Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

458 posts categorized "U.S. Hunger"

Congress Urged to Pass Legislation to Help Working Families

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Pete Souza/The White House via Wikimedia Commons.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama laid out an aggressive agenda aimed at reducing income inequality in the United States – a factor that can keep millions of Americans in a cycle of poverty.

Although the economy has gotten stronger, President Obama acknowledged that too many hard-working families still struggle. He called for increasing the child care tax credit, raising the federal minimum wage, enacting paid sick leave, creating a "second-earner" tax credit for families in which both spouses work, and boosting the earned income tax credit.

“We have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth,” Obama said. “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?” 

Roughly 45 million people in the United States live at or below the poverty line. If enacted, many of the proposals put forth by the president would certainly help struggling Americans, especially boosting the maximum child care tax credit to $3,000 and expanding the earned income tax credit for childless workers.

The earned income tax credit along with the child tax credit are among our country’s most effective anti-poverty tools. Bread for the World is calling on Congress to ensure that these two measures stay intact. Both expire in 2017. Making the 2009 improvements to these credits permanent would prevent 16 million people—including 8 million children—from falling into or deeper into poverty.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) delivered the Republican rebuttal. And not unlike President Obama, she also sympathized with struggling Americans. “These days though, many families feel like they're working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it,” she said. “We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs.”

Obama reminded Americans that government programs have their place in history and can make an impact. “In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity.  We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure, and the internet – tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.”

At Bread, we know the power of good policy, especially as it applies to children. That’s why this year our top priority with this new Congress is to ensure that the nation’s child nutrition programs are reauthorized. The current bill is set to expire this fall. Making sure children receive meals, especially during their early years of development, is crucial for their development and guards against malnutrition.

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030.

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

Participate in the Souper Bowl of Caring on Super Bowl Sunday

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Wikimedia Commons.

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.

Living on the Outskirts of Hope

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Derick Dailey preaching. He is a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/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.

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030.

 

 

 

Next President Urged To Make Hunger and Poverty Top Priorities

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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.

Hungry for an Education, or Simply Hungry?

Veggies
Wikimedia Commons. 

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.

2014 Victories: Hunger Prevention and Economic Development

15954831205_0cfea801b4_oEditor’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.

 

 

 

 

 

Rural Oregon School Drops School Lunch Program

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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 paperEnding Hunger in the United States.

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

A Midterm Winner: Raising the Minimum Wage

 

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A woman cleans an office in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson

Regardless of whether your candidate won a seat in Congress yesterday, one thing was made clear during the 2014 midterm elections: raising the minimum wage is a popular issue with voters - an issue that crosses partisan divides.

Yesterday, ballot measures to increase the minimum wage passed in Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska, and South Dakota.  Since 2013, 13 states have opted to raise their minimum wage.  The momentum is building.

A full-time job should pay enough to support a family. For too many, it does not – but that is slowly changing as voters speak up in state after state.  However, a real path to ending wage stagnation and income inequality in the United States requires Congress to do its part.

Raising the minimum wage is no small accomplishment for workers like Gregory Stewart, 36, of Little Rock, Ark., who wants to provide for his daughters. He works two jobs and still depends on family support.  Raising the minimum wage from $6.25 to $8.50 by 2017 will help the Stewarts. Closing the wage gap is a first step in moving Arkansas away from the label as hungriest state.

Republican senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton, the senator-elect for Arkansas, now have an opportunity to do even more for families like the Stewarts.  They should help pass a federal minimum wage that gives all workers a fair deal.

In 2014, Congress failed to act at the federal level. In April, the Senate failed to pass The Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S. 1737). The bill would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, index it for inflation, and raise the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the general minimum wage.

The federal minimum wage is set at $7.25, translating to a $15,080 annual salary for a full-time worker, and has not been increased since 2009, even though the cost of living has risen.  If the minimum wage had kept up with U.S. productivity growth since 1950, it would be $18.67 today.  This year's Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, points out that 28 percent of U.S. workers earn poverty-level wages.

“Too many workers in this country face hard times as a result of insufficient wages,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in a press release earlier this year. “There is no reason that full-time workers should struggle to provide for their families.”

We are likely to see The Minimum Wage Fairness Act come up for a vote again.  This time, perhaps Congress will be listening and give American workers a fair deal.

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

North Carolina: Fifth Hungriest State

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In 2015, Congress will renew and improve the legislation that governs national child nutrition programs, including school and summer meals. (Bread for the World)

By Alyssa Casey

When the school bell rings on the last day of the school year, most children teem with excitement as their summer break begins. But for too many schoolchildren in the nation’s  fifth-hungriest state, that bell means not knowing where their next breakfast or lunch will come from for the next few months.

