Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

We Pray for Nepal

Farmer in Nepal.  USAID

By Bread Staff

Join us as we pray for the people of Nepal.  A magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit central Nepal on Saturday, from Mount Everest to Katmandu and points west, killing hundreds of thousands and leaving more than 100,000 homeless and in desperate need of relief.

The death toll is now at roughly 3,800, according to news reports.

We also pray for our many partner organizations, such as Catholic Relief Services and Church World Service, among many others, who are working hard to save lives in Nepal.

Nepal is a Feed the Future country.  As the poorest country in South Asia, two out of every three Nepalese suffer from food insecurity each year. The earthquake will make both short- and long-term food assistance critical. 

Please join in prayer for the people of Nepal. This prayer is from the Catholic Relief Services resource center.

Loving God,

We pray for all those affected by the earthquake in Nepal as we offer the words of the psalmist, “Be strong and take heart, all who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:25)

May those who are paralyzed by fear …
Be strong and take heart

May those who have lost or are still searching for loved ones …
Be strong and take heart

May those who remain trapped under rubble …
Be strong and take heart

May those rescue workers who provide relief and recovery …
Be strong and take heart

May those who are moved with compassion to help …
Be strong and take heart

God, whose love knows no bounds,
fill all those who suffer with your comfort and peace.
We ask all this through Christ, our Lord. Amen

Interested in helping? Go to these denomination's relief organizations to find out what you can do: World Vision, Lutheran Disaster Response (ELCA), Church World ServiceUCC International Emergency Relief FundCatholic Relief ServicesUnited Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Hunger in the News: Criminal Justice Reform, Africa Migrants, and Feed the Future

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

Weary of poverty, Senegalese migrants head for Europe,” by Daniel Flynn, Reuters via Yahoo News! “After being repatriated to Senegal on a Spanish military plane having risked his life on a perilous sea crossing to the Canary Islands in 2006, Moustafa Diouf founded an association to warn young Africans of the dangers of illegal migration to Europe.”

2016 candidates need to address criminal justice reform,” by Harper Neidig, The State Press. “The United States has the highest incarceration rate and the most prisoners of any country in the world. With such an expensive, broken system, those running for president need to articulate how they will achieve criminal justice reform.”

Are we underestimating extreme poverty?” by Alex Whiting, World Economic Forum. “Global estimates of how many people live in extreme poverty could be short by 350 million because of a dearth of reliable data, potentially leading to poor decisions about who needs services, researchers said.”

UN Struggles To Combat Hunger In World’s Worst Combat Zones,” by PBS News Hour. “The nation of South Sudan is barely 4 years old, and for much of that time, the fledgling country has been at war with itself, a conflict that’s displaced more than two million South Sudanese in just the last 16 months.”

For Africa migrants, hope of a decent life trumps the perils at sea,” by Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times. “The first phone call came around 11 a.m. on a recent Sunday. A desperately frightened Eritrean refugee was on a sinking boat in the Mediterranean Sea, calling the only person he knew who might care: Sweden-based Eritrean journalist Meron Estefanos.”

What Happened the Last Time Republicans Cared About Poverty,” by Josh Zeitz, Politico. “Over the past several weeks, Republicans—at least those running for president—seem to have discovered the vexing issues of income and wealth inequality. Speaking last month at the Detroit Economic Club, former Gov. Jeb Bush acknowledged that “only a small portion of the population [is] riding the economy’s up escalator.” His fellow Floridian, Sen. Marco Rubio expressed his newfound concern that “so much of the recovery over the last couple of years has gone to such a small segment of the population.” Even Rick Perry, a prophet of low taxes and minimal regulation, just a few days ago complained that “large corporations don’t pay taxes but single moms working two jobs do,” though it’s not clear that he would prefer the logical fix to that injustice.”

House committee advances Feed the Future authorization,” by Whitney Forman-Cook, AgriPulse. “The House Foreign Affairs Committee advanced an amended bill that would provide the first congressional authorization for the Obama administration's Feed the Future initiative.”

