Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Groundswell of Advocates Tell Congress to Protect Programs for Children

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Advocates from Oxfam America, CARE, ONE Campaign, and Bread for the World meet with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Los Angeles, Calif., staff about global hunger in May. David Gist/Bread for the World. 

By Jon Gromek

We are at a tipping point. We’ve made progress on hunger; but globally, one in four children doesn’t get the nutrition he or she needs to grow and reach full potential. One in seven children in the United States will face a hungry summer when he or she loses access to free- and reduced-price meals at school. But we can change that.

Congress will protect and strengthen programs for children when enough of us speak up – or they will cut funding.  That's why today, Bread for the World activists are visiting Capitol Hill as part of Bread's annual Lobby Day.

Meeting with your members of Congress is important. From California to Washington, D.C., Bread members are speaking out and getting results! My colleague had just such an experience last week in Los Angeles.

David Gist, the regional organizer who leads our efforts in California, joined advocates from Oxfam, ONE Campaign, and CARE for a meeting on global hunger with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s staff in May at her Los Angeles office. His goal was to ask Feinstein to cosponsor the Global Food Security Act (S. 1252) – a bill that would make permanent the U.S. food and nutrition security program, Feed the Future. 

Five days later, Feinstein cosponsored the bill.

“Letters and calls from Bread advocates laid the groundwork for a meeting that truly made a difference on global hunger,” Gist said. “Without that meeting, our senator wouldn’t have co-sponsored the Global Food Security Act.”

Local meetings are important for another reason: building long-term relationships with staff. Gist said he can now reach out to Feinstein’s staff on other issues that affect hunger, such as mass incarceration.

Many of Bread's members are spending today on Capitol Hill asking lawmakers to protect and strengthen programs that help feed children. Unfortunately, many activists couldn’t make the trip, but that’s not stopping them from taking action in local ways.

In Indiana, over 1,000 letters have been written over the past two weeks and delivered to local offices of Indiana Sens. Dan Coats (R) and Joe Donnelly (D) and Reps. Susan Brooks (R-5), André Carson (D-7), Todd Young (R-9), and Luke Messer (R-6).

Members in my home state of Ohio will be meeting with Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D) state director. The Ohio Bread team recently published several letters to the editor in local news outlets, building awareness about child hunger.

Next door in Pennsylvania, faithful advocates plan to meet with Congressman Tom Marino  (R-10) next week.

IMG_0479Down in Florida, Bread activists have held meetings with the staff of Sens. Marco Rubio (R) and Bill Nelson (D), as well as Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-27) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25).

Bread members around the country have conducted or planned over 40 grassroots actions from Oregon to Maine to Iowa. They are dropping off thousands of letters to local offices, holding in-district lobby visits, and ratcheting up awareness of hunger in local media on the anti-hunger issues Bread members care about! 

Lobby Day doesn’t occur in Washington, D.C., only once a year. Bread members treat every day as an opportunity to influence members of Congress on anti-hunger policy!

Your voice can add to the groundswell of faithful advocates today. Please take a moment to call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today. Visit our Virtual Lobby Day page for talking points and more information.

Photo Inset: Bread members meet with staff of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in South Florida in June. Peter England for Bread for the World.

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

Take Part in Virtual Lobby Day Today

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Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

By Bread Staff

Tomorrow, hundreds of Bread for the World members will be in Washington, D.C., advocating for legislation that would help end child hunger in the U.S. and around the world. Real change is possible — and we're on the precipice with three critical pieces of legislation moving in Congress right now:

  1. Child nutrition reauthorization
  2. The Global Food Security Act
  3. Budget bills that fund these programs

We realize that not everyone can make the journey to D.C., but can you take two minutes today to join us virtually ? A quick phone call (800/826-3688) or email from you will help amplify our message in a powerful way.

Please call (800/826-3688) or email Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Tell Congress to:

  1. Support legislation, like the Summer Meals Act of 2015 (H.R. 1728/S. 613), that closes the hunger gap and connects hungry children with the meals they need.
  2. Cosponsor and pass the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567/S. 1252), making permanent the U.S. food and nutrition security program, Feed the Future.
  3. Prevent cuts to programs that invest in children in the U.S. and around the world. Pass a budget deal that prevents sequestration cuts.

