Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

A Prayer for the 114th Congress

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A snowy Capitol Hill. Wikimedia Commons.

The 114th Congress officially begins its work today—the results of November’s mid-term elections go into effect. Bread achieved a lot of legislative wins last year toward its goal of ending hunger by 2030. We hope to build on those achievements in 2015.

Here at Bread, we offer a prayer for the new Congress:

Almighty God, we lift before you all who govern this nation, especially the 114th Congress as it begins its work today. May those who hold power understand that it is a trust from you to be used, not for personal glory or profit, but for the service of the people. Drive from us cynicism, selfishness, and corruption; grant in your mercy just and honest government; and give us grace to live together in unity and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 77).

Make sure to read Bread Blog to stay current on hunger and poverty issues. Let’s work together this year to ensure that people here and abroad don’t go hungry.

Our Light on the 2015 Path of Advocacy

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By Stephen Padre

Sometimes we say we have an epiphany when our minds reach a breakthrough on a problem. Another way of saying this is that a solution has revealed itself – it has come out of darkness and seen the light.

Today is the Epiphany of Our Lord. Christmas Day begins the actual 12 days of Christmas, and when those run their course, we arrive at the day of Epiphany – today. Christian churches that follow a liturgical calendar celebrate the Christmas season followed by the season of Epiphany, which runs until Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent.

Bread for the World’s year-end campaign used the theme of “Shine your light. Give life.” (based on John 8:12 CEV: “You will have the light that gives life.”) During Christmastime, we celebrated the birth of Jesus, who is the light of the world and who brought us life. So Christmas is a season about Jesus as light, but Epiphany just makes it all the more official.

Whereas Christmas is the season of Jesus coming into the world, Epiphany is the celebration of Jesus going out into the world – Jesus’ light being taken from Bethlehem into the far, dark corners of a world broken by poverty and hunger and other sins. Traditionally, Epiphany is the day on which Christians celebrate the arrival of the Wise Men at the manger where Jesus was born – the “outside world” discovering, in a sense, the savior of the world, and then spreading the light that was revealed to them as they return home by a different route.

So, on this day of Epiphany, as we assess our year-end campaign that has just ended, we come to you with thanks. Due to your generosity, online gifts in the final days of December totaled more than $75,000. Your year-end gifts to Bread for the World have not only provided light – refilled our lamps – during the Christmas season, but they will allow us to transport those lamps across the country and illuminate our message of ending hunger. Your gifts will be the Christmas light of Christ and the Epiphany sharing of that Christ light across the country and into the halls of Congress. Your gifts will mean the warmth of Christ is shared when more people receive the food they need when our government acts to end hunger.

Thank you for giving to Bread for the World.

The light and life you have given will shine throughout Epiphany and beyond.

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

Faithful on the Front Lines

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Students at Calvin College write letters to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich). Cameron Kritikos for Bread for the World.

By Cameron Kritikos

A few days before Thanksgiving, the Food Recovery Network at Calvin College, as well as many other hunger-focused groups on campus, gathered and decided to host a Bread for the World Offering of Letters.

Our purpose was to get students to write letters to our Michigan lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the state’s junior senator. As the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Stabenow is a critical voice when it comes to making laws that can help end hunger. The committee has jurisdiction over SNAP (formerly food stamps).

At Calvin College, students involved with the Food Recovery Network retrieve leftover food from the dining hall and  donate it to local food banks or church congregations that serve nightly meals.

85With last spring being our first semester recovering food, my leadership team and I wanted to be more intentional about seeking food justice at the systemic level. Calvin students are beginning to do this by watching documentaries, such as A Place at the Table, and writing letters.

I got involved with food justice because I was utterly fed up with the way in which people who are struggling financially are treated in this country, especially those who benefit from SNAP. We have brothers and sisters here in Grand Rapids who not only do not have the financial capital to purchase groceries, but also live in areas where grocery stores are scarce.

Hunger is a problem, and at Calvin College, we are no longer going to ignore it. We can’t.

I have a friend who has a sticker on her laptop, one that inspires me. It’s a quote from William Wilberforce, the English politician and abolitionist. It reads: “You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.”

