410 posts categorized "Poverty"
View the full "Raise the Minimum Wage" infographic from the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America.
Update, 12:40 p.m. The Senate bill to raise the federal minimum wage failed on a 54-42 vote; 60 votes were needed to move forward with the legislation. The bill will likely come up again for a vote, so continue to contact your members of Congress and tell them to pass the bill.
Ending hunger in America is possible, but jobs—and jobs that pay a decent wage—are key to making it happen. “The most important antipoverty policy is maintaining high rates of employment,” writes Todd Post, senior editor of Bread for the World Institute’s annual Hunger Report, in the briefing paper, Ending Hunger in America. “In addition, low-wage jobs have to pay enough so that no full-time worker is living in poverty with his/her family.”
As early as today, the Senate is expected to vote on Senate bill 1737, which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, index it for inflation, and raise the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the general minimum wage. Passing the bill will be no easy task. It will require a sustained and loud effort by faithful advocates, who must use every opportunity to let Congress know that workers deserve a fair deal.
Several states have passed minimum wage increases, with some getting closer to the $10.10 mark. Bread for the World recommends a $12 minimum wage in the 2014 Hunger Report. That is the amount it would take for a single breadwinner in a family of four, working full-time, year-round, to pull his or her family just over the federal poverty line.
Earlier this year, President Obama raised the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for federal contractors by executive order, which is a good first step. In a press release, Bread for the World President David Beckmann praised the action, and added, “Now is the time for Congress to do its part.”
Income inequality in 21st century America is one of the great scourges of our time. Productivity has steadily risen since the 1950s, but the real value of the minimum wage has declined, leaving working families that depend on the minimum wage struggling to put food on their tables. In a report released earlier this year, the Congressional Budget Office said that wage increases would have an overall positive affect on the economy. Raising the wage is not just smart economically, but is morally necessary when a few have more than enough and too many struggle to make ends meet.
“Too many workers in this country face hard times as a result of insufficient wages,” said Beckmann. “There is no reason that full-time workers should struggle to provide for their families.”
Take Action: Call your Senators with this toll-free number (1-800-826-3688) and let them know you support a minimum wage increase. Tell them to pass S. 1737 today because it is time to give American workers a fair deal.
Photo: Nate, a returning citizen in Ohio, who has been able to overcome the employment barrier, and now works to feed his family. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)
Today, Bread for the World President David Beckmann sent the following letter to U.S. senators, asking them to support the Smart Sentencing Act, which would alleviate costly prison overcrowding, reduce excessive sentences for low-level drug offenses, and those resentence cases subjected to mandatory minimum sentencing.
As stated in the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, we cannot end hunger without confronting knottier social issues—and hunger and poverty often result from social exclusion and discrimination. Men and women who have spent time in prison often face difficulty finding jobs and feeding their families—and they are less likely to have access to social safety net programs. For example, most states restrict or ban certain returning citizens from using food stamps (SNAP).
Read the full text of the letter below.
April 24, 2014
I urge you to support S. 1410, the Smarter Sentencing Act (SSA), sponsored by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL). This bipartisan legislation, which will soon see a vote in the Senate, alleviates the costly overcrowding crisis in our prisons. It would reduce excessive sentences for low-level drug offenses and authorize judicial review for possible resentencing of cases sentenced under the old 100 to 1 crack cocaine sentencing disparity. Bread for the World calls on you to vote in favor of the bill and asks you to consider co-sponsoring the SSA. Additionally, we hope you will oppose any additional amendments that harm the bill’s integrity, such ascreating mandatory sentences for other offenses.
As a Christian anti-hunger advocacy organization, we view federal policy through the lens of its impact on hunger and poverty. Hunger is often a byproduct of social exclusion and discrimination. People who have spent time in prison are more likely to face barriers to work and thus less likely to have the resources to put food on the table. The toll on families and their economic security is significant. Furthermore, outdated, overly punitive, and unnecessarily restrictive drug sentencing disproportionately and unfairly incarcerates people of color for low-level and nonviolent offenses.
Passage of the Smarter Sentencing Act would help restore fairness in our justice system. Since 1980, the federal prison population has increased by an astounding 800 percent even though crime rates are lower. Half of the people in prison are there for a drug offense. Fewer people incarcerated for nonviolent, low-level drug cases would have a marked improvement on hunger in America.
