Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

The Economics of Love for Neighbor

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Child tax credits pull more children out of poverty than any other federal program. Bread for the World.

By Bread Staff

Jesus never avoided uncomfortable subjects. Where polite society might frown on talking openly about money, Jesus confronted people’s beliefs, both spoken and unspoken, regarding finances.

He understood how much of human life is affected by our attitudes toward wealth, by the way workers are compensated, and especially by economic realities—including taxes—that affect everyone.

More than once, Jesus was questioned about the morality of paying taxes. In each case, he acknowledged the responsibility to pay taxes while drawing attention to the deeper questions about the place of economics in our lives.

When asked to pay the temple tax, he directed his disciple to catch a fish, whose mouth held a coin worth enough to pay for both of their taxes (Matthew 17:24-27).

When asked about the lawfulness of paying taxes to the emperor, he reminded the Pharisees that their first loyalty is owed to God. Everything belongs to God, the first and greatest giver.

Since we are made in God’s image, we can follow that example and order our economic life, including our tax policies, accordingly (Matthew 22:15-22).

An Economics of Sharing

These stories affirm the central place of an economics of sharing in a life governed by love for neighbor.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, who provided for the needs of a complete stranger after he had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus told that story to expand our understanding of who is our neighbor, not to tell us to wait until someone is bleeding by the roadside before we help.

In telling his disciples to “go and do likewise,” isn’t he also calling us to make provisions for our neighbors who are victimized by their situation in life?

This call to seek justice for hungry and poor people requires us to take such compassionate actions to another level, moving beyond simple acts of sharing with those in need to the more encompassing action of advocacy. Through our advocacy for better government policies, we can help more families receive sufficient resources so they can keep from going hungry.

Proverbs 13:23 states, “The field of the poor may yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.” Today the labor of poor people is essential to the success of our economy, yet many workers do not see a fair share of the harvest. It is unjust that many who may work full-time at low wages will not take home an amount adequate for their families’ basic needs. The biblical call to do justice compels us to make sure that more of the harvest reaches those who produce it.

This year, we can help prevent the erosion of income by supporting tax credits for low-income workers. These tax credits can help millions of American workers support themselves and their families. Our efforts can put food into the mouths of hungry children, and restore hope and dignity to millions of households. It’s compassionate justice in action.

Find more reflections like this on the Bread for the World website.

May I Hunger Enough

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Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World


Lord, let me hunger enough that I not forget the world’s hunger.
Lord, let me hunger enough that I may have bread to share.
Lord, let me hunger enough that I may long for the Bread of Heaven.
Lord, let me hunger enough that I may be filled.
But, O Lord, let me not hunger so much that I seek after that which is not bread, nor try to live by bread alone.

Amen.

From Banquet of Praise

Hungry for an Education, or Simply Hungry?

Veggies
Wikimedia Commons. 

By Alyssa Casey

For many, a college degree represents a path to a better job and a more financially secure future.  But with rising tuition and housing costs, many college students simply trying to access a quality education struggle with hunger. 

According to Feeding America’s Hunger in 2014 study, 1 in 10 adults receiving assistance from Feeding America-sponsored food pantries is a student. Two million of these students are full-time, and 1 million are part-time students.

At Humboldt State University (HSU) in Arcata, Calif., students, faculty, and community groups decided to do something about this. These groups united to address hunger on their campus and campuses across the United States and created Food for Thought.

The program provides assistance to food-insecure students through a campus food cupboard, which opened in October. The cupboard stocks a variety of foods, including dried beans, canned goods, and spices, to provide students in need not just empty calories, but nutritious and balanced meals.  The program also serves as a bridge by connecting students to more sustainable food and housing assistance such as CalFresh, California’s state food assistance program.

The students and faculty members involved with Food for Thought know that addressing hunger means more than just providing emergency food. They are diving deeper, conducting research to better understand the scope and causes of college food insecurity. Even though colleges across the United States are increasingly aware of the problem, there are no comprehensive nationwide surveys of student hunger.

The results of initial HSU student-led research show that 1 in 3 HSU students say that they sometimes or often run out of food and have no additional money to purchase more, while 1 in 5 regularly skipped meals because of lack of money to purchase food.

Follow-up research led by HSU students and faculty is currently under way. Food for Thought plans to use this research to push for greater awareness and advocate to eliminate procedural hurdles that prevent students from receiving long-term food assistance.

Hunger is a health issue that affects not only physical health, but cognitive functions and academic performance. That is why Bread for the World consistently works to strengthen children’s access to school meals and other child nutrition programs.

Bread plans to work diligently this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall. In fact, this year’s Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of nutrition among children, who are especially vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition during their early years of development.

Bread also protects funding for federal and state food assistance such as SNAP and advocates for a living wage and refundable tax credits, so adult students can continue their education without facing hunger and poverty.

