Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Words Have the Power to Move the Government

Participants in Bread's 2015 Lobby Day from Alabama meet with their member of Congress. Zach Blum for Bread for the World

By Stephen Padre

Last week, in one of the Supreme Court’s major announcements, the highest court in the land affirmed the power of words. The Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act was based on the interpretation of just four words (established by the state) among the millions of words in thousands of pages of legislation. Whether you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision or not, there’s no denying the huge deal the case became for the court, the Obama administration, the health care industry, and for millions of Americans who are covered under Obamacare.

Words also matter in advocacy. We live in a country that generally does not take political action with our bodies. Except for extraordinary times, political change does not happen in the U.S. through widespread strikes, rioting, or violence, as it does in some other countries. Of course, one or thousands of us are allowed to show up in front of the White House, but usually protesters are trying to get the president’s attention with words—with a sign or by shouting in a bullhorn.

Our democracy is built on the exchange of ideas. We exchange those ideas through words—discussion, debate, broadcasting through the media, etc. One of the best aspects of our democracy is the power of the individual, the right of a citizen to speak up and be heard by our government. It’s the power of the words and ideas that the individual is allowed to bring before the government—one of, by, and for the people. And Bread for the World is built on the idea of individuals using their words to speak to their government and to work with it. Motivated by their faith and supported by Bread, people are encouraged to use their own words to influence the decisions that are made for their fellow Americans and for others around the world.

Earlier this month, Bread hosted its annual Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. People from across the country came to visit the offices of their representative and senators on Capitol Hill and advocate for child nutrition legislation. Most of these types of visits last only 10 or 15 minutes – not much when you consider it. But many of these visits and the few words they convey are powerful. A short story told in an in-person congressional visit can hold a lot of weight. And just a few lines in a piece of legislation can mean millions of dollars are put toward a critical anti-hunger program.

Words in Washington have power. The words from politicians and decision makers have power. But so do yours as a citizen or resident of the United States. Claim your power. Speak up. Advocate with Bread. As we saw last week, the whole government might be moved by just a few words.

The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but nearly 16 million children are food-insecure. Act now! Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators to close the hunger gap today.

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

Hunger in the News: Criminal Justice Reform, North Korea, MDGs, Child Hunger, and Charleston

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

Ethiopia: Hunger and Poverty Prevail Despite MDGs Global Progress,” by Meskerem Lemma, The Ethiopian Herald via AllAfrica.com. “’We have a duty to all the world's people, especially the most vulnerable, and in particular children of the world, to whom the future belongs," according to the United Nations Millennium Declaration.’”

5 reasons Congress could soon do something big on criminal justice reform,” by Janell Ross, The Washington Post. “Lawmakers in states across the country have begun to discuss and, in some cases, take bipartisan action on criminal justice reform.”

A Road Map for Eradicating World Hunger,” by Beth Gardiner, The New York Times. “A lot has changed in Ethiopia since hundreds of thousands of people died in the famine of the mid-1980s. Rates of undernourishment have plummeted in the past 25 years, child mortality is down by two-thirds and 90 percent of children go to primary school.”

Why Isn't More Happening to Reduce America's Bloated Prison Population?” by Tom Dickinson, Rolling Stone. “Leaders from both ends of the political spectrum are joining together to reduce the U.S.'s prison population — one of the most harmful legacies of the War on Drugs. So why isn't more changing?”

Keeping Children Fed When School Lets Out,” by Jilly Stephens, The Huffington Post. “The cost of living continues to rise at a significant pace in New York City and poverty is most severe among households with children. According to the Self-Sufficiency Standard Report, 42% of all New York households do not have enough income to meet their basic needs. Because housing and childcare are the two greatest household expenses, families' budgets are often stretched too thin to afford basic necessities like food. The reality is that children throughout our city are hungry.”

The decision to forgive is rooted in faith. The desire to forget is rooted in racism,” by Anthea Butler, The Guardian. “For many people, the forgiveness offered to Dylann Roof, the man charged with killing of nine black members of Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, at his arraignment by the families of his victims is impossible to understand – and worthy of veneration. ‘I forgive you’ said Nadine Gardner, daughter of slain church member Ethel Lance. ‘I will never ever hold her again. But I forgive you, and may God have mercy on your soul.’”

North Korea's historic drought expected to cause famine, U.N. says,” by Kathy Novak, CNN. “Even a simple piece of fruit was unfamiliar to Lee So-yeon when she fled North Korea seven years ago. She had never seen an orange. So when she came across one at a South Korean market, she bit into it like an apple -- peel and all.”



