Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

226 posts categorized "SNAP"

Farm Bill Report Coming Soon


Rep. McGovern has been giving a series of #EndHungerNow speeches over the past year.

“It is a scandal that in the richest country in the history of world we have a hunger problem . . . There are some things worth fighting for, ending hunger, making sure our fellow citizens have enough to eat is absolutely worth fighting for.”

- Rep. Jim McGovern (D,Mass-2) speaking on the House floor Jan. 8, 2014, in remembrance of the War on Poverty and the farm bill. 

On Nov. 1, 2013, all SNAP (formerly food stamps) households experienced a cut in benefits, which took food off the tables of families who do not have enough to eat. More Americans are depending on already strapped food banks and charities to fill the gap. Federal nutrition programs deliver more than 23 times the amount of food assistance as do private charities; charities alone can not feed everyone who is hungry.

The farm bill conference committee is expected to release a report soon. The compromise bill will then go back to the House and Senate for a final vote. As we follow progress of the bill, anti-hunger advocates will need to be vigilant and persistent to ensure harmful amendments are not included in a final bill and common sense U.S. food aid reforms are included.  Even if you have already called or written your member of Congress in 2013, make sure they hear from you again in 2014.

2013: Year in Review and a Look Ahead


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Farm work in rural Guatemala (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. (2 Corinthians 9: 11-12 NIV)


In 2013, the generosity of Bread for the World members in time, talent, and treasure has borne fruit in the mission to end hunger. You helped us reach our year-end fundraising goals and helped set the foundation of support for our work in 2014. The year will start with a packed agenda as we ask Congress to extend emergency unemployment insurance, pass a farm bill that protects SNAP (formerly food stamps) and strengthens U.S. food aid, and urge passage of an immigration reform bill that helps end hunger both here and abroad. January’s packed agenda will also include ensuring programs such as WIC and Head Start as well as poverty-focused development assistance get sufficient funding for the remainder of the fiscal year though the appropriations process. Our 2014 Offering of Letters, launching later this month, will urge Congress to update and reform U.S. food aid, which could benefit 17 million more people each year.

As we look back on 2013 one thing is clear: your willingness to reach out to your members of Congress and tell them to make hunger and poverty a priority made the difference. In a hostile budget climate and with continued threats of deep cuts to anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs, our 2013 Offering of Letters targeted both Congress and the White House for the first time.

Through the Offering of Letters, you urged Congress to protect critical programs and petitioned the president to set a goal to end hunger. As a result of our work in 2012, the president’s 2013 State of the Union address called for an end to extreme poverty in the United States and around the world. We continued to message the president and received more than 40,000 signatures on our petition to President Obama, which we hand-delivered to the White House in August.

Bread for the World prevented harmful cuts to SNAP, successfully blocking $135 billion in SNAP cuts in the federal budget, and a House of Representatives proposal to cut the program by $40 billion.

During October’s government shutdown and near default on the debt ceiling, we worked with our faith partners to re-open the government and prevent service disruptions that would have disproportionately affected struggling families.

And although the latest budget deal was far from perfect, final legislation replaced part of the 2014 and 2015 sequester with a balance of spending cuts and revenues – an ask our members took with them to their members of Congress during the 2013 Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. The hard work of Bread members helped ensure that those cuts also stayed balanced between defense and non-defense programs.

Finally, thanks to the efforts of Bread for the World and our partners over the last few years, some of our work came to fruition in 2013. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, which calls for increased and improved monitoring of U.S. foreign assistance and its impact. We are optimistic that the full Senate will take up this bill and pass it in 2014.

As we look ahead to 2014, we are assured that through faith and action we can do great things together.

Staying Afloat in a Recovery

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For the 4.1 million long-term unemployed who are treading water in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the latest rounds of proposed cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) and the loss of emergency unemployment benefits could be the rock that sinks them.

Denise Acosta, a 36-year-old mother of four in Texas, is one of those people. Her story was reported in The Guardian this week. Acosta is among the nearly 4.1 million Americans who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks. Although recent gains in employment indicate the economy is recovering, it’s not enough, and the long-term unemployed have not seen their circumstances improve.

Laid-off seven months ago as a healthcare administrator, Acosta struggles to feed her four children - a situation made worse by a cut to SNAP benefits in November.  “Acosta has learned to be creative,” reports The Guardian, “with the children's meals, with juggling bills, with trying to keep the kids from noticing the dwindling food on the table and in their schoolbags as her job search drags on.”

While looking for work, SNAP has helped millions of families stave off hunger. Congress will return in January to take up the farm bill, and a proposal to slash the nutrition assistance program by nearly $40 billion more is on the table. “That would make it really difficult for people who struggle to find work like me to get back on their feet,” Acosta told The Guardian.