African Trade Legislation That Strengthens Food Security Moves Forward in Congress

African farmer scooping out the pink gooey cocoa from the pods. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

By Bread Staff

Bread for the World released the following press release earlier today.

House and Senate Committees this week approved bills that will help to strengthen investments and promote future agriculture development in Africa, helping to alleviate hunger there.

The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee passed the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). This legislation aims to strengthen U.S.-Africa trade opportunities. While the existing authorization will expire on Sept. 30, 2015, legislation moving through Congress now would extend that authorization for another ten years.

“Reauthorization of AGOA could encourage job creation through trade for AGOA-eligible countries as well as the United States,” said Eric Mitchell, director of government relations at Bread for the World. “It is essential that our trade policies and agreements contribute to the efforts to reduce hunger and poverty.”

AGOA is the most important legislation that defines trade relationships between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa. Since it went into effect in 2000, exports under AGOA increased more than 500 percent, from $8.15 billion in 2001 to $53.8 billion in 2011. However, 95 percent of the total goods traded under AGOA was in the form of oil, gas, and minerals over that decade. AGOA reauthorization should focus on non-energy imports and include strengthening the capacity of smallholder farmers and businesses to create jobs and boost incomes.

An estimated 80 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Female farmers often have fewer options in their livelihoods, including access to markets. The Senate version of AGOA includes a bipartisan amendment that will strengthen the trade capacity of smallholder women farmers. This language, which was introduced by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), leading members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, was overwhelmingly supported by the Senate Finance Committee.

“Through this language, AGOA will have a direct impact on Africa’s women farmers, as well as improving overall food security,” said Mitchell.

Bread for the World, its partners, and its members have consistently advocated for AGOA since 1998.

World Prayers for April 26-May 2: Eritrea and Ethiopia

A typical Afar hut under construction in Ethiopia. Once finished, it will be covered completely except for a small entrance. Sebastian Morales/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 April 26-May 2: Eritrea and Ethiopia

O God, we thank you for the beautiful people of Eritrea and Ethiopia who have suffered much hunger and poverty through the years. Nevertheless, they enrich the world through their unique cuisine such as Injera (Ethiopian bread) and wat (a sauce for meat and vegetables).

We thank you for the faithful witness of Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians, ancient traditions, and new possibilities for proclaiming the faith of the risen Christ, and those who serve the poor and hungry.

We pray for tranquility in these countries. That hostile governments may soon be marked by long-lasting peace and justice, and that border disputes are settled through diplomatic means rather than through violent measures

We lift up refugees and those who have been displaced from their homes and villages, as well as those suffering from AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases, and have no access to medical care in order to get treatment. We ask all these things in the name of your glorious son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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

Eritrea: Not available
Ethiopia: 29.6

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


How Good Policy Translates to Success

Paprika pepper farmer in Tanzania. USAID.

By Beth Ann Saracco

Congress is listening to you! Less than two weeks ago, we asked you to contact Congress and urge your representative to cosponsor The Global Food Security Act. As a result of your advocacy, the bill passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee this morning!

Let’s keep this important legislation moving forward! Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative. Urge your representative to support and cosponsor the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567).

On a recent trip to East Africa, I met with a women’s cassava cooperative outside Sengerema, Tanzania. I was struck by the progress they were making in improving their lives and their families’ lives. The women plant cassava, process it into flour, and then sell the flour at the market. With the extra income they earn, standards of living in the community are rising, and the women and their families are seeing a higher quality of life.

This success is a prime example of the progress being achieved on farms throughout the world. Because of programs like Feed the Future, seven million small farmers grew more crops, and 12.5 million children received nutritious food. Such progress has occurred in tandem with the progress of the Global Food Security Act in Congress.