Efforts like HSU’s Food for Thought show that just a few concerned people can make progress toward ending hunger. In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger in your community, get involved in local projects like Food for Thought, and join us in advocating for policies that eliminate barriers and increase opportunities for our neighbors struggling with hunger and poverty.

Alyssa Casey is a government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.

Finding Life's Purpose Through Travel, Faith, and Education

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KIVU Gap Year students Caroline Barry, left, and Margaret Kuester, center, visit the office of U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA-11). Jared Noetzel, right, evangelical engagement fellow at Bread, sits in the meeting. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Roughly 20 college-bound high school graduates visited Bread for the World’s offices last week to learn about Bread’s work and how they can become advocates to end hunger by 2030.

The students’ visit is part of their 8-month “gap year” experience facilitated by faith-based KIVU Gap Year. A “gap year” is when students take a year off school in between high school and college (typically deferring college enrollment) to explore their educational and life goals before starting college.

Part of the students’ experience at Bread was learning about our advocacy work. Before heading out to Capitol Hill to speak with their members of Congress, the students received a tutorial of sorts about Bread’s advocacy goals, especially the child nutrition reauthorization bill, and how to speak with legislators.

The bill is set to expire this year, and Bread plans to work vigorously to ensure its reauthorization. In fact, this year’s Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of child nutrition.

“Having student groups like Kivu Gap Year visit Bread is a great opportunity for young people to learn about living out their faith through advocacy,” said Christine Melendez Ashley, senior policy analyst at Bread. “They get to put that into practice by going to visit their members of Congress. We help empower them to be a voice for the voiceless, in this case, for kids at risk of hunger.”

Maggie Parsley, 18, from Columbus, Ohio, said she found her visit to Bread both informative and inspiring. She got to visit with aides from the offices of Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown (D) and Rob Portman (R) and speak with them about the importance of child nutrition.

Parsley said she hopes the “gap year” experience will give her an opportunity to figure out her life’s passion and be better prepared for college. “For me, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do [after high school],” she said. “I didn’t know where I wanted to go.”

KIVU’s gap year is divided into two components: domestic and international. Students spend the first half of their “gap year” doing a domestic internship. Parsley did hers at a refugee resettlement center in Denver, Col. On Saturday, the students left to go overseas to begin their international internships in countries such as Rwanda, Philippines, Tanzania and Israel.

For some students, the opportunity to grow closer to God and deepen their faith was central to their decision to join KIVU’s gap year experience. “I believe God was calling me to do this,” said Courtney Lashar, 19, of Norman, Okla. Lasher spent her domestic internship at Sox Place - a daytime youth drop-in center in Denver, Colo.

In fact, Lashar’s meeting with Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK-4) turned from a political encounter to a spiritual one when prayer was recited at the end of their meeting - first by Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy, who leads national evangelical church relations at Bread, and then by the congressman himself. “He wanted to pray for us. For our trip and what we were doing as part of KIVU,” Lashar said. “It was an amazing thing to see.”

Jared Noetzel, evangelical engagement fellow at Bread, said that advocacy should be part of Christian discipleship, and that these young people get that. "They are ready not only to take their faith seriously, but to turn it into action. Their choice to advocate for the marginalized in society represents the best of our shared, Christian social ethic."

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

                

Hunger in the News: Anti-Poverty Programs, Pope Francis, and Overcriminalization

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

Food stamp benefit cut may force a million people into ‘serious hardship,’” by Ned Resnikoff, AlJazeera America. “Food stamp eligibility rules are tightening in states across the country, causing up to 1 million current recipients to lose benefits and resulting in “serious hardship for many,” according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.”

Pope Francis: Feed the hungry, save lives,” Rappler. “For the leader of the world’s largest religious sector, ending world hunger is a top priority.”

The Overcriminalization of America,” by Charles G. Koch and Mark V. Holden, Politico. “As Americans, we like to believe the rule of law in our country is respected and fairly applied, and that only those who commit crimes of fraud or violence are punished and imprisoned. But the reality is often different. It is surprisingly easy for otherwise law-abiding citizens to run afoul of the overwhelming number of federal and state criminal laws. This proliferation is sometimes referred to as “overcriminalization,” which affects us all but most profoundly harms our disadvantaged citizens.”

Despite the Statistics, We Haven’t Lost the War on Poverty,” by Marianne Page, Time. “Though it may not look like it, a stable poverty rate is consistent with anti-poverty programs that work.”

Ban calls on Global Compact to help end poverty, transform lives, protect planet,” UN News Service. “Addressing the United Nations Global Compact board meeting this afternoon, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said everyone held a stake in ending poverty, transforming people’s lives and protecting the planet.”

World Prayers for Jan. 11-17: Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey

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Katmer, a Turkish flaky pastry, prepared much the same way as flatbread. Wikimedia Commons.