Those involved with the Food Recovery Network at Calvin College can no longer say that we did not know. We no longer have the luxury of living in ignorant bliss. Instead, we  have been called to live faithfully on the front lines of food justice, fighting the cause  in this country and throughout the world.

And we will do it one plate of mashed potatoes and one handwritten letter at a time.

Cameron Kritikos is a sophomore at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. He is studying international development, Spanish, and church-based community development.

Inset photo: Cameron Kritikos for Bread for the World.

 

Hunger in the News: Child Hunger, Refugees, Burundi and Mass Incarceration

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

Congress must end child hunger in America,” by William Lambers, The Courier-Journal. “It was President Harry Truman who said, "No nation is any healthier than its children." Yet, today almost 16 million children live in hunger in the United States.”

Fleeing war and poverty, refugees heading toward Italy abandoned at sea,” PBS News Hour. “Refugees fleeing war and poverty in North Africa and the Middle East often are forced to cross the Mediterranean sea in rickety, overcrowded boats. Recently, an increase in human smugglers abandoning these ships before reaching Europe have forced EU countries to take on these migrants and ships at unprecedented levels.”

Hunger Gnaws at Burundi's Soul,” by Hannah McNeish, Voice of America. “Recent studies indicate Africa's little, and little-known, country of Burundi is the hungriest place on earth. War, poverty and overpopulation have left up to two thirds of the residents with chronic food shortages, stunting people's growth physically and also professionally, while rising demands for scarce resources pose serious problems for Burundi's stability. In Ngozi province, in the north, charities are using a variety of methods to fight the war on hunger.”

This map shows which states led the way on America's drive toward mass incarceration,” by German Lopez, Vox. “Following the start of the war on drugs in the 1970s, America's prison population skyrocketed as the country locked up even the lowest-level drug offenders in hopes of tamping down on drug use and the crime wave of the 1960s through 1980s.”

2014 Victories: Hunger Prevention and Economic Development

15954831205_0cfea801b4_oEditor’s note: Bread Blog is running a six-part series highlighting Bread for the World’s legislative wins in 2014. Today’s post looks at appropriations funding for programs that prevent hunger and promote economic development.

By Bread Staff

In the final days of the 113th legislative session, Congress passed a $1.01 trillion spending bill, funding most government programs through September 2015. Despite a very tough fiscal climate, programs that address hunger and poverty did fairly well.

On the domestic front, the spending bill includes $6.23 billion in funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), enough to cover current and projected caseloads. The money will also go toward funding breastfeeding peer counselors, infrastructure, and management information systems.

Other funding includes $25 million for school equipment and breakfast expansion grants and $16 million for summer food demonstration projects. This gives us a leg up on our 2015 Offering of Letters campaign, which will focus on child nutrition programs. These programs include school and summer meals programs. Bread is seeking expansion of these programs when they are reauthorized in 2015 so more children can get the meals they need.

Congress also approved increased funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which ensures low-income seniors get adequate meals. The funding included $2.8 million to expand the program to seven new states: Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

Internationally, Congress increased funding for poverty-focused development assistance to $27 billion, a significant increase from last year’s level of $24 billion. The boost is largely due to the Ebola supplemental funding that President Obama had requested. The funding will go toward international disaster assistance, global health, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) operating expenses. 

The additional supplemental funding will help ensure that the United States responds not only to the crisis in West Africa, but also continues to support ongoing development and humanitarian efforts in other regions in the world.

Bread also saw another win this year when USAID launched its multi-sector nutrition strategy in May. This strategy ensures nutrition remains a focus across development projects from education and hygiene to agriculture and gender equality. It scales up work targeted at children’s first 1,000 days from pregnancy to the child’s second birthday.  Maternal and child nutrition during this period has lasting effects on long-term growth and cognitive development. 

Bread for the World and Bread for the World Institute have been active participants in the 1,000 Days advocacy movement and in the development of USAID’s nutrition strategy.  The launch of the strategy represents a major success for the global health and nutrition advocacy community.

“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.”

The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act is set to expire September 2015. We’ll need your help to ensure that Congress continues to make nutrition for children a priority. Stay informed about the key issues regarding child hunger in the United States.

Photo: Students eating lunch at Wolcott Elementary School in West Hartford, Conn. Vivian Felten/USDA.

