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254 posts categorized "Solutions to U.S. Poverty"
By Robin Stephenson
The second presidential debate takes place tonight, providing yet another opportunity for President Obama and Governor Romney to talk about hungry and poor people. Solutions to poverty, in both the United States and abroad, have received little attention on the campaign trail, even though, according to a new poll by the American Values Network, voters prefer candidates who talk about the working poor.
Elections are about choosing the officials we think will best represent our values. As Christians who care deeply about hunger and poverty, knowing how candidates intend to work on behalf of vulnerable members of our society is an important criterion when voting. Simply put: elections matter.
A couple of stark facts illustrate the seriousness of these issues and the critical need to talk about hunger and poverty in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 elections.
- Fifteen percent of this country's population—or more than one in seven Americans—lived below the poverty line in 2011.
- Almost 870 million of the world's people were chronically undernourished in the period from 2010 to 2012. The vast majority lived in developing countries, where about 850 million people—or slightly less than 15 percent of the population—are estimated to be undernourished. Progress is being made, but those numbers remain unacceptably high.
By Robin Stephenson
The first presidential candidate debate will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, October 3, at 9 p.m. ET, and will focus on domestic policy. The debate provides an opportunity to put domestic hunger and poverty in the spotlight, and social media can be used to drive the conversation. Fifteen percent of Americans—including one in five children—lived in poverty in 2011. It is critical that our political leaders address the most vulnerable members of our population, and with enough grassroots urging, they will.
At Bread for the World, we have created a debate Bingo Game, which can be downloaded and printed out. Each bingo card square contains a word or phrase associated with an issue that Bread members care about: "farm bill," "SNAP/food stamps," and "Earned Income Tax Credit," for example. As you watch the debates with friends and family, mark off a square every time either President Barack Obama or Governor Mitt Romney uses one of the words. Use the game as a tool to track how the candidates are addressing programs and policies most vital to poor and hungry people.Another way to amplify the message that poverty matters is to use social media channels. This month, Bread (along with many of our partner organizations) is encouraging its members to participate in the #talkpoverty campaign led by Half in Ten.
Do you have a question you'd like debate moderator Jim Lehrer of NewsHour to pose to the candidates? Tweet it to @newshour and use the hashtag #talkpoverty. Here are a couple of sample tweets:
My Presidential debate question @NewsHour: Will you support extending tax credits for working families? http://ow.ly/e4zj0 #talkpoverty
.@NewsHour Ask Candidates: Will you protect SNAP (food stamps), the most direct way to reduce hunger? #talkpoverty http://ow.ly/e9FVu
You can also create tweets using the facts on our Offering of Letters web pages on tax credits and domestic nutrition. If you are holding a debate house party, playing Bingo, or tweeting, take photos of the action and post them to your Facebook page or tweet it. Be sure to tag us!
Poor people cannot be forgotten during this election season, and it will take a loud chorus of anti-hunger voices to make sure the issues of hunger and poverty receive attention.
Robin Stephenson is social media lead/senior regional organizer, western hub.
Photo: John, a former banker who is one of the subjects of The Line, shops for himself and his three children at a food bank. (Film still from The Line)
By Sarah Godfrey
When Emmy-winning filmmaker Linda Midgett set out to find subjects for The Line, her short film documenting what it means to live at, or below, the poverty line in America, she had no trouble finding people dealing firsthand with hunger and poverty. What was difficult, Midgett says, was finding subjects willing to talk about those difficulties in front of her camera.
"I think it’s easy to find people who are struggling in these ways, but I think what was the bigger challenge was finding people willing to share their struggles publicly," she says. "I talked to food pantries, to various organizations, I talked to the Salvation Army. A lot of people I reached out to were not willing to go on camera.
"I don’t say that as a criticism," she continues. "But, for me, it highlighted how much shame is associated with being in poverty."
The Line goes a long way toward addressing the shame and the stereotypes that often surround poverty. The film tracks four subjects: John, who lives in the suburbs of Chicago and, after losing his six-figure job in the banking industry, finds himself dependent on food banks to feed his family; Sheila, a Chicago resident who grew up in poverty, escaped its clutches, and finds herself again facing financial difficulty after a debilitating accident; James, who moves from New York City to North Carolina in search of work, and still barely scrapes by, despite working long, hard hours; and Ronald, a Gulf Coast shrimper whose livelihood has been affected by both Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.The Line was funded by a partnership of organizations, including Sojourners, World Vision, and Bread for the World. The film premieres tonight, at church viewings around the country, at 8 p.m., eastern time.
