Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

2014 Victories: U.S. Farm Bill

Editor’s note: Bread Blog starts a six-part series today highlighting Bread for the World’s legislative wins in 2014. Today’s post looks at the U.S. Farm Bill.

By Bread Staff

Congress passed the farm bill in February 2014. Bread for the World members fought hard throughout 2013 to protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or formerly food stamps) from draconian cuts that would have kicked millions of people off the program and left them vulnerable to hunger and poverty. Bread also pushed Congress to include important food-aid reforms in the bill. In the end, Bread was fairly successful.

• Despite the House of Representatives passing a bill with nearly $40 billion in cuts to SNAP, which would have pushed 2 to 4 million people off the program, the final bill had less than $8 billion in cuts, and states have been able to mitigate most of that. Thus, no one was cut off SNAP because of this bill.

• The final bill excluded all harsh work requirements that would have kicked parents with young children off SNAP, as well as drug-testing requirements. It also excludes the lifetime SNAP benefit ban on returning citizens, which would have had severe consequences on those most marginalized.

• The bill also included $100 million for SNAP healthy incentives grants and funding for employment and training pilot projects. This will help people who receive SNAP to develop skills and get jobs that pay more so they no longer need SNAP benefits.

• On international food aid, the farm bill authorized $80 million to purchase food locally where it is needed. It also included provisions to drastically reduce the inefficient practice of monetization, or selling food aid to generate money for development projects, helping 600,000 more people annually throughout the world.

“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.”

Act Now: Urge your senators to cosponsor the Food for Peace Reform Act. This bill allows food aid funding to be used more efficiently and reach millions more people — at no additional cost to taxpayers. 

Photo: Farm workers pick cucumbers on a farm in Blackwater, Va. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

Bread for the Preacher: Counting Our Days Wisely

5367306766_3044fcba3c_bEvery month, the church relations department at Bread for the World produces a resource specifically for pastors. Whether you are searching for inspiration for a sermon you're writing or are just a lectionary enthusiast, Bread for the Preacher is for you.

After reading this introduction, explore this month’s readings on the Bread for the Preacher web page, where you can also sign up to have the resource emailed to you each month.

By Bishop José García

So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart (Psalm 90:12).

In our modern day, time is a precious commodity. In athletic competitions, milliseconds can be the difference between a gold, silver, or bronze medal. Endorsements and contracts worth millions hinge on those fractions of seconds.

Many of us make resolutions at the beginning of the new year. They can be related to diet, lifestyle, relationships, unhealthy behaviors, etc. The sales of books related to self-improvement, diet, and exercise spike at the beginning of the year. However, this Scripture encourages us to use time wisely. The best use of time is when we realign our priorities with God's kingdom priorities. Let us try to be light "before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Let us use our time wisely to be advocates in prayer, action, and giving for justice for people who are struggling with hunger and poverty.

The political climate at the beginning of this year looked dim. However, because of the prayers, actions, such as the Offering of Letters, and advocacy visits to members of Congress, we rejoice in the many victories that were achieved in legislation that impacted hunger and poverty in the United States and globally. Read our blog at bog.bread.org for detailed information.

As we reflect on the lessons prepared for this month's lectionary readings, let us use our time wisely and shine for God's justice.

Jose Garcia is a bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy and the director of the church relations department at Bread for the World.

Photo: Offering of Letters. Dulce Gamboa/Bread for the World.

Hunger in the News: High Incarceration Rate, Native Crops, and Peanut Butter

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

A Different Approach to Breaking the Cycle of Poverty” by Alana Semuels, The Atlantic. “This neighborhood south of downtown is bleak, with empty parking lots fenced in by barbed wire, and skeletons of buildings covered in graffiti.”

The Steep Cost of America’s High Incarceration Rate” by Robert E. Rubin and Nicholas Turner, The Wall Street Journal. “One of us is a former Treasury secretary, the other directs a criminal-justice institute. But we’ve reached the same conclusions. America’s overreliance on incarceration is exacting excessive costs on individuals and communities, as well as on the national economy. Sentences are too long, and parole and probation policies too inflexible. There is too little rehabilitation in prison and inadequate support for life after prison.”

Solving Hunger in Ethiopia by Turning to Native Crops” by Amy Maxmen, Newsweek. “Dibaabish Jaboo kneads the pale, vegetative flesh of the enset plant, like her mother did, like her granddaughters do. When she’s finished, she bundles the plant’s thick, decomposing stalk into its 12-foot-long leaves along with spices and agents to help it ferment for a few weeks. Once it’s ready, she can store the bundle underground, or pound it into flour for bread or porridge.”

