Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

227 posts categorized "SNAP"

SNAP, Non-Profit Supermarket Work in Tandem to Combat Hunger

 

Last month, residents of Chester, Pa., welcomed Fare & Square, the nation's first nonprofit grocery store. Fare & Square also has the distinction of being the city's only grocery store. Chester, a city about 20 miles southwest of Philadelphia, is a U.S. Department of Agriculture-designated food desert that lost its last supermarket more than 12 years ago.

Proximity to a grocery store can force shoppers to make food purchases based on ease of transport rather than taste, nutritional value, or cost. "To bring a gallon of milk is a hardship if you have to use two buses to get home," says Bill Clark, executive director of Philabundance, in the Moyers and Company video above. Philabundance is the anti-hunger non-profit organization behind the non-profit market model.

So far, as the report explains, sixty percent of the families in Chester have signed up for a Fare & Square membership, which allows those with annual incomes equal to or less than twice the federal poverty level to receive store credit each time they shop. And sixty percent of the store's shoppers are using SNAP benefits to pay for their food. Fare & Square recognizes the importance of SNAP and similar programs in feeding the people of Chester—city residents can receive help signing up for benefits at the store.

Bread for the World activist Tara Marks once said that she didn't live in a food desert, but a "food mirage"—she was surrounded by plenty, but didn't have enough money to buy food. SNAP changed that for her. Putting a grocery store in a food desert is a huge step toward improving food accessibility, but nutrition assistance programs are critical in connecting hungry people with that food.

To learn more about food deserts, and the Fare & Square model, watch the video below, or read the full Moyers & Company report here. To find out more about what you can do to help protect SNAP, which is being debated as part of congressional farm bill negotiations that begin this week, click here or contact your Bread for the World regional organizer.

Charting the Importance of SNAP

24_bags_infographic_500px

On Friday, all households receiving SNAP (formerly food stamps) will see a reduction in their benefits, as a temporary SNAP increase included in American Recover and Reinvestment Act of 2009, more commonly known as the stimulus act, ends. Some families will see their benefits drop by as much as $36 per month.

On Wednesday, the House and Senate began negotiations around the farm bill. The two chambers must reconcile their respective versions of the legislation, including a huge difference in proposed cuts to SNAP: the Senate version of the bill cuts $4 billion from the program over 10 years, while the House version cuts $39 billion.

It's a critical time for SNAP and the 47 million Americans who rely on this vital program.

SNAP is the our nation's first line of defense against hunger. We know that any cuts to SNAP would make it more difficult for struggling families to put food on the table. Churches and charities, for all they do, can't make up the difference: one in 24 bags of food assistance comes from a charitable organization, and federal nutrition programs provide the rest, as the above graphic shows. 

If you'd like more visual proof of SNAP's importance, check out this series of infographics, from the Food and Environmental Reporting Network and Mother Jones, that illustrate the program's broad economic and public health benefits. If you have a member of Congress on the committee that is negotiating the farm bill, please ask him or her to work to protect SNAP and ensure that hungry people aren’t harmed in any final legislation. Find out if either of your senators or your representative is on the committee here.

SNAPgraphic1

 

  Food-stamps-05

Who’s Working on the Farm Bill?

Barbie Screen Shot
Nearly 16 million children lived in food=insecure households in 2012.  SNAP (formerly food stamps) helps keep hunger at bay and is the nation's number-one defense against hunger (Movie still from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media).

The farm bill process is starting to move again. Now that both chambers have passed their versions, the conference process – by which the House and Senate try to reconcile the bills into a single piece of legislation – is expected to begin with opening statements on Oct. 30.

As part of the 2013 Offering of Letters, Bread members have been advocating for protection of SNAP funding and asking for common-sense reforms to food aid. There is a vast difference between the Senate and the House bills, so negotiations will be difficult.  As a reminder, the Senate passed a bill with a $4.1 billion cut to SNAP over 10 years, but did include needed improvements to food aid. The House bill, on the other hand, included a nearly $40 billion cut to SNAP over 10 years and a $2.5 billion cut to international food aid.

