Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

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

"Please Open Immediately!" Says Teenager's Letter to Congressman

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Letter writing at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Yardley, Pa. Robin Prestage for Bread for the World.

By Larry Hollar

“Please open immediately!”

Michaela Drobak, 17, wrote these words of urgency on the envelope of her letter to U.S. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA-08) at a recent Offering of Letters on child nutrition at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Yardley, Pa.

When activist Mary Ann Bentz later organized a diverse Bread delegation to meet locally with Fitzpatrick and a staffer, they presented Drobak’s letter and more than 220 others from four area faith communities—with Michaela’s on top. The congressman read Drobak’s letter without delay. “He read it quietly, then agreed that she was an intelligent writer and had expressed her concerns about feeding hungry children well,” reported local activist Bob Anderson.

Churches in Bucks County, Pa., are working hard and creatively to reduce hunger, through community meals, food pantries, backpack programs, community gardens, education, and advocacy. A new Food Insecurity Alliance, bringing together churches, government, and the private sector, is taking shape, reflecting that “partnerships and relationships are key,” says Diane Casey of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection. “Last year the congressman visited our shared meal for veterans, families, seniors and others living in poverty, so he has seen these realities and heard these voices personally.”

Fitzpatrick had one of the strongest voting records among House Republicans on Bread issues in the last Congress—but the Bread delegation visiting him saw room for improvement.  “His voting record is mixed on hunger issues. We made it clear that we knew this record and would report to our faith communities on his votes and give credit where it is due,” Anderson said.

Fitzpatrick voted to reduce SNAP (formerly food stamps) cuts as Bread urged, but also voted last year for the House-passed budget which Bread opposed. “He commended our faith communities for writing letters and urged us to ask others to write,” Anderson said. More letters give political cover for members of Congress to do what constituents want.

“The congressman is a person of faith, and our delegation gave him scriptural and practical reasons why voting for child nutrition programs made sense,” Anderson noted, adding that “the congressman spent much more time with us than we expected.” Afterwards, Anderson wrote a letter to the editor of his local paper.

Michaela Drobak is right—hungry children can’t wait for the life-giving food that child nutrition programs offer. Schedule your Offering of Letters today, using resources at www.bread.org/ol .

Larry Hollar is a senior Bread for the World regional organizer working with activists in Northeastern states.

 

 

Building the 2016 Federal Budget: Round 1

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Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.


By Bread Staff

Before Congress left for its spring break, the House and Senate debated and passed their budget resolutions. The House resolution passed 228-199. The Senate resolution passed 52-46. When members of Congress return to Washington, the two chambers will iron out the differences and pass a budget for fiscal year 2016.

Every year, Bread for the World follows the federal budget process to ensure Congress adequately funds programs that provide hope and opportunity to people struggling with hunger and poverty.

This year, Bread is escalating its work on the budget. Unlike the past few years, one party now controls both the House and the Senate. This makes it significantly easier for Congress to cut anti-hunger programs.

Details of the Budget Proposals

Both the House and Senate sought to balance the budget within the next 10 years. They did so without raising taxes, touching Social Security, making any big changes to Medicare within the next decade, or cutting the defense budget. They actually increased funding for defense in some cases. So where did the trillions of dollars in cuts come from? Sixty-nine percent of the cuts in both budgets would be placed on the backs of low-income people.

In some cases, the budgets were clear about their vision for how to accomplish those savings. The House budget cut $140 billion from SNAP (formerly called food stamps). The Senate budget proposed cutting Medicaid by $400 billion. Both budgets also allowed the 2009 improvements to the earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit to expire. Those improvements have kept 16 million people from falling into or deeper into poverty.

Both budgets continued the additional cuts of sequestration, the automatic cuts Congress agreed to in 2011. These cuts are lasting and severe.

The House Budget proposal cut yearly non-defense appropriated spending by another approximately $759 billion on top of these sequestration cuts. By 2025, total funding for these programs (which includes foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, and many other programs) would be at least 33 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

The Senate budget proposal cuts yearly non-defense spending by another $236 billion on top sequestration. By 2025, total funding for these programs would be at least 24 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

This puts even greater strain and heightens competition for every dollar, threatening funding for international foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, low-income housing assistance, emergency food aid, and many other programs. 

