Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

428 posts categorized "Poverty"

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.” 

Congress Urged to Pass Legislation to Help Working Families

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Pete Souza/The White House via Wikimedia Commons.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama laid out an aggressive agenda aimed at reducing income inequality in the United States – a factor that can keep millions of Americans in a cycle of poverty.

Although the economy has gotten stronger, President Obama acknowledged that too many hard-working families still struggle. He called for increasing the child care tax credit, raising the federal minimum wage, enacting paid sick leave, creating a "second-earner" tax credit for families in which both spouses work, and boosting the earned income tax credit.

“We have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth,” Obama said. “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?” 

Roughly 45 million people in the United States live at or below the poverty line. If enacted, many of the proposals put forth by the president would certainly help struggling Americans, especially boosting the maximum child care tax credit to $3,000 and expanding the earned income tax credit for childless workers.

The earned income tax credit along with the child tax credit are among our country’s most effective anti-poverty tools. Bread for the World 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.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) delivered the Republican rebuttal. And not unlike President Obama, she also sympathized with struggling Americans. “These days though, many families feel like they're working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it,” she said. “We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs.”

Obama reminded Americans that government programs have their place in history and can make an impact. “In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity.  We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure, and the internet – tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.”

At Bread, we know the power of good policy, especially as it applies to children. That’s why this year our top priority with this new Congress is to ensure that the nation’s child nutrition programs are reauthorized. The current bill is set to expire this fall. Making sure children receive meals, especially during their early years of development, is crucial for their development and guards against malnutrition.

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.

Participate in the Souper Bowl of Caring on Super Bowl Sunday

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Wikimedia Commons.

By Stephen H. Padre

"Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat" is a prayer that began a movement to take action against hunger on a day when Americans come together around football, fun, and food.
 
The Souper Bowl of Caring takes place every year on the day of the Super Bowl—Feb. 1 this year. The idea is simple: Led by youth, your congregation or community collects money and/or canned goods before or on Super Bowl Sunday. You report your results at tacklehunger.org, where national results are compiled and reported. You then donate 100 percent of your collection to an organization of your choice that is fighting hunger.
 
Make participation in this national event fun in your congregation. Some congregations serve a soup lunch after worship services. Use football images and sports metaphors to build excitement. Send youth out to collect money and canned goods from homes in the neighborhood.
 
The event is locally driven—you choose where your collection goes—but why not make broader connections in your participation? Pass on in-kind donations to a local organization, and give part or all of your monetary donations to an organization that works nationally or internationally, such as Bread for the World or your denomination’s hunger program. Groups across the country have donated to Bread in the past.
 
Start planning for your participation now. Promotional materials that you can use and adapt are available at www.souperbowl.org, where you can find information about other events around the Souper Bowl, including a service blitz.

Stephen H. Padre is the managing editor at Bread for the World.

Living on the Outskirts of Hope

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Derick Dailey preaching. He is a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

By Bread Staff

Derick Dailey, a board member of Bread for the World, recently wrote on the issues of hunger and poverty for Yale Divinity School's Reflections: A Magazine of Theological and Ethical Inquiry. 

He said "too many Americans still live on the outskirts of hope" because of  the country's "broken immigration system, dysfunctional public schools, black and brown genocide in our city streets, and chronically unproductive legislative structures."

At Bread, we are committed to ending hunger by 2030. It is only with voices like Dailey’s, spreading the message of the challenges and the solutions, that ending hunger can become reality. The following are excerpts from Dailey’s insightful piece:

On how faith institutions play a role in ending hunger:

Social justice is a larger priority for faith institutions and theological education. Congregations are embracing strands of political theology to fight poverty and hunger.

Involvement looks different for each community. Some groups run local soup kitchens and food giveaways. Others ask Congress to support strong poverty-reduction policies. Others directly invest in building schools and libraries in underdeveloped countries. Another trend is the collective mobilization of their church, typically the national body, to divest from companies that do not support their vision of justice. Thanks to progressive theological education, new generations of faith leaders are demanding that social justice be central to a prophetic gospel in ecclesial bodies, businesses, and global.

On how “smart power” is changing the fight against hunger and poverty:

Smart power is now in the policy arsenal of most developed countries. Rich countries are investing unprecedented dollars toward poverty reduction to ensure stability and exert influence throughout high-conflict regions. The United Kingdom, in 2013 alone, spent 11.3 billion pounds on international aid. 7 Non-state actors such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank invest in anti-poverty policies through debt relief and development. Under President Obama, the U.S. State Department has doubled the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the executive agency tasked with issues of food aid and humanitarian assistance. Hunger reduction continues to infiltrate American mainstream political discourse and policy circles.

On how people of faith can get involved:

Ending hunger will not happen without a move of God. For the Old Testament prophets, food was, in effect, a basic human right. They remind us to seek justice for everyone, especially the orphan and the widow, so that everyone has enough to eat. There is no shortage of biblical support for food justice and God’s continued grace. So we must pray and act. Pursue food justice locally. Urge policymakers to embrace poverty-reduction strategies. Leverage your voices and your votes.

In this election season, consider contacting your federal legislators about eliminating hunger in the world. Tell them you are moved by God’s grace to work to end hunger by 2030, and your vote depends on their support for poverty-reduction policies. Encourage your church to pray for the end of hunger in its weekly devotionals, Bible study, and worship.

Dailey graduated with a master's degree from Yale Divinity School last year and is now attending Hofstra Law School in Hempstead, N.Y.

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

 

 

 

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