Want more information on these bills and talking points? Visit our virtual Lobby Day page at www.bread.org/lobbyday.

Your call or email to Congress today will make a huge impact in our work together to end hunger at home and abroad. I’m so inspired to see and hear so many people of faith, together amplifying calls to enact policies that will further that cause.

Hunger in the News: Guatemala, Child Hunger, Gates Foundation, and Mandatory Minimums

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

Repeal mandatory minimum drug sentences,” by The Boston Globe (Editorial). “Perhaps the most contentious criminal justice issue the Massachusetts Legislature is poised to tackle this year is mandatory minimum sentencing reform. Lawmakers are planning to hold a hearing Tuesday on a proposal to abolish mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders — a measure that Ralph Gants, chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, supports and all but one of the state’s district attorneys firmly oppose. Ending mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug offenses is a policy that makes sense for Massachusetts.”

G7 summit: anti-poverty campaigners from across Europe rally in Munich,” by Kate Connolly, The Guardian. “An enthusiastic mobilisation of anti-poverty activists in Munich on Saturday called for G7 members to take concrete measures to end extreme poverty by 2030, emphasising the importance of future development goals and the empowerment of women.”

Take a bite out of child hunger pangs this summer,” by William Lambers (Opinion), Cleveland.com. “Summer is coming, but sadly it's not all about fun. With the summer sun comes an increase in child hunger across the United States. That is because, with schools closed, needy children lose access to the free lunches and breakfasts offered there.”

'Invisible' crisis scars children for life,” by Jane Nix, CNN. “Half of the children younger than 5 in Guatemala suffer from stunting because of malnutrition.”

Gates Foundation to Double Spending on Hunger to $776 Million Over 6 Years,” by Voice of America. “Melinda Gates announced on Thursday that her and husband Bill's foundation will spend $776 million tackling hunger over the next six years, doubling existing commitments.”

Pope Francis: poverty afflicts too many families,” by Vatican Radio. “Pope Francis says poverty today afflicts too many families.”

On Mass Incarceration, We Have Reached a Tipping Point,” by The Huffington Post. “The path to prison does not begin the moment a crime is committed. For boys and young men of color, the risk of incarceration exists at nearly every stage of life. For example, in some school districts, high school dropout rates are as high as 50 percent for these young men; those dropouts are 47 times more likely to be incarcerated than their same-age peers who hold a four-year college degree. Yet, our national discourse has not met the growing need to change how we talk about those who live behind bars -- and how we as a nation have failed them.”

Climate Change Will Increase World Hunger

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iStockphoto

By Christopher Ford and Stephen Padre

Today is World Environment Day. Designated by the United Nations, it’s sort of a worldwide Earth Day. What gift from our environment and the Earth is more valuable and sacred than the food they produce? It keeps us alive, fuels our movement and work, and brings us pleasure.

As a Christian organization whose mission is to bring an end to hunger, Bread is concerned about our world’s food supply and, by extension, the environment, the source of food. And so, on World Environment Day, Bread wants to lift up the environment and join in the concern expressed about changes to our environment and how hunger could increase because of these changes.

To that end, Bread for the World Institute has released a Background Paper titled “Hunger and Climate Change: What’s the Connection?

The paper presents the premise that the world will not be able to end hunger and extreme poverty without confronting climate change and its threat to people who are poor and marginalized. Changing climate patterns will result in more droughts, floods, and extreme weather events, making it even harder to grow and secure food.

“It will be impossible to end hunger and extreme poverty without addressing the causes and impacts of climate change,” said Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute. “Climate change has already had a devastating effect on people’s lives, and the situation will only get worse. We need a global solution now.” 

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, housed with the United Nations, changing climate patterns are projected to dramatically undermine food security. The poorest people will continue to suffer the most, especially those living in developing countries or who are subsistence farmers. They will need help in adapting to conditions that were difficult before climate change, and are now becoming much worse.

Later this month, Pope Francis will deliver his first major papal encyclical (letter to bishops). It will address climate change. The final draft of the encyclical specifically discusses the effects of climate change on the world’s poorest people and the need for the Roman Catholic Church and the leaders of other religions to come together and help them “prepare for the challenges of unavoidable climate and eco-system changes.”