Nearly 49 million American families live in food-insecure households. In just nine days, participants in the SNAP program, which helps provide food to those struggling families, will begin to see a reduction in their benefits.  Making additional cuts to SNAP  as we continue to rebound from tough economic times would be disastrous. Churches and charities cannot replace such a reduction in the safety net. 

The World Food Program reports that poor nutrition causes nearly half (45 percent) of deaths in children under five — 3.1 million children each year. Common-sense reforms to food aid as part of the Senate version of the farm bill will help programs target nutrition to vulnerable populations with greater efficiency.  More than 50 bipartisan members of the House have urged support of the reforms.

Now is the time for faithful advocates to again add their voice.  If one of the conferees listed below is your Senator or Representative, call or email them, write letters to the editor and use social media to make your message public.  Contact your regional organizer for more ways you can impact the final bill.

Sample tweet: Senator @StabenowPress, I ask you to pass a #farmbill with #NoSNAPcuts and #fixfoodaid

Sample Facebook status update:  A farm bill must not increase hunger. I’m urging my Senator @Debbie Stabenow to protect SNAP in the farm bill and include common-sense reforms to food aid.

Senate Farm Bill Conferees

State

Senator

Twitter

Phone

Michigan

Debbie Stabenow

@StabenowPress

(202) 224-4822

Vermont

Patrick Leahy

@SenatorLeahy

(202) 224-4242

Iowa

Tom Harkin

@SenatorHarkin

(202) 224-3254

Montana

Max Baucus

@MaxBaucus

(202) 224-2651

Ohio

Sherrod Brown

@SenSherrodBrown

(202) 224-2315

Minnesota

Amy Klobuchar

@amyklobuchar

(202) 224-3244

Colorado

Michael Bennet

@SenBennetCO

(202) 224-5852

Mississippi

Thad Chochran

@SenThadCochran

(202) 224-5054

Kansas

Pat Roberts

@SenPatRoberts

(202) 224-4774

Georgia

Saxby Chambliss

@SaxbyChambliss

(202) 224-3521

Arkansas

John Boozman

@JohnBoozman

(202) 224-4843

North Dakota

John Hoeven

@SenJohnHoeven

(202) 224-2551

*To tag your member of Congress on Facebook, you must first like their page. To find their page, click on the hyperlink in their name.

House Farm Bill Conferees

State/District

Representative

Twitter

Phone

Oklahoma -03

Frank Lucas

@RepFrankLucas

(202) 225-5565

Iowa - 04

Steve King

@SteveKingIA

(202) 225-4426

Texas -19

Randy Neugebauer

@RandyNeugebauer

(202) 225-4005

Alabama - 03

Mike Rogers

@RepMikeRogersAL

(202) 225-3261

Texas -11

K. Michael Conaway

@ConawayTX11

(202) 225-3605

Pennsylvania- 05

Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson

@CongressmanGT

(202) 225-5121

Georgia - 08

Austin Scott

@AustinScottGA08

(202) 225-6531

Arkansas - 01

Rick Crawford

@RepRickCrawford

(202) 225-4076

Alabama – 02

Martha Roby

@RepMarthaRoby

(202) 225-2901

South Dakota - AL

Kristi Noem

@RepKristiNoem

(202) 225-2801

California - 10

Jeff Denham

@RepJeffDenham

(202) 225-4540

Illinois - 13

Rodney Davis

@RodneyDavis

(202) 225.2371

Florida - 02

Steve Southerland

@Rep_Southerland

(202) 225-5235

California - 39

Ed Royce

@RepEdRoyce

(202) 225-4111

Pennsylvania - 10

Tom Marino

@RepTomMarino

(202) 225-3731

Michigan - 04

Dave Camp

@RepDaveCamp

(202) 225-3561

Texas - 03

Sam Johnson

@SamsPressShop

(202) 225-3561

Minnesota - 07

Collin Peterson

No account

(202) 225-2165

North Carolina -07

Mike McIntyre

@RepMikeMcIntyre

(202) 225-2731

California - 16

Jim Costa

@RepJimCosta

(202) 225-3341

Minnesota - 01

Tim Walz

@RepTimWalz

(202) 225-2472

Oregon – 05

Kurt Schrader

@RepSchrader

(202) 225-5711

Massachusetts - 02

Jim McGovern

@RepMcGovern

(202) 225-6101

Washington - 01

Suzan DelBene

@RepDelBene

(202) 225-6311

California – 35

Gloria Negrete

@RepMcLeod

(202) 225-6161

Texas - 34

Filemon Vela

@RepFilemonVela

(202) 225-9901

Ohio - 11

Marcia Fudge

@RepMarciaFudge

(202) 225-7032

New York - 16

Eliot Engel

@RepEliotEngel

(202) 225-2464

Michigan - 09

Sandy Levin

@repsandylevin

(202) 225-4961

*To tag your member of Congress on Facebook, you must first like their page. To find their page, click on the hyperlink in their name.

Can 26 Members of Congress Help End 15 Days of Misery?

Hunger LineIt’s been a miserable 15 days for those Americans who are facing uncertainty and hardship because of an avoidable government shutdown.

The latest news reports indicate that the Senate has crafted a bipartisan extension of the debt ceiling through February, and a continuing resolution that would fund the government through mid-January and end the current shutdown. The proposal, if adopted, would need to pass both chambers and be signed by the president. Reporters are noting that congressional leaders are feeling pressure from an increasingly vocal group of Republicans in the House, which is a factor in these new developments.

Each day the shutdown continues more harm is done—especially to vulnerable populations. Each day makes it that much more difficult for low-income families to rebound. Each day, Main Street loses an estimated $160 million in economic activity. Each day of the shutdown is unacceptable. 

And it is going to get much worse if Oct. 17 comes and goes and Congress doesn’t act to ensure that the United States can pay its bills. 

Failure to raise the debt ceiling would likely send the country into a recession deeper than 2008’s, according to a Treasury Department report. The lesson from the last recession is clear—during times of financial crisis, the most vulnerable suffer and the ranks of the hungry grow. As a result of the last recession, SNAP participation increased—from 26 to 47 million in 8 years. A debt-ceiling default would prove disastrous for the crucial programs that kept hunger a bay and those who need them. The administration could be forced to delay or suspend billions of dollars in benefits for social security, SNAP, and other vital safety net programs.  The U.S. economy is just starting to recover from a period of low employment and high poverty and cannot absorb yet another crushing blow.

The Gospel reminds us again and again that we are to care for the widow, the orphan, and the alien. We are told we see Jesus when we feed the hungry. Advocacy is a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even if you’ve already called your members of Congress about these issues, call again (1-800-826-3688), send an email, and tell your friends to call, too. We cannot stop until this situation is resolved in a responsible way.

If you are a resident of one of the states or districts listed below, your faithful advocacy around these issues is especially important. We have identified the following members of the House of Representatives who may be particularly influential in ending the shutdown and raising the debt ceiling. These members will play a critical role in months to come as Congress works to move beyond the current impasse and craft a final budget. January must not become a repeat of the last 15 days. Support and encouragement from constituents could make the difference. Call them today or, for those engaged in social media, tag them on your Facebook page or in a tweet.  Make sure they hear your story and understand that there is a human cost to inaction. 

