378 posts categorized "U.S. Hunger"
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.
By Sarah Godfrey
Americans underestimate the problem of hunger in the United States—even at a time when so many in this country are experiencing it firsthand.
According to a recent public opinion poll from Participant Media, the company behind the documentary A Place at the Table, roughly 61 percent of Americans have, at some point, received assistance from the government or from a food bank or soup kitchen to help feed themselves, and more than 7 in 10 Americans know someone who has struggled to put food on the table. And while 4 out of 5 survey respondents said that they thought food insecurity is a problem in America, the majority of them were unaware of the scope of the problem.
"Most Americans are surprised to hear that there are 50 million suffering from food insecurity in America," according to "Food Insecurity in America: U.S. Public Opinion About Solving Hunger and Obesity." On average, those polled thought the number to be around 19 million.
In a Takepart.com piece about the poll that ran last week, writer Allan MacDonnell wrote that the most outstanding finding that this data brings to light is that "[w]e haven’t summoned the will to feed the people who live here."
Americans definitely want to work to address hunger, though. The report found that more than 90 percent of Americans have previously made a food donation, either physical or monetary, to help those in need, but less than a quarter of those polled said they'd be willing to call their congressional representative to advocate for policies to end hunger in America—even though the vast majority of food for the hungry comes from federal programs. Considering ongoing federal budget negotiations that place key anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs at risk, that attitude toward advocacy must change—and fast.
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 that address hunger and help lift people out of poverty. Then take to social media and tell your friends and family to follow your lead!
In February, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) started his series of End Hunger Now speeches on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. So far, he has covered everything from SNAP to the link between obesity and hunger. Today, in his fifth floor speech, McGovern talked about the documentary A Place at the Table.
"The truth is that hunger is solvable—we have the means, the infrastructure and the food to end hunger," he said. "We just don’t have the political will to do so. This point is delivered in a clear, concise and emotional way in a documentary that is in theaters now. Called A Place at the Table, this film, at its core, may be a simple story of hunger in America, [but] it’s really an emotional tale about how people are struggling with hunger in America. About piecing just enough together to make ends meet—day-by-day, week-by-week and month-by-month."
McGovern talked at length about the film's social action campaign, of which Bread for the World is a partner, and said it marks "the first time in recent memory that there is a dedicated effort to end hunger tied directly to a mainstream film that is nationally garnering critical acclaim."
"[I]’m pleased and impressed that a strong, coordinated social action plan accompanies the film. This comprehensive plan can be found online at www.takepart.com/table, and I encourage everyone to take a look at this website.
"Once there, people will be able to find important resources, including ways to access food assistance if they need help; an online gallery of artists, politicians, teachers, writers, and business and community leaders who once needed help through SNAP—the primary federal anti-hunger safety program; and a list of partners who are helping combat hunger through this film," McGovern continued. "Most importantly, it outlines ways that people can help make hunger a national priority now and it includes specific actions that people can take in their communities."Watch McGovern's full speech below. Check to see if A Place at the Table is showing at a theater in your area, or watch the film on iTunes or OnDemand. You can urge your members of Congress to make ending hunger a priority through the film's social action campaign or Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters campaign.
Programs such as WIC, which is dominated by women in their twenties, face serious sequestration cuts. Here in an archival USDA photo, a young mother and her daughter visit a WIC office. (USDA/National Archives and Records Administration)
By Nina Keehan
As the $85 billion in sequestration cuts start to take effect over the next few months, many billions of dollars will be siphoned from programs aimed at helping the most vulnerable Americans. Poor people. Hungry people. And twenty-somethings?
That’s right, young people have a lot at stake as the budget cuts go into effect. The sequester will have dire consequences for twenty-something who are already living below the poverty line, and will also harm young people who are looking to escape poverty through education. The idea of the college years, and the period right after graduation, as a time filled with learning and carefree discovery is falling away—many college students and recent graduates are living in poverty, are homeless, or using government assistance to stay afloat.
As of May 2012, the U.S. unemployment rate for 20-24 year olds stood at 13.5 percent, several percentage points higher than the national average. The recession has also forced more than 6 million young people to move back in with their parents for economic reasons. Over 45 percent of them would have incomes below the poverty line if living alone. What was meant to be a temporary fix is quickly becoming a permanent reality.