Women are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but they also possess valuable knowledge. Women grow more than half of all the food in developing countries, and up to 80 percent in parts of Africa—mostly for their family’s consumption. Extra efforts must be made to provide women with resources to adapt to climate change, as they are often overlooked by male agricultural extension agents.

Bread for the World has joined with the World Bank and leaders of 30 faith groups and organizations in calling for an end to hunger and extreme poverty by 2030. Research conducted by Bread for the World shows that ending hunger and extreme poverty is possible in 15 years. However, climate change may quickly undo any progress this is made.

“There is still time to prevent worst-case scenarios, but it will require the global community coming together to confront and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” added Lateef. “We urge our leaders to equip those who are most affected to adapt to this global crisis and implement strong measures that focus on the root causes of climate change.” 

Christopher Ford is the media relations manager at Bread for the World. Stephen Padre is Bread's managing editor.

 

World Prayers for June 7-13: Angola and Mozambique

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A Mozambique farmer working in a maize field. Kate Raisz for Bread for the World.

This is a weekly prayer series that appears each Friday on the Bread Blog.

One aspect of Bread for the World’s new Bread Rising campaign is prayer. The campaign is asking Bread members to pray more, act more, and give more. In this blog series, we will provide a prayer for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.

This prayer series will follow the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, a list compiled by the World Council of Churches that enables Christians around the world to journey in prayer through every region of the world, affirming our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing their challenges and sharing their gifts.

We will especially be lifting up in prayer the challenges related to hunger and poverty that the people of each week’s countries face. In prayer, God’s story and our own story connect—and we and the world are transformed. In a prayer common to all of us—the Lord’s Prayer/the Our Father—we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This line from this prayer can also be a prayer for the end of hunger.

We invite you to join Bread in our prayers for the world’s countries to end hunger. And we encourage you to share with us your prayers for the featured countries of the week or for the end of hunger in general.

For the week of June 7-13: Angola and Mozambique

God of love and compassion, we approach you full of grief and shame, because we just cannot understand how it is that you love us so much. We feel that we are living under the shadow of death. We find it difficult to understand that you have already brought us out from there and that you hope to see in us signs showing our faith and trust in the eternal life promised us by Jesus.  

Do not forsake us. Rather, guide us in ways of hope that one day Africa will know and live in peace, health and prosperity, through the grace and mercy given us by your Son, Jesus Christ, and by the Holy Spirit. Amen.

(Felicidade N. Cherinda, Mozambique. In: AfricaPraying – A Handbook on HIV/AIDS Sensitive Sermon Guidelines and Liturgy)

We sincerely thank you, O God,
or your powerful gift of hope
in the face of seemingly hopeless situations.
We thank you for your peace
in the hearts and minds of men and women
in this part of Africa
who believe you are the living God,
quick to save in time of danger.
You reign above all,
directing the course and destiny of the universe.

(Joao Makondekwa, Bible Society of Angola. WAGP p. 337)

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

Angola: 36.6
Mozambique: 54.7

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

Making Hunger Data Speak

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Seminary student Becca Rhodes gives a presentation during a Vizathon in San Francisco, Calif. Robin Stephenson/Bread for the World.

By Robin Stephenson

The view of a sun-bathed San Francisco Bay from the 12th floor of the Macys.com office building was stunning, but I hardly noticed it. I was enthralled with what was happening inside – a group of very talented volunteers turning lists of numbers into meaningful information about hidden hunger.

On Saturday, 75 data scientists, enthusiasts, and storytellers volunteered their time at a vizathon in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, Calif. Bread for the World Institute, in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), HelpMeViz.com, and Living Data, sponsored the bi-coastal event.

Participants came to expose hidden hunger - the nutritional deficiencies that can cause serious health problems in children who don’t show visible signs of hunger. The goal of a vizathon is to translate data – in this case, from Malawi and Ethiopia - into a visual element that makes it easier to understand a complex issue.

Building greater awareness about hidden hunger – elusive, but no less destructive to human potential - is an important part of Bread's effort to end hunger by 2030. Globally, 24.7 percent of children suffer from stunting. Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of blindness in children.

