Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

237 posts categorized "SNAP"

Do You Share My Vision?

OL2015-Blog

By Rev. David Beckmann

Imagine a future in which children no longer go to bed hungry. I know it's possible. The progress we've made in alleviating hunger and poverty over Bread's 40 years - combined with my faith in Jesus Christ - convince me of this every day.

16348205135_584c230bcf_kIn the 1960s, severe malnutrition and starvation were serious problems in our country. Today, thanks to programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), nutrition assistance for pregnant women, infants, and young children, and the school lunch program, these problems have decreased dramatically. In the next 15 years, we could end these problems for good.

This year, Congress has some big decisions to make on our child nutrition programs, which are up for reauthorization. Additionally, members of Congress are threatening major cuts to SNAP, and nearly half of SNAP recipients are children. Negotiations in Congress have already begun. Will you take two minutes to email or call (800/826-3688) your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators? Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs.

Ending hunger starts with our children. It starts now. It starts with you. You can help end hunger by 2030 with an action as simple as an email or phone call. We need you to do your part. And we need Congress to do its part. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

 

Food Stamp Hearings Begin in House Agriculture Committee

OL2015-Blog

By Robin Stephenson

When U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas, 11) was appointed to the chairmanship of the House Committee on Agriculture last November, he announced he was forming a new subcommittee that would conduct a full-scale review of SNAP (formerly food stamps). The hearings began Wednesday and are expected to continue with no end in sight.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 11.36.30 AM“Today’s hearing marks the beginning of a top-to-bottom review of the program,” began Conaway’s opening statement. “We will conduct this review without preconceived notions and with a commitment to strengthening the program so it can serve as a tool to help individuals move up the economic ladder.“

Policy change that fosters economic mobility is good news. However, many anti-hunger advocates worry the hearings are a veiled attempt to dismantle SNAP, potentially leading to harmful programmatic changes, such as block granting or cutting benefits.

Bread for the World’s policy expert on nutrition, Christine Melendez Ashley, said she is happy to hear Congress is talking about hunger. “Faithful advocates who care about ending hunger need to be paying attention to these hearings,” she said. “The result of such talks must be to help end hunger and not exacerbate it.”

But there is reason to worry given the proposals that were part of last year’s farm bill negotiations. That bill was finally passed last February after three years of bitter debate. To the disappointment of Bread members, it included a devastating $8.6 billion cut to the SNAP program. Thanks to your letters, phone calls, and meetings with members of Congress, the proposed $40 billion in cuts and harmful programmatic changes were not enacted.

Those 2014 farm bill cuts came on the heels of another benefit reduction months earlier. Congress passed the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act with provisions that increased funding for school lunch programs and improved child nutrition programs – but they paid for the improvements by cutting SNAP benefits. In essence, funding for food at the dinner table was siphoned to fund the food at the lunch table. We need to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The child nutrition bill is up for reauthorization again this year and the focus of Bread’s 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children.

During yesterday’s inaugural hearing, the connection between child hunger and SNAP came up in several comments. U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga., 13)  noted that 45.3 percent of all of those who are on SNAP are children – 1 in out 5 live in households that are food insecure.

SNAP, which provides a modest $1.40 per person per meal for those who qualify, is a critical part of our nation’s safety net. During the Great Recession, millions of families who experienced hardship depended on the program. As the economy recovers, SNAP caseloads are dropping – participation rates have dropped by 1.5 million over the last 18 months.

Hearings like these matter because they help us understand what Congress is prioritizing and give the public an opportunity to react before policy changes are made. SNAP and the child nutrition programs are both vital pieces of the safety net that feed our children. Faithful advocates need to make sure Congress is paying attention to both the dinner and lunch table - especially when it comes to our nation’s children.

Act Today: Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress. Tell Congress to prioritize children at risk of hunger and invest in strong child nutrition programs.

Read Bread for the World’s latest resource:  Get the Facts About SNAP.

Photo: screenshot of U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway convening nutrition hearings, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015.  Hearings dates and times are posted on the committee’s website.

 

Ending Poverty Could Nearly End Hunger, New Report Says

Marian
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.

 

Faithful on the Front Lines

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Students at Calvin College write letters to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich). Cameron Kritikos for Bread for the World.

By Cameron Kritikos

A few days before Thanksgiving, the Food Recovery Network at Calvin College, as well as many other hunger-focused groups on campus, gathered and decided to host a Bread for the World Offering of Letters.

Our purpose was to get students to write letters to our Michigan lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the state’s junior senator. As the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Stabenow is a critical voice when it comes to making laws that can help end hunger. The committee has jurisdiction over SNAP (formerly food stamps).

At Calvin College, students involved with the Food Recovery Network retrieve leftover food from the dining hall and  donate it to local food banks or church congregations that serve nightly meals.

85With last spring being our first semester recovering food, my leadership team and I wanted to be more intentional about seeking food justice at the systemic level. Calvin students are beginning to do this by watching documentaries, such as A Place at the Table, and writing letters.

I got involved with food justice because I was utterly fed up with the way in which people who are struggling financially are treated in this country, especially those who benefit from SNAP. We have brothers and sisters here in Grand Rapids who not only do not have the financial capital to purchase groceries, but also live in areas where grocery stores are scarce.

Hunger is a problem, and at Calvin College, we are no longer going to ignore it. We can’t.

I have a friend who has a sticker on her laptop, one that inspires me. It’s a quote from William Wilberforce, the English politician and abolitionist. It reads: “You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.”

Those involved with the Food Recovery Network at Calvin College can no longer say that we did not know. We no longer have the luxury of living in ignorant bliss. Instead, we  have been called to live faithfully on the front lines of food justice, fighting the cause  in this country and throughout the world.

And we will do it one plate of mashed potatoes and one handwritten letter at a time.

Cameron Kritikos is a sophomore at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. He is studying international development, Spanish, and church-based community development.

Inset photo: Cameron Kritikos for Bread for the World.

 

Rev. David Beckmann Challenges You to #ShareYourPlate

By Bread Staff

Yes, here’s proof that Rev. David Beckmann can cook – but with the help of two young anti-hunger activists, Elizabeth Quill and Margaret Hudak.

Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, answered a #ShareYourPlate challenge: a Catholic Charities, USA social media campaign to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of hunger. By sharing a cooking video, the #ShareYourPlate campaign reminds us that food is something we all share.

While preparing a taco salad, Quill and Hudak emphasized the need to advocate for programs that help people put food on their table. The girls told Beckmann of a meeting they had with their Virginia members of Congress in which they asked lawmakers to support funding for the SNAP program (formerly food stamps).

Their lobby visit illustrates how sharing a story with your member of Congress is a powerful advocacy tool. It can also help lawmakers understand the reality of hunger in states and districts far removed from their Washington, D.C. offices.

Hudak related her own experience of seeing hunger in the lunchroom at school.  She noticed some students restricted their purchases to only cereal and milk and saw others go without food entirely. “A kid can’t function through the day on milk and cereal,” she said.

Last December, Catholic Charities USA, Bread for the World, and others answered Pope Francis and Caritas Internationalis’ call for a global wave of prayer to end hunger as part of the One Family #FoodForAll campaign.

Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, created his own cooking video as a way to build on the #FoodForAll campaign. He then sent out a challenge to others to do the same before November 27 - including a special invitation to Beckmann.

Beckmann now challenges travel writer Rick Steves, community food systems expert Sharon Thornberry – and you.  Create a cooking video or post a photo at #ShareYourPlate and on your Twitter or Facebook page. Share a virtual meal and help bring awareness to the problem of hunger.

Folllow the challengers on Twitter: @DavidBeckmann, @Fr_Larry_Snyder, @RickSteves, and  @OFB_SharonT and tag @bread4theworld with your cooking video.

Bread Challenges the Newly Elected Congress

Grassroots lobby day
Bread for the World members in front of the Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. (Bread for the World)


By David Beckmann

On Tuesday, while the Senate shifted to Republican control, 18,000 children around the world died unnecessarily. Nearly half those deaths were caused by hunger. And in the United States, 16 million children still live in families that struggle to put food on the table.

Bread for the World’s members work for justice for hungry people in the United States and around the world regardless of how power shifts between our nation’s political parties. We pray that all our nation’s leaders will work to end hunger.  