How peanut butter and jelly could help America's education system” by Benjamin Spoer, USA Today. “Those in the education world — parents, teachers, politicos alike — hear near-constant consternation about underperforming inner-city schools. We cannot seem to decide whether the teachers are unqualified, the curriculum is inappropriate or the budgets are too small. However, for many of these schools, there could be a simple way to improve academic performance. It's something we in the public health world call, in academic speak, a peanut butter sandwich.”

California drought brings smaller harvests, more hunger among farmworkers” by By Lisa M. Krieger, San Jose Mercury News. “Here in the produce basket of the nation, the drought so dried out the farm economy that farmworkers depend on charity to fill their pantries.”

How You Helped My Family

Thaddeus and Destany
Thaddeus with his daughter, Destany, when she was 7 and 18.

By Thaddeus Cooks

I was a 17-year-old single father struggling to make ends meet. At an age when most young men are thinking about college, I was trying to figure out how to feed my child and replace the clothes she kept outgrowing.

I'll never forget the woman from my church who told me about the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC).

With the assistance in getting nutritious food through WIC, I could use the little cash I had for clothes, diapers, and medicine. WIC's resources helped me keep my daughter healthy, happy, and nourished. I couldn't have done it without them.

Now the program that did so much for me and my daughter needs help.

WIC and other critical child nutrition programs are set to expire in 2015, and without strong voices fighting for them, they face serious financial cuts. Donate before December 31 to make sure children and families have the support they need in the new year.

Today, my daughter, Destany, is a healthy, happy, straight-A student. I can hardly believe how smart, passionate, and impressive she’s become. She has no memory of how hard it was in the very beginning. I thank God that her days of going to bed hungry as a child were short and that the future that followed was bright.

WIC changed our lives, and I’m determined to do everything I can to make sure the other 7.5 million families with young children at risk of hunger will have the same support we did.

The best way I know to do that is to support Bread for the World.

Bread has decades of experience protecting programs like WIC that make a real difference in people’s lives. Bread has a smart strategy to win over key legislators in 2015, but it takes more than that to end hunger. Your prayers, your advocacy, and — critically — your financial support are needed right now.

Please donate before December 31 to protect anti-hunger programs in 2015.

Together, we can make sure WIC and other programs continue to be the strong lifeline for families in need.


The Verdict and the Vision

Forbes with Bible
Bread for the World

By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith

In 1951, the poet Langston Hughes asked the question “What happens when a dream is deferred?” The questions that follow in the poem suggest pain, anger, and rage can erupt when dreams are not achieved or are deferred.  

In August 1963, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., stated he had a dream of a beloved community not only rooted in the American dream, but a dream that was primarily grounded in Christian faith and in biblical texts such as the Lord’s Prayer that states, “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  Dr. King and other dreamers of the time, like those in the student non-violence movement, had a vision that would bring the dream closer to my generation and subsequent generations of today. They prayed, acted, and gave so that subsequent generations would see the end of injustices, violence, hunger, and poverty for all people.  A vision that would remove the scourge of racial and class bias.

While it is true that public policies at the federal, state, and local levels have reformed some unjust laws, today’s protests and public prayers make it clear that these past victories are only the start of true reform.  

It was not enough to pass executive actions in the first decade of the 2000s addressing the concerns of our Latino/Latina “DREAMers.” They too believe their generation should have an opportunity to pursue a good education and a life without violence, poverty, and hunger.  The president’s executive order on immigration reform has been a huge step forward, but much work remains. Some of these dreamers have joined the “hands up, don’t shoot” campaign in their fight for social justice.

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. The tragic loss of black lives this year reminds us that the dream of the beloved community is still deferred. A disproportionate number of African-Americans continues to suffer from hunger, live in poverty, and are incarcerated in mass numbers. The tragic deaths of young, African-American men like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, who died at the hands of police engagement, remind us that justice is still not color blind.

The protests surrounding these issues demonstrate that this generation has not given up on the dreams of their parents and grandparents, a dream grounded in peace and justice. We are witnessing signs of hope as people stand up and lie down (die-ins) to say that a deferred dream of a more just and peaceful community, that respects and loves black lives, can move us closer to the dream of beloved community.

Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith is the associate for national African-American church engagement.

