Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

192 posts categorized "Social Justice"

Women's History Month: 'Poverty Is Not A Character Failing'


By Jennifer Gonzalez

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Bread Blog, Institute Notes, and Bread for the World’s social media platforms are celebrating the ingenuity, fortitude, and spirit of women during the month of March.

Among Barbara Ehrenreich's notable books is the bestseller “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.” Working as an undercover journalist, Ehrenreich took on various jobs as a low-wage worker in order to investigate how non-skilled workers make ends meet in the United States.

Today, low wages continue to keep many women in a cycle of poverty. Women’s equality, or the lack thereof, is the subject of the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger.  For instance, women now earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, up from 77 cents in 2012. 

The gender wage gap is very slowly eroding, but there is much more work to be done. Women are also at a disadvantage when it comes to the types of jobs they hold. “The majority of minimum-wage workers are women, and women hold 76 percent of the 10 low-wage jobs that employ the most people,” the report points out.

In fact, poverty would be reduced by half for families with a working woman if we closed the gender wage gap.

For more information on the integral role women play in ending hunger and poverty, make sure to read When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger and also visit Bread Blog.

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




New Book by Bread Leader Shows What’s Possible for Changing the World

Possible - Change - Twitter

By Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy

Social justice-minded advocates who are looking for inspiration will find it in a new book—Possible:  A Blueprint for Changing the World. Its author is Stephan Bauman, president of World Relief, an international relief and development partner of Bread for the World.

Bauman, who is also on Bread’s board of directors, poured his vast personal and professional experience rebuilding marginalized communities at home and abroad into this powerful text. Bauman wrote Possible to be hopeful and helpful for anyone engaged in making the world a better place.

And hope-filled and helpful it is. “Possible is a personal call to reconsider what it means to sustainably impact our neighborhoods, villages and cities. It’s for anyone who dares to believe change is possible, from artists to engineers to storytellers and students to moms and musicians,” Bauman says. 

The core message of Possible should ring true for the hundreds of thousands of Bread advocates and leaders who have been organizing their churches to write letters to Congress, praying to end hunger, drafting op-ed pieces for local papers, and keeping our nation’s decision makers accountable to ending hunger and poverty.

One of my favorite chapters in the book is titled “The Making of Heroes.” In it, Bauman talks about how ordinary people with a willingness to listen to others, with simple humility, authenticity, and belief in trusted relationships can undergird the transformative actions that actually change the world.  The book also emphasizes the need for asset mapping in all areas of our lives. This enables us to employ the skills and resources we possess in partnership with God, who is already at work in the world.

As the executive director of The Justice Conference (TJC), Bauman is creating a space where partnerships with God can manifest. The social-justice conference, held in Chicago this year, brings together world-class speakers and artists to catalyze emerging works of justice around the world. Thousands of Christian activists will gather at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago June 5 and 6.

Over the last four years, Bread has worked closely with TJC, and this year we will lead the pre-conference advocacy track on global poverty.  Register for The Justice Conference, and join Bread for the pre-conference.  We will have an intensive dialogue on global poverty – exploring what is possible when we partner with God and answer the call to change the world.

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy manages evangelical relations in Bread for the World’s church relations department.

Smarter Sentencing: Get in the Way of Injustice

Nate, a returning citizen in Ohio, who has been able to overcome the employment barrier, and now works to feed his family. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World

By Eric Mitchell

As Christians, it’s our duty to stop injustice when we see it.

On Wednesday, the results of a federal investigation showed widespread racial bias in the law-enforcement system in Ferguson, Missouri.

I was in Missouri last December, and I listened to the pain and frustration of my brothers and sisters who are confronted with the inequality of racism every day. This inequality leads to hunger and broken communities.

Ferguson is not unique. The federal investigation there makes it clear that we need change in many places. Our criminal justice system is broken. Congress passing the Smarter Sentencing Act would be a critical first step in creating systemic change.

This bipartisan bill would reform U.S. sentencing laws. The Smarter Sentencing Act gives judges the discretion to bypass unnecessary and overly harsh mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent, low-level drug offenses. Mandatory minimum sentences have contributed to the explosion of our country’s prison population. African-Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.

As people of faith committed to ending hunger, we must be at the forefront of this change. Call 800/826-3688 or email your member of Congress. Tell them it’s time to mend our broken criminal justice system and to create a fairer system to ensure justice for all.

Civil rights leader and Georgia congressman John Lewis often says, “You have to get in the way.” This is our moment to let our nation’s decision makers know that we are speaking up getting in the way of this injustice.

