Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

287 posts categorized "Solutions to U.S. Poverty"

Arkansas: The Hungriest State

Janitorial.php
Congress should raise the minimum wage so that a full-time, year-round worker can support a family of four above the poverty line. (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World).

By Alyssa Casey

A decent home life and three good meals a day is what Gregory Stewart, 36, of Little Rock, Arkansas wants to provide for his daughters. Yet in order to provide the basics, even though he works two jobs at minimum wage, Stewart told The Newshour he had to move in with his extended family.

Struggling to make ends meet is not uncommon in the state designated as the hungriest in the United States. In 2013, more than 1 in 5 Arkansas households were at risk of hunger. More than 19 percent of Arkansans lived in poverty, including more than 1 in 4 children. If you visualize five houses or apartments neighboring yours, at least one of those households struggles with hunger. And in your child’s class of 32, more than eight of his or her fellow students live in poverty.

When we hear such staggering statistics, two questions often come to mind: Why are hunger and poverty so high in Arkansas? And what can be done to change this?

Hunger and poverty are complex issues that lack a simple cause or silver bullet solution. However, Bread for the World’s research shows that unemployment and low wages tell part of the story.

Currently 6.3 percent of Arkansans are unable to find work. This is down from 7.3 percent a year ago, but still higher than the pre-recession level of just over 5 percent. Even if unemployment rates drop, low wages often mean that a full-time job is not enough to keep a family out of poverty.

Across the United States, most of the jobs added during the economic recovery have been low-wage jobs. Arkansas echoes this trend. The median annual salary – the middle point in Arkansas’ salary range – is $37, 340. Eight of the ten occupations expected to add the most jobs in Arkansas through 2015 will pay $10,000 less than the median salary.

With a minimum wage of $6.25 per hour, Arkansas is one of three states with a minimum wage below the federal level of $7.25 per hour. When state and federal laws have different wages, the higher standard does apply. However, even someone working full-time, year-round at $7.25 per hour earns an annual income more than $8,000 below the federal poverty line to support a family of four. While legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate to raise the federal minimum wage, the Senate bill failed to pass and the House never even brought their bill to a vote.

The Arkansas Senate race between incumbent Mark Pryor and U.S. Representative Tom Cotton is considered a toss up, but whoever wins should use their position to end hunger. With such important races likely to be decided by only a few votes, Arkansans have a unique opportunity to influence a path out of poverty and help families like the Stewarts who are hungry for jobs that pay a living wage.

As these candidates canvas the state and ask for your vote, ask them what their plan is to address hunger and poverty in Arkansas. Look at their recent votes on hunger and poverty issues. If they are voting to end hunger, thank them. If not, ask them to explain their votes against policies that would help make hunger history.

With all of us pitching in by demanding accountability from our elected officials – whichever state you live in - Bread for the World believes we can end hunger in communities across the country by 2030.

See how hunger and poverty are affecting the 10 hungriest and poorest states.

Alyssa Casey is Bread for the World’s government relations coordinator.

Voting Ensures Communities are Fed, Safe, and Economically Stable

  2999130055_8697986e51_b
(Theresa Thompson, Creative Commons)

By Angelique Walker-Smith

How many times have we heard about the tensions between local African-American communities and the police in recent months? Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., Ezell Ford in Los Angeles,  Eric Garner of New York City, and John Crawford III in Beavercreek, Ohio, are a few of the names in the headlines in recent months.  With the use of new technologies that support grassroots photo and video journalism, there appears to be no end in sight of making sure these kinds of stories are told. Such tensions are not the only challenges in the African-American community.   

Hunger and poverty in the African-American community have declined recently, but our community still has one of the largest percentages of hungry people and persons living in poverty. The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013, showed that, in the African-American community, poverty declined slightly from 27.2 percent to 27.1 percent, compared to the decrease of 25.6 percent to 23.5 percent in the Hispanic community.  Nationally, poverty decreased slightly—by 0.5 percent—last year. It is the first time a decrease has been seen since 2006. The bureau announced that 14.5 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2013. Additionally, child poverty declined for the first time since 2000, from 21.8 percent to 19.9 percent.

One of the most important ways we can change these unacceptable numbers of African-Americans who are hungry and living in poverty and at the same time address the incidents of violence between local authorities and the African-American community is to get out and vote. Voting leads to structural changes that can transform communities. Voting for candidates who clearly represent the interests of our communities and not voting only for personalities is important in achieving this goal.  Voting is how we put public servants in office to work to transform our communities so that there is, for example, employment that affirms the dignity of God’s people, a supportive safety net to feed hungry people, and clear strategies for healthy engagement between the police and communities. Voting is how we advance strategies of positive change that come out of mutual conversations, negotiations, and partnerships.  

