164 posts categorized "Social Justice"
As droughts swelter in the American Midwest and the Sahel region of Africa, Muslims across the United States are called to celebrate Ramadan. This month of fasting and spiritual reflection continues until August 19, providing a timely reminder of the increasing number of hungry people suffering during this time of climate and economic uncertainty. The prayerful deprivation of food during Ramadan should be connected to the lives of nearly a billion people who are hungry every day.
It is heartening to see such compassion fueling the fight against hunger. This year’s Ramadan fast comes at a critical moment for many Americans. According to the latest census, more than 17 million U.S. households are food insecure. Nearly one in four children in our country is at risk of going to bed hungry. Harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the food stamp program) have been proposed in versions of the 2012 Farm Bill currently being considered before Congress. SNAP helps 46 million Americans put food on the table; the cuts would prove devastating for so many in need.
Opponents of SNAP and other federal nutrition programs say it should be the responsibility of charities to feed hungry people; however, less than 5 percent of food assistance for poor people comes from charities. In fact, most food assistance comes from government nutrition programs like SNAP. While food banks do their best to feed these families, the reality is that the problem is too large: we cannot food bank our way out of hunger.
A market in Liberia. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
by Kristen Archer.
Liberia is about the same size as Virginia, but its poverty rate is nearly quadruple that of African-Americans in that state.
“Hunger and poverty among African-Americans mirror the unjust circumstances many people in African nations endure,” said Rev. Derrick Boykin, associate for African-American leadership outreach at Bread for the World. “However, hunger and poverty impacts many African nations more severely, often resulting in disease or even death.”
Lloyd Schmeidler of Durham, NC, prays during the opening worship at Bread for the World's Lobby Day in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Photo by Rick Reinhard/Bread for the World)
by Amy Oden
Christians talk a lot about hospitality, about welcoming the stranger in our churches and communities. Yet, in our personal lives we continue to label, categorize, and dismiss the “political stranger"—people who express political views different from our own.
I challenge Christians during this election season to welcome the political stranger, people we often know well (co-workers, family members, neighbors) who seem like strangers to us—alien, confusing, unfathomable. We may wonder, “What kind of person would vote that way? How can they hold that position?”
(Photo by Flickr user Natural Step Online)
by Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy
What do mega church pastors like John Ortberg (Menlo Park Presbyterian), Bill Hybels (Willow Creek Church), and Craig Groeschel (LifeChurch.tv) have in common with leadership experts like Jim Collins (author of "Good to Great"), William Ury (author of "Getting to Yes"), Geoffrey Canada (author of "Waiting for Superman"), and Gary Haugen (president of the International Justice Mission)?
Each has a relentless commitment to creating highly effective, powerful organizations that transform our world.
Maryland activists participate in Bread for the World's 2011 Lobby Day. (Photo by Jim Stipe/Bread for the World)
- Develop an “elevator speech” for why ending hunger is important to you as a Christian.
- Register to vote.
- Write a letter to your local paper saying that ending hunger is a priority for you as a voter.
- Learn what the candidates are saying about ending hunger.
- Speak about the importance of ending hunger at candidates’ town hall meetings.
- Engage your friends. Make sure they are registered and know what the candidates are saying about ending hunger.
- Magnify your voice by combining it with those of thousands of other Christians. Become a member of Bread for the World; organize an Offering of Letters.
- Engage your church.
- Give money and volunteer time to candidates who are committed to ending hunger.
- VOTE for candidates who are committed to ending hunger.
During the August recess, as we lead up to the lame duck session, Bread members are setting up meetings with members of Congress and their staff at local offices to make sure that hunger issues are part of the campaign conversations.
Children in India benefit from meals provided by their school. This lunch program was featured in the "Hunger Report," published by the Bread for the World Institute.
The Bread for the World board of directors helps set the direction for how Bread can best channel its resources to support anti-hunger programs around the world. (Photo by Jim Stipe/Bread for the World)
While you have to wait until November to cast your ballot in the U.S. presidential election, Bread members have a chance to vote now for their representatives on the Bread for the World board of directors.
And unlike in national elections, in which voters are often subjected to divisive, winner-take-all politics, voting for members of Bread’s board is a harmonious action. This multidenominational, bipartisan group of Bread candidates is united in its mission to eliminate hunger—just like you are.