I urge you to support S. 1410, the Smarter Sentencing Act, protect it from additional harmful amendments, and consider co-sponsoring the legislation.
A woman serves dinner at a soup kitchen. (Screen shot from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media)
“I just want my kids to be fed," Jaime Grimes of Lincoln, Neb., recently told NBC News. The former teacher and mother of four visits food pantries, grows food in a community garden, and receives food stamps (SNAP); her children participate in a variety of nutrition programs, from school lunches to a backpack program that sends them home with food once a week. Still, it's not enough.
Although the effects of the Great Recession are fading for some, many families are still struggling to put food on the table. Feeding America's 2014 Map the Meal Gap report, released earlier this week, shows that food insecurity continues to touch every county in the nation, and that children are at especially great risk of experiencing hunger.
According to the report, even in the most food-secure state—which is Nebraska, where Grimes and her children live—more than 1 in 10 children struggles with hunger.
“We haven’t really seen increases in food insecurity [since the recession], which is a good thing. The downside of that is there are still way too many food insecure people," said Bread for the World policy analyst Christine Melendez Ashley, in the same NBC News piece.
The Map the Meal Gap report does note that federal nutrition programs and the emergency food system "weave a comprehensive nutrition safety net, reaching food-insecure individuals at different levels of poverty," Still, there is a need to "strengthen anti-hunger programs and policies to ensure food-insecure individuals are eligible and have access to adequate levels of assistance."
Some key finding from Map the Meal Gap include:
- 324 counties in the United States are high food-insecurity counties; minorities are disproportionately affected
- In every state, children are at a higher risk of food insecurity compared to the overall population.
- Of the counties with food insecurity rates in the highest 10 percent, 51.5 percent were rural, even though rural counties represent only 42.5 percent of all counties in the United States.
What does hunger look like in your community? How many people live below the SNAP threshold? What is the average cost of a meal? Whether you live in Nebraska, with its low rate of food insecurity, or Mississippi—the state with the highest number of people struggling with hunger—viewing the map reminds us of the need to advocate to strengthen our country's safety net and ensure that all are fed.
By Alyssa Casey
Since the crisis in Syria began more than three years ago, nearly 9.5 million people—almost half of Syria's population—have fled their homes. More than 2.5 million Syrian refugees have relocated to neighboring countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. Their needs—for shelter, food, medical care, education, and employment opportunities—are great. At this critical time, what Syrians do not need is reduced support and assistance from the international community, including the United States. Unfortunately, under the budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), this would likely be the case.
Ryan’s fiscal year 2015 budget resolution, released this week, proposes deep cuts to programs that provide relief to those affected by conflict in Syria, and other parts of the world. Ryan’s proposal cuts the International Affairs budget by a devastating 11 percent. As the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition points out, this funding level would mean a 24 percent decrease in the total International Affairs budget since 2010.
We all acknowledge the current tough fiscal environment, but we cannot let the poor and hungry bear the largest burden during these difficult times, as they so often do. As Bread for the World has previously noted, sequestration has already cut funding for life-saving international efforts, such as child and maternal health and international food aid. Now is not the time for additional cuts.
The International Affairs budget funds poverty-focused development assistance programs that provide emergency relief to those affected by conflict and disasters, saving countless lives. Last month, the World Food Program reported that food aid is now reaching previously inaccessible areas of Syria, providing much-needed relief to tens of thousands. The U.S. Agency for International Development helps fund critical programs that provide immediate needs such as food, water, shelter, and vaccinations to Syrian refugees. This funding also achieves longer-term goals such as education, psychological care, and job training to help refugees rebuild their lives.
Unfortunately, Syria is not unique. Crisis and conflict continue to fan the flames of hunger and poverty in South Sudan, Ukraine, Venezuela, and other countries across the globe. Fortunately, we can help. As a nation, we must continue to offer life-saving assistance, and as individuals, we must continue to urge our members of Congress to support robust funding levels for international humanitarian and poverty-focused development accounts.
At a time when U.S. foreign assistance is saving lives every day, we cannot risk the progress that has been made by abandoning the funding that makes it possible. Rep. Ryan’s budget resolution is not the solution.