Review of the Sequestration Agreements

Back in 2011, when Congress passed the law that established the sequestration cuts, it made an agreement. It was that automatic sequestration cuts would treat defense and non-defense spending equally.

During the committee mark-ups and floor debates, division emerged. Defense hawks protested the lower spending levels from sequestration. Ultimately, both chambers boosted defense spending by $96 billion in a special account that is not subject to the sequestration cuts or spending limit (known as Overseas Contingency Operations). However, a growing number of members of Congress are speaking out against the sequestration cuts, urging Congress to look to other areas in the budget, including revenues and other spending programs.

During the budget debates in late March, Bread stepped up its advocacy efforts, and our members responded. In particular, we urged the Senate to oppose several amendments. In the end, those amendments were either defeated or pulled before they could even get a vote.

Even though the House budget made horrendous cuts to programs that help people move out of poverty and put food on the table, there was a silver lining. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) got an entire section on food-aid reform included. This section: 1) asserted that cargo preference, monetization, and using only food commodities (practices in providing food aid that Bread believes are inefficient or harmful) “fails to use taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively,” and 2) endorsed the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015. This act would make many of the reforms that Bread has been seeking since last year’s Offering of Letters: Food-Aid Reform.

Round 2 and Beyond

When Congress returns after its two-week recess, it will conference the two budget resolutions. Bread will be watching closely to see what Congress agrees upon and the exact funding levels they give to specific programs.

We expect the spring and summer to be busy months as congressional committees mark up various budget bills. This could all come down to some important budget negotiations this fall between Congress and the White House.

Learn more: Budget Basics & Resources

Thank You for Your Advocacy

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Bread for the World staff.

By David Beckmann

Thank you for your advocacy last week! Congress was busy voting on budget proposals, and you heard from us a lot. Because of your efforts, hundreds of calls and thousands of emails went to Congress.

At the end of the week, the House and Senate both passed their budget resolutions. Their budgets included some drastic proposals to cut anti-hunger programs. But we know your voices — your calls and emails — made a difference.

The Senate considered a number of very bad amendments. Some drastically cut foreign assistance funding. Others cut or negatively impacted SNAP (formerly food stamps), the earned income tax credit, and child nutrition programs. Thanks to your advocacy, these amendments failed or were withdrawn, which means they didn’t get a vote.

Your voice helped ensure these troubling proposals were defeated. One amendment to cut international affairs funding by 50 percent only got 4 votes of support. The last time this proposal was up for a vote, at least 20 senators voted in favor of it.

The House and Senate have passed their budget proposals, but our work continues. These budgets set the tone for anti-hunger policy for the rest of this year and beyond. But your faithful advocacy throughout the year will be critical in making sure these proposals do not become law.

We’re asking you to make one more call this week. See how your senators and representative voted on the budget resolution. If they voted against it, call (800-826-3688) and thank them for their vote. If they voted in favor, call and express your disappointment in their vote for a budget that would increase hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Thank you for continuing to raise your voice to end hunger.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Urgent: Say No to Vote-A-Rama Amendments That Target Poor People

http://bread.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341d945753ef017d42340f38970c-piBy Bread Staff

As budget debate and voting continue in the Senate today, Bread for the World is deeply concerned about several proposed amendments that would cut critical programs that serve vulnerable populations.

Yesterday, the House passed a budget resolution, which would balance the budget on the poorest in our nation. We need your voice to tell the Senate they must not do the same. 

Budgets are moral documents. A faithful budget values ending hunger and protecting the most vulnerable - not cutting programs that would make it harder to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Please call 800-826-3688 and tell your senator that this budget is unacceptable.  

  1. OPPOSE any amendments that cut foreign assistance or the 150 account including Paul Amdt #940, which increases the defense budget by cutting the entire international affairs budget by 50% over two years or a $42 billion reduction. These proposed cuts can severely impact funding for humanitarian and poverty-focused development assistance, including critical life-saving programs like maternal child health treatment, agriculture development and nutrition interventions, and humanitarian relief to millions of refugees. Amendment #940 failed in a recorded vote of 4 yays and 96 nays.
  2. OPPOSE any amendments that cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), change eligibility, or reduce benefits and oppose amendments that cut or make harmful changes to school nutrition programs. SNAP and school meals provide more than 21 million children with meals they need to learn and grow. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #375 and Rubio Amdt #547. Withdrawn.

