By Robin Stephenson
The reporter’s voice on the radio instantly wakes me up as my 6 a.m. alarm goes off. There is an element of danger, urgency, and even resolution as he ticks off the headlines: a South Korean MERS outbreak is slowing, two New York escaped prisoners are still missing, and the Supreme Court is expected to soon announce its decision on Obamacare subsidies. The reporter goes on and on.
But there is nothing about the danger of the hungry summer that millions of children are facing as schools release students for a long break.
Millions of low-income children, who normally receive a nutritious meal at school, will go without in the coming months. Summer meal programs reached more children in need in recent years, but according to a 2015 annual summer meals report by Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), only one out of every six children who qualify for free- and reduced-priced meals at school will also receive meals during the summer.
Hunger is dangerous. Even brief periods of hunger carry consequences that can last a lifetime for growing children. Lack of adequate nutrition can cause physical and mental health problems and impede academic performance.
Hidden hunger - a growing problem in the United States - has long-term health and economic consequences. Food-insecure children may not “look” hungry, but suffer from zinc, iron, or calcium deficiency due to poor diets. Obesity is a common symptom of hunger because of the lack of access to healthy foods. Not only do well-fed students do better in school and graduate at a higher rate, they earn more as adults and help the national economy.
Studies on the cost of hunger lead to one conclusion: invest a little now in nutrition programs or pay a lot later. The national economic impact of hunger is expensive. A team from Brandeis University estimated hunger cost the country a staggering $167.5 billion in 2011 alone.
Hunger is a dangerous but not an insurmountable problem, especially when reaching more children in the summer months. New approaches to summer meals funded during the last child nutrition reauthorization have proven we can reduce summer food insecurity.
And now there is opportunity to even make more strides around combating child hunger with the introduction of two new summer meals bills.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.-53) introduced the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act of 2015 last week (S. 1539 and H.R. 2715). This bill would help close the summer hunger gap – especially in rural areas - by providing low-income families with children a Summer EBT card. A Summer EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card is like a debit card, which can be used to purchase food at stores during the summer. Similar pilot projects reduced child hunger in the summer by 33 percent.
The Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S.613/H.R.1728) introduced earlier this year will strengthen and expand the summer meals program. Working together, the two bills will allow states to be more innovative and reach more children in need.
Are we are habituated to hunger, lulled into complacency by a sense that hunger is inevitable? It is not. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, nearly 16 million children are food-insecure. This fact is not headline news, but it should be.
Act now! Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators to close the hunger gap today.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.
“Pope Francis to Explore Climate’s Effect on World’s Poor,” by Jim Yardley, The New York Times. “Ban Ki-moon arrived at the Vatican with his own college of cardinals. Mr. Ban, the United Nations secretary general, had brought the leaders of all his major agencies to see Pope Francis, a show of organizational muscle and respect for a meeting between two global institutions that had sometimes shared a bumpy past but now had a mutual interest.”
“USDA nutrition chief: Charity alone won't fix hunger problem,” by Larry Dreiling, High Plains Journal. “In its May 4 editions, High Plains Journal published an account of a recent House Agriculture Committee hearing quoting chairman Mike Conaway, R-TX. In the hearing, designed to review the past, present and future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps, Conaway expressed the belief that meeting the nutritional needs of Americans is not solely the responsibility of the government through SNAP.”
“‘Geography of Poverty’: 5 facts you should know,” by Bridget Todd, MSNBC. “All across the U.S., families are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table. And while poverty may look different from the Southwest to the Rust Belt, the numbers are singularly staggering. Forty-five million citizens meet the official guidelines for poverty as defined by the Department of Health and Human Services.”
“Mass Incarceration's Invisible Casualties: Women and The Criminal Justice System,” by Michele Goodwin, The Huffington Post. “When Americans think about the war on drugs, often images of violent men behind bars shape their understandings. This persistent picture obscures the true realities and costs of both mass incarceration and the U.S. drug war.”
“Pope Francis: We can end world hunger if we want to,” by Mark Woods, Christian Today. “Pope Francis has called for a new focus on global hunger in a major address to delegates from the international Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome.”
“Summer Food Program Combats Hunger And Learning Loss,” by Kristin Malavenda, NPR. “Nearly half of all public school students in the United States receive a free or reduced price lunch.”
“Lawmaker: Kids shouldn't go hungry over summer break,” by Joanna Pasceri, ABC 7 Buffalo. “U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said she will fight to protect healthier food standards and programs for schools as Congress prepares to debate child nutrition standards. Gillibrand also announced bipartisan legislation to provide more children with nutritious meals throughout the summer.”
