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345 posts categorized "Poverty"
By Dan Such
On Thursday, Dec. 6, members of the Peace and Justice Committee from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Oklahoma City met with Craig Smith, a field representative for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss federal programs that protect poor and hungry people. The discussion, which lasted an hour, was honest and direct and covered the many programs currently in place. Mr. Smith informed us that if no agreement is reached on the so-called fiscal cliff, the SNAP program will experience no cuts. Still, plenty of other important programs would be hit. "Going off" the cliff would result in significant cuts to a section of the budget called discretionary spending that houses programs such as WIC and poverty-focused development aid.
SNAP is an important program to Oklahomans, with 272,189 households receiving this benefit in the year 2011 alone. WIC is also vital, as a preliminary report from the USDA shows that 123,095 women and young children utilized this program in Oklahoma in 2012. If either of these programs experience cuts then the impact on poor and hungry people in Oklahoma would be significant. We must continue to urge our members of Congress to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff that includes a circle of protection around programs that protect poor and hungry people.
During the meeting, our committee told Mr. Smith that hunger and poverty should not be political issues. Our Peace and Justice Committee includes both Republicans and Democrats, and everyone realizes that any division on this subject will only prove to harm those in the most vulnerable positions. This is unacceptable, especially at a time of such great need.
We have seen need increasing in our own congregation. Father Tim Luschen, of St. Charles, brought to Mr. Smith’s attention that our church’s food bank has grown from 327 users to over 900 in just over two years. And the free clinic that St. Charles runs has doubled in usage during the same time frame.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Smith promised to keep in touch, via email, regarding pending legislation or proposed bills concerning these issues so important to all of us. We are grateful for his time and continue to urge Sen. Coburn to help establish a circle of protection around vital programs such as WIC and SNAP that serve hungry Oklahomans.
Dan Such is a member of Bread for the World and the Peace and Justice Committee at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Action: Call your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today. Use our toll-free number (1-800-826-3688) and tell them to pass a deal that includes a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.
For more information on how the various budget proposals to address the fiscal cliff would affect poor and hungry people, see Bread for the World's fiscal cliff fact sheet.
In recent days, some news media outlets and hosts have spoken out against Newark, N.J., Mayor Corey Booker’s participation in a food stamp challenge. These remarks have served to mislead some about the vital Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps).
Food stamp challenges are not publicity stunts. Many have used these challenges to experience what it’s like to eat on a food budget of about $4 per day—an average daily SNAP allowance. Booker’s challenge comes at a critical time for SNAP funding, as national leaders push to reduce spending on the program during year-end negotiations over broader spending cuts and the federal farm bill, which includes SNAP spending.
Here are some facts you should know about SNAP:
- SNAP has served more than 47 million Americans in 2012 (as of August). Enrollment in the program has almost doubled over the past five years as more people struggle to make ends meet.
- SNAP participation closely follows poverty and unemployment rates and has responded quickly and effectively to increased need due to the poor economy. While poverty and unemployment rates rose during the last three consecutive years, the number of families struggling to put food on their tables did not increase, mostly because of SNAP.
- The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $731 and assets of $333. Eighty-five percent of SNAP households have incomes below the federal poverty line of $22,050 for a family of four.
- SNAP participants are on the program an average of nine months. In a family budget, food is the most easily squeezed line item—SNAP helps fill the food budget gap for households struggling with unemployment or underemployment.
- SNAP currently has the lowest fraud and error rates on record.
For more facts about the program, read the Bread for the World publication "Get the Facts About SNAP."
At Bread, we are thankful for the many ways in which our country comes together on Thanksgiving. Charitable giving, food drives, holiday meals at soup kitchens, and the like allow the vast majority of Americans to participate in this celebration of harvest and thanksgiving.
Tomorrow, many families will also put food on their tables with the help of federal programs, such as SNAP (Supplemental Poverty Nutrition Assistance, formerly known as food stamps). When the holiday season ends, and charitable giving decreases as we return to the busyness of our lives, those programs will continue to provide vital assistance to those in need.
And, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), released earlier this month, these programs are more crucial than ever.
The SPM is an attempt by the Census Bureau to measure poverty in a way that accounts for the ways in which our lives have changed over the last several decades. The “official” poverty measure was developed in the early 1960s, and though this measure is adjusted annually for inflation, it has more or less remained the same since it was created.
The SPM takes into account the following considerations that the Official Poverty Measure does not include:
- Government policies that alter the resources available to families—payroll taxes which reduce net income but also income-supports which ameliorate the impacts of poverty, such as tax credits and SNAP benefits (food stamps).
- Expenses that are necessary in holding a job, such as transportation and childcare
- Medical costs
- Variations in household units and support, such as child support payments, co-habitation, and multiple family households
- Geographic differences in the cost-of-living across the country
Here’s how the numbers from the SPM stack up against the official poverty measure:
According to the SPM, 16.1 percent of the U.S. population (49.7 million people) lived in poverty in 2011; data from the official poverty measure were 15.1 percent of the population (46.6 million people). In other words, 3.1 million more people lived in poverty, according to the SPM than the older official poverty measure.