The struggle to stay afloat is likely to get more difficult as long-term unemployment benefits expire next week for 1.3 million unemployed. The benefits were not extended as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.

Congress allowed benefits to expire despite the fact that unemployment remains 44 percent higher than it was at the start of the recession and nearly 30 percent higher than when the federal emergency unemployment compensation program was enacted. There are still three job seekers for every job opening.

Investing in jobs that pay a living wage and getting people back to work instead of removing assistance makes more economic sense. A study by Rutgers University showed that individuals receiving unemployment benefits do more to find a job than unemployed workers not receiving unemployment insurance (UI). Recipients of UI spend more time seeking work and look at more job postings.

Without unemployment insurance, the number of individuals living in poverty would have doubled between 2010 and 2011. Further, UI has acted a stimulus to the economy. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) consistently ranks unemployment insurance as one of the most effective ways to generate economic growth and create jobs. Out of 11 different policies to boost economic growth and employment, the CBO rated UI as number one.

Many Americans like Acosta, who saw their jobs vanish during the recession, need a lifeline to shore and not an anchor in poverty.

During the holiday recess you can still write or email your senators and representative. Urge them to pass a farm bill that protects SNAP and extend unemployment benefits immediately upon returning in the new year.

Hungry in a Grocery Store

Distribution_picBy Sharon Thornberry

When my children were just 3 and 5 years old, we experienced real hunger for the first time. I was working at a grocery store, but often couldn’t afford to buy the food that was all around me. Food stamps (now called SNAP) changed that. They allowed me and my children to have nutritious meals while we were trying to transition back to normalcy.

Unfortunately, when my boss at the grocery store learned that I was using food stamps to make purchases there, I was told that I'd be fired if I did it again. The stigma attached to using food stamps sometimes prevents people from seeing the good SNAP does, and how well the program supports families during rough times.

I became a member of Bread for the World so that I could help hungry people. I know what it is like to struggle to put food on the table, and I want to help others understand that experience — and motivate them to act.

This Christmas season, I hope you will join us in fighting hunger and poverty, and support Bread with a special gift.

I believe that the quality of our lives is dependent on the quality of the lives of our neighbors — whether they are next door, or on the next continent. We are all God's children, and we must take care of one another. This is what Bread for the World's advocacy work is all about.

As you know, Bread is working to stop Congress from making further cuts to the SNAP program, while also educating people about the importance of tackling the root causes of hunger. Bread is a leader in advocacy for hungry people, and is able to do incredible work because of support from people like you.

I'm not wealthy, but I choose to make a monthly gift to Bread. I give what I can. If you are able to make a special gift this Christmas, please donate now, and support Bread's critical work.

I hope you'll also join us in our prayer that God empowers us and inspires our leaders to fill the hungry with good things.

Sharon Thornberry is a Bread for the World board member and community food systems manager at Oregon Food Bank.

Waiting for the 8th: Family Feels the Sting of Recent SNAP Cuts

Food_distrubutionMuch has been written about the Nov. 1 cuts to food stamps (SNAP), and how the abrupt reduction in benefits has affected struggling families across the country. But few articles have been as moving as the Washington Post's "Waiting for the 8th," a profile of Raphael Richmond, a Washington D.C.-area mother who is attempting to feed herself and her children in the wake of the biggest cut to the food stamp program in 50 years.

The reporter follows Richmond, and her daughter Tiara, to a local food pantry. Since the cuts took effect, the family members have compiled a list of various food giveaways around the city, visiting those places to help them stretch their SNAP dollars. The service providers, as valuable as they are, clearly are having difficulty meeting the increased demand. This is most evident during Richmond’s visit to Bread for the City, a wonderful D.C.-based non-profit that helps provide food, medical care, and other vital services to vulnerable populations.

They walked into Bread for the City, where 40 people were crowded into the waiting room, and where the food line was a steady procession toward disappointment."No more deer meat," read one sign. "Pick a holiday bag OR a regular bag. You cannot receive both," read the next. "Only one visit per month," read another. "Food is intended to last for three days," read the last notice, right by the counter, where Raphael handed over her number to a volunteer and waited for her bag of food."

"Thank you," she said when the bag came back three minutes later, filled with turkey, applesauce, yams and five cans of greens. Raphael turned away from the counter, doing the math in her head.

"So that's three days," she said to Tiara on their way out the door. "What are we supposed to do about the rest?"

Charity alone can’t feed everyone who’s hungry. Churches, food banks, and private food charities have all been stretched thin by our economic downturn—food bank demand has increased nearly 50 percent since 2006. The role of federal nutrition programs, including SNAP, is more crucial than ever.

Congress will soon leave town for the year without passing a new farm bill, which determines funding levels for SNAP. We ask that you continue to pray for hungry families and urge members of Congress to protect SNAP.

Photo: People in Baltimore, Md., line up to receive donated food (Mark Fenton).