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 14:20: Brazil
A Eucharistic Prayer
(Adapted from a Brazilian hymn by Flavio Irala; words adapted from a poem by Elsa Tamaz, Costa Rica; English translation by Terry MacArthur)
Come for celebrating the supper of the Lord.
Together we will bake an enormous loaf of bread.
We make wine that overflows like in Cana long ago.
Surely the women won’t forget the salt, and the men will gladly bring the yeast.
Let’s send out many invitations to the blind, the wounded, the outcast, the poor.
So this very day we celebrate.
Jesus meets us face to face.
Now as Christ’s own body we commit our lives to God’s kingdom.
No more will a child be hungry.
No more will a man be hungry.
No more will a woman be hungry.
* * * * * * * * * *
God, travelling with us on the way,
sustaining life, source of life,
you are not a God travelling only ahead of us,
like a general, like a hero,
nor do you give prizes to those
who boldly run, full of energy.
I have heard your voice on the way,
encouraging us not to stop,
persuading us to continue on our way.
You are a God everywhere present.
You are to be found in all places.
You are ahead and behind us,
when the road is long
and weariness at its greatest.
You are not only the God of the strongest,
of those whose lives are prosperous.
When our strength falters and fails,
you give us the strength to keep on going forward.
With you, we joyfully continue on our way,
a gentle breeze impels us on,
our steps become lighter,
and we are even able to sing.
(Prayer by Simei Monteiro, a Brazilian church musician)
Percentage of the population of these countries living below the national poverty line (2014 figures):
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.
By Bread Staff
Early this week, the G-7 leaders during their annual summit in Schloss Elmau, Krun Germany, committed themselves “to lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.”
The theme of the summit—Think Ahead. Act Together — focused on food security and nutrition, the post-2015 development agenda, climate protection, and women’s economic empowerment, among other topics.
“We welcome the G-7’s decision to continue its focus on food security by committing to lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030,” said Asma Lateef, director of the Bread for the World Institute. “It builds on previous G-7 commitments on hunger and nutrition, specifically the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, and ensures these actions continue to empower women, smallholder and family farmers.”
The G-7 is composed of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In advance of the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on all G-7 countries to end hunger and absolute poverty by 2030.
As a result of the G-7’s decision, Bread for the World is urging Congress to demonstrate the United States’ pledge to this goal by passing the Global Food Security Act. The bill would make permanent Feed the Future, which has helped more than 7 million small-scale farmers increase crop production and has provided nutritious food to more than 12.5 million children in 2013 alone.
Feed the Future works hand-in-hand with partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors and break the cycles of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.
“The United States’ leadership has been important in focusing global attention on hunger and malnutrition. Congress should demonstrate similar leadership by passing the Global Food Security Act,” said Eric Mitchell, director of government relations at Bread for the World. “This legislation has strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, and we urge congressional leaders to move this legislation forward and support its passage.”
Last month, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization announced that world hunger had dropped by 167 million in the previous decade, to 795 million. This was due in part to programs like Feed the Future, which are investing in small farmers in developing countries, increasing their productivity and their incomes.
Feed the Future can save lives. But it's important to act right now to ensure it continues. Call or email your members of Congress today. Urge your U.S. representative and U.S. senators to co-sponsor The Global Food Security Act.
By Jennifer Gonzalez
Over 250 Bread for the World activists descended on Capitol Hill on Tuesday in the summer heat of Washington to ensure that members of Congress support child nutrition in the U.S. and abroad, and also aid small-scale farmers around the globe. Bread activists specifically asked members of Congress to support the Summer Meals Act of 2015 and the Global Food Security Act of 2015.
The day was a success as activist after activist, young and old alike, met with senators and representatives (or their staffers). Some meetings were small, with just a handful of activists around a table, sharing their thoughts, while others were quite large.
About 15 members from the Reformed Church of Highland Park in New Jersey met with staffers of Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-N.J.) office. The group later met with staffers from Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) office and got a surprise when the senator unexpectedly showed up and spoke to them. The group was not scheduled to meet with Booker, but instead, only with a couple of staffers.
Here are some highlights from Lobby Day 2015:
The morning got off to a great start with some inspiring words from Amelia Kegan, Bread’s deputy director of government relations. She spoke at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church, where activists took part in a worship service combined with a legislative briefing by staff members of Bread’s government relations department.
Activists spent the afternoon meeting with various members of Congress. A small group of Iowans met with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). They were accompanied by Rev. David Beckmann, Bread’s president, and Christine Melendez Ashley, a senior policy analyst at Bread.