World Prayers for June 28-July 4: Bolivia, Chile, and Peru

A crafts market in Valdivia, Chile. Jose Parros/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 June 28-July 4: Bolivia, Chile, and Peru

Loving God, we thank you for your grace and for the joy and hope we have in you. Thank you Jesus, for your sacrifice, so we can experience your life every day and be with you for eternity.

We take this time right now to pray for the people of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. They are precious in your sight and loved by you.  We lift them up to you because you are good and are able to meet all of their needs.

Specifically, we pray for the rights of each person, especially the indigenous, those of mixed race, and the poor and impoverished in these nations, to be protected. We ask for an end to violence and injustice that have been present in their respective histories. You alone are able to change the hearts of men, and we ask for your love to soften and open their hearts to you. We also pray for your healing oil to wash over and a restoration of hope be administered to each person, who has suffered from the other end of violence and injustice. May you reveal the value of a life to each person and may your love cover each heart.

In addition, we pray for a reform in the economic and political systems as you guide the leaders of these nations to create and pass policies that will be in alignment with your principles and to change or remove laws that perpetuate the cycle of poverty and injustice. We pray that through these changes, a greater number of people would be able to gain access to education, find jobs, and have an option to provide for themselves outside the drug trafficking industry and other less ideal alternatives.

Lastly, we pray for the strengthening of the body of Christ in this region. We thank you for what you are already doing here and ask that your people will shine brightly as your vessels of love and hope like “a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.” We also pray for more workers to be sent into these nations as they gain your vision and heart for Bolivia, Chile, and Peru.

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

Lord, we also pray for the nine victims of the Charleston shooting and the families left behind after such a tragic loss. May these families find comfort in your love and grace in the days and weeks ahead. In Jesus' Name, we pray. Amen. 

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

Bolivia: 45.0
Chile: 14.4
Peru: 23.9

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

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.





'Fighting the Good Fight'

Lizaura "Lizzie" German, right, visiting with a staffer from the office of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez during Lobby Day. Jennifer Gonzalez/Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Lizaura “Lizzie” German understands the issue of hunger. She manages a feeding program for Catholic Charities that serves people living in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Aside from offering food, the program also provides case management for individuals who need other resources.

But advocacy has never been a component of the program’s work – until now. Through a new relationship with Bread for the World, cultivated by Bread organizer Margaret Tran, clients of the feeding program are starting to find their voice.

In fact, clients have already participated in an Offering of Letters. Bread’s 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children is focused on ensuring Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill. The legislation is set to expire in the fall. 

To better help clients find their voice, German agreed to become a Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader. HJLs, as they are affectionately referred to at Bread, are young faith leaders and clergy who come together to form intentional partnership and community with Bread to advance the work of ending hunger in our world.

When they go back to their hometowns, they work together with Bread staff, folks in their community, and other HJLs to engage more deeply in hunger justice ministry.

Ahead of Bread’s Lobby Day on June 9, German took part in training in Washington, D.C., that afforded her an opportunity to interact with likeminded individuals. “Sometimes you can get bogged down with the work we do,” German said. “You think, ‘I’m the only one going through this.’ So, getting a chance to speak with others around the country who are doing similar work to yours is reenergizing.”

German said the HJL workshops were "awesome." She especially liked workshops that focused on active listening. “I know it is common sense, but when you are doing a million things you forget to listen.”

As part of her HJL experience, she lobbied on Bread’s behalf. She visited with staffers from the offices of Sens. Bob Menendez and Corey Booker (and briefly with Booker himself) as part of a large New Jersey contingency made up of members from The Reformed Church of Highland Park, N.J.

She, along with the others, talked passionately about the need for Congress to reauthorize the child nutrition bill and pass the Global Food Security Act.

“Lobbying with the folks from New Jersey was amazing,” German said. “To see that you are not alone, that there are other people putting their faith into action along with you, was amazing. It’s like you are all fighting the good fight.”

She said she felt that everything she had experienced at Bread leading up to Lobby Day – the training, worship service, legislative briefing – prepared her well to go into the offices of members of Congress and lobby on behalf of hungry people.

She said she was able “to express why we were doing what we were doing and who we were doing it for.”  She added: “For someone who was unable to come to speak and worried about their children or not having enough food for themselves, we were sharing their story.”

