364 posts categorized "Poverty"
Elementary school children in southeast Washington, D.C., enjoy their lunch. (Eugene Mebane, Jr.)
By Nina Keehan
Black History Month is a time to celebrate progress and achievement, but it also provides an opportunity to acknowledge that African-Americans continue to suffer disproportionately from hunger and poverty.
The statistics are sobering. Bread’s newest fact sheet, “Hunger and Poverty Among African-American Children,” released today, puts the food insecurity rate of African-American children at about 30 percent, compared to roughly 20 percent for all U.S. households with children. Poverty figures are even worse, with 38.8 percent of African-American children under 18 and 42.7 percent of children under 5 living below the poverty line.
In some states, African-Americans make up only a small percentage of the population, but still have the highest rates of poverty. Take Iowa: although less than 3 percent of the state’s population is black, more than half of those children are living in poverty. That, compared with a poverty rate of 17.3 percent for all children in Iowa, signals a huge disparity.
The problem also exists in states that have large African-American populations. In Mississippi, African-Americans are 37 percent of the population, and the child poverty rate for that group is nearly 50 percent, compared with 31.8 percent for all children in the state.
We must continue to work to help those suffering from hunger and poverty by being aware of these facts and fighting for programs that help reduce the disparities. Federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and WIC have prevented millions of African-American families from falling into poverty. Join Bread for the World in asking the president to set a goal to end hunger. Take part in our Offering of Letters campaign, which urges Congress to protect the programs that help hungry and poor people. Make these actions a part of your Black History Month observance, and continue to fight these disparities every month of the year.
Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.
Derick Dailey teaches a Bible study class at Bethel A.M.E. Church in New Haven, Conn. A seminary student at Yale University, Derick learned about sharing his bounty from his grandmother as he was growing up in Little Rock, Ark. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof ....
When Derick Dailey’s grandmother passed away in August 2012, he was asked by his family members to send a message to her as she departed.
"I said her favorite verse in her ear. I whispered, The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and all that dwell therein."
Derick recalls his grandmother repeating that verse frequently while he was growing up in her home in North Little Rock, Ark., with his twin, Eric. "Whether I was sitting on the piano playing and she was singing the hymn — or she would just sometimes just break out in that verse because she believed deeply in that," says Derick.
"That everything on this earth belonged to God."
"She was part of the Women’s Missionary Society of our local church," says Derick, "so she would start early Saturday morning cooking ... and oftentimes we would get confused thinking the meal was for us and she would remind us, 'no, I will cook something for you all on Sunday evening; this meal is for the sick and shut-in.'"
Derick, now a graduate student at Yale Divinity School, has seen hunger and poverty firsthand. "Arkansas is this rural community," he explains, "and it struggles deeply with food insecurity, with hunger, with poverty, poor education, crime, and poor infrastructure. You name it and Arkansas is confronting it."
As a sophomore at Westminster College in Missouri, Derick and his friend Eyob researched poverty in Phillips County in southeast Arkansas, one of the poorest counties in the nation. The two met with mayors and church leaders to talk about the conditions and causes of economic devastation along the Mississippi River. Derick recalls that at one point, Eyob, who is Ethiopian, exclaimed, "Wow, this looks like rural Ethiopia."
"It never occurred to me that a place in this country, the wealthiest country in the world would look like something in rural Ethiopia," says Derick. "It was a big wake-up call for me that the core of poverty is lack of opportunity and lack of resources."
"Listening to the stories and hearing the challenges [of local leaders] made clear to me that hunger and poverty are not just some abstract social science terms. These are realities for people, and not just realities for people in Third World countries but realities for people in my state, a state that I love — whether it's in Phillips County or in Little Rock seeing my own family struggle to make ends meet."
Those experiences motivated Derick to get directly involved in ending hunger and poverty. He joined Bread for the World and was one of Bread’s first Hunger Justice Leaders. Following that training in advocacy, Derick founded the Westminster Poverty Initiative, which runs a food bank and facilitates donations of clothing and household items to people in need in the community surrounding the college. Derick and Eyob also raised funds and opened a library in Ethiopia.
But Derick knows that larger actions are necessary.
