416 posts categorized "Poverty"
By Alyssa Casey
For many, a college degree represents a path to a better job and a more financially secure future. But with rising tuition and housing costs, many college students simply trying to access a quality education struggle with hunger.
According to Feeding America’s Hunger in 2014 study, 1 in 10 adults receiving assistance from Feeding America-sponsored food pantries is a student. Two million of these students are full-time, and 1 million are part-time students.
At Humboldt State University (HSU) in Arcata, Calif., students, faculty, and community groups decided to do something about this. These groups united to address hunger on their campus and campuses across the United States and created Food for Thought.
The program provides assistance to food-insecure students through a campus food cupboard, which opened in October. The cupboard stocks a variety of foods, including dried beans, canned goods, and spices, to provide students in need not just empty calories, but nutritious and balanced meals. The program also serves as a bridge by connecting students to more sustainable food and housing assistance such as CalFresh, California’s state food assistance program.
The students and faculty members involved with Food for Thought know that addressing hunger means more than just providing emergency food. They are diving deeper, conducting research to better understand the scope and causes of college food insecurity. Even though colleges across the United States are increasingly aware of the problem, there are no comprehensive nationwide surveys of student hunger.
The results of initial HSU student-led research show that 1 in 3 HSU students say that they sometimes or often run out of food and have no additional money to purchase more, while 1 in 5 regularly skipped meals because of lack of money to purchase food.
Follow-up research led by HSU students and faculty is currently under way. Food for Thought plans to use this research to push for greater awareness and advocate to eliminate procedural hurdles that prevent students from receiving long-term food assistance.
Hunger is a health issue that affects not only physical health, but cognitive functions and academic performance. That is why Bread for the World consistently works to strengthen children’s access to school meals and other child nutrition programs.
Bread plans to work diligently this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall. In fact, 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 also protects funding for federal and state food assistance such as SNAP and advocates for a living wage and refundable tax credits, so adult students can continue their education without facing hunger and poverty.
Efforts like HSU’s Food for Thought show that just a few concerned people can make progress toward ending hunger. In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger in your community, get involved in local projects like Food for Thought, and join us in advocating for policies that eliminate barriers and increase opportunities for our neighbors struggling with hunger and poverty.
Alyssa Casey is a government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.
Outgoing Texas governor and potential presidential candidate Rick Perry was asked in a Dec. 9 Washington Post interview about the growing gap between rich and impoverished people in his state. The article on Perry’s interview states, “(Texas) has had strong job growth over the past decade but also has lagged in services for the underprivileged.” Perry’s response: “Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion.”
Perry expressed an explanation that many Americans believe. He appears to be referencing a Bible passage in Mark 14:7: “For you always have the poor with you.”
I celebrate that the Bible is accessible to everybody. However, it must be understood in context and not used out of context.
Jesus uttered the words recorded in Mark 14:7 in an exchange in which some were criticizing a woman who chose to anoint Jesus before his burial with what was probably one of her most precious possessions, an ointment of nard. She could have been saving this very expensive nard for her wedding. During biblical times, brides were traditionally anointed with this oil. Yet in this passage, we see that the woman chooses to use the oil as an offering to honor Jesus.
It is interesting to note that some in our modern times use Jesus’ response to the criticism of this woman to make poverty seem like something inevitable—or even worse—to not make it a concern. Jesus praises the woman for her choice. His earthly ministry was about to end, and he was telling the disciples they would not have the opportunity to honor him in that fashion on earth again. Yet people living in poverty among us remain an opportunity to honor and serve God.
Maybe Jesus was referring to a sentiment expressed in Deuteronomy 15:11: “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.’”
If we take this passage in context, verses 7 to 11—or the whole chapter, for that matter—we can see that it addresses the priority of caring for people struggling with poverty. God did not want people to live in extreme poverty and want. The laws established by God in this passage and many others make provision for economic justice.
However, because of the sins of greed and disobedience to God’s commandments, humanity experiences social and economic disparity. That should not be the case. Money and wealth should be tools with which we are given the power of choice to use for the welfare of all. The Bible does not discourage wealth but rather encourages us to use it as a tool for good works that reflect God’s love.
The Bible should not be used out of context as a pretext for government officials or anyone else to rationalize the lack of action toward the end of hunger and poverty. In our nation, the most prosperous, most technologically advanced in the world, nearly 49 million Americans struggle to put food on the table, and 45 million live in poverty. One in five children are not sure where their next meal will come from. We cannot choose one Bible text, out of context, to ignore the plight of millions who do not have a fair choice for their nutrition, decent housing, education, health, living wages, and job opportunities.