Maria Rose Belding, a former intern at the Alliance to End Hunger (Bread’s sister organization), who now works at a nonprofit emergency food pantry system, stressed the need for Ernst to support the Summer Meals Act of 2015. “For every seven children who receive a free school lunch, only one gets a summer meal,” she said.
A handful of Bread activists from Alabama met with a staffer in Rep. Terri Sewell’s (D-07) office. Suzanne Martin spoke about the need for members of Congress, such as Sewell, to cosponsor the Global Food Security Act. The bill would make permanent Feed the Future, which has helped more than 7 million small-scale farmers increase crop production and has provided nutritious food to more than 12.5 million children in 2013 alone.
“What I love about this bill is that creates resiliency and sustainability,” Martin said. “I hope she (Sewell) becomes a big champion of this bill.”
The day ended with a reception and worship service at the Cannon House Office Building. Four members of Congress were honored as “hunger champions” during the reception: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.-37), U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.-01), and U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, (D-Calif.-40).
Lobby Day ended with activists relaying personal stories from their day on Capitol Hill. Thanks to all who participated in this year’s Lobby Day. We can’t end hunger by 2030 without your continued strong voice!
By Rev. Tanya J. Denley
As a young-adult volunteer in mission in Cleveland, Ohio, almost 20 years ago, I saw in the actions of my supervisors at Noble Road Presbyterian Church that faith wasn’t just a thing that happened on Sunday mornings. Instead, it was lived out in the community around the church each every day.
Today I live in Baltimore, Md. As a chaplain in an urban Catholic-affiliated hospital and a parish associate at Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church, I continue to see the need for faith to be active in the community around the church.
Baltimore is unlike any city I've ever lived in. It’s small, although in 2012, for the first time in 60 years, the population increased. The city is poor — 25 percent of its residents live below the poverty line — and overwhelmingly Black — 64 percent of the population. Drive through most parts of the city, and you’ll see row houses that are burned out, boarded up, and falling down. The poverty is apparent even in downtown. The stately, 115-year-old Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. courthouse is covered in netting to protect pedestrians from falling pieces of the building.
Dickey Memorial Church is located on the west side of Baltimore, not far from Sandtown-Winchester, where Freddie Grey was born, raised, and died after being held by police. The church is not far from Mondawmin, where young people took to the streets to express their frustration — and community leaders, clergy, and residents hit the streets calling for peace.
One of the immediate concerns to the community surrounding Dickey Memorial is that our nearby school, Dickey Hill Elementary/Middle School, like many other schools in the city, has no potable water. The children at the school cannot drink the water due to the high lead content. Additionally, 89 percent of the students at the school are receiving free or reduced-priced lunch, which is critical because of the high prevalence of food deserts in Baltimore.
There is much need in the city. Some more statistics:
- 1 in 5 Baltimore City residents lives in a food desert.
- Nearly 1 in 4 of Baltimore’s school-aged children (0-17) lives in a food desert.
- 1 in 4 of Baltimore’s African-American population lives in a food desert.
- In a food desert, 1 in 4 households receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, twice the percentage of non-food-desert households.
- 1 in 3 of Baltimore’s neighborhoods (36 percent) is located within a food desert.
There is good news, though. For over 35 years, the Baltimore faith community and, more recently, Dickey Memorial, have been working to make a difference in the communities around us. Church and community leaders in the area have joined with BUILD — Baltimoreans United for Leadership Development — to create better relationships with each other and to work for lasting change in Baltimore. The commitment for BUILD is a commitment to move the church out of the four walls of the sanctuary.
Dickey Memorial also supports Bread for the World each year. We understand that policy changes must happen on both the local and national levels. Protecting child nutrition programs is critical for children living in food deserts. The commitment to Bread is also a commitment to carry out our faith outside our church.
For me, this commitment comes from the understanding that as followers of Jesus we are to align our principles, our beliefs, and our lives with what God values, not with what the world values. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, to be willing to lay down our lives for our neighbor, to do justice, love God, and to walk humbly with God. This reorganization of priorities and aligning our lives with what God values is not always an easy process, nor is it a one-time event. It is something I must do and think about each and every day–and in a sense is a daily spiritual discipline.
Rev. Tanya J Denley, BCC is the oncology chaplain at Mercy Medical Center in downtown Baltimore. She also serves as Parish Associate for Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church in Dickeyville. In her spare time, she volunteers with Presbyterian Women's Anti-Racism Committee and writes on anti-racism and white privilege. She is married and has one cat.
Photo inset: Rev. Tanya J. Denley
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.
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.
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:
- Child nutrition reauthorization
- The Global Food Security Act
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
“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.”
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.
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