Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Hunger in the News: Black Church, Farmers, Environment, and Childhood Hunger

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

FAO launches digital platform to help family farmers,” by Jodesz Gavilan, The Rappler. “Family farmers play a big role in fighting food insecurity and hunger worldwide but they are often given less importance, resulting in poverty among them.”

Why the Black Church Has Always Mattered,” by Peniel E. Joseph, The Root. “The brutal act of racial terror that took the lives of nine black parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., purposely targeted the most important institution that has ever existed in the black community: the black church. So it should come as no surprise that in the age of Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore and #BlackLivesMatter, one of the nation’s most ancient and revered black churches should come under such an attack. Nor that the attack took place in South Carolina, a state so deeply rooted in white supremacy and racial hatred that its Capitol proudly flies the Confederate flag even today.”

From famine to food basket: how Bangladesh became a model for reducing hunger,” by Howard LaFranchi, The Christian Science Monitor. “Four decades ago, the newly formed and desperately poor South Asian nation of Bangladesh saw its already-high levels of extreme poverty and chronic hunger skyrocket with floods, leading to the Bangladesh famine of 1974.”

 “For Faithful, Social Justice Goals Demand Action on Environment,” by Justin Gillis, The New York Times. “For an earnest young Christian named Ben Lowe, revelation came on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in Africa. A relentless warming of the lake was reducing the catch of fish, the people were going hungry — and he had learned of scientific evidence that climate change was to blame.”

Programs combat childhood hunger,” by Cheryl Burke, Carteret County News-Times. “Like an army with a mission, workers with two summer feeding programs are providing free meals to county children to combat childhood hunger.”

'Give the Gift of a Second Chance'

By Eric Mitchell

This Sunday, we will honor fathers and father figures in our lives. They support and care for us and we should do the same for them. Please take a moment to email your member of Congress. Ask them to support fathers by lifting the ban on SNAP (formerly food stamps) and TANF (welfare) for those with felony drug convictions. _MG_0689

Nate Gordon, a young father in Ohio, was striving to provide for his family after serving a prison sentence for passing bad checks. He looked high and low for a job for three years, but even temp agencies wouldn't accept him.

Ohio had lifted the ban on SNAP benefits for those convicted of a felony in order to reduce recidivism, so Gordon was able to receive SNAP benefits while he was job hunting, which helped him put food on the table.

But a federal ban on SNAP and TANF still exists for people with felony drug convictions. Lifting the ban would remove a major barrier for people looking for a second chance.

Tell Congress to lift the ban that prevents people with felony drug convictions from receiving the support they need to help their families!

Access to these safety net programs is critical in helping returning citizens get back on their feet as they re-enter their communities. They enable fathers to put food on the table and provide for themselves and their children. Banning SNAP and TANF for dads with a felony drug conviction doesn’t make sense.

ACT NOW: Tell your members of Congress to pass criminal justice reform by sending them a Father's Day card urging them to support dads who, in turn, support their families. 

We shouldn’t deny dads access to the tools and opportunities that effectively help millions of families escape poverty and find economic stability. This Father’s Day, give the gift of a second chance.

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

Photo inset: Nate Gordon spending quality time with his daughter. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

World Prayers for June 21-27: Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. It is one of the oldest towns in Uruguay and capital of the Colonia Department. 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 21-27: Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay

Almighty God, we lift up the nations of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. We thank you for what you have already done in these nations.

Specifically, we pray for the families and friends of those in Uruguay and Argentina who were murdered or have been missing. We ask for hope and comfort to fill their hearts and for justice to be done. Let your light and love infiltrate the darkness and break the cycle of hatred and strife, and may your law be written in their hearts. Additionally, we ask for protection over those who are especially vulnerable and for your plan for this nation to continue to go forth.

We also pray for justice and integrity in the government system of Paraguay. There has been a history of corruption in the government of this nation, and we need your transforming work. We ask for wisdom and guidance for the current leaders and pray for future elections of those who will guide this nation into its destiny as part of your grand plan to draw men, women, and children to you, Jesus.

Lastly, we ask for your provisions of daily bread spiritually and physically for Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay and for opening of eyes to your goodness and love. Would you reveal yourself as their Provider in whatever way it will look for each individual and family in these nations?