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 Jan. 11-17, we pray for Cyprus, Greece and Turkey:

God of light, in this season of Epiphany, we thank you for the ways the light of Christ is spread throughout the world, especially as we lift up in prayer Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey this week, some of the first places the apostles began to spread the Gospel. We thank you for the rich heritage that the churches in these countries bring to the Church—their long histories, their haunting music, their beautiful icons, and even the way we understand your very Word. We pray that the Christ light and the life it brings will continue to spread in the dark corners of the world, bringing to light the sins of selfishness and strife that lead to hunger and poverty.

Remembering Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey, we pray for all who suffer from hunger and poverty there, especially as a result of economic turmoil. May they find relief from conditions of poverty, disaster, or conflict—causes of hunger. And may they find ways to live lives of abundance.

Continue to be the source of light and life for these countries and their peoples. Kindle in all of us the spirit of your love so that we may also carry your light throughout the world. Amen.

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

Cyprus: Not available
Greece: Not available
Turkey: 2.3 percent

Source: World Bank World Development Indicators as found in the new 2015 Hunger Report.

 

 

Tackling Hunger at the Intersection of Incarceration

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Andrea James, founder of Families for Justice as Healing, discusses her journey from attorney to federal inmate to prison-reform crusader during Bread for the World's 2014 National Gathering. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World. 

By Jennifer Gonzalez

The issue of incarceration seems to have taken a hold on the United States. More and more scholarly studies, news reports, and books on the subject have cropped up in recent years.

On The Diane Rehm Show yesterday, on NPR, Marie Gottschalk, a University of Pennsylvania political science professor, was interviewed about her new book: Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics.

The interview highlighted some alarming statistics:

  • the U.S. contains 5 percent of the world’s population but almost 25 percent of the world’s prisoners
  • 2.3 million people are in U.S. prisons or jails
  • 7 million people are under some type of supervision such as prison, parole, probation, or community service

When these citizens return to their communities after serving their sentences, they often encounter an inhospitable environment. Bread for the World has taken an interest in the issue of incarceration, especially as it relates to hunger and poverty.

Last month, Congress passed the Death in Custody Reporting Act, which was signed into law by President Obama. Bread had been tracking the bill. The legislation requires states to report to the U.S. Department of Justice how many individuals die each year while in police custody or during the course of an arrest.

The topic of incarceration was included in both the 2014 and 2015 Hunger Report put out by the Bread for the World Institute.

One of the most rapidly growing segments of the prison population is female inmates. Nearly one-third of the world's female inmates are in the United States. With it focus on women, the 2015 Hunger Report examines how the rising number of female inmates impacts children and communities.

For many returning citizens, the prospect of finding a job and supporting their families is slim. The system is against them. They are barred from accessing public housing, not allowed to vote in most states, ineligible for financial aid for higher education in some cases, discriminated against by prospective employers, and often can’t access public benefits such as Social Security income, SNAP (formerly food stamps), and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

Returning citizens may be able to receive SNAP benefits, but it depends on where they live and the crime they committed. Thirteen states currently prohibit those with a felony drug conviction from accessing SNAP benefits. In Georgia, for example, one can be convicted of felony drug possession if caught with one ounce of marijuana -- and forever barred from receiving SNAP benefits.

This is unfortunate because SNAP is a valuable safety net. It provides help during a stressful time for returning citizens who sometimes find themselves at a crossroads with family upon their release from prison. Without safety nets, returning citizens sometimes fall prey to old ways and end up going back to prison.

Gottschalk made the point during her interview that real change on the issue of incarceration will come from the grassroots level. It’s already happening with the Ferguson protests and activists mobilizing against punitive prosecutors, mandatory minimum sentences, and the shackling of pregnant prisoners, she said.

Bread plans to continue its own work around the issue of incarceration – highlighting whenever possible its impact on hunger and poverty. Incarceration is definitely a hunger issue!

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

 

 

Advocacy at Home: Give the 114th Congress a Nudge on Hunger

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Bread for the World members in Ohio at an in-district meeting with Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH-02). From left to right, Ceal Bellman, Laura Hovland, Nick Yoda, Rep. Wenstrup, Mary-Cabrini Durkin, Sydney Prochazka, and Cindy Browne. Photo courtesy of Bread for the World's Ohio team.


By Alex Wheelwright

2015 is underway, and with it, Bread for the World’s 41st year of action. For the 74 newly elected members of Congress, the start of a new legislative session is a time to get their feet under them and outline their priorities for the upcoming session.

Some of the new lawmakers are already familiar with Bread, while others may be learning about us for the first time. Now would be a good time to ask your member of Congress how they plan to address hunger and introduce them to Bread.

