Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

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

Churches and Charities are Key Partners, But Can't Fight Hunger Alone

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

By Alyssa Casey

“Many people call SNAP a safety net, but for me it was like a trampoline – bouncing my family back into work and a brighter future,” said Keleigh Green-Patton, a working mother and former SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) recipient, who recently testified on Capitol Hill.

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives held two separate hearings, both on critical anti-hunger programs. The House Agriculture Committee focused on the relationship between SNAP and the charitable sector, while the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing on serving students and families through child nutrition programs.

During the SNAP hearing, Green-Patton told her story of turning to SNAP after losing her job, participating in a job-training program through the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and then finding employment and moving off SNAP. While the three-month training program was facilitated by the food depository, the program was unpaid, and so to keep food on her family’s table, Green-Patton turned to SNAP.

In addition to Green-Patton, expert witnesses from food banks and anti-hunger programs emphasized the critical role of SNAP, even in the midst of the innovative work being done by private charitable organizations. “We are proud of our daily impact on hunger, but it pales in comparison to the tremendous job done by federal nutrition programs, including SNAP, WIC, CACFP, School Lunch and Breakfast and Summer Meals,” said Kate Maehr, chief executive officer of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) echoed this theme by citing Bread for the World’s research on charities and hunger. “I think the message that’s loud and clear is that churches and charities cannot do it on their own. To put it in perspective, I have a fact sheet here from Bread for the World… it says federal assistance for food and nutrition programs [in 2013] was at about $102 billion. Assistance from churches and charities was at $5.2 billion.”

It is encouraging to see members of Congress acknowledge the hard work of charitable organizations in feeding hungry people. But with federal nutrition programs – including SNAP, school meals, and WIC – providing 19 times more food assistance than private charities, these hearings couldn’t have been timelier. Members of Congress in the Education and Workforce Committee also heard from a panel of witnesses who spoke to the effectiveness of and need for strong child nutrition programs.

Charitable organizations, including food banks and pantries, churches, and faith organizations, are critical partners in the fight against hunger because they are on the ground in so many local communities. Yet many of these organizations rely largely on donations, work with extremely limited resources, and their presence varies by region. They cannot provide the certainty and consistency of SNAP or child nutrition programs.

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

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

We Need You on Lobby Day: Strength in Numbers

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Bread for the World activists walking through the Russell Senate Office Building during a Lobby Day. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

By Zerline Hughes

Most of us are familiar with that now-antiquated Schoolhouse Rock cartoon on how a bill becomes a law. You know the one, where the talking bill travels on the steps of the Capitol singing about patience and courage, sitting and waiting in committee. Though still very applicable today, what that animated lesson doesn’t explain is how people – not necessarily our congressional leaders – are needed to help make a bill into a law.

Petitions, letters, emails, and phone calls to your representatives are definitely one way to make change happen. Even social media is a way to incite change.  However, the most effective way to influence your members of Congress on an issue is to personally meet with them. And what better time than Bread for the World’s Lobby Day – when a host of advocates from all walks of life and from across the country band together to do it as a large contingency.

Bread’s Lobby Day is around the corner – June 9. This year, much is at stake. June will be an important month, and Congress will be in the middle of debating important pieces of legislation such as the reauthorization of the child nutrition bill, among others. We believe we can convince Congress to do what's right for people struggling with hunger and poverty. However, we can't do it alone. We need you!

“I'm on Capitol Hill quite a bit, and I can tell you there are many Christians in Congress. And they can be moved by Christ,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread.  “They can be moved by faith. Moved by the gospel. There's a power there that the special interests just can't compete with.”

Lobby Day will begin with worship, followed by an issues briefing, and then visits to congressional offices on Capitol Hill. In the evening, Bread will host a reception honoring members of Congress who have championed efforts to end hunger and poverty. The day will end with a closing worship service.

Walking through the halls of Congress and meeting decision makers or their staff is exciting and easy. For legislators, a visit from a constituent is a welcome event. They want to hear about what is going on at home.

Once you make it known to your member of Congress that hunger is of dire importance to you and your family, our hope is that it becomes their priority. You also empower your legislator to act on your behalf. When officials hear directly from constituents, they get a better understanding of what you and your counterparts deem important.