In Wilkesboro, N.C., the Samaritan Kitchen does what it can. It provides schoolchildren with backpacks of easy-to-prepare meals to take home on the weekends.

“I have a student in my classroom who was starving,” an elementary teacher from Elkin wrote the Samaritan Kitchen. Reprinted in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, the note continues, “He couldn’t get enough to eat. We were trying to feed him all the extra food we could find. There was no food in his house.”

Samaritan Kitchen’s goal for 2013-2014 was to serve 800 children per week with backpack meals, but lack of funding kept them from reaching that goal.

Churches and charities across the United States are answering the call to feed the hungry, but they cannot do it alone. For every 20 bags of food assistance to feed hungry Americans, only 1 is provided by churches and charities. The bulk – 19 out of every 20 bags – come from federal nutrition programs. We need strong federal policies to protect and support these national nutrition programs.

More than 1 in 4 children in North Carolina live at risk of hunger and poverty. Of the 60 kids riding your child’s school bus, more than 15 go to school with empty stomachs, counting down the hours until lunch, which may be their first – or only – meal of the day.

School meal programs are a key tool in fighting child hunger. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides a free or reduced-price lunch to low-income children in schools across the country. While the NSLP is able to reach many children while school is in session, weekends, holiday breaks, and summer months present a unique challenge to struggling parents who rely on school lunches to help feed their child.

In 2015, Congress will renew and improve the legislation that governs national child nutrition programs, including school and summer meals. These policies significantly affect North Carolina’s state and local child nutrition programs. The North Carolina Senate race between incumbent Kay Hagan and state House Speaker Thom Tillis is too close to call. Whoever wins has the opportunity to bring the voice of North Carolina’s children to Capitol Hill.

Next year, to coincide with Congress’ consideration of the legislation that oversees child nutrition programs, Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters will focus on this topic. Churches will be asked to communicate with Congress on renewing this legislation.

Whichever state you live in, ask your candidates what their plans are to increase access to food for hungry children. Look at how current members of Congress voted on hunger and poverty issues. Thank them for votes that combat hunger, or ask them to explain votes against policies to rid our country of hunger.

If we raise our voices and votes across the United States, we can end hunger in our lifetime.

View a state-by-state map of hunger and poverty rates in America.

Alyssa Casey is Bread for the World’s government relations coordinator.

No Longer Homeless, but Still Left Hungry

 
A woman serves dinner at a soup kitchen. (Screen shot from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media)


by Donna Pususta Neste

One of the problems with hunger is that it’s often hidden or invisible all together, so it can be easy to deny or ignore. Another social problem—homelessness—is more apparent, but often the two go together. Take away one, and you still might have the other.

During the winter season a few years ago, when I was working as the neighborhood ministries coordinator for an inner-city church, I was picking up one of the youth participants of our afterschool program from a shelter. By springtime, his family was able to rent an apartment in the same neighborhood in which they lived before they were homeless. I wanted to think of this as a success story. However, since his family moved out of the shelter, almost every time I picked him up, he complained of being hungry. The family solved the problem of their homelessness, only to encounter the new problem of not enough money to buy food after paying the rent.

One afternoon early into the summer program, the kids were working on an indoor project. This boy again complained of being hungry. I ran upstairs to a small kitchen used by the staff to retrieve a plastic bag containing 10 hardboiled eggs. They were given to me after one of the church’s community meals, and I put them in the refrigerator for anyone to eat. I came back to the work area with the eggs along with some forgotten cinnamon buns. This little boy ate four eggs in a row and a few of the buns. I sent the rest of the food home with him. I used to drop him off last so that I could go into the church and find some food to send home. There was always something left over from a meeting or community meal.

On one of those days, I began to think that maybe he was just not liking what he was given to eat at home, but I responded to his complaints despite my misgivings. Before dropping him off I ran into the church and came back to the car with a to-go box with 15 hot dogs left over from the latest community meal. My feelings of being “played” immediately dissipated when I watched him tear into the box and quickly eat one of the hot dogs cold.

Even people like me who work or once worked close to the bone of poverty are sometimes in denial about hunger in the United States. It’s hard to see the face of hunger in a nation that seems to parade affluence and well-being every place we go.  If we can’t see it, then perhaps others, like our legislators, might miss it as well. So that’s why one thing we can do—those of us who are close to the problem or are aware of it because of our work or faith—is to speak up about it. By telling elected officials where hunger exists and how deep it is, we can make it visible. Make a point to speak to your current or potential members of Congress about hunger now—during their campaigns for office. Maybe their eyes will be opened to what is already there.

Donna Pususta Neste is a Bread for the World board member and former coordinator of Neighborhood Ministries in Minneapolis. 

 

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