Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:47-49


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” When all the people who gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events. (Luke 23:47-49)

Jesus is dead.

On the hill where he died there is stunned silence. Not a word is spoken, except by the centurion who declares that the person he just executed was innocent.

The people start walking away without speaking. Just beating their breasts.

The acquaintances of Jesus all stand “at a distance,” gaping. Not a word from any of them.

I can imagine their thoughts. “Jesus, why didn’t you stop them like you always did before? What happened? And God, how could you? To let your own Son die like that!”

We’ve all been there on Calvary – the Calvaries in our own lives. “Jesus, how could you? God, how could you?”

These are Holy Week thoughts. Wordless thoughts. My deepest fears . . . my highest hopes.

I know about the resurrection. But when I’m surrounded by the wreckage of Calvary, it’s hard to fast-forward to resurrection. Besides, is there always a resurrection?

Jesus died to answer those questions.

Strength to Serve our Neighbors

By Bishop José García

This weekend, we celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection because the Passion forms the basis for everything we do as Christians. As advocates, we serve our neighbors, local and global, by working to end hunger. But Jesus did something before he served us by going to the cross. 14407747355_2bebecf966_o

He prayed.

Before he endured the cross “for the sake of the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2), Jesus took his disciples into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray: “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36).

Jesus knew what he had to do. He asked God to spare him from it if possible. Sometimes our advocacy can seem heavy and difficult, but we draw strength from the same place Jesus did—prayer.

Prayer both sustains our advocacy and calls for God’s continued action in this world. Will you join us and commit to pray for an end to hunger?

When you commit to joining in praying for the end of hunger, we will email you twice a month with specific prayer requests and sample prayers. 

Commit-to-pray twitter

Together, we can work toward an end to hunger and poverty around the world. Let’s follow Christ’s example and put prayer first.

Bishop José García is the director of church relations at Bread for the World.


Sprouted in Our Hearts Here and Grown for the Future There

By Beth Ann Saracco

In February, I found myself in an unlikely place for a girl raised in the Midwest. As I made my way through the packed Rubaga Cathedral in Kampala, Uganda, I noticed a women breast-feeding her baby. As a Bread for the World policy analyst specializing in international food security and nutrition issues, I was heartened to see her engaging in such a vital health and nutrition practice, beneficial to both mom and baby alike.  IMG_0376


Finding an open seat next to a father and son, I leaned forward and kneeled. Bowing my head and closing my eyes, I began to pray. My heart was light that morning — so joyful, and excited for the opportunity I had just received. In my work for Bread in Washington, D.C., I advocate in support of top-line funding levels and programs for agriculture and development, but I rarely observe implementation of these programs on the ground. Now was my chance, and I was about to embark on a 15-day trip through Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. 

My prayer to God that morning was a simple one. I asked to be attentive and open to the East Africans I would soon meet so that I could share their stories with members of Congress, administration officials, Bread staff, and especially our committed Bread members. What I experienced in the days ahead left me in awe as I witnessed the resolve and commitment of so many East Africans in improving their own lives and transforming the future for their children. These are aspirations I believe people of all backgrounds, nationalities, and creeds share. 

As I learned about women's cooperatives and farmers' access to markets, new agriculture technologies from crop rotation to soil-fertility management to land-tenure rights, I began to understand how vital programs like Feed the Future are in not only contributing to a more food-secure world, but also in transforming the lives of each of the farmers I met. Feed the Future is the U.S. government's global hunger and food-security initiative.

Augustino was one such farmer in Tanzania. As he greeted me, I was immediately drawn to the words printed on the T-shirt he was wearing. It read, “Future of Africa.” In my mind I thought never has a truer statement been made, because Augustino, along with his wife and their children, truly do represent the promising future of their country and the continent on which they live. 

Now well-resourced with training they received from the agriculture cooperative in which they belong, Augustino and his wife have learned to produce higher-quality and larger yields of tomatoes. They have also recently expanded into cultivating rice, and they have aspirations to begin a trout fishery soon as well.

With their increased income, they can now afford to pay their children's school fees, buy more nutritious food to supplement their children's diets, and make other investments into their land. 

What dawned on me was that with just a little outside support, guidance, and training, Augustino's family did the rest. It's their focused, hard work that tills the soil, it's their bodies that carry heavy jugs of water to irrigate, and it's their personal resolve to harvest increased and higher-quality crops that ultimately is moving them from subsistence farmers to a mother and father who are ensuring their children's lives are filled with opportunity and upward mobility to a degree and depth their families have never known.  

Not surprisingly, my experience in East Africa reaffirmed my strong belief in the merits of programs like Feed the Future and the importance of ensuring Congress passes a law this year to authorize and make this a permanent program. But, it also did something else even more profound. 

Through my conversations with farmers and personal reflection and prayer, I found myself drawn even closer to our loving God and God's people. 