  3. OPPOSE any amendments that cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), change eligibility, or establish barriers that make it more difficult for low-income working families to put food on the table. TANF is often the only source of support for families who receive it. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #372,which creates a financial burden on taxpayers and states while unfairly punishing children and familiesWithdrawn.

  4. OPPOSE any amendments that prevent individuals from claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Child Tax Credit (CTC), including Grassley Amdt #469. The EITC and CTC prevent more people from falling into poverty than any other program in the United States (outside Social Security). These tax credits reward work, promote economic mobility, and have a long history of bipartisan support. Withdrawn.

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators now - even if you have already reached out to them. This message is so important it must be repeated until they hear us and act. Call 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

If you use Twitter, please tweet your senators here: Aid Saves Lives.

 

Rep. Jim McGovern Uses Paper Plates to Tell SNAP Stories

By Robin Stephenson

During a floor debate on the fiscal year 2016 House budget proposal today, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) used paper plates to illustrate the human stories behind hunger statistics. The budget resolution, if enacted, would cut SNAP (formerly food stamps) by at least 34 percent, the equivalent of up to 220 missed meals annually for each SNAP participant.

SNAP served more than 46 million Americans in 2014.  You can find data about your community and its SNAP households in a state-by-state interactive map created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“The numbers don’t lie,” McGovern said. “But the stories are far more powerful.”

McGovern, a Bread for the World board member, recently asked SNAP participants to send their messages to Congress on paper plates. The following are samples of messages McGovern read out loud on the House floor earlier today:

“SNAP means that as a single mother I was able to finish college, feed my family, and find a career where I am able to advocate for a program that really works."

“SNAP means dignity.”

“SNAP matters to me because no senior should have to choose between buying food or paying for their medication.”

“When I was a child my father left, and the only reason we could afford food was because of food stamps.  I never get a chance to say thank you.  So, thank you.”

The House will continue to debate the budget resolution with a final vote expected later this week. The Senate is also considering a budget resolution that could lead to devastating increases in hunger and poverty in the United States and abroad. 

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators and representative at 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Find more resources to understand the budget process here.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

 

 

Join National Call-in Day on the Budget

6a00e551df2162883401bb080d8688970d-320wiBy Eric Mitchell

Today, the Senate and the House of Representatives start debating their 2016 budget resolutions. As we told you yesterday, votes on these budgets will determine anti-hunger policy for the rest of this year and beyond.

If passed, the proposed budget cuts could lead to devastating increases in hunger and poverty in the United States and abroad. For example:

  • The House budget proposal drastically cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) by at least 34 percent, the equivalent of up to 220 missed meals annually for each SNAP participant.
  • Lifesaving international programs would be cut by 16 percent in the House budget. Funding for the international budget has already been cut by 22 percent. We can’t afford any further cuts.
  • 69 percent of the budget cuts in both the House and Senate come directly from programs benefiting low-income people – placing the burden on those who are already suffering.
  • Both budgets keep the automatics budget cuts of 2011 (called sequestration) in place – and cut even further. This puts programs like WIC, food aid, and poverty-focused development assistance in grave danger.  

Raise your voice with thousands of faithful advocates. Call your senators and representative at 800-826-3688 in the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations as Bread for the World.

Our Final Four

9303717422_458bed2397_bBy Eric Mitchell

The rest of the country might be talking March Madness, but Congress is about to take some important votes that will determine anti-hunger policy for the rest of this year and beyond.

We need your voice these next five days. And not just once. We're going to need you repeatedly. You will be hearing a lot from us because this is our final four to ensure funding for our country’s anti-hunger programs.

