Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

498 posts categorized "U.S. Hunger"

'Fighting the Good Fight'

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

The Danger of a Hungry Summer

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USDA/Lance Chueng

By Robin Stephenson

The reporter’s voice on the radio instantly wakes me up as my 6 a.m. alarm goes off. There is an element of danger, urgency, and even resolution as he ticks off the headlines: a South Korean MERS outbreak is slowing, two New York escaped prisoners are still missing, and the Supreme Court is expected to soon announce its decision on Obamacare subsidies. The reporter goes on and on.

But there is nothing about the danger of the hungry summer that millions of children are facing as schools release students for a long break.

Millions of low-income children, who normally receive a nutritious meal at school, will go without in the coming months. Summer meal programs reached more children in need in recent years, but according to a 2015 annual summer meals report by Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), only one out of every six children who qualify for free- and reduced-priced meals at school will also receive meals during the summer.

Hunger is dangerous. Even brief periods of hunger carry consequences that can last a lifetime for growing children. Lack of adequate nutrition can cause physical and mental health problems and impede academic performance.

Hidden hunger - a growing problem in the United States - has long-term health and economic consequences. Food-insecure children may not “look” hungry, but suffer from zinc, iron, or calcium deficiency due to poor diets. Obesity is a common symptom of hunger because of the lack of access to healthy foods. Not only do well-fed students do better in school and graduate at a higher rate, they earn more as adults and help the national economy. 

Studies on the cost of hunger lead to one conclusion: invest a little now in nutrition programs or pay a lot later. The national economic impact of hunger is expensive. A team from Brandeis University estimated hunger cost the country a staggering $167.5 billion in 2011 alone.

Hunger is a dangerous but not an insurmountable problem, especially when reaching more children in the summer months. New approaches to summer meals funded during the last child nutrition reauthorization have proven we can reduce summer food insecurity.

And now there is opportunity to even make more strides around combating child hunger with the introduction of two new summer meals bills.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.-53) introduced the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act of 2015 last week (S. 1539 and H.R. 2715). This bill would help close the summer hunger gap – especially in rural areas - by providing low-income families with children a Summer EBT card. A Summer EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card is like a debit card, which can be used to purchase food at stores during the summer. Similar pilot projects reduced child hunger in the summer by 33 percent.

The Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S.613/H.R.1728) introduced earlier this year will strengthen and expand the summer meals program. Working together, the two bills will allow states to be more innovative and reach more children in need.

Are we are habituated to hunger, lulled into complacency by a sense that hunger is inevitable? It is not. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, nearly 16 million children are food-insecure. This fact is not headline news, but it should be.

Act now! Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators to close the hunger gap today.

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

Lobby Day 2015: A Great Day of Advocacy

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Over 250 Bread for the World activists descended on Capitol Hill on Tuesday in the summer heat of Washington to ensure that members of Congress support child nutrition in the U.S. and abroad, and also aid small-scale farmers around the globe. Bread activists specifically asked members of Congress to support the Summer Meals Act of 2015 and the Global Food Security Act of 2015.

The day was a success as activist after activist, young and old alike, met with senators and representatives (or their staffers). Some meetings were small, with just a handful of activists around a table, sharing their thoughts, while others were quite large.

About 15 members from the Reformed Church of Highland Park in New Jersey met with staffers of Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-N.J.) office. The group later met with staffers from Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) office and got a surprise when the senator unexpectedly showed up and spoke to them. The group was not scheduled to meet with Booker, but instead, only with a couple of staffers.

Here are some highlights from Lobby Day 2015:

The morning got off to a great start with some inspiring words from Amelia Kegan, Bread’s deputy director of government relations. She spoke at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church, where activists took part in a worship service combined with a legislative briefing by staff members of Bread’s government relations department.

Activists spent the afternoon meeting with various members of Congress. A small group of Iowans met with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). They were accompanied by Rev. David Beckmann, Bread’s president, and Christine Melendez Ashley, a senior policy analyst at Bread.

