Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

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

Using Videos to Introduce Your Church, Campus, or Community to the 2015 Offering of Letters

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By Jon Gromek

We live in a country where nearly 16 million children (1 in 5) live in homes that struggle to put food on the table.  This year, Congress will debate the funding and policies for the programs that feed our children and nourish the minds and bodies of our brightest future. We will hear a great deal of facts and figures, statistics, and the minutiae of policies and programs. As important as these things are to the debate, one of the most important aspects in this national discussion is YOUR VOICE.

The decisions made this year will affect the health and well-being of mothers and children for years to come.  Last week, Bread for the World officially launched its 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children, which means it’s time for Bread members across the country to start writing letters to their members of Congress!  The Offering of Letters kit is a great resource for people everywhere to engage in advocacy and raise their Christian voice. Some of the most effective tools are the videos produced for the 2015 Offering of Letters campaign.

Be sure to watch the “Lunch ‘n’ Learn: The Importance of Child Nutrition Programs,” video and also the 60-second trailer.  Share them with a friend, or show them in preparation for a congregation-wide Offering of Letters.  Use the videos as a tool to engage and educate people in your congregation or community. Share them with friends and your congregation on Facebook. Post them on blogs. Show them during a Sunday school class, and invite reflection and discussion afterward. The videos not only put the issue of hunger in context, but also help put a face to what we are fighting for and the children who struggle with hunger every day.  

Through these short videos you can meet Barbie Izquierdo and her children, Aidan and Leylanie, a Philadelphia family that has benefited from child nutrition programs; hear from staff at elementary and high schools in Pennsylvania and Maryland who speak first-hand about the importance of investing in our children’s growth, development, and education. Use the stories as inspiration to go out into your own community to meet and talk with students and educators who live these programs. They are representative of families and community members in every corner of our country, and they are the reason to write, call, email, and visit your congressional leaders and tell them to “feed our children.”

Jon Gromek is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Obama: 'Restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity.'

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Tax credits for low-income working families pull more children out of poverty than any other government program. Eugene Mebane, Jr. for Bread for the World.


By Eric Mitchell

In Tuesday night's State of the Union address, President Obama said, “Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.” There is one thing Congress can do right now to accomplish exactly that.

Congress and the president can make the current earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit (CTC) benefit levels permanent. Bread for the World has been pushing this policy since Congress passed the improvements to these tax credits in 2009, but they’re set to expire in 2017. Making the 2009 improvements permanent would prevent 16 million people—including 8 million children—from falling into or deeper into poverty.

At Bread for the World, we envision a world without hunger. We know it’s possible, and we know we can do it by 2030. But it’s going to take more than food banks and soup kitchens. We have to ensure that hard work leads to greater opportunity.

We have to get at the root causes of hunger. When these are addressed, working parents can put food on the table and provide for their children. The EITC and CTC do exactly that—reward work and supplement wages so working parents don’t have to raise their children in poverty.

President Obama called for better tax policy on Tuesday night—one that will benefit low-income working families. Now we need you to call on Congress to make that happen through making permanent the current EITC and CTC benefit levels.

Call (800/826-3688) or email your representative and both of your senators today. Urge them to make the 2009 EITC and CTC improvements permanent.

Be a part of the movement to end hunger. Help us start the 114th Congress with a clear message that ending hunger must be a top priority.

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

Congress Urged to Pass Legislation to Help Working Families

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Pete Souza/The White House via Wikimedia Commons.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama laid out an aggressive agenda aimed at reducing income inequality in the United States – a factor that can keep millions of Americans in a cycle of poverty.

Although the economy has gotten stronger, President Obama acknowledged that too many hard-working families still struggle. He called for increasing the child care tax credit, raising the federal minimum wage, enacting paid sick leave, creating a "second-earner" tax credit for families in which both spouses work, and boosting the earned income tax credit.

“We have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth,” Obama said. “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?” 

Roughly 45 million people in the United States live at or below the poverty line. If enacted, many of the proposals put forth by the president would certainly help struggling Americans, especially boosting the maximum child care tax credit to $3,000 and expanding the earned income tax credit for childless workers.

