Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

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

Bread Film to Be Shown at United Nations Association Film Festival


Siblings Ricky Horton (left) and Sherily Shepard (right) are former tobacco farmers who now grow produce in Blackwater, VA. Screen grab from the short film "In Short Supply: Small Farmers and the Struggle to Deliver Health Food to Your Plate."

by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

I pulled the envelope out of my work mailbox, noted its thinness and thought, "A rejection from the United Nations Assocation Film Festival. Ah well."

I didn't open the letter for a few hours and when I did, what a surprise. "In Short Supply: Small Farmers and the Struggle to Deliver Healthy Food to Your Plate,” was accepted into the festival. It will be on the big screen in the San Francisco Bay Area sometime between October 18-28 (exact date TBD). Great news for Bread for the World and the three of us who collaborated on the film: Brad Horn, multimedia storyteller now working at the Washington Post; Molly Marsh, Bread's former managing editor; and me.

The film illustrates some of the uncertainties small American farmers face, from unpredictable weather to changing immigration laws. Through the stories of Ricky Horton and Sherilyn Shepard, siblings who grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables in southwestern Virginia, the short film aims to show how the American food system poses obstacles to delivering healthy foods to American homes.

You can watch the story below—and, of course, in the Bay Area this fall. Hope to see you there!

Laura-elizabeth-pohlLaura Elizabeth Pohl is the multimedia manager at Bread for the World. You can find her on Twitter at @lauraepohl.


Congress may be in recess, but Bread isn't!


Rebecca Walker (middle) speaks to a staffer in Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's office talk during Bread's Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl for Bread for the World.

With the House and Senate now in recess, no movement will be made on national hunger and poverty policies until mid-September at the earliest. But that does not mean that Bread for the World is in recess. Our members will be looking for opportunities to speak with their representatives at town meetings and other forums which often take place during these congressional breaks—especially with an impending election. Now is the time to influence your congressperson or senator to draw a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor Americans.

When Congress reconvenes, it will resume debate about the farm bill and the budget. Make sure that your congressperson and senators know your views on these key issues.

For background information, here is a legislative update by Bread analyst Amelia Kegan:

The Farm Bill

Key food programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) are funded through the farm bill, which comes up for renewal every four years. Continuation of current funding levels has been in jeopardy during debate over this year’s bill.

We expected a one-year extension of the current farm bill under House Speaker John Boehner’s drought relief proposal. That would have saved SNAP from deep cuts for the time being. However, late Tuesday night, it became apparent there was not enough support to pass a drought relief bill with a one-year farm bill extension attached.

Pressure continues to mount on the House side for open debate on a farm bill before the September 30 deadline. Despite reports that Congress may have some wiggle room on the deadline, farm groups in particular are pushing Congress to act. Senator Stabenow has indicated that the House and Senate Agriculture Committees would be working behind the scenes on a farm bill compromise during the August recess. Both chambers may attempt to do something in September and we could see a short term extension as they try to hammer out differences between the House and Senate bills.

SNAP Resolutions

Last Thursday, Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and George Miller (D-CA) introduced H. R. 760, a resolution rejecting cuts to SNAP in the proposed House Farm Bill (H.R. 6083). The resolution is non-binding but it is an opportunity for members of Congress to show strong support for SNAP by co-sponsoring the resolution. This also presents an easy question to ask House members who are home for the August recess: “Do you support H.R. 760?”

The Budget

Congressional leaders have agreed to a six-month continuing resolution (CR) to avoid the possibility of a government shutdown at the end of September. The CR would keep the government funded at the levels agreed to last August for FY 2013 in the Budget Control Act, which are $4 billion above current discretionary funding levels. The House and Senate will take up the measure when it returns in September. Some have speculated that a drought relief bill could be attached to the CR.


Last week, the House passed a one-year extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts by a vote of 256-121. That vote on H.R. 8, the Job Protection and Recession Prevention Act of 2012, was mostly along party lines. Representative Johnson (R-IL) was the lone Republican to oppose the measure. Nineteen Democrats supported the bill.

H.R. 8 extended all the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for income earned both under $250,000 and above $250,000. The bill continued the 2010 estate tax expansion, which exempts estates up to $5 million ($10 million per couple) from having to pay any estate tax and then reduces the tax on amounts over $5 million ($10 million per couple). At the same time, the bill discontinued the current EITC and CTC benefits, cutting back the 2009 improvements. If the 2009 provisions expire, here are some of the impacts:

  • 8.9 million families, including 16.4 million children, would be harmed if earnings below $13,000 are no longer counted toward the tax credit.
  • 3.7 million families, including 5.8 million children, would lose the Child Tax Credit entirely.
  • 6.5 million families, including nearly 16 million children, would be hurt by the expiration of the EITC improvements.

Representative Levin, ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, offered an alternative, which was very similar to President Barack Obama's proposal and Senator Harry Reid’s bill. That proposal extends all the tax cuts for everyone’s first $250,000, but it discontinues the tax cuts for income earned over $250,000. Moreover, that proposal extends the current Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit benefit levels, including the 2009 improvements. That vote failed 170-257. No Republicans supported that proposal and 19 Democrats opposed it.

Neither of these two proposals will become law before the elections, but they act as dress rehearsals for the lame duck session and early 2013 when Congress will have to grapple with the expiring tax cuts in the context of other broad budget issues.

This is a crucial time to speak out against the growing issues of hunger and poverty in the United States. Give your congresspersons the support they need to stand for faithful policies.

Untangling the House Tax Proposals: Part 2

by Amelia Kegan

Child-tax-credits2On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted on two competing tax proposals: H.R. 8 and H.R. 15. News accounts reported that H.R. 15 would extend tax cuts for those earning up to $250,000, and H.R. 8 would extend tax cuts for everyone. But that is not the whole story. The previous blog post explained how H.R. 8 continue tax cuts for everyone except low-income working families. Now let's look at the other bill.

H.R. 15 Extends Tax Cuts to Everyone

Contrary to some claims, H.R. 15 doesn’t just extend tax cuts for those earning under $250,000; it extends tax cuts for everyone. If you make more than $250,000, you still get to keep your tax cut on that first $250,000. You’ll have to pay a higher rate on the income earned over $250,000, but you still get that tax cut on the first $250,000—just like everyone else.

Tax cuts on people’s second $250,000 and third $250,000 add up. The amount of money that is not collected because of tax cuts on income above a quarter million dollars comes to $830 billion over ten years. What does $830 billion look like?  If you spent $1 million every day from the day that Jesus was born, you would not have spent $830 billion. 

$830 billion is over 550 billion meals under the SNAP program.

H.R. 15 also extends the low-income tax credits that H.R. 8 lets lapse. So it really does extend tax cuts for everyone, even low-income families.

Continue reading "Untangling the House Tax Proposals: Part 2" »

SNAP Benefits Still in Jeopardy

Heather rude-turner

Heather Rude-Turner, 31, of northern Virginia, was once a single mom receiving WIC, SNAP, and EITC. Because of this, she said she can relate to some of the low-income families who bring their children to the childcare center where she works as a teacher. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

House of Representatives Pulls Farm Bill Extension from Drought Relief Package

by Christine Meléndez Ashley

We had expected some floor action on food and farm policy in the House of Representatives on Tuesday through Speaker John Boehner’s drought relief proposal, which included a one-year extension of the farm bill. It was the first farm bill proposal we had seen coming out of this Congress that created a circle of protection around programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), which are vital to hungry and poor people.

While we have consistently maintained a preference for a full, five-year re-authorization of the farm bill, we were pleased to see no cuts to SNAP in that proposal.

Late Tuesday night, however, it became apparent there was not enough support to pass a drought relief bill with a one-year farm bill extension attached so they yanked it.  The House currently plans to vote on a drought relief package separately from the farm bill this afternoon.