"I thank God for Bread for the World for having this sort of forum where people of faith can actively engage on issues of policy in a real way without feeling that they are somehow outside the norm or they are doing something that is unchurched or unreligious," says Derick.
"The reality is that in order to break free from the bondage [of poverty] in this country and the world, we need elected officials to make good on their words and put love thy neighbor at the center of our legislative agenda."
[This piece originally appeared in the February edition of Bread's e-newsletter.]
Jane Sabbi, a farmer in Uganda, learned to plant more nutritious crops like these beans after joining a Ugandan nonprofit farming collective that receives U.S. foreign assistance. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Alex LokenIt’s no secret that these are tough times, and unfortunately our nation’s ability to provide aid to people in need around the world is in serious jeopardy. While the debate over our country’s fiscal health rages on, deficit-reduction proposals that include spending cuts to international food aid, Feed the Future, and other programs related to poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) continue to be part of the discussion.
Not to mention the fact that the threat of across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration, continues to loom: unless Congress acts, these cuts will take effect at the beginning of March. An estimated 5.1 percent cut would result in over $1 billion cut from PFDA programs—that means millions of people would be without food aid, farmer training, education, and lifesaving medicine.
Poverty-focused programs accomplish so much and reach millions of people around the world, while representing less than 1 percent of the entire U.S. federal budget. These programs are vital to lifting people around the world out of poverty. They also promote a positive image of the United States overseas, strengthen our national security by encouraging stability, and support jobs both at home and abroad.
Funding for PFDA has more or less flat-lined over the past few years, but these programs have continued to provide lifesaving food aid, help thousands of farmers learn techniques that help increase their yields and incomes, slow mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, and educate children. Still, our work is not done: there are 900 million people who go to bed hungry every night and more than 1 billion people who live on less than $1.25 a day. But if PFDA funding is cut, it will be incredibly difficult to continue to work toward a world without hunger and poverty.
We all agree that America’s budget deficit must be dealt with, but cutting PFDA won’t help balance the ledger. As those on Capitol Hill work to come to an agreement around the debt ceiling and government spending, we urge Congress to protect programs that serve the world’s poor and vulnerable people.
Alex Loken is the government relations research assistant at Bread for the World.
For more information on PFDA, please see the Bread for the World Policy brief "Poverty-Focused Development Assistance 101."
Jane Sebbi, carries matoke scraps to feed her pigs in Kamuli, Uganda. In addition to animal husbandry, Sebbi grows corn, bananas, coffee, amaranth, potatoes, soy beans, common beans and sweet potatoes. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Robin Stephenson
How much do you know about hunger and poverty? Test your knowledge by taking this short quiz. We hope these questions—which cover great milestones in the fight against hunger and also statistics that remind us of the work still to be done—will encourage you to join us in asking the president to make ending hunger a priority.
Tonight, President Barack Obama will speak to Congress, and the nation, in his State of the Union address. We're hoping he will use the opportunity to talk about ending hunger in the United States and abroad.
So, once you've taken the quiz, take a few seconds to sign this petition asking President Obama to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger. Pass this quiz around—through email, Twitter, and/or Facebook—and help spread the word about the seriousness of hunger and what can be done to end it in our time.
Single father John Lohmeier shops at a food pantry in the Chicago, Ill., suburbs. Lohmeier talks about losing his six-figure salary and needing assistance in the documentary. (Screen shot from The Line)
By Sarah Godfrey
In the documentary The Line, a look at poverty in America, Illinois single father John Lohmeier shares his story of losing his job and six-figure salary and becoming someone struggling to make ends meet. "For the first time, I've gone from being somebody who could help to being somebody who needs help," Lohmeier says.
It seems the line between those who are able to offer assistance and those who need it is becoming increasingly fluid. Case in point: according to a recent report, nearly half of all Americans lack a basic personal safety net to prepare them for emergencies or future needs.
The Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) study found that 43.9 percent of U.S. households—some poor, some making more than $90,000 per year—don't have enough savings to last three months at a poverty-level income. For those who don't understand the importance of federal safety net programs, or can't imagine being in a position to need SNAP (formerly food stamps), WIC, or other forms of assistance, the study should serve as a powerful wake-up call.