“A lot of fascinating questions were raised,” said Derek Schwabe after the successful event. Schwabe, a research associate at Bread’s Institute, explained that Saturday was just the first step in building a final visualization tool that will accompany the 2016 Hunger Report, which will focus on hunger as a public health issue. "We will continue to find creative ways to tell that story,” he said. (See last year’s visualization on missing data and gender here).

17730196554_2b368ac042_kNihar Bhatt, an event facilitator and participant, is a data visualization expert at Macys.com and accustomed to teasing  information out of numbers – but not like this. Instead of using predictive analysis as a marketing tool, Bhatt asked the data if micronutrient deficiencies and the share of food eaten were correlated. Using the data set on Malawi, he was surprised he didn’t find a direct correlation. “That was my hypothesis, but the data I looked at didn’t show that,” he told participants during a presentation on his project at the end of the day.

Being a data professional was not a prerequisite for participation in the vizathon. Varied backgrounds and approaches lead to richer visualizations.

Becca Rhodes is not a data scientist; she is pursuing a Masters of Divinity at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Like Bhatt, she explored the connections between food sources and micronutrient deficiencies. However, Rhodes started by looking at words instead of numbers. “Since I’m not a data person, I thought this is what I could contribute,” she said.

By reading reports about Ethiopia, she learned that drought and floods most often contributed to crop loss -  and ultimately to seed loss. “That led me to my next question,” she said. “What kind of seeds are needed for the future?” Rhodes concluded that agricultural solutions to nutrient deficiencies must be specifically designed within the Ethiopian context.

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The diversity of talent and perspective, as groups huddled around computers on a sunny San Francisco day, was inspiring. These very smart people selflessly gave of their knowledge and skills. None are hunger experts by profession, but by the end of the day, all contributed to what we know about hidden hunger.

Photo Insets: Nihar Bhatt (center photo). Vizathon participants. San Francisco, Calif. Robin Stephenson/Bread for the World.

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

Summer Meals Hard for Rural Children to Access

By Jennifer Gonzalez 

The nation’s rural children are hit hardest when it comes to accessing summer meals. The federal Summer Food Service Program provides summer meals for children at congregate sites, but those sites are often difficult to access for families in rural areas.

Lack of transportation and long distances make it hard for children to get the meals they need to grow into healthy adults.

Christine Melendez Ashley, a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World, was recently interviewed by CBN News (Christian Broadcasting Network) for a story focused on child hunger. "For every seven kids getting a free or reduced lunch, only about one gets a meal during the summer. So that's a huge gap in terms of participation,” Melendez Ashley said in the interview.

Urging Congress to reauthorize the child nutrition bill is the focus of the 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children. The bill is set to expire this fall. Make sure to join the hundreds who have already written letters to Congress.

In the meantime, we need your help to ensure Congress doesn’t make harmful cuts to programs that help people keep hunger at bay. Currently, members of the appropriations committees are deciding how much to fund each federal program, and sequestration is making their jobs very hard. Automatic sequestration cuts lower the overall spending limits.

We need your help. Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and U.S. senators today. Urge Congress to oppose cuts to the child nutrition bill and other programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and poverty-focused development assistance.

Tell Congress to address the additional sequestration cuts in a more balanced and responsible way. Congress should be investing in our children, not undermining their food security. 

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

Tell Congress to Protect Child Nutrition Programs

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Federal nutrition programs for children are a critical part of the fight against hunger. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Eric Mitchell

In March, we asked you to tell Congress to protect SNAP and other anti-hunger programs from cuts in the budget. You delivered. Now, we're hitting the next stage in these budget battles, and we need your voice again.

Will you take two minutes to call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators and tell Congress to fully fund programs that help children at risk of hunger in the U.S. and around the world?

Last month, Congress passed a budget blueprint that, if fully enacted, would increase hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world. Now, Congress is trying to figure out how to implement it. 

At this very moment, members of the appropriations committees are deciding how much to fund each federal program, and sequestration is making their jobs very hard. Automatic sequestration cuts lower the overall spending limits. This means there is less money to fund things like education and scientific research, let alone programs that effectively help people struggling to move out of poverty, such as foreign assistance and nutrition assistance for infants and low-income mothers. 

Our federal budget is an outline of the priorities of this country. Our children's health and nutrition must be a priority.

Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators today. Urge Congress to oppose cuts to programs like WIC and international poverty-focused development assistance. Tell Congress to address the additional sequestration cuts with a more balanced and responsible plan. Congress should be investing in our children, not undermining their food security. 