We continue to urge Congress to pass a bill that protects and strengthens SNAP and international food aid.

So far, the House and Senate have both proposed harmful cuts to SNAP. The Senate bill cut $4.5 billion over ten years which would result in roughly 500,000 households losing $90 a month in SNAP benefits. The House bill cut even more from SNAP, $16.5 billion over ten years. These cuts could lead to 2-3 million people losing SNAP benefits and 280,000 kids losing free school meals—in addition to the 500,000 households losing $90 a month in benefits.

We were happy to see the Senate’s international food aid provisions and disappointed that the House did not include similar provisions in its bill.

In fact, the House bill cuts international food aid quality programs so deeply that it would effectively end international food aid programs that focus on nutritional deficiencies and targeted populations.

Judging from the history of the 2008 Farm Bill, we do not discount the possibility of short-term extensions of the current legislation. The farm debate could very well spill into the next Congress, as has happened in the past. Stay tuned for updates as the 2012 Farm Bill process continues to unfold.

Christine Meléndez Ashley is an analyst at Bread for the World.

The Sobering Reason Why “Sesame Street” Is Taking on Hunger

by Matt Newell-Ching

 Last October we featured a Breadblog post about a new effort by “Sesame Street” to provide resources and empathy for children and parents experiencing hunger. A recent interview in the New York Times “Motherlode” blog provides a sobering look at why the Muppets are taking on such a serious issue. Blogger KJ Dell’Antonia interviewed Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President for Outreach and Educational Practices at Sesame Workshop:

When we realized that 9.6 million children under the age of 6 are impacted by food insecurity, [said Betancourt] we realized we needed to reach out to those children and their families.

 We also wanted the children to see that they’re not alone …. Hunger can be a very hidden problem. And we wanted to help reduce the stigma of needing help.

The short answer to why they took this on? Because it’s increasingly relevant to Sesame Street’s audience, kids in the United States.

And let’s be clear—it’s relevant not only for kids who are experiencing hunger, but to their peers as well. “Sesame Street” has a unique way of inviting young minds to experience empathy, which—let me tell you, as the father of a toddler—is not an easy task. Growing Hope Against Hunger provides an important opportunity for parents to foster a “do unto others” moment with their kids. I know we’ll be watching it with our kids soon.

In her blog, Dell’Antonia makes another observation that is often overlooked:

The familiar Muppets can help a child through everything from big-kid beds to grieving. But when the average American throws away 33 pounds of food a month, Elmo and Big Bird shouldn’t need to help a child worried about being hungry for anything more than an extra cookie.

This underscores an important point: hunger in America is not a problem of food production. It’s a problem of food access.

The good news is that we know a lot about bridging access to food. And the best bridge to food for struggling families is through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). Yet, at this moment, SNAP is under threat in Congress.

+ Learn more about how to urge decision-makers to stand up for struggling families by defending SNAP.

Matt Newell-Ching is the Bread for the World western regional organizer.

Faith Leaders Encourage Representatives to Love Their Neighbors Through Just Tax Policies



Today I went to Capitol Hill to listen to Rev. David Beckmann and other Christian leaders urge the House of Representatives to defeat HR 8, a tax bill that would extend 2001 and 2008 tax cuts to wealthy Americans and reduce the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) benefit levels. Delivering a statement backed by nearly 60 prominent faith leaders, Rev. Beckmann, president of Bread for the World,  prodded Congress to take a deeper look at the effects of cutting crucial tax credits that help the hungry and poor.

As Rev. Noel Castellanos of the Christian Community Development Association pointed out in his remarks, few of the families that rely on tax credits are present on the Hill to speak out against this House bill; therefore, others must speak for them.