 

 

 

 

 

World Prayers for Jan. 4-10: Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen

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Evening worship in Mar Thoma Church, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Peter Williams/WCC.

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 January 4-10, we pray for Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen:

O God, we know these countries that we pray for this week as desert places. We pray for Christians in these places, whose numbers, like the desert, are sparse. We ask you to strengthen them and sustain them. We also pray for peace that is also sparse in some of these countries. We pray for an end to war and conflict – both internally and externally and among tribes, ethnicities, and religions – so that all people there may live in safety, security, and comfort. Bring an end to terrorism, lawlessness, and oppression.

But, O Lord, we also know that some of these countries are rich in natural resources. This has also been a source of conflict and greed, including for us as Americans. We ask for your forgiveness when we have overused the gifts of the Earth to its own detriment. Help us to be better stewards of your creation, and help us to use our natural resources for the benefit of all.

And most of all, we pray for people in these places who are hungry and who lack water in dry, desert places. Provide for them and their needs. We know that sparseness can cause hunger but also that greed when there is abundance can lead to hunger as well. Guide the people in these countries to justly care for all of their people so that everyone is fed. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Percentage of the population of these countries living below the national poverty line:

Bahrain: Not available
Iran: Not available
Iraq: 19.8 (2012)
Kuwait: Not available
Oman: Not available
Qatar: Not available
Saudi Arabia: Not available
United Arab Emirates: Not available
Yemen: 34.8 (2005)

Source: The World Bank and the United Nations.

Resolve to End Hunger in 2015 and Beyond

8259331752_6b89643607_kBy Bread Staff

“They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3b).

As you pull down the tree and pack away the lights, now is a good time to make plans for 2015. In addition to shedding those last pesky five pounds or searching for  a new job, consider making a few 2015 resolutions that can help end hunger.

  • Resolve to coordinate an Offering of Letters at your church. In 2015, we will be advocating to protect and strengthen child nutrition programs as Congress begins their work to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act. Contact your regional organizer for more information. Kits and companion website are expected to be available by the end of January or early February.
  • Resolve to start a study group. The 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger, includes a Christian study guide.
  • Resolve to make hunger an election issue. As we enter into a new elections cycle, urge potential leaders to talk about hunger and poverty publically. If you live in Iowa, Florida, Virginia, or Ohio and want to get involved in the campaign to make hunger an issue in the presidential elections, contact Stephen Hill, our senior organizer for elections issues.
  • Resolve to use social media as an advocacy tool. Are you active on social media and interested in being part of an online team? Do you want to use your blog to help educate others on the problem of hunger? Contact Robin Stephenson, Bread’s national lead for social media to learn more.
  • Resolve to meet with your member of Congress. Early in the new year is a great time to set up a meeting with your legislators or their staff. Contact your regional organizer to help you. 
  • Resolve to take action. When Congress is considering a piece of legislation that affects hunger, we’ll let you know. Sign up for action alerts, and resolve to write your member of Congress at least six times this year. Add your name to Bread’s email list found on the upper right-hand corner of our website.
  • Resolve to make it public. Write a letter to the editor and submit it to your local newspaper.  Your regional organizer can provide you with talking points.
  • Resolve to join the Bread Rising Campaign, especially its prayer component. Include prayer for the end of hunger in your daily prayer life. One way to do this is to think of ending hunger when you pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

We all know that making a resolution is easier than keeping one. A good way to remind yourself of your advocacy resolution is to print out this page, circle your resolution, and then put it up on your fridge.

We look forward to working with you in 2015 as we use the power of our voice and citizenship to answer God’s call to end hunger.

Photo: Capitol Christmas Tree. Angela n./Creative Commons.

2014 Victories: Immigration Reform

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Margaret W. Nea for Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: Bread Blog is running a six-part series highlighting Bread for the World’s legislative wins in 2014. Today’s post looks at immigration reform.

By Bread Staff

After the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform in the summer of 2013, Bread for the World pressed hard for the House to pass legislation. Even though the House failed to act, the surge of unaccompanied refugee children fleeing into the U.S. elevated awareness and concern over the hunger, poverty, and violence in Central America.  