The Global Food Security Act would support efforts like those of the Tanzania cassava cooperative throughout the world. More families will be able to send their children to school, buy nutritious foods to supplement their children’s diets, and further invest in their land and businesses.

From Washington, D.C., to Tanzania, we are making great strides in our efforts to end global hunger and malnutrition. Yet our work remains unfinished. We need the House of Representatives to pass the Global Food Security Act. Making this global food and nutrition security program permanent will ensure progress against hunger continues.

Call (800/826-3688) or email your representative. Urge your representative to cosponsor the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567).  Let’s stand with programs like the women’s cassava cooperative in Tanzania by praying for an end to hunger and engaging in faithful advocacy alongside them.

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

Improving Nutrition is Essential to Ending Global Hunger

A Ugandan family shares a meal together. Kendra Rinas for Bread for the World.

Editor's note: This article first appeared on the World Food Program USA website. It was co-written by staff members from Bread for the World Institute and World Food Program USA.

By Scott Bleggi and Allan Jury

“Good nutrition is the bedrock of human well-being.” This compelling truth opens the 2014 Global Nutrition Report.

For young children, good nutrition enables the body to grow and develop to its full potential. Studies show that well-nourished children are more likely to succeed in the classroom and earn higher wages as adults than their malnourished peers.  

This is why the Roadmap to End Global Hunger’s 2015 Policy Brief identifies nutrition as one the four main pillars of an effective U.S. strategy to build global food security. 

It is particularly important to focus on good nutrition during the first 1,000 days, a window of opportunity between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. The negative effects of poor nutrition during the 1,000 days are irreversible, while getting the right nutrients at this time produces lasting benefits in both mental and physical development. 

Spending on nutrition support for mothers and young children is a proven investment. In fact, recent analysis shows that for every $1 invested in improving nutrition, $16 is returned to the economy through improved worker productivity and lower health care costs. 

U.S. leadership is essential for maintaining international political will and adequate funding to reduce global malnutrition. Malnutrition has many causes and effective nutrition programming is needed to address each of these causes:

  • We need better nutrition education for expectant and new mothers, including the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for babies up to age six months. 
  • We need to support programs that increase the availability of nutritious foods, especially fortified foods and nutrition supplements for pregnant women and children 6-24 months. 
  • We need to help communities gain access to clean water and adequate sanitation to reduce the risk of diseases that rob the body of its ability to absorb vital nutrients.

When the world acts to address malnutrition, the results are more than just impressive economic statistics. With WFP’s help, millions of mothers worldwide are witnessing their children grow and prosper.  

Take Khourn Kom, a young mother who lives with her family in a two-room house in rural Cambodia. Throughout her pregnancy and her baby’s first six months, Kom received monthly distributions of Super Cereal from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). When her child turned seven months old, WFP began providing a different product Super Cereal Plus, which responds to the unique nutritional needs of children 6-23 months.

"This food is good for my son,” Kom told WFP staffers in the field, adding that she now feels confident her son will grow into a strong, healthy boy.

As the 2014 Global Nutrition report points out, the well-being of all people begins with good nutrition: “Without good nutrition, people’s lives and livelihoods are built on quicksand.”  

Let’s advocate together for a smarter approach to global nutrition, along with robust levels of funding that can turn quicksand into a rock-solid foundation for the future health and success of malnourished children everywhere.

The Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567) was recently reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. This smart approach recognizes that, in order to end hunger, we don't just need to grow more food through building strong agriculture systems. We need quality, nutritious food as well.

Call or email your U.S. representative today. Urge your U.S. representative to co-sponsor The Global Food Security Act.

Scott Bleggi is senior international policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute, where he supports the organization's larger advocacy efforts to end hunger and poverty, with a focus on maternal and child nutrition policies and programs in U.S. government developmental assistance.

Allan Jury is senior advisor at World Food Program USA, where he works with lawmakers and advocates to shape U.S. food and agriculture policies. Before joining WFP USA in 2013, he worked as the director of the U.S. relations office for the United Nations World Food Program after spending 25 years abroad working for the U.S. Department of State.