The fact that the lobbying was taking place from a faith-based perspective added to German’s experience. “During Lobby Day, we were able to acknowledge a higher power at work,” she said. “That was so cool.”

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


Coming Home After Prison

A market-style food pantry at a Fredericksburg, Va. church that caters to everyone, including the formerly incarcerated. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Alex T. Wheelwright

The United States is home to an astonishing 2.3 million prisoners, the vast majority of whom are not serving life sentences. What happens when they come home?

I recently sat down with Martin Torres, who served four years in a Bexar County, Texas, prison on a check-forging charge. His story helped me understand how incarceration affects families; Torres is the father of two daughters ages 7 and 5.  But Torres' story also is a testament to the importance of providing those formally incarcerated with tools, such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) or TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), that help them get back on their feet.

For Torres, coming home was the start of a new struggle. During his incarceration, his two daughters had moved in with their mother, who struggles with drug addiction and mental health issues. Torres feared for their safety.

“She burned me with cigarettes, hit me with frying pans, gave me a black eye,” Torres said. “But I have this record, so it took me years to get legal custody of my daughters.”

Torres is not mad at the system, which gave him $50 and a prison I.D. when he was released in 2008. He just thinks it could be improved.

Carol Lockett of Chrysalis Ministries in San Antonio, Texas, agrees. “There are multiple issues for people coming out,” she said. Chrysalis Ministries is an interfaith organization that provides religious and social services to those who were formally incarcerated in any detention or treatment facility in the San Antonio region.

Employment, safe and suitable housing, mental health issues that have not been addressed, and unemployment are some of the issues Lockett said become barriers to reestablishing one's life after incarceration. Torres got hired three times at various jobs before his background check revealed his prison record and he was asked to leave. After taking some life skills classes at Chrysalis Ministries, they hired him as a case manager in 2009.

“My ministry is to help people when they get out,” he said. “I cherish my position as a father and a mentor – some of the same mentalities go into both fields. Someone gets out of prison, we need to get them a job, and they should be eligible for assistance, especially if they have kids.”

Texas is one of nine states that have not modified a federal law banning drug felons from receiving SNAP and TANF benefits – a remnant of the war on drugs. Because Torres' conviction - forging checks to support his addiction – was not technically a felony drug conviction, he is able to receive modest monthly assistance. Were Torres to have a felony drug conviction on his record, that assistance would vanish in Texas – for life.

“It really is unfair – it’s unfair to the children,” he pointed out. “My children should not have to suffer for what I’ve done – they shouldn’t pay for what daddy did in the past.”

In his role as case manager, Torres helps fellow returning citizens with job readiness, rental assistance, acquiring identification, and financial planning. He and his daughters lead a hectic but happy life. Many of the men in his program, due to the nature of their conviction, come back to a city with no job prospects, inconsistent housing, and no access to SNAP or TANF.

It is no wonder that only a third of returning citizens manage to avoid arrest during their first decade out. Of those who get help from Chrysalis Ministries, 85 percent avoid recidivism. Torres is proud to be a part of that latter group. He gets to help others coming behind him, and his daughters get their father.

Congress is negotiating legislation right now that would lift the lifetime ban on SNAP and TANF for individuals with felony drug convictions. Tell your members of Congress that it is time to lift the ban. It is time to do the right thing.

To learn more about the connections between incarceration and hunger read Bread’s fact sheet here.

Alex T. Wheelwright is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Let Your Gift Help Feed the Future

By Rev. David Beckmann

Right now, Congress is headed into a critical period of debate over crucial hunger-fighting programs. Feed the Future, which helps smallholder farmers move themselves out of poverty and feed their families, is one of the programs whose future hangs in the balance if we don’t rally enough support to protect it.

But there is good news—a few generous Bread members have banded together to match all gifts before June 30, up to $50,000. When you donate today, your gift will go twice as far to advocate for hungry families in need. 7003205009_e59798ec75_o

Thanks to the support of compassionate people like you, Bread for the World is fighting tooth-and-nail to protect hungry families by speaking up for Feed the Future, ensuring smallholder farmers around the world have the tools they need to feed their families and provide their children with a more promising future. This program is a desperately needed lifeline—and it’s at risk of being reversed, which would deal a devastating blow to families around the world who can least afford it.

As the leading faith voice on Capitol Hill advocating for Feed the Future and long-needed food-aid reform, Bread for the World needs your support to ensure a faith-based voice is heard in this debate. Give now to raise your voice for hungry people and have your gift matched!

