Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

416 posts categorized "Poverty"

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.

 

Sprouted in Our Hearts Here and Grown for the Future There


By Beth Ann Saracco

In February, I found myself in an unlikely place for a girl raised in the Midwest. As I made my way through the packed Rubaga Cathedral in Kampala, Uganda, I noticed a women breast-feeding her baby. As a Bread for the World policy analyst specializing in international food security and nutrition issues, I was heartened to see her engaging in such a vital health and nutrition practice, beneficial to both mom and baby alike.  IMG_0376

 

Finding an open seat next to a father and son, I leaned forward and kneeled. Bowing my head and closing my eyes, I began to pray. My heart was light that morning — so joyful, and excited for the opportunity I had just received. In my work for Bread in Washington, D.C., I advocate in support of top-line funding levels and programs for agriculture and development, but I rarely observe implementation of these programs on the ground. Now was my chance, and I was about to embark on a 15-day trip through Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. 

My prayer to God that morning was a simple one. I asked to be attentive and open to the East Africans I would soon meet so that I could share their stories with members of Congress, administration officials, Bread staff, and especially our committed Bread members. What I experienced in the days ahead left me in awe as I witnessed the resolve and commitment of so many East Africans in improving their own lives and transforming the future for their children. These are aspirations I believe people of all backgrounds, nationalities, and creeds share. 

As I learned about women's cooperatives and farmers' access to markets, new agriculture technologies from crop rotation to soil-fertility management to land-tenure rights, I began to understand how vital programs like Feed the Future are in not only contributing to a more food-secure world, but also in transforming the lives of each of the farmers I met. Feed the Future is the U.S. government's global hunger and food-security initiative.

Augustino was one such farmer in Tanzania. As he greeted me, I was immediately drawn to the words printed on the T-shirt he was wearing. It read, “Future of Africa.” In my mind I thought never has a truer statement been made, because Augustino, along with his wife and their children, truly do represent the promising future of their country and the continent on which they live. 

Now well-resourced with training they received from the agriculture cooperative in which they belong, Augustino and his wife have learned to produce higher-quality and larger yields of tomatoes. They have also recently expanded into cultivating rice, and they have aspirations to begin a trout fishery soon as well.

With their increased income, they can now afford to pay their children's school fees, buy more nutritious food to supplement their children's diets, and make other investments into their land. 

What dawned on me was that with just a little outside support, guidance, and training, Augustino's family did the rest. It's their focused, hard work that tills the soil, it's their bodies that carry heavy jugs of water to irrigate, and it's their personal resolve to harvest increased and higher-quality crops that ultimately is moving them from subsistence farmers to a mother and father who are ensuring their children's lives are filled with opportunity and upward mobility to a degree and depth their families have never known.  

Not surprisingly, my experience in East Africa reaffirmed my strong belief in the merits of programs like Feed the Future and the importance of ensuring Congress passes a law this year to authorize and make this a permanent program. But, it also did something else even more profound. 

Through my conversations with farmers and personal reflection and prayer, I found myself drawn even closer to our loving God and God's people. 

God is truly moving in our time, in your life and mine, and in the lives of Augustino and his family in Tanzania — and in others' lives in Africa and our entire world. And I am hopeful that with further discernment, prayer, and grace, we will continue our own sacred advocacy on Capitol Hill, and most importantly be drawn closer into relationship with our loving God and God's people. 

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

Photo: Augustino, a farmer in Tanzania, is building a better future for his family and his continent by growing food in better ways. Beth Ann Saracco/Bread for the World.

Scriptural Manna: 'Give The King Your Justice'

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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.

"Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice." (Psalms 72:1, 2)

God expects those in government to look after the well-being of all its citizens. And special attention should be paid to people struggling with poverty, God says.  In other words, the civil authority has the power and means to help people who are poor and marginalized in society, and it should do so. The Bible is clear that all authority has been given by God and those in authority are God’s servants. However, some in civil authority today do not acknowledge that. The fact is that God holds them and us accountable for the manner in which we exercise the stewardship of the resources that have been entrusted to us. Good governance is one of the many gifts given to us for the common good, and it should be exercised with equality and righteousness to all.

Genesis tells us that God gave Adam and Eve the power to subdue the earth. In doing so, man and woman have been given the ability to develop government systems and structures to care for one another and for the house in which they live, planet earth. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-28 demonstrates that God will hold us individually accountable for our stewardship.  Nations will also be judged based on how they care for poor, the stranger, and marginalized, according to Matthew.

Every individual is responsible for making sound choices that can help him/her become contributing members of society. However, once sin enters humanity and its structures and systems, it brings forth greed, covetousness, oppression, and abuse of power. Therefore, many among the poor and marginalized “have been robbed of the ability to make choices for themselves” (The Poverty & Justice Bible, commentary, pg. 3).

We live in a democratic society in which free speech empowers us to be a prophetic voice to those in authority and “speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8, 9). Let our prayer be like that of the Psalmist in Psalm 72 where our government officials may “judge all people with righteousness, defend the cause of the poor, give deliverance to the needy, crush the oppressor, and has pity on the weak and the needy.”