One of the things that separates The Line from other films tackling issues of hunger and poverty in America is the fact that Midgett allows the subjects to tell their stories themselves, without interference.
"I felt like one of the most important things I was trying to do with this film was to break down stereotypes of who poor people are, what they look like, what they sound like, and the best way to do that was just to let them talk," Midgett says. "As individuals, they're all so compelling, and have such unique perspectives, just the process of listening to them, in and of itself, breaks down stereotypes," Midgett continues. "Instead of thinking of 'poor people,' it becomes, 'oh, that’s Sheila, that’s John.' The more you know people by name, and know they're human beings, not statistics, the more it changes your heart."
Midgett says she was surprised by what a diverse cross-section of society her subjects represent—one of the most surprising things she learned while working on the film was that the rate of poverty in the suburbs is on the rise.
"I was not personally familiar with that info, so when I came across that, I said, 'whoa.' To see food pantries in these formerly strong middle-to-upper class neighborhoods, that really was shocking," she says. "The first [subject] in the film, John, he was a former president of a bank, and when the banking industry imploded, he got caught in that, and decided to make a career change to become a schoolteacher. His mom was a teacher, his grandmother—it was a noble profession and he felt drawn to it, but he wasn't able to find a full-time teaching job.
"He's in DuPage County, Illinois, one of wealthiest counties in the country—definitely in the Midwest—and he's feeding his three children with food from food pantries, living off of $12,000 per year. That was crazy for me—I went to Wheaton College in DuPage County, I know DuPage County as this very, very affluent community, and now the poverty rate there has skyrocketed, and all sorts of people are in [John's] position now."
Midgett hopes that, after the film's premiere tonight, communities will continue to share it, hold screenings at churches, and use it as a tool to discuss poverty going into the November elections and beyond. "The plan is to keep getting it out there, keep making it available to people, and hopefully people find it valuable and inspirational enough to keep sharing it," Midgett says.
The Line premieres at 8 p.m. ET tonight, at various church viewing parties scheduled around the country. Find one close to you here. If you'd like to host a screening after tonight, consider holding an adult forum and discussing the film along with the Circle of Protection presidential candidate videos. Contact your regional organizer for more information.
Sarah Godfrey is Bread for the World's associate online editor.
Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the National Journal.
By David Beckmann
Earlier this month, President Obama and Mitt Romney took a moment to directly address the high poverty rate in this country. In response to a request from my organization, Bread for the World, and other church groups, the presidential candidates released video statements in which each talked about how he would help hungry and poor people. They clearly have different priorities when it comes to spending and taxes, but both explicitly affirmed the general principle of maintaining a circle of protection around funding that serves the most vulnerable people.
They both also stressed the need for more and better jobs.
The Federal Reserve Board also recently addressed the stalled recovery, acting to keep interest rates near zero to help revive the economy and stimulate employment. This is promising news for hungry and poor people. With unemployment stuck above 8 percent and inflation below 2 percent, the Fed did the right thing. The main reason for increased poverty in the United States—now touching 46 million people—is high unemployment.
At Bread for the World, we usually don’t focus on monetary policy, but circumstances now demand greater attention to overall economic well-being.
While programs like SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) and Medicaid have helped alleviate the effects of poverty, a stronger U.S. job market would do more to reduce hunger and poverty both here and abroad. Throughout the global economic downturn, U.S. aid to poor countries has helped people around the world cope with hunger. But a revived U.S. economy could do even more.
Remarkably, we are seeing promising developments in Congress, which is now in the process of approving appropriations for the next six months—without the wrangling and uncertainty that have sapped confidence and slowed the economic recovery in recent years.
Congress has the opportunity to forge a bipartisan compromise on a budget agreement that will put our country on a path to long-term fiscal health. This agreement should maintain a circle of protection around programs focused on hungry and poor people in our country and around the world. And it should stimulate growth in the short term, while reducing U.S. deficit spending over the long term.