Learn more about the connections between incarceration and hunger in our new fact sheet:  Hunger by the Numbers in the African-American Community

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations for Bread for the World


Women's History Month: The Gospel and the Poor


By Bread Staff

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Woman’s Day, Bread Blog, Institute Notes, and Bread for the World’s social media platforms will be celebrating the ingenious, fortitude, and spirit of women during the month of March.

Women like Dorothy Day have been at the forefront in the fight to end hunger. Like Bread for the World members, Day grounded her work in prayer and scripture and felt called to care for the most vulnerable in our society.  Day’s example reminds us that women of faith are helpers and advocates and act as God’s hands in this broken world.

Women are also the primary agents the world relies on to fight hunger. From the mother in Mississippi who struggles to work full-time at minimum wage and still feed her children to the subsistence farmer in Kenya who prays she can sell enough of her produce at market to make it through the dry season, women feed and nourish the world. Lessons from anti-hunger programs carried out in the past decade have made it clear:  women’s empowerment is key to ending hunger worldwide.

On March 8, thousand of events will be held throughout the world as part of annual International Women’s Day observances.  The theme of this year’s celebration is “Make it Happen” for greater awareness of women’s equality.

Women’s equality is also the subject of the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger. The report looks at discrimination as a cause of persistent hunger and makes policy and program recommendations in order to empower women both in the United States and around the world. Increasing women’s earning potential by boosting bargaining power, reducing gender inequality in unpaid work, increasing women’s political representation, and eliminating the wage gap between male and female labor directly contributes to ending hunger.

For more information on the integral role women play in ending hunger and poverty, make sure to read When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger and also visit Bread Blog.


Black History Month: I Am Reminded

PP7By Brittany Gray


I am not into celebrating the lives of my ancestors for just one month out of the year. Rather, I take a moment each and every day to reflect on the lives of my ancestors, on the lives of greatness. Black History Month is not all that exciting for me, but it does serve as a reminder, nevertheless.

During the month of February, I am reminded, especially by others who celebrate the lives of black people, of how educated, beautiful, radiant, talented, driven, brilliant, intelligent, innovative, and legendary my people are. I am reminded that no matter how we are perceived today, that we were once kings, queens, inventors, innovators, educators, leaders, architects, and rulers of great nations, to name a few. I am reminded of how resilient and strong that we have always been and must continue to be.

Having grown up in the rural Mississippi Delta, I am reminded of my sharecropping grandparents who spent many years on a plantation in Leflore County. Many years in which they worked to provide housing and basic necessities for their eldest children. Many years in which they were short-changed daily by their “landlord” and barely made ends meet. It’s similar to the plight of so many residents in the Mississippi Delta, who struggle to provide for their families in 2015. I am reminded of the systemic issue of hunger and poverty that has always been pervasive in the Mississippi Delta due to blacks having little to no access to land or resources. I am reminded of the local, statewide, and federal policies that have allowed these systemic issues to remain commonplace.

I am reminded of great leaders who organized in an effort so that others and I would one day have better lives, opportunities, and a chance to live in a more just society void of systemic issues that plague black communities. I am reminded of Fannie Lou Hamer. I am reminded of June Johnson. I am reminded of Euvester Simpson. I am reminded of Victoria Gray Adams. I am reminded of Annie Devine. I am reminded of Unita Blackwell. I am reminded of Sam Block. I am reminded of Willie B. Peacock. I am reminded of Jesse Harris. I am reminded of Silas McGhee. I am reminded of Hollis Watkins.

In 2015, as we fight to prove that “black lives matter,” I am reminded of why I have chosen what I dare not call a career, but a way of life. I am reminded that the battles that my ancestors fought have not been won yet. The torch has been passed on. The fight must continue.

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” –Assata Shakur, an African-American activist (b. 1947)

Brittany Gray is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Photo: Brittany Gray at a Moral Movement Rally in Jackson, Miss. Brittany Gray/Bread for the World.




From Selma to Now: The Unfinished Agenda of a Pan-African Anti-Poverty Movement

Demonstrators participate in the 1968 Poor People's March in Washington, D.C. Warren K. Leffler/U.S. News & World Report via Wikimedia Commons.

By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith

In 1968, the world mourned the loss of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  His journey as a leader in the civil rights movement ended when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. Most people are familiar with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the early and major events in the movement. The recent film “Selma” has given further visibility to the legacy of Bloody Sunday, another of the movement’s seminal events, and the fight that ended in the Voting Rights Act.  King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, concerning his challenge to Christian leaders to act now and not later, has taken its proper place in the memories of many.  

