Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

18 posts categorized "Super Committee Blog Series"

Rep. Chris Van Hollen: Maryland Families Rely on SNAP

111026_chrisvanhollen[Editors’ note: For the next few weeks, we’ll be running a series of posts on the Bread Blog about each member of the Super Committee. If you live in Maryland’s 8th District please share this blog post with your local family and friends, and message Rep. Chris Van Hollen on his Facebook page or through Twitter.]

Maryland Hunger Solutions—an organization that fights hunger and improves nutrition for Maryland families—launched a fascinating project this past September that challenged participants to experience life on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by trying to live on just $30 a person for food for one week. Called The Food Stamp Challenge, this was the second year Maryland Hunger Solutions held this program, and more than 90 people participated. People were encouraged to blog about their experience as they tried to make $30 of food last through the end of the week. (Alternatively, according to USDA, in FY2010 an average household in Maryland received $275.27 in SNAP benefits.)

One participant, Cathy Demeroto, wrote about her overwhelming hunger: “When I got home, I was sooooooo hungry. … But once again, I am reminded how much we can take things for granted, like having a nutritious meal,” she wrote.

Another participant, Bill McCarthy, the executive director of Catholic Charities Maryland, recounted going to Wal-Mart for his weekly groceries in a video interview with Maryland Hunger Solutions: “I passed five grocery stores to get to Wal-Mart. Many people that are using and living on the food stamp supplement don’t have the opportunity to go to Wal-Mart. They don’t have the transportation that would actually allow them to pass many grocery stores to get to a store that has more affordable food,” he said.

Indeed, nearly one in 12 people living in Maryland’s 8th congressional district—Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s district—including just under one in 10 children, lived below the poverty line ($22,113 for a family of four) compared to more than one in seven persons, and more than one in five children nationwide. Despite the fact that Maryland’s 8th congressional district includes Montgomery county—one of the welathiest counties in the nation—13,003 households in Maryland’s 8th district received SNAP benefits in 2010. Among the SNAP participants in Maryland, 38.4 percent live in households with two or more workers.

With so much poverty and food insecurity in the state, it is imperative that Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) protects programs such as SNAP, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and other programs that so many people in his district receive. As a member of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (or Super Committee), we ask Rep. Chris Van Hollen to place a circle of protection around programs that are vital to poor and hungry people in Maryland and the United States.

Join us in asking Rep. Chris Van Hollen to protect families who rely on programs like SNAP to feed their families week by week. Call Rep. Chris Van Hollen today at 1-800-826-3688.

Official photo of Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

Sen. Pat Toomey: The Need in Pennsylvania is Greater Than Ever

111025_Toomey[Editors’ note: For the next few weeks, we’ll be running a series of posts on the Bread Blog about each member of the Super Committee. If you live in Sen. Pat Toomey’s state (Pennsylvania) please share this blog post with your local family and friends, and message Sen. Toomey on his Facebook page or through Twitter.]

For Bob Shearn, the reality of the recession hit home when his wife recently found out that she would be laid off in the middle of November. “It’s very scary,” Shearn says. “Most families today rely on two incomes, not to live a life of ease, but simply to pay the bills. With the increased cost of food, it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet.”

Shearn lives in Wyoming, PA with his family and serves as a campus minister at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Every day, he sees how his community is struggling to survive the recession. As a member of his parish and an activist for hunger and justice issues, Shearn sees how direct-service organizations are being stretched to the limit. “Soup kitchens and clothing stock piles are in greater and greater demand. These little signs show me that the need is greater than ever.”

Recent Census Bureau numbers on Pennsylvania confirm Shearn’s observations. In 2010, more than one in seven families in Pennsylvania lived below the poverty line. Tragically, 20.9 percent of children in the state were at risk of hunger in 2009 (compared to 16.6 percent nationwide). Considering these dire numbers—and the devastation in Pennsylvania from Hurricane Irene this past August—it’s clear that now is not the time to cut entitlement programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), says Shearn. “Where else can these people turn for help to keep them afloat? They don’t have jobs, and if the services provided by soup kitchens and the like are being stretched to the max, I don’t know where people will turn. To cut these programs would be nothing short of a disaster,” he says.

This is why Shearn and others from Pennsylvania are asking Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to ensure that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction does not cut these important programs in an attempt to balance the federal budget. Shearn believes that the most vulnerable members of society should have as valuable a voice as the wealthiest citizens of our nation—indeed, that is the essence of democracy. “It’s our government,” Shearn insists. “We so glibly talk about, ‘we the people,’ but this is the people’s money. And we have an obligation as a country, and as a nation, to care for one another—especially those who are unable to care for themselves.”