God is truly moving in our time, in your life and mine, and in the lives of Augustino and his family in Tanzania — and in others' lives in Africa and our entire world. And I am hopeful that with further discernment, prayer, and grace, we will continue our own sacred advocacy on Capitol Hill, and most importantly be drawn closer into relationship with our loving God and God's people. 

Beth Ann Saracco is the international policy analyst at Bread for the World.

Photo: Augustino, a farmer in Tanzania, is building a better future for his family and his continent by growing food in better ways. Beth Ann Saracco/Bread for the World.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:44-46


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the Temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit;” and when he had said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:44-46)

Jesus dies. Darkness comes over the whole land.

When Jesus was an infant, Simeon took him in his arms and said this child would be “a light to the nations.” He is . . . although there are times when it seems darkness is winning. John, right at the beginning of his Gospel, has it right: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

At his baptism, Jesus heard the voice from heaven say, “You are my beloved Son.” He believed it, and knew that no matter how dark the darkness gets, it can never overcome God.

The first words of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel, spoken at the age of 12, make reference to his Father: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Now, his very last words are addressed directly to the Father: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

I wonder if, when I am dying, I’ll be able to speak to God that way – so personally, and with such trust.


Hunger in the News: Global Poverty, For-Profit Prisons, Venezuela, and Welfare Programs

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

Is it possible to end global poverty?” by Linda Yueh, BBC News. “Later this year, the UN is expected to adopt the World Bank's ambitious target of ending extreme poverty by 2030.”

How California Voters Got So Smart on Crime,” by Sasha Abramsky, The Nation. “California voters get their say on so many initiatives every election cycle that it can be difficult to separate the trivial from the significant. But there was no mistaking what happened when the Golden State’s electorate gave Proposition 47 a 20 percent margin of victory this past November: an earthquake was unleashed in the world of criminal justice. The tremors have reached as far as Texas and New York, where prison reformers are looking at Prop 47 as a model for their own proposals.”

Fight Poverty, Not Savings,” by Bloomberg View. “Some welfare programs exclude people who have financial assets, and for good reason. If the goal is to help people who are living in poverty, the program shouldn't waste resources on people who aren't actually poor. If you lose your job but have enough money in the bank to tide you over comfortably, you don't need food stamps, disability payments or other forms of public support as much as people with no savings do. Yet some asset limits are set too low. By preventing beneficiaries from saving enough money to become self-sufficient, the government can make it unnecessarily hard for them to escape poverty. New data suggests some limits could well be raised.”

Cookie Lyon of Fox's 'Empire' Sheds Rare Light on Black Women's Incarceration and Reentry,” by Kali Nicole Gross, The Huffington Post. “Lee Daniels's blockbuster Empire, an over-the-top soap opera featuring a prominent African American family in the rap world, has tackled a variety of subjects that most mainstream black shows fear to tread -- such as homophobia and psychiatric illness. Yet Cookie Lyon, the mother and ex-wife of the record label's founder, sheds a rare light on black female incarceration and the challenges of prisoner reentry.”

The Growing Right Arm of For-Profit Prisons,” by Mona Shattell, The Huffington Post. “The US incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. The unprecedented increase in our prison populations happened over the last 30 years, and in part is because of the prison industrial complex and the private prison industry that profits from (and contributes to) mass incarceration.”

Unlikely Bedfellows From Cory Booker to Newt Gingrich Unite in DC to Reform Prisons,” by Alice Speri, Vice News. “A summit on mass incarceration is bringing together odd bedfellows from across the political spectrum on Thursday — for what organizers hope will be a "bipartisan breakthrough of massive proportions" that will make criminal justice reform a priority for policymakers at the federal level.”

Venezuela: Does an increase in poverty signal threat to government?” by By J.J. Gallagher, The Christian Science Monitor. “Former President Chávez targeted the country's poor with subsidies and programs funded by oil revenues. But with oil prices plummeting and poverty on the rise, this core base of supporters is being tested.”

Women's History Month: To End Hunger, Women's Empowerment Must Prevail


By Bread Staff

Today concludes the Bread Blog posts celebrating Women’s History Month. It is fitting that it comes a few days after a Capitol Hill briefing on the 2015 Hunger Report When Women Flourish… We Can End Hunger.

Chisholm’s words are apt considering that discrimination is a significant roadblock to women’s empowerment. Because women are key to ending hunger by 2030, their empowerment is vital to the process.

“There is substantial evidence that educating girls, improving women’s health outcomes, and increasing their incomes pays huge dividends for their children, for their families, for their communities and for their countries, said Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute, during Friday's briefing.

The Hunger Report looks at discrimination as a cause of persistent hunger and makes policy and program recommendations in order to empower women both in the United States and around the world. Increasing women’s earning potential by boosting bargaining power, reducing gender inequality in unpaid work, increasing women’s political representation, and eliminating the wage gap between male and female labor directly contributes to ending hunger.

These issues were discussed during the briefing, which was hosted by the offices of U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Karen Bass (D-CA), Bread for the World Institute and the African American on the Hill.