Alyssa Casey is a government relations intern at Bread for the World.
By Billy Kangas
For President Obama, leader of the one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic Church, to come together to discuss the need to address poverty and income inequality is historic. But what exactly does last Thursday’s meeting at the Vatican mean for hungry and poor people? Will it help shift Obama’s narrative on income equality from a focus on the struggling middle class to one on the hungry and impoverished in the United States and around the world? Does the fact that the two men were able to set aside any differences in opinion and find common ground in a desire to help the poor hint at a larger sea change?
The meeting raises many questions, but it also underscores the pope’s enormous potential to impact global politics, global leadership, and global priorities—including hunger and poverty. Exactly what does the so-called "Francis factor" contribute? Here are some observations to put Francis in perspective, and give some context to the life and ministry of this cleric, who is changing the world through small acts done with great love.
He's a leader from the developing world
This point is so key to understanding Francis. His voice has continually reminded me to look beyond my own cultural concerns and obsessions to see who the truly marginalized in this world are. As much as disparity and inequality remain significant and heart-wrenching issues in the United States, the inequality that ravages so many U.S. communities is often more acutely felt in the communities of the developing world. It is from these places that Francis emerged; it is in these places that he has spent his life of ministry. He reminds us to take our gaze away from our navels and to look into the pleading eyes of those who suffer under our indifference.
He brings a different narrative
Our political system often only gives us two stories to choose from: the narrative from the left, and the narrative from the right. The stories from these two sides can become all-consuming, blotting out all else and creating an environment in which one is judged solely on where they fall on the continuum of conservative to liberal. Francis emerges with a different kind of story—it is not one driven by politics, wealth, or power, but humility, grace, joy, and sacrifice. It cuts us to the heart, and brings a challenge. His message is simple: God's glory; neighbor's good. There is little room for self-aggrandizement in that equation, and I have been convicted time and time again of my own sin and of my need for the transforming Grace of God in my life.
He has a different kind of power
Francis wields a significant amount of power, but it is not the kind of power that we have grown accustomed to in our contemporary world. He does not have the power of the nation-state, he does not have the power of a global corporation, he does not even have the power of a radical revolutionary. His power lies in his ability to remind millions that their allegiance is to the God who demonstrates love in Christ laying down his life. Francis has been a great communicator of that message. He has been an example of what Christ looks like, and that is a power we have rarely had to contend with in this modern age.
He is bringing to bear a tradition
Another reason the “Francis factor” must be taken seriously is that he is more than just a prophet, he is a pope. As a pope, he brings with him a tradition that is deep and rich and beautiful. He does not bring ideas that are his alone, which will flash in the pan of world history and be forgotten, but represents a movement grounded in 2000 years of theology, philosophy, and social teaching, from which countless others have given their lives to demonstrate the radical love of God in Christ. Francis will not be pope forever, but we can be sure he will not be the last to bear this radical call. The message Francis preaches is not his own, and it will continue long after he has gone. It is the message that continues to sustain us.
It remains to be seen exactly how the “Francis factor” might influence the agenda of Obama—and vice versa. But hopefully, at the very least, last week’s meeting signaled to the world the importance of coming together to address issues of hunger and poverty in our world.
Living out the mandate to work for God’s glory and neighbor’s good includes ensuring that all are fed. Bread for the World’s 2014 Offering of Letters, “Reforming U.S. Food Aid,” seeks smart forms to U.S. food aid programs—changes that would help feed millions more each year, at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. Visit http://www.bread.org/ol to learn more.
Billy Kangas is Bread for the World's Catholic Relations fellow.
“I fall, I stand still… I trudge on. I gain a little… I get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon. Every struggle is a victory.” – Helen Keller
Today is March 31, the official end to National Women’s History Month. Like so many other months that have been assigned an issue of national or international importance, this month was dedicated in the late 1970s, around International Women’s Day, for the purpose of celebrating the achievements and contributions women have made to society, science, government, and our world at large.
The trouble with these months is that, well, they end. Once they’re over, we’re on to the next month or issue, and have forgotten all of the great things we learned, celebrated, and promised to do in the month prior.