The good news is that saving money, even in relatively small amounts, can help put families on better financial footing. And saving money and getting rid of debt isn't something that is only accessible to wealthy and middle-class families. The importance asset building in fighting poverty was explored in the 2010 Hunger Report piece "Incentives to Build Savings." As the Hunger Report points out, it is harder for poor people to save money, it’s a misperception that they don’t or won’t save:
Having emergency savings can help families better weather an economic setback. Research has found that households with assets are much less likely to suffer serious hardships in the event of an economic emergency, such as a job loss. Families without emergency savings, on the other hand, are much more vulnerable to economic catastrophe, such as foreclosure, homelessness and dependence on public assistance.
Research shows that people with incomes well below the poverty line are able to save. A national research study known as the American Dream Demonstration tested the effectiveness of asset-development programs for poor people. People were saving to build assets such as homeownership, education, or starting a business.
Unfortunately, snips to our social safety net make saving money even more difficult. Andrea Levere, president of CFED, told Salon that the study's findings were “particularly disturbing given the ongoing budget talks in Congress that will likely result in further reductions in the social safety net and other programs that help low- and moderate-income people get on their feet and start planning and saving for a better future.”In other words, it is crucial that we continue to work to protect vital safety net programs and to ensure that Congress, in balancing the federal budget, doesn’t make it impossible for poor working families to balance their household budgets.
Sarah Godfrey is Bread for the World's associate online editor.
You probably already know that tax credits are a huge help to low-income working families. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit(CTC), which qualifying families receive when they get their federal income tax refunds, assist millions of people each year. In 2011 alone, the EITC lifted 3.3 million children out of poverty. But did you know that refundable tax credits also boost the U.S. economy?
Center for American Progress has released a cool infographic showing exactly how the EITC helps working families, and the think tank also looks at how tax credits affect this country's fiscal fitness.
"Not only does the earned income tax credit keep millions of working families from slipping into poverty each year, it also leads to positive outcomes for family health and student education," writes research associate Katie Wright. "Earned income tax credit dollars benefit our economy, and most families who receive the credit end up paying billions of dollars more in net federal income tax than they receive in the earned income tax credit over time."
The fact that the EITC helps so many families each year is reason enough to support the credit—that the anti-poverty program has such positive, far-reaching effects is just one more mark in its favor.
Want to learn more about how the benefits of the EITC? Take our EITC quiz, read one family's story of how receiving the EITC helped lift—and keep—them out of poverty, and then take action by telling your members of Congress to make the EITC and CTC permanent.
Sharmila Chaudhari feeds her daughter Sanjana, 19 months, at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal, on Sunday, April 29, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Marsha Casey
Have you bought a snack today? Grabbing a bag of chips and a soda from a vending machine can easily cost about $2, right? Would you be shocked to learn that almost half of the world's people live on $2 a day or less—about the same amount of money that you might spend on a quick treat?
Although progress has been made in the fight against hunger and poverty, people around the world continue to suffer: An estimated 925 million of the world's people are hungry, and there were 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty in 2005. Children are hit especially hard. Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes.
Are you wondering what you can do to change these statistics? Here are three tips to help you begin advocating on behalf of hungry and poor people around the world.
Learn about the issues. Hunger is a global problem that affects people in the United States and around the world. Take the time to investigate the “why” behind world hunger and poverty. Start by reading materials available on Bread for the World's website and in our store.
Get your family, friends, church, and community involved. Spread the word and teach others about hunger and poverty. The more people get involved, the easier it will be to end hunger in our time.
Take Action. Volunteering and making donations both play a significant part in helping hungry and poor people, but advocacy is key to lasting change. Bread for the World advocates contact Congress—by mail, email and phone—and urge them to work to prioritize the needs of hungry and poor people. Join us!
While many people in this day and age don’t have to wonder where their next meal will come from, there are still mothers walking for miles to fetch water for their children, fathers who don't have enough money to feed their families, and children who goes to sleep hungry each night. Become an advocate and make a difference in someone’s life.
Marsha Casey is a media relations intern at Bread for the World. She is a student at Montgomery College Takoma Park, Silver Spring Campus.