When Bread members speak out together, politicians and policy makers take notice. Last year, when a bill to reduce critical emergency food aid made its way through Congress, Bread members like you spoke out against it. Through the strength of our combined voices, we defeated the provision that would have cost families so much.

I know that you hear our faith’s call to end hunger. Right now—when the resources that help so many move themselves out of poverty are at great risk—it is more urgent than ever that we stand together to heed that call. We need your support now to ramp up our campaign to protect Feed the Future and other life-saving hunger programs from crippling cuts.

We know well that kindness begets kindness. Don't delay! When you give by June 30, your gift will be matched, up to $50,000!, making it go twice as far to help advocate for the most vulnerable children and families around the globe.

Rev. David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World.

Photo inset: A woman in Bangladesh, a Feed the Future country, works in a potato field. Shykh Seraj for Bread for the World.


A Carefree Summer Should Not Include Hunger

Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World

Editor's note: This article first appeared on the website of the Alliance to End Hunger, an affiliate of Bread for the World.

By Minerva Delgado

I recently heard a summer camp director say he was taken aback upon hearing one boy’s answer to his typical question to the children as they were leaving camp, “What were your favorite parts of the summer?” He was expecting the answer to be horseback riding, swimming, playing baseball or any of the other activities the children had enjoyed that summer.  However, the boy simply answered, “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”  It was a moment that stuck with the camp director as a reminder that eating 3 meals-a-day can be a luxury for many of the children in his community during the summer.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), or summer meals, provides reimbursements to participating organizations for serving healthy meals to children at no charge during the summer months.  Last summer, approximately 3.2 million children participated in the program.  That’s 161 million meals served at 45,200 sites.  Summer meals sites are among the most accessible federal nutrition programs, where children up to age 18 can go right in and have breakfast or lunch without any applications or restrictions.

While the number of children served by SFSP has increased significantly in recent years, it pales in comparison to the 15.7 million children living in food-insecure households across the country. Why does only one child in six who needs summer meals receive them? What can be done to improve access to this vital resource?

One issue is the insufficient number of meal sites and providers to meet the need. Maybe the children who need summer meals live in remote locations where you don’t find the organizations that typically serve summer meals.  Perhaps they live in areas that do not meet the income threshold to have sites that are open to the public. Or maybe there are organizations that would like to participate but are hampered by the program rules.

From my experience at a small food bank, I can tell you the summer meals program can be difficult to operate.  I once wanted to operate a summer meals site in conjunction with a mobile food pantry operation.  Unfortunately, I ran into a wall with one rule that says that the meals have to be eaten on-site, as opposed to being taken home or to another location.  Our mobile food pantry operated out of a parking lot; there was no place for children to eat the meals.  At the time, I was very frustrated that we couldn’t find a way to help feed more hungry children when there was a clear need–especially since the food bank is located in a suburban community that was not eligible to operate public sites.

While there are many organizations that have the capacity to meet all of the programs rules and provide safe, enriching environments for children to learn, play and eat during the summer, it is clear that more must be done to address the unmet need.  Many children lose ground during the summer because they don’t have access to consistent, healthy meals.  The consequences of not improving the summer meals program are severe.  In addition to suffering and anxiety children experience when they haven’t had enough nutritious food to eat, researchers point to spikes in food insecurity during the summer and educators lament “summer learning loss” come fall.

Congress now has the opportunity to make significant changes to improve summer meals as part of the child nutrition reauthorization bill.  Improving access to this program is imperative.  Ideally, Congress will consider many of the recommendations being made by organizations like Share Our Strength, Feeding America and Food Research & Action Center.  It is important to increase flexibility in the program models to engage even more children because children shouldn’t have to take hunger along on their summer vacations.

Minerva Delgado is the director of coalitions and advocacy at the Alliance to End Hunger.

A Land of Prosperity, a Land of Hunger

Federal nutrition programs are finding ways to connect the people who rely on them with a healthy selection of foods. Jim Stipe for Bread for the World.

By Shalom Khokhar

Growing up, my family and I would go grocery shopping on Saturdays. My favorite place to go was Sam’s Club because they always had free samples. From snacks to desserts, it was always fun to run to each stall and grab a quick treat.

Living in the United States has it perks, one of them being that food is readily available and conveniently located. So available and convenient, in fact, that we become unaware of the disturbing statistics that hit closer to home than we think.

