Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

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

Do You Share My Vision?

OL2015-Blog

By Rev. David Beckmann

Imagine a future in which children no longer go to bed hungry. I know it's possible. The progress we've made in alleviating hunger and poverty over Bread's 40 years - combined with my faith in Jesus Christ - convince me of this every day.

16348205135_584c230bcf_kIn the 1960s, severe malnutrition and starvation were serious problems in our country. Today, thanks to programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), nutrition assistance for pregnant women, infants, and young children, and the school lunch program, these problems have decreased dramatically. In the next 15 years, we could end these problems for good.

This year, Congress has some big decisions to make on our child nutrition programs, which are up for reauthorization. Additionally, members of Congress are threatening major cuts to SNAP, and nearly half of SNAP recipients are children. Negotiations in Congress have already begun. Will you take two minutes to email or call (800/826-3688) your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators? Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs.

Ending hunger starts with our children. It starts now. It starts with you. You can help end hunger by 2030 with an action as simple as an email or phone call. We need you to do your part. And we need Congress to do its part. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

 

Women's History Month: The Gospel and the Poor

Bread-Meme-Women-DAY

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.

 

Food Stamp Hearings Begin in House Agriculture Committee

OL2015-Blog

By Robin Stephenson

When U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas, 11) was appointed to the chairmanship of the House Committee on Agriculture last November, he announced he was forming a new subcommittee that would conduct a full-scale review of SNAP (formerly food stamps). The hearings began Wednesday and are expected to continue with no end in sight.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 11.36.30 AM“Today’s hearing marks the beginning of a top-to-bottom review of the program,” began Conaway’s opening statement. “We will conduct this review without preconceived notions and with a commitment to strengthening the program so it can serve as a tool to help individuals move up the economic ladder.“

Policy change that fosters economic mobility is good news. However, many anti-hunger advocates worry the hearings are a veiled attempt to dismantle SNAP, potentially leading to harmful programmatic changes, such as block granting or cutting benefits.

Bread for the World’s policy expert on nutrition, Christine Melendez Ashley, said she is happy to hear Congress is talking about hunger. “Faithful advocates who care about ending hunger need to be paying attention to these hearings,” she said. “The result of such talks must be to help end hunger and not exacerbate it.”

But there is reason to worry given the proposals that were part of last year’s farm bill negotiations. That bill was finally passed last February after three years of bitter debate. To the disappointment of Bread members, it included a devastating $8.6 billion cut to the SNAP program. Thanks to your letters, phone calls, and meetings with members of Congress, the proposed $40 billion in cuts and harmful programmatic changes were not enacted.

Those 2014 farm bill cuts came on the heels of another benefit reduction months earlier. Congress passed the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act with provisions that increased funding for school lunch programs and improved child nutrition programs – but they paid for the improvements by cutting SNAP benefits. In essence, funding for food at the dinner table was siphoned to fund the food at the lunch table. We need to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The child nutrition bill is up for reauthorization again this year and the focus of Bread’s 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children.

During yesterday’s inaugural hearing, the connection between child hunger and SNAP came up in several comments. U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga., 13)  noted that 45.3 percent of all of those who are on SNAP are children – 1 in out 5 live in households that are food insecure.

SNAP, which provides a modest $1.40 per person per meal for those who qualify, is a critical part of our nation’s safety net. During the Great Recession, millions of families who experienced hardship depended on the program. As the economy recovers, SNAP caseloads are dropping – participation rates have dropped by 1.5 million over the last 18 months.

Hearings like these matter because they help us understand what Congress is prioritizing and give the public an opportunity to react before policy changes are made. SNAP and the child nutrition programs are both vital pieces of the safety net that feed our children. Faithful advocates need to make sure Congress is paying attention to both the dinner and lunch table - especially when it comes to our nation’s children.

Act Today: Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress. Tell Congress to prioritize children at risk of hunger and invest in strong child nutrition programs.

Read Bread for the World’s latest resource:  Get the Facts About SNAP.

Photo: screenshot of U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway convening nutrition hearings, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015.  Hearings dates and times are posted on the committee’s website.

 

Helping Returning Citizens Get a Foothold on Life


Photo # 1
Dominic Duren, a returning citizen, with his son Dominic Jr. in the basement of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Cincinnati, Ohio. Duren is assistant director of a re-entry program at the church. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: The term returning citizens is the preferred way in the advocacy community to refer to people who have been released from prison.