And that’s why we need you.                  

Join us June 9.  Help bring us one step closer to ending hunger. Register today for Bread’s Lobby Day and join us in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill.

Zerline Hughes is a media relations consultant at Bread for the World.

 

 

 

Update on 2015 Offering of Letters Legislation

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By Bread Staff

Bread for the World's 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children focuses on our federal government's child nutrition programs. The heaviest activity in Congress on this issue is expected later in the year when a bill setting funding and policy for the major child nutrition programs is introduced.

But some other legislative activity is happening. Following is an update on some of it:

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) reintroduced the Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S. 613) on Feb. 27. The bill aims to improve the summer meal programs and help give more children access to meals and programs during the summer months. The bill specifically would:

  • Lower the area eligibility threshold to allow communities to participate if 40 percent of the children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Currently, a summer meal site qualifies if 50 percent or more of children in the area qualify for free or reduced-price school meals as defined by school or census data. The current threshold prevents many communities with significant numbers of low-income children, but not a high enough concentration of poverty, from participating. In addition, the 50 percent threshold is inconsistent with federally funded summer programs, such as the 21st Century Community Learning Center programs and Title I, which have 40 percent thresholds. These important education programs should all be able to provide summer meals. 15725784024_a8738dc2e9_o
  • Allow local government agencies and private nonprofit organizations to feed children year-round through the Summer Food Service Program. Currently, sponsors must apply to and operate the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) separately in order to feed children — often the same children — after school and during the summer. This has created duplicative paperwork and confusing administrative rules that discourage participation.
  • Provide funding for transportation grants to fund innovative approaches to providing meals and mobile meal trucks. Transportation is one of the biggest barriers to children's participation in summer programs. These grants will increase low-income children's access to summer meals in rural and other under-served areas.
  • Allow all sites to serve a third meal. Many summer meal sites provide child care to working parents and operate all day, but most sites are able to serve only two meals. This leaves children without enough nutrition to get through the day or forces sites to use program dollars for food.

Bread for the World has endorsed this bill and supports this and other efforts to strengthen and improve summer nutrition programs.

The other primary bill to improve summer meals, which was introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in the previous Congress — the Summer EBT bill — has not been reintroduced yet in this Congress.

Keep those letters coming! Bread's office in Washington, D.C., has received a few reports from congregations elsewhere in the country about the Offering of Letters that they have held. Many more congregations and faith communities have letter-writing events planned for this year. Bread encourages you to keep your letters coming!

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

Photo: Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

Child Nutrition Legislation Kicks Off With a Hearing on Wednesday

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SOCIAL SHARE: Click on the image above to open in a new window, then right click and save it. Tweet it or put it on your Facebook wall and tag your member of Congress. Tell him/her to #FeedOurChildren and pass a child nutrition bill that closes the hunger gap.

By Robin Stephenson

The moment has arrived! 

The first step towards passing a child nutrition bill that can end the hunger gap is here. The House will hold its first hearing titled “Serving Students and Families through Child Nutrition Programs” this Wednesday at 10 a.m. EDT. You can watch the hearing via a live webcast.

“This really kicks off the moment when our Offering of Letters Campaign starts moving in Congress,” said Christine Meléndez Ashley, Bread for the World’s policy expert on child nutrition. 

Every five years, Congress must craft a bill that sets the policy for child nutrition programs, which includes those for school meals, summer feeding, and the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) nutrition program. Many of you have already written letters as part of the 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children, letting Congress know their constituents at home care.

Over 16 million children in the U.S. don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. School lunch or breakfast is sometimes the only nutritious meal children from low-income families receive. It is easier for a nourished child to pay attention in class and learn more quickly. A good education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty later in life.

As we tune into the hearing tomorrow, we look for signs the House Education and Workforce Committee – the committee that will write the first draft of legislation – has the facts and is making ending hunger its target.

“This is the committee’s first chance to hear from experts on child nutrition programs,” Meléndez Ashley said. “The hearing will not only give us insight into the future of programs that keep hunger at bay for millions of kids, but also signal what members are thinking about in terms of child nutrition policy priorities.”

For example, summer is the hungriest time for kids. Pilot programs have shown that we can improve access to nutrition during the summer months. This committee has the opportunity to build on those programs and reach more children.