Exercise democracy now by joining your voice with Bob Shearn and other Pennsylvanians to ask Sen. Toomey to form a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people; to continue funding for domestic and international programs; and to support those living in his state who are receiving pink slips, looking for jobs, standing in lines at soup kitchens, and doing their best to provide for their families.

Call Sen. Pat Toomey today at 1-800-826-3688.

Official photo of Sen. Pat Toomey.

Sen. Rob Portman: The Situation in Ohio is Getting Worse

111020_robportman[Editors’ note: For the next few weeks, we’ll be running a series of posts on the Bread Blog about each member of the Super Committee. If you live in Ohio, contact Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and please share this blog post with your family and friends. You can also message Sen. Rob Portman on his Facebook page or on Twitter.]

Last month, the Morning Journal in Northern Ohio reported that the rate of hunger and food insecurity in Ohio was on the rise. In fact, the Lorain Salvation Army in Lorain, OH, remained closed for three days in late September to restock their empty shelves with food. The demand is growing, said the executive director of Second Harvest Julie Chase-Morefield. She told the Morning Journal, “We’re concerned about cuts on the federal level.”

Indeed, Chase-Morefield has every right to be worried. The latest Census Bureau data reveals that in 2010, 151,772 Ohio families lived in extreme poverty, which is defined as having less than $11,057 a year for a family of four. Moreover, in Ohio 28.6 percent of children under 5 years old lived in poverty. And while some might point fingers at the jobless, many Ohioans with jobs are simply unable to make ends meet. In fact, 23.2 percent of SNAP beneficiaries (formerly food stamps) in Ohio lived in households with two or more workers and an additional 48.3 percent lived in households with one worker.

Unfortunately, as Congress debates the federal budget deficit, some members are considering cutting valuable programs like SNAP—a move which would almost certainly put Ohio families and families around the country in grave danger. Sen. Rob Portman is a member of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (or Super Committee) which is commissioned to find $2.1 trillion in cuts to the federal budget over the next 10 years. It’s imperative that he understands that the people of Ohio need programs such as SNAP, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and other similar programs in order to survive this tough economic climate.

Please join us in asking Sen. Rob Portman to create a circle of protection around funding for these programs that are vital to hungry and poor people in Ohio and throughout the United States.

+Call Sen. Rob Portman today at 1-800-826-3688 and ask him to protect Ohio families from unjust budget cuts.

Official photo of Sen. Rob Portman.

Sen. John Kerry: Children in Massachusetts are Hungry

111019_johnkerry[Editors’ note: For the next few weeks, we’ll be running a series of posts on Bread Blog about each member of the Super Committee. If you live in Sen. John Kerry's district, please share this blog post with your family and friends, and message Sen. Kerry on his Facebook page or through Twitter.]

There’s a letter floating around Massachusetts that has been signed by a Quaker leader, a Greek Orthodox pastor, and a Unitarian minister, along with dozens more religious leaders from various denominations.

This “sign-on” letter is supported by religious leaders across the state and will be delivered to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who is a member of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (or the Super Committee). The letter calls on the senator to use his position to protect programs that serve the most vulnerable people in the United States and around the world. The letter serves as a prophetic call to Sen. Kerry and all who read it: In these times of economic uncertainty, we must protect programs that allow people to meet their most basic needs.

Sen. Kerry and his Super Committee colleagues have an onerous task: to identify at least $1.2 trillion in federal deficit reductions over 10 years by November 23, 2011. The Super Committee can make spending cuts, raise taxes, and cut almost anything else in the federal budget they deem necessary.

In the meantime, the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) in Massachusetts recently reported that they are committed to providing at least one meal a day to families in need in Eastern Massachusetts in response to the growing realities of hunger in the state. Catherine D’Amato, president and CEO of GBFB reports, “More than one-third of the 545,000 people served by GBFB last year were children, and that number will grow this year.”

These unthinkable numbers, paired with our knowledge of famine and extreme poverty around the world, is what has prompted local religious leaders in Massachusetts to call for real deficit solutions that do not disproportionately harm people in poverty.

Please join Bread in calling on Sen. Kerry to form a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people in Massachusetts, throughout the country, and around the world. If you are a religious leader and would like to add your name to the letter, please email [email protected]

+Call Sen. Kerry at 1-800-826-3688 and ask him to protect poor and hungry people today!

