 4 p.m. EDT. We will examine the link between our criminal justice system and hunger.

For example, did you know?

  • More than 1 in 10 prisoners were homeless in the months before incarceration. For those with mental illness, the rate is closer to 1 in 5.
  • Studies show that a prison record reduces yearly earnings by 40 percent.
  • Many returning citizens are denied government benefits, including SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), TANF (welfare), and housing assistance. These bans are a recipe for hunger and recidivism.

But in Congress and around the country, there is growing momentum for change. You can be a part of it.

Legislation is moving in Congress, and as a Bread for the World advocate, you bring something unique to this conversation. Your faith and your heightened concern for individuals struggling with hunger is different from other voices out there.

To learn about incarceration as a hunger issue and what Congress is doing, register now and join us next Tuesday, April 21 at 4:00 p.m. EDT.

Submit your questions ahead of time to Tyion Miller at tmiller@bread.org. Check out our comprehensive how-to-guide on the webinar conference call and register today.

You can start learning about the intersection of hunger and incarceration today by reading our latest fact sheet.

LaVida Davis is the director of organizing and grassroots capacity building at Bread for the World.

World Prayers for April 19-25: Djibouti and Somalia


For the past 24 years, Somalia has been wracked by an on and off civil war. The conditions are so severe there that many of its citizens cannot survive in their own country and have fled south as refugees to Kenya. Hundreds of thousands are housed at the Dadaab Refugee Camp in northeastern Kenya. The camp, which is the largest refugee camp in Africa, is managed by The Lutheran World Federation and houses 350,000 Somali refugees. Here a boy stands amid temporary refugee shelters provided by the U.N.'s refugee agency. Photo courtesy of The Lutheran World Federation

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 April 19-25: Djibouti and Somalia

Lord, we give thanks for those who continue to serve others during times of great turmoil and difficulty, especially the many Christian aid agencies working in these countries. Even though they are frequently exposed to great danger, these brothers and sisters in Christ have not given up on Somalia. Each small sign of progress made in Somalia goes toward reestablishing it as a stable and prosperous country.

We pray for peace in Somalia and that clan and military leaders would repent of the devastation they have caused to the land and its people, and also the gruesome massacre of Christians at Garissa University College committed by the Somali militant group Shabab.

We lift up the hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees all over the world, and refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia who have fled to Djibouti. Those who suffer from malnutrition and face starvation, who live without clean water to drink, and suffer with otherwise preventable diseases and infections. We ask all these things in the power of your spirit, and in the name of your son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Note: These countries are so entrenched in conflict that poverty statistics are not available.

Prayer is a central part of Bread for the World’s work. To learn more about how you can get involved with prayer at Bread, please go here



Finding Common Cause to End Poverty: The Power of Faith

Watch a high-level panel featuring prominent faith-based organizations, religious leaders, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim discuss the role of faith in combating poverty. April 15, 2015, World Bank Headquarters, Washington, D.C. 

By Robin Stephenson

Pope Francis called "poverty a scandal," and Gandhi said, "We must be the change we want to see in the world." Poverty is complex but solvable if enough of us act in unison. The question is: Do we have the faith to end poverty?

For the first time in history, a broad coalition of diverse religious leaders and faith-based organizations, including Bread for the World, believes we do and that the moment to act is now.

Over 30 religious leaders and groups are joining the World Bank to end the scandal of extreme poverty and be the force of change. In February, the coalition released a statement titled, Ending Extreme Poverty: A Moral and Spiritual Imperative.

Bread-faith2endpoverty-meme-2Every faith views hunger and poverty as a moral problem. Leaders from these diverse religious traditions believe we can end extreme poverty by 2030. To do so, political leaders must implement evidence-based solutions. These religious leaders believe that moral consensus will help make it happen.

Recent history has shown it is possible to make dramatic progress against poverty when political leaders choose to make it a priority.  Since 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty or on $1.25 a day has been halved to less than one billion. Imagine the power of faith to accelerate that progress.

On a panel of faith leaders at World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C., yesterday, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim talked about why the World Bank is teaming up with faith leaders to combat extreme poverty.

“If the 188 member countries of the World Bank can agree that our mission going forward is to end extreme poverty,” said Kim, “then it really is important for us to make common cause with religious institutions that have been saying this for millennia."

Evidence has shown us what works. To end extreme poverty, economic growth must directly impact the people we want to pull people out of poverty. To do so, Kim said we must concentrate on a three-pronged approach: develop strategies that grow economies, invest in people, and create social-protection programs that keep people from falling back into poverty.

Bread has been influential in forging relationships between faith leaders and the World Bank because we know the power of faith. In 40 years of faith-based, anti-hunger advocacy, we have seen how moral consensus can change the hearts and minds of decision-makers in Washington, D.C.  Your advocacy was critical in pushing the U.S. government to act on the Millennium Development Goals that helped cut extreme poverty in half.

As religious leaders around the world stand in this historical moment and address the scandal of poverty, faithful advocates must also be ready to act and be the change. 

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

We Need You on Lobby Day: Strength in Numbers

Bread for the World activists walking through the Russell Senate Office Building during a Lobby Day. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

By Zerline Hughes

Most of us are familiar with that now-antiquated Schoolhouse Rock cartoon on how a bill becomes a law. You know the one, where the talking bill travels on the steps of the Capitol singing about patience and courage, sitting and waiting in committee. Though still very applicable today, what that animated lesson doesn’t explain is how people – not necessarily our congressional leaders – are needed to help make a bill into a law.

Petitions, letters, emails, and phone calls to your representatives are definitely one way to make change happen. Even social media is a way to incite change.  However, the most effective way to influence your members of Congress on an issue is to personally meet with them. And what better time than Bread for the World’s Lobby Day – when a host of advocates from all walks of life and from across the country band together to do it as a large contingency.

Bread’s Lobby Day is around the corner – June 9. This year, much is at stake. June will be an important month, and Congress will be in the middle of debating important pieces of legislation such as the reauthorization of the child nutrition bill, among others. We believe we can convince Congress to do what's right for people struggling with hunger and poverty. However, we can't do it alone. We need you!

“I'm on Capitol Hill quite a bit, and I can tell you there are many Christians in Congress. And they can be moved by Christ,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread.  “They can be moved by faith. Moved by the gospel. There's a power there that the special interests just can't compete with.”

Lobby Day will begin with worship, followed by an issues briefing, and then visits to congressional offices on Capitol Hill. In the evening, Bread will host a reception honoring members of Congress who have championed efforts to end hunger and poverty. The day will end with a closing worship service.

Walking through the halls of Congress and meeting decision makers or their staff is exciting and easy. For legislators, a visit from a constituent is a welcome event. They want to hear about what is going on at home.

Once you make it known to your member of Congress that hunger is of dire importance to you and your family, our hope is that it becomes their priority. You also empower your legislator to act on your behalf. When officials hear directly from constituents, they get a better understanding of what you and your counterparts deem important.

And that’s why we need you.                  

Join us June 9.  Help bring us one step closer to ending hunger. Register today for Bread’s Lobby Day and join us in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill.

Zerline Hughes is a media relations consultant at Bread for the World.




Update on 2015 Offering of Letters Legislation


By Bread Staff

Bread for the World's 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children focuses on our federal government's child nutrition programs. The heaviest activity in Congress on this issue is expected later in the year when a bill setting funding and policy for the major child nutrition programs is introduced.

But some other legislative activity is happening. Following is an update on some of it:

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) reintroduced the Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S. 613) on Feb. 27. The bill aims to improve the summer meal programs and help give more children access to meals and programs during the summer months. The bill specifically would:

  • Lower the area eligibility threshold to allow communities to participate if 40 percent of the children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Currently, a summer meal site qualifies if 50 percent or more of children in the area qualify for free or reduced-price school meals as defined by school or census data. The current threshold prevents many communities with significant numbers of low-income children, but not a high enough concentration of poverty, from participating. In addition, the 50 percent threshold is inconsistent with federally funded summer programs, such as the 21st Century Community Learning Center programs and Title I, which have 40 percent thresholds. These important education programs should all be able to provide summer meals. 15725784024_a8738dc2e9_o
  • Allow local government agencies and private nonprofit organizations to feed children year-round through the Summer Food Service Program. Currently, sponsors must apply to and operate the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) separately in order to feed children — often the same children — after school and during the summer. This has created duplicative paperwork and confusing administrative rules that discourage participation.
  • Provide funding for transportation grants to fund innovative approaches to providing meals and mobile meal trucks. Transportation is one of the biggest barriers to children's participation in summer programs. These grants will increase low-income children's access to summer meals in rural and other under-served areas.
  • Allow all sites to serve a third meal. Many summer meal sites provide child care to working parents and operate all day, but most sites are able to serve only two meals. This leaves children without enough nutrition to get through the day or forces sites to use program dollars for food.

Bread for the World has endorsed this bill and supports this and other efforts to strengthen and improve summer nutrition programs.

The other primary bill to improve summer meals, which was introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in the previous Congress — the Summer EBT bill — has not been reintroduced yet in this Congress.

Keep those letters coming! Bread's office in Washington, D.C., has received a few reports from congregations elsewhere in the country about the Offering of Letters that they have held. Many more congregations and faith communities have letter-writing events planned for this year. Bread encourages you to keep your letters coming!

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

Photo: Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

Tell Congress to Put an End to Global Hunger

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Women farmers tending to their crops in Kamuli, Uganda. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

By Bread Staff

Asma Lateef, the director of Bread for the World Institute, recently wrote about the integral role the Feed the Future initiative plays in ending global hunger. The U.S. House of Representatives recently reintroduced The Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567), which would make the Feed the Future program permanent law.  

Lateef's commentary appeared on the Feed the Future website. Here are some excerpts:

“Ending global hunger depends on giving people and communities access to the tools they need to feed their families and build stronger local food systems. That’s why Bread for the World’s grassroots members and staff have long advocated for U.S. leadership in investing in agriculture and food security in developing countries.

Feed the Future was created to do just that. It is the American response to the 2007-2008 global food price crisis that devastated tens of millions of poor and vulnerable people around the world.” 

“Bread staff members have traveled to Bangladesh and Nepal to see the impact of Feed the Future. In southern Bangladesh, women with little formal education were coming together in “garden talks.” After a brief refresher on what good nutrition requires, the discussion moved to local foods that were rich in the various essential nutrients. In western Nepal, Bread staff went to a cooking demonstration. Along with a group of mothers with toddlers, they learned how to make a snack of potato patties more nutritious. The mothers were shown how they could do this without spending a lot of extra money, by cooking the patties in an egg batter and adding local vegetables they could grow themselves.

Food prices have stabilized in recent years and Feed the Future programs are enabling farmers and families, like these women, to learn how to make the best use of the resources available to them. Over the last five years, Congress has increased funding for agriculture and nutrition and is now considering a bill that would make Feed the Future permanent.

Bread for the World is working toward the day that all families are able to grow or buy enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life. Feed the Future – the program itself and its leadership by example – is bringing that day closer."

Feed the Future can save lives. But it's important to act right now to ensure it continues. Call or email your U.S. representative today. Urge your U.S. representative to co-sponsor The Global Food Security Act.

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