Another area that Bread will watch closely is whether committee members are viewing child hunger with a wider lens.

Parents who utilize child nutrition programs usually have a job, but low-income paychecks are not stretching to the dinner table - let alone the lunch counter. The last time Congress passed a child nutrition bill, they cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), a program that helps put food on the dinner table. When nearly half of SNAP recipients are children, cutting benefits makes no sense if ending hunger is the priority.

The budget proposals passed by both the Senate and House last month repeat a disturbing trend in Congress to balance the budget by cutting anti-hunger programs, especially SNAP. Tomorrow the House Agriculture Committee will continue their series of hearings reviewing the food stamp program in what some fear is a veiled attempt to cut even more. It's time for a new trend: making ending hunger a priority.

Tell Congress to act for kids. Don’t let the moment slip us by.

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

"Please Open Immediately!" Says Teenager's Letter to Congressman

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Letter writing at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Yardley, Pa. Robin Prestage for Bread for the World.

By Larry Hollar

“Please open immediately!”

Michaela Drobak, 17, wrote these words of urgency on the envelope of her letter to U.S. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA-08) at a recent Offering of Letters on child nutrition at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Yardley, Pa.

When activist Mary Ann Bentz later organized a diverse Bread delegation to meet locally with Fitzpatrick and a staffer, they presented Drobak’s letter and more than 220 others from four area faith communities—with Michaela’s on top. The congressman read Drobak’s letter without delay. “He read it quietly, then agreed that she was an intelligent writer and had expressed her concerns about feeding hungry children well,” reported local activist Bob Anderson.

Churches in Bucks County, Pa., are working hard and creatively to reduce hunger, through community meals, food pantries, backpack programs, community gardens, education, and advocacy. A new Food Insecurity Alliance, bringing together churches, government, and the private sector, is taking shape, reflecting that “partnerships and relationships are key,” says Diane Casey of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection. “Last year the congressman visited our shared meal for veterans, families, seniors and others living in poverty, so he has seen these realities and heard these voices personally.”

Fitzpatrick had one of the strongest voting records among House Republicans on Bread issues in the last Congress—but the Bread delegation visiting him saw room for improvement.  “His voting record is mixed on hunger issues. We made it clear that we knew this record and would report to our faith communities on his votes and give credit where it is due,” Anderson said.

Fitzpatrick voted to reduce SNAP (formerly food stamps) cuts as Bread urged, but also voted last year for the House-passed budget which Bread opposed. “He commended our faith communities for writing letters and urged us to ask others to write,” Anderson said. More letters give political cover for members of Congress to do what constituents want.

“The congressman is a person of faith, and our delegation gave him scriptural and practical reasons why voting for child nutrition programs made sense,” Anderson noted, adding that “the congressman spent much more time with us than we expected.” Afterwards, Anderson wrote a letter to the editor of his local paper.

Michaela Drobak is right—hungry children can’t wait for the life-giving food that child nutrition programs offer. Schedule your Offering of Letters today, using resources at www.bread.org/ol .

Larry Hollar is a senior Bread for the World regional organizer working with activists in Northeastern states.

 

 

Building the 2016 Federal Budget: Round 1

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Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.


By Bread Staff

Before Congress left for its spring break, the House and Senate debated and passed their budget resolutions. The House resolution passed 228-199. The Senate resolution passed 52-46. When members of Congress return to Washington, the two chambers will iron out the differences and pass a budget for fiscal year 2016.

Every year, Bread for the World follows the federal budget process to ensure Congress adequately funds programs that provide hope and opportunity to people struggling with hunger and poverty.

This year, Bread is escalating its work on the budget. Unlike the past few years, one party now controls both the House and the Senate. This makes it significantly easier for Congress to cut anti-hunger programs.

Details of the Budget Proposals

Both the House and Senate sought to balance the budget within the next 10 years. They did so without raising taxes, touching Social Security, making any big changes to Medicare within the next decade, or cutting the defense budget. They actually increased funding for defense in some cases. So where did the trillions of dollars in cuts come from? Sixty-nine percent of the cuts in both budgets would be placed on the backs of low-income people.

