Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

504 posts categorized "U.S. Hunger"

College Student Fights Hunger on Multiple Fronts

Maria Rose Belding, seated far left, speaks with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), wearing a blue jacket, during Bread for the World's 2015 Lobby Day. John Jacks for Bread for the World.

July 9, 2015 | By Jennifer Gonzalez

Nothing irks Maria Rose Belding more than hearing legislators say that food pantries can fill in the food gap when SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits are cut.

“No, no, no. That is not how the math works,” she says, fervently.

Collectively, food banks and private charities account for only 6 percent of food aid. The rest is provided by the federal government through programs like SNAP, Belding says.

Recently, she took her knowledge about hunger to Capitol Hill as part of Bread for the World’s Lobby Day. She, along with Bread for the World members from Iowa, met with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). Belding grew up in Iowa but lives as a college student in Washington, D.C.

Belding, 19, believes in the power of lobbying. One vote from a legislator has more influence than all the staffs of a food pantry put together, she says. “Their influence on hungry people is significant. I want them to know that and understand that.”

During her visit with Ernst, Belding spoke about the need for Congress to pass the Summer Meals Act. The bill would strengthen and expand access to summer meal programs for children. Accessing meals during summertime can be hard for children, especially for those living in rural areas. Lack of transportation and long distances make it difficult for them to get the meals they need to grow into healthy adults.

Belding knows Bread well. She interned last year with the Alliance to End Hunger, an affiliate of Bread. “Bread is such a cool Christian community,” she says. “It embraces the Gospel of hungry people. It’s nice to be in an environment that embraces the Gospel and acts on it.”

But lobbying on behalf of hungry people is not the only way she is helping to ensure people have access to food. Earlier this year, she launched the nonprofit MEANS Database, an online system that enables food pantries to communicate with each other and their donors to prevent waste.

The nonprofit has approximately 1,500 partners and agencies in 12 states. MEANS stands for Matching Excess And Need for Stability.

Belding got the idea for the nonprofit after a disheartening experience while volunteering at a church food pantry that ended up throwing out boxes of macaroni and cheese when they expired. She says another food pantry could have used the boxes before they expired if there had been an efficient way to communicate with them.

Belding, who is pursuing an undergraduate degree in public health at American University, hopes to continue to grow the nonprofit. As a food advocate, she is passionate about ensuring that everyone has access to food.

The nonprofit is her way of ensuring that food pantries run efficiently as possible and are able to provide food for the hungry.

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


The Affordable Care Act Helps Reduce Hunger

Rick Reinhard for Bread for the World.

By Christopher Ford

Health care has been a hot topic in the news again since the Supreme Court’s ruling last month to uphold a key part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It may not be obvious, but health care and hunger are similar issues. The government plays a huge role in both, and both are big public health issues. And sometimes these issues intersect.

The ACA, or Obamacare, is responsible for the largest expansion of health care coverage in 50 years. Since the law went into effect, the number of people without coverage fell by almost 17 million. Among African-Americans, there was a 9.2 percent drop in uninsured rates. Latinos saw a 12.3 percentage drop.

The provision of the law upheld by the Supreme Court provides tax subsidies to help poor and middle-class people buy health insurance. The court’s 6-to-3 ruling means that millions of Americans will continue to have access to affordable health care.

In the United States, one out of three people with chronic medical conditions must choose between treating these conditions or feeding themselves and their families. Many families receiving ACA subsidies live just above the poverty line and are not eligible for Medicaid. They struggle to pay their bills and are vulnerable to hunger.

The ACA subsidies enable these families to purchase the health insurance. This means they can treat their medical conditions and put food on the table. The ACA is becoming a vital link in the effort to end hunger in the United States. Families no longer have to forego dinner if a child needs to go to the doctor.

If the court had ruled the other way, millions of people would have lost their health coverage. And food insecurity would certainly have increased.

The Bread for the World Institute is currently working on the 2016 Hunger Report, which will be released in November. The report frames hunger as a serious health condition. Research shows that the lack of access to nutritious food, especially at a young age, can lead to chronic health problems. And bad health can be exacerbated by hunger.

Christopher Ford is the media relations manager at Bread for the World.

Quote of the Day: Rev. Laurinda Hafner

Rev. Laurinda Hafner, senior minister at Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ in Coral Gables, Fla., writes to her member of Congress. Lena Isely for Bread for the World.