Bread members sent over 15,000 emails to their members of Congress and made hundreds of phone calls on this issue. At the beginning of the year, few members of Congress were paying attention to the root causes of hunger and poverty that drive undocumented immigration into the U.S. By the end of 2014, we saw some real victories.

Because of Bread’s advocacy, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) introduced the Security and Opportunity for Vulnerable Migrant Children Act, which called on the U.S. Department of State and USAID to develop a strategy in the region to address the root causes of poverty, hunger, and violence driving migration from Central America. This legislation mirrors exactly what Bread was calling for.

The bill did not advance. However, provisions of the bill were included in the $1.01 trillion government spending bill that Congress passed in December. Among the provisions was $130 million for a basket of poverty-reduction programs to help Central America address the factors that drove the spike in child migrants this past year. The legislation also calls for the U.S. Department of State and USAID to develop a strategy to address the key factors in high migrant sending countries in Central America.

“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.”

Learn more about Bread’s work on immigration. And urge your members of Congress to pass legislation that addresses the root causes of hunger, poverty, and violence that are driving unaccompanied children to flee their home countries.

Last Day to Double Your Gift

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By David Beckmann

Time is running out! Today is your last chance to donate to Bread for the World and have your gift doubled dollar for dollar. And while many people have already contributed, we still have to raise more by midnight. We need your help.

With your support, Bread for the World can fight effectively in 2015 for policies that give life:

  • Keeping kids' and babies' bellies full. Your support strengthens and protects key programs for children like the National School Lunch Program and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children).
  • Reaching more people in crisis. By reducing how far emergency food aid needs to travel, we could feed up to 9 million more people.
  • Putting food on the family table. Bread will protect SNAP and child tax credits from funding cuts that would sap budgets for families in need, plunging them deeper into crisis.

More than 21.5 million children, including kids in your community, are counting on us. We can't let them down.

Your donation today could be the difference for a child in your neighborhood of eating a full, nutritious meal or going to bed hungry.

Don't wait to make a difference — when the clock strikes midnight, this incredible opportunity to give life will be gone.

David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World.

Policymakers Should Study Existing Models to Develop Migration Strategy

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Guatemalans begin heading home after a Sunday evening mass. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World. 

By Andrew Wainer

Bread for the World pushed hard in 2014 for Congress to address hunger, poverty, and violence in Central America - factors that drove the spike in child migrants to the United States earlier this year. Congress finally listened and tucked $130 million for a basket of poverty-reduction programs into the $1.01 trillion spending bill it passed in December.

In addition to the funding, the spending bill calls for “a strategy to address the key factors…contributing to the migration of unaccompanied, undocumented minors to the United States…Such strategy shall include a clear mission statement, achievable goals and objectives, benchmarks, timelines, and a spending plan.”

In simple terms, Congress looks like it is getting serious about addressing the root causes of immigration in terms of funding, research, and analysis. But much will depend on how the new funding is implemented. The U.S. Department of State and USAID will be responsible for implementing the migration and development strategy. However, there are few details right now on how the strategy will be developed, where the funding is coming from, and how it will be used.

The needs of the region are great. Violence is endemic in the Northern Triangle nations of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, where much of the recent unauthorized immigration has originated. Inequality is rampant, and, in some cases, more than half of the population of these countries lives in poverty.

But there are innovative pilot programs and models that should be considered as part of the migration and development strategy. Although a small agency, the Inter-American Foundation is a pioneer in implementing development programs in Central America that include evaluating their impact on deterring undocumented immigration. 

There are also partnerships including philanthropic organizations like the Ford Foundation that have worked with towns in El Salvador, the Salvadoran diaspora in the United States, and Salvadoran municipalities to create livelihoods for women and mothers left behind by husbands who have migrated to the United States.  

The Millennium Challenge Corporation has the potential to play a major role in reforming development policy in Central America. With investments of hundreds of millions of dollars in El Salvador and the approval of new grant money in Guatemala, any development strategy targeting migration in Central America should include the MCC in a central role.

Bread for the World will continue to watch developments on this front. And when needed, we will mobilize to ensure that Congress lives up to its commitment of addressing the migration issue in the United States.

Andrew Wainer is a senior immigration policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute.

 

 

 

 

 

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