Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

457 posts categorized "U.S. Hunger"

It's the "Write" Thing to Do

OL2015-Blog

By Stephen Hovick Padre

A few months ago, I took a day outside the office with two of my colleagues from Bread to gather stories to include in this year’s Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children. It’s my job to write and edit the toolkit of print materials for Bread’s annual Offering of Letters campaign and to coordinate the production of everything that churches and communities need for a letter-writing event.

While it’s possible to assemble a lot of facts and figures about child hunger while sitting at my computer in Bread’s office in Washington, D.C., there’s no greater education than seeing something firsthand. That’s exactly what my coworkers and I did one rainy day late last fall as we went to the suburbs of Baltimore to see how school-based federal government feeding programs play out in “real life”—outside the policy bubble of Capitol Hill.

IMG_2454Now, I have to admit that I’ve lived a very comfortable middle-class life. I’ve never missed a meal in my life. I’ve never known what it’s like to struggle to put food on the table. Yet I’ve worked for many years for church-related programs and organizations that help people who are hungry because it’s something I care about, and it’s something that my church (denomination) and my faith care about.

One takeaway from my field trip was that hunger can easily be hidden in plain sight. In Washington, D.C., and surrounding it, are many neighborhoods and suburbs that I hear are high-income and wealthy. Yet I learned from my visits to elementary, middle, and high schools in Glen Burnie, a suburb of Baltimore, that there is hunger—even in these supposedly wealthy suburbs.

But even more important is the fact that hunger is being addressed at those schools.  In my own neighborhood—at my own daughters’ elementary school—and in your community, where your kids go to school, or where you see other people’s children going to school, programs funded by our federal government are providing meals to children every day.

I’m glad that the organization I work for has a campaign this year focusing on federal child nutrition programs. Bread’s 2015 Offering of Letters campaign is a time for Christians across the country to urge their members of Congress to strengthen these programs and give children access to the meals they need so they can learn, be healthy, and grow strong.

Why should we as Christians do this? Because it’s the right thing to do. Because Jesus told us to. Whether you have children of your own or not, your future is wrapped up in their future. If today’s children struggle to get all the food they need, the consequences can last for years and can affect more than just them as individuals. So, as part of Bread’s Offering of Letters, do the right thing and do the “write” thing.

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

Photo: The writer gets the full sensory experience of the school lunch program as he eats a cafeteria meal with elementary school students. Christine Melendez Ashley/Bread for the World.

Feeding Growing Minds

OL2015-Blog

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Until this school year, Dr. Saundra Wegner, a teacher at North County High School in Glen Burnie, Md., would bring donuts to school to feed her students during first period class.

She got the morning sugary fare from Dunkin' Donuts – on her own dime. She did it because the students at this school in the suburbs of Baltimore were hungry. Breakfast was available in the school cafeteria, but some students took a pass because of the stigma associated with obtaining school meals.

This year, the high school implemented a new program: breakfast in the classroom. Students eat at their desks while teachers take attendance and do other morning activities.

HSbreakfast“I’m so appreciative of the school breakfast program we now have,” said Wegner, who teaches social studies at the high school. “It gives (students) a boost in the morning. It gives them energy. It wakes their brain up.”

Wegner said she has noticed that the quality of the students’ work has improved since the program was implemented. The new program replaces the cafeteria-based breakfast program. There are currently 2,020 students at the school. At its peak, roughly 1,500 have eaten breakfast in their classroom so far this year.

Hunger is a reality for too many children in the United States. Nearly 16 million children (1 in 5) live in homes that struggle to put food on the table. Of the 21.5 million low-income children who receive a school lunch, only a little over half also receive breakfast. And only about one in seven also receive meals during the summer months.

One way to ensure that children receive the meals they need to grow into healthy, productive adults is to protect the nation’s child nutrition safety-net programs. And that is exactly what Bread is doing this year through its 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children.