Last week, the House and Senate introduced their fiscal year 2016 budget resolutions. Both include drastic cuts to programs that help people in poverty put food on the table and provide for their families. The House cuts SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) by $140 billion over the next decade. This is the equivalent of 220 missed meals annually for each SNAP participant. The Senate’s proposal is less specific, but nearly 70 percent of its $4.7 trillion cuts would be to low-income families and people struggling in poverty.

This week, the House and Senate will vote on these proposed budgets. They will also vote on a host of amendments — some that could be very bad, such as eliminating funding for foreign assistance. Can you commit to taking one action each day this week?

Monday (March 23), Call or email your members of Congress and tell them to protect funding for anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs. Protect SNAP and Medicaid and end sequestration so annually funded programs don't see such drastic cuts — programs like WIC, foreign assistance, and Head Start.

Tuesday (March 24), is a national call-in day. People all over the country will be coming together to call and email their members of Congress, urging them to protect programs like SNAP, Medicaid, foreign assistance, and other anti-hunger programs. Bread for the World is teaming up with other anti-hunger organizations to produce the loudest chorus of voices that we can.

Wednesday (March 25), the Senate may begin voting on the budget. There could be hundreds of amendments. We will know what they are by Wednesday. We may contact you if you live in a state with a senator who is especially critical for a vote. We'll also be posting information throughout the day on our Facebook page, Twitter, and blog.

On Thursday (March 26), we expect the House to vote on its budget. We'll be calling on you to urge your representative to vote no. Be prepared to get an email from Bread for the World with talking points and call-in and email information. The vote could be close, and we'll need you to weigh in.

By Friday (March 27), the Senate should wrap up its votes on the budget. The Senate will vote on hundreds of amendments late into the night.

Are you ready? We are. Get pumped because we need you this week! It's tip-off, and you can start right now. Call (800/826-3688) or email your senators and representative today and urge them to protect funding for anti-hunger programs by ending sequestration cuts and opposing cuts to SNAP and Medicaid.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations as Bread for the World.

Congress Wants to Cut Food Stamp Benefits by 220 Meals a Year

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SNAP is our nation's largest child nutrition program and provides 21 million children with meals. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Eric Mitchell

The House and Senate Budget Committees just released their budget proposals. Both proposals contain enormous cuts to effective anti-hunger programs. I'm outraged!

The House budget proposes cutting $140 billion from SNAP (formerly called food stamps). The Senate budget proposes cutting Medicaid by $400 billion. Medicaid provides health coverage for 28 million children.

Under these cuts, participants in SNAP would lose 220 meals a year. That’s 10 weeks worth of food!

Congress repeatedly wants to use anti-poverty programs as their piggy bank for deficit reduction. I’m tired of it. I need your voice.

Will you call or email your members of Congress? Tell them to protect SNAP and Medicaid from cuts.

SNAP is our country’s largest child nutrition program. It provides nearly 21 million children with meals when many would have gone without them otherwise. Medicaid provides health coverage for 28 million low-income children. Hungry children can't learn, and unhealthy children won't reach their full potential.

The federal budget is a statement on the priorities of our country. Our children's health and nutrition must be taken seriously. How can Congress propose cutting a program that helps nearly 23 million households, with 21 million children, put food on the table?

Call (800/826-3688) or email your senators and representative today, and urge them to oppose these budgets. Tell your members of Congress to oppose SNAP cuts and  to oppose Medicaid cuts. Congress should be investing in our children—not undermining their health and taking meals away from them.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

Letters are the ABCs of Our Power in Ending Hunger

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By Stephen H. Padre

Letters have power.

Take, for example, the last crisis of the week in Washington. A group of 47 Republicans in the Senate signed on to a letter condemning the nuclear negotiations with Iran. The letter had the two parties sparring in a constitutional argument and got the capital all riled up.

The March 15 Parade magazine cover story, “Letters that changed our world,” affirmed the power of letters. “They’ve fueled love affairs and severed friendships, ignited wars and settled them. They can convey the most profound thanks, apology or regret.”

Bread for the World’s signature program, its annual Offering of Letters, harnesses the power of letters. Bread believes the simple act of writing to a member of Congress has the power to bring about change for millions of people who are hungry and poor— especially when written on a large scale. A stack of letters from a group of Christians just might sway a member of Congress to vote a certain way on an important piece of legislation.

