Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

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

Live Tweet Up With the White House! #BreadRising


We're just two days away from the Hunger Justice Leaders training here in Washington, and we have some exciting news. This Monday, the Hunger Justice Leaders will head to the White House for what is sure to be a lively and engaging discussion with senior-level officials ... but it doesn't stop there! Immediately following the meeting, we will all have an opportunity to ask any of our burning questions about hunger and poverty during a live Tweet Up with Jon Carson, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

As we prepare for this event, we would like to encourage you to follow @Bread4theWorld on Twitter, if you aren't already, and to use the hashtag #BreadRising throughout the weekend and all day Monday. Next, here are some sample tweets you may want to consider sending before and during the Tweet Up: 

  • Excited for @bread4theworld's Hunger Justice Leaders training and our tweetup with the White House's @JonCarson44! #BreadRising
  • Dear @JonCarson44, how does the White House hope to help hungry people in the U.S.? #BreadRising
  • @JonCarson44 What policies can you point to that are efforts from the W.H. to alleviate poverty in the U.S.? #BreadRising
  • @JonCarson44: If @BarackObama is reelected, what will he do in his last term for hungry and poor people in the U.S. and around the world? #BreadRising

It’s never too early to start tweeting using the #BreadRising hashtag! This is the same hashtag we will use during the White House Tweet Up on Monday as well.

We will keep you posted about the Tweet Up on Monday.

Come With Us To Capitol Hill! #BreadRising

Photo by Flickr user  timlewisnm

Normally over the weekend, Bread for the World's Washington, DC, offices are quiet and vacant, but not this weekend.  This weekend the sounds of worship and action will fill our halls as we host the 2012 Hunger Justice Leaders: From the Pulpit to the Public Square.

Starting this Saturday, June 9, 75 young religious leaders will participate in a three-day anti-hunger advocacy training with Bread staff. Workshops will include learning the root causes of hunger, how to do an Offering of Letters in your congregation, exploring the biblical basis for justice, and using social media to influence Congress -- just to name a few.

You can follow along through our social media channels (Find Bread on Facebook and Twitter). Participants and staff will be tweeting using the hashtag #BreadRising.  Join us, ask questions, and encourage these young leaders with notes of support.  If you are not on Twitter, we will be posting a few updates on our Facebook account and of course will be doing roundups of all the action here on the Bread Blog.

Finally, Bread’s annual Lobby Day is on Tuesday, June 12. Participants will be posting pictures of their meetings with Congress as they deliver the petitions that many of you signed telling Congress that churches alone cannot be solely responsible for feeding hunger people.

Even if you are not in DC for Lobby Day, your voice is needed and powerful.  Call your senator and representatives on Tuesday and ask them to create a circle of protection around funding for programs that are vital to hungry and poor people in the U.S. and around the world. Check out our blog Tuesday for the latest updates.

You can even go one step further and help us make sure that as the budget is negotiated, issues that affect people who are poor and hungry are part of the national dialogue.  Most members of Congress have a presence on Facebook and Twitter.  Let them know you care about these issues. For example if you are from Oregon you might tweet:

Dear @SenJeffMerkley please create a #circleofprotection around funding for programs that are vital to hungry and poor people #BreadRising

As one united body with many hands, #BreadRising will be heard throughout our nation’s capital.

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



Look Up Food Insecurity in Your State

Screenshot from Feeding America

What does hunger look like in your state? How many people live below the SNAP threshold? What is the average cost of a meal? What percentage of the people in your state is food insecure?

In an ambitious new online project, Feeding America answers all of these questions and more for each state in their "Map the Meal Gap" interactive feature. See it here

Most striking about this data visualization is being able to see dark patches where overall food insecurity and child food insecurity are at 30 percent of the population and above. Mississippi and Georgia top the list of states with the highest percentage of overall food insecurity. 

Take some time to examine the map. Look up your own state and learn how you can take action to reduce those percentages day by day.