We thank you that you hear our prayers, and we ask these things in the name of Jesus, Amen.

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

Argentina: Not available
Paraguay: 23.8
Uruguay: 11.5

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

Weeping for Charleston

Statement from Bread for the World on the Charleston Tragedy

Bread for the World mourns the senseless loss of nine brothers and sisters at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, members of the Mother Emanuel congregation, and the entire AME church. We mourn for ourselves and our country. We witness acts of violence and are too complacent with hate. Yet we are reminded that those who mourn will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

America’s ugly history of racism is something that we must challenge ourselves to continually address in order to truly see a sacred vision of the “Beloved Community” advanced by people like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Bread for the World stands shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends in the Charleston and wider South Carolina faith community as well as historic African-American church communities, and we will continue to do so in this time of great tragedy. 

While no words can lessen the pain and sadness this violence has wrought, we are praying that God brings upon you peace, justice, and most of all, healing. We pray that we will all turn our faith into action and that God will use us so that this world may be transformed.

 Rev. David Beckmann, President
Bread for the World

Why Should Christians Care About Climate Change?


By Bishop Jose Garcia

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2). This Bible passage clearly states who is the rightful owner of all the natural resources on our planet. Yet God gave humankind the authority to subdue the earth. In other words, to exercise great care as stewards of God’s creation.

There is an abundance of Bible references showing God’s instructions on how to care for the land. Therefore, we have a responsibility to practice good stewardship of all the natural resources entrusted to our care. Some of the parables shared by Jesus with the disciples stress the importance of good stewardship and our accountability to God.

The earth is not a wastebasket. It is a perfectly designed house for humanity and all of creation, and God saw that “it was good.” We share this house in awesomeness and reverence because of the way everything, from inanimate objects to living creatures, plays a role in keeping a homeostatic balance in which we all coexist and survive.

God created humankind as relational beings who need a vital and healthy interaction not only with one another but with all the elements of creation. Our planet is a system of living organisms and elements that shape and have an impact in the atmosphere, land, and water. As relational beings, we have spiritual, emotional, and physical needs that are met through our interaction with other human beings. However, another important relationship is the one we have with the rest of creation.  As stewards of this house, we are called to exercise good care and not to neglect the charge given to humankind by God, to subdue the earth. Whether we like to admit it or not, there is no action without consequence, for we will reap what we sow.

Climate change is real. We do not live in a vacuum void of interaction with God’s creation. There is a need for accountability to one another and to God, to ensure good stewardship of the resources in this planet we all share.

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.

Reflecting on Lobby Day 2015

Shalom Khokbar at Lobby Day. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Shalom Khokbar

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I walked into Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church last week. Lobby Day 2015 was in full swing, evident by the dozens of nametags and orange lanyards at the registration table, the suitcases and bags piled up in the back of the room, and the lingering smell of a delicious breakfast coming from the annex.

I saw people scurrying up the stairs with coffee cups in hand, eager to get to the sanctuary. The legislative briefing was being broadcast throughout the entire facility. I made my way upstairs, sitting just outside the main doors. I peeked inside; the room was packed full with attentive eyes and ears.

I sat just as Amelia Kegan, Bread’s deputy director of government relations, started her presentation concerning sequestration and the push we needed to make to Congress. While she spoke, I skimmed over the slides being projected and listened to her. I realized then that I know nothing about politics! 

It’s sad that a majority of today’s young adults (including me) have the potential to be such a powerful voice that can make a difference, yet they have little to no knowledge about the laws being passed in this country.

When faced with a challenge, my father always asks me, “Shalom, how do you eat an elephant?” I always grin and say, “One bite at a time.” Zechariah 4:10 says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin… (NLT)”

It was encouraging to see people of all ages, from all walks of life, gathering together with a common goal in mind. I always have a reverence for people who take action. James 1:22 says, “But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves (NLT).”

All the people divided into their own regions and heard a briefing on how to conduct themselves in the lobby visits. I got to see how to talk to representatives, how they make changes, and how the structures of government are set up.

It was very impactful to observe all these people talking to a representative who can make a change in one way or another. It’s kind of scary because you have to know what you’re talking about, but being confident and polite goes a long way. 

