Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

421 posts categorized "Poverty"

Red Nose Day: Shining a Light on Hunger

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Christine Meléndez Ashley, a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World, celebrates Red Nose Day while writing her members of Congress and asking them to do their part in feeding hungry children.

By Robin Stephenson

The fact that 16 million children in the United States are not always sure where their next meal is coming from is no comedy, but helping change that fact doesn’t need to be a tragedy.

Comedy is behind the Red Nose Campaign taking place today, a nationwide effort to raise money for children and young people living in poverty. Some of the proceeds go to our partner organizations like Oxfam America and Feeding America, two organizations doing amazing work on the ground to fight hunger and poverty.

Far too many young people experience hunger both in the U.S. and abroad. Bread’s 2015 Offering of Letters campaign aims to feed our children by strengthening the policy and programs that can help move children out of poverty. For the millions of children in the U.S. who benefit from a federally subsidized school lunch and breakfast, they are getting more than a nutritious meal – they are getting a chance at the future. Studies show that school breakfast improves diet, but it also improves achievement and behavior.
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Many of our Bread members are generous contributors of both time and money to charities that address the immediate hunger faced by food-insecure Americans, but the government is also a key. Food benefits from federal nutrition programs amounted to $102.5 billion in 2013, compared to $5.2 billion of food distributed by private charities during the same time period. Other anti-hunger programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps), free lunch, breakfast, and summer meals are another part of the solution that keeps hunger at bay for our nation’s children.

At Bread, we focus on advocacy because we know that we cannot "food bank" our way out of hunger. We need both charity and advocacy if we want to make serious progress against hunger.  As Congress begins reauthorizing our child nutrition programs, we must make sure that they strengthen those programs that feed children by speaking up.

Many of our staff at Bread are participating in Red Nose Day to support the good work our partners do everyday. We hope you will too, but we would ask you to do one more thing: Contact your member of Congress and tell them that our government must do its part for children as well. Urge your members of Congress to support legislation that will feed our children and give them the building blocks for a hunger-free future.

Read more: Churches and Hunger

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media at Bread for the World and a senior regional organizer.

 

 

 

Overcoming Poverty Focus of Summit Led by Faith Groups

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President Obama speaking at Georgetown University about poverty and race. Photo courtesy of the White House.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

President Obama spoke yesterday during the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

The panel discussion was sponsored by several faith-based and nonprofit organizations including Bread for the World and the Circle of Protection. Bread President Rev. David Beckmann attended the event as well as other Bread staff members from the Church Relations and Government Relations departments.

The following are excerpts of President Obama’s comments during the panel discussion:

On poverty:

“I think it’s important when it comes to dealing with issues of poverty for us to guard against cynicism, and not buy the idea that the poor will always be with us and there’s nothing we can do -- because there’s a lot we can do.  The question is do we have the political will, the communal will to do something about it.”

On the effects of the free market:

“We don’t dispute that the free market is the greatest producer of wealth in history -- it has lifted billions of people out of poverty.  We believe in property rights, rule of law, so forth.  But there has always been trends in the market in which concentrations of wealth can lead to some being left behind.  And what’s happened in our economy is that those who are doing better and better -- more skilled, more educated, luckier, having greater advantages -- are withdrawing from sort of the commons -- kids start going to private schools; kids start working out at private clubs instead of the public parks.  An anti-government ideology then disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together.  And that, in part, contributes to the fact that there’s less opportunity for our kids, all of our kids.”

On bridging gaps:

“I think that we are at a moment -- in part because of what’s happened in Baltimore and Ferguson and other places, but in part because a growing awareness of inequality in our society -- where it may be possible not only to refocus attention on the issue of poverty, but also maybe to bridge some of the gaps that have existed and the ideological divides that have prevented us from making progress.

On the church and faith-based organizations:

“I think that faith-based groups across the country and around the world understand the centrality and the importance of this issue in an intimate way -- in part because these faith-based organizations are interacting with folks who are struggling and know how good these people are, and know their stories, and it's not just theological, but it's very concrete.  They’re embedded in communities and they’re making a difference in all kinds of ways.”

“And there’s noise out there, and there’s arguments, and there’s contention.  And so people withdraw and they restrict themselves to, what can I do in my church, or what can I do in my community?  And that's important.  But our faith-based groups I think have the capacity to frame this -- and nobody has shown that better than Pope Francis, who I think has been transformative just through the sincerity and insistence that he’s had that this is vital to who we are.  This is vital to following what Jesus Christ, our Savior, talked about.”