State (district) 

Representative

Twitter

Phone number

Alaska – at large

Rep. Don Young

@repdonyoung

(202) 225-5765

Arkansas – 02

Rep. Tim Griffin

@RepTimGriffin

(202) 225-2506

California - 22

Rep. Devin Nunes

@Rep_DevinNunes

(202) 225-2523

Florida - 25

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

@MarioDB

(202) 225-4211

Florida – 15

Rep. Dennis Ross

@RepDennisRoss

(202) 225-1252

Florida – 13

Rep. Bill Young

n/a

(202) 225-5961

Idaho – 02

Rep. Mike Simpson

@CongMikeSimpson

(202) 225-5531

Illinois – 13

Rep. Rodney Davis

@RodneyDavis

(202) 225-2371

Minnesota – 03

Rep. Erik Paulsen

@RepErikPaulsen

(202) 225-2871

New Jersey – 02

Rep. Frank LaBiondo

@RepLoBiondo

(202) 225-6572

New Jersey – 03

Rep. John Runyan

@RepJonRunyan

(202) 225-4765

New Jersey – 07

Rep. Leonard Lance

@RepLanceNJ7

(202) 225-5361

New York  -02

Rep. Peter King

@RepPeteKing

(202) 225-7896

New York – 11

Rep. Michael Grimm

@repmichaelgrimm

(202) 225-3371

New York – 22

Rep. Richard Hanna

@RepRichardHanna

(202) 225-3665

Oklahoma -04

Rep. Tom Cole

@tomcoleok04

(202) 225-6165

Pennsylvania - 06

Rep. Jim Gerlach

@JimGerlach

(202) 225-4315

Pennsylvania – 07

Rep. Pat Meehan

@RepMeehan

(202) 225-2011

Pennsylvania – 08

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick

@RepFitzpatrick

(202) 225-4276

Pennsylvania – 11

Rep. Lou Barletta

@RepLouBarletta

(202) 225-6511

Pennsylvania – 15

Rep. Charlie Dent

@DentPressShop

(202) 225-6411

Virginia – 01

Rep. Rob Wittman

@RobWittman

(202) 225-4261

Virginia – 02

Rep. Scott Rigell

@RepScottRigell

(202) 225-4215

Virginia – 04

Rep. Randy Forbes

@Randy_Forbes

(202) 225-6365

Virginia – 10

Rep. Frank Wolf

@RepWOLFPress

(202) 225-5136

Washington – 08

Rep. Dave Reichert

@davereichert

(202) 225-7761

*To tag a member on your Facebook wall, you must first like their page.

Photo:  At Our Daily Bread Employment Center in Baltimore, Md., people line up for the Hot Meal Program, 2010. (Jim Stipe)

Keep the Conversation Going: A Place at the Table

Kaela and friends
Kaela Volkmer (middle) is a member of St. Wenceslaus Catholic parish in Omaha, Neb. She is pictured here with St. Wenceslaus staff. (Photo courtesy of Kaela Volkmer)

By Kaela Volkmer

On Sept. 19, as members of the House of Representatives were debating how much funding to cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), I had the good fortune to be in a place of positive energy, care, concern, and compassion for our hungry and vulnerable neighbors. In Omaha, Neb., about 300 concerned citizens gathered at Aksarben Cinema for a special free screening of A Place at the Table, a powerful new documentary related to hunger, health, and poverty. 

Through support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Active Voice, Hunger Free Heartland, whose mission is to end childhood hunger and obesity in our greater community, was able to mobilize an amazing team of coalition partners to host a wonderful event.  The evening included a resource fair, a reception, and a thought-provoking panel discussion following the viewing of this critically-acclaimed film. 