The earned income tax credit along with the child tax credit are among our country’s most effective anti-poverty tools. Bread for the World is calling on Congress to ensure that these two measures stay intact. Both expire in 2017. Making the 2009 improvements to these credits permanent would prevent 16 million people—including 8 million children—from falling into or deeper into poverty.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) delivered the Republican rebuttal. And not unlike President Obama, she also sympathized with struggling Americans. “These days though, many families feel like they're working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it,” she said. “We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs.”

Obama reminded Americans that government programs have their place in history and can make an impact. “In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity.  We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure, and the internet – tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.”

At Bread, we know the power of good policy, especially as it applies to children. That’s why this year our top priority with this new Congress is to ensure that the nation’s child nutrition programs are reauthorized. The current bill is set to expire this fall. Making sure children receive meals, especially during their early years of development, is crucial for their development and guards against malnutrition.

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030.

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

Prioritize Hunger in the State of the Union Tonight

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Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons. 


By Robin Stephenson

Tonight at 9 p.m. EST, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address – a time-honored tradition – and outline his priorities for next year. Immediately afterward, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) will deliver the Republican response. Will hunger and poverty rank as priorities?

“The State of the Union matters to those of us working to end hunger,” says LaVida Davis, director of organizing and grassroots capacity at Bread for the World. “Both the president and the response will give clues as to what will be prioritized in next year’s budget. If they aren’t talking about ending hunger, they won’t fund the programs that will.”

Although the economy is improving, millions of families still struggle to make ends meet - 45 million Americans live at or below the poverty line. Policies that marginalize groups of individuals increase food insecurity in the United States. Laws passed with the aim of ending hunger make an impact. Internationally, the implementation of smart policies has achieved dramatic progress against hunger and poverty; the number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut in half since 1990. We believe that we can end hunger and poverty by 2030 if our nation’s leaders make it a priority.

Tonight we will listen for hunger-ending key words. Below is a list of the words or phrases we hope to hear. Positive reinforcement helps, so we will praise each mention as we live tweet the speeches from @bread4theworld.

Child nutrition: When one in five children lives in families that struggle to put food on the table, passing a child nutrition bill with improvements will give more children at risk of hunger access to healthy food. Protecting SNAP (formerly food stamps) will also be key to reducing child hunger.

The earned income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit:  Low-income tax credits pull more children out of poverty than any other government program. It is time to make the credits permanent.

Paid family leave: The president will take executive action to extend paid leave to federal employees, reflecting a key recommendation in the Bread for the World Institute’s 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. Congress should follow suit with policy changes that will benefit all U.S. workers

Mass incarceration: Policies that regulate our criminal justice system are increasing hunger and poverty in low-income communities, especially communities of color. Passing smarter sentencing laws and improving the re-entry process for returning citizens would help restore fairness in our justice system.

Immigration reform:  An estimated 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants live in the shadows where hunger and poverty persist. Reform should include a path to citizenship and also address the root causes of migration to the United States.

Feed the Future:  A global hunger and food-security initiative, Feed the Future  is a driver behind recent progress against global hunger. It is time to codify the initiative into permanent law.

Food-aid reform:  By updating our food-aid policies, we can help feed millions more with no additional tax dollars.

AGOAThe African Growth and Opportunity Act seeks to increase mutually beneficial trade ties between the United States and Africa and can help move millions out of poverty.

Join the conversation on Twitter, and help us empower our leaders tonight. When they talk about hunger, make sure they hear us applaud with a tweet. Let’s start by asking them to talk about hunger now. 

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

 

Hungry for an Education, or Simply Hungry?

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Wikimedia Commons. 

By Alyssa Casey

For many, a college degree represents a path to a better job and a more financially secure future.  But with rising tuition and housing costs, many college students simply trying to access a quality education struggle with hunger. 

According to Feeding America’s Hunger in 2014 study, 1 in 10 adults receiving assistance from Feeding America-sponsored food pantries is a student. Two million of these students are full-time, and 1 million are part-time students.

At Humboldt State University (HSU) in Arcata, Calif., students, faculty, and community groups decided to do something about this. These groups united to address hunger on their campus and campuses across the United States and created Food for Thought.