Sadly, however, African-Americans do not vote in high  numbers, especially in the midterm elections. When we do not vote, we remain silent. Our silence prevents us from addressing the issues that face our communities and from electing a leaders who are in tune and consistent with the needs of our communities.

In  Blacks and the 2010 Midterms: A Preliminary Analysis, presented by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Dr. David A. Bositis points out that national turnout in the 2010 midterm election was up slightly from the 2006 midterm election, with African-Americans contributing to 10 percent of the share of votes and 25.3 percent of African-Americans participating. But this was still a drop from 30.1 percent of African-Americans who voted in 2008 with Barack Obama on the ballot. Additionally, a recent study by the Pew Research Forum's Religion & Public Life Project found that almost three-quarters of the American public—72 percent—believes that religion’s influence is waning in public life, the highest level in Pew Research polling over the past 10 years. This contrasts with further findings from the study that “a growing share of the American public wants religion to play a role in U.S. politics.”

Some of the largest African-American denominations that partner with Bread for the World are responding to this challenge. Freedom Sunday 2014, held on Sept. 21, is being followed by Turnout Sunday on Nov. 2, two days before the midterm election. These faith initiatives seek to encourage the African-American community to vote this year. You can make a difference by voting and encouraging your family, friends, and fellow church members to vote as well. For more information on how to make your vote count, visit www.bread.org/elections.  

Angelique Walker-Smith is the Associate for National African American Church Engagement at Bread for the World.

Two Billion People Suffer from ‘Hidden Hunger’

School girl
A student who benefits from a USAID funded feeding program in Guatemala. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)


By Kimberly Burge

According to a new report released this week, a staggering 2 billion people do not get the essential vitamins and minerals from the food they eat. They remain undernourished, suffering from the “hidden hunger” of micronutrient and vitamin deficiencies.

The annual Global Hunger Index (GHI) is released jointly by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Welthungerhilfe (one of Germany's largest private development organizations), and Concern Worldwide. The 2014 report finds that, while great strides have been made to feed the world, 805 million people are still chronically undernourished because they do not get enough to eat. Even those who get sufficient calories can suffer from hidden hunger, an often overlooked yet critical aspect of hunger and nutrition.

Hidden hunger is often hard to detect, but is potentially devastating. Hidden hunger weakens the immune system, stunts physical and intellectual growth, and can lead to death. It wreaks economic havoc as well, locking countries into cycles of poor nutrition, lost productivity, poverty, and reduced economic growth.

Bread for the World Institute has explored the issue of hidden hunger in several previous Hunger Reports. Frontline Issues in Nutrition Assistance: Hunger Report 2006 recommended food fortification and the addition of vitamin and mineral supplements to nutrition programs to help boost the health and nutritional status of those who are malnourished. For example, iodine deficiency causes problems with cognitive development and remains the world’s single greatest cause of preventable mental retardation. But developing countries are making efforts to add iodine to household salt, efforts that are paying off. Between 1997 and 2002, 67 percent of all households in sub-Saharan Africa were consuming iodized salt, along with 53 percent in South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa; 80 percent in East Asia; and 91 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

“Particularly in countries facing a high burden of malnutrition, hidden hunger goes hand in hand with other forms of malnutrition and cannot be addressed in isolation,” said Welthungerhilfe president Bärbel Dieckmann. “In the long-term, people cannot break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition without being granted the basic right to nutritious food.”

Hidden hunger is not found exclusively in developing countries, however. It crosses borders and exists here in the United States as well, as the Institute’s Senior Editor Todd Post saw while researching Hunger Report 2012.

“In Philadelphia, I visited emergency rooms with Dr. Mariana Chilton, head of Witnesses to Hunger, who recruited women to participate in Witnesses first by targeting mothers who brought their babies to the emergency room for something they thought was unrelated to hunger,” recalls Post. “The children were suffering from a condition known as ‘failure to thrive,’ a precursor to stunting, which was malnutrition related.”

“Failure to thrive” is the clinical term for a child severely underweight for her age. Witnesses to Hunger was born out of Children’s HealthWatch, a multi-city research project that is studying the effects of hunger on the health and well-being of young children. The project screens children in emergency rooms and ambulatory care clinics at five medical centers across the country, since undernourished children have higher rates of hospitalization.