Scriptural Manna: Walking Humbly With God and Incarcerated Women


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.

"The Lord God has told us what is right and what he demands: See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.” (Micah 6:8)

When I began my chaplaincy at Indiana Women’s Prison, I was assigned to the Disciplinary, Administrative Segregation, and Death Row units that included solitary confinement.

My prior ministry experience with at-risk populations was useful, but I quickly learned that it was not enough. My chaplaincy would require a different approach. A ministry of mercy meant moving from being a presenter of Scripture and prayer to a facilitator of inviting the Lord to hear the cries of the women. A ministry of justice meant becoming more of an active listener who could help the women articulate their inner longings of how they wanted to walk more closely with the Lord. This all led to deeper reflections about the systemic issues that led to their incarceration.

This was the beginning of my understanding that mass incarceration is a major concern. The fact that an increasing number of women are being incarcerated, especially younger women and a disproportionate numbers of African-American women, is worrisome.

Unfortunately, once these women leave prison, their incarceration becomes a scarlet letter – one that is hard to shake.  People with felony convictions are at risk of hunger and poverty because employers often don't want to hire someone with a criminal record. Licensing prohibitions can bar certain individuals from working in certain fields. Even when ex-offenders do get jobs, they earn much less than they did before going to prison. Studies show that a prison record reduces yearly earnings by 40 percent.

Worse, laws ban individuals with felony convictions from getting government assistance. Many can’t receive SNAP (formerly food stamps), TANF (welfare), or housing assistance. With no job, no shelter, and no help, many people in these situations are denied a second chance.

During my chaplaincy, I answered Micah’s question of what was required of me by also exercising more humility. The result was presenting less of myself and inviting more presence and leadership from the women. This created a sacred space where matters for potential advocacy could be shared from the women.

Justice, mercy, humility. These were the ways that I found to obey and do right for God during my ministry in the prison. This formula for faithfulness came from Micah, a prophet who spoke to Israel. In his book in the Old Testament, Micah preaches about social justice and defends the rights of the poor against the rich and powerful. Is that not what our ministry of advocating for a world without hunger is all about?

Learn more: Hunger and Mass Incarceration.

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

REV. DR. ANGELIQUE WALKER-SMITH is Bread for the World’s national senior associate for African-American and African church engagement.




Break the Chains of Hunger

Hernán Piñera/CC BY-SA 2.0

By Dr. Iva E. Carruthers

This weekend was big. One thousand Christian advocates from across the country descended upon Washington, D.C., to learn about "Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration & Systems of Exploitation," which was the theme of the conference they attended. And after the conference, they went to Capitol Hill to talk to Congress about these topics. For Bread, breaking the chains of hunger means breaking the chains of mass incarceration and exploitation.

Some laws ban individuals with felony convictions from getting assistance. Many can't receive SNAP (formerly food stamps), TANF (welfare), or housing assistance. These programs are vital in keeping people from falling into — or back into — hunger and poverty. We can't take these lifelines away from people who need them so much.

Momentum is building for criminal justice reform. Will you keep it going with an email or phone call to your members of Congress? Urge your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators to remove the ban on SNAP and TANF for individuals with felony drug convictions.

People leaving prison or those with felony convictions are at a high risk of hunger and poverty. Employers often don't want to hire someone with a criminal record. Licensing prohibitions mean many can't work in certain fields — and even when they do get jobs, they earn much less than individuals who have never been to prison. Laws banning people with criminal records from getting assistance make the situation even worse.

These conditions stack the deck against people returning from prison or those with criminal records. Our laws should promote successful reentry and economic stability. Instead, these bans do the opposite.

It's time for a change.

Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators. Urge Congress to remove the ban on SNAP and TANF for people with felony drug convictions. The time is ripe for criminal justice reform, and this should be a part of it.

Learn more: Hunger and Mass Incarceration.