The number of people in extreme poverty in the world has been cut in half since 1990, and there has been progress in all kinds of countries, from Bangladesh to Brazil to Great Britain. If Congress and the president make opportunity for everybody a priority, we can end hunger in the United States and support continued progress toward ending hunger worldwide.

Bread for the World’s top priority for the 114th Congress will be the scheduled reauthorization of the nation’s child nutrition programs. Republicans and Democrats should work together to strengthen school and summer nutrition programs.  But House Republicans have been pushing for deep cuts in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). Churches and food banks across the country have been unable to make up for the groceries that Congress took away from hungry families last year.

Bread for the World also notes with optimism bipartisan interest in other issues important to people in poverty:

  • When Congress returns later this month, the leaders of both houses seem inclined to steer away from another budget crisis and finalize appropriations for the current fiscal year.

  • The parties should be able to work together on continued progress against world poverty–the fight against Ebola and bills to reform food aid, strengthen agriculture and nutrition in poor countries, and promote trade with Africa.

  • Leaders in both parties are calling for reforms to correct injustices in the criminal justice system that have crowded U.S. prisons and deepened the poverty of many communities.

  • Tax credits for low-wage workers reduce poverty while encouraging work.

God has made it possible in our time to virtually end hunger in our country and around the world, so Bread for the World is pushing with urgency to make hunger, poverty, and opportunity for everybody a priority for our political leaders. We will push for change over the next two years and in the next round of elections for president and Congress.

Rev. David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World.

Americans Believe Government Can Do More to Combat Hunger


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Fact Sheet: Churches and Hunger
(updated).


By Christine Meléndez Ashley

A new survey released this week by the Food Research and Action Center and Tyson Foods reveals eye-opening trends about American attitudes toward hunger in the United States.

Not only do a majority of Americans believe hunger is a bipartisan issue, but 71 percent also believe the federal government has a fair amount to a great deal of responsibility in dealing with it. Fifty-seven percent responded that local nonprofits, churches, and food banks have a fair amount to a great deal of responsibility.

These results make clear that ending hunger is a partnership among federal, local, and community-based entities.

In 2012, Bread for the World analyzed the cost of drastically cutting federal nutrition programs to churches. If cuts of the magnitude proposed by the House of Representatives had been enacted, each church would have had to come up with $50,000 a year for 10 years to feed people.

Clearly, churches and charities alone cannot feed everyone who is hungry. As food bank demand has increased, charitable donations to houses of worship have decreased, making the role of federal nutrition programs even more crucial.

To show the great importance and reach of federal nutrition programs, Bread analyzed federal funding of nutrition programs compared to the cost of food distributed by private charity. Food benefits from federal nutrition programs amounted to $102.5 billion in 2013, compared to $5.2 billion of food distributed by private charity.

In other words, federal nutrition programs delivered nearly 20 times the amount of food assistance as did private charities.

Members of Congress should take note. According to the survey, 61 percent of Americans believe we should do more to support and improve government-sponsored food-assistance programs. Yet, this Congress has voted at least 13 times to cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), our country’s largest anti-hunger program.

As Election Day draws near and you prepare to go to the polls, we urge you to know where the candidates stand and cast your vote to end hunger.

Christine Meléndez Ashley is senior domestic policy analyst at Bread for the World.

 

 

Bread Team Fights Hunger in Missouri

Advocacy-in-action
Besides advocating at the state level, some Bread activists from Missouri attended Bread’s Lobby Day and visited their members of Congress in Washington, D.C., in June. Here participants in Lobby Day prepare to go to Capitol Hill for their meetings. Bread for the World photo


by Beth DeHaven

Note: While Bread for the World engages in advocacy at the federal level, many Bread activists are also involved in efforts to fight hunger at the state government level. Here’s one story.  

On June 20, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed a bill that will help hundreds of hungry people across the state. Senate Bill 680 lifts the lifetime SNAP (formerly food stamps) ban for drug felonies, which is a recommendation of Bread for the World Institute's 2014 Hunger Report, and opens the way for a pilot program making it easier for SNAP recipients to purchase fresh food at farmers markets. The Missouri Association for Social Welfare (MASW) and other faith and justice groups have worked diligently for years to end the ban on SNAP, and the Bread for the World Team in Springfield, Mo., played a part in this success. (See Bread's interview from last year with MASW's executive director.)