Bread has an ambitious slate of goals this year, including advocating for child nutrition reauthorization, food-aid reform, the Feed the Future initiative, and immigration reform. We can’t make progress on these vital issues without help from Congress, and Congress will not act without a nudge from us. Now is the best time to introduce your Bread group to your member of Congress and let them know you will be tracking their votes on key hunger issues. Developing a relationship with staffers in your local office is a great place to start.

When Marilyn Robb, Bread’s Maine team chairwoman, hand-delivered her first Offering of Letters to the local office last year, the staffer looked startled and asked after the health of previous chairman, Ted Bradbury. When told that Bradbury had stepped down, the local office sent a thank-you note for his years of timely deliveries of hand-written letters and dedicated activism. 

You don’t need to be a millionaire donor to make an impression with local staff. Showing your face is enough to get Bread on their radar. Information about committee positions is readily available online, and your local Bread organizer is a great resource for preparing for a meeting.

Congress is in position to address hunger issues in 2015. It is up to you to point them in that direction!

Alex Wheelwright is a regional organizer at Bread for the World. He organizes in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

The Blessing of a Grocery Store

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Ashoka Jegroo/Wikimedia Commons.

By Fito Moreno

As snow covered Washington, D.C., yesterday, I sighed. I should have done my grocery shopping on Saturday and not indulged in Netflix. After work, I had to traverse a city that falls apart after only 2 inches of snow to grab milk, bread, and cereal, and walk on poorly shoveled sidewalks to get home.

Yet the mere fact that I live in a city where I can walk to the store to get groceries would be a blessing to millions living in conflict areas such as eastern Ukraine.   

Food reserves in that part of the country are fully depleted, and infrastructure is partly destroyed, including transportation routes and city markets, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The simple task of buying a loaf of bread has become almost impossible in some areas due to the damage done by the conflict.

It is estimated that 5.2 million people are currently living in the conflict-affected area and a little over 1 million having been displaced.

The World Food Program is one of the major aid groups providing assistance to the region. It depends primarily on voluntary donations from national governments. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) gave $3 million directly to the WFP in November to assist 120,000 Ukrainians affected by conflict.

Last year, Bread advocated to ensure that food aid was more flexible. With help from our members, we halted passage of a provision in a Coast Guard Reauthorization bill that would have increased the percentage of food aid required to be shipped on U.S. vessels from 50 to 75 percent. If it had passed, it would have reduced the reach of food aid programs by 2 million people annually.

Our advocacy also helped increase funding for poverty-focused development from $24 billion to $27 billion, which specifically goes toward international disaster assistance, global health, and USAID.  

Making legislative changes on government policies might not be the sexy side of politics that trends on Twitter, but it allows us to respond efficiently to our brothers and sisters around the world when they need us most.

As I unpacked my eco-friendly grocery bag last night, I was thankful that I live in a conflict-free zone. I will continue to talk with my members of Congress to ensure families don’t go hungry because of conflict.

As the 114th Congress begins its work, we’ll need your help to ensure that food-aid reform is a priority. Bread will continue to work on this issue and urge Congress to pass legislation that helps those who need food the most to get it. Learn more: U.S. Food-Aid Reform.

Fito Moreno is acting manager of media relations and a media relations specialist at Bread for the World.

 

2014 Victories: Tax Credits for Working Families

6521600217_aa2e26c7db_bEditor’s note: Bread Blog is running a six-part series highlighting Bread for the World’s legislative wins in 2014. Today’s post, the last in the series, looks at tax credits for working families. 

By Bread Staff

Nobody likes to pay taxes, but there are two tax-related things that are actually good. The earned-income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit (CTC) are two of the country’s most effective ways of fighting poverty , moving more than 10 million people out of poverty in 2012, including 5.3 million children.

Critical improvements to these credits are set to expire in 2017. Bread for the World members pushed Congress last year to make these improvements permanent before expanding tax benefits to wealthier individuals and businesses.

Just before Thanksgiving, Congressional leaders tried to push a deal to expand and make permanent certain temporary tax benefits for businesses. Bread for the World members let their members of Congress know that if they were going to expand tax breaks for businesses, they must include the EITC and CTC improvements, which prevent more than 16.4 million people, including 7.7 million children, from falling into or deeper into poverty.

After receiving strong pushback, including a White House veto threat, this harmful tax deal failed, but Congress is sure to return to this issue in 2015. 

“Our legislative wins aren’t always grabbing headlines, but they’re significant and affect millions of lives,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World. “This list of legislative accomplishments reminds us that sustained, faithful advocacy really works and really does bring change. We’ve got our work cut out for us in 2015, but let these successes of 2014 motivate, inspire, and energize us for the path ahead.”

We’ll need your help to make sure that these two measures stay intact in order to help struggling families. Make sure to continue to read Bread Blog during the year to find out how you can help.

Photo: Heather Rude-Turner, a Northern Virginia mom, depends on the earned income tax credit to help support her family. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

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