Praying into 2014

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By Rev. David Beckmann

I invite you to join Bread for the World and our partners in the Circle of Protection in supporting Caritas Internationalis’ new campaign to end hunger, which is endorsed by Pope Francis. They are calling for people to pray at noon on Dec. 10 in each time zone, starting in Samoa and proceeding west in a “wave of prayer” as the day goes on.

Here in Washington D.C., we will gather to pray inside the U.S. Capitol (Room H-137). We have invited members of Congress and our partners in the Circle of Protection to join us in this prayer event. I ask you pray with us at noon in your time zone to end hunger. You can pray in whatever faith tradition you have, or chose from one of the prayers we have provided online at www.bread.org/prayerwave.

This wave of prayer comes at a critical time when there will most likely be a vote on the fiscal year 2014 budget, the farm bill, and possible additional cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps). The House of Representatives will recess for the holidays on Dec. 13, while the Senate recesses on Dec. 20.

As we pray for an end to hunger, we also give thanks for the victories we have achieved in a year when Congress is so polarized that it resulted in a government shutdown.

Together with our partners, we have maintained a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people. Despite the continuing push to cut federal funds for poor people, our last analysis indicates these cuts amount to only a small fraction of $2.5 trillion in cuts the House of Representatives has been pushing  in the last two and a half years. (We will have a full estimate by the end of this Congress.)

No matter what the actual amount is, we could not have done this without your support and advocacy and the active participation of our partners in the Circle of Protection (www.circleofprotection.us). The Circle represents 65 heads of denominations, relief and development agencies, and other Christian organizations, plus more than 5,000 other pastors and church workers. It includes our brethren at Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, and the United States of Conference of Catholic Bishops who have been supportive of our desire to join them in the Dec. 10 wave of prayer to end hunger.   

We also give thanks this Advent that hunger and poverty is back on President Barack Obama’s radar — thanks in part to the petitions you sent him. Earlier this week, he delivered a major address on providing more opportunity for low-income and struggling Americans.

The program of action that President Obama outlined in the speech is consistent with our recommendations in the 2014 Hunger ReportEnding Hunger in America (www.hungerreport.org). However, we reminded him that low-income Americans cannot climb the ladder of opportunity that he is promoting if one of the critical parts of the safety net that undergirds the ladder – SNAP – is in shreds.

During this Advent, we also give thanks for the continuing exodus from hunger globally, with the numbers down to 842 million people experiencing chronic hunger. According to the United Nations, that is 1 in 8 people globally.

This achievement is, in part, due to our government’s leadership of international efforts to strengthen agricultural investments in poor countries and ensuring better nutrition for mothers and children.

Your advocacy helped convince our government to pledge $10 billion through fiscal year 2014 toward eliminating malnutrition among women and children in the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday — and it promised to continue funding nutrition programs at this level beyond 2014.

This Advent, we also give thanks for the opportunities and challenges that God has given us in 2014. We look forward to implementing our 2014-2016 plan, the first in a series of plans to implement our long-term vision and plan. This includes celebrating our achievements in the last 40 years at our annual National Gathering( June 9 and 10, 2014 at the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center in Washington, D.C.) and launching our 2014 Offering of Letters, focused on reforming U.S. food aid.

Lastly, during this Advent we give thanks to God for you — for your persistent advocacy, your steadfast support, and your unwavering faith that we can end hunger. Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad!

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

Photo: Night sets over Antigua Guatemala at the Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross).

David Beckmann Talks 2014 Hunger Report on Public Radio

HR14-cover-highrez_resizeBread for the World President David Beckmann recently discussed Bread for the World Institute's 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, with talk show host Tavis Smiley.

In his interview on The Tavis Smiley Show, which aired Nov. 22, Beckmann said that while the Hunger Report proposes steps to eradicate hunger in the United States by 2030, Congress is working against that goal by moving forward with cuts to food stamps, which could make it more difficult for millions of Americans to put food on the table. "On Nov. 1, a cut in food stamps went into effect; it has already taken away 300 million meals," Beckmann said. "And then Congress is debating not whether to cut food stamps further, but how much. We don't want more cuts in food stamps. The cuts that the House is proposing would deepen hunger for 6 million Americans."

Beckmann also talked about how safety net programs helped keep hunger in this country at bay in the wake of the 2008 recession, how a strong job market is key to reducing hunger, and why advocates must reach out to members of Congress on these issues.

"I’ve never met anybody who said, 'Oh, I want to make sure kids go hungry,' but there are other things more important to politicians. There are other things that are more important to many of us," Beckmann said. "And on a day-to-day basis, when we really get agitated it’s about something that’s going to affect me, and maybe that’s when I call Congress. But what we need to do is call Congress when hungry kids are getting hurt—and when that happens, that’s when we’re going to end hunger."

Listen to the full interview below.