Hunger QOTD: Rep. Rosa DeLauro

Alex Morris, from Bend, OR, depends on SNAP, WIC and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system. Photo by Brad Horn

“Food stamps help families make ends meet, and as the economy improves and families get back on their feet, the costs of food stamps will decrease again. This is the entire essence of a social safety net.”

-Rep. Rosa DeLauro 


What's the Most Expensive Federal Government Social Program? (It's Not What You Think)

120601-submergedstatePop quiz: What is the most expensive federal government social program? (Hint: It is not what you think).

If you think about this question within the context of the recently proposed cuts in Congress, the answer would appear to be fairly obvious right?  Like me, some of you may have guessed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), or maybe you went with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), or the Section 8 choice voucher program (low-income housing), or unemployment benefits, or TANF. As you have probably inferred from my “hint,” however, if you guessed these or any other programs that benefit poor, hungry, and out of work people, you would be absolutely wrong. Not even close actually. 

So what IS the most expensive federal government social program? It's the retirement benefits exemption. Surprised? So was I, but maybe we shouldn’t be.

In her interesting book “The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy,” Cornell Professor Suzanne Mettler highlights our government's three most expensive social tax expenditures: the retirement benefits exemption, the health insurance exemption, and the home mortgage interest deduction program. She states, “Neither the costs of food stamps, the most utilized program for low-income people, nor of unemployment insurance, which provides economic security for Americans of all income levels, amounts to as much as half the value of even the least expensive of these programs (i.e. home mortgage interest deduction).”

So, when it comes time to balance budgets and cut the deficit, how come we never hear Congress clamoring to make cuts to programs like these? To answer that question, perhaps we need to add one more question to our pop quiz: Who benefits the most from social tax expenditures such as the retirement benefit exemption and the home mortgage deduction? You probably figured it out by now: the more affluent.

According to Mettler, the retirement benefit exemption and the home mortgage deduction program are the most skewed with, over 55 percent and 69 percent, respectively, going to Americans with household incomes over $100,000.00. In general, these kinds of social tax expenditures exacerbate inequality, with the notable exception of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Attempting to balance the budget and cut our deficit on the backs of poor and hungry folks by targeting programs such as SNAP is not only the wrong thing to do morally, but it simply won’t work.  It is up to us to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Matt-grossMatt Gross is regional organizer at Bread for the World.



Using Food Trucks to Get Meals to Hungry Kids

Photo by Flickr user ricardodiaz11

Yesterday, an NPR story highlighted a new initiative by school food services in New Haven, Connecticut, to combat hunger among children through the use of food trucks. An increasingly popular form of food service for hip, urban foodies, the food truck is now being used to provide hungry kids in New Haven with food during the summer months when school meals are unavailable. Many people don't know that children growing up in low-income households depend on school meals for their daily food.

According to the story:

This year, Cipriano plans to serve 40,000 meals during July and August. The truck's now got a generator and electric refrigerators. He's serving basic bagged lunches for now — usually a sandwich, a piece of fruit, a carton of milk. But soon he hopes to add more trucks to serve hot meals, or even offer a walk-in truck with a salad bar like the ones that are popular with students at New Haven school cafeterias.

Cipriano’s idea is catching on. The story reports that Fayette County in Indiana is also planning to use a food truck in an effort to decentralize feeding sites so families with transportation problems can still have access to food in the summer.

Keeping children across the country nourished during the summer is a yearly struggle. Back in 2009, Bread for the World reported that “there are far fewer summer food sites than schools providing meals … the result is that about nine out of 10 children who receive free or reduced-price lunch do not receive meals from the Summer Food Program.”

Certainly, churches and congregations can help to ensure that children have access to nutritious meals when school is out by signing up to be a Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsor or meal site. But many churches are already feeling the weight of feeding hungry people in their communities. (Read this testimonial from a local pastor.) So we also advocate asking Congress to continue to support programs such as SNAP and WIC, which would help families gain the ability to serve meals at home that their children would normally receive at school.

+Ask your member of Congress to support programs for poor and hungry people! 

JCHOI_SMWKNDJeannie Choi is associate editor at Bread for the World. Follow her on Twitter @jeanniechoi.



Offering of Letters Skit: How Many Grocery Bags Does it Take to Feed the Country?

Photo by Flickr user  S.³

The following is the script for an excellent skit about the Offering of Letters campaign presented on May 13 at Calvary Lutheran Church in Edina, MN. It was written by Martin Fergus, to go along with a grocery bag demonstration created by Cathy Brechtelsbauer and Tammy Walhof. This demonstration has been used throughout the Upper Midwest and Plains. Consider using a similar skit at your own church to promote Bread for the World's 2012 Offering of Letters campaign

SCENE:  Two long, church tables are on stage a few feet apart, one toward stage-right with 20 empty grocery bags on it; the other toward stage-left is empty.  Rebekah stands at one end of the stage-right table, filling a bag with groceries to be delivered to the local food pantry Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People (VEAP). Dan enters from stage-left, in front of the tables while Rebekah (Bek) continues to fill a grocery bag.

DAN:  Hi Bek.  What you doin’?

BEK:  Packing up groceries from the congregation to take over to VEAP.

DAN:  How much do you think you’ve got?

BEK:  I’m not sure. Last March, during the Minnesota FoodShare drive, we collected more than 100 pounds.

DAN:  How well did VEAP do with that drive?

BEK:  Great.  They met their target – 100,000 pounds of food and $100,000.

DAN:  Wow, that’s a lot!

BEK:  Yeah, and statewide, Minnesota FoodShare took in more than 4.4 million pounds of food and almost $8.5 million as well!

DAN:  That’s impressive!  Too bad that some of this might be undone by what’s happening in Washington, DC.

BEK:  What do you mean?  What’s happening in Washington, DC?

DAN:  Well, the House of Representatives is proposing to make deep cuts in food stamps and other nutrition programs. That could really make things tough for the people served by food pantries like VEAP?

BEK:  Why?  How would that affect VEAP?

DAN:  Well, cuts would mean more people needing help from VEAP – and fewer resources to do so, since part of VEAP’s food comes from federal programs.

BEK:  But if there are cutbacks, couldn’t VEAP just have another food drive?  And couldn’t we up the amount of food we collect here at Calvary?

DAN:  Well, look at it this way.  How many bags do you have on that table?

BEK:  I’ve got 20 of them.

DAN:  OK.  Now assume that these 20 bags represent all the food provided to those in need by both private giving and federal programs.  How much do you think is provided by each?

BEK:  Oh, I don’t know.  VEAP and Minnesota FoodShare sure get a lot of support – look what they did in just in one month – and there are groups like that all over the country.  Maybe half the food comes from private contributions and the other half from the federal government?

DAN:  You mean sort of like this?  (Dan places 10 of the bags on the empty table.)

BEK (looking at the bags on the tables):  Yeah, that looks about right?

DAN:  Want me to show you the actual numbers?

BEK:  Well, OK.  If you’d like to.

(Dan moves nine more bags from Bek’s table to the other table and looks at Bek.)

DAN:  Just 5 percent of the food for those in need comes from private donations; the rest is from federal nutrition programs.

BEK:  Wow!  I never imagined.  What will people do if the federal nutrition programs are cut?

DAN:  Yeah, what will they do?  But we don’t have to let it happen.

BEK:  What do you mean?  What can we do about it?

DAN:  There are groups, like Bread for the World, that are organizing letter writing campaigns – to ask Congress to put a “circle of protection” around federal nutrition programs.  Would you like to learn how you can get involved?

BEK:  Well, I’d like to know more about it first.

DAN:  That’s fine.  There’ll be an information table at coffee hour today – why don’t you stop by?

BEK:  OK, I will!  I’ll see you there!

DAN (turning to the congregation):  If you’d like to learn more, why don’t you stop by too?

+To learn more about our campaign to preserve funding for programs that help poor and hungry people, or to participate in your own Offering of Letters campaign, click here.

A Simple Skit to Recruit People for Your Offering of Letters

120209-letterwritersBread for the World provides tools for advocates who want to introduce the Offering of Letters to their congregations. One tool is a handy powerpoint, along with tips and suggestions on how to best use this great resource.

An Offering of Letters is also effective when you get an endorsement from the pulpit, especially a thumbs up from the pastor.  In fact, having the pastor preach on the topic of the Offering of Letters would be ideal, especially if the theme fits nicely with the scripture readings for that Sunday (or weekend).

But the pastor isn't the only one who can tell folks in the pew to write letters. Dedicated lay persons can also perform this task.  This is exactly what Crish Tippit and Rita Harris did at All Saints Lutheran Church in Albuquerque, NM. When offered the opportunity to do a presentation to the congregation, Crish and Rita decided to provide the information with a simple, but very effective, skit. The Offering of Letters committee at All Saints Lutheran decided to focus on the mini-campaign dealing with tax credits for low-income families.

Here is the script for the skit Crish and Rita performed: 

Crish: Hey Rita. Are you going in Fellowship Hall to write a letter to Senator Bingaman? It’s Offering of Letters day.

Rita: Uh … I really have a lot to do right now. I was going straight home.

C: Come on, Rita. This is important. How long is it going to take you to write one letter? We even have a sample letter with talking points if you want to use it. 

R: Well … I guess I could. I really haven’t been paying much attention. What are we writing about this year?

C: Senator Bingaman is on the Finance Committee. We want him to support making the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) permanent. Those programs are expiring this year and we want to be sure and protect working poor people who don’t make enough to support their families. These tax credits really help. For instance, in 2010 the EITC lifted 5.4 million people out of poverty — including 3 million children.

R: Wow. I know a woman who received that tax credit. She was able to pay for a car repair so that she could get to work. Without that extra money, she would have been stuck. She has all she can do just to feed her two kids.

C: Exactly. And there are other programs that protect poor and hungry people that are in danger of being cut. Congress is so worried about cutting the budget that they seem willing to do it on the backs of the poor.

R: What kinds of programs?

C: Two that I know of are SNAP, the food stamp program, and WIC, for Women, Infants, and Children. These are funded through the farm bill which is also up for renewal this year. More than 40 million Americans used food stamps last year. These are mainly people living below the poverty line. And WIC served more than 9 million women and children in 2010. We should urge Congress to continue these programs.

R: I’m amazed that there are that many people on these programs. What I mean is, I’m amazed that there are so many poor and hungry citizens in this country. It’s a shame. 

C: One thing we know. These programs really work. Even through all the financial problems and unemployment of the past three years, these programs have kept household hunger rates from increasing further.

R: Well, I’ll definitely stay and write a letter. In fact, I’ll see if my two kids in Sunday School can write one, too. It won’t hurt them to be aware of how many people in this country go hungry. 

C:Thanks, Rita. And you can enjoy a cup of coffee and some snacks while you are writing.

The 75 letters that came from the church's Offering of Letters were sent primarily to  Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who sits on the Senate Finance Committee and has a key role in legislation to renew these important tax credits. Feel free to use this skit as a framework for devising your own skit and conduct an Offering of Letters at your church!

Carlos-navarroCarlos Navarro is an activist with Bread for the World based in New Mexico. He blogs at Bread New Mexcio.


Photo caption: A campus group writes letters to their members of Congress. Bread for the World photo

Leaders Make Bold Commitments to End Hunger at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Secretary Hillary Clinton was just one of the many speakers at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs on May 18, 2012. See video of all of the speakers. Screenshot from The Chicago Council on Global Affairs livestream.

This morning leaders in development gathered at the 3rd Annual Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, held in Washington, DC, by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. During this event, numerous speakers presented on the issue of global development, nutrition, and agriculture, including President Obama, who delivered the first speech on hunger by a sitting president. The G-8 Summit, which meets this weekend in Camp David, MD, also will focus on global food and nutrition security issues. Below, we have culled some of the best quotes from today's event from a variety of speakers:

"For every dollar you invest in nutrition, the payoff is $138 in better health and better productivity. It's about fiscal management because the consequences of not dealing with nutrition and good food, all of the consequential costs of health insurance and drug needs -- all of those consequential impacts that we have to deal with because we haven't invested in nutrition in the critical first 1,000 days, and that period is the most critical." --Beverley J. Oda, Honorable Minister of International Cooperation in Canada 

"We need to reduce the number of meetings and learn to act accordingly. Preach water and drink water." --Jacqueline Mkindi, executive director of Tanzania Horticulture Association

"As the wealthiest nation on earth, I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition and to partner with others.  So we take pride in the fact that because of smart investments in nutrition and agriculture and safety nets, millions of people in Kenya and Ethiopia did not need emergency aid in the recent drought. But when tens of thousands of children die from the agony of starvation, as in Somalia, that sends us a message we still got a lot of work to do.  It's unacceptable.  It's an outrage.  It's an affront to who we are." --President Barack Obama on global agriculture and food security.

"I think what we are seeking to do with our investments in global agriculture is not just to solve the problem of hunger, we also want to solve the problem of extreme poverty, and agriculture in our opinion may be the best intervention point to do that. Development dollars spent on agriculture have the greatest impact on poverty reduction. More than money spent in any other sector. So if we want to make big gains in the fight against poverty, agriculture is the best way to do that. And there is no place that that is more true than in Africa, where there is such great potential for gains in agricultural productivity." --Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on global food safety.

“We need  aid. Of course we still need aid. Of course we do. Does anyone disagree? ... The L'Aquila promises must be kept and must be a baseline going forward. And we've got to keep overall aid budgets on track, which is a really tough sell sometimes. ... Very few countries have been courageous enough to keep their promises on aid. ... If there's one thing I've learned in 25 years doing this stuff, it's that paternalism, the old way we did development, is no match with partnership. It's through partnership we can hasten the day when the developing world will not only feed itself, but feed the rest of us ..." --Bono, founder of ONE and member of the band U2

+Learn more about poverty-focused foreign assistance!


David Beckmann and Lucy Sullivan in The Hill: Child Nutrition and the G8 Summit

120518-childnutrition[This article originally appeared in The Hill. Click here to read the full article. Below is an excerpt.]

If you had $75 billion to spend on solving some of the world’s greatest challenges, where would you start? An expert panel of Nobel laureate economists known as the Copenhagen Consensus recently answered that question. After extensive research and consultation, they determined that the single best investment the world could make to advance health and prosperity would be to fight malnutrition in young children.

We have always known that tackling child malnutrition is the right thing to do. Perhaps now that it’s seen by experts as the smartest thing to do, we will be able to mobilize the investment needed to finally tackle a condition that plagues close to 200 million children, robbing them of their health and future potential.

Thankfully, we already know how to prevent the needless suffering and the nearly 3 million child deaths that result each year from malnutrition. Simple interventions such as breastfeeding and inexpensive treatments for diarrhea management in young children could save more than 1 million lives a year.

We also know that proper nutrition early in a child’s life—particularly during the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday—can help break the cycle of poverty by ensuring healthy brain development, stronger immune systems, better performance in school, and higher earning potential. 

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World. Lucy Sullivan is executive director of 1,000 Days.

+Click here to learn more about foreign assistance.

Photo caption: Constantia and her son Gustavo live in Cobue, Monzambique. Gustavo became severely malnourished after contracting malaria. Constantia took him to a clinic where she learned how to feed him a fortified milk formula with a syringe every few hours around the clock. Soon he was eating Plumpy'nut, a high-protein therapeutic food. A year later Gustavo is healthy and eating normal foods. Photo by Rebecca Vander Meulen.

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