Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

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

Make Mine Inter-Dependence Day

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Photo by Flickr user  TMAB2003

Next week, we again celebrate our nation’s independence. We have a lot to be proud of in our country’s long struggle for freedom and liberty. But nowadays too many people in our country have taken this admirable national quality and transformed it into a personal privilege to turn our collective backs on those who are different from us; those who annoy or frustrate us; those who aren’t quite making it;  those who are vulnerable and need help in these troubled times. When our personal  “independence” alone takes center stage, what’s lost is the countervailing reality of “interdependence” — how our modern world makes us radically connected to others, whether we actually like it or not.

Interdependence means something like this:

When Congress slashes funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) or school meals programs, it means that kids don’t get enough to eat, don’t learn well, and won’t thrive economically in the future. This will, in turn, make our country’s fabric weaker in the long run.

Cutting international food aid or development assistance means families abroad don’t prosper, developing nations lag socially and economically, trading partners become weaker, and our own nation’s economic and national security bases erode. These are the ties that bind all of us closer each day.

Sure, we can try to hide our heads in the sand and say that independence matters most, enabling us to ignore our brothers and sisters, and their children and grandparents, who need some help to make ends meet. Sure, we can try to simply go our own way, paring back programs in the name of deficit reduction no matter what the consequences. But if we really love what our country has stood for through 236 long, thrilling, and arduous years, I say we celebrate this July 4 in a different way.  

This year let’s call it National Interdependence Day. Let’s carry that same generous spirit of justice and connectedness through the crucial weeks that follow when Congress considers and votes on key hunger legislation.

For that joyous July 4 Interdependence Day party, I’ll offer to  buy some really cool fireworks and cheer lustily, indeed. Join me!

ACT NOW:  Take a moment now and let your members of Congress know that you practice interdependence, and ask for a circle of protection around programs that help those who are poor and hungry both at home and abroad.  

  Larry-hollarLarry Hollar is senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

 

 

The Starbucks Barista and the Senator: In God's Mission, the Last Shall Be First

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Photo by Flickr user  Berto Garcia

I am new to the Wild West, but I do have the cow-girl boots to prove I am not averse to a little rough-and-tumble cowboy culture.  Last fall, when I moved to my newest hometown of Casper, WY, I was transitioning out of seminary and into pastoral ministry.  I chose to work at our local Starbucks as a way to get to know my new community. People and coffee are two of my life’s great passions, so what better intersection to participate in God’s reconciliation mission than a coffee shop? 

I did not know until a few months into working at the shop that Sen. John Barrasso and his wife, Bobbi, were regular customers.  I came to know them by their preferred coffee drinks as every good barista identifies their customers. 

When I graduated from high school in Kenya and left our family home in Malawi to attend university in Idaho, my parents gifted me with a necklace from which hangs a pendant of the African continent.  It has been a great conversation starter, including with Sen. Barrasso, who inquired from the other side of the espresso machine about my connections to the vast continent.  I explained that South Africa was my birthplace, and we chatted about his visits to the country. 

Little did I know when I was chosen as a Hunger Justice Leader for 2012 that serving coffee to one of Wyoming’s senators would become a powerful point of connection when I found myself lobbying on Capitol Hill on behalf of hungry people across the globe, in America, and in my new home-state. 

Continue reading "The Starbucks Barista and the Senator: In God's Mission, the Last Shall Be First" »

Our Thanks to YOU for Action on the Farm Bill

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Bread for the World activists from Texas listen to a staffer in Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's office talk during Bread's Lobby Day in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl for Bread for the World.

As you’ve hopefully heard, the Senate finished their work on the Farm Bill yesterday afternoon. The bill passed by a vote of 64-35. While the final bill included $4.5 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next ten years, our work and voices did make a difference.

Harmful amendments to further cut, and even dismantle, SNAP were defeated on a strong bi-partisan basis. This will certainly help us in sending a strong message to the House of Representatives that deeper cuts to SNAP are unacceptable.

Additionally, the final bill included some common sense reforms to international food aid and to crop insurance. An amendment by Sens. Coburn and Durbin to limit crop insurance premium subsidies to wealthy farmers also passed on a strong bi-partisan basis.

The process now turns to the House where the Agriculture Committee will be marking up their own bill on July 11. Stay tuned for details and possible actions around the markup. We expect much deeper cuts to SNAP likely in the range of $14 billion over ten years.

We want to thank all of our activists for your work advocating for SNAP and international food aid as the bill made its way through the Senate. There is still much to be done, but we are glad to see the Farm Bill process moving forward.