Less is said about King’s final work concerning his position against the Vietnam War and an anti-poverty agenda spelled out in his work From Chaos to Community.  This agenda was addressed when King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy worked with the civil rights community to erect Resurrection City at the same location as the March on Washington. This initiative would be known as the Poor People’s Campaign and had thousands of participants stay in tents on the National Mall in 1968.  The rains were heavy that year. Some in the government proved rigid and set in the old ways. Others objected on the basis of fear. Participants faced many challenges but continued to move forward.

Since 1968, there have been other boycotts advocating for economic empowerment and other socio-political movements led by and supported by African-American churches and organizations as well as other institutions. There have also been aspects of a pan-African anti-poverty faith agenda as well. Despite all of this, the specific tenets of King’s proposal of how to end poverty, such as a guaranteed income for all, still have not been systematically addressed.

Bread for the World is convinced we can help to end hunger by 2030 through praying, acting, and giving, but there is much work ahead of us to get this done. As recently as this month, African-American church leaders said they need to seek ways to deepen their commitment to a pan-African anti-poverty agenda of faith. Our country’s history is tied closely to Africa, and now, generations later, Africa is on the rise again with its emerging economies.  

Bread will soon further outline its proposal for work with African-American church leaders and partners. We look forward to any input you might like to give in this regard.  Please send your comments to bread@bread.org or (202) 639-9400, toll-free: (800) 822-7323.

Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith is the associate for national African-American church engagement at Bread for the World.

Participate in the Souper Bowl of Caring on Super Bowl Sunday

Wikimedia Commons.

By Stephen H. Padre

"Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat" is a prayer that began a movement to take action against hunger on a day when Americans come together around football, fun, and food.
The Souper Bowl of Caring takes place every year on the day of the Super Bowl—Feb. 1 this year. The idea is simple: Led by youth, your congregation or community collects money and/or canned goods before or on Super Bowl Sunday. You report your results at tacklehunger.org, where national results are compiled and reported. You then donate 100 percent of your collection to an organization of your choice that is fighting hunger.
Make participation in this national event fun in your congregation. Some congregations serve a soup lunch after worship services. Use football images and sports metaphors to build excitement. Send youth out to collect money and canned goods from homes in the neighborhood.
The event is locally driven—you choose where your collection goes—but why not make broader connections in your participation? Pass on in-kind donations to a local organization, and give part or all of your monetary donations to an organization that works nationally or internationally, such as Bread for the World or your denomination’s hunger program. Groups across the country have donated to Bread in the past.
Start planning for your participation now. Promotional materials that you can use and adapt are available at www.souperbowl.org, where you can find information about other events around the Souper Bowl, including a service blitz.

Stephen H. Padre is the managing editor at Bread for the World.

For You Always Have the Poor With You

3963306049_3d6267a1f5_oBy Bishop Jose Garcia

Outgoing Texas governor and potential presidential candidate Rick Perry was asked in a Dec. 9 Washington Post interview about the growing gap between rich and impoverished people in his state. The article on Perry’s interview states, “(Texas) has had strong job growth over the past decade but also has lagged in services for the underprivileged.” Perry’s response: “Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion.”

Perry expressed an explanation that many Americans believe. He appears to be referencing a Bible passage in Mark 14:7: “For you always have the poor with you.”

I celebrate that the Bible is accessible to everybody. However, it must be understood in context and not used out of context.

Jesus uttered the words recorded in Mark 14:7 in an exchange in which some were criticizing a woman who chose to anoint Jesus before his burial with what was probably one of her most precious possessions, an ointment of nard. She could have been saving this very expensive nard for her wedding. During biblical times, brides were traditionally anointed with this oil. Yet in this passage, we see that the woman chooses to use the oil as an offering to honor Jesus.

It is interesting to note that some in our modern times use Jesus’ response to the criticism of this woman to make poverty seem like something inevitable—or even worse—to not make it a concern. Jesus praises the woman for her choice. His earthly ministry was about to end, and he was telling the disciples they would not have the opportunity to honor him in that fashion on earth again. Yet people living in poverty among us remain an opportunity to honor and serve God.

Maybe Jesus was referring to a sentiment expressed in Deuteronomy 15:11: “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.’”

If we take this passage in context, verses 7 to 11—or the whole chapter, for that matter—we can see that it addresses the priority of caring for people struggling with poverty. God did not want people to live in extreme poverty and want. The laws established by God in this passage and many others make provision for economic justice.

However, because of the sins of greed and disobedience to God’s commandments, humanity experiences social and economic disparity. That should not be the case. Money and wealth should be tools with which we are given the power of choice to use for the welfare of all. The Bible does not discourage wealth but rather encourages us to use it as a tool for good works that reflect God’s love.