Maria Rose Belding, a former intern at the Alliance to End Hunger (Bread’s sister organization), who now works at a nonprofit emergency food pantry system, stressed the need for Ernst to support the Summer Meals Act of 2015. “For every seven children who receive a free school lunch, only one gets a summer meal,” she said.

A handful of Bread activists from Alabama met with a staffer in Rep. Terri Sewell’s (D-07) office. Suzanne Martin spoke about the need for members of Congress, such as Sewell, to cosponsor the Global Food Security Act. The bill would make permanent Feed the Future, which has helped more than 7 million small-scale farmers increase crop production and has provided nutritious food to more than 12.5 million children in 2013 alone.

“What I love about this bill is that creates resiliency and sustainability,” Martin said. “I hope she (Sewell) becomes a big champion of this bill.”

The day ended with a reception and worship service at the Cannon House Office Building. Four members of Congress were honored as “hunger champions” during the reception: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.-37), U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.-01), and U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, (D-Calif.-40).

Lobby Day ended with activists relaying personal stories from their day on Capitol Hill. Thanks to all who participated in this year’s Lobby Day. We can’t end hunger by 2030 without your continued strong voice!

Take Part in Virtual Lobby Day Today

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Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

By Bread Staff

Tomorrow, hundreds of Bread for the World members will be in Washington, D.C., advocating for legislation that would help end child hunger in the U.S. and around the world. Real change is possible — and we're on the precipice with three critical pieces of legislation moving in Congress right now:

  1. Child nutrition reauthorization
  2. The Global Food Security Act
  3. Budget bills that fund these programs

We realize that not everyone can make the journey to D.C., but can you take two minutes today to join us virtually ? A quick phone call (800/826-3688) or email from you will help amplify our message in a powerful way.

Please call (800/826-3688) or email Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Tell Congress to:

  1. Support legislation, like the Summer Meals Act of 2015 (H.R. 1728/S. 613), that closes the hunger gap and connects hungry children with the meals they need.
  2. Cosponsor and pass the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567/S. 1252), making permanent the U.S. food and nutrition security program, Feed the Future.
  3. Prevent cuts to programs that invest in children in the U.S. and around the world. Pass a budget deal that prevents sequestration cuts.

Want more information on these bills and talking points? Visit our virtual Lobby Day page at www.bread.org/lobbyday.

Your call or email to Congress today will make a huge impact in our work together to end hunger at home and abroad. I’m so inspired to see and hear so many people of faith, together amplifying calls to enact policies that will further that cause.

Climate Change Will Increase World Hunger

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iStockphoto

By Christopher Ford and Stephen Padre

Today is World Environment Day. Designated by the United Nations, it’s sort of a worldwide Earth Day. What gift from our environment and the Earth is more valuable and sacred than the food they produce? It keeps us alive, fuels our movement and work, and brings us pleasure.

As a Christian organization whose mission is to bring an end to hunger, Bread is concerned about our world’s food supply and, by extension, the environment, the source of food. And so, on World Environment Day, Bread wants to lift up the environment and join in the concern expressed about changes to our environment and how hunger could increase because of these changes.

To that end, Bread for the World Institute has released a Background Paper titled “Hunger and Climate Change: What’s the Connection?

The paper presents the premise that the world will not be able to end hunger and extreme poverty without confronting climate change and its threat to people who are poor and marginalized. Changing climate patterns will result in more droughts, floods, and extreme weather events, making it even harder to grow and secure food.

“It will be impossible to end hunger and extreme poverty without addressing the causes and impacts of climate change,” said Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute. “Climate change has already had a devastating effect on people’s lives, and the situation will only get worse. We need a global solution now.” 

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, housed with the United Nations, changing climate patterns are projected to dramatically undermine food security. The poorest people will continue to suffer the most, especially those living in developing countries or who are subsistence farmers. They will need help in adapting to conditions that were difficult before climate change, and are now becoming much worse.