College students and recent grads are going to face some of the most detrimental cuts as federal work-study programs and payments to millions of student loan borrowers are about to be reduced.
“That would mean for the fall as many as 70,000 students would lose access to grants and to work-study opportunities,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated in a White House briefing Feb. 27. “And if young people lose access to grants and lose access to work study, my fear … is many of them would not be able to enroll in college, would not be able to go back. And, again, do we want a less-educated workforce?”
This is a workforce that is already looking at a dim future. U.S. economic growth is expected to drop by nearly one-third this year, meaning even fewer new jobs in an already competitive market. Such cuts threaten to rob millions of young people of the opportunities that gainful employment and higher education promise.
Additionally, programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which is dominated by women in their twenties, are bracing for huge cuts. Over the next few months, if lawmakers can’t come to a better solution than the sequester, more than 600,000 women and children will lose access to the assistance that, for decades, has given vulnerable families an equal footing.
It’s easy as a twenty-something to ignore the reality and pretend that the sequester doesn’t affect us. But it’s real. Sequester cuts will make it harder for us to get jobs, harder to make a living without the help of our families, and harder for those of us who are already struggling to feed our children and to prosper. It’s important that we call our members of Congress and express our outrage over these across-the-board cuts and the negative impact they will have. We are the future of America, so why are we quiet?
Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.
Broccoli from the Herman family garden, and an orange from a neighbor's tree. (Photo courtesy of the Herman family)
The Herman family, members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) living in California's Central Valley, have decided to follow a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food budget during Lent. They will be blogging about their journey and sharing their stories on the Bread Blog.
By Ivan Herman
Week two was a bit tight. The kids were out of school for President’s Week, so instead of receiving “free lunch,” their lunches had to be covered by our SNAP budget. Additionally, my parents were visiting from North Carolina and participating with us on the Food Stamp Challenge. While we added $1.10 per person, per meal during their visit, there were a number of moments when I could tell that Grandpop was going through pie and cookie withdrawal. With the exception of an ice cream splurge by Grandpop for the kids (I admit—we all enjoyed it) that he proclaimed was an “even families on SNAP sometimes get treats from grandparents” moment, we did pretty well in sticking to the budget.
Toward the end of the month, though, we started to feel the pinch. Thank goodness for the backyard. We have a neighbor with a lemon and two orange trees that overhang our fence by a few feet. The Meyer lemons and navel oranges added some variety to a couple of days that started looking carbohydrate-heavy with rice and flour from the pantry. A family from church who live down the street brought over some of the oranges off their backyard tree, too.
I’m also harvesting some broccoli from our garden. It ain’t necessarily pretty, but it is edible. SNAP benefits do allow for the purchase of seeds. With a little patience, some educational resources, a bit of a green thumb, and some access to land or a community garden, it’s possible to grow food at low cost.
But such a combination for many people is often difficult to come by, particularly in urban areas.
Backyard gardens are not a solution to hunger for most people. Not only does it take additional time, effort, and acreage many don’t have, there is also no guarantee of success, and efforts to improve backyard yield often cost more than the food itself would. My Dad tells a tale of deer devastating his tomato garden, so the one lonely tomato he harvested cost him more than $200. (For a similar tale of the cost-ineffectiveness of home gardening, listen to last year’s Freakonomics podcast, The Tale of the $15 Tomato.)
There are some organizations that provide food solutions that come from gardens. Soil Born Farms, an urban farming initiative aims to educate urban dwellers about growing food. They also organize Harvest Sacramento, a movement to harvest fruits from neighborhood trees that could otherwise go to waste. More than 53,000 pounds of fruit was harvested and donated out of back yards in Sacramento in 2012 through this program.
Food assistance organizations like food closets and food pantries sometimes gladly accept fresh backyard produce to distribute to those in need. They can’t often receive fresh produce through food banks, and grocery stores often have policies to prevent them from donating expired, but still good produce. Websites like AmpleHarvest.org catalog the places where you can take all those eggplants and zucchinis that overrun your backyard garden in the summer so that others may enjoy the fruits of your labors. Other organizations like Senior Gleaners, Society of Saint Andrew, and Gleanings for the Hungry accept surplus or unsold produce from farmers and farm stands and put it to good use to feed the hungry in this country and around the world. Look for organizations like these in your neck of the woods.
Ivan Herman is associate pastor at Carmichael Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, Calif.