At Bread for the World, we like to look at these important months as a time not only to celebrate, but to reflect on what has been done among specific communities of people to end hunger, and what more there is to accomplish. While these designated months (African-American History Month, Older Americans Month, Hispanic Heritage Month) serve as official rallying cries, we must pursue relevant issues and challenges throughout the year if we are to effect lasting change.
While Women’s History Month ends today, poverty, malnutrition, and hunger among women and children around the world continues. There’s still work to do.
With this in mind, Bread for the World has just completed two new “Hunger by the Numbers’ analyses on women and children.
The international analysis takes a look at the important role women play in development and ending hunger worldwide, particularly with regards to nutrition in the first 1,000 days from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday. The domestic analysis highlights some key issues brought to light in the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. From wages to childcare, this document evaluates some of the main factors that contribute to the hardships of workers in the United States.
We hope these analyses will not only provide valuable information, but that they will encourage us to keep working to end hunger among women and children all year long.
Kristen Youngblood Archer is Bread for the World's media relations manager.
Photo: A mother and daughter in Nicaragua shell peas from their garden. (Margaret W. Nea)
Ananya Roy is professor of City and Regional Planning and distinguished chair in Global Poverty and Practice at the University of California, Berkeley. And she lives in public housing.
In the video "Who is Dependent on Welfare?" Roy explains that her work affords her a comfortable home in the California hills, with a view of Golden Gate Bridge—but she still calls it public housing.
"The public housing I live in is not the American stereotype...but my home is public housing, because the tax deduction I enjoy on my mortgage is a more substantial handout than any money spent by the U.S. government," she says.
Roy has heard her students speak against government help for the poor and talk of so-called welfare "dependency," so she challenges them to examine the subsidies that they themselves—and many middle-class and wealthy citizens of this country—receive.
"In 1999, the U.S. government spent $24 billion on public housing and rental subsidies for the poor," Roy says in the video. "That same year, it spent $72 billion on homeownership subsidies for the middle class and the wealthy--subsidies that are never considered to be welfare, and there is no stigma attached to this dependency. In fact, it is seen as an entitlement."
"My students enjoy a host of hidden government subsidies that buttress opportunity and mobility, but they do not think that such subsidies should be available to the poor," she says.
It's just one of the compelling points in this video from the #GlobalPOV project at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at U.C. Berkeley. The goal of the project is to prompt people to examine their thinking about poverty, both in the United States and around the world.
The video also details how the global south is leading the world in addressing income equality and rewriting the social contract that governments have with those living below the poverty line by doing things such as legislating a livable minimum wage. It also digs into the myth of the "welfare queen," and shows how large corporations that pay their workers sub-standard wages are more dependent on federal aid than poor individuals could ever be. For those who don't quite buy the analysis of the video, the producers offer a list of their source materials, and encourage viewers to do their own learning and digging on the topics they present. And to learn more about how wages are essential to combatting poverty, read the 2014 Hunger Report, “Ending Hunger in America.”
What do WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, choreographer and MacArthur genius grant recipient Kyle Abraham, and Olympic speed skater Emily Scott have in common? These recent newsmakers are all at the top of their respective fields, and they are all former recipients of food stamps.
The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) is one of our nation's most effective anti-hunger programs. It feeds people and also helps them escape poverty and realize their dreams. From musician Moby to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), many prominent Americans have benefitted from this vital form of assistance.
Koum made headlines last week not only for selling his company to Facebook for $19 billion, but for signing the paperwork for the deal on the door of his old social services office. The tech whiz's journey, from barely making it to becoming a billionaire through hard work and ingenuity, is the sort of feel-good narrative that everyone loves. But not everyone will acknoweldge that the federal safety net is an important part of that story—many are under the false impression that the program is growing too large, or wrongly believe that it fosters lifelong dependency.
Not everyone who is on food stamps will become a billionaire, but SNAP and other safety net programs produce success stories every day. Barbie Izquierdo is a former SNAP receipient and anti-hunger advocate who appeared in the documentary A Place at the Table, and is using her platform to spread the word about hunger in America. Dawn Phipps is a registered nurse who once received SNAP benefits for herself and her children; not only does she spend her working hours caring for others, much of her free time is devoted to volunteering at her local food bank and advocating with Bread for the World, to make sure others continue to have access to the assistance she once relied on for help.