Once I got home, I reflected on what I learned and the importance of being involved. No matter how little you may know or how unfathomable the goal may seem, it is better to take those first steps. Yes, you may be afraid and nervous, but you have to keep the end goal in mind.

This generation is riding on the heels of ignorance way too close, and it’s events like these that can help raise awareness as to what is really going on in society and around the globe. The world is a big place, you have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.

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

New Gallup Poll Shows Decline in U.S. Hunger Numbers

Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Stefanie Casdorph

Hunger and poverty are pervasive problems in the world today, but a recent Gallup Poll shows a decline in the number of people in the United States struggling with these issues.

In fact, the percentage of Americans reporting an inability to afford food is the lowest it has been in seven years. In the first quarter of 2015, 15.8 percent of Americans reported that in the last 12 months they had struggled to afford food for themselves or their families. This is the lowest percentage measured since the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index started in 2008.

The project, a partnership between Gallup and Healthways, is a 25 year-long initiative that is attempting to track and understand the factors that contribute to well-being in the United States. The survey provides an in-depth, nearly real-time view of Americans' well-being at the community, state, and national levels.

Overall, the news from the Gallup Poll is positive. However, there are signs that hunger continues to be a significant issue for women, single parents, and minorities living in the United States.

Key findings:

  • Overall, blacks and Hispanics are twice as likely to report experiencing difficulty affording food.
  • Women are more likely to report having difficult affording food than men: 18.3 percent of women compared to 13.1 percent of men.
  • Single-parent households are much more likely to have difficulty affording food. In the U.S., 31 percent of single-parent households report times in the past 12 months when they struggled to afford food, much more than the 19 percent of two-parent households who say the same.
  • Nearly three in 10 adults, aged 18 to 30, with at least one child in the household, struggled to afford food in the past 12 months, compared with 21 percent of adults in the same age group who do not have a child in the home.

Two of the major sets of national data that anti-hunger organizations use are from Gallup and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Each set has its own pros and cons; for example, Gallup data is more current, whereas USDA data is more detailed and comprehensive but is less current.

Bread’s standard is U.S. government data because Bread’s work is with the federal government, and for the sake of consistency.

Stefanie Casdorph is a summer intern in the communications department at Bread for the World.


Scriptural Manna: Justice for the Poor


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.

You people are in for trouble! You have made cruel and unfair laws that let you cheat the poor and needy and rob widows and orphans. (Isaiah 10:1-2)

The prophet Isaiah made this statement following the announcement of the coming of the Messiah, which promised a kingdom of peace and righteousness. However, it is obvious that at the time of this prophecy, through their decrees and statutes, the leaders and people of Israel were being unfair and abusing their powers by preying on the poor, widows, and the marginalized among them.

As a result, they were setting themselves for judgement. This in spite of the fact that the shema (Deuteronomy 6:4), which is considered the statement of faith of God’s people, clearly reveals that in acknowledging Jehovah God as their only God, God’s commandments and precepts would govern their norms of everyday life. Yet Isaiah is addressing Israel’s failure to govern all of their citizens with righteousness. Jesus addressed clearly how God intends to deal with nations that do not care for the “least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46) .

In the last few years, nations around the world have adopted laws such as those advancing human rights and women’s empowerment that have led to improvements in people’s quality of life, health, job opportunities, housing, education, and also moved people from extreme poverty and hunger. However, some people in government authority have proposed laws (such as anti-immigration regulations) that while addressing the socio-economic challenges of the country, are contrary to heart of God as outlined in the Bible.

A survey conducted by the Barna Group shows that about 9 percent of Americans have a biblical worldview. That is a lifestyle that complies with the values and virtues of the kingdom of God. That is a lifestyle that calls for us to respect the intrinsic dignity of every human being by loving our neighbor as Jesus loved us, through acts of kindness, compassion, service, and making their well-being a priority in our relationship with one another.

Just as we observed during the time of the prophet Isaiah, today some of the proposals being considered by Congress, such as budget cuts that would decrease WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) benefits, are not aligned with the principles and values of the Christian faith. Yet, over 90 percent of our members of Congress identify as Catholic or Protestants. The Bible verse under study calls for a prophetic voice to remind our government officials of their profession of faith, and how it should translate into laws that can positively impact hungry and poor people in the nation.