“The sequester breaks the circle of protection,” says Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann in a recent interview on “Viewpoint” (Current TV) with John Fugelsang.
Last week, nearly 100 pastors and religious leaders from across a wide spectrum of the church addressed our nation’s leaders through a joint letter. They counseled President Barack Obama, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to be clear about the moral choices they are making, as the Bible tells us that the government has responsibilities concerning poor people.
The consequences, both globally and domestically, of indiscriminate cuts are dire for hungry and poor people. If action isn't taken to fix the sequester, 600,000 women and children will lose their WIC nutrition assistance. Cuts to foreign assistance will cost lives as vulnerable people overseas will no longer have access to medication for AIDS and tuberculosis. For more on sequestration, and a list of anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs that are affected, download our new fact sheet, "The Consequences of Sequestration ."
In the “Viewpoint” interview, Rev. Beckmann notes that the decisions around the deficit reflect our national values: “This is a tough decision. You know, it’s not a trivial decision but figuring out how to cut back—how to reduce our deficit without hurting people who are having a hard time feeding their kids—is really important to our national character.”
It’s not too late to avoid the worst of the effects of the sequester if Congress develops a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Any solution must include both smart spending cuts and new revenue in order to put our nation on a sustainable path while maintaining our commitment to reducing hunger and poverty. It all depends on the level of outrage and outcry from the American public. Join Bread for the World this week in asking Congress to replace the sequester. Calling your members of Congress at 1-800-826-3688 and urge them to support programs for hungry and poor people.
A regular legislative update
from Bread for the World's government relations team.
to Action: Ask the
administration and your members
of Congress to replace the automatic cuts known as sequestration with a comprehensive, balanced, and bipartisan approach to
deficit reduction. The final package must protect programs for hungry and
poor people and includes increased revenue. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use our toll free number: 1-800-826-3688.
Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, "A Place at the Table," launches today. The 2013 Offering of Letters asks you to sign a petition to the president as well as write letters to Congress. You can order a kit here, if you haven't already done so, and be sure to contact your regional organizer for more information about the campaign. The documentary A Place at the Table opens in theaters, iTunes and on demand today as well.
Write Letters to Congress: ask your senators and representative to protect programs vital to hungry and poor people.
The most immediate threat to programs addressing hunger and poverty is sequestration, which goes into effect today. Sequestration imposes a 5.3 percent across the board cut to federal programs like WIC and poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. For more on sequestration basics and a list of anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs that are affected, you can download our fact sheet, "The Consequences of Sequestration."
Congress is considering a number of proposals to eliminate the sequester for the remainder of the fiscal year. However, some of the proposals unfairly place the burden on programs such as WIC, PFDA, and other programs that help lift people out of poverty. We are urging Congress to replace the sequester with a bipartisan, balanced approach to deficit reduction that includes smart spending cuts and new revenues.
Political leaders will be paying close attention to the nation’s reaction to the sequester as we lead up to the next fiscal showdown later in March, the expiration of the continuing resolution currently keeping the government funded. If there is significant outrage over the impact of the cuts, Congress will address the sequester when it takes up the rest of the budget for FY2013 by March 27. If public opinion isn’t forceful enough, we are likely to see these cuts become the new normal and vital programs will be underfunded for years to come.
Stay tuned for an action alert next week as we learn more; encourage your friends and family to get involved. Building momentum and political will in the next few weeks is critical and will require a loud constituency. Phone calls, messages through social media, and emails to members of Congress will be essential to saving these programs.
Petition the President to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad.
We now have more than 7000 signatures on the petition asking President Barak Obama to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger at home and abroad. If you haven’t already done so, sign the petition today, and encourage others in your network to join you.
This week, nearly 100 pastors and religious leaders from across a wide spectrum of the church addressed our nation’s leaders through a joint letter. They counseled President Barak Obama, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to be clear about the moral choices they are making, as the Bible tells us that the government has responsibilities concerning poor people.
By Rev. Gary Cook
It may sound a little silly to write a “pastoral” letter to the president and congressional leaders. Politicians, after all, usually respond to power and money, not the advice of clerics. But right now, as the sequester looms and it is obvious that the political process is stuck— if not broken—it may be time for a little pastoral counseling.