“As a person of faith, I think there is nothing so contrary to God’s will, for this world, than to have people - and especially children - be hungry. More than anything else, Jesus talked about feeding the hungry, so as members of a Christian congregation it is our faithful and moral imperative to do everything we can to fill the bellies of those who are without food.” 

Bread for the World’s 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children is focused on ensuring Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill. The legislation is set to expire in the fall. It is vital that Congress hears from their constituents, especially since over 16 million children in the U.S. don’t always know where their next meal is coming from.

Call or email your members of Congress today and tell them to support legislation that will feed our children — in the upcoming summer months and all year long. 


Tell Congress: There's No Vacation for Hunger

Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Eric Mitchell

Hunger won’t be taking a vacation this summer. While our senators and representatives are back home for the Fourth of July, five of every six low-income children who received a school lunch daily will not receive those meals during summer vacation. But together we can make sure those meals don’t disappear — and it starts with a phone call. 

Call your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today. Urge them to cosponsor two important child hunger bills:

  1. Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S.613/H.R.1728)
  2. Stop Child Summer Hunger Act of 2015 (S.1539/H.R.2715)

Together, these two bills would help close the child hunger gap. The Summer Meals Act would strengthen and expand access to summer meal programs, while the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act would provide low-income families with additional resources to purchase groceries during the summer months while children are out of school.

Whether you’re a parent of a young child or just care about the children in your local community, we need everyone’s voice to close the child hunger gap. As a father of two myself, I believe this is fundamental.

Throughout the month of July, we will be asking you to join us in taking weekly advocacy actions to end child summer hunger. Start today by calling your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative. Tell Congress to cosponsor the Summer Meals Act and the Stop Child Hunger Act.

Thank you for raising your voice again. Together, we can move Congress to ensure that children are fed through the summer months — and year-round. 

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

Closing the Summer Hunger Gap

Shaw mural
A mural depicting the history of Shaw, Miss. The mural is across from the community center that houses the summer meals site. Lane Riley for Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

A year ago, Lane Riley took a leap of faith. She moved from her home in South Carolina to operate a summer meals site for children in rural Shaw, Miss.

One pastor helped secure a community center to serve as the site and she recruited another pastor to be the cook. She and that pastor worked together to make lunches for the children.

Last summer, roughly 30 children were fed lunch twice a week. This summer, Riley expanded the program, which is serving a lunch and snack daily to approximately 100 children. Children also participate in various activities at the site, including reading, Bible study, art, and recreation. Lane and Joe

Because the site now serves almost three times the number of children compared to last summer, Riley needed help. So, she trained 12 high school students to be leaders for the different age groups.

“Teenagers in Shaw aren’t given a lot of opportunities for leadership development, and this is an amazing way of creating leadership skills and mentoring older kids,” Riley said.

Riley is a program director at Delta Hands for Hope, which runs the summer feeding site. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi (CBFMS) is the financial sponsor of the Summer Food Service program in Mississippi.

This summer there are now five additional summer feeding sites in Mississippi run by Delta Hands for Hope. The CBFMS uses reimbursement funds it receives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support the feeding sites. The six sites are projected to serve about 10,000 meals this summer, Riley said.

Summer feeding sites are crucial to the health of children, especially those who come from low-income families. During the academic year, those same kids receive either a free- or reduced-price lunch at school. But the summer is different.

Accessing meals during summertime can be hard for children, especially for those living in rural areas. Lack of transportation and long distances make it difficult for them to get the meals they need to grow into healthy adults.

The need for a summer feeding site in Shaw is great. The city is located in the Mississippi Delta, where poverty is high. In fact, about half of the adult population in Shaw lives below the poverty line ($23,624 for a family of four with two children).

And roughly 70 percent of Shaw’s children live below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census.

“Having this feeding program takes the stress off parents,” said Riley, who studied sociology and Spanish at Lander University in South Carolina. “They’ll know that their kids will be getting a meal in the summer.”

Riley first visited Shaw several years ago as part of a volunteer trip with Wilton Baptist Church in Wilton, Conn. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. K. Jason Coker, is originally from Shaw and would take teams of volunteers to the city during the summer to work with children.

Riley began to visit the church after moving from South Carolina to Connecticut to work as a nanny. When the idea to start a summer feeding site in his hometown of Shaw surfaced, Coker thought Riley would be a good candidate to spearhead the project.