Dr. Iva E. Carruthers is the general secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference and a Bread for the World board member

Churches and Charities are Key Partners, But Can't Fight Hunger Alone

Federal nutrition programs are finding ways to connect the people who rely on them with a healthy selection of foods. Jim Stipe for Bread for the World.

By Alyssa Casey

“Many people call SNAP a safety net, but for me it was like a trampoline – bouncing my family back into work and a brighter future,” said Keleigh Green-Patton, a working mother and former SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) recipient, who recently testified on Capitol Hill.

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives held two separate hearings, both on critical anti-hunger programs. The House Agriculture Committee focused on the relationship between SNAP and the charitable sector, while the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing on serving students and families through child nutrition programs.

During the SNAP hearing, Green-Patton told her story of turning to SNAP after losing her job, participating in a job-training program through the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and then finding employment and moving off SNAP. While the three-month training program was facilitated by the food depository, the program was unpaid, and so to keep food on her family’s table, Green-Patton turned to SNAP.

In addition to Green-Patton, expert witnesses from food banks and anti-hunger programs emphasized the critical role of SNAP, even in the midst of the innovative work being done by private charitable organizations. “We are proud of our daily impact on hunger, but it pales in comparison to the tremendous job done by federal nutrition programs, including SNAP, WIC, CACFP, School Lunch and Breakfast and Summer Meals,” said Kate Maehr, chief executive officer of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) echoed this theme by citing Bread for the World’s research on charities and hunger. “I think the message that’s loud and clear is that churches and charities cannot do it on their own. To put it in perspective, I have a fact sheet here from Bread for the World… it says federal assistance for food and nutrition programs [in 2013] was at about $102 billion. Assistance from churches and charities was at $5.2 billion.”

It is encouraging to see members of Congress acknowledge the hard work of charitable organizations in feeding hungry people. But with federal nutrition programs – including SNAP, school meals, and WIC – providing 19 times more food assistance than private charities, these hearings couldn’t have been timelier. Members of Congress in the Education and Workforce Committee also heard from a panel of witnesses who spoke to the effectiveness of and need for strong child nutrition programs.

Charitable organizations, including food banks and pantries, churches, and faith organizations, are critical partners in the fight against hunger because they are on the ground in so many local communities. Yet many of these organizations rely largely on donations, work with extremely limited resources, and their presence varies by region. They cannot provide the certainty and consistency of SNAP or child nutrition programs.

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

Alyssa Casey is a government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.

Mass Incarceration: 'Spitting in the Face of God'

Brother Mike Murphy, on left, founder of the HELP program, a re-entry program for ex-offenders in Cincinnati, Ohio, prays with program participants.

By Bread Staff

Over the weekend, Bishop Jose Garcia, the director of church relations at Bread for the World, gave the keynote sermon at Ecumenical Advocacy Days.

The conference’s theme was “Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation.” At Bread, mass incarceration is an issue we are following legislatively, especially as it intersects with hunger and poverty.

Here is an excerpt from Garcia’s sermon:

“Every day and every hour, the systems of unjust detention of our nation are spitting in the face of God.

When men, women, children, and families are treated as assets to fill quotas that will fatten the dividends of the shareholders whose greed has no regard for the dignity of those created in God’s image, the systems of unjust detention of our nation are spitting in the face of God.

When the formerly incarcerated, who supposedly have paid their debt to society, are denied food, employment, health, job opportunities, adequate housing and education, the systems of unjust detention of our nation are spitting in the face of God.

When women and children, who are facing hunger, extreme poverty, domestic violence, human trafficking, oppression and gang violence, are placed in family detention centers that are pits that trample over these vulnerable ones, the systems of unjust detention of our nation are spitting in the face of God.

This offends God, and offends the church.”

Bread plans to continue its own work around the issue of incarceration – highlighting whenever possible its impact on hunger and poverty.  Keep following Bread Blog for updates and actions you can take.

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