Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

197 posts categorized "Social Justice"

College Student Fights Hunger on Multiple Fronts

Maria Rose Belding, seated far left, speaks with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), wearing a blue jacket, during Bread for the World's 2015 Lobby Day. John Jacks for Bread for the World.

July 9, 2015 | By Jennifer Gonzalez

Nothing irks Maria Rose Belding more than hearing legislators say that food pantries can fill in the food gap when SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits are cut.

“No, no, no. That is not how the math works,” she says, fervently.

Collectively, food banks and private charities account for only 6 percent of food aid. The rest is provided by the federal government through programs like SNAP, Belding says.

Recently, she took her knowledge about hunger to Capitol Hill as part of Bread for the World’s Lobby Day. She, along with Bread for the World members from Iowa, met with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). Belding grew up in Iowa but lives as a college student in Washington, D.C.

Belding, 19, believes in the power of lobbying. One vote from a legislator has more influence than all the staffs of a food pantry put together, she says. “Their influence on hungry people is significant. I want them to know that and understand that.”

During her visit with Ernst, Belding spoke about the need for Congress to pass the Summer Meals Act. The bill would strengthen and expand access to summer meal programs for children. Accessing meals during summertime can be hard for children, especially for those living in rural areas. Lack of transportation and long distances make it difficult for them to get the meals they need to grow into healthy adults.

Belding knows Bread well. She interned last year with the Alliance to End Hunger, an affiliate of Bread. “Bread is such a cool Christian community,” she says. “It embraces the Gospel of hungry people. It’s nice to be in an environment that embraces the Gospel and acts on it.”

But lobbying on behalf of hungry people is not the only way she is helping to ensure people have access to food. Earlier this year, she launched the nonprofit MEANS Database, an online system that enables food pantries to communicate with each other and their donors to prevent waste.

The nonprofit has approximately 1,500 partners and agencies in 12 states. MEANS stands for Matching Excess And Need for Stability.

Belding got the idea for the nonprofit after a disheartening experience while volunteering at a church food pantry that ended up throwing out boxes of macaroni and cheese when they expired. She says another food pantry could have used the boxes before they expired if there had been an efficient way to communicate with them.

Belding, who is pursuing an undergraduate degree in public health at American University, hopes to continue to grow the nonprofit. As a food advocate, she is passionate about ensuring that everyone has access to food.

The nonprofit is her way of ensuring that food pantries run efficiently as possible and are able to provide food for the hungry.

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World. 


Bread Member Spotlight: Frances Kellogg

By Patricia Bidar

When a couple pulls up stakes as they prepare for retirement, the common move might be to a bucolic setting. Not Frances Kellogg and her husband, Howard. After raising their five children in Bryn Mawr, Pa., the couple relocated to downtown Philadelphia.

"Our neighbors thought we were crazy," Frances remembers, laughing. "But I could run errands on my bike or on foot. It was easy to attend a concert using public transportation. In fact, some of our new neighbors were in the orchestra. We could hear from them what it was like to perform." For the Kelloggs, the move seemed a practical one. Kelloggfamily

When asked why she is a member of Bread for the World, Frances' answer is equally practical. "Hunger is basic. More basic than shelter. Bread for the World works with Congress to end hunger problems. I subscribe to Charity Watch, and Bread receives a high rating."

Frances was raised in Bryn Mawr, but during World War II she traveled the country as part of the Women's Army Corps. First, she was stationed in Philadelphia. Transfers to Tampa, Michigan, and Fresno, Calif., followed. "I have always loved mountains," she says. "From Fresno, a GI friend and I would hitchhike in uniform to Yosemite. This Tennessee GI could never get over the idea of a woman who could hike all day!"

After the war, Frances returned to Bryn Mawr. Because money had never been a problem for the family, she accepted her mother's advice to do volunteer work. Then 28 years old, Frances landed a secretarial job with the American Friends, otherwise known as the Quakers. In May that year, she was invited to dinner at the home of a distant cousin and was told that Howard Kellogg would pick her up. The two found a common love: mountains and hiking. In October, the couple wed. They spent many happy years hiking in New Hampshire. When Howard retired from his work as an attorney, he hiked the entire Appalachian Trail.

Frances says her charitable giving is motivated by faith and having been blessed with financial means. Back in Bryn Mawr, when the Kelloggs were raising their children, they attended a wealthy church. "It bothered me," Frances says. Suzanne Hyatt, another parishioner who was a trained social worker, felt the same way. "She radicalized me," Frances says. "A group of us met in each other's homes to worship." The Church Without Walls stayed together for 30 years before disbanding.

Frances and Howard now reside in a retirement community in Gwynedd, Pa. Their children and nine grandchildren are scattered across several states. The family owns a place in New Hampshire and sometimes meets there. One grandchild has taken up hiking, even taking on the Appalachian Trail, as his grandfather did years ago.

Today, Frances attends St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. In fact, at 96 years old, she drives herself to church each Sunday. She participates in the church's food pantry by bringing food as part of her offering.

Frances has good friends and belongs to a reading club and a meditation group. She has taken on her husband's old job of maintaining the records of her charitable gifts on 3 x 5 cards. "Bread for the World appeals to me more than other organizations doing good work," she says. "I can't imagine being a mother unable to feed my children."

Patricia Bidar is a freelance writer.

Photo inset: Frances and Howard Kellogg and their five children. Photo courtesy of Frances Kellogg.

Colorado Pastors Changing Immigration Dialogue

By Michelle Warren

Fear. Courage. Restoration.

For the past several years, pastors and ministry leaders in Colorado have been working to change the dialogue about immigrants in our state. Those of us who live and worship alongside immigrants realized that it wasn't enough for us to know about the pain inflicted by the broken immigration system. We needed to actually do something with what we knew. Doing something was not a choice but rather an opportunity to lead. IMG_1181

Public-policy issues share some basic similarities: a problem that needs fixing with an appropriate solution and leaders willing to implement the solution. Immigration reform is a political hot button. Fixing a broken immigration system needs leaders who are willing to lead, regardless of constituents' criticism.

As a seasoned organizer, I regularly call both elected officials and pastors to act on their moral courage and lead on difficult — even polarizing — issues. I meet with political leaders who tell me behind closed doors that they are "with me" on issues but who subsequently fail to act because they are afraid of backlash from their constituents. I meet with pastors who understand what the Bible has to say about injustice but avoid initiating conversations with their congregations for fear of being viewed as too political. Both are leaders in their communities; both wrestle with fears of backlash from those they serve. 

Fear is a trap, keeping us in a broken place. When leaders allow fear to keep them from leading, they not only miss an opportunity to help release people from broken systems, but they also miss an opportunity to be a part of the restoration process.

Last summer, I had the privilege to work alongside a group of pastors who decided to do a city-wide sermon series on God's heart for the immigrant. They all recognized that their congregations needed to look at the issue of immigration through a biblical lens, and as leaders, that it was their responsibility to share this message. 

Right before the sermon series started, election politics were gearing up. Colorado, where the pastors served, was one of the most-watched states for an election upset. The media was brutal. As the primaries across the country ended — with unanticipated and highly reactive results — a story broke about thousands of unaccompanied minors coming across our borders.  National headlines around immigration were politically toxic, not just for politicians but anyone brave enough to engage in the dialogue.

This group of pastors leaned in and led.

As anyone in leadership knows, criticism makes leading more about decisive courage and less about how you personally feel. All of these pastors were put to the test, but their willingness to lead despite fear gave voice to timeless truth and the urgency for change. Dr. John Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association, has said, "Courage is not the absence of fear. It is living one's conviction in the face of fear."

In my work, whether with politicians or Christian leaders, fear can be a driving force. Often we are tempted to back out. However, when leaders decide to take courage in the face of fear, our communities are stronger for it.

These pastors are examples of acting with courage and leading their communities toward restoration.

Michelle Warren is the director of advocacy and policy engagement for the Chicago-based Christian Community Development Association.

Photo inset courtesy of Michelle Warren.

On Charleston: A Perspective from an African-American Pastor

A makeshift memorial outside Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Angelique Walker-Smith/Bread for the World.

Editor's note: The shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. have left the country reeling and coming to grips with a myriad of feelings. Bread Blog presents two perspectives from the church relations department at Bread for the World. Go here to read the other blog post.