Today nearly 100 Christian leaders from across the wide spectrum of the church spoke with one voice to our nation’s leaders. National leaders of Catholic, protestant, Orthodox, Pentecostal, and evangelical churches—leaders representing broad racial and ethnic diversity—offered encouragement and wise counsel in the form of a joint letter. We thanked them for their efforts and told them that we're praying for them. We urged them to skip the brinksmanship and compromise on spending cuts and revenues. We asked them to remember that the Bible tells us that the government has responsibilities concerning poor people. We told them to be clear about the moral choices they are making.
Our leaders would be wise to listen to such advice. But it is the paragraph that begins with “Finally” that is most exciting to me:
Finally, we ask both parties to work together toward ending hunger and poverty. The Circle of Protection continues to be committed to protecting vital programs for people in or near poverty in our country and around the world, but that is not enough. Help us reduce hunger and poverty by expanding opportunity and justice, promoting economic growth and good paying jobs, stabilizing family life, and protecting the well-being of children. We celebrate the progress the world is making against hunger, poverty, and disease, and we are encouraged by the possibility of ending extreme hunger and poverty globally. Dramatic progress against hunger and poverty in our richly blessed country is also possible. Please, protect the poor and help create the opportunities that make them poor no more.
After two years of being in the defensive “please don’t cut” mode, Christian leaders are asking Congress and the president to look beyond their current squabbles toward a goal of actually ending hunger and poverty. That’s good pastoral advice.Rev. Gary Cook is director of church relations at Bread for the World.
Derick Dailey teaches a Bible study class at Bethel A.M.E. Church in New Haven, Conn. A seminary student at Yale University, Derick learned about sharing his bounty from his grandmother as he was growing up in Little Rock, Ark. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof ....
When Derick Dailey’s grandmother passed away in August 2012, he was asked by his family members to send a message to her as she departed.
"I said her favorite verse in her ear. I whispered, The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and all that dwell therein."
Derick recalls his grandmother repeating that verse frequently while he was growing up in her home in North Little Rock, Ark., with his twin, Eric. "Whether I was sitting on the piano playing and she was singing the hymn — or she would just sometimes just break out in that verse because she believed deeply in that," says Derick.
"That everything on this earth belonged to God."
"She was part of the Women’s Missionary Society of our local church," says Derick, "so she would start early Saturday morning cooking ... and oftentimes we would get confused thinking the meal was for us and she would remind us, 'no, I will cook something for you all on Sunday evening; this meal is for the sick and shut-in.'"
Derick, now a graduate student at Yale Divinity School, has seen hunger and poverty firsthand. "Arkansas is this rural community," he explains, "and it struggles deeply with food insecurity, with hunger, with poverty, poor education, crime, and poor infrastructure. You name it and Arkansas is confronting it."
As a sophomore at Westminster College in Missouri, Derick and his friend Eyob researched poverty in Phillips County in southeast Arkansas, one of the poorest counties in the nation. The two met with mayors and church leaders to talk about the conditions and causes of economic devastation along the Mississippi River. Derick recalls that at one point, Eyob, who is Ethiopian, exclaimed, "Wow, this looks like rural Ethiopia."
"It never occurred to me that a place in this country, the wealthiest country in the world would look like something in rural Ethiopia," says Derick. "It was a big wake-up call for me that the core of poverty is lack of opportunity and lack of resources."
"Listening to the stories and hearing the challenges [of local leaders] made clear to me that hunger and poverty are not just some abstract social science terms. These are realities for people, and not just realities for people in Third World countries but realities for people in my state, a state that I love — whether it's in Phillips County or in Little Rock seeing my own family struggle to make ends meet."
Those experiences motivated Derick to get directly involved in ending hunger and poverty. He joined Bread for the World and was one of Bread’s first Hunger Justice Leaders. Following that training in advocacy, Derick founded the Westminster Poverty Initiative, which runs a food bank and facilitates donations of clothing and household items to people in need in the community surrounding the college. Derick and Eyob also raised funds and opened a library in Ethiopia.
But Derick knows that larger actions are necessary.
"I thank God for Bread for the World for having this sort of forum where people of faith can actively engage on issues of policy in a real way without feeling that they are somehow outside the norm or they are doing something that is unchurched or unreligious," says Derick.
"The reality is that in order to break free from the bondage [of poverty] in this country and the world, we need elected officials to make good on their words and put love thy neighbor at the center of our legislative agenda."
[This piece originally appeared in the February edition of Bread's e-newsletter.]