The Bible should not be used out of context as a pretext for government officials or anyone else to rationalize the lack of action toward the end of hunger and poverty. In our nation, the most prosperous, most technologically advanced in the world, nearly 49 million Americans struggle to put food on the table, and 45 million live in poverty. One in five children are not sure where their next meal will come from. We cannot choose one Bible text, out of context, to ignore the plight of millions who do not have a fair choice for their nutrition, decent housing, education, health, living wages, and job opportunities.

By faith, at Bread for the World we believe that if the president and Congress can, in a bipartisan way, summon the political will to end hunger and extreme poverty, this desire can become a top priority in our national policies and a goal achievable by the year 2030.

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.

Photo: Bread for the World

Holiday Gifts That Give Back

Wikimedia Commons

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Everyone knows that Christmas is the season of giving. So this year, why not try something a little different? Ditch the clothes, electronic gadgets, and expensive jewelry and instead embrace socially responsible gift giving.

Give your family and friends gifts that show them how much you really care about them. With less than a week before Christmas, here are some ideas to help you:

Give your time

  • Make a homemade dinner and deliver it to the person’s house.
  • Provide a ride to someone in need.
  • Remember those who cannot get home for the holidays. Invite them over to your home so they can experience a Christmas filled with food, laughter, and good company.
  • Offer to house and/or pet sit for friends and family traveling out of town.
  • Offer babysitting services for a night to parents so they can have a “date night.”

Give your experience

  • Share your love and expertise by teaching someone how to play a sport, write a poem, play an instrument, how to cook, use a computer, or take a photograph.
  • Sign someone up for language or dance classes.

Homemade gifts

  • Remember that ceramic bowl you made in art class for Mom and Dad years ago? Well, it’s time to turn it up a notch. Embrace your artistic and crafty side and create photo albums, collages, and scrapbooks.
  • Put together an oral history by recording interviews with family members. Share the stories on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day.
  • Draw your family tree and frame the artwork.
  • Put together a book of family recipes or family stories.

Give your money

  • Donate money to a nonprofit organization in the name a friend or family member. Bread has received high ratings from charity-rating organizations.

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

The Faithful Light the Way to Justice

Church members from various faiths light the way to justice. Jay Mallin/United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Over the weekend, hundreds of people from various faiths stood on the sidewalk along 16th Street, a major thoroughfare in Washington, D.C., from the White House to Silver Spring, Md., in solidarity with those hurting from the recent slate of injustices perpetrated against the lives of African-American men.

“Vigil for Justice: People of Faith Lighting the Way” was organized by clergy from the Greater Washington, D.C., area as a way to respond in a peaceful manner to the recent police shootings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. Roughly 30 churches participated, including those from the Unitarian Universalist, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, and Baptist denominations.

Rev. Robert Hardies, senior minister at All Souls Church Unitarian, said faith traditions contain a promise that all human beings have inherent worth and dignity, but that the criminal justice system is not living up to that promise and that the vigil was “lighting the way to a more just society.”

The faithful held candles, flashlights, and even lanterns. Thousands of luminaries dotted the east side of 16th Street. Every now and then a chorus of “This Little Light of Mine” broke out, and candles were raised high when passing drivers honked their horns.

I was one of the many standing in the cold on Friday. I participated out of my conviction for the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings. What has happened in our country lately has been shameful. Rev. Ruben Tendai, interim senior minister at Lincoln Congregational Temple United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C., likened the current injustices to a festering wound that erupts from time to time in this country.

“Garner’s words, ‘I can’t breathe,’ is a metaphor for the marginalized people in our nation,” Tendai said. “We actually can’t breathe how God intended us to.”

Vigilpic3After the Ferguson grand jury decision, I figured the demonstrations would just peter out like they have so many times before. Instead, I have been heartened to see the protests continue.  Most recently, medical students organized a massive “die-in” protest across the country. Students from institutions such as Howard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard University dropped to the ground in their white coats.

The hunger and poverty experienced by people of color is deeply rooted in the racial injustices they have experienced. Education, healthcare, housing, and employment opportunities grow dim when the lives of African-Americans don’t matter. That’s when programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) can help families and individuals move out of poverty.

On Saturday, thousands descended on the National Mall to protest the police shootings and the larger issue of racial injustice. I don’t know what is going to happen next. But I am hopeful like I have never been before. As a person of faith, I have to believe that justice will prevail and that goodness will be done.

Bread for the World is ending the year with the theme of “Shine your light. Give life,” taken from John 8:12. My hope is that more lights like those that were on the streets of our nation’s capital on Friday night will pierce the darkness of injustice. It is only when we shine a light on injustice that life in its fullness can be lived by everybody.

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

Inset photo: Luminaries light the sidewalk along 16th Street, near the border of Washington, D.C. and Silver Spring, Md. Jay Mallin/United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

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