Rev. Beckmann addressed the policy makers first by arguing that if the House bill goes through, there will be no tax incentive for couples to get married. He also addressed inequities in the tax system that places more of a burden on the poor. Rev. Beckmann reminded Congress that wealthy individuals should recognize that payment of taxes is a just action, quoting the Apostle Paul’s statement that government authorities are ministers of God.

Sister Simone Campbell of the prominent Nuns on the Bus movement preached that tax cuts for the rich have consistently hurt the bottom 20 percent of U.S. households. Contrary to the rhetoric behind those tax cuts, the benefits do not trickle down to the poor, she said. Sister Campbell insisted that our country needs to be a moral and united nation, supporting families that are hungry and poor.

 Along the same lines, Rev. Michael Livingston of the National Council of Churches said he prays that Congress get a conscience and finds a heart. “How can Congress extend tax cuts to millionaires and cut programs like SNAP to poor and hungry families?” asked Livingston.

Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners stated that this Republican budget is an immoral document, and that for Catholic lawmakers it is a direct offense to Catholic social teaching.

Bread for the World hopes that Congress continues to create a circle of protection around poor and hungry people in today’s House vote by upholding the current EITC and CTC benefit levels. We must pressure Congress to stop protecting the top 2 percent.

And we need to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

SarahdickeySarah Dickey, a recent graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South, is a media relations intern at Bread for the World.



Poor-Shaming ... How Is That Funny?


DeEtte Peck uses her Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card in Portland, OR, to purchase food. Photo by Brian Duss

There is something I’ve noticed in organizing around hunger and poverty: those who experience need don’t want to admit it.

I’ve often had people come up to me after I’ve given a talk and tell me about that time they depended on food stamps (now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) to get them over a tough patch, but it’s usually in the hushed whispers of shame.

With increased poverty rates brought on by the recession, labels like the “Food Stamp President” as a derogatory appellation, and politicians publicly equating safety net benefits with feeding wild animals, it is easy to understand how poverty can feel like a dirty word.

The fact is some people work full time and don’t make enough money to feed their families. With need growing, calling the poor irresponsible builds the political will to offset funding for the military with cuts to the safety net. Turning poverty into a mark of shame in our national conversation makes it easy for us to diffuse responsibility and blame our neighbors in need instead of helping them.

With budget cuts looming and SNAP a target of many proposed cuts, now is the time to address misrepresentations. Poverty is not a sin, and using the safety net is responsible parenting when your children need to eat.

In a recent Colorlines blog post, Akiba Solomon writes about a joke she heard about Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards made at the expense of the poor. She then relates the story of a family doing all the right things and still needing food assistance.  Solomon argues that with the Farm Bill negotiations in process, now are not the time for “food stamp humor,” especially by women of color (her target audience) who disproportionately experience hunger.

Solomon writes:

“I have a wild suggestion for comedians, commenters, moralists and opinion-shapers of color, particularly women: At least until the 2012 Farm Bill passes, let’s create a moratorium on unfunny, uninformed, poor-shaming EBT talk.”

As Christians we are called to help our neighbors, not shame them.  Irresponsibility is increasing poverty and ignoring truth. So here is a Christian suggestion:  Let’s create a moratorium on unfunny, uniformed, poor-shaming EBT talk period.

+ Read more about Bread's mini campaign to extend domestic nutrition assistance.

6a00d8341d945753ef0168e847f0a0970cRobin Stephenson is Western regional organizer for Bread for the World.


Bread Acts in North Carolina!

Bread Acts Blog 7.27.12
Screen shot of North Carolina Bread activists taken from WFMY-TV.

Bread’s engine runs on the fuel of dedicated and faith-filled advocates across this nation who continually address decision makers on issues of hunger and poverty. When organizers see members independently creating events like the Bread for the World North Carolina Team did on Wednesday, we know we are doing our job right. With song and prayer, over 20 religious leaders and activists surrounded the Guilford County Department of Social Services, making public their concern for protecting programs that are critical to people experiencing hunger and poverty. 

Vital domestic nutrition programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps) are facing severe cuts by Congress that could send more hungry to already overburdened church pantries. The Greensboro Urban Ministry got a small taste of the daunting task of feeding the recipients of such programs when a computer glitch stopped local SNAP benefits. Over a two-month period, 1,500 more people needed food, compared to the same period in the previous year.

Bread activist Bryan McFarland has a history of going the extra mile—advocating for an end to hunger by creating programs like “Jacob’s Join” that educate with song. Yesterday was no exception. With the help of Robert Herron, Frank M. Dew, Christine Byrd, Mike Aiken, and other organizers with Bread for the World’s Triad Chapter, the leaders sent a public call—not only to Greensboro, but also to North Carolina’s Senators Kay Hagen and Richard Burr— to maintain SNAP funding. Listen to what they had to say in a WMFY news story:


You don’t need Bread staff to create an event in your region. However, your Bread organizer can help you with press contacts, resources, and information about which issues are the most critical and timely. Creating the political will to end hunger is noisy business, but when advocates are empowered, active, and public, change happens.

Thank you for your fantastic work, Triad Team!

+Make the conversation about hunger public at a town hall meeting this month while Congress is on recess. We have resources for you here


Robin Stephenson is regional organizer at Bread for the World.


Thank You, Senators!

Thank You Senators Blog 7.26.12
Heather Rude-Turner, 31, of northern Virginia, was once a single mom receiving WIC, SNAP, and EITC. Because of this, she said that she can relate to some of the low-income families who bring their children to the childcare center where she works as a teacher.
Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

Fifty-one senators need a thank you for doing the right thing and voting in favor of a Senate bill that includes a one-year extension to the Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit. The bill is not yet law; there will be a similar vote in the House soon. But today we need to thank those members we have been messaging all year to extend the credits as part of the circle of protection. 

In the past three years, we have campaigned twice for strong tax credits for working families, because these programs are two of the most effective government programs to combat child poverty.  Tax credits often serve as ladders out of poverty.

We have even been blessed to see a life transformed over that time.

Remember the first time you watched Heather Rude-Turner’s story in the 2010 Offerings of Letters video?  It was really tough to listen to the pain in Heather’s voice when she said, “I don’t eat a lot of the time because I feel bad—because I’m taking the food away from my kids. And I feel like if we have one banana in the house, if I can cut it in half, they can each have half of a banana. I don’t need vitamins: I’m all grown up.” 

Another video one year later showed how EITC had given Heather the tools to transform her family’s life Watching her eat a banana in the midst of all those blessings, I said a tearful prayer of thanks—thanks that we are people of faith willing to address members of Congress and stand up for families who are busy being poor, and thanks for the members of Congress who fight for them.

We respectfully ask for justice from our elected officials, but we also must empower them by publicly saying, “Thank you for doing the just thing.”

If your senator voted “yea” on this roll call list, send him or her an email, write on his or her Facebook wall, or tag him or her in a tweet and say, “Thank you, Senator, for standing with children and voting to extend tax credits for working families.”  Use the hashtag #BreadActs on Twitter so we can re-tweet you.

+There is still time to influence your Representative. Send an email today.


 Robin Stephenson is regional organizer at Bread for the World.


Our Thanks to YOU for Your Generosity

7.26.12. Thank You

School kids enjoying a healthy lunch with fresh fruit and vegetables. Photo by USDA.

Your donation will make a difference for hungry people. I want to personally thank those who contributed to our summer matching gift campaign. I am happy to report that Bread for the World raised over $180,000—surpassing our goal of $150,000!

An additional matching gift was made by a generous member, and now a total of $175,000 will be matched dollar-for-dollar. 

I am grateful to everyone who participated in the campaign, which raised a total of $355,000 overall—a significant boost to Bread’s efforts to protect funding for programs that are vital for hungry people. 

Thank you for your generosity and for making this campaign an overwhelming success!


Rev. David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World


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