451 posts categorized "U.S. Hunger"
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.
Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at 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.
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.
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.
Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.
By Stephen H. Padre
"Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat" is a prayer that began a movement to take action against hunger on a day when Americans come together around football, fun, and food.
The Souper Bowl of Caring takes place every year on the day of the Super Bowl—Feb. 1 this year. The idea is simple: Led by youth, your congregation or community collects money and/or canned goods before or on Super Bowl Sunday. You report your results at tacklehunger.org, where national results are compiled and reported. You then donate 100 percent of your collection to an organization of your choice that is fighting hunger.
Make participation in this national event fun in your congregation. Some congregations serve a soup lunch after worship services. Use football images and sports metaphors to build excitement. Send youth out to collect money and canned goods from homes in the neighborhood.
The event is locally driven—you choose where your collection goes—but why not make broader connections in your participation? Pass on in-kind donations to a local organization, and give part or all of your monetary donations to an organization that works nationally or internationally, such as Bread for the World or your denomination’s hunger program. Groups across the country have donated to Bread in the past.
Start planning for your participation now. Promotional materials that you can use and adapt are available at www.souperbowl.org, where you can find information about other events around the Souper Bowl, including a service blitz.
Stephen H. Padre is the managing editor at Bread for the World.
By Bread Staff
Derick Dailey, a board member of Bread for the World, recently wrote on the issues of hunger and poverty for Yale Divinity School's Reflections: A Magazine of Theological and Ethical Inquiry.
He said "too many Americans still live on the outskirts of hope" because of the country's "broken immigration system, dysfunctional public schools, black and brown genocide in our city streets, and chronically unproductive legislative structures."
At Bread, we are committed to ending hunger by 2030. It is only with voices like Dailey’s, spreading the message of the challenges and the solutions, that ending hunger can become reality. The following are excerpts from Dailey’s insightful piece:
On how faith institutions play a role in ending hunger:
Social justice is a larger priority for faith institutions and theological education. Congregations are embracing strands of political theology to fight poverty and hunger.
Involvement looks different for each community. Some groups run local soup kitchens and food giveaways. Others ask Congress to support strong poverty-reduction policies. Others directly invest in building schools and libraries in underdeveloped countries. Another trend is the collective mobilization of their church, typically the national body, to divest from companies that do not support their vision of justice. Thanks to progressive theological education, new generations of faith leaders are demanding that social justice be central to a prophetic gospel in ecclesial bodies, businesses, and global.
On how “smart power” is changing the fight against hunger and poverty:
Smart power is now in the policy arsenal of most developed countries. Rich countries are investing unprecedented dollars toward poverty reduction to ensure stability and exert influence throughout high-conflict regions. The United Kingdom, in 2013 alone, spent 11.3 billion pounds on international aid. 7 Non-state actors such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank invest in anti-poverty policies through debt relief and development. Under President Obama, the U.S. State Department has doubled the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the executive agency tasked with issues of food aid and humanitarian assistance. Hunger reduction continues to infiltrate American mainstream political discourse and policy circles.
On how people of faith can get involved:
Ending hunger will not happen without a move of God. For the Old Testament prophets, food was, in effect, a basic human right. They remind us to seek justice for everyone, especially the orphan and the widow, so that everyone has enough to eat. There is no shortage of biblical support for food justice and God’s continued grace. So we must pray and act. Pursue food justice locally. Urge policymakers to embrace poverty-reduction strategies. Leverage your voices and your votes.
In this election season, consider contacting your federal legislators about eliminating hunger in the world. Tell them you are moved by God’s grace to work to end hunger by 2030, and your vote depends on their support for poverty-reduction policies. Encourage your church to pray for the end of hunger in its weekly devotionals, Bible study, and worship.
Dailey graduated with a master's degree from Yale Divinity School last year and is now attending Hofstra Law School in Hempstead, N.Y.
By Jennifer Gonzalez
We’re only a few weeks into the new year, and the jockeying among the hopeful 2016 presidential candidates is already underway.
Along those lines, The Washington Post had an article on its front page Monday that caught my attention. The headline reads: “Both parties agree: Economic mobility will be a defining theme of 2016 campaign.”
The story points out that about 45 million Americans live at or below the poverty line and that wage stagnation has been a persistent problem for low- and middle-income workers. At Bread, we know that hunger is not caused by a shortage of food, but rather the continued prevalence of poverty.
The most direct way to reduce hunger in the United States is through national nutrition programs. But while immediate food assistance to hungry people is vital, it is not enough. Other ways to combat poverty include a strong U.S. job market that provides employment opportunities for everyone; work-support programs such as the earned income tax credit and child tax credit, which help families keep more of their money; and child nutrition programs that set up children for healthy lives, free of poverty.
The fact that both Democrats and Republicans are talking about poverty is good news for Bread. As a bipartisan organization, we are always interested in working with both parties to move the cause of ending hunger forward.
Bread’s goal is to help end hunger by 2030. One way to accomplish that is to make ending hunger and poverty a national priority by 2017. The federal government can’t do the work alone. However, it can provide the necessary framework to make it happen.
The next president needs to make ending hunger in the United States a top priority and hunger and poverty in the world a top-20 priority. At Bread, we’ve already started this process through our collaboration with the Circle of Protection, a collection of denominations, relief and development agencies, and other Christian organizations with a mission to protect vital programs for people in or near poverty in the United States and around the world.
The Circle of Protection plans to challenge the 2016 presidential candidates to produce video statements on how they propose to provide help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in the U.S. and abroad. The videos will be disseminated in an effort to inform the public.
Why is Bread looking so far ahead? Ending hunger is no small feat, and it will take years to do it. We believe we have a unique opportunity in the election of our next president to urge him or her as the top executive leader, along with lawmakers in the legislative branch of government, to adopt these priorities. President Obama’s successor could be in office for two terms through 2025, which puts us very close to 2030.
In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030. It’s only with persistence and prayer that we can build the political will to end hunger here and abroad.
Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.
By Alyssa Casey
For many, a college degree represents a path to a better job and a more financially secure future. But with rising tuition and housing costs, many college students simply trying to access a quality education struggle with hunger.
According to Feeding America’s Hunger in 2014 study, 1 in 10 adults receiving assistance from Feeding America-sponsored food pantries is a student. Two million of these students are full-time, and 1 million are part-time students.
At Humboldt State University (HSU) in Arcata, Calif., students, faculty, and community groups decided to do something about this. These groups united to address hunger on their campus and campuses across the United States and created Food for Thought.
The program provides assistance to food-insecure students through a campus food cupboard, which opened in October. The cupboard stocks a variety of foods, including dried beans, canned goods, and spices, to provide students in need not just empty calories, but nutritious and balanced meals. The program also serves as a bridge by connecting students to more sustainable food and housing assistance such as CalFresh, California’s state food assistance program.
The students and faculty members involved with Food for Thought know that addressing hunger means more than just providing emergency food. They are diving deeper, conducting research to better understand the scope and causes of college food insecurity. Even though colleges across the United States are increasingly aware of the problem, there are no comprehensive nationwide surveys of student hunger.
The results of initial HSU student-led research show that 1 in 3 HSU students say that they sometimes or often run out of food and have no additional money to purchase more, while 1 in 5 regularly skipped meals because of lack of money to purchase food.
Follow-up research led by HSU students and faculty is currently under way. Food for Thought plans to use this research to push for greater awareness and advocate to eliminate procedural hurdles that prevent students from receiving long-term food assistance.
Hunger is a health issue that affects not only physical health, but cognitive functions and academic performance. That is why Bread for the World consistently works to strengthen children’s access to school meals and other child nutrition programs.
Bread plans to work diligently this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall. In fact, 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 also protects funding for federal and state food assistance such as SNAP and advocates for a living wage and refundable tax credits, so adult students can continue their education without facing hunger and poverty.
Efforts like HSU’s Food for Thought show that just a few concerned people can make progress toward ending hunger. In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger in your community, get involved in local projects like Food for Thought, and join us in advocating for policies that eliminate barriers and increase opportunities for our neighbors struggling with hunger and poverty.
Alyssa Casey is a government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.
Editor’s note: Bread Blog is running a six-part series highlighting Bread for the World’s legislative wins in 2014. Today’s post looks at appropriations funding for programs that prevent hunger and promote economic development.
By Bread Staff
In the final days of the 113th legislative session, Congress passed a $1.01 trillion spending bill, funding most government programs through September 2015. Despite a very tough fiscal climate, programs that address hunger and poverty did fairly well.
On the domestic front, the spending bill includes $6.23 billion in funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), enough to cover current and projected caseloads. The money will also go toward funding breastfeeding peer counselors, infrastructure, and management information systems.
Other funding includes $25 million for school equipment and breakfast expansion grants and $16 million for summer food demonstration projects. This gives us a leg up on our 2015 Offering of Letters campaign, which will focus on child nutrition programs. These programs include school and summer meals programs. Bread is seeking expansion of these programs when they are reauthorized in 2015 so more children can get the meals they need.
Congress also approved increased funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which ensures low-income seniors get adequate meals. The funding included $2.8 million to expand the program to seven new states: Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Internationally, Congress increased funding for poverty-focused development assistance to $27 billion, a significant increase from last year’s level of $24 billion. The boost is largely due to the Ebola supplemental funding that President Obama had requested. The funding will go toward international disaster assistance, global health, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) operating expenses.
The additional supplemental funding will help ensure that the United States responds not only to the crisis in West Africa, but also continues to support ongoing development and humanitarian efforts in other regions in the world.
Bread also saw another win this year when USAID launched its multi-sector nutrition strategy in May. This strategy ensures nutrition remains a focus across development projects from education and hygiene to agriculture and gender equality. It scales up work targeted at children’s first 1,000 days from pregnancy to the child’s second birthday. Maternal and child nutrition during this period has lasting effects on long-term growth and cognitive development.
Bread for the World and Bread for the World Institute have been active participants in the 1,000 Days advocacy movement and in the development of USAID’s nutrition strategy. The launch of the strategy represents a major success for the global health and nutrition advocacy community.
“Our legislative wins aren’t always grabbing headlines, but they’re significant and affect millions of lives,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World. “This list of legislative accomplishments reminds us that sustained, faithful advocacy really works and really does bring change. We’ve got our work cut out for us in 2015, but let these successes of 2014 motivate, inspire, and energize us for the path ahead.”
The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act is set to expire September 2015. We’ll need your help to ensure that Congress continues to make nutrition for children a priority. Stay informed about the key issues regarding child hunger in the United States.
Photo: Students eating lunch at Wolcott Elementary School in West Hartford, Conn. Vivian Felten/USDA.
In Oregon, 27.3 percent of children were food insecure in 2012. Nationally, 15.8 million American children lived in food insecure households. (Robin Stephenson)
By Robin Stephenson
We have a problem in Oregon: We have one of the highest rates of hunger in the nation. Oregonian columnist David Sarasohn wrote that if there was a town called poverty it would be the largest city in Oregon.
That town would look a lot like Jordan Valley in rural Malheur County. The beauty of the high desert landscape belies a hidden reality of hunger and poverty; one in four residents live below the poverty line. In 2010, 24.3 percent of residents utilized food stamps, compared to 14.6 percent in the Portland metropolitan area. Malheur County has a 30.1% rate of child food insecurity - meaning kids are skipping meals.
Like jobs, resources in Jordan Valley are limited; the nearest full-service grocery store is nearly 100 miles away. Approximately 80 students are bused to school each day from remote ranches and 50 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch based on family income.
So, hearing Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) report that Jordan Valley dropped their free and reduced-price lunch program made my jaw drop. This makes no sense.
Kids learn better, graduate at higher rates, and are healthier when they have access to a nutritious lunch. There is a lot at stake here. The United States has a federal program that subsidizes school lunch, but the program is optional.
The problem is that the program isn’t working for Jordan Valley.
Sharon Thornberry, a Bread for the World board member, sees the urban-rural hunger divide in her work as the community food systems manager at the Oregon Food Bank. She views hunger at the community level. Thornberry says Jordan Valley exposes a policy issue that needs attention. She told OPB that the lunch program no longer works for rural communities. “I can remember them telling me in Jordan Valley that each meal cost them a dollar more than the federal reimbursement,” she said.
Economically depressed districts need full reimbursement for school lunches or other policy interventions that are specific to the circumstances rural communities face today.
Jordan Valley is not unique – rural towns across America experience higher rates of hunger and poverty. Of course, the permanent solution to our hunger problem is a job that pays enough to support a family. In the meantime, the school lunch program is a critical tool to combat child hunger.
I grew up in a town similar to Jordan Valley and bused to school from our small family farm. I am thankful for the free lunch I received that took the pressure off my parents during some tough economic times. Sometimes, we all need a little help.
The program that authorizes the national school lunch program expires September 30, 2015. In the reauthorization process, members of Congress have an opportunity to strengthen the program so it works for dual communities, especially Greg Walden, who has constituents in Jordan Valley.
Learn more in this new briefing paper: Ending Hunger in the United States.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.
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