To read more about Witnesses to Hunger and Dr. Chilton’s work, see p. 52-53 of Rebalancing Act: 2012 Hunger Report.  

There was good news to be found in this year’s Global Hunger Index. The number of people going hungry has steadily decreased in most developing countries. Since 1990, hunger in the developing world has fallen by 39 percent, and 26 countries have reduced their scores by 50 percent or more. Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chad, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Thailand, and Vietnam have seen the greatest improvements in their scores between the 1990 GHI and the 2014 GHI.

And bad news, too: Levels of hunger are still “alarming” in 14 countries, and “extremely alarming” in two, Burundi and Eritrea.

Kimberly Burge is the interim associate online editor for Bread for the World.

Bread President David Beckmann Encouraged by Latest Trends in Hunger

4699824730_e98fe88d47_bBy Robin Stephenson

Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, told radio host Tavis Smiley that he feels hopeful. 

Encouraged by a recent trend with both political parties addressing poverty in public speeches and decreasing poverty rates, Beckman says a post-recession America is the perfect time to make ending hunger a top priority for lawmakers.

Poverty decreased slightly—by 0.5 percent—last year, according to data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau. It is the first time a decrease has been seen since 2006. The bureau announced that 14.5 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2013. Additionally, child poverty declined for the first time since 2000, from 21.8 percent to 19.9 percent.

“It’s just a start, but it is a change in the right direction,” said Beckmann.

Beckmann made these remarks in an interview on Public Radio International’s “The Tavis Smiley Show” last week.

Beckmann said reduced poverty rates are a result of more Americans returning to the labor market. Food security continues to remain high in the United States – a reality Beckmann sees as unnecessary. He said there are two critical factors in reducing poverty: Economic growth and focused efforts. The United States is lacking a focused effort.

“The last president who made poverty one of his top priorities was Lyndon Johnson,” says Beckmann. The Johnson administration and Congress worked together to cut poverty nearly in half from the mid-1960s through the 1970s.

To build a sustained political commitment that will reduce poverty in the United States, Beckmann emphasizes the importance of making hunger an election issue. Voters must pressure leaders to move from speeches to passing legislation that will end hunger. The elections provide an opportunity to reach out directly to lawmakers.

“We’ve got to elect people to Congress who are going to agree to work together and focus on opportunity for everybody,” said Beckmann.

Smiley is already looking ahead to the next set of elections - the 2016 presidential elections. He said that he recently called for a debate exclusively on income inequality and poverty – something he has never seen in his lifetime.

“I second the motion,” said Beckmann.  “Usually in the presidential debates they never ask a question about the bottom 40-50 percent of the country.”

Listen to Beckmann’s interview on the “The Tavis Smiley Show” podcast here.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media at Bread for the World and a senior regional organizer. 

Congress Passes Funding Extension Before Leaving to Campaign

Elections Cover 2014 SmallBy Robin Stephenson

With little fanfare, Congress passed a continuing resolution this week to extend funding for the government through mid-December. Lawmakers now head home to campaign for midterm elections, leaving a pile of unfinished business in Washington, D.C. 

Congress will not return to the capital until November 12. Bread for the World urges advocates to use the flurry of campaign activity as an opportunity to make hunger an elections issue.

“The more advocates lift up hunger as an election issue, the more Congress will act on legislation that can end hunger by 2030,” says Amelia Kegan, deputy director of Bread for the World’s government relations department.

The funding extension passed before Congress left on recess was modified to include additional funding to arm Syrian rebels, but did not include dollars to address the poverty that is driving children to flee Latin America—primarily Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—into the United States. Lawmakers did include instructions allowing certain federal agencies to spend at higher rates to address the surge of child refugees at the border.

Congress also returns home as the World Food Program (WFP) warns of unprecedented global food emergencies and dwindling resources. WFP will cut food rations to four million Syrian refugees by 40 percent in October because of shortages. Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria, and Iraq have all been designated as level-three (the highest) humanitarian crises by WFP, straining the food aid system. 

As the world’s largest donor of food aid, the United States can free up even more food resources by increasing efficiencies without raising taxes. A bill in the Senate, The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421), addresses reform, and we are urging senators to cosponsor the bill.

On the heels of the news that 45.3 million Americans live below the poverty line, Congress must address a jobs agenda that includes work that pays a living wage.  Tax credits that help end hunger are also expiring before the end of the year.