World Prayers for Dec. 27-Jan. 2: Stateless People and Migrants

Line of jerry cans waiting for time at water pointThis 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, act, and give. 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 December 27-January 2, we pray for stateless people and migrants:

God our redeemer, in this season when we celebrate the birth of your son, we remember that he, too, was a refugee, born under an occupying government and into a family that fled its homeland under threat of death. This week we lift up in prayer the millions of people in your world who live under similar circumstances. We also lift up in prayer migrants—people who often have no permanent home or who are far from family and friends most of the time.

Be with refugees and internally displaced people as they flee from their homes because of war, conflict, oppressive governments, famine, natural disaster, or other emergencies. Grant them safety, and provide for their needs as they leave behind their houses, family members, friends, belongings, livelihoods, and their very countries and identities. Bring stability and peace to their homes so they can return to their lives and land. We especially remember refugees from Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Colombia, Mali, Pakistan, Lebanon, Turkey, Palestine, and Iraq. Strengthen the agencies that work to assist refugees, especially the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and other church and private organizations. We pray for the day that nobody is forced from their home, when all will have a government that will protect them.

We also pray for migrants. We thank you for the work that many of them do that benefits us—for the hands that pick our fruits and vegetables and bring us nourishment year-round. We pray for fair and just treatment for them—for a living wage. Help migrants who are in their situation involuntarily to find peace and security for their lives.

As we enter a new year, shower us all with your blessings and providence. Thank you for coming to be with us, for being our Emmanuel. Amen.

In 2013, there were 16.7 million refugees and an estimated 10 million stateless people around the world, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

Photo: A group of women fill up their water jugs at a water point in Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya. Stephen H. Padre/Bread for the World.

Advent Devotions: Listening for the Word Made Flesh


This Advent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

By Rev. Dr. Jana Childers

John 1: 1-5, 10-14             

There is a twist in the title of this year's Advent devotional series, "Listening for the Word Made Flesh."  When something becomes flesh do we hear it?  When we are talking about the Word coming into the world, "listening" is exactly the right term, of course. But what if we are thinking - as surely many of us are today - about the Baby born in Bethlehem.  Is that Word something we listen for?  Or something our arms ache to hold?

The Scripture lesson for today suggests that it is both. When this Something becomes flesh, John claims, you see its glory and feel its light on your face. It fills your arms and your heart and... you will also hear it.  According to verse 14, the sound of the Word becoming flesh is the sound of "grace and truth."

It's a sound that echoed across the Bay Area's I-80 corridor this month as voices took up the chant:  "Black Lives Matter." We heard it there and in what the Global Language Monitor group reports is the most cited phrase of the year, "Hands up, Don't shoot." Where voices are lifted in the cause of justice, the Word we have been listening for is heard. Where grace is spoken, the Word we have been listening for is there, too.  A video of a Jewish caregiver crooning to an elderly Christian patient has been circulating on the web this week.  "Jesus loves me," the caregiver sings to the Alzheimer's patient.  "He's got the whole world in his hands," she whispers. Her nose presses gently against the patient's nose as she coaxes a few syllables out of the long-silent woman.  Across barriers of class, religion, and race she strokes a cheek and brings the voiceless to voice. Whose words - I ask you - whose Words are they that can do such a thing?

Rev. Dr. Jana Childers is dean and professor of homiletics and speech communication at San Francisco Theological Seminary.



Advent Devotions: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel: Now is the Time


This Advent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

By Bishop Ernest L. Jackson

Luke 2:1-7              


Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!


Years ago, when I was a madrigal singer, one of my favorite songs during Advent was O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.   It is a simple yet haunting chant with a Gregorian motif that accentuated our group's a capella and polyphonic forte.  Although I am no longer a madrigal singer, the words of the song nonetheless resonate in my spirit-not as song, but as a prayer. The phrase "O come, O come" suggests a sense of urgency-even a wailing plea that emanates from depths of the soul as we see the condition of the world.  Come, Emmanuel! See the injustice against Oscar Grant, Travon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other young women and men who have been judged and found guilty as charged -- as a person of color. 

The injustice, inequality, and racism seen in Ferguson are panoramic icons of what is pervasive across America!  Come, now, Emmanuel, and see the flagitious ISIS, the deadly scourge of Ebola, and the oppression of the poor.  Did you see what the Taliban did to Malala?

Emmanuel has come.  He came to do the will of God.  He came to preach the Gospel to the poor, to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the burdened and battered ree, and to announce: "This is God's year to act!"  Now is the time to go forth and shout the message of justice to the unjust, equality to the xenophobic, sectarian, and racist, and liberty to the oppressor.  If we are to celebrate Advent, let it be after we have done the will of God.

Bishop Ernest L. Jackson is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary.




For You Always Have the Poor With You

3963306049_3d6267a1f5_oBy Bishop Jose Garcia

Outgoing Texas governor and potential presidential candidate Rick Perry was asked in a Dec. 9 Washington Post interview about the growing gap between rich and impoverished people in his state. The article on Perry’s interview states, “(Texas) has had strong job growth over the past decade but also has lagged in services for the underprivileged.” Perry’s response: “Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion.”

Perry expressed an explanation that many Americans believe. He appears to be referencing a Bible passage in Mark 14:7: “For you always have the poor with you.”

I celebrate that the Bible is accessible to everybody. However, it must be understood in context and not used out of context.

Jesus uttered the words recorded in Mark 14:7 in an exchange in which some were criticizing a woman who chose to anoint Jesus before his burial with what was probably one of her most precious possessions, an ointment of nard. She could have been saving this very expensive nard for her wedding. During biblical times, brides were traditionally anointed with this oil. Yet in this passage, we see that the woman chooses to use the oil as an offering to honor Jesus.

It is interesting to note that some in our modern times use Jesus’ response to the criticism of this woman to make poverty seem like something inevitable—or even worse—to not make it a concern. Jesus praises the woman for her choice. His earthly ministry was about to end, and he was telling the disciples they would not have the opportunity to honor him in that fashion on earth again. Yet people living in poverty among us remain an opportunity to honor and serve God.

Maybe Jesus was referring to a sentiment expressed in Deuteronomy 15:11: “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.’”

If we take this passage in context, verses 7 to 11—or the whole chapter, for that matter—we can see that it addresses the priority of caring for people struggling with poverty. God did not want people to live in extreme poverty and want. The laws established by God in this passage and many others make provision for economic justice.

However, because of the sins of greed and disobedience to God’s commandments, humanity experiences social and economic disparity. That should not be the case. Money and wealth should be tools with which we are given the power of choice to use for the welfare of all. The Bible does not discourage wealth but rather encourages us to use it as a tool for good works that reflect God’s love.

The Bible should not be used out of context as a pretext for government officials or anyone else to rationalize the lack of action toward the end of hunger and poverty. In our nation, the most prosperous, most technologically advanced in the world, nearly 49 million Americans struggle to put food on the table, and 45 million live in poverty. One in five children are not sure where their next meal will come from. We cannot choose one Bible text, out of context, to ignore the plight of millions who do not have a fair choice for their nutrition, decent housing, education, health, living wages, and job opportunities.

By faith, at Bread for the World we believe that if the president and Congress can, in a bipartisan way, summon the political will to end hunger and extreme poverty, this desire can become a top priority in our national policies and a goal achievable by the year 2030.

Jose Garcia is a bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy and the director of the church relations department at Bread for the World.

Photo: Bread for the World

Shine Your Light


By David Beckmann

"In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." John 1:4-5

As we celebrate this joyous season of Christ's coming, I can't help but think of the Bread for the World community and how your tireless advocacy is a light against the destructive forces of hunger and poverty.

Yet even in this season of celebration, we must prepare for some great challenges ahead. Critical programs that provide meals for millions of children will be up for reauthorization in the coming months. If nobody stands up for these programs that help keep kids' bellies full — like school lunches and WIC — many kids and families will be at risk.

And that's why we need your support right now — to make sure Bread for the World reflects the light of Christ in 2015 and beyond.

Please be a light against the darkness of hunger and make a generous year-end gift to protect school lunch and other critical programs that keep people from going hungry.

Together we have already lit a path toward a better life for people around the world.

In just the past year alone, your calls, emails, and visits moved the House to pass an amendment that will allow U.S. food aid to reach 1.5 million more people. You formed a circle of protection around essential lifelines like food stamps and won a victory that will keep food on American tables for years to come.

In short, you saved lives.

But once again critical programs will be scrutinized and threatened with cuts. We have a strategy to protect and strengthen school lunches, food stamps and so much more — but we need you with us.

Make your year-end gift to fight hunger in 2015.

You can be assured that your donation to Bread for the World is one of the most effective ways to help kids and families in need. For every $1 you give to support our advocacy, you are helping to secure thousands of dollars in food stamps, hot lunches, and other lifesaving assistance for families in crisis.

That means the world to a hungry child.

Thank you for sharing your light. May Christ who is our Light and Life be with you this Christmas.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.


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