“There are a lot of people who are needed to create generational and systemic change, and the people of Shaw are only a small handful of people who are trying to combat hunger and poverty,” Riley said. “But by working in Shaw, with CBFMS, and many other churches and organizations, we are noticing a difference, and creating a positive environment for the kids of Shaw.”

The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but nearly 16 million children are food-insecure. Act now! Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators to close the hunger gap today.

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

Photo inset: Lane Riley, left, with cook and pastor, Joe Jackson. Lane Riley for Bread for the World.




The PUSH to End Hunger

University leaders meet at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to discuss ways to address hunger and malnutrition. Photo courtesy of Auburn University.

By Shalom Khokhar

Universities are known for being places of concentrated education and research. So when it comes to the issue of hunger, universities are institutions that can engage in agriculture, nutrition, environment, and other related disciplines. To that end, university leaders have an official group to address hunger.

Scores of university leaders from Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH) gathered earlier this month to begin to implement the group’s action plan, which will leverage the collective power of the universities to address hunger and malnutrition.

Nearly 80 universities spanning six continents are now members of PUSH, having signed the Presidents’ Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security. Among the universities are Iowa State University, The Ohio State University, Texas A&M University, Stenden University (Netherlands), University of California System, Cornell University, William V.S. Tubman University (Liberia), and University of Miami.

David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, attended the operational meeting and hunger forum, which took place at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on June 17. The Alliance to End Hunger, an affiliate of Bread for the World, is a PUSH supporter, along with other organizations such as the World Food Program and Stop Hunger Now.

PUSH was spearheaded by Auburn University’s Hunger Solutions Institute in Auburn, Ala. The PUSH action plan involves four core areas: teaching, research, outreach, and student engagement.

“PUSH is an effective mechanism for education, advocacy and engagement across national borders,” said Jay Gogue, Auburn University’s president.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez gave the Hunger Forum featured address. Hernandez has prioritized solving hunger and poverty in order to provide new hope to the youth of his country – many of whom flooded the shores of the United States last summer as illegal unaccompanied minors.

"I would never forgive myself if I had taken office as president and let slip a number of opportunities such as the one PUSH is offering the world," said Hernandez to the gathering of university, government, international organizations, business and civil society leaders.

Two Honduran universities are current PUSH members – Universidad Nacional de Agricultura and Zamorano University.

Food insecurity requires significant strides in areas like public policy, nutrition assistance, agricultural productivity, and community empowerment. These things can not only improve people’s lives locally, but can help us stay ahead of the hunger curve as global population increases and climate change affects harvest.

For instance, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (a PUSH supporter) is calling for a 70 percent increase in food production to meet the rising demands of an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050. In the words of attendee Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), “Ending hunger will not be achieved unless there is a strategy supported by knowledge and research. Research institutes and universities play a key role in this endeavor.”

Now is the time to engage our resources and find sustainable solutions to hunger and malnutrition! Want to let your voice be heard and make a difference? Call/email Congress and ask them to protect and improve current nutrition programs such as SNAP, WIC, and the child nutrition bill.

Shalom Khokhar is a summer communications intern at Bread for the World. This post includes contributions from onsite reporters and press releases.

'Fighting the Good Fight'

Lizaura "Lizzie" German, right, visiting with a staffer from the office of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez during Lobby Day. Jennifer Gonzalez/Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Lizaura “Lizzie” German understands the issue of hunger. She manages a feeding program for Catholic Charities that serves people living in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Aside from offering food, the program also provides case management for individuals who need other resources.

But advocacy has never been a component of the program’s work – until now. Through a new relationship with Bread for the World, cultivated by Bread organizer Margaret Tran, clients of the feeding program are starting to find their voice.

In fact, clients have already participated in an Offering of Letters. Bread’s 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children is focused on ensuring Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill. The legislation is set to expire in the fall. 

To better help clients find their voice, German agreed to become a Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader. HJLs, as they are affectionately referred to at Bread, are young faith leaders and clergy who come together to form intentional partnership and community with Bread to advance the work of ending hunger in our world.

When they go back to their hometowns, they work together with Bread staff, folks in their community, and other HJLs to engage more deeply in hunger justice ministry.

Ahead of Bread’s Lobby Day on June 9, German took part in training in Washington, D.C., that afforded her an opportunity to interact with likeminded individuals. “Sometimes you can get bogged down with the work we do,” German said. “You think, ‘I’m the only one going through this.’ So, getting a chance to speak with others around the country who are doing similar work to yours is reenergizing.”