 

6521596521_0264dcd35a_oThe idea is simple: A group in a church or faith community writes letters together to their members of Congress on a specific hunger issue. The 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children is about federal child nutrition programs. The letters are collected, and, just as a monetary offering is blessed, the letters are lifted up to God before being mailed to lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

The means of communication have changed over the decades. Now we can communicate with people on other continents instantly via email, and we say less—140 characters or fewer—on Twitter. But we also generate more noise on our electronic channels of communication than we did when ships carried letters across oceans. Letters, although they may seem quaint and old-fashioned, can actually cut through the chatter. So, in a way, everything old can be new again.

A hand-written letter has a way of encapsulating the thoughts and emotions of the writer. A letter on paper records the words in a more permanent and tangible way than an email can. There is almost more of the writer present in a paper letter than in an email on a screen.

A letter to your representatives in Washington, D.C., also carries some of your power as a citizen (or resident) of a state or congressional district. Your voice and power of persuasion is a major expression of your citizenship, and a letter to the people who make decisions on your behalf is exercising that power. A letter is an ideal way for you to connect your power as a voter, citizen, resident, and concerned Christian to the power of our federal government. Through letters, we can persuade our government to lead the way in ending hunger in our time.

Stephen H. Padre is managing editor at Bread for the World.

Photo: A college campus group writes letters to Congress. Bread for the World.

When 'Reconciliation' Becomes a Bad Word

OL2015-Blog

By Robin Stephenson

For Christians, the term reconciliation is a sacred calling to heal the broken world – a call for heaven on earth. However, in the hands of the 114th Congress, budget reconciliation could become a tool that widens the gap of inequality and pushes more people – especially children– into hunger.

Reconciliation, in the legislative sense of the word, is expected to be included in the 2016 budgets the House and Senate plan to release next week. Both chambers are likely to call for deep cuts in non-defense spending.

Budget reconciliation is a set of instructions sometimes added to the yearly budget resolution – the overall amount Congress decides the U.S. government will spend in one year. Once the budget is passed, each committee is given its share of the total to distribute between all of the programs in its jurisdiction. When budget reconciliation instructions are included, certain committees are instructed to meet spending and revenue criteria – even if it includes finding additional savings by changing policy.

Budget reconciliation makes it easy to slip controversial changes through Congress that are hard to reverse, which is all the more reason we must pay attention to the process. To learn more, read Budget Reconciliation 101.

Under reconciliation, committees could include deep cuts to program funding or pass harmful policy changes to anti-hunger programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Medicaid, and the earned income tax credit (EITC) - programs, we believe, that have giant targets on them. In this scenario, children will pay a hefty price.

3963295139_3351abd412_bOur 2015 Offering of Letters aims to feed our children. The child poverty rate is already unacceptably disproportionate to our resources, but has improved since the height of the recession–nationally, we stand at 18 percent.  Without government interventions, the rate would be 33 percent, according to a recent analysis.

Deep cuts to a program like SNAP, in which half of the participants are children, would be a move in the wrong direction. The earned income tax credit and child tax credit moved 5 million children out of poverty in 2013 and must be protected to make further progress on reducing child hunger. Medicaid, another piece of the poverty-ending puzzle, provided healthcare to 32 million children in 2012.

Defending SNAP from the chopping block is becoming the new normal. Just last year, your faithful advocacy halted deep cuts to SNAP in the farm bill. Up to $40 billion in cuts were proposed during the two-year negotiations. Without SNAP, many families would go hungry. Food banks and pantries, already stretched thin, cannot make up the difference

Every time there is talk of fiscal belt-tightening, the most vulnerable in our society are targeted as notches. This is not the kind of reconciliation that God calls us to and not the kind of reconciliation people of faith should stand for from our leaders. We must speak up early and ensure these programs don't become a bull's-eye for lawmakers' cuts.

Christians across this nation must do the real work of God’s reconciliation--urging Congress to prioritize and protect critical anti-poverty initiatives in any budget reconciliation bill, especially programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and tax credits for families struggling to make ends meet. We have done it before, and we must do it again.

Find more resources to understand the budget process here.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior organizer at Bread for the World.

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