By Keaton Andreas
Are you called? It’s a question that rattles around in my head and reverberates within my soul. Growing up, it was this question that served as my guiding light. It has always begged me to consider the larger plan that God has for my life and if I am willing to surrender to that plan. It is a question asked forcefully in churches by the visiting missionary, compelling his or her audience to consider it. It is an honest inquiry that simultaneously serves to challenge a person on how their life is being lived and whether or not they are willing to let God use their life for a higher purpose.
When I entered discussions at Bread for the World about our involvement in this year’s Justice Conference, I could think of no better question to ask. Our organization is one with a vision to end hunger. Through direct advocacy campaigns we urge our nation’s leaders to consider, first and foremost, those who would go hungry without help. It is a grand vision and one that fills the prophetic tradition of the Bible.
One day last year, as I was flying back from a work trip in Houston, I channeled all of these thoughts into the script for the “Are You Called?” video. It takes the language of calling as I have described it and focuses it around Bread for the World’s mission. In this manner the script seeks to root Bread for the World in both our advocacy work and our place within God’s mission while, at the same time, asking an honest and challenging question to the person watching.
Bread for the World will present “Are You Called?” at the 2013 Justice Conference on February 22 and 23 held in Philadelphia. There is still time to register. Also join us at the Justice Conference for the pre-conference workshop "Transformational Advocacy: A Faithful Witness to the Reign of God." And stop by our exhibit table and let us know if YOU are called.
Heather Rude-Turner credits the Earned Income Tax Credit with helping keep her out of poverty and get her back on her feet. Once Rude-Turner marries her fiancé Mark Diamond (pictured) and they combine their incomes, they will likely become ineligible for the EITC. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Marsha Casey
Hardship and economic struggle have taken a toll on many Americans. The high price of gas, public transportation, and food means low-income workers are often left to choose between paying their bills, spending money to get to work, or eating and providing for their families.
Federally funded safety-net programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) play a major role in preventing more Americans from falling into poverty. But even with programs like SNAP, which helps those with limited income to feed themselves and their families, putting food on the table is still a constant struggle.It's especially difficult in Mississippi, Alabama, and Delaware—the states that have the highest rates of food insecurity in the nation. A recent study on the inability of Americans to afford food showed that one in every four Mississippi residents didn't know where their next meal would come from at least once during the last 12 months.
So what do we do for those Americans who are barely “making it?" How do we help the father who makes only enough money to pay his family’s household bills or the single mother who works longs shifts but still can't feed her children? The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) are in place to help low- and moderate-income families. The EITC helps low-income working people keep more of the money they earn, while the CTC provides qualifying families with as much as $1,000 per child (for children under the age of 17) annually.
Whether the recipients save the funds for future rainy days, use the money to supplement their take-home earnings, or purchase something they’ve had to go without for an entire year, these tax credits are very beneficial. For the many people who face poverty in the United States, SNAP, EITC, and CTC were put in place to help. It is up to Congress to keep the funding for each of these key programs in place as lawmakers continue to work to balance the federal budget. And it is up to us to remind Congress that they must not balance the budget on the backs of hungry and poor people.
Marsha Casey is a media relations intern at Bread for the World. She is a student at Montgomery College Takoma Park/Silver-Spring Campus.
The 112th Congress (Jan. 3, 2011 – Jan. 3, 2013) could very well be the most unproductive in our nation's history. It was characterized by deficit reduction drama and political brinkmanship – often aimed at cutting programs vital to hungry and poor people.
In the end, persistent advocacy by Bread for the World members, our partner organizations, and other people of faith resulted in reducing our deficit by more than $2 trillion over the next ten years. The White House and the 112th Congress managed to do this without substantial cuts to programs vital to those whom Jesus called "the least of these."
A Circle of Protection Was Created in 2011 in Response to Threats to Vital Programs
It became clear toward the end of 2010 that we were in for a bruising battle during the 112th Congress. Thus, we spent most of our time in 2011 and 2012 defending programs vital to hungry and poor people from unprecedented attacks in Congress. Although our 2011 Offering of Letters focused on reforming foreign aid, we quickly expanded it to protect domestic and international programs vital to vulnerable people.
We worked with other faith organizations to create a Circle of Protection around these programs and to amplify the voice of the faith community in the deficit reduction discussions.
