Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

428 posts categorized "Poverty"

Global Goals? We're Getting There

14906354151_4d2f97cc78_o
Bangladesh. Bread for the World.

By Stefanie Casdorph

At the beginning of the new millennium, world leaders gathered at the United Nations to shape a broad vision to fight poverty and its many causes and effects. This vision turned into the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight goals that pledged to the world to fight for the principles of human dignity, equality, equity, and to free the world from extreme poverty.

Bread for the World has long supported the MDGs as a way to help the world’s poor move out of a cycle of hunger and poverty.

The MDGs addressed the important issues of poverty, education, women’s empowerment, health, children’s well-being, and the environment.

The first MDG was to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. This goal had three objectives:

  1. Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day.
  2. Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people.
  3. Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

The United Nation’s MDG Report 2015 findings show that the world has made significant strides in fighting poverty and hunger under these goals. Although poverty is far from eradicated, here are some examples of progress that has been made in the last 25 years, according to the report:

  • The number of people living in extreme poverty around the world has fallen by more than half, from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015.
  • In developing regions, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 47 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 2010, five years ahead of schedule.
  • The proportion of undernourished people in developing countries has fallen by almost half, from 23.3 percent in 1990 to 12.9 percent in 2015.
  • The number of undernourished people in developing countries has fallen by 216 million since 1990.
  • The proportion of children under five who are underweight has been cut almost in half between 1990 and 2015. One in four children under five worldwide have stunted growth, but stunting - defined as inadequate height for age - is declining.

These goals have helped the world achieve so much. Millions of people around the world are escaping hunger and poverty. However, even after making such great strides, there are still over 795 million people going hungry.

The world has the tools and the knowledge to eradicate hunger. Using the momentum and progress generated by the MDGs, the U.N. is working with governments, civil society, and other partners on an ambitious task in creating a long-term sustainable agenda – the Sustainable Development Goals.

These new goals will replace the MDGs this September with an end goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.

Stefanie Casdorph is a summer intern in the communications department at Bread for the World.

Strategic Mobilizing Builds Momentum for the Global Food Security Act

Durbin and Hultgren Justice Conf
U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL-14), right, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), center, speak about global hunger with Lisa Bos of World Vision at the Justice Conference in Chicago, Ill. Jared Noetzel/Bread for the World.

By Rev. Douglas L. Meyer, Pastor Quentin Mumphery, and Rev. Brian Roots

“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday” (Isaiah 58:10).

Sometimes an intentional effort from faithful advocates is all it takes to move our members of Congress. That has been our experience in Illinois, where Bread for the World members and faith leaders in the Chicago area and across the state are working to get the entire Illinois congressional delegation to cosponsor the Global Food Security Act, a bill that would secure and advance our historic gains against hunger and poverty around the world.

The bill passed the U.S. House last year but was held up in the Senate for procedural reasons. So getting as many cosponsors as possible this time around will help push this bill across the finish line.

Here in Illinois, our strategy has been simple. Leaders have been identified in every congressional district, and they have reached out to the appropriate congressional staffers with a simple message: Along with Bread for the World, I want to make sure my member of Congress is aware of the Global Food Security Act and would like him/her to cosponsor the bill. Can you look into this, and let me know what your boss thinks about the bill, or if there are any questions or concerns?

Leaders began with a phone call, sometimes talking with the intended staffer, and other times leaving a voice mail. Then we followed up with an email and shared Bread’s bill analysis. After that, we followed up again as needed. We have stayed in communication with each other, sharing updates and tips, and encouraging one another as we keep our eyes on the goal. If we are not hearing back from a particular staffer, we adjust accordingly, either having more leaders call, or trying a different staffer.

Before this campaign, there were no members of the Illinois delegation listed as cosponsors of the bill. As a direct result of the work of these Bread members and faith leaders, seven out of 17 representatives (both Democrats and Republicans) and one of our two senators have signed on so far! We thank U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush, Mike Quigley, Danny Davis, Jan Schakowsky, Bob Dold, Randy Hultgren, and Cheri Bustos, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, for their leadership in cosponsoring the Global Food Security Act, and we are now calling on U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and the remaining representatives to join their colleagues in cosponsoring the bill.

Across the country, over the past couple months, the list of cosponsors has grown exponentially! Right now, there are 51 cosponsors of the House version, H.R. 1567, and seven cosponsors of the Senate version, S. 1252.