A staggering 69 percent of people had to choose between food and utilities, and 57 percent had to choose between food and housing, according to the Hunger in America 2014 study by Feeding America. More recently, a fact sheet released by Bread for the World last month, reported that almost five million older Americans are food-insecure, representing almost 10 percent of the older population.

Case in point: Last month, Clarence Blackmon, an elderly gentleman from North Carolina, dialed 911 not because he was hurt, but because he was hungry! The 81-year-old returned home after several months in the hospital. With an empty refrigerator and no immediate help, he spoke with 911 operator Marilyn Hinson.

"He was hungry," Hinson said. "I've been hungry. A lot of people can't say that, but I can, and I can't stand for anyone to be hungry."

Support poured in for Blackmon, and people brought bags and bags of food to his home. A little awareness goes a long way.

Sometimes all it takes is a few questions to realize that hunger is a common occurrence even in today’s society. Last December, a family came to my church’s Christmas concert. It was a Hispanic family with two young boys and girls. Dad worked, and mom was pregnant.  

After talking with the family, we found out that dad was fresh out of prison and addicted to methamphetamines, and that mom was basically a single parent raising four malnourished kids. They had no home and had been living in their van for three months.

The church was able to donate $400 to the family and get in contact with a few local food pantries for some much-needed groceries. Their van needed some repairs, so the church  gave them a vehicle to use and paid for a motel room for one week. Mom eventually gave birth to a healthy baby, and a few people from the church went to visit her. The church  also connected the family with  a social worker who could help  make things a little better.

Yes, it’s sad to hear these stories, but don’t just hear them, act on what you have heard!

Jesus said in Matthew 25, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.”

One way we can all make a difference is to call or email Congress and ask them to protect and improve current nutrition programs, such as SNAP, WIC, and the child nutrition bill, and to continue to develop better ways of implementing laws to end hunger in America.

Ending hunger is a goal that can be reached in our lifetime, but only if we act now!

Shalom Khokhar is a summer intern in the communications department at Bread for the World.



Tell Congress: Strengthen Child Nutrition Programs


By Jon Gromek

Today, advocates across the country are speaking out together. We are calling on Congress to strengthen our national child nutrition programs. Will you join us?

PhoneOne in five children in the U.S. lives at risk of hunger. Child nutrition programs, including school meals, summer meals, and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, keep food on the table for millions of children. Still, gaps remain. For every six low-income children eating lunch at school, only one is also getting a summer meal.

Join the national day of action. Call Congress at 800/826-3688. Tell your senators and representative to pass a strong child nutrition bill that closes the child hunger gap and improves children’s access to the meals they need to learn and grow.

Your members of Congress have a unique opportunity to strengthen child nutrition programs. On September 30, the current child nutrition bill will expire. Members of Congress are busy working on a new child nutrition bill this summer. They need to hear from you today! Call 800/826-3688 and tell them to pass a child nutrition bill that keeps all of our children fed and healthy.

Already called your members of Congress? Take the next step and make a special gift to support our nation’s children. Until June 30, your donation – of any amount – will be matched dollar for dollar by a generous donor.

Jon Gromek is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Deliver Us From Evil...

An overflow crowd gathers outside Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., during a memorial service following the shooting of nine congregants. Wikimedia Commons.

By Jose Garcia

As I was watching the news about the senseless murder of our brothers and sisters at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, the camera showed a young woman with a sign that read WHY? This is a question that troubled many.

My answer may sound simplistic to some, but in truth, the root of the problem is - because evil exists. As sure as there is a sovereign, loving, kind, and merciful God, there is evil. It stains humanity and all of God’s creation. It leads to hate, bigotry, racism, oppression, abuse of power, envy, murder, lies, rebellion, and many other manifestations that are contrary to God’s perfect will.

However, in the midst of pain and sorrow we have an opportunity to be an extension of God’s arms of love and consolation to a community that is in mourning. We are reminded by the Apostle Peter to “not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing… For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer…” (1 Peter 3:9, 12)

God's love has compelled many to different demonstrations of love and care for our AME family and the city of Charleston. One of our own, Rev. Nancy Neal, a native of Charleston and Bread’s deputy director of church relations, traveled this weekend to Charleston, in solidarity and love, toward a community that she feels a closer connection with.

Many local congregations are lifting up prayers for the families of the victims and the community. Let us not forget that Jesus taught us to pray: “rescue us from the evil one.”

Jose Garcia is a bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy and the director of the church relations department at Bread for the World.

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