Panelists included Margaret Enis Spears, director of the office of markets, partnerships and innovations, U.S. Agency for International Development; Ambassador Amina S. Ali, permanent representative, The African Union Mission to the United States; Shari Berenbach, president and CEO, United States African Development Foundation, and Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, associate for National African American Church Engagement at Bread for the World.

The Hunger Report recommends that in order to improve women’s empowerment and end extreme hunger and poverty worldwide, women should have more economic bargaining power. If women had more control of their income and assets, their bargaining power in both the household and the market economy would increase, as well as their ability to feed and provide for themselves and their children.

According to U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates, if women in Africa and elsewhere had the same access to agricultural resources as men, they could grow 20 to 30 percent more food. This could move roughly 150 million people of out hunger and poverty!

To achieve this, the U.S. government must increase its investments in agricultural-development programs like Feed the Future. And it should place a stronger emphasis on programming that supports women smallholder farmers when it implements projects. 

For more information on the integral role women play in ending hunger and poverty, make sure to read When Women Flourish… We Can End Hunger and also visit Bread Blog.


Lent Devotions: Luke 23:40-43


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

The other criminal, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:40-43)

The other criminal speaks first to his companion, and in so doing becomes another of Luke’s witnesses to the innocence of Jesus.

Then he speaks to Jesus, asking to be remembered. He’s barely met Jesus but – again, Luke’s emphasis – if you only knew this man, even briefly, you would love him.

Then I hear the last words that Jesus speaks to a human being before he dies: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

When Jesus began his ministry (he was in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth), his first words promised release to captives. Now, as he is dying, his last words fulfill that promise.

This criminal is the only person in any of the Gospels to address Jesus by his first name without a qualifier, such as “Lord,” “Son of David.” As the late Scripture scholar Fr. Raymond Brown put it, “The first person with the confidence to be so familiar is a convicted criminal who is also the last person on earth to speak to Jesus before he dies.”

This is Holy Week. Take some time to talk to Jesus on a first-name basis.


Lent Devotions: Luke 23:35-37


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

The rulers, meanwhile, sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” (Luke 23:35-37)

Mockery again, from three different quarters.

The rulers “sneer” – a Greek word that has the connotation of turning up (or down) one’s nose.

The soldiers “jeer” at him, then offer him wine in jest and say, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.”

But the mockery of a common criminal suffering the same fate is the cruelest cut of all.

How bad can it get? Being ridiculed in front of others is one of the worst things that can ever happen to anyone. It’s “vandalism” to the human person – like drawing graffiti on a beautiful painting, or taking a hammer to Michelangelo’s Pieta.

Have I ever been ridiculed for trying to do what I thought was right? The Lord knows the feeling.

World Prayers for March 29-April 4: Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore

A row of wooden kelongs (fishermen's huts on stilts), which forms the backdrop for the Songs of the Sea musical fountain at Sentosa, Singapore. 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 March 29-April 4: Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore

Lord, we give profound thanks for the richness of the people and amazing diversity of life in the countries of Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore. There are many species of plants and animals which are found in these countries and nowhere else. May the people of these countries find peace and happiness even during difficult times.

We pray for the religious groups that are oppressed despite official freedom of religion, and also for the protection and encouragement of religious freedom. May many of the ethnic groups of these countries finally find long-lasting peace and that political reforms and democratization come to fruition in Malaysia.

We especially lift up Chinese inhabitants of Brunei who have been denied citizenship and face discrimination, and also the poor of Brunei, that they gain access to the means necessary to sustain and nourish themselves. During Women’s History Month, we raise up the many women of these countries, some who are treated as second-class citizens.

And most of all, we pray for people who suffer from hunger and poverty in these countries, where there is also great wealth and materialism in some parts. May the priorities and policies of these governments give consideration to people who are marginalized in an economic sense and provide assistance so that all people may live lives of dignity.

We ask these things in the power of your spirit, and in the name of your son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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

Brunei: Not available
Malaysia: 1.7 percent
Singapore: Not available

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

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:34


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched. (Luke 23:34)

The normal Roman practice was to crucify victims naked. Sometimes, they were stripped before they even began their death march. Whether the Romans made a concession to the Jewish abhorrence of public nakedness is not known.

Psalm 22, speaking of the sufferings of the Messiah (the same Psalm that begins “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”), says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots.” Back then, garments were much more valuable than today, and were commonly awarded to the executioners.

It is a great insult to hang on a cross dying while others play a game of chance for your clothes. Crucifixion, on every score, was an ugly, humiliating way to die.

The people watching a crucifixion would normally be passers-by. The site chosen for a crucifixion was usually on a main route, so that passers-by would be forced to see it – just like unsuspecting commuters coming upon an accident on an expressway.

In Luke’s account, “the people” are respectful, awestruck, silent. He says they “stood by and watched.” When Jesus dies they will go home “beating their breasts.” Once again, “if you came to know him, you would love him.”

Maybe I need to get to know him better. Like Mary Magdalene did. Or the Beloved Disciple.


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