For many years, members of Springfield Bread Team have sponsored annual Offerings of Letters in the area's churches, visited the local offices of their representatives in Congress, and traveled to Washington, D.C., for Bread's annual Lobby Day. Team members have hosted informational and letter-writing tables at local events like CROP Walks, Food Day, denominational gatherings, and alternative gift markets. The team has also learned more about hunger issues at its monthly meetings by discussing books like Exodus from Hunger and Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty, and the team has hosted screenings and discussions of the film "A Place at the Table." The team even put together a "Hunger Games" interactive event, complete with costumes and games, followed by discussion about the reality of hunger affecting poor people in our world today. 

About a year ago, the team came to realize that in order to more fully live out Bread's vision of ending hunger, it also need to join forces with advocacy groups fighting hunger and poverty in Missouri. At that time, many team members did not even know the names of their state representatives. Through further research, the team learned that MASW was a well-established and effective state advocacy group and that it has a hunger task force, which the team decided to join.

This year, with support from Bread's regional organizer, the team has worked closely with MASW to advocate for lifting the SNAP ban for drug felonies and also for expanding Medicaid. On April 23, the team traveled to the state capital to participate in a lobby day. Each team member met personally with his or her state senator and representative on these issues. The team even visited the office of the Speaker of the House to urge him to assign SB 680 (the SNAP bill) to committee. 

Efforts to expand Medicaid in Missouri have not been successful yet, but the team will continue to work with MASW on the issue in the year ahead. The team has also signed on as an endorsing organization of the Missouri Health Care for All movement, and members have met with the movement's statewide grassroots organizer to begin planning an educational forum to be held in Springfield in September.

The Springfield team is excited to continue advancing Bread's policy-change agenda and strengthening its partnership with advocacy organizations in Missouri. Hunger is a complex problem, but through collaboration and by addressing related issues like health care, the team believes it can do more to end it.

Beth DeHaven is a leader on the Bread for the World team in Springfield, Mo.

This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's September online newsletter.

The Top Ten Hungriest and Poorest States

 
SNAP-farmers market
Marie Crise is able to use her SNAP benefits to purchase fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables at the Abingdon Farmers Market in Abingdon, Va. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl


by Eric Mitchell

We need to move past the Great Recession of 2008. But for families that are still unable to regularly put food on the table, how can they? The recession caused the number of families at risk of hunger to increase by more than 30 percent! But because of anti-hunger programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps), we haven’t seen that number go up any higher since then. Unfortunately, despite (slight) improvements, nearly 1 in 6 Americans (49 million) were still struggling to put food on the table in 2013. 

In recent years, the 10 hungriest states (see chart below) have seen no relief. Since 2001, the percent of households struggling to access food has increased in all 10 of these states. The economy is improving but not fast enough for many Americans who are struggling to feed their families. In 2013, more than 45 million Americans still lived in poverty.

Statistics alone do not tell the full story. Hunger and poverty impacts the lives of children, older Americans, veterans, and the disabled especially hard. (See state fact sheets, which you can link to in the chart above.) In states with the highest rates of poverty and food insecurity, it’s even worse. For example, in Mississippi, 24 percent of people live below the poverty line, including a staggering 1 in 3 children. In Arkansas, more than 1 in 5 Americans are at risk of hunger. People are hurting.

Americans At Risk of Hunger

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Nearly 1 in 6 Americans (49 million) were still struggling to put food on the table in 2013.

View a state-by-state map of Americans at risk of hunger »

You would think these staggeringly high numbers would propel these congressional delegations to do something, fueled by an outrage over the conditions of poverty and hunger in their own states. But that’s not necessarily true. Many have actually voted for proposals that would have made conditions worse. Take this example: In 2013, 217 members of the House of Representatives voted to cut SNAP by nearly $40 billion. Fortunately, this proposal did not make it into through Congress. But if it had, 2 million people would have been kicked off of SNAP, and the number of families at risk of hunger in the 10 hungriest states would have gone up even further.

