Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

421 posts categorized "Poverty"

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.

Helping Returning Citizens Get a Foothold on Life


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Dominic Duren, a returning citizen, with his son Dominic Jr. in the basement of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Cincinnati, Ohio. Duren is assistant director of a re-entry program at the church. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: The term returning citizens is the preferred way in the advocacy community to refer to people who have been released from prison.

By Bread staff

Hunger and poverty are issues that can profoundly affect the lives of those returning to their communities after serving prison time. For many, the resources they need to stay out of poverty are no longer available because of their prison record.

As an organization committed to ending hunger, Bread for the World will track several key pieces of legislation this year connected to the issue of mass incarceration.

The first of these bills was introduced on Wednesday by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). The Corrections Oversight, Recidivism Reduction, and Elimination Costs for Taxpayers in Our National System (Corrections) Act would offer incentives and programs to help the incarcerated not offend again once they leave prison.

The bill would also put in place measures to reduce the nation’s prison population. The population in federal prisons alone has increased from approximately 25,000 in 1980 to nearly 216,000 today.

“We agree with the senators that when inmates are better prepared to re-enter communities, they are less likely to commit crimes after they are released. This is an important step in addressing the mass incarceration problem that perpetuates cycle of hunger and poverty,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

The legislation would allow certain low- and medium-risk offenders with exemplary behavior to earn time off their sentences by participating in recidivism-reduction programs, including drug counseling or vocational training.

This type of help is important given the fact that returning citizens often find life outside prison walls difficult to navigate. Many states still enforce lifetime bans on non-violent drug offenders for safety-net programs, such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). These programs are vital for job-hunting returning citizens in rebuilding their lives.

Part of Bread’s work this year will include getting these bans lifted and ensuring people who qualify for these vital programs have access to them.

“While this bill is a good step, Congress must also address the larger issue of sentencing reform,” Beckmann said. “In addition to ensuring that prisoners have access to the skills they need to properly re-enter society, we must reexamine lengthy and inflexible mandatory sentences imposed on low-level, non-violent offenders, and implement alternatives to imprisonment where appropriate.”

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

Free Meals Don't Always Equal Poverty

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By Jennifer Gonzalez

Recently, The Washington Post ran a story with an eye-popping headline: “Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty.”

The article reports that for the first time in 50 years, 51 percent of students attending public school in the United States came from low-income families, according to a report by the Southern Education Foundation.

The Washington Post used as a “rough proxy for poverty" the fact that 51 percent of U.S. public school students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal government’s free and reduced-price lunch program.

The fallout from the story was swift. Many critics rightly argued that “living in poverty” doesn’t exactly correlate with the number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunch. NPR, Mother Jones, and many other news outlets voiced concern over the inaccuracy of the headline and the story.

In fact, The New York Times made it clear in its own story about the foundation’s report that “children who are eligible for such lunches do not necessarily live in poverty.”

The U.S. Census Bureau defines “poverty” as a household of four people with an income of $24,000 a year. Free or reduced-price lunches are available to students from families of four that earn roughly $44,000 annually.

In other words, it’s more than likely that many students receiving free and reduced-price lunch live above the poverty line. Therefore, it’s hard to make the argument that a majority of students live in poverty based on the fact that they receive free and reduced-price lunch.

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To skew the numbers further, the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows certain public school districts to offer totally free meals (both breakfast and lunch) to all its students even if they don’t qualify. The move is designed to help school districts reduce paperwork.

Any school district with 40 percent or more “identified students” can participate in the CEP. Identified students include those whose families receive SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits or other federal government assistance. It also includes students certified to receive free school meals because of their status as being in foster care, enrolled in Head Start, homeless, runaway, or migrant student.

So the potential for over counting the number of students living in “poverty” is significant.

It’s unfortunate that The Washington Post made the error, because the truth is bad enough. At Bread for the World, we know that more than 1 in 5 children (nearly 16 million) live in a family that struggles to put food on the table.

Bread’s 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children is focused on children getting the meals they need. Even brief periods of hunger and malnutrition put children’s health at risk and carry consequences that may last a lifetime. Bread took great care to include only the number of low-income students receiving free and reduced-price lunch rather than every student receiving such a meal when the Offering of Letters was created.

Bread plans to work hard this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall. The bill funds five major programs:  National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the WIC Program. These programs serve roughly 40 million adults and children nationwide.

Will need your voice to make sure our nation’s children receive the meals they need to grow into healthy adults. Join us in our effort!

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

Ending Poverty Could Nearly End Hunger, New Report Says

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Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, speaks about her organization's demand to end child poverty in the United States. Photo courtesy of the Children's Defense Fund. 

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Americans who experience hunger are not doing so because of a shortage of food in the United States. A visit to any supermarket or farmer’s market would confirm that. Rather, they are hungry because they live in a cycle of poverty that prevents them from earning enough money to provide adequately for their families.

Roughly 45 million Americans live at or below the poverty line. Twenty-one million of those are children who are living either in poverty or extreme poverty. These children are more likely to experience hunger.

On Wednesday, the Children’s Defense Fund released a report demanding an end to child poverty with an immediate 60 percent reduction. Ending Child Poverty Now calls for investing an additional 2 percent of the federal budget to expand existing programs and policies that would lead to increase employment, make work pay, and ensure children’s basic needs are met. As a result, 97 percent of children living in poverty would benefit, and 60 percent of them could escape poverty immediately.

Seventy-two percent of black children living in poverty, who have the highest poverty rates in the United States, would no longer be poor.