Quote of the Day: Joel Berg

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At Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C., participants wrote letters to Congress, urging members to  to protect programs that alleviate hunger (Joe Molieri/Bread for the World).

“We know exactly what works in fighting hunger, and America has been doing precisely the reverse. We know that creating living-wage jobs and ensuring an adequate safety net will end hunger in America, as it has in much of the rest of the Western developed industrialized world. And yet we are killing all programs to create new jobs and we are cutting back on the food stamps — the SNAP program — even though it reduces hunger and aids the economy.”

— Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, on the Nov.7, edition of The Takeaway radio show. Listen to the full story, “Annual Feast Is A Reminder of America’s Hungry," below.

As we join together with families and friends today, many of our neighbors will be facing a leaner Thanksgiving because of cuts to the SNAP program (formerly food stamps) that took effect Nov. 1.  Remember people who are hungry around the world by praying this prayer:God, empower us and inspire our leaders to fill the hungry with good things.”

Although Congress is not in session today, you can still email your representative and senators over the holiday. Take a moment to tell your members of Congress to fill the hungry with good things as they continue to negotiate funding levels for the SNAP program as part of the farm bill. With a proposal to cut the program by nearly $40 billion being debated, faithful advocates must speak up to ensure that everyone has a place at the table.

Food Banks Say They Can't Fill the Hunger Gap

Food Bank RickMany local newspapers have recently published op-eds written by food bank representatives, all of them with a clear message to Congress: if legislators cut nutrition assistance, charity cannot fill the hunger gap.

Many Christians and others are generous in supporting food banks, but with the needs of struggling families they are anticipating, the food banks simply cannot ramp up their assistance quickly enough and will never have the capacity to fill the gap that Congress has created.

Paul Ash, executive director of the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks, talks about a potential $40 billion cut to SNAP (food stamps) in his op-ed "Food Banks can't make up for food stamp benefit cuts," published Nov. 17, 2013, in SF Gate. "[W]e can raise our voice in protest now, or prepare to watch our neighbors go without enough to eat," he writes.

"It's easy to pass off what goes on in Washington as senseless, unwise, irrational, or out of our control," Ash continues. "But it's more useful to be shouting as loud as we can – through our representatives, to the conferees who will cast the votes, and to the White House – that this is not acceptable."

Ash notes in the op-ed that the Nov. 1 SNAP cuts, combined with the $40 billion in proposed cuts in the House version of the farm bill, would mean that every food bank in the nation would have to double the amount of assistance they provide in order to meet demand. Donors, Ash notes, have shown no signs that they would be willing to double their giving, which would leave food banks unable to provide food to people in need of emergency aid. 

The next few weeks are critical as members of the farm bill conference committee negotiate a final bill. The cuts that have already taken place have made it more difficult for already-struggling families to put food on the table. As food prices increase and benefits decrease, more families will likely find themselves in need of charitable food donations earlier in the month — but cuts to nutrition assistance will leave a hunger gap that cannot be closed by churches, pantries, or food banks.  

Each time a food bank representative speaks out in local papers, which members of Congress read, faithful advocates have an opportunity to amplify that message. When you see such articles, we urge you to write a letter to the editor. Contact your regional organizer if you need assistance or talking points.

With 49 million Americans at risk of hunger, and more than 1 billion people around the world living in extreme poverty, now is the time to raise your voice in protest. SNAP and international food aid programs must be protected in the farm bill. Email or call your member of Congress at 800-826-3688 today.

Photo: A food bank in Alexandria, Va., provides emergency food assistance (Rick Reinhard).

How Many Are Affected by SNAP Cuts in Your State?

This month, South Carolina resident Leon Simmons saw his SNAP (food stamps) allotment drop by $9, because of the Nov. 1 cut to the anti-hunger program. That amount may seem small to some, but it's nearly a quarter of his monthly benefit. Amy Jezler, a mom living in the Chicago area, saw her SNAP benefit reduced by $30, dropping from $193 to $163. And in Washington, D.C., single mother Debra lost $73—her benefit is now $130, down from $203.

All three SNAP recipients told reporters that they will likely run out of food toward the end of the month—a month that ends with the Thanksgiving holiday.

These are just three of the Americans who will now find it more difficult to feed themselves and their families because of the Nov. 1 SNAP reduction. Across the country, millions are feeling the pain of these cuts. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put together a map (above) that shows exactly how many individuals, including children, will be affected in each state.

So far, the Nov. 1 cut has eliminated roughly 150 million meals. And some members of Congress are pushing for even more cuts to program. Senators and representatives are in final negotiations on the farm bill, and they're making decisions about SNAP right now. Please call (800-326-4941) or email your members of Congress today, and tell them that struggling families simply cannot absorb additional cuts to their SNAP benefits. Even if you have already reached out to your members of Congress, please do so again.

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