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World. 

'A Mercy Management System'

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Pope Francis in the Philippines earlier this year. Benhur Arcayan/Malacañang Photo Bureau via Wikimedia Commons.

By Bread Staff

In September, Pope Francis will make his first visit to the U.S. He will meet with President Obama and address a joint session of Congress. He will then travel to New York to speak at the United Nations. His presentation will be a part of the deliberations that will seek consensus on new international goals for ending hunger and extreme poverty by 2030.

The pope's trip to the U.S. and his advocacy for a global commitment to end hunger reflect recurring themes of his papacy. From the beginning, and even in his choice for his name as pope, he has sought to bring about a "poor church for the poor." He has also challenged other leaders in the church to be "ministers of mercy." In praising a book by Cardinal Walter Kasper, Mercy: the Essence of the Gospel and the Key to the Christian Life, Pope Francis has said that "mercy changes everything; it changes the world by making it less cold and more fair."

In a recent interview in Commonweal magazine, Cardinal Kasper explains, "... the Latin term misericordia means mercy. Misericordia means having a heart for the poor — poor in a large sense, not only material poverty, but also relational poverty, spiritual poverty, cultural poverty ... "

Cardinal Kasper continues, "But mercy is also not opposed to justice. Justice is the minimum we are obliged to do to the other to respect him as a human being — to give him what he must have.  But mercy is the maximum — it goes beyond justice ... Mercy is the fulfillment of justice because what people need is not only formal recognition but love."

This intersection of mercy, justice, and love is at the heart of Bread for the World's work. Only as we are grounded in God's love in Jesus Christ can we persist in urging our nation's leaders to fund specific measures to end hunger by 2030.

The Lutheran theologian Edward Schroeder characterizes the good news that the "kingdom of God has come near" (Mark 1:1-15) as the announcement by Jesus of "a new mercy management system." Jesus offers a new way of living in which people don't get what they deserve — including death — but rather forgiveness and new life (Mark 2:5). In the Gospels, the authority (in Greek, both authorization and power) for this new mercy management system is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We hear that good news in first sentences of Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel: "The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew."

Bread has invited all of us to increase our commitment to pray, act, and give. From that wellspring, we press our nation's decision makers to join other nations in ending hunger once and for all. In this work, we draw strength and purpose from God's mercy that fills us with joy each day. Born anew through the water of our baptisms and nourished by the Bread of Life in the Eucharist, we share the joy of Zechariah in Luke's Gospel (1:78-79):

By the tender mercy of our God, 
   the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Hunger: 'Congress Doesn't Get it'

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By Alyssa Casey

I love the work I do as a Bread staffer in Washington, D.C., but my roots will always be in northern Illinois. I grew up in Antioch, Ill., a small town where farmlands and suburban neighborhoods merge into one. Antioch is also where I first encountered hunger through service work at my church and local food pantry.

During a visit home to Antioch a few weeks ago, I accompanied my mother one night to a food pantry at Open Arms Mission. I saw many faces of hunger walk through the door. While I was there, I was fortunate enough to talk with Marytherese Ambacher, the director of Open Arms Mission. She confirmed what I saw firsthand- that there is no one face of hunger.

“We see a lot of men in their 50s and 60s, a lot of tradespeople,” she explained. Many tradespeople who work seasonal jobs get laid off during the slow months. While some are able to find another temporary job to fill the gap, others turn to the local food pantry while they continue their job search.

When I asked about SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Ambacher said many of the people coming to the food pantry receive SNAP, but the benefits they receive aren’t enough to get their family through the month. “Most people don’t come every week,” but come to fill the gap when their SNAP benefits run out. 

Open Arms allows clients to come in once per week, and in one visit they receive up to two days’ worth of food based on family size. The majority of these individuals and families rely on SNAP in addition to the food pantry. “That’s what Congress doesn’t get. They think we can feed these people but we only give them 2 days’ worth of food a week,” Ambacher said.

At Bread for the World, we know that while these churches and charities are immensely important, federal programs provide nearly 20 times the amount of food assistance as private sources.