This fall, the legislation that funds child nutrition programs will expire. The bill funds five major programs: National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the WIC Program. These programs serve roughly 40 million adults and children nationwide.

Bread plans to work hard this year to ensure that these programs are protected. It is through the federal government that North County High School’s classroom breakfast program is even possible. In fact, none of the students pay for the breakfast they eat every morning.

Wegner understands the importance of exposing students to the issues of poverty and hunger. In her social issues class, she requires students to create a household budget based on the U.S. poverty line – roughly $24,000 for a family of four. Students also take a field trip to the Maryland Food Bank and prepare food bags for the community.

“It’s a reality. It’s like the invisible society,” said Wegner about people living in poverty and experiencing hunger. “We don’t completely forget about them, but they are not number one on our list.”

Learn more about the 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children. Order an Offering of Letters kit, or visit the campaign's website, where you can find downloadable resources in English and Spanish. For more information about how you can organize an Offering of Letters, contact your regional organizer today. 

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

No Winter Blahs. We Need to Get Busy Ending Hunger!

OL2015-Blog

By Alyssa Casey

If you’re like me, February is always a bit of a struggle. The rejuvenation provided by the holiday season is wearing off, but winter weather is stubbornly hanging around, making you want to curl up with a blanket and not leave your home.

But this February, I’m excited. At Bread for the World, we’re working hard  to end hunger by 2030. We’ve done the research and analysis, and we don’t just think ending hunger by 2030 is possible--we know it is. It’s 2015, and in the next 15 years we just might make history, but we’ve got to get started.

We need policies that help, not hurt, those struggling with hunger and poverty. To achieve this, we need people like you to educate your members of Congress about hunger in your state. We need members of Congress who know that the constituents voting them in – or out of -- office expect them to address hunger both across our world and in our communities at home.

As Bread launches its 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children, The Children’s Defense Fund unveiled a new report calling for an end to child poverty. At Bread, we know the link between poverty and hunger is strong. This makes the task of feeding our nation’s children seem daunting. Yet thanks to Bread for the World Institute, we have thorough research showing us what gaps we need to address to end hunger.  

We know we need living wages, so people working a full-time job can make enough to put food on the table. We know we need a compassionate safety net so that people can weather temporary hardships without falling into poverty.  We know that if 7 low-income children get a lunch at school every day, only 4 of those also receive school breakfast, and only 1 also receives meals during the summer.

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While those statistics are sobering, we also know incredible progress has been made regarding safety-net programs for children. Between 2000 and 2014, the number of low-income children participating in the school breakfast program increased from 6.3 million to 11.5 million. And Bread recently catalogued a series of domestic and international legislative victories won in 2014. We have momentum; we have research and evidence; we have a policy-change plan; now we need you!

We’re working hard here in Washington, but so often change is sparked at the local level. In these early months of 2015, the new Congress is still determining what their priorities will be. See how hunger and poverty affect your state, and then let your members of Congress know ending hunger needs to be a priority.

Start right now and take just two minutes to help ensure U.S. children don’t go hungry. Funding for child nutrition programs, such as school and summer meals, needs to be renewed every 5 years. The child nutrition legislation passed in 2010 expires this fall. Tell your members of Congress to invest in strong nutrition programs that close the gaps and increase access to meals for children across the country. To end hunger by 2030, let’s get a strong start in 2015!

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

Tell Congress: Prioritize Our Children in 2015

OL2015-Blog

By Christine Melendez Ashley

On Monday morning, President Obama released a budget outlining his vision for our country’s priorities. Many of the policies in his budget reflect what Bread’s research has found: Investing in people is key to ending hunger.

One critical investment is feeding our children. Giving children a healthy start in life pays off for years. This is the heart of this year’s Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children.