The program provides assistance to food-insecure students through a campus food cupboard, which opened in October. The cupboard stocks a variety of foods, including dried beans, canned goods, and spices, to provide students in need not just empty calories, but nutritious and balanced meals.  The program also serves as a bridge by connecting students to more sustainable food and housing assistance such as CalFresh, California’s state food assistance program.

The students and faculty members involved with Food for Thought know that addressing hunger means more than just providing emergency food. They are diving deeper, conducting research to better understand the scope and causes of college food insecurity. Even though colleges across the United States are increasingly aware of the problem, there are no comprehensive nationwide surveys of student hunger.

The results of initial HSU student-led research show that 1 in 3 HSU students say that they sometimes or often run out of food and have no additional money to purchase more, while 1 in 5 regularly skipped meals because of lack of money to purchase food.

Follow-up research led by HSU students and faculty is currently under way. Food for Thought plans to use this research to push for greater awareness and advocate to eliminate procedural hurdles that prevent students from receiving long-term food assistance.

Hunger is a health issue that affects not only physical health, but cognitive functions and academic performance. That is why Bread for the World consistently works to strengthen children’s access to school meals and other child nutrition programs.

Bread plans to work diligently this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall. In fact, this year’s Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of nutrition among children, who are especially vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition during their early years of development.

Bread also protects funding for federal and state food assistance such as SNAP and advocates for a living wage and refundable tax credits, so adult students can continue their education without facing hunger and poverty.

Efforts like HSU’s Food for Thought show that just a few concerned people can make progress toward ending hunger. In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger in your community, get involved in local projects like Food for Thought, and join us in advocating for policies that eliminate barriers and increase opportunities for our neighbors struggling with hunger and poverty.

Alyssa Casey is a government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.

Rural Oregon School Drops School Lunch Program

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In Oregon, 27.3 percent of children were food insecure in 2012. Nationally, 15.8 million American children lived in food insecure households. (Robin Stephenson)

By Robin Stephenson

We have a problem in Oregon: We have one of the highest rates of hunger in the nation. Oregonian columnist David Sarasohn wrote that if there was a town called poverty it would be the largest city in Oregon.

That town would look a lot like Jordan Valley in rural Malheur County. The beauty of the high desert landscape belies a hidden reality of hunger and poverty; one in four residents live below the poverty line. In 2010, 24.3 percent of residents utilized food stamps, compared to 14.6 percent in the Portland metropolitan area. Malheur County has a 30.1% rate of child food insecurity - meaning kids are skipping meals.

Like jobs, resources in Jordan Valley are limited; the nearest full-service grocery store is nearly 100 miles away. Approximately 80 students are bused to school each day from remote ranches and 50 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch based on family income.

So, hearing Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) report that Jordan Valley dropped their free and reduced-price lunch program made my jaw drop. This makes no sense.

Kids learn better, graduate at higher rates, and are healthier when they have access to a nutritious lunch. There is a lot at stake here. The United States has a federal program that subsidizes school lunch, but the program is optional.

The problem is that the program isn’t working for Jordan Valley. 

Sharon Thornberry, a Bread for the World board member, sees the urban-rural hunger divide in her work as the community food systems manager at the Oregon Food Bank.  She views hunger at the community level. Thornberry says Jordan Valley exposes a policy issue that needs attention. She told OPB that the lunch program no longer works for rural communities. “I can remember them telling me in Jordan Valley that each meal cost them a dollar more than the federal reimbursement,” she said.

Economically depressed districts need full reimbursement for school lunches or other policy interventions that are specific to the circumstances rural communities face today.

Jordan Valley is not unique – rural towns across America experience higher rates of hunger and poverty.  Of course, the permanent solution to our hunger problem is a job that pays enough to support a family.  In the meantime, the school lunch program is a critical tool to combat child hunger.

I grew up in a town similar to Jordan Valley and bused to school from our small family farm. I am thankful for the free lunch I received that took the pressure off my parents during some tough economic times.  Sometimes, we all need a little help.

The program that authorizes the national school lunch program expires September 30, 2015. In the reauthorization process, members of Congress have an opportunity to strengthen the program so it works for dual communities, especially Greg Walden, who has constituents in Jordan Valley.

Learn more in this new briefing paperEnding Hunger in the United States.