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

The 'Nuns on the Bus' Make a Case for Food Stamps

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Screenshot from video by Moyers & Company

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network Lobby, is travelling throughout the United States on a two-week tour called, "Nuns on the Bus." The group of nuns are travelling to highlight their opposition to the House budget put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan that cuts funding to programs that help poor and hungry people.

In this short video produced by Moyers & Company, Sister Simone Campbell outlines the importance of protecting funding for food stamps in particular, and mentions Bread for the World's $50,000 campaign. She says:

"Bread for the World tells it that just on the food stamps alone Congressman Ryan is wrong that the churches can take care of this issue, because the cuts that are proposed and have been passed by the House is going to require every church, every synagogue, every mosque, every house of worship in the United States each year for 10 years to each raise $50,000. It’s impossible!"

Watch the video below:

Let Kids be Kids: Don't Let Them Go Hungry This Summer

120621-summerlunchYesterday marked the first day of summer. While school is out for kids everywhere, some children who rely on the free and reduced meal program at their schools go hungry.  Every year millions of students receive free school meals through the National School Lunch Program. Unfortunately, only a fraction get those meals in the summer. 

As a college students, my wife Colleen and I both spent a summer working with Project Connect (now Faces Without Places), in Cincinnati, OH. This program served to connect students who were homeless with services and enrichment programs during the summer, and an important part of the summer program was making sure the children were fed! Students received breakfast, lunch, and a large snack before they went home for the day through programs like the Summer Nutrition Program ( a program funded through the federal government). For many kids, this “snack” was the last meal they would eat until breakfast the next morning. Below are some of our memories of serving in this program for one summer:

Colleen: As a teacher, I’ve often walked over to a student, given him or her the “teacher look,” and calmly held out my hand many times. Usually it’s for a twisted paper clip or a mysterious beeping device. I’ll never forget the time at Project Connect when I walked over to a student, held out my hand, and he sheepishly emptied his pockets to hand me a plastic fork and spoon. The soup kitchens didn’t have enough utensils, so families had to provide their own. What a burden on this small boy to always think about how to get -- and eat -- his next meal. 

Jon: I recall watching several kids sneaking off extra food in their pockets to take home with them for later. It was technically not allowed, but I couldn’t bring myself to force them to put it back.

Colleen: A good, healthy meal has been shown to affect a student's attention and performance.  As a teacher, I know that students learn best when they don’t have to worry about where their next meal comes from. Students learn best when they can be kids first and students second. Being hungry in the summer doesn’t let you be much of a kid.

Jon: I know these experiences reminded us both that some of the most vulnerable members of our society are children who must go without the simple blessing of breakfast, lunch, or dinner, especially during these summer months. Unfortunately many programs that help children like those we worked with in Cincinnati are at risk of being cut. We pray Congress will prioritize funding and create a circle of protection around these vital programs. Write a letter and make a phone call to your member of Congress. Let’s let kids be kids and make sure hunger is out for the summer. And the rest of the year too!

Jon and ColleenJon and Colleen Gromek live in Dayton, OH. He is a central regional organizer for Bread for the World. She is a middle school teacher.

 

Photo caption: Children in a Head Start class in Tuscon, AZ, eat a nutritious lunch. Photo by Jeffrey Austin.

Hear Stories from Lobby Day and a Legislative Update from David Beckmann

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(Left to right): Kay DeBlance, Rebecca Walker, Aaron Marez and David Ramos of Texas walk through the Russell Senate Office Building on their way to a meeting in Sen. Kay Hutchison's office (R-TX). They visited the office as part of Bread for the World's Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

Each year during Bread for the World’s Lobby Day, some participants experience the sheer joy of being heard by a decision maker and possibly changing someone's mind. Others find comfort in knowing that they did not remain silent, but spoke boldly for justice. And others need the comfort of faith as they are met with callousness while speaking to the need in God’s world. But one thing is for certain: All come away with stories.

Join us tomorrow, Thursday, June 21, for the grassroots webinar and conference call to hear an inspiring story from one of our Hunger Justice Leaders, who went from serving coffee to her Senator back in her home state, to visiting him on Capitol Hill to ask him to make policy changes that help hungry people.

Also, Bread for the World’s President David Beckmann will walk us through the legislative process and both the challenges and victories around the circle of protection so far this year, including the Farm Bill being debated in the Senate now.

The call starts promptly at 4 p.m. EST (1 p.m. PST) and lasts one hour. You will have the chance to ask questions to both our guest Hunger Justice Leader, as well as Rev. Beckmann.  Please register now.

Join the conversation on Twitter as well.  We’ll be using the hashtag #BreadWeb.  

Robin-stephensonRobin Stephenson is regional organizer at Bread for the World. 