Where do your members of Congress stand on the Global Food Security Act? Click here to see if your U.S. representative is a cosponsor, and here to see if your U.S. senators are cosponsors. If they are, be sure to thank them. If they are not, encourage them to cosponsor the bill!            

ACT NOW: Feed the Future can save lives. But it's important to act right now to ensure it continues. Call or email your U.S. representative today. Urge your U.S. representative to co-sponsor The Global Food Security Act.

The blog post was written by Rev. Douglas L. Meyer of Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Lincolnshire, Ill., Pastor Quentin Mumphery of New Hope Covenant Church in Chicago, Ill., and Rev. Brian Roots of Christ United Methodist Church in Deerfield, Ill.

A Land of Prosperity, a Land of Hunger

4132079614_d28ac6f6bc_o
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 Shalom Khokhar

Growing up, my family and I would go grocery shopping on Saturdays. My favorite place to go was Sam’s Club because they always had free samples. From snacks to desserts, it was always fun to run to each stall and grab a quick treat.

Living in the United States has it perks, one of them being that food is readily available and conveniently located. So available and convenient, in fact, that we become unaware of the disturbing statistics that hit closer to home than we think.

A staggering 69 percent of people had to choose between food and utilities, and 57 percent had to choose between food and housing, according to the Hunger in America 2014 study by Feeding America. More recently, a fact sheet released by Bread for the World last month, reported that almost five million older Americans are food-insecure, representing almost 10 percent of the older population.

Case in point: Last month, Clarence Blackmon, an elderly gentleman from North Carolina, dialed 911 not because he was hurt, but because he was hungry! The 81-year-old returned home after several months in the hospital. With an empty refrigerator and no immediate help, he spoke with 911 operator Marilyn Hinson.

"He was hungry," Hinson said. "I've been hungry. A lot of people can't say that, but I can, and I can't stand for anyone to be hungry."

Support poured in for Blackmon, and people brought bags and bags of food to his home. A little awareness goes a long way.

Sometimes all it takes is a few questions to realize that hunger is a common occurrence even in today’s society. Last December, a family came to my church’s Christmas concert. It was a Hispanic family with two young boys and girls. Dad worked, and mom was pregnant.  

After talking with the family, we found out that dad was fresh out of prison and addicted to methamphetamines, and that mom was basically a single parent raising four malnourished kids. They had no home and had been living in their van for three months.

The church was able to donate $400 to the family and get in contact with a few local food pantries for some much-needed groceries. Their van needed some repairs, so the church  gave them a vehicle to use and paid for a motel room for one week. Mom eventually gave birth to a healthy baby, and a few people from the church went to visit her. The church  also connected the family with  a social worker who could help  make things a little better.

Yes, it’s sad to hear these stories, but don’t just hear them, act on what you have heard!

Jesus said in Matthew 25, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.”

One way we can all make a difference is to call or email Congress and ask them to protect and improve current nutrition programs, such as SNAP, WIC, and the child nutrition bill, and to continue to develop better ways of implementing laws to end hunger in America.

Ending hunger is a goal that can be reached in our lifetime, but only if we act now!

Shalom Khokhar is a summer intern in the communications department at Bread for the World.

 

 

Lead with Your Faith and Contact Congress

8226611063_818f19df7d_o
A nurse visits with a patient in Jinja, Uganda. Improving global health is an aim of the poverty-focused development accounts. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

By Bread Staff

A group of faith leaders from across the country will visit Capitol Hill on Wednesday to speak in support of funding for federal programs that are vital to helping people caught in disasters or who live in the daily grind of poverty. These individuals represent many faith backgrounds, but what unites them is their shared commitment to promoting the dignity of all people, including the world's most vulnerable. 

Will you join their efforts and call (800/826-3688) or email your member of Congress? You don't need to be a faith leader — just a person of faith. You can let your faith lead you to ask Congress to robustly fund humanitarian and poverty-focused development accounts within the International Affairs budget. PFDA accounts fund programs that reduce poverty and that carry out development and humanitarian assistance. These programs help to lift millions of people out of hunger, poverty, and disease around the world.

PFDA accounts provide both humanitarian relief and long-term, sustainable solutions to the problems of poverty and hunger. The work takes a wide variety of forms—agricultural development and nutrition, refugee assistance, emergency disaster assistance, global health, education, gender equality, water and sanitation, and more

As Christians, we are motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ. Alongside these distinguished faith leaders, you can make a significant difference in advocating for limited federal dollars for these programs, which continue to move millions of people out of hunger, poverty, and disease around the world.

Join these faith leaders from around the country and pray with us for an end to hunger and poverty in our world. But don't stop there. Ask Congress to robustly fund humanitarian and poverty-focused development accounts within the International Affairs budget.

Call (800/826-3688) or email your member of Congress today! Let’s work together to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable get the development and humanitarian assistance they deserve.

The Danger of a Hungry Summer

14648996252_2d9b4cff6f_z
USDA/Lance Chueng

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.

Faith Happens Outside the Church Walls - Not Just on Sunday Mornings

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. Tanya-denley

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

Virginia Church Welcomes All to 'The Table'

_E0A0230
Shoppers at The Table food pantry at St. George's Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Va., looking at produce. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Recently, I, along with Bread for the World's multimedia manager, Joseph Molieri, spent the day at a unique food pantry run by St. George’s Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Va.

We went to visit the food pantry as a way to see how the issue of hunger is addressed on the ground. Many of the churches Bread works with do a lot of work around feeding the hungry and poor. 

At most food pantries, the food is canned, boxed, or jarred, and clients are normally given a pre-assembled bag or box of food to take home. 

Not at St. George’s.

At The Table (the food pantry’s name) there are no clients, only “shoppers.” The food pantry is set up in a way that allows shoppers to choose their groceries like they would at a supermarket or an open-air food market. The food pantry is open every day, and shoppers can visit either in the morning or afternoon.

Unlike a more traditional food pantry, The Table offers shoppers fresh produce, such as potatoes, apples, oranges, squash, broccoli, pears, and onions. Fresh bread, such as rye and wheat, is also available. _X1A2041

The food comes from local farms, donations, and the local food bank. St. Gregory’s also gleans from other places, such as convenience stores, for food they can provide, such as sandwiches.

Started in 2012, The Table is the brainchild of Rev. Deacon Carey Chirico, director of outreach ministries at St. George’s. She wanted to create a space where struggling people could shop for food with dignity and respect.

“It’s very much our belief that when we come forward to receive the Eucharist as Episcopalians, we are setting down all our own assurances,” Chirico said. “We are setting down any privilege we have. That there is nothing that makes us unique in receiving this beautiful, beautiful gift. So we try to do the same thing at The Table – approach each other on a person-to-person basis.”

“We’ve tried to really let go of ‘we have, you don’t; we give, you take,’” she said. “And we encounter each person as we are treated at the Eucharistic table.”

The uniqueness of St. George’s food pantry was not lost on me. When I left St. George’s that day, I wondered if there were other food pantries doing the same thing. I got my answer last week when I came across a New York Times article that focused on this idea of the “customer choice pantry” and how some food pantries across the country were converting to this new standard.

The idea is rooted not just in providing dignity to the shopper, but also offering more nutritious food, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. A lot of the packaged food given out at food pantries is not healthy.

This is important given the fact that many families who utilize food pantries are already facing health issues. In fact, 58 percent of households who use food pantries nationwide have a family member with hypertension, and more than 30 percent include someone with diabetes, according to Feeding America.

Historically, St. George’s food pantry began as an emergency food pantry – giving grocery bags filled with food to families in crisis. But Chirico said that set-up really wasn’t working. “We realized that we were not meeting a lot of people’s needs. We were not giving them food that was culturally appropriate or nutritionally sound.”

And so The Table was born after the church found out that people really enjoyed picking vegetables from a garden the church had started. Today, a shopper leaves the food pantry with an average of 25 lbs. of groceries – 60 percent of which Chirico hopes is fresh produce.

“Our goal is to improve the quality of the food people are getting, the quality of the experience they are getting, and invite them to come back every week,” Chirico said.

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

Photo inset: Fresh produce is a staple at The Table food pantry at St. George's Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Va. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

 

 

Red Nose Day: Shining a Light on Hunger

IMG_3023
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.
1in20
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

Obamageorgetown
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'

Pope_Francis_Malacanang_9
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.

Stay Connected

Bread for the World