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376 posts categorized "U.S. Hunger"
Photo: A screening of A Place at the Table. (Amanda Lucidon for Bread for the World)
By Anneke Essenburg
On April 5, I woke up at 5 a.m., and by 6 a.m., I was on the road with four other Calvin College students and two leaders of the Christian Reformed Church’s Social Justice Office, headed to Washington, D.C. Twelve hours, two stops, and many Twizzlers later, we arrived!
We went south for the weekend to attend the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference. This year, the focus was on food justice, a topic that our student organization, the Social Justice Coalition, is really passionate about. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we learned about all aspects of food justice and the farm bill, and then on Monday we lobbied on Capitol Hill.
At the conference we learned about the movie A Place at the Table, and one of the women featured in the film, Barbie Izquierdo, was there to share her story. Midway through our journey home, we began discussing how we could share what we learned with the Calvin community, in order to widen the advocacy base.
So, on Thursday, May 2, we held a screening of A Place at the Table, followed by a panel discussion. Our panelists were Marge Palmerlee from Degage Ministries, Emma Rosauer from Access of West Michigan, and Chuck Clemence, coordinator of the Grand Rapids Bread for the World team.
The first step in educating others and involving them in ending hunger is just deciding to take action. There are logistical details to work out—contacting panelists, purchasing showing rights, advertising—but it isn’t about having a perfect event, it’s about reaching out and offering knowledge.
Sure, I spent time stressing over whether or not anyone would come. But you know what? They did. Our job is not to force people to come, or to force people to care. Only God can do that. Our job is to be faithful, to act, to do something. Because if we do nothing, then nothing will change.
There are 50 million people in America who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. This is not right. We need to do something. I need to do something. You need to do something.
Anneke Essenburg is a student at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a leader in the student organization Social Justice Coalition (SJC).
Today, the House Committee on Agriculture will consider a farm bill that would cut SNAP by more than $20 billion over ten years. While food pantries and churches do amazing work in feeding hungry people, their efforts cannot counteract that sort of blow to such a vital program. In 2011, federal nutrition programs delivered more than 23 times the amount of food assistance as did private charities.
Churches can't do it alone—the government must do its part.
Check out Bread for the World's fact sheet, "Churches and Hunger" to learn more about how SNAP cuts would tax churches, food banks, and private food charities beyond their limits. And if your representative sits on the House Committee on Agriculture, call 1-800-326-4941 today and tell him or her that cuts to SNAP are unacceptable.
CWS CROP walk participant signs a Bread for the World petition to President Obama asking him to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad. (Robin Stephenson).
By Robin Stephenson
Ending hunger takes a village. Churches, non-profits, and faithful individuals respond to hunger in different ways. Holistic approaches to fighting hunger acknowledge immediate need while also advocating for changes to policies that address the root causes of hunger and poverty.
CROP Hunger Walks, community-wide events sponsored by CWS and organized by local volunteers as a way to raise funds to end hunger, illustrate that action and advocacy can join forces in one event.
Last Sunday, Church World Service, Bread for the World, and the Portland, Ore., community came together around the issue of hunger. Nearly 100 participants, old and young—some participating as congregational teams—walked through sunny downtown Portland on a spring day. The walkers, who carried banners and hand-made signs, raised awareness of hunger and drew questions from others enjoying the warm afternoon.
Volunteer Lisa Wenzlick coordinated the walkers, and Steven Anderson served as treasurer. First Christian Church provided hospitality as well as a starting and ending point. Participants raised funds which will be used support local efforts to address hunger as well as CWS’s global work.
The day was rounded out with an advocacy action on behalf of hungry and poor people as individuals signed Bread for the World’s petition asking the president to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad.
Bread for the World has long had a close relationship with CWS and many CROP Walks nationwide are a reflection of this partnership.
If you would like to get involved, find out if there is a CROP Walk near you or learn how you can organize one in your community.
By Nina Keehan
Ray Canterbury, a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, recently proposed that children should have to work for their free school lunches, an addition he wanted included in the Feed to Achieve Act (Senate Bill 663). The bill, which passed by overwhelming majority without his additions, makes breakfast and lunch available for free to every K-12 student in West Virginia through foundations that collect private donations and grants.
"I think it would be a good idea if perhaps we had the kids work for their lunches: trash to be taken out, hallways to be swept, lawns to be mowed, make them earn it,” Canterbury said during the debate. “If they miss a lunch or they miss a meal they might not, in that class that afternoon, learn to add, they may not learn to diagram a sentence, but they'll learn a more important lesson.”
Although Canterbury's proposal was roundly criticized by his fellow delegates, with both Republicans and Democrats voicing opposition, the controversial idea continues received national media attention, and the general public has continued the debate.
The government’s efforts to improve child nutrition through school feeding programs, as the Feed to Achieve Act aims to do, should be supported by all lawmakers who want students to excel regardless of their family’s income. Kids who eat breakfast and lunch perform better in school and have fewer behavioral issues in class, putting them in a better position to succeed.
The last thing we need to do is make it harder for the kids who need assistance to get it. Already, child nutrition programs don’t reach everyone who needs them. Today, 20.6 million schoolchildren receive free or reduced-price lunches, but 11 million of those don’t receive any breakfast assistance. Having a “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” mentality will keep millions of America’s children from realizing their true potential.
Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.
Sterling Farms, the buzzed-about grocery store chain started by Wendell Pierce, the actor best known as "Bunk" from the HBO show The Wire, is now open for business.
Pierce, along with his business partners, has been working to place markets and convenience stores in food deserts in his native New Orleans. Sterling Farms is not just putting nutritious, fresh food where there was none before—the people behind the business are working to figure out how to tackle the problem of food access from many different angles. One perk the stores offer is especially great—the chain gives free rides to those who spend more than $50.
When I first saw the clip below, I was watching TV with a good friend who once received SNAP, and she thought the ride program was a brilliant idea. She told me that when she received benefits, trying to find a way to get to the store was a monthly source of stress.
She lived near an upscale supermarket, but the prices were high—her money stretched further if she could get to Shoppers Food Warehouse, Aldi, Bottom Dollar, or one of the other bargain grocery store chains in Virginia. Unfortunately, those stores weren't easily reached by bus. Besides, a bus ride meant her food purchases were determined by what she could carry, rather than personal taste, nutritional value, or cost. Every month she had to find a ride to the store, come up with a few bucks of gas money to offer the driver, and then worry if the person would actually come through for her.
Lack of transportation can be an insurmountable barrier to food: Bread for the World has explored how the suspension of school bus service during the summer affects the effectiveness of school lunch programs during those months, and the ways in which cutting city bus service can hinder the ability of people to get to food.
As we work to ensure that everyone has a place at the table by petitioning the president and writing to Congress, it's nice to know that businesses are thinking about how they too can tear down the obstacles that stand between hungry people and affordable, nutritious food.
Sarah Godfrey is Bread for the World's associate online editor.
By Robin Stephenson
The fiscal year 2014 budget resolutions from both the House and Senate budget committees are now public record. Yesterday, President Obama introduced his budget proposal. These three budgets may seem confusing because they make very different choices on spending, cuts, and taxes. We will explain what it all means, what’s next, and why hunger advocates should care.
It’s important for advocates who care about hunger issues to understand budgets because they set the foundation for policy that either addresses or ignores hunger and poverty. Combined with spending caps and the automatic cuts created through sequestration as part of the Budget Control Act, the FY2014 budget will be an important legislative vehicle to watch. Faithful advocates must demand a balanced approach with love of neighbor at its center. Budgets are moral documents that reflect our national priorities.
The House budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), is bad news for poor and vulnerable populations. If enacted, it would dramatically increase poverty. By balancing the budget in 10 years without raising revenue, the proposal from Ryan, who is House Budget Committee chairman, prioritizes defense spending and decimates programs that alleviate hunger (such as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which would force millions back into poverty. While defense spending receives $550 billion more than under sequestration, non-defense discretionary spending is cut $700 billion below sequestration levels, forcing cuts to programs including poverty -focused development assistance and the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)—both of which save lives and provide stepping stones out of poverty.
It is currently unlikely that we’ll see such draconian cuts become reality through this budget process. The Senate’s resolution, by contrast, reflects a more balanced approach and, unlike the House version, replaces sequestration, the automatic cuts currently in effect (see a side-by-side comparison of the two budget proposals).
They found everything from longer emergency medical response times in Nebraska to kids being kicked out of Head Start programs in Pennsylvania. Most of the cuts impact hunger and poverty in some way—closed facilities and furloughs affect the ability of people to put food on their tables. Below is a sampling of just a few of the cuts, all attributed to the sequester, that had immediately measurable consequences for hungry and poor people:
On March 2, 2013, Alliance to End Hunger hosted the 2nd Hunger Free Communities Summit in Washington, D.C. The one-day event provided current and aspiring Hunger Free Community organizers a forum to hear from experts about innovative models for building coalitions to end hunger; learn about best practices to coordinate hunger relief; and share experiences and successful strategies.
The summit brought together nonprofit, religious, private sector, and public sector leaders committed to ending hunger in their communities. Ambassador Tony Hall, executive director of Alliance to End Hunger opened the summit. Rev. David Beckmann delivered the keynote address, focusing on the role of advocacy as fundamental to ending hunger. Beckmann is the president of Alliance to End Hunger and Bread for the World.
Break out sessions included discussion around such topics as amplifying the voices of hungry and poor people, leveraging federal nutrition programs, strategies for reaching vulnerable populations, and ensuring access to healthy and affordable food. Speakers included former Congresswoman Eva Clayton (D-N.C.); Rosemary Johnston of the Maryland Governor’s Office on Children; Jeremy Everett of the Texas Hunger Initiative; Dave Miner of the Indianapolis Food Resource Network; and Barbie Izqierdo of Witnesses to Hunger (Izquierdo is featured in the documentary on hunger A Place at the Table).
To view photos from the event, visit our Flickr page or view the slideshow below.
[This piece originally appeared in the April 2013 edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.]
By Sarah Godfrey
This weekend, the Washington Post ran a feature story about a Rhode Island town where SNAP is not only keeping families fed, but businesses afloat. In a long piece filled with heartbreaking statistics and anecdotes about the effects of the economic downturn, one detail is especially wrenching—the fact that two of the story's subjects, who are struggling to put food on the table, work in grocery stores.
Rebecka and Jourie Ortiz, a couple living in Woonsocket, R.I., are working hard to feed themselves and their two young daughters. After a period of unemployment—they both lost their jobs to downsizing—they find work in local supermarkets:
They had applied for jobs until finally, late in 2012, they had both been hired for the only work high school graduates were finding in a low-wage recovery: part time at a nearby supermarket, the nicest one in the area, a two-story Stop & Shop across the Massachusetts line.
She made $8 an hour, and he earned $9. She worked days in produce, and he worked nights as a stocker. Their combined monthly income of $1,700 was still near the poverty line, and they still qualified for SNAP.
Hungry and poor people are, more and more, finding themselves in the position of serving and stocking food that is increasingly out of their reach. The number of U.S jobs in food service—which includes grocery store clerks, restaurant staff, and warehouse and field workers—has seen growth during the recession, but wages for those positions has dropped.
Last year, the Food Chain Workers Alliance explored that issue in its study "The Hand That Feeds Us." According to the report, "[m]ore than 86 percent of workers reported earning subminimum, poverty, and low wages, resulting in a sad irony: food workers face higher levels of food insecurity, or the inability to afford to eat, than the rest of the U.S. workforce."
Spending all day arranging produce in alluring, glistening towers or bagging up hot, greasy fries only to get home and face an empty cupboard seems an especially harsh injustice. Susan Herman, who is writing about her family's SNAP budget challenge, recently blogged about this exchange with a supermarket employee:
“I wish I got paid enough to afford Girl Scout cookies," said the Raley’s employee when our Brownies tried to sell him cookies at a site sale a few weeks ago. He smiled, then coupled on several more grocery carts to the one he’d wheeled in from the parking lot, and clatter-squeaked back into the store.
“Oh. Hmm,” the girls nodded. Then, remembering their coached response they called to his red-vested back, “Thanks anyway!”
I’m not about to rant about how low-wage workers should be able to afford Girl Scout cookies....You can buy cookies at the store with SNAP benefits, but not Girl Scout cookies.
Still, the Raley’s cart-retriever struck a nerve. He may not actually be living in poverty or even approaching 130 percent of the poverty line–at which point he’d be eligible for SNAP–but many workers do. Why is that?
Federal nutrition programs help low-wage workers feed themselves and their families, but many of them still struggle. The Post article on Woonsocket shows just how difficult it can be for families to put food on the table, even on more than one income. The reporter catches a moment when the family is running low on food—it's the last day of the month and they are rationing to be sure their girls have enough to eat. Jourie turns down a simple snack before starting off on his mile-long walk to Stop & Shop, the food emporium that employs him.
Now [Rebecka] reached into the refrigerator and grabbed two string cheeses for her daughters. Then she reached back for a third.
“Do you want a snack for work?” she asked Jourie, who was getting dressed for his midnight shift.
“Do we have enough?”
“I think so,” she said, handing him the cheese. “But I’m shopping tomorrow.”
“I’ll wait,” he said, handing it back. He stood up and hugged her goodbye.
Sarah Godfrey is Bread for the World's associate online editor.
Write your members of Congress and urge them to ensure a place at the table for all people by providing adequate funding for programs, such as SNAP, that address hunger and help lift people out of poverty.
By Robin Stephenson
“It’s going to take a snowball effect” to replace the sequester, said Bread for the World’s senior policy analyst, Amelia Kegan, during a recent webinar with Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs (DHN) coalition partners. “There needs to be a political cost where there are proposals that harm poor and vulnerable populations, and we need your help."
DHN members, including the National Council of Churches, NETWORK Lobby, and Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), joined Kegan for an informative hourlong webinar last week. The event began with an overview of the sequester, from the Budget Control Act of 2011, which established sequestration, to the present-day reality of what the enacted legislation means for poor and hungry people.
The reality is bleak. Raechel Banks, Eisendrath legislative assistant at the RAC, ran through the list of consequences that will occur if the 5.1 percent across the board cuts of the sequester are not replaced with a balanced approach. Nationally, approximately 600,000 women and children are expected to lose nutrition assistance through WIC and 100,000 formerly homeless people will lose housing.
Further complicating, and potentially worsening, the effect of the automatic cuts is the FY14 House-proposed Ryan Budget, which shields defense and balances the budget in ten years on cuts alone—with the majority targeting programs that assist poor and hungry people.
Banks emphasized the need to tell stories at the community level and pointed out that the Coalition on Human Needs has state fact sheets that can be helpful when preparing to speak to members of Congress or write a letter to the editor. Turning the statistics into stories, though, is critical in moving legislators to action.
The importance of turning the issue of the proposed cuts into a public dialogue, versus a political one, was echoed by special guest speakers Darrel Thompson and Bruce King, both senior staffers for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
“I really believe the faith community has an authentic voice that can speak above and beyond the partisan nature on the Hill,” said Thompson. “It's an opportunity to speak about things from compassion— from a human needs perspective.”
King emphasized the importance of local media and its ability to translate broad issues to the community level. “The more you can highlight the local impact of people affected in your community, the more likely to influence Congress,” he said.
The bottom line is this: whether or not Congress takes action depends on how much they hear from an outraged public. We must demand that the sequester be replaced with a balanced plan that protects poor and vulnerable populations. Consider how you can make noise. We are encouraging Bread for the World members to make their voices heard by making local visits to members of Congress, writing letters to their senators and representatives, and joining the public discussion through writing letters to the editor. Here is a simple guide to assist you.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.