Open Arms also coordinates with local schools to close the hunger gap during weekends and summers. The weekend backpack program provides a backpack with food on Fridays for some of the children who receive free- and reduced-price lunch during the week.

“We ran a summer camp for two years,” Ambacher said, “but we had more volunteers than we had kids.” Most summer feeding programs across the country require students to come to a specific site and finish the meal on site. Parents in Northern Lake County, which includes suburban and rural communities, find it difficult to get their children to the site because they are at work during the day.

Feeding students during the summer can be difficult. For every seven children who receive free- or reduced-price lunch, only one also receives food assistance during summer months. That’s why Bread for the World is campaigning this year to close this gap and expand access to summer meals for children at risk of hunger.

Private charities like Open Arms are invaluable partners in the fight against hunger, but they can’t do it alone. Strengthening federal nutrition programs like SNAP and school and summer meals would be a huge step toward ending hunger in the United States.

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.

 

Injustice Ignites Social Fury in Baltimore

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Protest at the Baltimore Police Department Western District at N. Mount St. and Riggs Ave. Wikimedia Commons.

By Jennifer Gonzalez and Kimberly Burge

The events unfolding in Baltimore are a deep reminder of the systemic inequities that exist in many of our cities across the country.

Yes, the riots and anger are connected to the death of Freddie Gray – a 25-year-old black man who suffered a spinal cord injury following his arrest by police. But the social fury is also a symptom of the city’s high unemployment rates, low high school graduation rates, and high poverty rates.

Mass incarceration also plays a role. About one-third of Maryland’s prison population comes from inmates who hail from Baltimore.

Returning citizens with felony convictions are at serious 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 particular fields. And 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 (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.

Bread for the World is trying to change that. We are supporting several key pieces of legislation this year that would help people create a post-prison life where they can work, support, and feed themselves and their families.

The bills are the following:

The Smarter Sentencing Act is a bipartisan bill that would reform U.S. sentencing laws. It gives judges the discretion to bypass unnecessary and overly harsh mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent, low-level drug offenses.

Mandatory minimum sentences have contributed to the explosion of our country’s prison population. African-Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.

The Redeem Act (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act) proposes allowing people convicted of nonviolent crimes to ask the courts to seal their criminal records. They could then present themselves, according to the legal system, as lacking a criminal background.

These measures would improve their chances of getting a job and, in turn, reduce the threat of hunger or recidivism. The bill would remove offenses relating to possession or use of a controlled substance from the categories of drug offenses that result in the convicted individual being ineligible for assistance.

The Corrections Act (Corrections Oversight, Recidivism Reduction, and Elimination Costs for Taxpayers in Our National System) would offer incentives and programs to help the incarcerated not offend again once they leave prison. It would also allow some prisoners to participate in recidivism-reduction education programs and, in exchange, they could earn time credit toward pre-release custody.

Additionally, President Obama’s budget calls for $120 million in continued support for the Second Chance Act. Passed in 2008 with overwhelming bipartisan support and signed into law by President George W. Bush, this law has provided critical resources for prisoner reentry programs. With approximately 600,000 individuals returning home from prison each year, successful reentry is a public safety and cost-savings imperative.

The riots and anger swelling in Baltimore will eventually subside and give way to normalcy. However, the issues that are the underbelly of the social unrest will continue to simmer behind the scenes – in neighborhood bars, college classrooms, and homes.

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 by reading our fact sheet: Hunger and Mass Incarceration.

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World. Kimberly Burge is a freelance writer who lives in Washington, D.C.

Finding Common Cause to End Poverty: The Power of Faith


Watch a high-level panel featuring prominent faith-based organizations, religious leaders, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim discuss the role of faith in combating poverty. April 15, 2015, World Bank Headquarters, Washington, D.C. 

By Robin Stephenson

Pope Francis called "poverty a scandal," and Gandhi said, "We must be the change we want to see in the world." Poverty is complex but solvable if enough of us act in unison. The question is: Do we have the faith to end poverty?

For the first time in history, a broad coalition of diverse religious leaders and faith-based organizations, including Bread for the World, believes we do and that the moment to act is now.

Over 30 religious leaders and groups are joining the World Bank to end the scandal of extreme poverty and be the force of change. In February, the coalition released a statement titled, Ending Extreme Poverty: A Moral and Spiritual Imperative.