By Bread staff

Hunger and poverty are issues that can profoundly affect the lives of those returning to their communities after serving prison time. For many, the resources they need to stay out of poverty are no longer available because of their prison record.

As an organization committed to ending hunger, Bread for the World will track several key pieces of legislation this year connected to the issue of mass incarceration.

The first of these bills was introduced on Wednesday by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). The Corrections Oversight, Recidivism Reduction, and Elimination Costs for Taxpayers in Our National System (Corrections) Act would offer incentives and programs to help the incarcerated not offend again once they leave prison.

The bill would also put in place measures to reduce the nation’s prison population. The population in federal prisons alone has increased from approximately 25,000 in 1980 to nearly 216,000 today.

“We agree with the senators that when inmates are better prepared to re-enter communities, they are less likely to commit crimes after they are released. This is an important step in addressing the mass incarceration problem that perpetuates cycle of hunger and poverty,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

The legislation would allow certain low- and medium-risk offenders with exemplary behavior to earn time off their sentences by participating in recidivism-reduction programs, including drug counseling or vocational training.

This type of help is important given the fact that returning citizens often find life outside prison walls difficult to navigate. Many states still enforce lifetime bans on non-violent drug offenders for safety-net programs, such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). These programs are vital for job-hunting returning citizens in rebuilding their lives.

Part of Bread’s work this year will include getting these bans lifted and ensuring people who qualify for these vital programs have access to them.

“While this bill is a good step, Congress must also address the larger issue of sentencing reform,” Beckmann said. “In addition to ensuring that prisoners have access to the skills they need to properly re-enter society, we must reexamine lengthy and inflexible mandatory sentences imposed on low-level, non-violent offenders, and implement alternatives to imprisonment where appropriate.”

Bread plans to continue its work around the issue of mass incarceration – highlighting whenever possible its impact on hunger and poverty. Keep following the Bread Blog for updates.

Tell Congress: Prioritize Our Children in 2015

OL2015-Blog

By Christine Melendez Ashley

On Monday morning, President Obama released a budget outlining his vision for our country’s priorities. Many of the policies in his budget reflect what Bread’s research has found: Investing in people is key to ending hunger.

One critical investment is feeding our children. Giving children a healthy start in life pays off for years. This is the heart of this year’s Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children.

15725784024_a8738dc2e9_oThe child nutrition safety net serves children at risk of hunger through school lunch and breakfast programs, summer feeding programs, after-school and child care feeding programs, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

The president’s budget includes strong support for child nutrition programs, including $67 million for summer feeding pilot programs. This is a particularly needed investment – for every seven low-income children who receive a school lunch, only four also get breakfast, and only one also gets summer meals.

We need to get Congress to act! You have a unique opportunity to urge your members of Congress to strengthen investments in our nation’s children. Congress is working on its budget and child nutrition priorities right now!

Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress. Tell Congress to prioritize children at risk of hunger and invest in strong child nutrition programs. 

Learn more about the 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our ChildrenOrder an Offering of Letters kit, or visit the OL website where you can find downloadable resources in English and Spanish. For more information about how you can host an Offering of Letters, contact your regional organizer today. 

Christine Melendez Ashley is a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World.

Using Videos to Introduce Your Church, Campus, or Community to the 2015 Offering of Letters

OL2015-Blog

By Jon Gromek

We live in a country where nearly 16 million children (1 in 5) live in homes that struggle to put food on the table.  This year, Congress will debate the funding and policies for the programs that feed our children and nourish the minds and bodies of our brightest future. We will hear a great deal of facts and figures, statistics, and the minutiae of policies and programs. As important as these things are to the debate, one of the most important aspects in this national discussion is YOUR VOICE.

The decisions made this year will affect the health and well-being of mothers and children for years to come.  Last week, Bread for the World officially launched its 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children, which means it’s time for Bread members across the country to start writing letters to their members of Congress!  The Offering of Letters kit is a great resource for people everywhere to engage in advocacy and raise their Christian voice. Some of the most effective tools are the videos produced for the 2015 Offering of Letters campaign.

Be sure to watch the “Lunch ‘n’ Learn: The Importance of Child Nutrition Programs,” video and also the 60-second trailer.  Share them with a friend, or show them in preparation for a congregation-wide Offering of Letters.  Use the videos as a tool to engage and educate people in your congregation or community. Share them with friends and your congregation on Facebook. Post them on blogs. Show them during a Sunday school class, and invite reflection and discussion afterward. The videos not only put the issue of hunger in context, but also help put a face to what we are fighting for and the children who struggle with hunger every day.  