By faith, at Bread for the World we believe that if the president and Congress can, in a bipartisan way, summon the political will to end hunger and extreme poverty, this desire can become a top priority in our national policies and a goal achievable by the year 2030.
Jose Garcia is a bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy and the director of the church relations department at Bread for the World.
Photo: Bread for the World
By Jacob Chew
The House of Representatives last week passed the Executive Amnesty Prevention Act (H.R.5759). The law seeks to block President Barack Obama’s recent immigration executive action that provides temporary relief from deportation to more than four million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Under the legislation, the executive branch would not have the authority to exempt undocumented persons from deportation or grant them legal status.
The vote is largely a symbolic protest since the Democratic-controlled Senate won’t bring the legislation to the floor.
Congress’ latest action to curtail the president’s executive action is regrettable. Bread for the World’s support of the president’s action is not about partisan politics. Rather, it’s about the millions of families who will have some respite from worry and have access to new opportunities to work their way out of poverty. The executive action also offers improvements to our harsh and out-of-date immigration system, and is a compassionate response consistent with our Christian faith which calls us to welcome immigrants and treat them with dignity.
Rather than threaten to reverse such potential gains, Congress should take immediate action to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation that would improve our current system, strengthen our economy, and keep families together.
Learn more about Bread’s work on immigration. And urge your members of Congress to pass legislation that addresses the root causes of hunger, poverty, and violence that are driving unaccompanied children to flee their home countries.
Jacob Chew is a fall intern in the government relations department at Bread for the World.
When the school bell rings on the last day of the school year, most children teem with excitement as their summer break begins. But for too many schoolchildren in the nation’s fifth-hungriest state, that bell means not knowing where their next breakfast or lunch will come from for the next few months.
In Wilkesboro, N.C., the Samaritan Kitchen does what it can. It provides schoolchildren with backpacks of easy-to-prepare meals to take home on the weekends.
“I have a student in my classroom who was starving,” an elementary teacher from Elkin wrote the Samaritan Kitchen. Reprinted in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, the note continues, “He couldn’t get enough to eat. We were trying to feed him all the extra food we could find. There was no food in his house.”
Samaritan Kitchen’s goal for 2013-2014 was to serve 800 children per week with backpack meals, but lack of funding kept them from reaching that goal.
Churches and charities across the United States are answering the call to feed the hungry, but they cannot do it alone. For every 20 bags of food assistance to feed hungry Americans, only 1 is provided by churches and charities. The bulk – 19 out of every 20 bags – come from federal nutrition programs. We need strong federal policies to protect and support these national nutrition programs.
More than 1 in 4 children in North Carolina live at risk of hunger and poverty. Of the 60 kids riding your child’s school bus, more than 15 go to school with empty stomachs, counting down the hours until lunch, which may be their first – or only – meal of the day.
School meal programs are a key tool in fighting child hunger. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides a free or reduced-price lunch to low-income children in schools across the country. While the NSLP is able to reach many children while school is in session, weekends, holiday breaks, and summer months present a unique challenge to struggling parents who rely on school lunches to help feed their child.
In 2015, Congress will renew and improve the legislation that governs national child nutrition programs, including school and summer meals. These policies significantly affect North Carolina’s state and local child nutrition programs. The North Carolina Senate race between incumbent Kay Hagan and state House Speaker Thom Tillis is too close to call. Whoever wins has the opportunity to bring the voice of North Carolina’s children to Capitol Hill.
Next year, to coincide with Congress’ consideration of the legislation that oversees child nutrition programs, Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters will focus on this topic. Churches will be asked to communicate with Congress on renewing this legislation.
Whichever state you live in, ask your candidates what their plans are to increase access to food for hungry children. Look at how current members of Congress voted on hunger and poverty issues. Thank them for votes that combat hunger, or ask them to explain votes against policies to rid our country of hunger.
If we raise our voices and votes across the United States, we can end hunger in our lifetime.
View a state-by-state map of hunger and poverty rates in America.
Alyssa Casey is Bread for the World’s government relations coordinator.
A woman serves dinner at a soup kitchen. (Screen shot from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media)
by Donna Pususta Neste
One of the problems with hunger is that it’s often hidden or invisible all together, so it can be easy to deny or ignore. Another social problem—homelessness—is more apparent, but often the two go together. Take away one, and you still might have the other.
During the winter season a few years ago, when I was working as the neighborhood ministries coordinator for an inner-city church, I was picking up one of the youth participants of our afterschool program from a shelter. By springtime, his family was able to rent an apartment in the same neighborhood in which they lived before they were homeless. I wanted to think of this as a success story. However, since his family moved out of the shelter, almost every time I picked him up, he complained of being hungry. The family solved the problem of their homelessness, only to encounter the new problem of not enough money to buy food after paying the rent.
One afternoon early into the summer program, the kids were working on an indoor project. This boy again complained of being hungry. I ran upstairs to a small kitchen used by the staff to retrieve a plastic bag containing 10 hardboiled eggs. They were given to me after one of the church’s community meals, and I put them in the refrigerator for anyone to eat. I came back to the work area with the eggs along with some forgotten cinnamon buns. This little boy ate four eggs in a row and a few of the buns. I sent the rest of the food home with him. I used to drop him off last so that I could go into the church and find some food to send home. There was always something left over from a meeting or community meal.
On one of those days, I began to think that maybe he was just not liking what he was given to eat at home, but I responded to his complaints despite my misgivings. Before dropping him off I ran into the church and came back to the car with a to-go box with 15 hot dogs left over from the latest community meal. My feelings of being “played” immediately dissipated when I watched him tear into the box and quickly eat one of the hot dogs cold.
Even people like me who work or once worked close to the bone of poverty are sometimes in denial about hunger in the United States. It’s hard to see the face of hunger in a nation that seems to parade affluence and well-being every place we go. If we can’t see it, then perhaps others, like our legislators, might miss it as well. So that’s why one thing we can do—those of us who are close to the problem or are aware of it because of our work or faith—is to speak up about it. By telling elected officials where hunger exists and how deep it is, we can make it visible. Make a point to speak to your current or potential members of Congress about hunger now—during their campaigns for office. Maybe their eyes will be opened to what is already there.
Donna Pususta Neste is a Bread for the World board member and former coordinator of Neighborhood Ministries in Minneapolis.
by Eric Mitchell
We need to move past the Great Recession of 2008. But for families that are still unable to regularly put food on the table, how can they? The recession caused the number of families at risk of hunger to increase by more than 30 percent! But because of anti-hunger programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps), we haven’t seen that number go up any higher since then. Unfortunately, despite (slight) improvements, nearly 1 in 6 Americans (49 million) were still struggling to put food on the table in 2013.
In recent years, the 10 hungriest states (see chart below) have seen no relief. Since 2001, the percent of households struggling to access food has increased in all 10 of these states. The economy is improving but not fast enough for many Americans who are struggling to feed their families. In 2013, more than 45 million Americans still lived in poverty.
Statistics alone do not tell the full story. Hunger and poverty impacts the lives of children, older Americans, veterans, and the disabled especially hard. (See state fact sheets, which you can link to in the chart above.) In states with the highest rates of poverty and food insecurity, it’s even worse. For example, in Mississippi, 24 percent of people live below the poverty line, including a staggering 1 in 3 children. In Arkansas, more than 1 in 5 Americans are at risk of hunger. People are hurting.
Americans At Risk of Hunger
Nearly 1 in 6 Americans (49 million) were still struggling to put food on the table in 2013.
You would think these staggeringly high numbers would propel these congressional delegations to do something, fueled by an outrage over the conditions of poverty and hunger in their own states. But that’s not necessarily true. Many have actually voted for proposals that would have made conditions worse. Take this example: In 2013, 217 members of the House of Representatives voted to cut SNAP by nearly $40 billion. Fortunately, this proposal did not make it into through Congress. But if it had, 2 million people would have been kicked off of SNAP, and the number of families at risk of hunger in the 10 hungriest states would have gone up even further.
A job used to be a safeguard against poverty and empty stomachs. That’s no longer true. People who receive SNAP also work. But people are working harder while earning less. Since 2009, most middle- and low-income workers have seen their wages go down. The bottom 60 percent of workers have seen their income decrease by 4 to 6 percent. Meanwhile, Congress has yet to pass legislation that raises the minimum wage. Such action would help lift many Americans out of poverty.
To truly end hunger in the United States, we must demand federal policies that boost our economy and ensure a strong safety-net for those in need. That’s why our political leaders must make this a national priority. See how hunger and poverty are affecting the 10 hungriest and poorest states. Then, judge your member’s commitment to ending hunger and poverty. See for yourself if their votes help or hurt those caught in a tough place.
10 Hungriest States
10 Highest Poverty States
(Links in the chart above are for fact sheets on those states produced by Bread for the World.)
Faith by itself is not enough. It is also important to take action. We do this by holding our elected officials accountable. Each member’s vote counts. Maybe your representative cast a critical vote that blocked SNAP cuts, or maybe your member’s votes are contributing to these startling statistics. Find out and take action. During this campaign season, remind congressional candidates that we need a Congress that is serious about ending hunger and poverty.
Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, told radio host Tavis Smiley that he feels hopeful.
Encouraged by a recent trend with both political parties addressing poverty in public speeches and decreasing poverty rates, Beckman says a post-recession America is the perfect time to make ending hunger a top priority for lawmakers.
Poverty decreased slightly—by 0.5 percent—last year, according to data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau. It is the first time a decrease has been seen since 2006. The bureau announced that 14.5 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2013. Additionally, child poverty declined for the first time since 2000, from 21.8 percent to 19.9 percent.
“It’s just a start, but it is a change in the right direction,” said Beckmann.
Beckmann made these remarks in an interview on Public Radio International’s “The Tavis Smiley Show” last week.
Beckmann said reduced poverty rates are a result of more Americans returning to the labor market. Food insecurity continues to remain high in the United States – a reality Beckmann sees as unnecessary. He said there are two critical factors in reducing poverty: Economic growth and focused efforts. The United States is lacking a focused effort.
“The last president who made poverty one of his top priorities was Lyndon Johnson,” says Beckmann. The Johnson administration and Congress worked together to cut poverty nearly in half from the mid-1960s through the 1970s.
To build a sustained political commitment that will reduce poverty in the United States, Beckmann emphasizes the importance of making hunger an election issue. Voters must pressure leaders to move from speeches to passing legislation that will end hunger. The elections provide an opportunity to reach out directly to lawmakers.
“We’ve got to elect people to Congress who are going to agree to work together and focus on opportunity for everybody,” said Beckmann.
Smiley is already looking ahead to the next set of elections - the 2016 presidential elections. He said that he recently called for a debate exclusively on income inequality and poverty – something he has never seen in his lifetime.
“I second the motion,” said Beckmann. “Usually in the presidential debates they never ask a question about the bottom 40-50 percent of the country.”
Listen to Beckmann’s interview on the “The Tavis Smiley Show” podcast here.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media at Bread for the World and a senior regional organizer.
By Robin Stephenson
A rising tide does not lift all boats —at least where poverty is concerned. Income gaps in America are widening. States are not experiencing economic recovery equally.
The Census Bureau followed Tuesday’s report, which showed a slight decline nationally in the poverty rate for the first time since 2006, with today’s state-by-state data. The national poverty rate is 14.5 percent, but five states still have rates over 20 percent. Mississippi tops the list with the highest poverty rate at 22.5 percent, followed closely by New Mexico, the District of Columbia, Arizona, and Kentucky.
The poverty rate should be more than a snapshot to lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and should encourage voters to make hunger an elections issue.
“The poverty numbers are encouraging,” says Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World. However, Kegan says a cut of two percentage points is not enough and that our call as Christians is to advocate for a world without poverty and hunger.
“The pace of this economic recovery is far too slow, particularly for those at the economic margins,” Kegan continues. “It’s time our elected leaders make ending hunger and poverty a top priority, and the midterm elections provide a prime opportunity for people of faith to demand this of candidates running for office.”
The poverty rate is based on income. Although the cost of living varies geographically, the poverty threshold used by the Census Bureau does not. A family of four is classified as poor if their gross income is less than $23,830 last year, and for one person, the poverty threshold was $11,890.
The Census Bureau data comes on the heels of a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on food insecurity – a term that describes households that do not have enough food in a given year. Not surprisingly, there is overlap between state food-insecurity and the poverty rate.
The ten states with the highest poverty rates:
- Mississippi, with a poverty rate of 22.5 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 21.1 percent.
- New Mexico, with a poverty rate of 21.7 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 13.2 percent.
- Arizona, with a poverty rate of 20.2 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 21.2 percent.
- Kentucky, with a poverty rate of 20 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 16.4 percent.
- Louisiana, with a poverty rate of 19.2 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 16.5 percent.
- North Carolina, with a poverty rate of 18.6 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 17.3 percent.
- Tennessee, with a poverty rate of 18.1 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 17.4 percent.
- Nevada, with a poverty rate of 17.4 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 16.2 percent.
- West Virginia, with a poverty rate of 17.3 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 14.4 percent.
- Arkansas, with a poverty rate of 17.1 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 21.2 percent.
Engage the candidates! Go to www.bread.org/elections to make hunger an issue in the elections!
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior reigonal organizer at Bread for the World.
According to a Census Bureau report released today, child poverty declined for the first time since 2000, from 21.8 percent to 19.9 percent. (Todd Post)
The good news is we are making progress on poverty in America. However, the economic recovery is leaving too many Americans behind.