BISHOP JOSE GARCIA is the church relations director at Bread for the World. He is a bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy, a worldwide Pentecostal denomination with thousands of churches.

Women's History Month: 'Poverty Is Not A Character Failing'

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By Jennifer Gonzalez

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Bread Blog, Institute Notes, and Bread for the World’s social media platforms are celebrating the ingenuity, fortitude, and spirit of women during the month of March.

Among Barbara Ehrenreich's notable books is the bestseller “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.” Working as an undercover journalist, Ehrenreich took on various jobs as a low-wage worker in order to investigate how non-skilled workers make ends meet in the United States.

Today, low wages continue to keep many women in a cycle of poverty. Women’s equality, or the lack thereof, is the subject of the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger.  For instance, women now earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, up from 77 cents in 2012. 

The gender wage gap is very slowly eroding, but there is much more work to be done. Women are also at a disadvantage when it comes to the types of jobs they hold. “The majority of minimum-wage workers are women, and women hold 76 percent of the 10 low-wage jobs that employ the most people,” the report points out.

In fact, poverty would be reduced by half for families with a working woman if we closed the gender wage gap.

For more information on the integral role women play in ending hunger and poverty, make sure to read When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger and also visit Bread Blog.

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

 

 

 

Women's History Month: The Gospel and the Poor

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By Bread Staff

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Woman’s Day, Bread Blog, Institute Notes, and Bread for the World’s social media platforms will be celebrating the ingenious, fortitude, and spirit of women during the month of March.

Women like Dorothy Day have been at the forefront in the fight to end hunger. Like Bread for the World members, Day grounded her work in prayer and scripture and felt called to care for the most vulnerable in our society.  Day’s example reminds us that women of faith are helpers and advocates and act as God’s hands in this broken world.

Women are also the primary agents the world relies on to fight hunger. From the mother in Mississippi who struggles to work full-time at minimum wage and still feed her children to the subsistence farmer in Kenya who prays she can sell enough of her produce at market to make it through the dry season, women feed and nourish the world. Lessons from anti-hunger programs carried out in the past decade have made it clear:  women’s empowerment is key to ending hunger worldwide.

On March 8, thousand of events will be held throughout the world as part of annual International Women’s Day observances.  The theme of this year’s celebration is “Make it Happen” for greater awareness of women’s equality.

Women’s equality is also the subject of the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger. The report looks at discrimination as a cause of persistent hunger and makes policy and program recommendations in order to empower women both in the United States and around the world. Increasing women’s earning potential by boosting bargaining power, reducing gender inequality in unpaid work, increasing women’s political representation, and eliminating the wage gap between male and female labor directly contributes to ending hunger.

For more information on the integral role women play in ending hunger and poverty, make sure to read When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger and also visit Bread Blog.

 

From Selma to Now: The Unfinished Agenda of a Pan-African Anti-Poverty Movement

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Demonstrators participate in the 1968 Poor People's March in Washington, D.C. Warren K. Leffler/U.S. News & World Report via Wikimedia Commons.

By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith

In 1968, the world mourned the loss of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  His journey as a leader in the civil rights movement ended when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. Most people are familiar with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the early and major events in the movement. The recent film “Selma” has given further visibility to the legacy of Bloody Sunday, another of the movement’s seminal events, and the fight that ended in the Voting Rights Act.  King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, concerning his challenge to Christian leaders to act now and not later, has taken its proper place in the memories of many.  

Less is said about King’s final work concerning his position against the Vietnam War and an anti-poverty agenda spelled out in his work From Chaos to Community.  This agenda was addressed when King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy worked with the civil rights community to erect Resurrection City at the same location as the March on Washington. This initiative would be known as the Poor People’s Campaign and had thousands of participants stay in tents on the National Mall in 1968.  The rains were heavy that year. Some in the government proved rigid and set in the old ways. Others objected on the basis of fear. Participants faced many challenges but continued to move forward.

Since 1968, there have been other boycotts advocating for economic empowerment and other socio-political movements led by and supported by African-American churches and organizations as well as other institutions. There have also been aspects of a pan-African anti-poverty faith agenda as well. Despite all of this, the specific tenets of King’s proposal of how to end poverty, such as a guaranteed income for all, still have not been systematically addressed.

Bread for the World is convinced we can help to end hunger by 2030 through praying, acting, and giving, but there is much work ahead of us to get this done. As recently as this month, African-American church leaders said they need to seek ways to deepen their commitment to a pan-African anti-poverty agenda of faith. Our country’s history is tied closely to Africa, and now, generations later, Africa is on the rise again with its emerging economies.  

Bread will soon further outline its proposal for work with African-American church leaders and partners. We look forward to any input you might like to give in this regard.  Please send your comments to bread@bread.org or (202) 639-9400, toll-free: (800) 822-7323.

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

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