In some cases, the budgets were clear about their vision for how to accomplish those savings. The House budget cut $140 billion from SNAP (formerly called food stamps). The Senate budget proposed cutting Medicaid by $400 billion. Both budgets also allowed the 2009 improvements to the earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit to expire. Those improvements have kept 16 million people from falling into or deeper into poverty.

Both budgets continued the additional cuts of sequestration, the automatic cuts Congress agreed to in 2011. These cuts are lasting and severe.

The House Budget proposal cut yearly non-defense appropriated spending by another approximately $759 billion on top of these sequestration cuts. By 2025, total funding for these programs (which includes foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, and many other programs) would be at least 33 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

The Senate budget proposal cuts yearly non-defense spending by another $236 billion on top sequestration. By 2025, total funding for these programs would be at least 24 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

This puts even greater strain and heightens competition for every dollar, threatening funding for international foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, low-income housing assistance, emergency food aid, and many other programs. 

Review of the Sequestration Agreements

Back in 2011, when Congress passed the law that established the sequestration cuts, it made an agreement. It was that automatic sequestration cuts would treat defense and non-defense spending equally.

During the committee mark-ups and floor debates, division emerged. Defense hawks protested the lower spending levels from sequestration. Ultimately, both chambers boosted defense spending by $96 billion in a special account that is not subject to the sequestration cuts or spending limit (known as Overseas Contingency Operations). However, a growing number of members of Congress are speaking out against the sequestration cuts, urging Congress to look to other areas in the budget, including revenues and other spending programs.

During the budget debates in late March, Bread stepped up its advocacy efforts, and our members responded. In particular, we urged the Senate to oppose several amendments. In the end, those amendments were either defeated or pulled before they could even get a vote.

Even though the House budget made horrendous cuts to programs that help people move out of poverty and put food on the table, there was a silver lining. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) got an entire section on food-aid reform included. This section: 1) asserted that cargo preference, monetization, and using only food commodities (practices in providing food aid that Bread believes are inefficient or harmful) “fails to use taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively,” and 2) endorsed the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015. This act would make many of the reforms that Bread has been seeking since last year’s Offering of Letters: Food-Aid Reform.

Round 2 and Beyond

When Congress returns after its two-week recess, it will conference the two budget resolutions. Bread will be watching closely to see what Congress agrees upon and the exact funding levels they give to specific programs.

We expect the spring and summer to be busy months as congressional committees mark up various budget bills. This could all come down to some important budget negotiations this fall between Congress and the White House.

Learn more: Budget Basics & Resources

Thank You for Your Advocacy

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Bread for the World staff.

By David Beckmann

Thank you for your advocacy last week! Congress was busy voting on budget proposals, and you heard from us a lot. Because of your efforts, hundreds of calls and thousands of emails went to Congress.

At the end of the week, the House and Senate both passed their budget resolutions. Their budgets included some drastic proposals to cut anti-hunger programs. But we know your voices — your calls and emails — made a difference.

The Senate considered a number of very bad amendments. Some drastically cut foreign assistance funding. Others cut or negatively impacted SNAP (formerly food stamps), the earned income tax credit, and child nutrition programs. Thanks to your advocacy, these amendments failed or were withdrawn, which means they didn’t get a vote.

Your voice helped ensure these troubling proposals were defeated. One amendment to cut international affairs funding by 50 percent only got 4 votes of support. The last time this proposal was up for a vote, at least 20 senators voted in favor of it.

The House and Senate have passed their budget proposals, but our work continues. These budgets set the tone for anti-hunger policy for the rest of this year and beyond. But your faithful advocacy throughout the year will be critical in making sure these proposals do not become law.

We’re asking you to make one more call this week. See how your senators and representative voted on the budget resolution. If they voted against it, call (800-826-3688) and thank them for their vote. If they voted in favor, call and express your disappointment in their vote for a budget that would increase hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Thank you for continuing to raise your voice to end hunger.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Urgent: Say No to Vote-A-Rama Amendments That Target Poor People

http://bread.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341d945753ef017d42340f38970c-piBy Bread Staff

As budget debate and voting continue in the Senate today, Bread for the World is deeply concerned about several proposed amendments that would cut critical programs that serve vulnerable populations.

Yesterday, the House passed a budget resolution, which would balance the budget on the poorest in our nation. We need your voice to tell the Senate they must not do the same. 

