192 posts categorized "Social Justice"
By Stephen Padre
Last week, in one of the Supreme Court’s major announcements, the highest court in the land affirmed the power of words. The Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act was based on the interpretation of just four words (established by the state) among the millions of words in thousands of pages of legislation. Whether you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision or not, there’s no denying the huge deal the case became for the court, the Obama administration, the health care industry, and for millions of Americans who are covered under Obamacare.
Words also matter in advocacy. We live in a country that generally does not take political action with our bodies. Except for extraordinary times, political change does not happen in the U.S. through widespread strikes, rioting, or violence, as it does in some other countries. Of course, one or thousands of us are allowed to show up in front of the White House, but usually protesters are trying to get the president’s attention with words—with a sign or by shouting in a bullhorn.
Our democracy is built on the exchange of ideas. We exchange those ideas through words—discussion, debate, broadcasting through the media, etc. One of the best aspects of our democracy is the power of the individual, the right of a citizen to speak up and be heard by our government. It’s the power of the words and ideas that the individual is allowed to bring before the government—one of, by, and for the people. And Bread for the World is built on the idea of individuals using their words to speak to their government and to work with it. Motivated by their faith and supported by Bread, people are encouraged to use their own words to influence the decisions that are made for their fellow Americans and for others around the world.
Earlier this month, Bread hosted its annual Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. People from across the country came to visit the offices of their representative and senators on Capitol Hill and advocate for child nutrition legislation. Most of these types of visits last only 10 or 15 minutes – not much when you consider it. But many of these visits and the few words they convey are powerful. A short story told in an in-person congressional visit can hold a lot of weight. And just a few lines in a piece of legislation can mean millions of dollars are put toward a critical anti-hunger program.
Words in Washington have power. The words from politicians and decision makers have power. But so do yours as a citizen or resident of the United States. Claim your power. Speak up. Advocate with Bread. As we saw last week, the whole government might be moved by just a few words.
The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but nearly 16 million children are food-insecure. Act now! Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators to close the hunger gap today.
Stephen Padre is the managing editor at Bread for the World.
By Shalom Khokhar
Growing up, my family and I would go grocery shopping on Saturdays. My favorite place to go was Sam’s Club because they always had free samples. From snacks to desserts, it was always fun to run to each stall and grab a quick treat.
Living in the United States has it perks, one of them being that food is readily available and conveniently located. So available and convenient, in fact, that we become unaware of the disturbing statistics that hit closer to home than we think.
A staggering 69 percent of people had to choose between food and utilities, and 57 percent had to choose between food and housing, according to the Hunger in America 2014 study by Feeding America. More recently, a fact sheet released by Bread for the World last month, reported that almost five million older Americans are food-insecure, representing almost 10 percent of the older population.
Case in point: Last month, Clarence Blackmon, an elderly gentleman from North Carolina, dialed 911 not because he was hurt, but because he was hungry! The 81-year-old returned home after several months in the hospital. With an empty refrigerator and no immediate help, he spoke with 911 operator Marilyn Hinson.
"He was hungry," Hinson said. "I've been hungry. A lot of people can't say that, but I can, and I can't stand for anyone to be hungry."
Support poured in for Blackmon, and people brought bags and bags of food to his home. A little awareness goes a long way.
Sometimes all it takes is a few questions to realize that hunger is a common occurrence even in today’s society. Last December, a family came to my church’s Christmas concert. It was a Hispanic family with two young boys and girls. Dad worked, and mom was pregnant.
After talking with the family, we found out that dad was fresh out of prison and addicted to methamphetamines, and that mom was basically a single parent raising four malnourished kids. They had no home and had been living in their van for three months.
The church was able to donate $400 to the family and get in contact with a few local food pantries for some much-needed groceries. Their van needed some repairs, so the church gave them a vehicle to use and paid for a motel room for one week. Mom eventually gave birth to a healthy baby, and a few people from the church went to visit her. The church also connected the family with a social worker who could help make things a little better.
Yes, it’s sad to hear these stories, but don’t just hear them, act on what you have heard!
Jesus said in Matthew 25, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.”
One way we can all make a difference is to call or email Congress and ask them to protect and improve current nutrition programs, such as SNAP, WIC, and the child nutrition bill, and to continue to develop better ways of implementing laws to end hunger in America.
Ending hunger is a goal that can be reached in our lifetime, but only if we act now!
Shalom Khokhar is a summer intern in the communications department at Bread for the World.
By Jose Garcia
As I was watching the news about the senseless murder of our brothers and sisters at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, the camera showed a young woman with a sign that read WHY? This is a question that troubled many.
My answer may sound simplistic to some, but in truth, the root of the problem is - because evil exists. As sure as there is a sovereign, loving, kind, and merciful God, there is evil. It stains humanity and all of God’s creation. It leads to hate, bigotry, racism, oppression, abuse of power, envy, murder, lies, rebellion, and many other manifestations that are contrary to God’s perfect will.
However, in the midst of pain and sorrow we have an opportunity to be an extension of God’s arms of love and consolation to a community that is in mourning. We are reminded by the Apostle Peter to “not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing… For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer…” (1 Peter 3:9, 12)
God's love has compelled many to different demonstrations of love and care for our AME family and the city of Charleston. One of our own, Rev. Nancy Neal, a native of Charleston and Bread’s deputy director of church relations, traveled this weekend to Charleston, in solidarity and love, toward a community that she feels a closer connection with.
Many local congregations are lifting up prayers for the families of the victims and the community. Let us not forget that Jesus taught us to pray: “rescue us from the evil one.”
Jose Garcia is a bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy and the director of the church relations department at Bread for the World.
Statement from Bread for the World on the Charleston Tragedy
Bread for the World mourns the senseless loss of nine brothers and sisters at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, members of the Mother Emanuel congregation, and the entire AME church. We mourn for ourselves and our country. We witness acts of violence and are too complacent with hate. Yet we are reminded that those who mourn will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).
America’s ugly history of racism is something that we must challenge ourselves to continually address in order to truly see a sacred vision of the “Beloved Community” advanced by people like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Bread for the World stands shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends in the Charleston and wider South Carolina faith community as well as historic African-American church communities, and we will continue to do so in this time of great tragedy.
While no words can lessen the pain and sadness this violence has wrought, we are praying that God brings upon you peace, justice, and most of all, healing. We pray that we will all turn our faith into action and that God will use us so that this world may be transformed.
Rev. David Beckmann, President
Bread for the World
By Jennifer Gonzalez
Over 250 Bread for the World activists descended on Capitol Hill on Tuesday in the summer heat of Washington to ensure that members of Congress support child nutrition in the U.S. and abroad, and also aid small-scale farmers around the globe. Bread activists specifically asked members of Congress to support the Summer Meals Act of 2015 and the Global Food Security Act of 2015.
The day was a success as activist after activist, young and old alike, met with senators and representatives (or their staffers). Some meetings were small, with just a handful of activists around a table, sharing their thoughts, while others were quite large.
About 15 members from the Reformed Church of Highland Park in New Jersey met with staffers of Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-N.J.) office. The group later met with staffers from Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) office and got a surprise when the senator unexpectedly showed up and spoke to them. The group was not scheduled to meet with Booker, but instead, only with a couple of staffers.
Here are some highlights from Lobby Day 2015:
The morning got off to a great start with some inspiring words from Amelia Kegan, Bread’s deputy director of government relations. She spoke at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church, where activists took part in a worship service combined with a legislative briefing by staff members of Bread’s government relations department.
Activists spent the afternoon meeting with various members of Congress. A small group of Iowans met with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). They were accompanied by Rev. David Beckmann, Bread’s president, and Christine Melendez Ashley, a senior policy analyst at Bread.
Maria Rose Belding, a former intern at the Alliance to End Hunger (Bread’s sister organization), who now works at a nonprofit emergency food pantry system, stressed the need for Ernst to support the Summer Meals Act of 2015. “For every seven children who receive a free school lunch, only one gets a summer meal,” she said.
A handful of Bread activists from Alabama met with a staffer in Rep. Terri Sewell’s (D-07) office. Suzanne Martin spoke about the need for members of Congress, such as Sewell, to cosponsor the Global Food Security Act. The bill would make permanent Feed the Future, which has helped more than 7 million small-scale farmers increase crop production and has provided nutritious food to more than 12.5 million children in 2013 alone.
“What I love about this bill is that creates resiliency and sustainability,” Martin said. “I hope she (Sewell) becomes a big champion of this bill.”
The day ended with a reception and worship service at the Cannon House Office Building. Four members of Congress were honored as “hunger champions” during the reception: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.-37), U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.-01), and U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, (D-Calif.-40).
Lobby Day ended with activists relaying personal stories from their day on Capitol Hill. Thanks to all who participated in this year’s Lobby Day. We can’t end hunger by 2030 without your continued strong voice!
By Rev. Tanya J. Denley
As a young-adult volunteer in mission in Cleveland, Ohio, almost 20 years ago, I saw in the actions of my supervisors at Noble Road Presbyterian Church that faith wasn’t just a thing that happened on Sunday mornings. Instead, it was lived out in the community around the church each every day.
Today I live in Baltimore, Md. As a chaplain in an urban Catholic-affiliated hospital and a parish associate at Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church, I continue to see the need for faith to be active in the community around the church.
Baltimore is unlike any city I've ever lived in. It’s small, although in 2012, for the first time in 60 years, the population increased. The city is poor — 25 percent of its residents live below the poverty line — and overwhelmingly Black — 64 percent of the population. Drive through most parts of the city, and you’ll see row houses that are burned out, boarded up, and falling down. The poverty is apparent even in downtown. The stately, 115-year-old Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. courthouse is covered in netting to protect pedestrians from falling pieces of the building.
Dickey Memorial Church is located on the west side of Baltimore, not far from Sandtown-Winchester, where Freddie Grey was born, raised, and died after being held by police. The church is not far from Mondawmin, where young people took to the streets to express their frustration — and community leaders, clergy, and residents hit the streets calling for peace.
One of the immediate concerns to the community surrounding Dickey Memorial is that our nearby school, Dickey Hill Elementary/Middle School, like many other schools in the city, has no potable water. The children at the school cannot drink the water due to the high lead content. Additionally, 89 percent of the students at the school are receiving free or reduced-priced lunch, which is critical because of the high prevalence of food deserts in Baltimore.
There is much need in the city. Some more statistics:
- 1 in 5 Baltimore City residents lives in a food desert.
- Nearly 1 in 4 of Baltimore’s school-aged children (0-17) lives in a food desert.
- 1 in 4 of Baltimore’s African-American population lives in a food desert.
- In a food desert, 1 in 4 households receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, twice the percentage of non-food-desert households.
- 1 in 3 of Baltimore’s neighborhoods (36 percent) is located within a food desert.
There is good news, though. For over 35 years, the Baltimore faith community and, more recently, Dickey Memorial, have been working to make a difference in the communities around us. Church and community leaders in the area have joined with BUILD — Baltimoreans United for Leadership Development — to create better relationships with each other and to work for lasting change in Baltimore. The commitment for BUILD is a commitment to move the church out of the four walls of the sanctuary.
Dickey Memorial also supports Bread for the World each year. We understand that policy changes must happen on both the local and national levels. Protecting child nutrition programs is critical for children living in food deserts. The commitment to Bread is also a commitment to carry out our faith outside our church.
For me, this commitment comes from the understanding that as followers of Jesus we are to align our principles, our beliefs, and our lives with what God values, not with what the world values. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, to be willing to lay down our lives for our neighbor, to do justice, love God, and to walk humbly with God. This reorganization of priorities and aligning our lives with what God values is not always an easy process, nor is it a one-time event. It is something I must do and think about each and every day–and in a sense is a daily spiritual discipline.
Rev. Tanya J Denley, BCC is the oncology chaplain at Mercy Medical Center in downtown Baltimore. She also serves as Parish Associate for Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church in Dickeyville. In her spare time, she volunteers with Presbyterian Women's Anti-Racism Committee and writes on anti-racism and white privilege. She is married and has one cat.
Photo inset: Rev. Tanya J. Denley
By Bread Staff
In Luke 15, Jesus tells the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Can we treat people leaving prison (often called "returning citizens") the way the father treats his returned son in that parable? When men and women pay their debt to society and acknowledge their crime, Christians should be the first ones to accept them back into society. Yet many returning citizens encounter barriers to a second chance, which often push them into hunger and poverty.
We, the people of God, believe in a resurrected Christ who offers us second chances (and third, and fourth ...). Let's be the loudest voice calling for a second chance for returning citizens.
Join us as we pray for:
1. People facing long sentences for nonviolent crimes due to mandatory minimum sentences and other unjust sentencing policies. Also pray that they would be re-united with their families soon.
2. Children whose parents are incarcerated, that they would receive the love and care they need to develop fully.
3. Congressional leaders, particularly Sen. Chuck Grassley, that they would revise mandatory minimum sentencing laws that hurt families and foster hunger.
Prayer both sustains our advocacy and calls for God’s continued action in this world. Will you join us and commit to pray for an end to hunger?
When you commit to joining in praying for the end of hunger, we will email you twice a month with specific prayer requests and sample prayers.
"Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing." (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
By Jennifer Gonzalez
Recently, I, along with Bread for the World's multimedia manager, Joseph Molieri, spent the day at a unique food pantry run by St. George’s Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Va.
We went to visit the food pantry as a way to see how the issue of hunger is addressed on the ground. Many of the churches Bread works with do a lot of work around feeding the hungry and poor.
At most food pantries, the food is canned, boxed, or jarred, and clients are normally given a pre-assembled bag or box of food to take home.
Not at St. George’s.
At The Table (the food pantry’s name) there are no clients, only “shoppers.” The food pantry is set up in a way that allows shoppers to choose their groceries like they would at a supermarket or an open-air food market. The food pantry is open every day, and shoppers can visit either in the morning or afternoon.
Unlike a more traditional food pantry, The Table offers shoppers fresh produce, such as potatoes, apples, oranges, squash, broccoli, pears, and onions. Fresh bread, such as rye and wheat, is also available.
The food comes from local farms, donations, and the local food bank. St. Gregory’s also gleans from other places, such as convenience stores, for food they can provide, such as sandwiches.
Started in 2012, The Table is the brainchild of Rev. Deacon Carey Chirico, director of outreach ministries at St. George’s. She wanted to create a space where struggling people could shop for food with dignity and respect.
“It’s very much our belief that when we come forward to receive the Eucharist as Episcopalians, we are setting down all our own assurances,” Chirico said. “We are setting down any privilege we have. That there is nothing that makes us unique in receiving this beautiful, beautiful gift. So we try to do the same thing at The Table – approach each other on a person-to-person basis.”
“We’ve tried to really let go of ‘we have, you don’t; we give, you take,’” she said. “And we encounter each person as we are treated at the Eucharistic table.”
The uniqueness of St. George’s food pantry was not lost on me. When I left St. George’s that day, I wondered if there were other food pantries doing the same thing. I got my answer last week when I came across a New York Times article that focused on this idea of the “customer choice pantry” and how some food pantries across the country were converting to this new standard.
The idea is rooted not just in providing dignity to the shopper, but also offering more nutritious food, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. A lot of the packaged food given out at food pantries is not healthy.
This is important given the fact that many families who utilize food pantries are already facing health issues. In fact, 58 percent of households who use food pantries nationwide have a family member with hypertension, and more than 30 percent include someone with diabetes, according to Feeding America.
Historically, St. George’s food pantry began as an emergency food pantry – giving grocery bags filled with food to families in crisis. But Chirico said that set-up really wasn’t working. “We realized that we were not meeting a lot of people’s needs. We were not giving them food that was culturally appropriate or nutritionally sound.”
And so The Table was born after the church found out that people really enjoyed picking vegetables from a garden the church had started. Today, a shopper leaves the food pantry with an average of 25 lbs. of groceries – 60 percent of which Chirico hopes is fresh produce.
“Our goal is to improve the quality of the food people are getting, the quality of the experience they are getting, and invite them to come back every week,” Chirico said.
Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.
Photo inset: Fresh produce is a staple at The Table food pantry at St. George's Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Va. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.
By Patricia Bidar
Over the past decade, Bread has brought together hundreds of young leaders. Through the Hunger Justice Leadership training program, these young people are equipped to work to change the policies and conditions that allow hunger to persist. As with many Bread gatherings, these trainings in Washington, D.C., have resulted in some fruitful partnerships.
One is a serious partnership — the marriage of Terrance and Kiara Ruth, who met at the 2010 Hunger Justice Leaders training. Just over a year ago, their son, Miles, was born.
Both Terrance and Kiara were speakers at the 2015 Bread for the World Convention in mid-April in Raleigh, N.C., where the couple lives. The gathering galvanized over 200 people from throughout North Carolina and generated 223 letters to members of Congress.
Kiara feels God brought Terrance and her together. "The Hunger Justice Training was the first time anyone in my family had ever been on a plane," she remembers. "Few from my African Methodist Episcopal church back home have ever left Arkansas."
"Terrance and I were assigned to the same work hub," Kiara continues. "Over the course of days, I saw his selflessness and his passion for justice. We were assigned to sit together at the culminating dinner the night before Lobby Day. Our tablemates all assumed we were a married couple."
At the April convention in North Carolina, Kiara spoke about her family's struggle. As a teen growing up in Arkansas, she and her family turned to a shelter to keep a roof over their heads. "Later, when we received food aid and were able to go to the grocery store — that was like Disneyland for us," she remembers.
Terrance grew up in Florida. His father was a military man; his mother, a nurse. After earning his Ph.D., Terrance became principal of AMIkids, a public high school for students who have been suspended from traditional schools. Ninety-five percent of the students qualify for free lunches. For many, that is the only meal they eat each day.