By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith

Thousands of people have gathered in the past several days to mourn, bury, and celebrate the lives of the nine martyrs of faith from Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.  I was among those who gathered because the denomination that Mother Emanuel Church belongs to is a member of Bread for the World.

These recent events have raised a larger question about how our dear brothers and sisters died in the faith.  The great suffering and violent death of the nine, while exercising their faith during Bible study, is a clear indicator of their martyrdom. Yet, it is the powerful legacy of their lives of faith, shared through the testimonies of family and friends left behind, that help us understand the importance of these last moments of the dearly departed. The legacy of their lives now rests with their family and friends, and us, as we see how their testimonies affect the spirit and the legal process. What will be the outcome of the alleged shooter’s fate? And will there be a renewed movement to tear down the strongholds and symbols of racial hatred and bigotry in South Carolina and other places?  

Hebrews 12:1-3 states:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

The writer of Hebrews refers to both the departed and those left behind. During the alleged shooter’s bond hearing, some family members of those victims begged him to turn to God, prayed for his soul, and invited him to repent.    

African-American people of faith have historically not given up the hope they have found in God and the possibility of change, despite the horror and violence of racism in this country.

May the legacy of the Emanuel AME martyrs and the testimonies of their descendants feed our souls and actions so that we can more fully receive the invitation to join the great cloud of witnesses of love and action.

Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith is Bread for the World’s national senior associate for African-American and African church engagement.

On Charleston: A Perspective From a Daughter of Charleston

A makeshift memorial outside Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Angelique Walker-Smith/Bread for the World

Editor's note: The shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. have left the country reeling and coming to grips with a myriad of feelings. Bread Blog presents two perspectives from the church relations department at Bread for the World. Go here to read the other blog post.

By Rev. Nancy Neal

The tragedy in Charleston, S.C., just two weeks ago still sits heavy on my heart. I’m a native of Charleston, and when I visited my family home there the weekend after the shooting, the message of unity was pervasive. I heard it from the mayor, from the preacher at Mother Emanuel Church on Sunday morning, from the cashier at the grocery store, and from my childhood friends. I hadn’t experienced that type of unity in Charleston since 1989, when the city was struck by Hurricane Hugo, and even then there were disparities in the responses to communities based on racial and class lines.

We see and feel hope from the responses of the community in the packed house at Mother Emanuel Church the last two weekends; in the unity march across the Cooper River Bridge; in the packed house for Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s funeral; and in donations pouring in from major companies like Blackbaud, the state’s electric and gas utility, and even kids with lemonade stands. What is most hopeful in all of this is the courageous response of the families who stood up one by one and offered forgiveness to the young man who brutally shot and killed their family members. This is the response of deeply faithful people who are able to draw on their experience and knowledge of God’s love.

And for this unity to last, it will require white folks like me to have the courage to look deep in our hearts for those ugly thoughts and assumptions that swim in our conscious and unconscious minds. It will take listening to our sisters and brothers of color to understand how our assumptions and attitudes affect their daily experiences, which can be quite different from ours. And it will take trusting that their experience is real and true.

All of this will make us feel really uncomfortable, and we won’t want to hear it because the stories will go against the narrative we were taught that everyone is treated equally and justice is blind. But the good news is that when we expose the ugliness in our hearts and the injustices that we participate in every day to the light of God’s love, we are changed and moved forever. We can take comfort that God loves us anyway—even though we don’t deserve it. And that will move us and give us the courage to examine policies that disproportionately impact communities of color and then change those policies. Then we can stand in together truly united in Christ.

Rev. Nancy Neal is the deputy director of church relations at Bread for the World.

Words Have the Power to Move the Government

Participants in Bread's 2015 Lobby Day from Alabama meet with their member of Congress. Zach Blum for Bread for the World

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.

A Land of Prosperity, a Land of Hunger

Federal nutrition programs are finding ways to connect the people who rely on them with a healthy selection of foods. Jim Stipe for 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.



Deliver Us From Evil...

An overflow crowd gathers outside Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., during a memorial service following the shooting of nine congregants. Wikimedia Commons.

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.

Weeping for Charleston

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

Lobby Day 2015: A Great Day of Advocacy

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!

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