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

Bread Challenges the Newly Elected Congress

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Bread for the World members in front of the Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. (Bread for the World)


By David Beckmann

On Tuesday, while the Senate shifted to Republican control, 18,000 children around the world died unnecessarily. Nearly half those deaths were caused by hunger. And in the United States, 16 million children still live in families that struggle to put food on the table.

Bread for the World’s members work for justice for hungry people in the United States and around the world regardless of how power shifts between our nation’s political parties. We pray that all our nation’s leaders will work to end hunger.  

The number of people in extreme poverty in the world has been cut in half since 1990, and there has been progress in all kinds of countries, from Bangladesh to Brazil to Great Britain. If Congress and the president make opportunity for everybody a priority, we can end hunger in the United States and support continued progress toward ending hunger worldwide.

Bread for the World’s top priority for the 114th Congress will be the scheduled reauthorization of the nation’s child nutrition programs. Republicans and Democrats should work together to strengthen school and summer nutrition programs.  But House Republicans have been pushing for deep cuts in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). Churches and food banks across the country have been unable to make up for the groceries that Congress took away from hungry families last year.

Bread for the World also notes with optimism bipartisan interest in other issues important to people in poverty:

  • When Congress returns later this month, the leaders of both houses seem inclined to steer away from another budget crisis and finalize appropriations for the current fiscal year.

  • The parties should be able to work together on continued progress against world poverty–the fight against Ebola and bills to reform food aid, strengthen agriculture and nutrition in poor countries, and promote trade with Africa.

  • Leaders in both parties are calling for reforms to correct injustices in the criminal justice system that have crowded U.S. prisons and deepened the poverty of many communities.

  • Tax credits for low-wage workers reduce poverty while encouraging work.

God has made it possible in our time to virtually end hunger in our country and around the world, so Bread for the World is pushing with urgency to make hunger, poverty, and opportunity for everybody a priority for our political leaders. We will push for change over the next two years and in the next round of elections for president and Congress.

Rev. David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World.

A Midterm Winner: Raising the Minimum Wage

 

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A woman cleans an office in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson

Regardless of whether your candidate won a seat in Congress yesterday, one thing was made clear during the 2014 midterm elections: raising the minimum wage is a popular issue with voters - an issue that crosses partisan divides.

Yesterday, ballot measures to increase the minimum wage passed in Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska, and South Dakota.  Since 2013, 13 states have opted to raise their minimum wage.  The momentum is building.

A full-time job should pay enough to support a family. For too many, it does not – but that is slowly changing as voters speak up in state after state.  However, a real path to ending wage stagnation and income inequality in the United States requires Congress to do its part.

Raising the minimum wage is no small accomplishment for workers like Gregory Stewart, 36, of Little Rock, Ark., who wants to provide for his daughters. He works two jobs and still depends on family support.  Raising the minimum wage from $6.25 to $8.50 by 2017 will help the Stewarts. Closing the wage gap is a first step in moving Arkansas away from the label as hungriest state.

Republican senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton, the senator-elect for Arkansas, now have an opportunity to do even more for families like the Stewarts.  They should help pass a federal minimum wage that gives all workers a fair deal.

In 2014, Congress failed to act at the federal level. In April, the Senate failed to pass The Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S. 1737). The bill would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, index it for inflation, and raise the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the general minimum wage.

The federal minimum wage is set at $7.25, translating to a $15,080 annual salary for a full-time worker, and has not been increased since 2009, even though the cost of living has risen.  If the minimum wage had kept up with U.S. productivity growth since 1950, it would be $18.67 today.  This year's Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, points out that 28 percent of U.S. workers earn poverty-level wages.

“Too many workers in this country face hard times as a result of insufficient wages,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in a press release earlier this year. “There is no reason that full-time workers should struggle to provide for their families.”

We are likely to see The Minimum Wage Fairness Act come up for a vote again.  This time, perhaps Congress will be listening and give American workers a fair deal.

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

Americans Believe Government Can Do More to Combat Hunger


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Fact Sheet: Churches and Hunger
(updated).


By Christine Meléndez Ashley

A new survey released this week by the Food Research and Action Center and Tyson Foods reveals eye-opening trends about American attitudes toward hunger in the United States.