A job used to be a safeguard against poverty and empty stomachs. That’s no longer true. People who receive SNAP also work. But people are working harder while earning less. Since 2009, most middle- and low-income workers have seen their wages go down. The bottom 60 percent of workers have seen their income decrease by 4 to 6 percent.  Meanwhile, Congress has yet to pass legislation that raises the minimum wage.  Such action would help lift many Americans out of poverty.

To truly end hunger in the United States, we must demand federal policies that boost our economy and ensure a strong safety-net for those in need. That’s why our political leaders must make this a national priority. See how hunger and poverty are affecting the 10 hungriest and poorest states. Then, judge your member’s commitment to ending hunger and poverty. See for yourself if their votes help or hurt those caught in a tough place.

10 Hungriest States

10 Highest Poverty States

1

Arkansas

1

Mississippi

2

Mississippi

2

New Mexico

3

Texas

3

Louisiana

4

Tennessee

4

Arkansas

5

North Carolina

5

Georgia

6

Missouri

6

District of Columbia

7

Alabama

7

Kentucky

8

Georgia

8

Alabama

9

Louisiana

9

Arizona

10

Kentucky

10

South Carolina

(Links in the chart above are for fact sheets on those states produced by Bread for the World.)

Faith by itself is not enough.  It is also important to take action. We do this by holding our elected officials accountable. Each member’s vote counts. Maybe your representative cast a critical vote that blocked SNAP cuts, or maybe your member’s votes are contributing to these startling statistics. Find out and take action.  During this campaign season, remind congressional candidates that we need a Congress that is serious about ending hunger and poverty. 

Americans Struggling with Hunger Left Behind in Economic Recovery

By Alyssa Casey Graph USDA

The number of Americans struggling to put food on the table remains stubbornly high, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 2013, 14.3 percent of U.S. households experienced food insecurity. “Food insecure” households are those that have difficulty consistently providing enough food for all household members due to lack of resources.

The number of households at risk of hunger declined slightly from 14.9 percent in 2011, but those hit by the 2008 economic crisis have seen little relief. In 2007, 36.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households. In 2008, that number jumped to 49.1 – an increase of nearly 13 million Americans at risk of hunger. Five years later in 2013, the same number of Americans – 49.1 million – struggle to feed their families. While the country as a whole slowly recovers from the 2008 economic crisis, it appears that those struggling with hunger are being left behind.

More than 15.7 million – nearly a third – of Americans at risk of hunger are children. Households with children are more at risk of hunger than those without children. This risk increases even further when the household is headed by a single parent. Households headed by a single woman are among the hardest hit, with 34.4 percent of these households at risk of hunger – nearly 2 ½ times the national average.

When so many children and families wrestle with the threat of hunger year after year, it is inexcusable that elected officials address hunger so rarely.

The Momentum is Building

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty made alleviating hunger and poverty in the United States a top priority for the government. Incredible progress was made in the initial years of the War on Poverty, but eventually poverty and hunger were swept under the rug, and politicians largely stopped talking about the issue.

Recent years have seen momentum building around making hunger and poverty history:

  • The economic recession drew attention to the prevalence of hunger in the United States.
  • Filmmakers and the media are increasingly drawing attention to widespread hunger.
  • The 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty kept the spotlight on hunger.
  • Advocates like you told your elected officials that hunger matters.
  • Prominent politicians on both sides of the aisle are talking about America’s hunger and poverty problem and exchanging ideas for legislative solutions.

What Can You Do?

Keep this momentum going and make sure candidates know that you care about hunger.

As we near national elections in November, we have the opportunity to ask candidates to make ending hunger a national priority. You don’t have to be a policy expert; simply telling your candidates you care about hunger and poverty lets them know they need to take action on these issues.

Ask your candidates what their plan is to address hunger. If a candidate is running for reelection, look at how they voted. Then tell them to vote for legislation that makes positive strides towards ending hunger, not legislation that cuts safety net programs and makes it harder for people to support their families.

 At Bread for the World, we have your back! We are telling candidates across the country that Americans want to end hunger. If you do the same, we can use this momentum to make ending hunger a national priority once again. Let’s make hunger an election issue!

Alyssa Casey is Bread for the World’s government relations coordinator

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