Bread-faith2endpoverty-meme-2Every faith views hunger and poverty as a moral problem. Leaders from these diverse religious traditions believe we can end extreme poverty by 2030. To do so, political leaders must implement evidence-based solutions. These religious leaders believe that moral consensus will help make it happen.

Recent history has shown it is possible to make dramatic progress against poverty when political leaders choose to make it a priority.  Since 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty or on $1.25 a day has been halved to less than one billion. Imagine the power of faith to accelerate that progress.

On a panel of faith leaders at World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C., yesterday, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim talked about why the World Bank is teaming up with faith leaders to combat extreme poverty.

“If the 188 member countries of the World Bank can agree that our mission going forward is to end extreme poverty,” said Kim, “then it really is important for us to make common cause with religious institutions that have been saying this for millennia."

Evidence has shown us what works. To end extreme poverty, economic growth must directly impact the people we want to pull people out of poverty. To do so, Kim said we must concentrate on a three-pronged approach: develop strategies that grow economies, invest in people, and create social-protection programs that keep people from falling back into poverty.

Bread has been influential in forging relationships between faith leaders and the World Bank because we know the power of faith. In 40 years of faith-based, anti-hunger advocacy, we have seen how moral consensus can change the hearts and minds of decision-makers in Washington, D.C.  Your advocacy was critical in pushing the U.S. government to act on the Millennium Development Goals that helped cut extreme poverty in half.

As religious leaders around the world stand in this historical moment and address the scandal of poverty, faithful advocates must also be ready to act and be the change. 

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Loosening Poverty's Grip On The Next Generation

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By Bread Staff

Bread for the World, the World Bank, and leaders of 30 faith groups and organizations came together today to issue a bold call - let's end hunger and extreme poverty by 2030. 

Eradicating hunger and extreme poverty is no longer a dream, but a possibility in 15 years, according to research by Bread for the World and the World Bank.

"Now that it has become clear that it is feasible to end extreme poverty, faith communities are committing ourselves to ramp up our advocacy. We are building a movement that will translate this possibility into political commitment,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

Since 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty or on $1.25 a day has been halved to less than one billion. “This unprecedented progress in ending hunger and extreme poverty is an example of our loving God moving through time, transforming our world,” Beckmann said. 

Many countries, like Bangladesh, Brazil, and the United Kingdom have made huge strides in cutting hunger and poverty. However, hunger and poverty has increased in the United States. Today, 49 million Americans, including 15 million children, don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. 

Still, powerful forces in the U.S. Congress have been pushing for deep cuts in anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs. The cuts to these programs have so far been minimal thanks in part to a coalition of faith groups working to ending hunger.

“Now is the time for the United States to step up to the plate and make ending hunger and poverty a priority,” Beckmann said. “As Christians, we believe the moral measure of a country is based on how the most poor and vulnerable people fare.”

Learn more: Budget Basics & Resources.

 

"Please Open Immediately!" Says Teenager's Letter to Congressman

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Letter writing at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Yardley, Pa. Robin Prestage for Bread for the World.

By Larry Hollar

“Please open immediately!”

Michaela Drobak, 17, wrote these words of urgency on the envelope of her letter to U.S. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA-08) at a recent Offering of Letters on child nutrition at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Yardley, Pa.

When activist Mary Ann Bentz later organized a diverse Bread delegation to meet locally with Fitzpatrick and a staffer, they presented Drobak’s letter and more than 220 others from four area faith communities—with Michaela’s on top. The congressman read Drobak’s letter without delay. “He read it quietly, then agreed that she was an intelligent writer and had expressed her concerns about feeding hungry children well,” reported local activist Bob Anderson.

Churches in Bucks County, Pa., are working hard and creatively to reduce hunger, through community meals, food pantries, backpack programs, community gardens, education, and advocacy. A new Food Insecurity Alliance, bringing together churches, government, and the private sector, is taking shape, reflecting that “partnerships and relationships are key,” says Diane Casey of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection. “Last year the congressman visited our shared meal for veterans, families, seniors and others living in poverty, so he has seen these realities and heard these voices personally.”

Fitzpatrick had one of the strongest voting records among House Republicans on Bread issues in the last Congress—but the Bread delegation visiting him saw room for improvement.  “His voting record is mixed on hunger issues. We made it clear that we knew this record and would report to our faith communities on his votes and give credit where it is due,” Anderson said.

