Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

377 posts categorized "Poverty"

Waiting for the 8th: Family Feels the Sting of Recent SNAP Cuts

Food_distrubutionMuch has been written about the Nov. 1 cuts to food stamps (SNAP), and how the abrupt reduction in benefits has affected struggling families across the country. But few articles have been as moving as the Washington Post's "Waiting for the 8th," a profile of Raphael Richmond, a Washington D.C.-area mother who is attempting to feed herself and her children in the wake of the biggest cut to the food stamp program in 50 years.

The reporter follows Richmond, and her daughter Tiara, to a local food pantry. Since the cuts took effect, the family members have compiled a list of various food giveaways around the city, visiting those places to help them stretch their SNAP dollars. The service providers, as valuable as they are, clearly are having difficulty meeting the increased demand. This is most evident during Richmond’s visit to Bread for the City, a wonderful D.C.-based non-profit that helps provide food, medical care, and other vital services to vulnerable populations.

They walked into Bread for the City, where 40 people were crowded into the waiting room, and where the food line was a steady procession toward disappointment."No more deer meat," read one sign. "Pick a holiday bag OR a regular bag. You cannot receive both," read the next. "Only one visit per month," read another. "Food is intended to last for three days," read the last notice, right by the counter, where Raphael handed over her number to a volunteer and waited for her bag of food."

"Thank you," she said when the bag came back three minutes later, filled with turkey, applesauce, yams and five cans of greens. Raphael turned away from the counter, doing the math in her head.

"So that's three days," she said to Tiara on their way out the door. "What are we supposed to do about the rest?"

Charity alone can’t feed everyone who’s hungry. Churches, food banks, and private food charities have all been stretched thin by our economic downturn—food bank demand has increased nearly 50 percent since 2006. The role of federal nutrition programs, including SNAP, is more crucial than ever.

Congress will soon leave town for the year without passing a new farm bill, which determines funding levels for SNAP. We ask that you continue to pray for hungry families and urge members of Congress to protect SNAP.

Photo: People in Baltimore, Md., line up to receive donated food (Mark Fenton).

Why Are 1.3 Million Americans Losing Their Unemployment Benefits?

Alicia Nesbitt, a 56-year-old former financial aid administrator from Connecticut, has just two more unemployment checks ($348 total) coming to her before the end of the year. "If anyone had told me I would be unemployed and uncertain as to my future at my age, I would not have believed it," she recently told NBC News.  Mary Helen Gillespie of New Hampshire told the New York Times that, since being laid off in April, she has been living on unemployment insurance payments of $384 a week—which she will soon lose. Casey O'Connell, who lives outside of Philadelphia, Pa., has used her unemployment benefits to keep her family from falling too far behind in their bills, and isn't sure what she'd do without the weekly $270 payment she receives.

Alicia, Mary, and Casey have all managed to stay afloat after being laid off because of emergency federal unemployment benefits, which can offer as many as 73 additional weeks of payments to individuals who have maxed out their state unemployment benefits. But yesterday evening, the House of Representatives passed a long-awaited budget deal that failed to extend the those emergency benefits, called the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program. Now, the program is scheduled to expire at the end of the year, and, without an extension, 1.3 million people will lose their benefits the week after Christmas—and millions more will be denied those benefits altogether next year.

This is a major failing, but the budget deal is a move in the right direction. It replaces some of the harmful cuts of the sequester, ends the threat of additional government shutdowns and fiscal cliffs, and perhaps even signals that the political gridlock that has defined this Congress is easing. And, Congress can still "fix" EUC after they return to Washington in January. Still, that may be of little comfort to those who will see their benefits abruptly cut off at the end of the year.

In a statement given before the House voted on the deal, Bread for the World President David Beckmann called it "a good first step," but one that is "not perfect," in large part because it doesn't include a provision to extend EUC.  "It leaves more than 1 million unemployed workers without benefits just after Christmas," he said. "Congress should address this immediately."

Read Bread for the World President David Beckmann's full statement on the budget compromise, and see this analysis from the Center on Budget Priorities and Policy for more on how failing to extend federal emergency unemployment will affect each state.

Bread with Your Coffee, Senator?

'Coffee' photo (c) 2012, Steven Lilley - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/This is a story of how Bread for the World advocacy methods work. The elements of our story include a Republican senator, a barista, prayer, worship, an Offering of Letters, and a wealthy fundraiser, but this isn't a tale of inside-the-Beltway intrigue.

The senator is Dr. John Barrasso of Wyoming. He is not an ordinary senator, but he is chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee (RPC) and fourth ranking member of Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate. The RPC advances Republican policies by providing positions on legislation, floor debate, and votes.

The barista is Rev. Libby Tedder Hugus of First Church of the Nazarene in Casper, Wyo. She was a barista at a Starbucks in Casper frequented by Sen. Barrasso and his wife, Bobbi.

In summer 2012, Hugus came to Washington, D.C., for training as one of Bread for the World's Hunger Justice Leaders. On Lobby Day during the event, she paid a visit to Sen. Barrasso's office on Capitol Hill. Nervously, she introduced herself as his barista in Casper. He then offered her coffee, apologizing that it was not as good as the one she brews for her.

"What others might consider ironic, I consider the imaginative humor of our Creator-God. I had travelled all the way from serving coffee to Sen. Barrasso in our Wyoming hometown to being served coffee by the senator in his office of power in Washington, D.C.," she writes on Bread Blog. "As I shared my story with Sen. Barrasso and used my voice to ask that he consider poor and hungry people while making vital legislative decisions, my jitters were swept away by God's spirit."

In October of this year, a group of ten churches in St. Louis all wrote letters about hunger and the budget debate to their members of Congress. They brought all of their letters to an event where Rev. David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, preached. They offered the letters up to God before sending them off to Washington, D.C.

After the event, a leader of one of the churches, Roy Pfautch, approached Beckmann to set up meetings for him with several senators, including Sen. Barasso. Pfaustch contributes and raises money for Republican politicians.

Upon returning to Washington, Beckmann almost immediately got an appointment to meet with Sen. Barrasso.  The senator told Beckmann right away that he knows all about Bread for the World. 

"I went to church in Casper last Sunday, and the preacher was Libby Tedder Hugus," Sen. Barrasso recounted. "She got everybody in churches to write letters to their members of Congress about hunger and poverty. She didn't see me in the back of the church, but the senior pastor did, and he said, 'You know, I think we could save some money on stamps here.'"

In their meeting, Beckmann and Barrasso focused specifically on food stamps and international food aid. Beckmann said Bread is working for reforms in international food aid that would allow the United States to help an additional 2 to 4 million of the world's most desperate people every year at no additional cost — mainly by buying more of the food from local farmers. 

Sen. Barrasso was already convinced that reform would be good policy. He was, however, against it because of a sense that Wyoming farmers would be against it.

"Overall, I think Senator Barrasso changed his judgment about the politics around this issue," said Beckmann. "All because Roy Pfautch used a chit to set up the meeting and, even more, because of Libby Tedder Hugus' activism and the constituents' concern about hungry people that he experienced at that church in Casper."

It's proof that Bread-style advocacy can work — or that God can work among us in surprising but wonderful ways.

Rev. David Beckmann Joins Fasts for Families

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Rev. David Beckmann talks to a Fast for Families activist on Dec. 5, 2013, in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Allie Gardner  

Today, in a small tent on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall, Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann prayed and fasted with a group of Fast for Families advocates.

Fast for Families is an effort, by faith, immigrant rights, and labor leaders, to move Congress to pass compassionate immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. Some of the participants have been fasting since the campaign launched on Nov. 12, while others have chosen to fast for shorter periods of time—one week, one day, or one meal. The fasters have received an outpouring of support: both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have visited the tent, as have several members of Congress.

Beckmann is fasting today, and during his time with the other Fast for Families activists, he talked about the importance of working together to achieve immigration reform. “Immigration reform will allow people to work their way out of poverty,” Beckmann said.  He later added that “immigration is part of the great exodus from poverty that is going on today,” and said that nations with comprehensive immigration policies have been able to more efficiently combat poverty than the United States. 

Granting legal status or citizenship to the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States will reduce poverty by giving them access to additional education and employment opportunities. Comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform would not only decrease poverty levels, but boost the strength of the U.S. economy.

In the Fast for Families tent, the group’s organizers said that they normally ask a few things of those who visit their site. First, they ask that people fast. Whether it’s for one meal or one day, there is power in standing in solidarity with those who regularly go hungry. Second, they ask that all visitors take action. Taking action can take a variety of forms—sharing your story, contacting members of Congress, or supporting immigration reform campaigns with your time or monetary gifts. Finally, the group asks that everyone pray. Prayer is powerful, and Scripture tell us that people who come together in prayer can achieve amazing things. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).  (Bread for the World is hosting evening prayers at the tent on Wednesday, Dec. 11.)

We ask that you join us in fasting, taking action, and praying. If you're able, please sign up to fast, participate in an action in your area, and be sure to contact your representative and tell him or her that it's time for the House of Representatives to move immigration reform forward.

Allie Gardner is a media intern at Bread for the World.

David Beckmann Talks 2014 Hunger Report on Public Radio

HR14-cover-highrez_resizeBread for the World President David Beckmann recently discussed Bread for the World Institute's 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, with talk show host Tavis Smiley.

In his interview on The Tavis Smiley Show, which aired Nov. 22, Beckmann said that while the Hunger Report proposes steps to eradicate hunger in the United States by 2030, Congress is working against that goal by moving forward with cuts to food stamps, which could make it more difficult for millions of Americans to put food on the table. "On Nov. 1, a cut in food stamps went into effect; it has already taken away 300 million meals," Beckmann said. "And then Congress is debating not whether to cut food stamps further, but how much. We don't want more cuts in food stamps. The cuts that the House is proposing would deepen hunger for 6 million Americans."

Beckmann also talked about how safety net programs helped keep hunger in this country at bay in the wake of the 2008 recession, how a strong job market is key to reducing hunger, and why advocates must reach out to members of Congress on these issues.

"I’ve never met anybody who said, 'Oh, I want to make sure kids go hungry,' but there are other things more important to politicians. There are other things that are more important to many of us," Beckmann said. "And on a day-to-day basis, when we really get agitated it’s about something that’s going to affect me, and maybe that’s when I call Congress. But what we need to do is call Congress when hungry kids are getting hurt—and when that happens, that’s when we’re going to end hunger."

Listen to the full interview below.

Challenging Lawmakers to Prioritize Smart Immigration Reform

R4RSocialGraphic_EN_lgBy Minju Zukowski

On Oct. 29, a group of 600 conservative faith, business, and law enforcement leaders from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C., to advocate for immigration reform at the Americans for Reform event. The group met with Republican lawmakers and shared with them the message that our nation has a moral obligation to reform our immigration system—and the time for reform is now.

Bread for the World partners such as Asbury Seminary in Kentucky and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, located in Grand Rapids, Mich., were among the diverse religious delegations participating in the event.

This gathering signaled that, across the political spectrum—from socially conservative evangelical Christians to progressive immigrant rights leaders, from business leaders to labor unions—Americans are #Ready4Reform

There are approximately 11-12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Once in this country, immigrants typically improve their economic condition, but their legal status means they are blocked from realizing their economic potential and making full contributions to the U.S. economy.  The poverty rate for undocumented immigrants is estimated to be between 21 to 35 percent—despite the fact that these individuals have a high workforce participation rate.  

Bread for the World views immigration reform as a hunger and poverty issue. Supporting reform that offers undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship will reduce poverty, by giving them access to education and employment opportunities. It will also stimulate national economic growth. Studies show immigration grows the economy, reduces the national debt, and can even create jobs for natives.

It’s easy for lawmakers who are contemplating critical decisions about immigration reform to forget that the reason most people migrate to the United States is because they are seeking to escape crippling poverty in their home countries. They are doing what anyone would do if faced with a similar situation—taking a risk in order to improve their lives and the lives of their family members.  

While the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill in June, the House has yet to put any immigration reform proposal to a full vote. Bread for the World and its partners are working to ensure that House leadership puts a vote on immigration reform on the 2013 calendar. The Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), of which Bread is a member, recently released a letter urging the House to continue working on immigration and take up reform that includes a pathway to legalization or citizenship. EIT faith leaders also met with President Obama and Vice President Biden this week to reiterate their support for broad immigration reform that transcends politics.

So what can you do? Email, or tweet, your members of Congress and tell them that America is #Ready4Reform. Urge them to support smart immigration reform that helps undocumented immigrants lift themselves out of poverty follows the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger.

Minju Zukowski, a senior marketing major at Towson University in Maryland, is Bread for the World’s media relations intern.

Cutting Poverty and Expanding Opportunity


Good jobs that pay a living wage are key to addressing U.S. income inequality. Photo: Roofers install solar panels on a home in the District of Columbia (Courtesy of Mt. Pleasant Solar Coop).

By Allie Gardner

The U.S. economy is continuing to slowly, steadily recover, but too many families are not sharing in the nation’s economic growth, according to a new report from Half in Ten

“Resetting the Poverty Debate: Renewing Our Commitment to Shared Prosperity” finds that income inequality remained high even as the economy grew during the last year. This annual report tracks the nation’s progress toward cutting poverty in half over the next decade, and recommends a set of policy priorities that would help more families escape poverty and enter the middle class. The report cites job creation, boosting wages, and investing in family economic security as means of accomplishing this, and also calls on Congress to end sequestration, and invest in programs that keep Americans out of poverty.

Increasing the minimum wage would help narrow the gap between productivity and compensation, as well as boost the income of low-wage workers, the report finds. While the top five percent of U.S. income earners are the only group that has seen an increase in income since the end of the recession, poorly compensated workers have seen the largest declines in their wages over the last ten years.

The importance of federal safety net programs, such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) and Social Security, is also noted. The former has helped stabilize the food-insecurity rate in recent years, and the latter lifted the income of 25.6 million Americans above the supplemental poverty line. Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, stressed the importance of these programs at the launch event for the report. Beckmann explained that SNAP “is very vulnerable to deep, deep cuts,” as many members of Congress do not prioritize it. “All of us need to rally around SNAP,” Beckmann added. 

Cutting poverty in half over the next ten years is an important mission.  In order to achieve this goal, Bread for the World believes that hunger and poverty must be put on the national agenda during the next election. Additionally, we must continue to remind our members of Congress that our nation's budget has to be a moral document that reflects our nation's concern for the most vulnerable. 

Allie Gardner is an editorial intern at Bread for the World.

Closing the Gender Gap: Miles to Go

Heather_turner_and_daughterToday is Women’s Equality Day, a time to commemorate the right of women to vote. Although we've come a long way in the fight for equality, there are still miles to go. The face of poverty is most often that of a woman and the lopsided statistics below help make it clear that hunger and poverty disproportionately affect women.
  • In the United States, single-parent households are the most likely to be poor. A snapshot from the National Center for Law and Economic Justice for 2011 reports 34.2 percent of single-parent homes headed by females were poor, compared to 16.5 percent of those headed by males. During that time, more than 5 million more women than men lived in poverty.
  • U.S. Census figures also show that women are still earning an average of  77 cents on the dollar compared to wages for men. Between 2010 and 2011, the number of men working full time increased by 1.7 million, compared to 0.5 million women.
  • Although women account for a little over 50 percent of the U.S. population, only 19 percent of our representatives in Congress are women. Women make up nearly half the labor force but they still only hold 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions.

We have miles yet to go.

  • Globally, women make up 45 percent of the world’s workforce, yet they are 70 percent of the world’s poor.
  • In impoverished nations, girls are less likely than boys to receive a basic education and globally, 584 million women are illiterate.
  • The World Economic Forum has reported that 82 out of the 132 countries improved economic equality between 2011 and 2012, but globally only 60 percent of the gender gap has been closed.

We have miles yet to go.

Each new policy that supports full inclusion and equality as it related to economics, politics, education, and health are mile markers on the road toward closing the gender gap. Closing the gender gap is part of the journey to end hunger. In the United States, policy is influenced and driven by the will of the people through exercising our voting rights. A day that reminds us how precious that right is, especially for women, is a good day to remember how powerful our voice as faithful advocates can be.

Part of the process to build the political will to end hunger includes keeping our legislators accountable, which is why Bread for the World has created the 2013 midyear voting scorecard.  For Christians, voting is part of the work we do to realize a just and equitable society where every man, woman and child has enough to eat. 

Photo: Heather Rude-Turner, 31, kisses her daughter Naomi, 5, after attending church, October 2, 2011.  (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

 

Jobs and God’s Concern for the Poor

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at a press conference in March of 1964 (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division).

The following is an excerpt from remarks given by Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, at the March on Washington Anniversary Praise and Worship Service at Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., on August 22, 2013.

It comes as no surprise that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man guided by God’s love for all people, would speak passionately about economic justice for all, especially for African Americans.  Dr. King said this in a speech titled “Showdown for Nonviolence,” just before his assassination, when American cities had erupted in riots:

A nationwide nonviolent movement is very important.  We know from past experience that Congress and the president won’t do anything until you develop a movement around which people of goodwill can find a way to put pressure on them . . . This really means making the movement powerful enough, dramatic enough, morally appealing enough, so that people of goodwill, the churches, labor, liberals, intellectuals, students, poor people themselves begin to put pressure on congressmen...

Our idea is to dramatize the whole economic problem of the poor. . . We call our demonstration a campaign for jobs and income because we feel that the economic question is the most crucial that black people and poor people generally are confronting.  There is a literal depression in the Negro community.  When you have mass unemployment in the Negro community, it’s called a social problem; when you have mass unemployment in the white community, it’s called a depression.  The fact is, there is a major depression in the Negro community.  The unemployment rate is extremely high, and among Negro youth, it goes up as high as forty percent in some cities.

 We need an economic bill of rights.  This would guarantee a job to all people who want to work and are able to work.  It would also guarantee an income for all who are not able to work.  Some people are too young, some are too old, some are physically disabled, and yet in order to live, they need income . . . It would mean creating public-service jobs, and that could be done in a few weeks.  A program that would really deal with jobs could minimize ---I don’t say stop---the number of riots that could take place this summer.  Our whole campaign, therefore, will center on the job question, with other demands, like housing, that are closely tied to it. Much more building of housing for low-income people should be done. . .

On the educational front, the ghetto schools are in bad shape in terms of quality . . . They need more and special attention, the best quality education that can be given.

These problems, of course, are overshadowed by the Vietnam War. We’ll focus on the domestic problems, but it’s inevitable that we’ve got to bring out the question of the tragic mix-up in priorities.  We are spending all of this money for death and destruction, and not nearly enough money for life and constructive development. 

In his final Sunday sermon — at the National Cathedral on March 31, 1963 — Dr. King spoke of the need to eradicate poverty in our nation and around the world. 

There is another thing closely related to racism that I could like to mention as another challenge.  We are challenged to rid our nation and the world of poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, poverty spreads its nagging, prehensile tentacles into hamlets and villages all over our world.  They are ill-housed, they are ill-nourished, they are shabbily clad.  I have seen it in Latin America; I have seen it in Africa; I have seen this poverty in Asia. . . .Not only do we see poverty abroad. I would remind you that in our own nation there are about forty million people who are poverty-stricken. . . . I have seen them in the ghettos of the North; I have seen them in the rural areas of the South; I have seen them in Appalachia. 