As a Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader, I was humbled and privileged to be part of this collaborative effort to keep the conversation going in our community about hunger, health and public policy. Here are some of the highlights of the event:

  • Sue Arment, director of Hunger Free Heartland, pulled together and guided a strong and resourceful planning team comprised of various community partners for the event.
  • Andrea Barstow, manager of Aksarben Cinema, graciously donated the theater and reception space for our gathering.
  • Lucy Wilson of Edible Omaha moderated our panel, and her personal story of what it felt like being a child who knew the pangs of hunger touched our hearts and inspired us.
  • Our expert panel included Lauren and John Levy of the Heart Ministry Center, John Bailey from the Center for Rural Affairs, Sen. Sara Howard, and Craig Howell from United Methodist Ministries. The panelists helped us to reflect on different aspects of the film, from personal experiences to public policy considerations, and they helped us think about steps we can take to be part of the solution.
  • Whole Foods donated an amazing amount of delicious and healthy food for the public reception. 
  • More than 15 community organizations were represented at the resource fair before and after the film, offering information about how citizens can get involved in concrete actions related to hunger and poverty issues in our community.

It truly was an inspiring evening that brought us together to learn, to share, and to talk about the role we all share in contributing to the multi-faceted solutions that will bring about an end to hunger in our community.

While at the event, I received the message confirming that the House of Representatives had just voted to cut an unthinkable $39 billion from SNAP.  I took a deep breath and felt a deep sadness and sorrow in my heart, knowing that such actions will only increase poverty, hunger, and suffering in our state and in our nation. I thought about the nearly 4 million food insecure people in our country who would lose nutrition assistance under this scenario, including 2 million low-income working families and seniors. And then I looked up at the hundreds of people who showed up for the screening and the staffers from organizations who are working tirelessly with and for our most vulnerable neighbors. My heart swelled with gratitude for their presence, for their willingness to ask questions and find solutions to the scandal of hunger and deprivation that confronts more than 49 million people in our country.

As a Bread for the World Hunger Justice leader and advocate for poor and hungry people, I am deeply grateful to have been part of this event and to stand together with others who are working to create a place at the table for all people.

Kaela Volkmer is a 2012 Hunger Justice Leader who lives in Omaha, Neb.

Mamas, Papas, Tíos, Niños, Abuelitas, Vecinos and A Place at the Table


Bread for the World's associate for Latino relations, Dulce Gamboa, speaks to CNN en Español about the nearly $40 billion in cuts to SNAP recently passed by the House of Representatives and the impact these cuts would have on the Latino community.

By Dulce Gamboa

More than one in four Latino families does not know where their next meal will coming from. The situation is worse for families with children — one in three experiences food insecurity. These are hardworking people who often work two low-paying jobs, struggle to put food on the table, and skip meals to feed their children.
 
The House recently approved a bill to cut SNAP
(formerly food stamps) by nearly $40 billion over the next 10 years. This will send millions — including many mamas, papas, tíos, niños, abuelitas, and vecinos in the Latino community — to the nearest food bank or church in search of food. But our churches and charities would have to nearly double their ongoing efforts to handle the need and, realistically, they cannot absorb an increase in demand of this magnitude. Budget cuts to programs such as SNAP will have devastating consequences for low-income Hispanic families.

Millions of Latino children will go to school hungry, which undermines their learning capacity and reduces their lifetime productivity. By 2018, Latinos will represent 18 percent of the U.S. labor force and the contributions of Latino children to American society and the economy in the years to come will depend on the investments that our government makes in our children. We must help them develop physically, mentally, and emotionally. Feeding our children in low-income families is not only the morally right thing to do, it is the economically right thing to do.
 
The fate of the farm bill is still up in the air and the SNAP funding battle is certainly far from over. The House and the Senate will have to reconcile their differences around SNAP through conference before the end of the year. A cut of $40 billion is unacceptable for the Latino community. Is this the end of an era of compassionate policies to lift people out of poverty and hunger? Congress must protect families and children from hunger. A prosperous future where everyone has a place at the table demands it.

Dulce Gamboa is the associate for Latino relations at Bread for the World.

Quote of the Day: Gary Cook

Food distribution"In the Biblical framework, God made three provisions for hungry people. One was the tithe, which was literally a tax, because the government was the same as the religious order, and allowed widows and orphans to eat. The second provision was that there would always be Sabbath and Jubilee, where every seven years and 50 years, there was land redistribution. This provision was to prevent a class of people who were always hungry. The last was gleaning, where corners of the field were deliberately not harvested so poorer members of the community could gather the remainder and use it to feed themselves.