Fitzpatrick voted to reduce SNAP (formerly food stamps) cuts as Bread urged, but also voted last year for the House-passed budget which Bread opposed. “He commended our faith communities for writing letters and urged us to ask others to write,” Anderson said. More letters give political cover for members of Congress to do what constituents want.

“The congressman is a person of faith, and our delegation gave him scriptural and practical reasons why voting for child nutrition programs made sense,” Anderson noted, adding that “the congressman spent much more time with us than we expected.” Afterwards, Anderson wrote a letter to the editor of his local paper.

Michaela Drobak is right—hungry children can’t wait for the life-giving food that child nutrition programs offer. Schedule your Offering of Letters today, using resources at www.bread.org/ol .

Larry Hollar is a senior Bread for the World regional organizer working with activists in Northeastern states.

 

 

Let's End Extreme Poverty and Hunger

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By Bread Staff

The figures are in the billions, but the message is simple. In the last 25 years, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen from nearly 2 billion people to fewer than 1 billion people  worldwide. People in extreme poverty live on less than $1.25 a day.

“Some say it’s impossible to end poverty – especially in just 15 years. But we know it’s possible,” said Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, in a speech this week to kick off the organization's spring meeting.

Members of Bread for the World and our faith partners have known all along that we can end extreme poverty and hunger. The unprecedented progress that the world is making against hunger and poverty is an example of our loving God transforming our world (#faith2endpoverty).

We are the first generation in human history with the knowledge and capabilities needed to end poverty. “Ending extreme poverty is no longer a dream,” Kim said.  

During his speech, Kim presented varying pictures of poverty in the world, but one stands out: “Poverty is having to put your children to bed without food.”

Our 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children is one of the key tools to end hunger and poverty in the United States. We must ensure that our national child nutrition programs are fully funded. If you have not yet done so, tell your members of Congress that it must be so. 

 

Scriptural Manna: Are You Ready?

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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’s Spirit has come to me, because he has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor. The Lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners, to give sight to the blind, to free everyone who suffers, and to say, ‘This is the year the Lord has chosen.’” (Luke 4:18-19)

God is a God of history, constantly transforming our broken world. When we tune in through prayer and scripture reflection, we can see evidence of God’s hand shaping our world and surprising us even in the midst of our uncertainty. 

What’s broken in our world?  How about the 1.2 billion people who still live in extreme poverty — on less than $1.25 per day -- and the 2.6 million children who die of hunger-related causes each year?

Where is evidence of God’s transformative work? The number of hungry people has dropped significantly over the past two decades. And since 1990, there has been a 34 percent reduction in global hunger.

He is Risen indeed!

We are called to submit to God’s plan to end hunger for all creation.​

In Luke 4 as found in Isiah 61, scripture shows us a God who hears the cry of enslaved people and delivers them, releasing captives and setting oppressed people free. Surely God lives! Thousands of years ago, God used Moses to appeal to the Egyptian government to release the enslaved Hebrew people. This began the long journey of the Israelites’ great exodus from Egypt. “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today ….’” (Exodus 14:13)

As followers of Christ, we see signposts of God’s saving power and path to freedom in yesterday and today. But seeing isn’t our only task.  We aren’t called to be bystanders or onlookers of God’s transformative work.  As Pope Francis said recently, “I see the Church as a field hospital after a battle.” 

As members of the body of Christ, we are a transformed people empowered to partner in God’s work. And as citizens of the United States and stewards of God’s creation, we have a unique calling. For Christian advocates, that often means addressing root causes that keep people impoverished, hungry, and suffering. In order to change this, we need to engage governments and policies for the common good, for the flourishing of society.

God also uses enlightened rulers as agents of deliverance. In Psalm 72, King David offers prayerful instruction for his son Solomon, who will become the ruler of a nation. David’s expression of devotion and care for his people, near and far, is a foreshadowing of the righteous reign of Christ and his promise and covenant. “For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. … From oppression and violence he redeems their life .…” The good and faithful governor Nehemiah rebuilds a community, giving life and restoring dignity to the people, with the support of the God-inspired benevolence of King Cyrus of Persia. (Nehemiah 5:1-6)

God is raising up modern-day Nehemiahs and calling us to get about the business of new creation.

Are you ready?

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

KRISANNE VAILLANCOURT MURPHY leads national evangelical church relations at Bread for the World.

 

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