One bright spot is that the passage of the continuing resolution yesterday to fund the government allows us to avoid a partisan showdown like we experienced last fall that shut the federal government down for more than two weeks. However, Congress left a lot of work undone.

“These are big issues they are leaving on the table, “says Kegan. “When lawmakers return, they need to address all these issues in budget decisions by December 11.” 

Kegan stresses that advocacy efforts right now will reverberate long past December. She says the elections work will play a big role in ending hunger during the 2015 session if candidates hear from voters. “ The elections,” she says, “will set the tone for next year when Congress begins work on the 2016 budget.”

The national trends both globally and domestically have been very positive. World hunger declined in 2014, and a report from UNICEF released yesterday says that child deaths have been cut in half since 1990.  As the U.S. economy rebounds, more people are returning to the labor market, and poverty rates here at home have decreased slightly, by 0.5 percent, for the first time since 2006.

Now is not the time to let up on hunger. Engage the candidates and help make hunger history.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer

 

The Poverty Rate State-By-State

 By Robin Stephenson

A rising tide does not lift all boats —at least where poverty is concerned. Income gaps in America are widening. States are not experiencing economic recovery equally.

The Census Bureau followed Tuesday’s report, which showed a slight decline nationally in the poverty rate for the first time since 2006, with today’s state-by-state data. The national poverty rate is 14.5 percent, but five states still have rates over 20 percent. Mississippi tops the list with the highest poverty rate at 22.5 percent, followed closely by New Mexico, the District of Columbia, Arizona, and Kentucky.

The poverty rate should be more than a snapshot to lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and should encourage voters to make hunger an elections issue.

“The poverty numbers are encouraging,” says Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World. However, Kegan says a cut of two percentage points is not enough and that our call as Christians is to advocate for a world without poverty and hunger.

“The pace of this economic recovery is far too slow, particularly for those at the economic margins,” Kegan continues. “It’s time our elected leaders make ending hunger and poverty a top priority, and the midterm elections provide a prime opportunity for people of faith to demand this of candidates running for office.”

The poverty rate is based on income. Although the cost of living varies geographically, the poverty threshold used by the Census Bureau does not. A family of four is classified as poor if their gross income is less than $23,830 last year, and for one person, the poverty threshold was $11,890. 

The Census Bureau data comes on the heels of a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on food insecurity – a term that describes households that do not have enough food in a given year. Not surprisingly, there is overlap between state food-insecurity and the poverty rate.

The ten states with the highest poverty rates:

  1. Mississippi, with a poverty rate of 22.5 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 21.1 percent.
  2. New Mexico, with a poverty rate of 21.7 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 13.2 percent.
  3. Arizona, with a poverty rate of 20.2 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 21.2 percent.
  4. Kentucky, with a poverty rate of 20  percent and a food-insecurity rate of 16.4  percent.
  5. Louisiana, with a poverty rate of 19.2 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 16.5 percent.
  6. North Carolina, with a poverty rate of 18.6 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 17.3 percent.
  7. Tennessee, with a poverty rate of 18.1 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 17.4 percent.
  8. Nevada, with a poverty rate of 17.4 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 16.2 percent.
  9. West Virginia, with a poverty rate of 17.3 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 14.4 percent.
  10. Arkansas, with a poverty rate of 17.1 percent and a food-insecurity rate of 21.2 percent.

Engage the candidates! Go to www.bread.org/elections to make hunger an issue in the elections!

 

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior reigonal organizer at Bread for the World.

Interactive map via The Washington Post

 

 

Slight Decline in Poverty Rate, Still Millions Live Below Poverty Line

  4266588810_dd214a9fbe_b
According to a Census Bureau report released today, child poverty declined for the first time since 2000, from 21.8 percent to 19.9 percent. (Todd Post)

The good news is we are making progress on poverty in America. However, the economic recovery is leaving too many Americans behind.

More than 45 million Americans—14.5 percent—lived below the poverty line in 2013, according to a Census Bureau report released today. Poverty decreased slightly, by 0.5 percent, for the first time since 2006. Additionally, child poverty declined for the first time since 2000, from 21.8 percent to 19.9 percent.

There is still more to do. The faithful must continue to advocate for even more progress against hunger and poverty, especially during an election year.

Poverty rates are still disproportionately high among Hispanics and African-Americans: 23.5 percent of Hispanics and 27.1 percent of African-Americans live below the poverty line.