Here, hungry people have access to food as a matter of right, not as a matter of charity."

    - Gary Cook, director of church relations at Bread for the World, quoted September 21, 2013, in The Christian Post.

As the economy slowly rebounds, 47 million Americans still depend on SNAP to put food on their tables. A recent bill passed in the House would cut the program by nearly $40 billion, putting a greater burden on the already struggling churches and charities that provide about $4 billion in food annually. Learn more about churches and hunger with this fact sheet and tell your member of Congress to protect SNAP in the farm bill.

Photo:  Food distribution in southeast Washington, DC, in November, 2009.  (Mark Fenton)

Farm Bill: Now What?

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Faithful advocacy takes perserverence. Bread for the World members at the June 2013 National Gathering in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World)

By Christine Meléndez Ashley

Last Thursday was not a good day. After months of faithful advocacy against deep cuts to SNAP – in district meetings, local media, more than 7,000 emails and hundreds of phone calls to Congress – the House narrowly passed a bill cutting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by $40 billion. Emotions felt by faithful anti-hunger advocates likely mirrored my own. Defeat. Sorrow. Outrage. A sense of loss and disappointment, along with the question, “Now what?” hanging over my head.

But I woke up Friday morning with Psalm 108 on my heart, a psalm we had read in the office shortly before the vote on Thursday afternoon:

My heart is steadfast, O God! For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. [Psalm 108:1, 4 ESV]

What originally was a prayer for victory became a prayer of comfort to me. Regardless of the wins or losses on Capitol Hill, we stand steadfast, remembering that God is, God has been, and God will continue to be faithful. We may not have won on this bill, but this isn’t the end of the line in our advocacy for a strong SNAP program. With this psalm buoying my spirit, I look forward to the work that needs to be done.

Now that the Senate and the House have each passed a version of the farm bill, it’s time for a conference committee to come together and iron out the differences between the policies passed by each chamber. The Senate previously passed a bill with $4 billion in SNAP cuts. Obviously, it will be a tough negotiation to protect SNAP. 

The farm bill technically expires on Monday, September 30, but it is almost certain we will not have a final bill by then. Historically, farm bills have been allowed to expire for a couple months before a final bill has been passed. This will likely be the case again this year. SNAP is a unique farm bill program in that it can continue past the September 30 deadline as long as the government is open and functioning. This gives us as advocates the time we need to make sure our message is heard loud, clear, and often: SNAP must be protected in any final farm bill.

As Congress works out the parliamentary and procedural details of how to move forward, we continue to press on in our faithful advocacy. Now is a critical time to let your representatives know you were watching how they voted. Call 1-800-826-3688 and express your thanks or your frustration and outrage at their vote. Our calls today could mean a difference in how representatives vote on SNAP cuts in the future!

The nutrition bill passed but it was a very close vote. Threats to SNAP will continue to come up this fall but victory - protecting SNAP - is within our reach. Stand steadfast and stay tuned for updates from us in the coming weeks.

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

Overwhelming Support for Congressman’s Vote Against SNAP Cuts

http://bread.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341d945753ef017eeaca02a3970d-500wi
(USDA photo)

By Zach Schmidt

Only 15 Republicans voted against H.R. 3102, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act, with strong pressure from party leadership to support the bill. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01) of Lincoln, Nebraska, was one of the few who went against his party and opposed the nearly $40 billion cut to SNAP (food stamps), which could result in nearly 4 million people—including 10,000 Nebraskans—losing benefits.