German said the HJL workshops were "awesome." She especially liked workshops that focused on active listening. “I know it is common sense, but when you are doing a million things you forget to listen.”

As part of her HJL experience, she lobbied on Bread’s behalf. She visited with staffers from the offices of Sens. Bob Menendez and Corey Booker (and briefly with Booker himself) as part of a large New Jersey contingency made up of members from The Reformed Church of Highland Park, N.J.

She, along with the others, talked passionately about the need for Congress to reauthorize the child nutrition bill and pass the Global Food Security Act.

“Lobbying with the folks from New Jersey was amazing,” German said. “To see that you are not alone, that there are other people putting their faith into action along with you, was amazing. It’s like you are all fighting the good fight.”

She said she felt that everything she had experienced at Bread leading up to Lobby Day – the training, worship service, legislative briefing – prepared her well to go into the offices of members of Congress and lobby on behalf of hungry people.

She said she was able “to express why we were doing what we were doing and who we were doing it for.”  She added: “For someone who was unable to come to speak and worried about their children or not having enough food for themselves, we were sharing their story.”

The fact that the lobbying was taking place from a faith-based perspective added to German’s experience. “During Lobby Day, we were able to acknowledge a higher power at work,” she said. “That was so cool.”

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


A Carefree Summer Should Not Include Hunger

Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World

Editor's note: This article first appeared on the website of the Alliance to End Hunger, an affiliate of Bread for the World.

By Minerva Delgado

I recently heard a summer camp director say he was taken aback upon hearing one boy’s answer to his typical question to the children as they were leaving camp, “What were your favorite parts of the summer?” He was expecting the answer to be horseback riding, swimming, playing baseball or any of the other activities the children had enjoyed that summer.  However, the boy simply answered, “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”  It was a moment that stuck with the camp director as a reminder that eating 3 meals-a-day can be a luxury for many of the children in his community during the summer.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), or summer meals, provides reimbursements to participating organizations for serving healthy meals to children at no charge during the summer months.  Last summer, approximately 3.2 million children participated in the program.  That’s 161 million meals served at 45,200 sites.  Summer meals sites are among the most accessible federal nutrition programs, where children up to age 18 can go right in and have breakfast or lunch without any applications or restrictions.

While the number of children served by SFSP has increased significantly in recent years, it pales in comparison to the 15.7 million children living in food-insecure households across the country. Why does only one child in six who needs summer meals receive them? What can be done to improve access to this vital resource?

One issue is the insufficient number of meal sites and providers to meet the need. Maybe the children who need summer meals live in remote locations where you don’t find the organizations that typically serve summer meals.  Perhaps they live in areas that do not meet the income threshold to have sites that are open to the public. Or maybe there are organizations that would like to participate but are hampered by the program rules.

From my experience at a small food bank, I can tell you the summer meals program can be difficult to operate.  I once wanted to operate a summer meals site in conjunction with a mobile food pantry operation.  Unfortunately, I ran into a wall with one rule that says that the meals have to be eaten on-site, as opposed to being taken home or to another location.  Our mobile food pantry operated out of a parking lot; there was no place for children to eat the meals.  At the time, I was very frustrated that we couldn’t find a way to help feed more hungry children when there was a clear need–especially since the food bank is located in a suburban community that was not eligible to operate public sites.

While there are many organizations that have the capacity to meet all of the programs rules and provide safe, enriching environments for children to learn, play and eat during the summer, it is clear that more must be done to address the unmet need.  Many children lose ground during the summer because they don’t have access to consistent, healthy meals.  The consequences of not improving the summer meals program are severe.  In addition to suffering and anxiety children experience when they haven’t had enough nutritious food to eat, researchers point to spikes in food insecurity during the summer and educators lament “summer learning loss” come fall.

Congress now has the opportunity to make significant changes to improve summer meals as part of the child nutrition reauthorization bill.  Improving access to this program is imperative.  Ideally, Congress will consider many of the recommendations being made by organizations like Share Our Strength, Feeding America and Food Research & Action Center.  It is important to increase flexibility in the program models to engage even more children because children shouldn’t have to take hunger along on their summer vacations.

Minerva Delgado is the director of coalitions and advocacy at the Alliance to End Hunger.