 


Bread for the World's 2012 Lobby Day

Meet Your Hunger Justice Leaders: Lyle Anderson II

LyleLyle Anderson, II, from Aumsville, OR, is a Hunger Justice Leader and an associate pastor at Tuality Community of Christ and Community of Christ churches. 

Q: What signs of poverty and hunger do you see in your communities?

A: I am an associate pastor and director of worship ministries in the Community of Christ. The church in Salem, OR, is really aware of hunger and poverty and they are engaging. They are trying to provide food for the weekend for kids in schools who otherwise would go without.

Q: Why do you work to advocate for hungry and poor people?

A: Hunger is a part of my own story. Even though I wasn’t necessarily aware of it, my mother’s shared stories from my childhood. As a follower of Christ, it’s just part of my essential calling to embrace the worth of all persons and caring for creation and for people.

Q: What have you learned through the Hunger Justice Leaders training?

A: I learned about the connection across the wide spectrum of Christianity. Despite all the things that divide us, there’s that common awareness and strength that we can be united in reflecting Christ when we work on hunger. I also learned that I’m not the only one who struggles to think about how to best engage our churches. And through our meetings with the White House, I realized that our voice really does have an impact. I learned not to give that up.

Q: Can you share one of the stories that your mom shared with you?

A: When we were children, one of the stories she told is how at times, even with the help of WIC, which was the only thing we had food-wise, we were still struggling financially. At one point, my mother had gone to try to get help from the faith community. A church member came and brought a box full of food and my sister and I were unpacking it and putting things away. My sister was so excited when she saw a gallon of milk that she said, does this mean we can have milk with our cereal again? It was then that the church member saw how bare our cabinets were.

This shows that sometimes you’re not necessarily aware of what the person sitting next to you at church is going through.

Meet Your Lobby Day Participants: Ellen and Al Fisher

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Ellen and Al Fisher from Cedar Rapids, IA, are attending Bread for the World's 2012 Lobby Day.

Q: What brought you to Lobby Day?

Al Fisher (AF): This is our fourth Lobby Day. We came to Lobby Day in 2007, 2009, 2011, and now 2012.

Q: Why do you commit your time and resources to come to Lobby Day?

Ellen Fisher (EF): We both feel strongly that this is a vital part of our faith. I hope to persuade the government to adopt programs to end hunger, and we hope to influence the political process and encourage greater generosity towards the poor.

Q: Are you seeing signs of poverty of hunger in your community in Cedar Rapids?

EF: Our church provides free Sunday night meals and we meet people who come back for four or five servings, and they look to me as people who live on the fringes. 

AF: The unemployment rate is lower than the national average, but there is still a lot of hunger and poverty there. 

Q: What do you hope to tell your members of Congress when you meet with them today?

AF: That they shouldn't cut federal nutrition programs and cut the budget on the backs of the poor. We met with a staffer last year who said that times are tough and everybody's gotta have skin in the game, but it seems unfair that 60 percent of the cuts are coming from programs for the poor.

EF: Right, saying you have to have skin in the game is one thing, but 60 percent of the cuts isn't having skin in the game, it's getting amputated!

Q: Why is hunger an important issue for you?

AF: When we adopted our two kids from South Korea, our son came into the care of the adoption agency and a very nice caring foster family the day after he was born, and then we adopted him. But our daughter had a difficult first 14 months before we adopted her, during which she was very sick and hungry. When we adopted her, at meals, she would eat with food in one hand and food in another hand. She had known hunger, so this is a personal issue for us.

Photo caption: Al Fisher and Ellen Fisher at Bread for the World's Lobby Day on June 12, 2012.

From the Pulpit to the White House! Hunger Justice Leaders Tweet with the Office of Public Engagement

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Hunger Justice Leaders gathered in front of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on June 11, 2012 after meeting with senior White House officials. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

After two days of anti-hunger advocacy training, Bread for the World’s Hunger Justice Leaders had an opportunity to engage in a lively discussion this morning with senior-level White House officials during a briefing at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds.

Participants spoke with Joshua Dubois of the Office of Faith Based Initiatives, Martha Coven from the Office of Management and Budget, and Paul Monteiro and Jon Carson from the White House Office of Public Engagement — just to name a few. The Hunger Justice Leaders heard from the administration about President Oabama's approach to ending hunger, and had the chance to test some of their new advocacy skills on high-ranking officials.

After the meeting, several lucky Hunger Justice Leaders continued the discussion as they joined Jon Carson in his office for a live tweet-up from the West Wing!

See the blog post below for some of the tweets from today’s chat, and thanks to the White House, the Hunger Justice Leaders, and all of you who participated to make this day a great success.

Kristen-youngbloodKristen Youngblood Archer is media relations specialist at Bread for the World.


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