At the school, the day starts at 10:00 a.m., too late to provide free breakfast. So Terrace recruited a local donor to bring breakfasts to the school.
The school also has a garden to grow produce for students' families. At first, the students weren't taking the vegetables because they didn't know how to prepare them. Terrance and the teachers are now working with parents to ensure the vegetables are used.
Terrance writes a series of articles for EducationNC. The articles are framed as letters to Terrance and Kiara's son. The letters describe the reality of African-American students and express hope as Miles grows up.
Kiara and Terrance worship at St. Paul AME Church in Raleigh. Terrance's faith inspires him to note that "Bread for the World's work is important because Scripture calls for it…Again and again, the Bible connects the holiness of God and food. Scripture correlates spirituality and nourishment. How can Christians possibly ignore hungry people?"
Kiara adds, "At the time I was participating in the Hunger Justice Leader training, my mother and my grandmother were both on food stamps. Bread for the World's work is much more than talking to elected officials about the hunger issue. We are here to do more than that. We are here to make something happen."
Kiara aims to keep her activism strong. "The more who join us, the more we can accomplish. And my job is to make clear to my congregation, my aunties and cousins, my neighbors, that they can help. Then change will happen. Lives will finally improve."
Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day is June 9. Join us to make some real changes in Washington, D.C., when it comes to feeding our children. You don’t need to be a policy expert to participate. You just need to care.
Registration is free but space is limited. Register today to reserve your spot!
Photo: Kiara and Terrance Ruth with their son Miles. Photos courtesy of the Ruths.
Patricia Bidar is a freelance writer.
Editor’s note: Bread for the World’s Lobby Day is on June 9. Ahead of Lobby Day, Bread Blog chats with Kierra Jackson, a major gifts coordinator/development officer at Bread, about her experience attending Lobby Day.
Q. Why have you attended Lobby Day in the past?
A. I’ve always been nervous about lobbying – afraid that I didn’t know enough and that what I could contribute to a conversation around food justice wasn’t significant enough. But then I met with Bread organizers who equipped us about the issues, provided us with the facts, and encouraged us to share our stories about how hunger had touched our lives, our families, our communities. I felt a sense of strength, purpose, and a feeling that I belonged in those Hill offices when I came equipped with anecdotes about those affected by hunger.
I’ve continued to attend Lobby Day because I want to debunk the myth that the men and women in Congress are inaccessible and that our voices don’t matter. They do. I also lobby each year to be reminded that those in office are public servants. They are in office to serve the wills and the needs of the people they represent.
I want to debunk the myth that the men and women in Congress are inaccessible and that our voices don’t matter. They do.
Q. What has your previous lobby day experience been like?
A. Last year, I lobbied with a small group of folks from Washington, D.C. We met with staffers with the office of Eleanor Holmes Norton, a congressional delegate from the District of Columbia. Many people think that, because D.C. doesn’t have a vote, visiting with Holmes Norton doesn’t matter. But it does. She is currently in her 13th term and has professional relationships and friendships with those who do have a vote. She also has access to the president. So, her buy-in—when it comes to the issues Bread cares about—really matters because she has great influence.
Q. What do you like most about participating in Lobby Day?
A. My favorite part is the reception at the end. Bread provides time and space to present awards to members of Congress who have been champions for hungry people. I also am grateful for time when we’re encouraged to share from our experiences. There’s always a lot of positive energy at that final debrief. I leave feeling so proud to be a Bread staff member, supporter, and a lobbyist on behalf of those who experience hunger.
Q. This year’s Lobby Day is focused on ensuring Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill. Why is lobbying on this issue important to you?
A. I’m an aunt, a child-birth doula, and a neighbor to many children on my block. When it comes to children, you can’t use the excuse that poverty is their fault. Adults are responsible for the well-being of children. Hunger causes physical and emotional stress. I believe that it’s my personal responsibility to help those around me – especially the most innocent and vulnerable – to grow, develop, and become their best. Supporting the child nutrition bill promises positive outcomes for so many children in this country. It’s advantageous to see successive generations thrive. I feel a personal responsibility to that end.
Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day is June 9. Join us to make some real changes in Washington, D.C., when it comes to feeding our children. You don’t need to be a policy expert to participate. You just need to care.
Registration is free ,but space is limited. Register today to reserve your spot!
This blog post interview was conducted, edited, and condensed by Jennifer Gonzalez, associate online editor at Bread for the World.
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