15725784024_a8738dc2e9_oThe child nutrition safety net serves children at risk of hunger through school lunch and breakfast programs, summer feeding programs, after-school and child care feeding programs, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

The president’s budget includes strong support for child nutrition programs, including $67 million for summer feeding pilot programs. This is a particularly needed investment – for every seven low-income children who receive a school lunch, only four also get breakfast, and only one also gets summer meals.

We need to get Congress to act! You have a unique opportunity to urge your members of Congress to strengthen investments in our nation’s children. Congress is working on its budget and child nutrition priorities right now!

Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress. Tell Congress to prioritize children at risk of hunger and invest in strong child nutrition programs. 

Learn more about the 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our ChildrenOrder an Offering of Letters kit, or visit the OL website where you can find downloadable resources in English and Spanish. For more information about how you can host an Offering of Letters, contact your regional organizer today. 

Christine Melendez Ashley is a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World.

Free Meals Don't Always Equal Poverty

OL2015-Blog
 

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Recently, The Washington Post ran a story with an eye-popping headline: “Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty.”

The article reports that for the first time in 50 years, 51 percent of students attending public school in the United States came from low-income families, according to a report by the Southern Education Foundation.

The Washington Post used as a “rough proxy for poverty" the fact that 51 percent of U.S. public school students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal government’s free and reduced-price lunch program.

The fallout from the story was swift. Many critics rightly argued that “living in poverty” doesn’t exactly correlate with the number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunch. NPR, Mother Jones, and many other news outlets voiced concern over the inaccuracy of the headline and the story.

In fact, The New York Times made it clear in its own story about the foundation’s report that “children who are eligible for such lunches do not necessarily live in poverty.”

The U.S. Census Bureau defines “poverty” as a household of four people with an income of $24,000 a year. Free or reduced-price lunches are available to students from families of four that earn roughly $44,000 annually.

In other words, it’s more than likely that many students receiving free and reduced-price lunch live above the poverty line. Therefore, it’s hard to make the argument that a majority of students live in poverty based on the fact that they receive free and reduced-price lunch.

Incomeinfographic

To skew the numbers further, the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows certain public school districts to offer totally free meals (both breakfast and lunch) to all its students even if they don’t qualify. The move is designed to help school districts reduce paperwork.

Any school district with 40 percent or more “identified students” can participate in the CEP. Identified students include those whose families receive SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits or other federal government assistance. It also includes students certified to receive free school meals because of their status as being in foster care, enrolled in Head Start, homeless, runaway, or migrant student.

So the potential for over counting the number of students living in “poverty” is significant.

It’s unfortunate that The Washington Post made the error, because the truth is bad enough. At Bread for the World, we know that more than 1 in 5 children (nearly 16 million) live in a family that struggles to put food on the table.

Bread’s 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children is focused on children getting the meals they need. Even brief periods of hunger and malnutrition put children’s health at risk and carry consequences that may last a lifetime. Bread took great care to include only the number of low-income students receiving free and reduced-price lunch rather than every student receiving such a meal when the Offering of Letters was created.

Bread plans to work hard this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall. The bill funds five major programs:  National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the WIC Program. These programs serve roughly 40 million adults and children nationwide.

Will need your voice to make sure our nation’s children receive the meals they need to grow into healthy adults. Join us in our effort!

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

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

OL2015-Blog

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.

Ending Poverty Could Nearly End Hunger, New Report Says

Marian
Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, speaks about her organization's demand to end child poverty in the United States. Photo courtesy of the Children's Defense Fund. 

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Americans who experience hunger are not doing so because of a shortage of food in the United States. A visit to any supermarket or farmer’s market would confirm that. Rather, they are hungry because they live in a cycle of poverty that prevents them from earning enough money to provide adequately for their families.

Roughly 45 million Americans live at or below the poverty line. Twenty-one million of those are children who are living either in poverty or extreme poverty. These children are more likely to experience hunger.