Not only do a majority of Americans believe hunger is a bipartisan issue, but 71 percent also believe the federal government has a fair amount to a great deal of responsibility in dealing with it. Fifty-seven percent responded that local nonprofits, churches, and food banks have a fair amount to a great deal of responsibility.

These results make clear that ending hunger is a partnership among federal, local, and community-based entities.

In 2012, Bread for the World analyzed the cost of drastically cutting federal nutrition programs to churches. If cuts of the magnitude proposed by the House of Representatives had been enacted, each church would have had to come up with $50,000 a year for 10 years to feed people.

Clearly, churches and charities alone cannot feed everyone who is hungry. As food bank demand has increased, charitable donations to houses of worship have decreased, making the role of federal nutrition programs even more crucial.

To show the great importance and reach of federal nutrition programs, Bread analyzed federal funding of nutrition programs compared to the cost of food distributed by private charity. Food benefits from federal nutrition programs amounted to $102.5 billion in 2013, compared to $5.2 billion of food distributed by private charity.

In other words, federal nutrition programs delivered nearly 20 times the amount of food assistance as did private charities.

Members of Congress should take note. According to the survey, 61 percent of Americans believe we should do more to support and improve government-sponsored food-assistance programs. Yet, this Congress has voted at least 13 times to cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), our country’s largest anti-hunger program.

As Election Day draws near and you prepare to go to the polls, we urge you to know where the candidates stand and cast your vote to end hunger.

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

 

 

North Carolina: Fifth Hungriest State

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In 2015, Congress will renew and improve the legislation that governs national child nutrition programs, including school and summer meals. (Bread for the World)

By Alyssa Casey

When the school bell rings on the last day of the school year, most children teem with excitement as their summer break begins. But for too many schoolchildren in the nation’s  fifth-hungriest state, that bell means not knowing where their next breakfast or lunch will come from for the next few months.

In Wilkesboro, N.C., the Samaritan Kitchen does what it can. It provides schoolchildren with backpacks of easy-to-prepare meals to take home on the weekends.

“I have a student in my classroom who was starving,” an elementary teacher from Elkin wrote the Samaritan Kitchen. Reprinted in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, the note continues, “He couldn’t get enough to eat. We were trying to feed him all the extra food we could find. There was no food in his house.”

Samaritan Kitchen’s goal for 2013-2014 was to serve 800 children per week with backpack meals, but lack of funding kept them from reaching that goal.

Churches and charities across the United States are answering the call to feed the hungry, but they cannot do it alone. For every 20 bags of food assistance to feed hungry Americans, only 1 is provided by churches and charities. The bulk – 19 out of every 20 bags – come from federal nutrition programs. We need strong federal policies to protect and support these national nutrition programs.

More than 1 in 4 children in North Carolina live at risk of hunger and poverty. Of the 60 kids riding your child’s school bus, more than 15 go to school with empty stomachs, counting down the hours until lunch, which may be their first – or only – meal of the day.

School meal programs are a key tool in fighting child hunger. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides a free or reduced-price lunch to low-income children in schools across the country. While the NSLP is able to reach many children while school is in session, weekends, holiday breaks, and summer months present a unique challenge to struggling parents who rely on school lunches to help feed their child.

In 2015, Congress will renew and improve the legislation that governs national child nutrition programs, including school and summer meals. These policies significantly affect North Carolina’s state and local child nutrition programs. The North Carolina Senate race between incumbent Kay Hagan and state House Speaker Thom Tillis is too close to call. Whoever wins has the opportunity to bring the voice of North Carolina’s children to Capitol Hill.

Next year, to coincide with Congress’ consideration of the legislation that oversees child nutrition programs, Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters will focus on this topic. Churches will be asked to communicate with Congress on renewing this legislation.

Whichever state you live in, ask your candidates what their plans are to increase access to food for hungry children. Look at how current members of Congress voted on hunger and poverty issues. Thank them for votes that combat hunger, or ask them to explain votes against policies to rid our country of hunger.

If we raise our voices and votes across the United States, we can end hunger in our lifetime.

View a state-by-state map of hunger and poverty rates in America.

Alyssa Casey is Bread for the World’s government relations coordinator.

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