I have just been in the process of touring many areas of our country, and  I must confess that in some situations I have literally found myself crying. . . America has the opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots.  The question is whether America will do it. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty.  The real question is whether we have the will.     

Dr. King was right that the moral character of poverty has changed, because we now know how to get rid of it.  Since Dr. King’s time, lots of countries have, in fact, reduced poverty — countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Great Britain.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, our country cut our poverty rate in half.  The economy was strong, and the Civil Rights movement and the War on Poverty made a difference.  But we never built the broad movement for economic justice that Dr. King called for, and our poverty rate is now higher than it was in 1974.

But we have an opportunity now to build the movement against poverty that Dr. King envisioned.  African-Americans, Latinos, white people of modest means, and young people came out to vote in large numbers in the last election.  The faith community has been effective in fending off the powerful forces that are pushing to decimate programs for poor people.  The movement for immigration reform has become electric.  And just recently, we have seen growing awareness of the injustice of mass incarceration.  Right now, we are seeing courageous labor actions among fast-food and Walmart workers.   

God, help us to build the broad movement against poverty that Dr. King envisioned.

New Study: Poverty Doesn’t Have a Political Affiliation

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Christian leaders from multiple denominations unite around advocating to end hunger and poverty at a press conference in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2011 (Joanne Nazarian/Bread for the World).

Poverty is complex— it can touch anyone, no matter their age, gender, or race. And although every decrease in the poverty rate requires the force of political will, poverty is not affiliated with any one political party. A new report from Brookings Institution on the increase in suburban poverty examines variations between congressional districts.

During the recession, one of the fastest growing pockets of poverty in America has been in metropolitan suburbs, but the distress has been largely hidden. During the 2000s, Brookings reports, poverty grew in 388 of 435 districts — and most of those districts are in the suburbs of the 100 largest metropolitan areas. The trend does not, it appears, discriminate by party affiliation,  but is distributed nearly equally between districts, regardless of whether they are represented by a Democrat or a Republican.

In the suburbs of Charlotte, N.C., poverty has jumped an incredible 663 percent between 2007 and 2011.  During the same period, District 17 in central Texas has seen suburban poverty increase by 407 percent. Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC-12) and Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX-17) have a “shared challenge” – the approach recommended in the report. (See more comparisons by downloading the report).

Each party has a stake in alleviating poverty. Instead of discussing poverty in partisan terms or placing blame, our nation's leaders should address the root causes driving these trends.

But instead of unifying around one of the biggest challenges facing our nation, Congress is caught in political gridlock.  Take sequestration, the automatic cuts that are now law, for example. The legislation was created as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act as a way to force lawmakers into bipartisan deficit-reduction negotiations. Because the parties could not find common ground, the automatic cuts now work as budgeting on autopilot – indiscriminately cutting programs, including those critical to staving off hunger and poverty. 

The House farm bill is another example—it has been caught in a  political standoff that has left the SNAP program, our nation’s best defense against hunger, in a state of uncertainty. 

Bread for the World is made up of members from all walks of life, united around one goal: alleviating hunger and poverty as part of the Christian call. “The good news of Jesus Christ is neither liberal or conservative,” says Bread's director of organizing, LaVida Davis.

In Georgia’s District 4, represented by Democrat Henry Johnson, there are grandmas struggling on fixed incomes, just as there are children in Michigan's District 2, represented by Republican Bill Huizenga, whose mothers are earning minimum wage and struggling to put food on their tables.  Poverty is a shared problem that should unite this nation, not divide it—and the same holds true for Congress. 

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Check out Bread for the World's new August recess webpage, which includes information on how faithful advocates can get in front of members of Congress and work to help hungry and poor people.

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