A bipartisan group of senators—the so-called Gang of Eight—continues to work toward a compromise that it hopes to propose in the lame-duck session of Congress after the November elections. No matter how the elections turn out, the minority party will still have enough sway in Congress to block an economic deal. So the solution must be bipartisan and must include some increase in taxes and some cuts in government spending.
A bipartisan deal can, as the Simpson-Bowles commission recommended, protect government programs that are focused on poor people. The Gang of Eight seems inclined to include protection for poor people in its proposal, and now Obama and Romney have both called for a circle of protection around hungry and poor people.
Coupled with the Fed’s recent action, a budget compromise after the election would put us on a path toward economic recovery—which is important to everybody, but especially to hungry and poor people in our country and around the world.
David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.
Photo: Elementary school children in southeast Washington, DC, enjoy their lunch. (Eugene Mebane, Jr./Bread for the World)
By Cheryle Adams
As a District of Columbia resident and an employee of Bread for the World Institute, I need to understand the budget cuts—both already in force and threatened—to programs affecting poor and vulnerable people in the United States. I want to make a connection between Bread’s emphasis on expanding its Circle of Protection campaign and the deep budget cuts that are still scheduled to happen in January.
Last week, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Foundation held its Annual Legislative Conference in DC, featuring braintrusts and forums on a wide array of topics. I chose to attend presentations that substantiate the reasons it is so important to expand the circle of protection, on topics such as voting rights, child welfare, and intergenerational poverty.
David Beckmann speaking at the Sept. 12 Circle of Protection press conference. (Photo: Eric Bond/Bread for the World)
On September 12, the Circle of Protection debuted exclusive videos of President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney talking, on the record, about hunger and poverty. During the video release press conference at the National Press Club, faith leaders discussed the candidate statements as well as new U.S. Census Bureau poverty figures revealing that 15 percent of Americans—including one in five children—lived in poverty in 2011.
Coverage of the event was featured on the PBS news program "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly."
Watch the Sept. 14 episode of "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly" below (the Circle of Protection segment begins at the 4:30 mark):
(Photo courtesy Meals on Wheels)
by Kristen Archer
We can all recall the nervous anticipation of waiting to receive our report cards in school—hoping we were able to bring that C+ in chemistry up to a B, praying we were able to maintain a solid A in history, dreading the look on our parents’ faces when our geometry grade was finally revealed.
Our days of receiving quarterly report cards for our own academic performance may be over, but there is one report card we should take note of: The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger’s Senior Hunger Report Card.
Distributed at an aging conference earlier this week—Perspectives on Nutrition and Aging: A National Summit—the report card grades our nation in eight areas with regards to senior hunger:
- overall performance,
- women’s studies
- multicultural studies
- home economics
- health and physical education
- and ethics.
Surprisingly, the nation failed to score higher than a C-minus in any of the categories.
(image courtesy Urban Ministries of Durham)
by Robin Stephenson
Simulating poverty does not give one the lived experience of poverty, but it can begin to expose the truth about choices—or lack thereof—that people working low-wage jobs face every day.
We are called to compassion—meaning to suffer together, but it can be hard to make a compassionate connection when paths don't cross. So when I’m invited to speak to church groups, I emphasize personal stories, knowing that statistics don’t always engender compassion and solidarity.
A few years ago I gained greater compassion and insight into the realities of poverty when I participated in an elaborate simulation. Even though it was imaginary, the activity made me stop and think about poverty as a time consuming and complicated condition.
Marie Crise is able to use her SNAP benefits to purchase fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables at the Abingdon Farmers Market in Abingdon, Va. (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
by Eric Bond
On Monday, New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman wrote a tribute to the farmer—and the joy to be had from fresh produce. He points out that as much as chefs are in the spotlight these days, the bulk of the hard work and artistry in a meal happens on the farm:
These are tasks that take weeks, if not months, of daily activity and maintenance. Like anything else, you can get good at it, but the challenges that nature ... and the market ... throw at you are never even close to being under control in the same way that a cook controls the kitchen.
As Bittman revels in the fruits of labor coming to farmers markets in the waning days of summer, he recognizes the reality that many people do not have the access or the finances to enjoy the pleasures of fresh produce. Bittman calls for the following actions, which will better support small farmers, feed more hungry people, and share the bounty of a functioning farm system: