300 posts categorized "Solutions to U.S. Poverty"
I sat in my cubicle mesmerized by my student’s depiction of his life for 13 years in rural Africa: raised beds of vegetables, dusty dirt roads stretching to the horizon, smiling faces dripping with sweat in the bright orange sun.
As a professor at Eastern University, I traded in my life in humanitarian aid, development, and missions for the privilege of training Christian relief workers with a powerful set of program planning and economic tools set within the framework of Kingdom principles. But on days like this one, I still feel like the student.
As David recounted stories of his narrow escape from war-torn South Sudan, he transported me to the joys and struggles of life as a refugee. I learned that David alone survived from his family. I heard the story of his settlement within a refugee camp outside of his nation’s borders, the new farming techniques he mastered, and the privilege given to him to travel to other sites to teach the art of soil cultivation, crop rotation, and farming.
Fasting in the month of Ramadan reminds us of those who cannot break their fast at sunset. From sunrise to sunset, fasting allows us to step into the shoes of more than 780 million people who suffer from hunger around the world.
What if our brothers and sisters could use Ramadan to help us take a stand against hunger, not just individually for a month, but also collectively throughout our lives?
A network of organizations led by Islamic Relief USA and the Alliance to End Hunger did just that. They published “The Ramadan Action Guide,” a concise advocacy resource on hunger and poverty. It shares what Muslims can do to build awareness and advocate to end hunger, even after Ramadan.
Hunger is a global humanitarian issue and can affect anyone. “Allah is the One who feeds us and saves us from hunger,” said Islamic Relief USA CEO Abed Ayoub. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act: Allah charges each of us to help ease the burden on those who are suffering. Just like hunger and thirst can be a test, so can food and wealth. Food is a blessing, which we must share. Everyone needs to work together to eradicate extreme hunger.
A chart showing the 112th Congress as the least productive Congress in history. Source: Annual resume of Congressional activity, Ezra Klein/Washington Post.
If you follow U.S. politics, or heck, even if you don’t, you’ve probably heard that our current Congress is a bit … well … dysfunctional. Ezra Klein's piece in the Washington Post last Friday on why our current Congress is the “worst” Congress in U.S. history affirmed for me just how tough things really are. Klein states that "the 112th Congress is no ordinary Congress. It’s a very bad, no good, terrible Congress.”
Upon reading Klein’s piece, (which made me laugh out loud, but also made me quite sad), I felt compelled to think proactively about this dilemma.
Here’s the simple, far-from-rocket-science solution I came up with as an activist and organizer: Working to end hunger and poverty has the potential to unify our 112th Congress.
Screenshot from CNN.com
On Monday, July 9, we attended a briefing at the White House, during which President Obama called for extending tax cuts for the middle class and small business owners. While we were overwhelmed by this amazing opportunity to listen to our president, we also wanted to take a critical look at some parts of his speech.
During his speech, President Obama noted that he has cut taxes for Americans by an average of $3,600 per year during his tenure. He urged Congress to extend tax cuts for the middle class and small-business owners who make less than $250,000 for another year. He also called on Congress to allow tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire by the end of the year. President Obama emphasized that 97 percent of U.S. business are small businesses, and are the economic root of the nation.
In an ongoing effort to strengthen the middle class President Obama said that we need to “widen the circle of opportunity” for middle class Americans. We found the president’s use of this phrase interesting. Since early 2011, Bread for the World and other organizations have called on Congress and the Obama administration to create a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.
Yesterday, the government relations interns at Bread for the World braved the ‘July-in-DC’ humidity with more than 100 individuals, including members of Congress, NGOs, faith groups, and numerous anti-hunger advocacy organizations, to oppose the draft farm bill released by the House Agriculture Committee. Together, in front of the Capitol, we raised our voices – and our signs – against the proposed $16.5 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). These proposed cuts would cause 2 to 3 million people to lose their SNAP benefits entirely, cause another 500,000 households to see a $90 reduction in monthly benefits, and end free school meals for nearly 300,000
Hungry children and struggling families are not just numbers or statistics -- they are human lives. They are our friends, neighbors, and fellow Americans. As each Member of Congress stood up and spoke, we heard different viewpoints on the same message: “We must protect SNAP to protect these families.” The 10 congressional leaders at this event spoke with shakings fists, raised arms, and words of devout promise -- they will not stand by and allow the $16.5 billion cut to SNAP.
The American poverty narrative assumes that with the right amount of elbow grease, a person can escape poverty. Our media is littered with heroic stories, and we collectively cheer, celebrating the power of the indomitable American spirit. Some people say, if you are poor, you are just not trying hard enough.
Aside from the fact that such a statement is more about cultural identity than reality, the assumption is affecting budget debates and obscuring solutions that view poverty as a national concern. Poverty doesn’t just affect the individual; it’s a collectively created problem. With the right conditions, poverty can behave like a tsunami, spreading throughout communities and generations, leaving a littered landscape of destruction in its wake. History reminds us increased poverty has a multiplying affect to the detriment of a nation’s prosperity.
Everyone is affected when less people have access to housing, nutritious food, education, and jobs that pay a living wage. The school lunch program was enacted following World War II, when would-be soldiers were denied duty because of malnutrition, putting national security at risk. As President Truman signed the School Lunch Act, he understood that, “in the long view, no nation is healthier than its children, or more prosperous than its farmers.”
Joe Martingale (standing) of New York talks with other Bread for the World activists from the state during Bread's Lobby Day in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.
We need your voice once more and we only have about 24 hours to act! The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and international food aid continue to be targeted for cuts on Capitol Hill.
On Wednesday, July 11, the House Agriculture committee will vote on their version of the farm bill -- the major source of funding for SNAP and other nutrition programs. This draft bill includes a devastating $16.5 billion cut to SNAP. The bill also cripples efforts to increase the nutritional quality of international food aid programs by slashing potential funding by 95.6 percent over the next five years.
The Senate has already firmly rejected deep cuts to SNAP while also proposing common sense reforms to international food aid. The House of Representatives can, and must, do better.
On the hard wood of the basketball court, in the midst of team huddles, layups, and bounce passes, one would not expect to find champions of hunger, but that was the case during last Friday's game between the San Antonio Silver Stars and the Mystics − Washington, DC’s Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) franchise team.
On July 6, during half-time, Bread for the World took center court to receive the Mystic’s Capitol One Community Champion award. During every home game this season the team recognizes a group or individual who is making a difference in the community as part of their “Investing for Good” philosophy.
Previous "Community Champions" include Horton’s Kids, an organization that provides youth literacy services and emergency food assistance for local families in need; Back on my Feet, a nonprofit that assists the homeless and other underserved populations through running activities; and Young Women’s Project, a multicultural group that teaches teens and young women how to become strong leaders in their communities.
Although the Mystics didn’t get the “W” in Friday’s game against the San Antonio Silver Stars, the team led in assists in the fight against hunger.
Photo caption: Racine Tucker-Hamilton receives the Capitol One Community Champion Award at the Washington Mystics game in Washington, DC on July 6, 2012. Photo by Scott Bleggi.
Photo by Flickr user Franco Bouly
Public dialogue can create public pressure, and raising your voice is critical to avoiding cuts that will take food off the tables of families who most need it. We must encourage members that food assistance is not a political football.
If your member of Congress is on the House Agriculture Committee, tag them in a tweet or message them on Facebook in the next several days leading up to Wednesday’s committee vote on the farm bill. Below are sample tweets and Facebook posts, as well as a chart of links to members' accounts.
Dear @RepX, Cuts to SNAP & Food Aid in the #FarmBill would increase poverty & hunger. Please do the right thing #BreadActs
Dear @RepX Please be a hunger champion & do the right thing. Protect SNAP & food aid funding in #FarmBill #BreadActs
I am counting on your continued leadership for people who are poor and hungry. Please oppose cuts to SNAP and food aid in the upcoming farm bill vote.
As a person of faith, I believe that budgets are moral documents and must not be balanced on the backs of the poor. Please be a leader and oppose cuts to SNAP and Food Aid in the farm bill.
Sister Simone Campbell leads evening worship at Bread for the World's Hunger Justice Leaders Program in Washington, DC, on Sunday, June 10, 2012. Sister Simone leads Network, a Catholic social justice lobby group that launched a Nuns on the Bus tour to bring light to federal budget cuts that hurt poor and hungry people. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World
From June 17 to July 2, a small group of nuns toured the nation by bus to protest budget cuts that would endanger poor and hungry people in the United States. Known as the "nuns on the bus," this powerful contingent of women religious raised awareness at every stop on their tour about cuts to federal funding for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). The bus tour ended Monday, July 2, with a rousing rally in Washington, DC (see our coverage of the event here).
On Tuesday, we sat down with Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network -- a primary organizing group of the bus tour -- to hear her stories from the road and find out what we can expect next from the "nuns on the bus."
Read part 2 of our interview below. (Read part 1 of our interview here.)
Where did you grow up? And were you aware of social injustice growing up?
I grew up in California. I grew up in Long Beach. But my sister and I -- this was the late '50s -- and so my sister and I really cared about civil rights when we were young. Dr. Martin Luther King was our hero, and so that shaped me early on.
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