- Fewer children lived in poverty in 2011, according to the SPM, as compared to official poverty data: 18.1 percent of children (13.4 million total) under 18, as measured by the SPM; 22.3 percent (16.5 million total children) by the official measure.
- Slightly more adults (ages 18-64) lived in poverty in 2011, according to the SPM: 15.5 percent (30.0 million total) by the SPM; 13.7 percent (26.5 million total) by the official measure.
- More older Americans lived in poverty in 2011, according to the SPM: 15.1 percent of adults 65 and above (6.2 million total) by the SPM; 8.7 percent (3.6 million total) for the official measure.
The SPM also helps measure the efficacy of anti-poverty programs. Among the findings:
- Without refundable tax credits, such as the earned income tax credit, child poverty would rise from 18.1 percent to 24.4 percent
- Without SNAP, the overall poverty rate would increase from 16.1 percent to 17.6 percent.
During the holidays, our country does an admirable job of remembering those in need, but direct assistance alone can't lift families out of poverty. As the SPM data shows, anti-poverty programs help the millions of families and children who are at risk of hunger—not only during the holiday season, but year-round.
Kyle Dechant is a fellow in Bread for the World's government relations department.
The 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals has arrived.
This year's report focuses on meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets and setting the next round of global development goals once the MDGs expire at the end of 2015. The 2000s were a decade of extraordinary progress against poverty and hunger, but with just three years left before the deadline of the MDGs, a final push and a strong finish will be critical to build momentum for what comes next.
The report (hard copies of which are now available for sale in the Bread store) is accompanied by the launch of an interactive website. Below is a list of just a few of the web features to explore:
"Tohomina: Fighting Malnutrition in Bangladesh" tells the story of Tohomina Akter of Barisal, Bangladesh, who is working to keep her 17-month-old daughter, Adia, healthy and nourished so that she can become a doctor one day. Child malnutrition that results in stunting is one of many issues targeted by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Read guest pieces on from a wide range of topic experts, including U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General José Graziano da Silva and Michal Challenge International Director Joel Edwards.
The Report in Photos
See the 2013 Hunger Report through a series of photographs highlighting key issues.
World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and rock star/activist Bono will discuss what it takes to end global poverty in a conversation today at 3 p.m. ET.
Their hour-long talk, which builds on the World Bank's "What Will It Take?" social media campaign, will be streaming live (see below). You can also follow the discussion on Twitter, using the #ittakes hashtag.
Political commentator Melissa Harris-Perry has just launched a new poverty-focused segment on her eponymous MSNBC show. "Below the Line," Harris-Perry announced, will focus on "regular stories of people living below the line, the policies and decisions that create the poverty in which they live, what they are doing to survive in tough circumstances, and what we can do as a nation to affect poverty."
"Below the Line" will also look closely at what the Obama administration is doing to help the 46 million Americans living below the poverty line. "Let me be crystal clear--those aren't numbers, those are people," Harris-Perry said.
The segment is a small, but significant move toward increased coverage of poverty by mainstream media outlets. Back in September, Extra!, the magazine of the non-profit group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, ran an article titled "Media Not Concerned About the Very Poor." The piece cited a FAIR study that found that only 0.2 percent of stories about the presidential campaign "addressed poverty in a substantive way."
Hopefully by the time the next presidential election rolls around in 2016, that statistic will have drastically improved.
By Christine Melendez Ashley and Faustine Wabwire
Bread for the World’s efforts to create a circle of protection and push Congress to
reduce our deficits in a responsible manner are critical to ensuring
vulnerable people affected by natural disasters at home and abroad have
the support they need. These programs continue to be at risk as Congress
works to craft a farm bill and a deficit reduction package.
In the past year, Bread has worked to protect and strengthen domestic nutrition programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and child nutrition programs. These programs have provided quick and substantial help to New York, New Jersey, and other affected states in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. For example:
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rushed emergency food to affected areas for distribution through food banks and emergency food channels.
- USDA has authorized 13 affected states to issue replacement SNAP benefits for food purchased and lost in the month of October. They also authorized an extra two weeks of benefits for everyone on SNAP in and around New York City—a benefit totaling $65 million.
- Some of the worst affected states have also been authorized to allow SNAP recipients to purchase hot, ready-to-eat foods. This is not allowed under normal SNAP rules.
- USDA approved free school lunches for all children in New York public school districts for the month of November.
Bread has also been a strong advocate for effective foreign assistance programs and international food aid. In the last several years, Bread has pushed for robust funding of these programs. Hurricane relief efforts abroad are being carried out through foreign assistance programs at USAID. For example:
- USAID has provided 50 metric tons of food aid to Haiti to help address food insecurity concerns.
- USAID has distributed plastic sheeting to help approximately 10,000 people, family hygiene kits have helped nearly 12,500 people, and an estimated 6,400 blankets.
- USAID has also provided items such as wheelbarrows and tools helpful for clean-up to displacement camps most affected by Hurricane Sandy.