Rep. Fortenberry’s “no” vote was the result of years of advocacy from Bread for the World members and coalition partners in Lincoln, capped by an eleventh-hour surge spearheaded by local Bread leaders and allies. Local directors Scott Young at the Food Bank of Lincoln and Beatty Brasch at the Center for People in Need, and their respective staffs, reached out and urged Fortenberry to oppose the bill. They provided local stories and data on hunger in Lincoln and explained how the bill would harm vulnerable people who were already struggling to get by. Lincoln Bread leader Kristin Ostrom rallied faith leaders across the state to weigh in as well. It was clearly a team effort, and a successful one!

In response to a statewide news article in the Omaha World Herald about how Rep. Fortenberry split with his party to vote against the bill, Ostrom led an effort to generate public comments thanking Fortenberry for his “no” vote. That effort led to 160 people—including faith, education, and nutrition leaders—publically supporting  Rep. Fortenberry’s “no” vote on H.R. 3102. He received more than 130 ”likes” on Facebook and more than 30 positive comments on the Omaha World Herald piece. Commenters thanked Rep. Fortenberry not only for his vote, but for his compassion, his courage, and for “standing with the least of these.” One commenter said he was “grateful that Mr. Fortenberry stood with the hungry of Nebraska.”

We wanted to make it clear that Rep. Fortenberry has strong and vocal support for his decision to protect poor and hungry people.

Great, great work to Kristin Ostrom and Bread members and coalition partners in Lincoln and across Nebraska! This is what effective advocacy looks like.

Zach Schmidt is a Bread for the World regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

A Radical Commitment to End Hunger Takes Faith

Amelia and Gary to White House
Bread for the World policy analyst Amelia Kegan and director of church relations Gary Cook travel to the White House in August to deliver the first set of signatures from Bread for the World members asking the president to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad. (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World)

By Amelia Kegan

You may be overwhelmed by the number of times we have asked you to call your members of Congress lately. You may be so angry at the partisan brinkmanship that you want to ignore the news. I know because sometimes I feel it, too. But I’m not giving up and we won’t stop asking you to speak up. Your voice makes a difference; there is too much at stake to lose faith now.

Soon Congress must pass a responsible budget and the path there will include more partisan fights over a continuing resolution, the debt ceiling, and sequestration. The fate of SNAP in the farm bill is still uncertain as the House and Senate move toward a reconciliation process. At each juncture we must be vigilant and vocal or risk an increase in hunger both at home and abroad.

Bread for the World knows ending hunger requires a long-term vision. We envision transitioning from a political climate of defensive protection to a bold offensive against hunger, transforming the rhetoric of scarcity into one of hope and abundance. We will pull out by the roots this political culture that blames the poor and demonizes those on SNAP. We will replant a new seed of radical commitment to ending hunger within Congress and the White House—a seed that will eventually yield economic security for all and a real opportunity to attain the American Dream. We will grow this transformation with the soil of on-the-ground, person-to-person grassroots organizing, the waters of political accountability, and by radiating the fierce unconditional love of Jesus Christ. 

But staring only at that grand vision of ending hunger in our time without attending to the immediate fights in front of us is like driving with our sights on the horizon while ignoring that sharp and dangerous curve in the road right just up ahead. How will we end hunger in this generation if 2014 begins with 4 million Americans kicked off of SNAP and 2 million more people around the world denied lifesaving food aid because of the sequester?

The budget battles we are fighting today are becoming part of the political narrative defining this era. There is no doubt in my mind that if we keep at it we will emerge victorious because we're in the right on this. When those suffering from hunger are able to fill their dinner tables with more than just anxious conversation, we all benefit. History, economics, and scripture have taught us that we are all in this together.

While each new budget fight might bring a level of increased exhaustion, frustration, and irritation, we cannot be discouraged. We must continue the relentless struggle over these fiscal fights. And while some may question the sustainability of our seemingly small efforts, we know the parable of the mustard seed and that with faith, we move mountains. 

As we face the next several months, prepare yourself for the trial ahead by taking comfort in the  certainty that you are not alone in God’s kingdom and everyone deserves a place at the table

Amelia Kegan is a senior policy analyst for Bread for the World.

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