Through these short videos you can meet Barbie Izquierdo and her children, Aidan and Leylanie, a Philadelphia family that has benefited from child nutrition programs; hear from staff at elementary and high schools in Pennsylvania and Maryland who speak first-hand about the importance of investing in our children’s growth, development, and education. Use the stories as inspiration to go out into your own community to meet and talk with students and educators who live these programs. They are representative of families and community members in every corner of our country, and they are the reason to write, call, email, and visit your congressional leaders and tell them to “feed our children.”

Jon Gromek is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Obama: 'Restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity.'

3963301173_6ea2029221_o
Tax credits for low-income working families pull more children out of poverty than any other government program. Eugene Mebane, Jr. for Bread for the World.


By Eric Mitchell

In Tuesday night's State of the Union address, President Obama said, “Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.” There is one thing Congress can do right now to accomplish exactly that.

Congress and the president can make the current earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit (CTC) benefit levels permanent. Bread for the World has been pushing this policy since Congress passed the improvements to these tax credits in 2009, but they’re set to expire in 2017. Making the 2009 improvements permanent would prevent 16 million people—including 8 million children—from falling into or deeper into poverty.

At Bread for the World, we envision a world without hunger. We know it’s possible, and we know we can do it by 2030. But it’s going to take more than food banks and soup kitchens. We have to ensure that hard work leads to greater opportunity.

We have to get at the root causes of hunger. When these are addressed, working parents can put food on the table and provide for their children. The EITC and CTC do exactly that—reward work and supplement wages so working parents don’t have to raise their children in poverty.

President Obama called for better tax policy on Tuesday night—one that will benefit low-income working families. Now we need you to call on Congress to make that happen through making permanent the current EITC and CTC benefit levels.

Call (800/826-3688) or email your representative and both of your senators today. Urge them to make the 2009 EITC and CTC improvements permanent.

Be a part of the movement to end hunger. Help us start the 114th Congress with a clear message that ending hunger must be a top priority.

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

Congress Urged to Pass Legislation to Help Working Families

2011_State_of_the_Union_Obama
Pete Souza/The White House via Wikimedia Commons.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama laid out an aggressive agenda aimed at reducing income inequality in the United States – a factor that can keep millions of Americans in a cycle of poverty.

Although the economy has gotten stronger, President Obama acknowledged that too many hard-working families still struggle. He called for increasing the child care tax credit, raising the federal minimum wage, enacting paid sick leave, creating a "second-earner" tax credit for families in which both spouses work, and boosting the earned income tax credit.

“We have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth,” Obama said. “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?” 

Roughly 45 million people in the United States live at or below the poverty line. If enacted, many of the proposals put forth by the president would certainly help struggling Americans, especially boosting the maximum child care tax credit to $3,000 and expanding the earned income tax credit for childless workers.

The earned income tax credit along with the child tax credit are among our country’s most effective anti-poverty tools. Bread for the World is calling on Congress to ensure that these two measures stay intact. Both expire in 2017. Making the 2009 improvements to these credits permanent would prevent 16 million people—including 8 million children—from falling into or deeper into poverty.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) delivered the Republican rebuttal. And not unlike President Obama, she also sympathized with struggling Americans. “These days though, many families feel like they're working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it,” she said. “We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs.”

Obama reminded Americans that government programs have their place in history and can make an impact. “In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity.  We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure, and the internet – tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.”

At Bread, we know the power of good policy, especially as it applies to children. That’s why this year our top priority with this new Congress is to ensure that the nation’s child nutrition programs are reauthorized. The current bill is set to expire this fall. Making sure children receive meals, especially during their early years of development, is crucial for their development and guards against malnutrition.

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030.

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

Prioritize Hunger in the State of the Union Tonight

800px-2011_State_of_the_Union_brochure
Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons. 


By Robin Stephenson

Tonight at 9 p.m. EST, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address – a time-honored tradition – and outline his priorities for next year. Immediately afterward, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) will deliver the Republican response. Will hunger and poverty rank as priorities?

“The State of the Union matters to those of us working to end hunger,” says LaVida Davis, director of organizing and grassroots capacity at Bread for the World. “Both the president and the response will give clues as to what will be prioritized in next year’s budget. If they aren’t talking about ending hunger, they won’t fund the programs that will.”

Although the economy is improving, millions of families still struggle to make ends meet - 45 million Americans live at or below the poverty line. Policies that marginalize groups of individuals increase food insecurity in the United States. Laws passed with the aim of ending hunger make an impact. Internationally, the implementation of smart policies has achieved dramatic progress against hunger and poverty; the number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut in half since 1990. We believe that we can end hunger and poverty by 2030 if our nation’s leaders make it a priority.

Tonight we will listen for hunger-ending key words. Below is a list of the words or phrases we hope to hear. Positive reinforcement helps, so we will praise each mention as we live tweet the speeches from @bread4theworld.

Child nutrition: When one in five children lives in families that struggle to put food on the table, passing a child nutrition bill with improvements will give more children at risk of hunger access to healthy food. Protecting SNAP (formerly food stamps) will also be key to reducing child hunger.

The earned income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit:  Low-income tax credits pull more children out of poverty than any other government program. It is time to make the credits permanent.

Paid family leave: The president will take executive action to extend paid leave to federal employees, reflecting a key recommendation in the Bread for the World Institute’s 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. Congress should follow suit with policy changes that will benefit all U.S. workers

Mass incarceration: Policies that regulate our criminal justice system are increasing hunger and poverty in low-income communities, especially communities of color. Passing smarter sentencing laws and improving the re-entry process for returning citizens would help restore fairness in our justice system.

Immigration reform:  An estimated 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants live in the shadows where hunger and poverty persist. Reform should include a path to citizenship and also address the root causes of migration to the United States.

Feed the Future:  A global hunger and food-security initiative, Feed the Future  is a driver behind recent progress against global hunger. It is time to codify the initiative into permanent law.

Food-aid reform:  By updating our food-aid policies, we can help feed millions more with no additional tax dollars.

AGOAThe African Growth and Opportunity Act seeks to increase mutually beneficial trade ties between the United States and Africa and can help move millions out of poverty.

Join the conversation on Twitter, and help us empower our leaders tonight. When they talk about hunger, make sure they hear us applaud with a tweet. Let’s start by asking them to talk about hunger now. 

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

 

Hungry for an Education, or Simply Hungry?

Veggies
Wikimedia Commons. 

By Alyssa Casey

For many, a college degree represents a path to a better job and a more financially secure future.  But with rising tuition and housing costs, many college students simply trying to access a quality education struggle with hunger. 

According to Feeding America’s Hunger in 2014 study, 1 in 10 adults receiving assistance from Feeding America-sponsored food pantries is a student. Two million of these students are full-time, and 1 million are part-time students.

At Humboldt State University (HSU) in Arcata, Calif., students, faculty, and community groups decided to do something about this. These groups united to address hunger on their campus and campuses across the United States and created Food for Thought.

The program provides assistance to food-insecure students through a campus food cupboard, which opened in October. The cupboard stocks a variety of foods, including dried beans, canned goods, and spices, to provide students in need not just empty calories, but nutritious and balanced meals.  The program also serves as a bridge by connecting students to more sustainable food and housing assistance such as CalFresh, California’s state food assistance program.

The students and faculty members involved with Food for Thought know that addressing hunger means more than just providing emergency food. They are diving deeper, conducting research to better understand the scope and causes of college food insecurity. Even though colleges across the United States are increasingly aware of the problem, there are no comprehensive nationwide surveys of student hunger.

The results of initial HSU student-led research show that 1 in 3 HSU students say that they sometimes or often run out of food and have no additional money to purchase more, while 1 in 5 regularly skipped meals because of lack of money to purchase food.

Follow-up research led by HSU students and faculty is currently under way. Food for Thought plans to use this research to push for greater awareness and advocate to eliminate procedural hurdles that prevent students from receiving long-term food assistance.

Hunger is a health issue that affects not only physical health, but cognitive functions and academic performance. That is why Bread for the World consistently works to strengthen children’s access to school meals and other child nutrition programs.

Bread plans to work diligently this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall. In fact, this year’s Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of nutrition among children, who are especially vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition during their early years of development.

Bread also protects funding for federal and state food assistance such as SNAP and advocates for a living wage and refundable tax credits, so adult students can continue their education without facing hunger and poverty.

Efforts like HSU’s Food for Thought show that just a few concerned people can make progress toward ending hunger. In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger in your community, get involved in local projects like Food for Thought, and join us in advocating for policies that eliminate barriers and increase opportunities for our neighbors struggling with hunger and poverty.

Alyssa Casey is a government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.

Stay Connected

Bread for the World