On Wednesday, the Children’s Defense Fund released a report demanding an end to child poverty with an immediate 60 percent reduction. Ending Child Poverty Now calls for investing an additional 2 percent of the federal budget to expand existing programs and policies that would lead to increase employment, make work pay, and ensure children’s basic needs are met. As a result, 97 percent of children living in poverty would benefit, and 60 percent of them could escape poverty immediately.

Seventy-two percent of black children living in poverty, who have the highest poverty rates in the United States, would no longer be poor.

“America’s poor children did not ask to be born; did not choose their parent, country, state, neighborhood, race, color, or faith,” said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, during a press briefing at its national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“It’s way past time for a critical mass of Americans to confront the hypocrisy of America’s pretension to be a fair playing field while almost 15 million children languish in poverty,” she added.

The report outlined several policy improvements to reduce child poverty by 60 percent. Among them:

  • Increase the earned income tax credit for lower-income families with children.
  • Increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.
  • Make child care subsidies available to all eligible families below 150 percent of poverty.
  • Make the child and dependent care tax credit refundable with a higher reimbursement rate.
  • Base SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits on USDA’s Low-Cost Food Plan for families with children.
  • Make the child tax credit fully refundable.

Many of the policy changes that the Children’s Defense Fund advocates for in its report are similar to those Bread supports already. At Bread, we know all too well the impact poverty has on hunger. That’s why we work hard to ensure that the nation’s safety net is protected from budget cuts.

The earned income tax credit along with the child tax credit are among our country’s most effective anti-poverty tools. Bread 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.

And this year, the Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of nutrition among children. In 2013, 15.8 million children—more than one-fifth of all children in the United States—lived at risk of hunger. Bread plans to work diligently this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall.

The link between poverty and hunger is well established. Let’s not continue to look the other way as millions of children in the United States continue to live in poverty and suffer from hunger.

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.

 

Commit to Feed Our Nation's Children

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Federal nutrition programs for children, such as the National School Lunch Program, are a critical part of the fight against hunger. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

In 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama pledged to end child hunger by 2015. Last week, the president didn’t even mention the word hunger, much less child hunger, during the State of the Union address even though he insisted that the state of the union was strong and that the country had turned a page.

It did not go unnoticed. News outlets such as the Huffington Post, Moyers and Company, and others made references to the omission, and more importantly, the president’s inaction on his pledge. To his credit, President Obama did propose measures last week that would give struggling families a better chance of improving their financial situation. Because hunger is intrinsically linked to poverty, these measures could improve food insecurity for children and adults.

However, the fact is that child hunger is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately. In 2013, 15.8 million children—more than one-fifth of all children in the United States—lived at risk of hunger. Even brief periods of hunger and malnutrition put children’s health at risk and carry consequences that may last a lifetime.

Without enough food, children can become susceptible to health issues such as anemia, stomachaches, colds, ear infections, and asthma. Being hungry can be stressful. It can manifest into anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems, which can lead students to pay less attention in class and receive poor grades as a consequence.

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 plans to work diligently this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall.

The bill funds five major programs:  National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the WIC Program. These programs serve roughly 40 million adults and children nationwide.

As long as families are struggling financially, these programs must continue to stay intact. They are a crucial part of the safety net so many families count on for daily living.

“Congress must pass a bill that gives children who are at risk of hunger easier access to meals when and where they need them,” said Christine Melendez Ashley, senior domestic policy analyst at Bread for the World. “Traditionally, this issue has had strong bipartisan support. Still, given the federal budget climate and divided government, this reauthorization could get caught in partisan gridlock.”

Let’s make sure that every child in the United States has enough to eat, whether it’s at school, at an after-school program, or at home. Later this week, Bread will officially launch its 2015 Offering of Letters campaign. The campaign’s print materials, its usual toolkit, which will include background information on child nutrition, how to conduct an Offering of Letters, and other resources, will be available in early February.

In 2015, Bread plans to stay committed to the issue of child hunger and ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill. Join us in our effort!

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor 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

2011_State_of_the_Union_Obama
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.

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