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

Scriptural Manna: Compassionate Advocates Needed

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Editor's note: Bread Blog is running a year-long series exploring passages from The Poverty & Justice Bible published by the American Bible Society (Contemporary English Version). The intent is a theological exploration at the intersection of social justice and religion. The blog posts will be written by members of the church relations staff at Bread for the World.

Let the king defend the poor, rescue the homeless, and crush everyone who hurts them. (Psalm 72:4)

Around the world today, there are nearly 800 million people struggling to put food on the table and 195 million children under 5 stunted  in the developing world. More than ever, there is a great need for compassionate advocates for biblical justice, rooted in the Word of God, and moved by the Holy Spirit.

This is our challenge. Sometimes it is hard to imagine a fair world, especially when in reality, we are far from a world where all God’s children can flourish, be treated equally and fairly, with dignity, and are free from poverty.

It is important to remember the impact of speaking truth to power as a way to challenge the status quo, a way to make sure the king judges people in poverty fairly and indeed defeats what keeps people oppressed from poverty and hunger.

The justice we seek –God’s justice—should be reflected in legislation that protects vulnerable people from the effects of poverty. We need to exercise an effective advocacy that holds Congress accountable.

In God’s master plan, we can transform all things, including the structures and systems that let poverty persist.

As Desmond Tutu, retired Anglican bishop, has emphasized, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Together we can hold Congress accountable so we can make ending hunger a top priority by 2017.

I have faith that the seeds of justice that Bread for the World plants every day with our own members through advocacy actions, prayers, and organizing will flourish and lead us to the end of hunger in our time.

Our advocacy is first of all to honor God. But it is also directed at our nation’s leaders. We must fight for our victories; they will never be handed to us.

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.

DULCE GAMBOA is the associate for Latino relations in the church relations department at Bread for the World.

 

New Report Ranks States on Summer Meals

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Margaret W. Nea/Bread for the World

By Robin Stephenson

Most children look forward to the summer months. Summer is synonymous with fun and frolicking in the warmth of the outdoors. However, there is a colder and more serious association to summer: The loss of school lunches often means increased hunger for low-income students.

Growing children need adequate nutrition. Food insecurity during the summer sets children back developmentally and academically. For low-income working parents already living paycheck to paycheck, summer means additional stress due to additional food and child care costs.

According to a report on summer-meal programs released this week by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), some states are doing better than others in reaching children who are food-insecure during the summer months. The District of Columbia is reaching the most kids, while Oklahoma ranks at the bottom of the list.

The federally funded summer meals program, which is administered by USDA in partnership with community organizations, was established to help low-income children access nutritious meals in the summer months in the same way free- and reduced-priced school lunches keep hunger at bay during the school year. Last July, 3.2 million children nationwide benefited from the child nutrition program.

Parks and churches often serve as sites that provide summer meals and a safe place for children to congregate. Many of the programs also include learning components and fight against summer slide – the loss of nutritional and academic gains made during the school year.

However, many kids are falling through the cracks. According to FRAC's report, “Summer Doesn’t Take a Vacation,” only one in six children who needed summer meals received them last year.

Where I live in Oregon, one in five children is food-insecure. Last year, there were 600 meal sites, but not all low-income students could get to sites, especially in rural communities, where access points can be a long drive from children's homes. The FRAC report noted that in 2014, roughly 36,000 children were served by summer meals, yet just over 198,000 qualified for free- and reduced-priced school lunch. That is a huge gap – an unacceptable gap!

I’ll be joining Bread for the World for their annual Lobby Day on June 9, and I intend to make my members of Congress aware of the summer nutrition gap. As an anti-hunger advocate, I know that my legislators care about what is happening back home. They want the numbers and they also want the stories of how public programs and policy help or hinder the people they are meant to serve.

This year, Congress is reauthorizing our nation’s child nutrition policy. There is an opportunity to strengthen summer meal programs so that more children have access to the nutritious meals they need in the summer months.

As you pack up the tent or book the flight out of town for a summer break, remember that hunger doesn’t take a summer break. Call or email your members of Congress today and tell them to support legislation that will feed our children — in the upcoming summer months and all year long. 

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

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