A Land of Prosperity, a Land of Hunger

Federal nutrition programs are finding ways to connect the people who rely on them with a healthy selection of foods. Jim Stipe for Bread for the World.

By Shalom Khokhar

Growing up, my family and I would go grocery shopping on Saturdays. My favorite place to go was Sam’s Club because they always had free samples. From snacks to desserts, it was always fun to run to each stall and grab a quick treat.

Living in the United States has it perks, one of them being that food is readily available and conveniently located. So available and convenient, in fact, that we become unaware of the disturbing statistics that hit closer to home than we think.

A staggering 69 percent of people had to choose between food and utilities, and 57 percent had to choose between food and housing, according to the Hunger in America 2014 study by Feeding America. More recently, a fact sheet released by Bread for the World last month, reported that almost five million older Americans are food-insecure, representing almost 10 percent of the older population.

Case in point: Last month, Clarence Blackmon, an elderly gentleman from North Carolina, dialed 911 not because he was hurt, but because he was hungry! The 81-year-old returned home after several months in the hospital. With an empty refrigerator and no immediate help, he spoke with 911 operator Marilyn Hinson.

"He was hungry," Hinson said. "I've been hungry. A lot of people can't say that, but I can, and I can't stand for anyone to be hungry."

Support poured in for Blackmon, and people brought bags and bags of food to his home. A little awareness goes a long way.

Sometimes all it takes is a few questions to realize that hunger is a common occurrence even in today’s society. Last December, a family came to my church’s Christmas concert. It was a Hispanic family with two young boys and girls. Dad worked, and mom was pregnant.  

After talking with the family, we found out that dad was fresh out of prison and addicted to methamphetamines, and that mom was basically a single parent raising four malnourished kids. They had no home and had been living in their van for three months.

The church was able to donate $400 to the family and get in contact with a few local food pantries for some much-needed groceries. Their van needed some repairs, so the church  gave them a vehicle to use and paid for a motel room for one week. Mom eventually gave birth to a healthy baby, and a few people from the church went to visit her. The church  also connected the family with  a social worker who could help  make things a little better.

Yes, it’s sad to hear these stories, but don’t just hear them, act on what you have heard!

Jesus said in Matthew 25, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.”

One way we can all make a difference is to call or email Congress and ask them to protect and improve current nutrition programs, such as SNAP, WIC, and the child nutrition bill, and to continue to develop better ways of implementing laws to end hunger in America.

Ending hunger is a goal that can be reached in our lifetime, but only if we act now!

Shalom Khokhar is a summer intern in the communications department at Bread for the World.



New Gallup Poll Shows Decline in U.S. Hunger Numbers

Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Stefanie Casdorph

Hunger and poverty are pervasive problems in the world today, but a recent Gallup Poll shows a decline in the number of people in the United States struggling with these issues.

In fact, the percentage of Americans reporting an inability to afford food is the lowest it has been in seven years. In the first quarter of 2015, 15.8 percent of Americans reported that in the last 12 months they had struggled to afford food for themselves or their families. This is the lowest percentage measured since the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index started in 2008.

The project, a partnership between Gallup and Healthways, is a 25 year-long initiative that is attempting to track and understand the factors that contribute to well-being in the United States. The survey provides an in-depth, nearly real-time view of Americans' well-being at the community, state, and national levels.

Overall, the news from the Gallup Poll is positive. However, there are signs that hunger continues to be a significant issue for women, single parents, and minorities living in the United States.

Key findings:

  • Overall, blacks and Hispanics are twice as likely to report experiencing difficulty affording food.
  • Women are more likely to report having difficult affording food than men: 18.3 percent of women compared to 13.1 percent of men.
  • Single-parent households are much more likely to have difficulty affording food. In the U.S., 31 percent of single-parent households report times in the past 12 months when they struggled to afford food, much more than the 19 percent of two-parent households who say the same.
  • Nearly three in 10 adults, aged 18 to 30, with at least one child in the household, struggled to afford food in the past 12 months, compared with 21 percent of adults in the same age group who do not have a child in the home.

Two of the major sets of national data that anti-hunger organizations use are from Gallup and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Each set has its own pros and cons; for example, Gallup data is more current, whereas USDA data is more detailed and comprehensive but is less current.

Bread’s standard is U.S. government data because Bread’s work is with the federal government, and for the sake of consistency.

Stefanie Casdorph is a summer intern in the communications department at Bread for the World.


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