Sarah Rohrer is a regional organizer for Bread for the World serving Massachusetts.

Official photo of Sen. John Kerry.

Sen. Max Baucus: Montanans Depend on SNAP

Max_baucus1_200px[Editors’ note: For the next few weeks, we’ll be running a series of posts on Bread Blog about each member of the Super Committee. If you live in Sen. Max Baucus' district, please share this blog post with your family and friends, and message Sen. Baucus on his Facebook page.]

In August 2011, 126,723 households in Montana depended on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps) to make it through the month. You might think you don’t know people who depend on SNAP, but they could be your neighbor, a church member, or someone in your extended family. In fact, you might also have a story of how these benefits helped you through a rough time in your life and kept you and your family fed and out of poverty.

For 61-year-old Barb Compton, of Missoula, MT, the monthly benefit she gets from SNAP means everything. “Because I live on a Social Security disability fixed income, I rely on SNAP benefits for my food staples. I am still at the food bank at the end of every month because the $100 I receive is not enough to buy food for the entire month. If I lost my food stamp benefits, or they were reduced, I wouldn’t be able to put gas in my car, go to necessary medical appointments, get to work, or purchase needed medications.”

SNAP benefits don’t just help Compton. They’re an important resource for local communities struggling in the economic downturn. Just one SNAP dollar generates $1.73 to $1.79 in economic growth.

As a member of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (or Super Committee), Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has a powerful voice in the ongoing debt negotiations. With more than one in seven in Montana—including one in five children—living below the poverty line, Sen. Baucus can use his vote to reduce the deficit, but also reduce poverty and inequality at the same time. The Hungry in Montana 2010 report produced by the Montana Food Network recommends that a combined effort to improve family economic security, maximize participation in public food programs, and increase access to healthy foods is the most effective way to ensure food security for hungry Montanans. Cutting or block granting programs such as SNAP would have far-reaching consequences for vulnerable Montanans.

Protecting hungry and poor people is a fundamental value of this country and an imperative to Christians who are called to love our neighbors. Sen. Baucus may be the voice that decides whether the lifeline Barb depends on is removed.

Please join Bread for the World and ask Sen. Baucus to form a circle of protection around programs that are vital to hungry and poor people in Montana, throughout the country, and around the world. For Montana constituents, he has made it easy by creating a special electronic form asking for ideas from Montanans.  You can also call Sen. Baucus at 1-800-826-3688 today.

Robinstephenson_60pxRobin Stephenson is a regional organizer for Bread for the World who serves Montana.

 

 Official photo of Sen. Max Baucus.

Rep. Dave Camp: Food is a Basic Need

111012_davecamp[Editors’ note: For the next few weeks, we’ll be running a series of posts on Bread Blog about each member of the Super Committee. If you live in Rep. Dave Camp’s district (4th/MI), please share this blog post with your family and friends, and message Rep. Camp on his Facebook page or through Twitter.]

In Michigan’s 4th district, Kathy Smith, 68, works at her church’s food pantry to help ease the hunger and poverty that affects so many people in the area. In this congressional district, more than one in six people, including one in five children, lives below the poverty line (set at $22,113 for a family of four).

“We feed about 350 families a month, and we also have a community café, which provides a nice, hot meal once a week,” Smith says. As a longtime volunteer and advocate for poor and hungry people, Smith has seen how hunger has affected her community. “In recent years we’re finding more people who are employed, but are not making a living wage. They’re underemployed. And we’re also finding older people who never come to pantries, now coming.”

Indeed, what Smith regularly witnesses supports recent government reports that show that while 40.8 percent of people in poverty in Michigan’s 4th district had a job in 2010, they still could not make ends meet.

The district is represented in Congress by Dave Camp (R-MI), who currently serves on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (or Super Committee). The committee must identify at least $1.2 trillion in federal deficit reductions over 10 years by November 23, 2011. Everything is on the table: the committee can raise taxes, make spending cuts, let tax cuts for wealthy Americans expire, or make changes to anything else in the federal budget.

In light of Michigan’s dire statistics, and the stories of working people who are hungry and living in poverty, it is imperative that Rep. Dave Camp and the entire Super Committee protect programs that are vital to people like those who are struggling in his district.  

For Kathy Smith, the choice is simple: Hungry people deserve the priority. “I just think if people are hungry, that’s pretty basic. Food is a basic need. I can’t imagine being hungry, so it’s something that I’m involved in, and that’s where I hang my hat,” Smith says.

Please join Bread in asking Rep. Camp to form a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people in Michigan, throughout the country, and around the world. Call Rep. Camp at 1-800-826-3688 today.

Official Photo of Rep. Dave Camp.

Senator Patty Murray: Washington Families are Desperate

111005_PattyMurray

[Editors’ note: For the next few weeks, we’ll be running a series of posts on the Bread Blog about each member of the Super Committee. If Sen. Patty Murray is your member of Congress, please share this blog post with your local family and friends, and message Sen. Murray on her Facebook page or through Twitter.]

You can tell a first-time visitor to a food bank by the shell-shocked look on their faces, says Kelsey Beck, public policy manager at Food Lifeline, a nonprofit food distributor that sends food to more than 300 food banks throughout Western Washington. “We’re hearing from all our member agencies that they are seeing people who used to be donors, who are now waiting in the lines to get food. They can tell who it is when people look a little shell-shocked, or have never used the social services system before,” Beck says.

While Washington state did not feel the immediate effects of the recession due to the strength of the local tech industry, residents weren’t spared the difficulties of the nation’s prolonged economic distress. Nearly one in seven Washingtonians, including more than one in six children, lives below the poverty line ($22,113 for a family of four)—even some with jobs (35.5 percent). Furthermore, charities and food banks such as Food Lifeline are stretched, and many people in Washington don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) co-chairs the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (or Super Committee), which has been charged with identifying at least $1.2 trillion in federal deficit reductions over 10 years by November 23, 2011. The Super Committee can raise taxes, make spending cuts, let tax cuts for wealthy Americans expire, or make changes to anything else in the federal budget.

It’s time for people of faith and conscience to raise their collective voice and ask Sen. Murray to protect programs that help hungry and poor people in Washington, throughout the country, and around the world.

“We’re really in desperate times in our nation,” says Beck. “And it’s in those times that we need our government to help provide basic supports—like food—more than ever. We know Senator Murray has always made a priority of helping people first, and I hope this is what she will bring to this committee.”

Please join Bread and ask Sen. Murray to form a circle of protection around programs that help hungry and poor people. Call Sen. Murray at 1-800-826-3688.

For Washington residents, Sen. Murray has created a special form on her website for you to share your thoughts on deficit reduction.

Official photo of Senator Patty Murray.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling: Families in Texas are Struggling

111004_JebHensarling [Editors’ note: For the next few weeks, we’ll be running a series of posts on the Bread Blog about each member of the Super Committee. If you live in Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s district, please share this blog post with your local family and friends, and message Rep. Hensarling on his Facebook page or through Twitter.]

My grandfather used to say, “It’s never as easy as it looks,” prompting me to rethink a problem or look at the big picture. This is good advice for families trying to make ends meet, and surely it is good advice for Congress as well.  Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) is serving as co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (or Super Committee) to look at ways to reduce our nation’s deficit. The Super Committee has much latitude and can make recommendations on anything. They could raise additional taxes; make more spending cuts; cut defense spending; let tax cuts for wealthy Americans expire; or make changes to anything else in the federal budget.

Ferrell Foster of Eustace, TX, who works for the Baptist General Convention of Texas as associate director of Texas Baptists’ Advocacy/Care Center recently told me that, "the United States is not going to balance its budget by cutting the aid it provides for overseas hunger relief and poverty alleviation. These dollars are small potatoes for the U.S. budget, but they are vitally important to these international efforts. Many of these funds also have a positive impact back home in the American economy because they are often used to purchase American commodities and services.”

He also said, "Many of us are fiscal conservatives who believe that a government should live within its financial means. That conservatism, however, is mixed with a compassion for those who need help in lifting themselves out of poverty. George W. Bush called it ‘compassionate conservatism.’”

It would be easy to just make across-the-board cuts evenly across the budget so that all programs take the same size hit, but the budget is not only our blueprint for spending—it is a moral document that says who we are by what we pay for.  Right now, 17.6 percent of households in Texas’s 5th congressional district struggled to put food on the table in 2010 (compared to 14.6 percent nation-wide). Also, more than one in seven people in the 5th district, including nearly one in four children (or almost 25 percent) live below the poverty line, which is $22,113 for a family of four.

We have a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us. Join me in asking Rep. Hensarling to form a circle of protection around programs that help hungry and poor people in our district, throughout the country and around the world. Call Rep. Hensarling at 1-800-826-3688.

Marco Grimaldo is a Bread for the World regional organizer who serves Texas.

Official photo of Rep. Jeb Hensarling.

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