Mothers like Jacqueline Christian, who try to make ends meet on minimum wage, still wait to feel the effects of the economic recovery. National Geographic told Christian’s story in the article The New Faces of Hunger published last July.

Christian makes $7.25 an hour working full time as a home health aid in Houston, Texas. She and her two sons, who struggle to get enough to eat, were living in a homeless shelter at the time the article was published.

Recent gains in employment, with 2.8 million people returning to the labor market, have helped decrease poverty in America. Wages, however, continue to stagnate for those who have jobs. Low-income employment like Christian’s doesn’t pay a living wage.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, between 2009 and 2013 the top 5 percent of workers saw their wages rise by 1 percent while the bottom 60 percent saw hourly wages fall by 4-6 percent. Higher incomes among high-wage earners and corporations have mainly shown up in higher stock prices, and companies have been slow to invest in the real economy. 

As the economy improves, our elected officials must craft policy to ensure that we don’t leave large groups of Americans behind—people like Jacqueline Christian, who works full time but can’t meet her family’s basic needs.

Encouraged by progress and recent public discourse by both parties about ending hunger and poverty in America, Bread for the World’s President David Beckmann says Congress should focus on employment and reducing income inequality.

“The best defense against hunger and poverty is reliable work,” Beckmann said in a statement to the press today. “As the mid-term election draws near, we must vote for leaders who are committed to increasing job opportunities and pray that their actions are guided by compassion and justice so that we can continue to reduce hunger and poverty.”

Thursday, the Census Bureau will release state-level data.

 

Americans Struggling with Hunger Left Behind in Economic Recovery

By Alyssa Casey Graph USDA

The number of Americans struggling to put food on the table remains stubbornly high, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 2013, 14.3 percent of U.S. households experienced food insecurity. “Food insecure” households are those that have difficulty consistently providing enough food for all household members due to lack of resources.

The number of households at risk of hunger declined slightly from 14.9 percent in 2011, but those hit by the 2008 economic crisis have seen little relief. In 2007, 36.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households. In 2008, that number jumped to 49.1 – an increase of nearly 13 million Americans at risk of hunger. Five years later in 2013, the same number of Americans – 49.1 million – struggle to feed their families. While the country as a whole slowly recovers from the 2008 economic crisis, it appears that those struggling with hunger are being left behind.

More than 15.7 million – nearly a third – of Americans at risk of hunger are children. Households with children are more at risk of hunger than those without children. This risk increases even further when the household is headed by a single parent. Households headed by a single woman are among the hardest hit, with 34.4 percent of these households at risk of hunger – nearly 2 ½ times the national average.

When so many children and families wrestle with the threat of hunger year after year, it is inexcusable that elected officials address hunger so rarely.

The Momentum is Building

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty made alleviating hunger and poverty in the United States a top priority for the government. Incredible progress was made in the initial years of the War on Poverty, but eventually poverty and hunger were swept under the rug, and politicians largely stopped talking about the issue.

Recent years have seen momentum building around making hunger and poverty history:

  • The economic recession drew attention to the prevalence of hunger in the United States.
  • Filmmakers and the media are increasingly drawing attention to widespread hunger.
  • The 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty kept the spotlight on hunger.
  • Advocates like you told your elected officials that hunger matters.
  • Prominent politicians on both sides of the aisle are talking about America’s hunger and poverty problem and exchanging ideas for legislative solutions.

What Can You Do?

Keep this momentum going and make sure candidates know that you care about hunger.

As we near national elections in November, we have the opportunity to ask candidates to make ending hunger a national priority. You don’t have to be a policy expert; simply telling your candidates you care about hunger and poverty lets them know they need to take action on these issues.

Ask your candidates what their plan is to address hunger. If a candidate is running for reelection, look at how they voted. Then tell them to vote for legislation that makes positive strides towards ending hunger, not legislation that cuts safety net programs and makes it harder for people to support their families.

 At Bread for the World, we have your back! We are telling candidates across the country that Americans want to end hunger. If you do the same, we can use this momentum to make ending hunger a national priority once again. Let’s make hunger an election issue!

Alyssa Casey is Bread for the World’s government relations coordinator

Labor Day: More Than a Three-Day Weekend

Ofelio
Ofelio, owner of a tamale business in Washington, D.C., is featured in the 2014 Hunger Report. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)


By Robin Stephenson

Barbeques, the end of summer, and a three-day weekend are what Labor Day means for most Americans. For me, the welcome work break was a chance to catch up on neglected household chores. Celebrating the contributions of workers to the strength of our nation or thinking about today’s labor market never entered my mind.