Budgets are moral documents. A faithful budget values ending hunger and protecting the most vulnerable - not cutting programs that would make it harder to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Please call 800-826-3688 and tell your senator that this budget is unacceptable.  

  1. OPPOSE any amendments that cut foreign assistance or the 150 account including Paul Amdt #940, which increases the defense budget by cutting the entire international affairs budget by 50% over two years or a $42 billion reduction. These proposed cuts can severely impact funding for humanitarian and poverty-focused development assistance, including critical life-saving programs like maternal child health treatment, agriculture development and nutrition interventions, and humanitarian relief to millions of refugees. Amendment #940 failed in a recorded vote of 4 yays and 96 nays.
  2. OPPOSE any amendments that cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), change eligibility, or reduce benefits and oppose amendments that cut or make harmful changes to school nutrition programs. SNAP and school meals provide more than 21 million children with meals they need to learn and grow. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #375 and Rubio Amdt #547. Withdrawn.

  3. OPPOSE any amendments that cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), change eligibility, or establish barriers that make it more difficult for low-income working families to put food on the table. TANF is often the only source of support for families who receive it. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #372,which creates a financial burden on taxpayers and states while unfairly punishing children and familiesWithdrawn.

  4. OPPOSE any amendments that prevent individuals from claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Child Tax Credit (CTC), including Grassley Amdt #469. The EITC and CTC prevent more people from falling into poverty than any other program in the United States (outside Social Security). These tax credits reward work, promote economic mobility, and have a long history of bipartisan support. Withdrawn.

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators now - even if you have already reached out to them. This message is so important it must be repeated until they hear us and act. Call 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

If you use Twitter, please tweet your senators here: Aid Saves Lives.

 

Rep. Jim McGovern Uses Paper Plates to Tell SNAP Stories

By Robin Stephenson

During a floor debate on the fiscal year 2016 House budget proposal today, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) used paper plates to illustrate the human stories behind hunger statistics. The budget resolution, if enacted, would cut SNAP (formerly food stamps) by at least 34 percent, the equivalent of up to 220 missed meals annually for each SNAP participant.

SNAP served more than 46 million Americans in 2014.  You can find data about your community and its SNAP households in a state-by-state interactive map created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“The numbers don’t lie,” McGovern said. “But the stories are far more powerful.”

McGovern, a Bread for the World board member, recently asked SNAP participants to send their messages to Congress on paper plates. The following are samples of messages McGovern read out loud on the House floor earlier today:

“SNAP means that as a single mother I was able to finish college, feed my family, and find a career where I am able to advocate for a program that really works."

“SNAP means dignity.”

“SNAP matters to me because no senior should have to choose between buying food or paying for their medication.”

“When I was a child my father left, and the only reason we could afford food was because of food stamps.  I never get a chance to say thank you.  So, thank you.”

The House will continue to debate the budget resolution with a final vote expected later this week. The Senate is also considering a budget resolution that could lead to devastating increases in hunger and poverty in the United States and abroad. 

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators and representative at 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Find more resources to understand the budget process here.

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

 

 

Join National Call-in Day on the Budget

6a00e551df2162883401bb080d8688970d-320wiBy Eric Mitchell

Today, the Senate and the House of Representatives start debating their 2016 budget resolutions. As we told you yesterday, votes on these budgets will determine anti-hunger policy for the rest of this year and beyond.

If passed, the proposed budget cuts could lead to devastating increases in hunger and poverty in the United States and abroad. For example:

  • The House budget proposal drastically cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) by at least 34 percent, the equivalent of up to 220 missed meals annually for each SNAP participant.
  • Lifesaving international programs would be cut by 16 percent in the House budget. Funding for the international budget has already been cut by 22 percent. We can’t afford any further cuts.
  • 69 percent of the budget cuts in both the House and Senate come directly from programs benefiting low-income people – placing the burden on those who are already suffering.
  • Both budgets keep the automatics budget cuts of 2011 (called sequestration) in place – and cut even further. This puts programs like WIC, food aid, and poverty-focused development assistance in grave danger.  

Raise your voice with thousands of faithful advocates. Call your senators and representative at 800-826-3688 in the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world

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

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