“America’s poor children did not ask to be born; did not choose their parent, country, state, neighborhood, race, color, or faith,” said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, during a press briefing at its national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“It’s way past time for a critical mass of Americans to confront the hypocrisy of America’s pretension to be a fair playing field while almost 15 million children languish in poverty,” she added.

The report outlined several policy improvements to reduce child poverty by 60 percent. Among them:

  • Increase the earned income tax credit for lower-income families with children.
  • Increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.
  • Make child care subsidies available to all eligible families below 150 percent of poverty.
  • Make the child and dependent care tax credit refundable with a higher reimbursement rate.
  • Base SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits on USDA’s Low-Cost Food Plan for families with children.
  • Make the child tax credit fully refundable.

Many of the policy changes that the Children’s Defense Fund advocates for in its report are similar to those Bread supports already. At Bread, we know all too well the impact poverty has on hunger. That’s why we work hard to ensure that the nation’s safety net is protected from budget cuts.

The earned income tax credit along with the child tax credit are among our country’s most effective anti-poverty tools. Bread is calling on Congress to ensure that these two measures stay intact. Both expire in 2017. Making the 2009 improvements to these credits permanent would prevent 16 million people—including 8 million children—from falling into or deeper into poverty.

And this year, the Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of nutrition among children. In 2013, 15.8 million children—more than one-fifth of all children in the United States—lived at risk of hunger. Bread plans to work diligently this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall.

The link between poverty and hunger is well established. Let’s not continue to look the other way as millions of children in the United States continue to live in poverty and suffer from hunger.

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

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

 

Commit to Feed Our Nation's Children

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Federal nutrition programs for children, such as the National School Lunch Program, are a critical part of the fight against hunger. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

In 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama pledged to end child hunger by 2015. Last week, the president didn’t even mention the word hunger, much less child hunger, during the State of the Union address even though he insisted that the state of the union was strong and that the country had turned a page.

It did not go unnoticed. News outlets such as the Huffington Post, Moyers and Company, and others made references to the omission, and more importantly, the president’s inaction on his pledge. To his credit, President Obama did propose measures last week that would give struggling families a better chance of improving their financial situation. Because hunger is intrinsically linked to poverty, these measures could improve food insecurity for children and adults.

However, the fact is that child hunger is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately. In 2013, 15.8 million children—more than one-fifth of all children in the United States—lived at risk of hunger. Even brief periods of hunger and malnutrition put children’s health at risk and carry consequences that may last a lifetime.

Without enough food, children can become susceptible to health issues such as anemia, stomachaches, colds, ear infections, and asthma. Being hungry can be stressful. It can manifest into anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems, which can lead students to pay less attention in class and receive poor grades as a consequence.

This year’s Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of nutrition among children, who are especially vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition during their early years of development. Bread plans to work diligently this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall.

The bill funds five major programs:  National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the WIC Program. These programs serve roughly 40 million adults and children nationwide.

As long as families are struggling financially, these programs must continue to stay intact. They are a crucial part of the safety net so many families count on for daily living.

“Congress must pass a bill that gives children who are at risk of hunger easier access to meals when and where they need them,” said Christine Melendez Ashley, senior domestic policy analyst at Bread for the World. “Traditionally, this issue has had strong bipartisan support. Still, given the federal budget climate and divided government, this reauthorization could get caught in partisan gridlock.”

Let’s make sure that every child in the United States has enough to eat, whether it’s at school, at an after-school program, or at home. Later this week, Bread will officially launch its 2015 Offering of Letters campaign. The campaign’s print materials, its usual toolkit, which will include background information on child nutrition, how to conduct an Offering of Letters, and other resources, will be available in early February.

In 2015, Bread plans to stay committed to the issue of child hunger and ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill. Join us in our effort!

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

 

 

 

 

Hunger in the News: Climate Change, Catholic Charities, and Poverty

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

Iowa View: Climate change affects global challenges,” (Editorial) by Rev. Susan Guy, Special to the Des Moines Register. “When I was ordained more than 21 years ago, climate change was not an issue that was even remotely on my mind. Throughout my years of ministry in local churches and as an organizer, there was one key issue that occupied my heart and mind, and which led me to specific acts of charity and justice. That issue was hunger.”

Head of Catholic Charities USA leaves knowing talk on poverty shifting,” by Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service. “After a decade as president of Catholic Charities USA, Father Larry Snyder planned to step down Jan. 31 and return to his beloved Minnesota.”

12 Days, 12 Things You Can Do to Fight Poverty” by Greg Kaufmann, Moyers & Company. “BillMoyers.com is proud to collaborate with TalkPoverty.org as we focus on poverty coverage over the next two weeks. Every day, visit BillMoyers.com to discover a new action you can take to help turn the tide in the fight against poverty.”

Let’s Address the State of Food,” (Commentary) by Mark Bittman. New York Times. “The state of the union, food-wise, is not good. The best evidence is that more than 46.5 million Americans are receiving SNAP benefits – formerly food stamps – a number that has not changed much since 2013, when it reached its highest level ever.”

Poverty stems from unjust economic system, not big families, pope says,” by Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service. “Families who have lots of children do not cause poverty, Pope Francis said. The main culprit is "an economic system that has removed the human person from its focus and has placed the god of money" as its priority instead, he said Jan. 21.”

Destiny’s story: 'Once you get in poverty, it’s kind of hard to get out,'” by Jenny Brundin, Colorado Public Radio. “Destiny Carney, 18, grew up in poverty and was often homeless but now leads classes at Project Voyce. The program helped Carney turn her life around.” 

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