That is, until last night.

My neighbor stopped by and mentioned another neighbor who has been out of work for more than a year and still hasn’t found employment. “She is at her wit’s end,” says my friend with exasperation. “She has a college education, is smart and hardworking, and still gets no offers.”

My unemployed neighbor is not alone. There are 3.2 million long-term unemployed, people out of work for more than 27 weeks. Congress failed to extend emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) in December, cutting off critical assistance to more than a million job seekers. Never before in the history of EUC has a Congress failed to extend the emergency aid when unemployment is so high.

My neighbor’s misfortune affects all of us. Lost productivity to the labor market decreases pressures on wages, which is why many Americans have not seen raises in the last few years. High unemployment means lost productivity and lost tax revenue, causing additional spending by the federal government to fill in the gaps.

There are signs that things are getting better. However, we are not out of the woods yet. The jobless rate, which peaked at 10 percent in 2009, has still not reached pre-2008 levels. Today the unemployment rate is 6.2 percent, although some economists call the number deceptively low. Full employment is a job rate below 5 percent and indicates that anyone who wants to work can find a job.

Infographic_FullEmploymentThe federal government has a role to play in strengthening the labor market and getting the long-term unemployed back to work. The best solution to ending hunger is a job that pays. The number of low-income households could be cut by more than half if a full-time job were available for everyone who wanted one.  

The 2014 Hunger Report proposes bold steps to end hunger in the United States by 2030. Returning the economy closer to the full employment level of 2000, it would be possible for President Obama and Congress to reduce hunger in America by 25 percent by 2017.

A first step to full employment includes policies that stimulate the economy as part of a budget strategy instead of the job-killing cuts, such as the automatic spending caps called sequestration. Congress should also raise the minimum wage. If wages had kept up with productivity growth over the years, the minimum wage today would be $18.67.

Perhaps it is time that Labor Day becomes more than a three-day weekend. Labor Day should be a time of reflection and action—a time to ask how we can get people in America, including my neighbor, back to work and into jobs that pay a living wage.

Robin Stephenson is national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Feeding America Report: Reliance on Emergency Food Increasing

By Robin Stephenson

Electricity, rent, or food on the table to feed your kids? This choice is a game of poverty roulette that families like Jim and Christina Dreier grapple with each month and it isn’t fun.

The Dreiers and their three children live in Mitchel County, Iowa. Like many families, they use a patchwork of assistance – WIC, SNAP (food stamps), and the food bank – to make it through the month. Jim Dreier works two jobs, but that is not enough.

“It’s rough every day.  Where’s my next meal going to come from?” asks Christina.

Reading the Dreier’s story in a National Geographic article, “The New Face of Hunger,” one gets the impression that this is a family that lives on the edge of catastrophe.  It’s a life of fear and worry as they are always one step behind.  

“Moneywise,” says Christina, “coming in is a lot less than what has to go out every month.”

The Dreiers are food insecure – a term that describes households that do not have enough food in a given year. And they are not an anomaly. The shocking truth is food insecurity is epidemic in America. A job is no longer insulation from poverty and hunger.

According to a report released this week by Feeding America, one of Bread for the World’s partner organizations, one in seven people - 46.5 million Americans a year- rely on food banks to feed themselves and their families. Over half of the households included at least one person who was employed.

In the past, a trip to the food bank was an emergency situation that followed a job loss or financial crisis. Today, food insecurity is a chronic condition for too many Americans. But instead of helping low-income families, policy proposals in Congress appear to be working against them.

Earlier this year, the House passed the fiscal year 2015 House budget proposal, which makes deep cuts to programs for hungry and poor people in the United States, including cutting food stamps by $125 billion. Just last month, the House voted to reduce the child tax credit to the most vulnerable families, which would push an estimated 12 million people into deeper poverty.

A job that pays a living wage, not an emergency food box, is the only real buffer against hunger. Yet wages have not kept pace with economic productivity since 1950. Today, 28 percent of Americans make poverty level wages. A vote to raise the minimum wage failed earlier this year in the Senate.

It is time for Congress and the administration to set a plan to end hunger in the United States. Churches and charities can only provide a fraction of what is needed and cannot adequately address the root causes of poverty. The status quo is not ending hunger in America; policy targeted at ending hunger needs an overhaul.

We will never food bank our way out of hunger, so let’s stop trying. We also need the government to do its part.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.

 

Stay Connected

Bread for the World