Both Barbie and Dawn are featured on Faces and Facts, a new website from Bread for the World and our Circle of Protection partners. The site compiles stories of people whose lives have been changed by safety net programs, as well as those who have been negatively affected by recent budget cuts to some of those same programs.
Each story reminds us that behind every fact or statistic about hunger is a person, and that it doesn't make sense for Congress to balance our nation's budget by making cuts to programs that help struggling families. Every dollar cut from a safety net program means one less dollar being used to help someone grow, thrive, or maybe even come up with the next big idea that will change our world.
Photo: Alex Morris, who is featured on the Faces and Facts site, feeds her son, André, in their Bend, Ore., home. (Brad Horn)
More than 30 years ago, Bread for the World president David Beckmann lived and worked in Bangladesh, and saw extreme poverty while in the country. A few years ago, he and his wife went back for a visit, traveling to the northwest region where they once lived, and saw something amazing.
"What was best about this experience was that although people are still extremely poor, they are dramatically less poor than they were 30 years ago," Beckmann said during a talk at the Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale University on Feb. 9. "The changes have been spectacular."
Beckmann spoke about improvements to infrastructure, such as new roads and buildings, as well as how people's lives have changed—he saw children that looked better nourished, and met women who were taking advantage of new literacy education and microcredit programs. And these changes aren't unique to the country he once called home. "This same thing has happened in hundreds of thousands of communities in the world," he said. "The World Bank judges that the number of people in the world in extreme poverty has been cut in half in the last 30 years."
At the Saint More Catholic Chapel and Center to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of its soup kitchen, Beckmann spread the message that the dramatic progress that has been made in alleviating extreme hunger and poverty is evidence that ending hunger is within reach.
"Those of us who believe in God and can read about and understand this huge change in the world, I think we have to understand this as our loving God moving history," he said. "I've come to see this as a great exodus in our own time; this is God answering prayers on a huge scale. And I think our loving God is asking us to get with the program. Because in our time, it is clearly possible to make much, much more progress—probably to virtually end extreme poverty and hunger within a couple decades."
Beckmann also talked about what it will take to accomplish this—namely, building the political will to move our leaders and "change big systems in ways that will move us toward the end of hunger in our country and around the world."
By connecting with members of Congress—through letter writing and participating in Offerings of Letters, in-person visits, and writing letters to the editor, people learn “that we have power, we can change things," Beckmann said. "Learn how you can be an active citizen and make the world more like how you think God wants it to be."
Watch the full video of the tlak above, and then learn more about conducting an Offering of Letters, and what you can do to help move history.
We know the hard facts about minimum wage: the federal rate is just $7.25 per hour, or about $14,500 in yearly income. But exactly how far does that amount stretch?
The New York Times has put together a "Can You Survive on the Minimum Wage?" calculator to help give a sense of just how difficult it is to get by when earning the lowest legal pay. It offers a look at the disheartening financial calculations that low-wage workers are forced to perform each day. Punch in how much you spend on food, transportation, rent, and utilities each month, and it quickly becomes apparent why minimum-wage workers often have to take on two jobs, acquire crushing debt, or do without many of life's essentials in order to survive.
Maintaining a household while earning the minimum wage is so difficult, if not impossible, that some low-wage employers have taken to advising their workers to take second jobs or find impossibly cheap housing in order to make ends meet.
But the answer is not to tell low-wage earners to work more or spend less, it's to offer them a fair deal by raising the minimum wage. That's one of the key recommendations of the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. This year's Hunger Report points out that 28 percent of U.S. workers earn poverty-level wages, and Congress has raised the minimum wage only three times in the past 30 years.
President Obama said in his State of the Union address last month that he intended to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10. Today, he made good on that promise by signing an executive order that will do so, effective Jan. 1, 2015. Federal contract workers earning the minimum wage make up a small portion of this country's low-wage earners, but the order is an important first step toward ensuring that all Americans can earn a livable wage and care for themselves and their families.
Income from work is the primary buffer against hunger for the vast majority of American families—it's time to raise the minimum wage and make sure that every full-time worker earns enough to keep a family out of poverty.
Get updates on issues and actions to take on behalf of hungry people.