More than 45 million Americans—14.5 percent—lived below the poverty line in 2013, according to a Census Bureau report released today. Poverty decreased slightly, by 0.5 percent, for the first time since 2006. Additionally, child poverty declined for the first time since 2000, from 21.8 percent to 19.9 percent.
There is still more to do. The faithful must continue to advocate for even more progress against hunger and poverty, especially during an election year.
Poverty rates are still disproportionately high among Hispanics and African-Americans: 23.5 percent of Hispanics and 27.1 percent of African-Americans live below the poverty line.
Mothers like Jacqueline Christian, who try to make ends meet on minimum wage, still wait to feel the effects of the economic recovery. National Geographic told Christian’s story in the article The New Faces of Hunger published last July.
Christian makes $7.25 an hour working full time as a home health aid in Houston, Texas. She and her two sons, who struggle to get enough to eat, were living in a homeless shelter at the time the article was published.
Recent gains in employment, with 2.8 million people returning to the labor market, have helped decrease poverty in America. Wages, however, continue to stagnate for those who have jobs. Low-income employment like Christian’s doesn’t pay a living wage.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, between 2009 and 2013 the top 5 percent of workers saw their wages rise by 1 percent while the bottom 60 percent saw hourly wages fall by 4-6 percent. Higher incomes among high-wage earners and corporations have mainly shown up in higher stock prices, and companies have been slow to invest in the real economy.
As the economy improves, our elected officials must craft policy to ensure that we don’t leave large groups of Americans behind—people like Jacqueline Christian, who works full time but can’t meet her family’s basic needs.
Encouraged by progress and recent public discourse by both parties about ending hunger and poverty in America, Bread for the World’s President David Beckmann says Congress should focus on employment and reducing income inequality.
“The best defense against hunger and poverty is reliable work,” Beckmann said in a statement to the press today. “As the mid-term election draws near, we must vote for leaders who are committed to increasing job opportunities and pray that their actions are guided by compassion and justice so that we can continue to reduce hunger and poverty.”
Thursday, the Census Bureau will release state-level data.
By Alyssa Casey
The number of Americans struggling to put food on the table remains stubbornly high, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 2013, 14.3 percent of U.S. households experienced food insecurity. “Food insecure” households are those that have difficulty consistently providing enough food for all household members due to lack of resources.
The number of households at risk of hunger declined slightly from 14.9 percent in 2011, but those hit by the 2008 economic crisis have seen little relief. In 2007, 36.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households. In 2008, that number jumped to 49.1 – an increase of nearly 13 million Americans at risk of hunger. Five years later in 2013, the same number of Americans – 49.1 million – struggle to feed their families. While the country as a whole slowly recovers from the 2008 economic crisis, it appears that those struggling with hunger are being left behind.
More than 15.7 million – nearly a third – of Americans at risk of hunger are children. Households with children are more at risk of hunger than those without children. This risk increases even further when the household is headed by a single parent. Households headed by a single woman are among the hardest hit, with 34.4 percent of these households at risk of hunger – nearly 2 ½ times the national average.
When so many children and families wrestle with the threat of hunger year after year, it is inexcusable that elected officials address hunger so rarely.
The Momentum is Building
Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty made alleviating hunger and poverty in the United States a top priority for the government. Incredible progress was made in the initial years of the War on Poverty, but eventually poverty and hunger were swept under the rug, and politicians largely stopped talking about the issue.
Recent years have seen momentum building around making hunger and poverty history:
- The economic recession drew attention to the prevalence of hunger in the United States.
- Filmmakers and the media are increasingly drawing attention to widespread hunger.
- The 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty kept the spotlight on hunger.
- Advocates like you told your elected officials that hunger matters.
- Prominent politicians on both sides of the aisle are talking about America’s hunger and poverty problem and exchanging ideas for legislative solutions.
What Can You Do?
Keep this momentum going and make sure candidates know that you care about hunger.
As we near national elections in November, we have the opportunity to ask candidates to make ending hunger a national priority. You don’t have to be a policy expert; simply telling your candidates you care about hunger and poverty lets them know they need to take action on these issues.
Ask your candidates what their plan is to address hunger. If a candidate is running for reelection, look at how they voted. Then tell them to vote for legislation that makes positive strides towards ending hunger, not legislation that cuts safety net programs and makes it harder for people to support their families.
At Bread for the World, we have your back! We are telling candidates across the country that Americans want to end hunger. If you do the same, we can use this momentum to make ending hunger a national priority once again. Let’s make hunger an election issue!
Alyssa Casey is Bread for the World’s government relations coordinator
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