Sadly, the end of chapter 10 of Isaiah pronounces a judgement for Israel’s unfair decrees towards the poor and marginalized. Again, this judgment is confirmed by Jesus when speaking about the treatment to the “least of these.” Therefore, the church needs a prophetic voice that can speak up for those who are being denied the choices and opportunities that can help lift them out of hopelessness, hunger, and poverty.  

BISHOP JOSE GARCIA is the church relations director at Bread for the World. He is a bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy, a worldwide Pentecostal denomination with thousands of churches.

Lead with Your Faith and Contact Congress

A nurse visits with a patient in Jinja, Uganda. Improving global health is an aim of the poverty-focused development accounts. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

By Bread Staff

A group of faith leaders from across the country will visit Capitol Hill on Wednesday to speak in support of funding for federal programs that are vital to helping people caught in disasters or who live in the daily grind of poverty. These individuals represent many faith backgrounds, but what unites them is their shared commitment to promoting the dignity of all people, including the world's most vulnerable. 

Will you join their efforts and call (800/826-3688) or email your member of Congress? You don't need to be a faith leader — just a person of faith. You can let your faith lead you to ask Congress to robustly fund humanitarian and poverty-focused development accounts within the International Affairs budget. PFDA accounts fund programs that reduce poverty and that carry out development and humanitarian assistance. These programs help to lift millions of people out of hunger, poverty, and disease around the world.

PFDA accounts provide both humanitarian relief and long-term, sustainable solutions to the problems of poverty and hunger. The work takes a wide variety of forms—agricultural development and nutrition, refugee assistance, emergency disaster assistance, global health, education, gender equality, water and sanitation, and more

As Christians, we are motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ. Alongside these distinguished faith leaders, you can make a significant difference in advocating for limited federal dollars for these programs, which continue to move millions of people out of hunger, poverty, and disease around the world.

Join these faith leaders from around the country and pray with us for an end to hunger and poverty in our world. But don't stop there. Ask Congress to robustly fund humanitarian and poverty-focused development accounts within the International Affairs budget.

Call (800/826-3688) or email your member of Congress today! Let’s work together to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable get the development and humanitarian assistance they deserve.

Women Farmers: 'The backbone of Africa'


By Bread Staff

It’s imperative that the Global Food Security Act of 2015 (GFSA) is approved by Congress this year. Passage would make permanent the U.S. food and nutrition security program, Feed the Future.

So far, 48 House members and 6 Senators have cosponsored the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567/S. 1252). We expect to get even more cosponsors after our successful Lobby Day last week.

In fact, one Bread activists told her senator during last week's Lobby Day that it was important that the legislation pass because women farmers are the "backbone of Africa."

To date, Feed the Future has achieved impressive results, helping more than 7 million small-scale farmers increase crop production and providing nutritious food to more than 12.5 million children in 2013 alone. The GFSA would provide a first-ever comprehensive U.S. strategy to fight hunger and malnutrition, promote nutrition among pregnant women and newborns, and prioritize women smallholder farmers.

Both bills stress the importance of nutrition interventions, especially during the critical 1,000-day window from a woman’s pregnancy until her child’s second birthday. Such interventions help reduce stunting, lifelong poor health, impaired cognitive and physical development, and diminished productivity.

Similarly, both bills focus strongly on women’s economic empowerment, a significant component, considering that women are often heads of households and smallholder farmers, making them especially vulnerable to food insecurity. By further engaging women, Feed the Future aims to increase women’s farm yields and total agricultural output and close the significant 20 to 30 percent yield gap that currently exists between male and female farmers. This could result in 100 million to 150 million hungry people getting the food they need.

The bills are moving in Congress. H.R. 1567 has moved out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is ready for a House floor vote. S. 1252 is still in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Even though there is progress, we still need your help to ensure that the bills make it to the House and Senate floors for a vote.

Act now! Call/email your U.S. representative and U.S. senators today (800-826-3688). Urge them to support this legislation to improve global food security and better combat chronic hunger and malnutrition!


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