Later this month, Pope Francis will deliver his first major papal encyclical (letter to bishops). It will address climate change. The final draft of the encyclical specifically discusses the effects of climate change on the world’s poorest people and the need for the Roman Catholic Church and the leaders of other religions to come together and help them “prepare for the challenges of unavoidable climate and eco-system changes.”

Women are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but they also possess valuable knowledge. Women grow more than half of all the food in developing countries, and up to 80 percent in parts of Africa—mostly for their family’s consumption. Extra efforts must be made to provide women with resources to adapt to climate change, as they are often overlooked by male agricultural extension agents.

Bread for the World has joined with the World Bank and leaders of 30 faith groups and organizations in calling for an end to hunger and extreme poverty by 2030. Research conducted by Bread for the World shows that ending hunger and extreme poverty is possible in 15 years. However, climate change may quickly undo any progress this is made.

“There is still time to prevent worst-case scenarios, but it will require the global community coming together to confront and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” added Lateef. “We urge our leaders to equip those who are most affected to adapt to this global crisis and implement strong measures that focus on the root causes of climate change.” 

Christopher Ford is the media relations manager at Bread for the World. Stephen Padre is Bread's managing editor.

 

Summer Meals Hard for Rural Children to Access

By Jennifer Gonzalez 

The nation’s rural children are hit hardest when it comes to accessing summer meals. The federal Summer Food Service Program provides summer meals for children at congregate sites, but those sites are often difficult to access for families in rural areas.

Lack of transportation and long distances make it hard for children to get the meals they need to grow into healthy adults.

Christine Melendez Ashley, a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World, was recently interviewed by CBN News (Christian Broadcasting Network) for a story focused on child hunger. "For every seven kids getting a free or reduced lunch, only about one gets a meal during the summer. So that's a huge gap in terms of participation,” Melendez Ashley said in the interview.

Urging Congress to reauthorize the child nutrition bill is the focus of the 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children. The bill is set to expire this fall. Make sure to join the hundreds who have already written letters to Congress.

In the meantime, we need your help to ensure Congress doesn’t make harmful cuts to programs that help people keep hunger at bay. Currently, members of the appropriations committees are deciding how much to fund each federal program, and sequestration is making their jobs very hard. Automatic sequestration cuts lower the overall spending limits.

We need your help. Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and U.S. senators today. Urge Congress to oppose cuts to the child nutrition bill and other programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and poverty-focused development assistance.

Tell Congress to address the additional sequestration cuts in a more balanced and responsible way. Congress should be investing in our children, not undermining their food security. 

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

Tell Congress to Protect Child Nutrition Programs

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Federal nutrition programs for children are a critical part of the fight against hunger. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Eric Mitchell

In March, we asked you to tell Congress to protect SNAP and other anti-hunger programs from cuts in the budget. You delivered. Now, we're hitting the next stage in these budget battles, and we need your voice again.

Will you take two minutes to call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators and tell Congress to fully fund programs that help children at risk of hunger in the U.S. and around the world?

Last month, Congress passed a budget blueprint that, if fully enacted, would increase hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world. Now, Congress is trying to figure out how to implement it. 

At this very moment, members of the appropriations committees are deciding how much to fund each federal program, and sequestration is making their jobs very hard. Automatic sequestration cuts lower the overall spending limits. This means there is less money to fund things like education and scientific research, let alone programs that effectively help people struggling to move out of poverty, such as foreign assistance and nutrition assistance for infants and low-income mothers. 

Our federal budget is an outline of the priorities of this country. Our children's health and nutrition must be a priority.

Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators today. Urge Congress to oppose cuts to programs like WIC and international poverty-focused development assistance. Tell Congress to address the additional sequestration cuts with a more balanced and responsible plan. Congress should be investing in our children, not undermining their food security. 

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

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