Each year, one-third of our board members are chosen by the entire Bread for the World membership. This year, 14 candidates have put their names forward to represent Bread. Choices range from a former U.S. Presidential candidate to a founder of a food bank. Each of these individuals has already done much to end hunger, and each brings specific insight, skills, and connections to the table. Bread members can vote for seven of them.
by Kyle Dechant
- Eighty-four percent of all SNAP benefits go to households with a child, elderly person, or disabled person.
- Eighty-five percent of families on SNAP make less than $24,000 a year (for a family of four).
- The average SNAP allotment per household is $284 per month.
With rhetoric about government programs heating up during this election year, some Americans are not getting reliable information about the value and efficiency of this program to assist hungry families.
(Photo by Flickr user cnishiyama)
by Robin Stephenson
Hunger is a frequent companion for too many children. Around the world, 178 million children under the age of 5 are stunted because of inadequate nutrition during their first 1,000 days of life. Closer to home, one in five U.S. children face hunger every day because they live in households struggling to put food on the table.
These sobering facts can be changed with enough political will, but the first step is education.
"Recent research shows that many children who do not have enough to eat wind up with diminished capacity to understand and learn. Children don't have to be starving for this to happen. Even mild undernutrition - the kind most common among poor people in America - can do it."
Carl Sagan, astronomer and Cornell University professor.
Nearly one in four children in the United States faces hunger on a daily basis. Domestic nutrition programs have been a lifeline during the Great Recession, keeping hunger at bay in many households. Now is the time to contact your representatives in Congress and tell them to maintain a circle of protection around these vital programs as they consider the 2012 Farm Bill. Photo: A Catholic Charities Chicago Summer Food Services Program participant enjoys a healthy lunch. Credit: USDA
"We fought a war on poverty and poverty won.” —President Ronald Reagan
"When people decide they have had enough and there are candidates who stand for what they want, they will vote accordingly." —Peter Edelman
by Eric Bond
In a July 28 New York Times op-ed, “Poverty in America: Why Can’t We End It?” Peter Edelman educates readers about the crucial role that domestic assistance programs have played in the lives of millions of Americans over the past 40 years as wages decreased and the cost of living increased.
While pointing out that 15 million Americans now live in poverty (a number that is rising according to the Census), Edelman asserts that President Reagan’s infamous quotation about poverty (above) is not entirely true.
[W]e have done a lot that works. From Social Security to food stamps to the earned-income tax credit and on and on, we have enacted programs that now keep 40 million people out of poverty. Poverty would be nearly double what it is now without these measures, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. To say that “poverty won” is like saying the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts failed because there is still pollution.
Edelman, a former aide to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, is the author of So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America, which was published by The New Press in late May of this year. In his book, Edelman analyzes the economic stress that festers in the lower levels of our society and has crept well into the middle. His conclusion is basic and matter of fact: Low (or no) wages breed poverty.
We know what we need to do — make the rich pay their fair share of running the country, raise the minimum wage, provide health care and a decent safety net, and the like.
How the United States reached its current economic state, with income disparity at its widest since the Great Depression, is a tale of incremental cuts: cuts to wages, cuts to job prospects, and cuts to services at the bottom—accompanied by cuts to taxes at the top. The statistics Edelman cites are jarring: “Poverty among families with children headed by single mothers exceeds 40 percent,” for instance.
Restoring the ladder out of poverty and stabilizing the middle class will take both electoral politics and outside advocacy and organizing, according to Edelman. But he believes that, just as the civil rights and women’s movements shifted the foundations of our society against entrenched institutions, so can a movement against hunger and poverty create a more just nation in which poverty is not endemic.
The change has to come from the bottom up and from synergistic leadership that draws it out. When people decide they have had enough and there are candidates who stand for what they want, they will vote accordingly.
One place to draw the line is around the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). As difficult as life can be for the growing number of poor Americans, six million people have no income other than SNAP. Edelman calls SNAP “a powerful antirecession tool … with the number of recipients rising to 46 million today from 26.3 million in 2007.”
As Congress considers ways to reduce economic stress during this time of trial, it can begin by maintaining a circle of protection around the programs that provide nutrition to those who have borne the brunt of the Great Recession— the working poor and their children.
Contact your representative or senators during their recess, and strongly encourage them to fight against cuts to SNAP and other nutritional programs in the farm bill when they reconvene in September.
- Read about Bread’s mini campaign to protect domestic nutrition programs.
- Read tips for making your voice heard at town hall meetings.
Eric Bond is managing editor of Bread for the World.
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