The extent of the attacks became evident when Congress passed a bill covering the FY 2011 budget, which cut poverty-focused development assistance programs and WIC. The budget was eventually enacted (Pub. L. 112-10, the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011) with a few hours to spare before the government would have shut down in April 2011.
Deficit reduction negotiations continued as the country moved closer to reaching our credit limit, or debt ceiling, in August. Congress eventually passed the Budget Control Act of 2011 (Pub.L. 112-25). It established a super committee to deal with further deficit reductions. Should the committee fail, across-the-board cuts would be triggered. However, the cuts, or sequester, exempted the biggest anti-poverty programs — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), tax credits for the working poor, Medicaid, and child nutrition programs.
Deficit Reduction Plans in 2012 Propose Severe Cuts to Programs that Help Poor People
The super committee failed to reach an agreement and 2012 opened with Congress vowing to work toward deficit reduction and avoid the sequester.
Our 2012 Offering of Letters focused on expanding the circle of protection around such anti-poverty programs. By then, we also learned that in order to cope with these unprecedented attacks, we had to change the way we campaigned. Instead of focusing on a single issue, we worked on four different issues under a broad campaign theme.
In March, the Republican-led House passed its FY 2013 budget. Had this passed Congress, the proposed cuts would have been so severe that most of the government—aside from health care, Social Security, and defense—would cease to exist by 2050. In fact, 62 percent of the cuts in this budget are to programs vital to poor people.
Added to the mix during deficit reduction discussions was the reauthorization of the farm bill. Both the Senate and House proposed cuts, with the House version of the bill including $16.5 billion in cuts to SNAP over ten years—$12 billion more than the cuts proposed in the Senate version. As many as 3 million people would have been cut out of SNAP and 280,000 children would have lost school meals. Both bills would have reduced agriculture and nutrition spending over the next ten years.
A Few Signs of Hope in 2012
During the presidential elections of 2012 the Circle of Protection asked the Republican and Democratic candidates to issue video statements on how they would end hunger. In the fall, both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney released statements committing to addressing hunger and poverty. We were able to use these statements to draw attention to the issues.
It is worth noting that before the year ended, outgoing House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-Calif.) introduced his rewrite of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, the Global Partnership Act. Also, the House unanimously consented to approve the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012 to improve the efficiency of U.S. foreign aid. While these bills did not pass, we remain optimistic that similar bills will pass in the 113th Congress.
Congress and the President Avoided the Most Harmful Scenario at the Fiscal Cliff
All the issues that we persistently advocated for during the 112th Congress were dramatically resolved a few hours before we reached the fiscal cliff at the end of December 2012.
President Obama signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act to prevent the most economically harmful portions of the fiscal cliff from taking effect. The deal minimizes the negative impact of the fiscal cliff on hungry and poor people and generates about $620 billion towards deficit reduction over the next ten years.
The deal prevents most Americans from seeing an immediate tax rate increase and extends emergency unemployment insurance through 2013. It also extends the current Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) benefit levels for five years.
It postpones for two months the across-the-board cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Most provisions of the 2008 farm bill were extended through Sept. 30 2013, avoiding immediate cuts to SNAP benefit levels or changes in eligibility standards.
On the international side, the temporary extension of the 2008 farm bill authorizes funding for both the McGovern-Dole International Food Program, used for school feeding programs for poor children abroad, and the Food for Peace Program, which allows the United States to respond to disaster with needed food aid.
Ultimately, the American Taxpayer Relief Act raises revenues, helps reduce the deficit, and supports initiatives that lift people out of poverty.
Thank You for Your Advocacy and Prayers
Despite many challenges, 2012 ended on a positive note for us, with many important anti-poverty programs being protected from harmful and disproportionate cuts. Medicaid, SNAP, and WIC were not cut. Many tax credits that help people lift themselves out of poverty were extended. Most critically, the worst effects of the fiscal cliff were avoided.
And for all of this, we are thankful to you, our members, our activists, our donors, and our partners. As the 113th Congress begins its work we pray that it will be more productive than the 112th Congress in protecting programs vital to hungry and poor people, wherever they may be.
This article originally appeared in the Jan./Feb. edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.