In the last two years, Congress has introduced proposals to decimate these programs. Despite these threats, Bread has pushed back and prevented these proposals from becoming law, thus enabling these programs to respond quickly and effectively to dramatic need. As Congress works to avoid the “fiscal cliff” and negotiate a budget deal, we must continue to push for a circle of protection around programs that effectively serve the most vulnerable in the United States and around the world.
Christine Melendez Ashley is a policy analyst in Bread for the World's government relations department.
Faustine Wabwire is Bread for the World Institute's foreign assistance policy analyst.
This Sunday, Nov. 11 is Veterans Day. The holiday is an opportunity to recognize armed service veterans, and the day is also a reminder that many vets live in poverty.
Today in the Los Angeles Times, reporter Alexandra Zavis writes about L.A. County's growing population of veterans living below the poverty line, and how service agencies are working to assist them. Zavis cites an Economic Roundtable study that found that the "number of post-9/11 veterans living below the federal poverty line in L.A. County increased sharply during the recession, from about 4% in 2008 to nearly 12% in 2010." And that's just in Los Angeles.
In March, the Center for American Progress' "Veteran Poverty by the Numbers" report found that, nationwide, veterans are disproportionately homeless, have trouble finding work, and are reliant on social safety net programs to keep them from falling deeper into poverty.
The piece called for protection of "the safety net from cuts to programs such as veteran housing and employment services, SNAP/food stamps, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. These programs and other services help struggling veterans and nonveterans alike get back on their feet."
In June, the Huffington Post ran a piece examining the increasing number of enlisted military members and veterans relying on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) dollars, and what cuts to that program would mean for military families. HuffPo's analysis of data provided by the Defense Commissary Agency concluded that military commissary customers redeemed $101 million worth of food stamps between June 2011 and June 2012.
The Odyssey Networks' powerful "Faces of Poverty" series has also addressed the issue of veteran hunger and poverty. The above video tells the story of an Iraq war vet who faces unemployment after returning to his hometown of Reading, Pa., and applies for food stamps in order to feed his family. "I started crying, because I've never been in that situation," he says of applying for benefits for the first time. "It's tough, coming from where we were at."
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) listens as Bread for the World activist Jana Prescott speaks during Bread for the World Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Zach Schmidt
On Halloween, dozens of men and women in the Cornhusker State wore powerful costumes. While indistinguishable from ordinary citizens on the outside, on the inside their hearts beat for hungry and poor people. They were wearing costumes that don’t come off—their advocate costumes.
This group of advocates seeks justice to pour down like a waterfall. They join their voices in calling for protection for their most vulnerable neighbors—those in their communities, their country, and their world. On Oct. 31 they joined their voices in calling the congressional office of Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.).
Through the work of a handful of leaders, more Bread for the World phone calls were made to Sen. Johanns on Oct. 31 than on any other previous call-in day! We set a sizeable goal of 50 calls, but exceeded expectations! A total of 67 phone calls were placed asking Sen. Johanns to protect domestic and international food security programs, including SNAP and WIC in the United States, and development assistance and food aid abroad.
Sen. Johanns is a member of the “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of senators working on a framework to address the federal budget deficit and avert the “fiscal cliff.” The term fiscal cliff is being used to describe the combination of $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts and the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, beginning in January.
Everything is on the table for this group of senators, and they’re working hard to come to agreement. They want to be able to unveil a proposal very soon, which is why we took action when we did. We made dozens of phone calls to the senator’s Washington office telling him that Congress cannot balance the budget on the backs of poor and hungry people.
The feedback that organizers heard from callers was that the senator’s staffers were friendly and receptive to listening to them and noting their concerns. For this, we'd like to thank the senator and his staff. And most of all, we'd like to thank those who made phone calls to protect hungry and poor people—especially those who not only made calls themselves, but got others to do so, too!
Zach Schmidt is a Bread for the World regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.
By David Beckmann
The 2012 elections are over. Whether your candidates won or lost, we are very thankful to you for raising hunger and poverty as campaign issues.
More than 120,000 of you viewed two video statements in which the presidential candidates explained what they would do to give opportunity to hungry and poor people. With your help, we raised the issues of hunger and poverty, at home and abroad, in the elections.
Now, please join us in asking President Obama to set a goal and work with Congress to enact a plan to end hunger.
The next few months are crucial. The president and Congress must address issues such as the farm bill, expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, and the 2013 federal budget. They also must agree on a balanced approach to deficit reduction.
In the coming weeks we will have several key opportunities to remind our members of Congress not to balance the federal budget on the backs of hungry and poor people, and to instead create a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people.
Please join us in praying for President Obama and members of Congress.
David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.
Take action! Watch President Obama's video statement and send him a letter asking that he set a goal and work with Congress to enact a plan to end hunger.
You can also contact the president on Twitter, using the sample tweets below:
Don’t forget your promise to do your part to protect vital assistance for the least of these @BarackObama http://ow.ly/f5Scz #talkpoverty