Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

504 posts categorized "U.S. Hunger"

The Danger of a Hungry Summer

14648996252_2d9b4cff6f_z
USDA/Lance Chueng

By Robin Stephenson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lobby Day 2015: A Great Day of Advocacy

By Jennifer Gonzalez

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

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

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

Here are some highlights from Lobby Day 2015:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Part in Virtual Lobby Day Today

7369882918_ca5d3caa34_o
Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

By Bread Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate Change Will Increase World Hunger

Drougth-Corn-for-NIR-page
iStockphoto

By Christopher Ford and Stephen Padre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Summer Meals Hard for Rural Children to Access

By Jennifer Gonzalez 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell Congress to Protect Child Nutrition Programs

16348200855_7f8617ae9c_o
Federal nutrition programs for children are a critical part of the fight against hunger. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Eric Mitchell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia Church Welcomes All to 'The Table'

_E0A0230
Shoppers at The Table food pantry at St. George's Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Va., looking at produce. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Recently, I, along with Bread for the World's multimedia manager, Joseph Molieri, spent the day at a unique food pantry run by St. George’s Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Va.

We went to visit the food pantry as a way to see how the issue of hunger is addressed on the ground. Many of the churches Bread works with do a lot of work around feeding the hungry and poor. 

At most food pantries, the food is canned, boxed, or jarred, and clients are normally given a pre-assembled bag or box of food to take home. 

Not at St. George’s.

At The Table (the food pantry’s name) there are no clients, only “shoppers.” The food pantry is set up in a way that allows shoppers to choose their groceries like they would at a supermarket or an open-air food market. The food pantry is open every day, and shoppers can visit either in the morning or afternoon.

Unlike a more traditional food pantry, The Table offers shoppers fresh produce, such as potatoes, apples, oranges, squash, broccoli, pears, and onions. Fresh bread, such as rye and wheat, is also available. _X1A2041

The food comes from local farms, donations, and the local food bank. St. Gregory’s also gleans from other places, such as convenience stores, for food they can provide, such as sandwiches.

Started in 2012, The Table is the brainchild of Rev. Deacon Carey Chirico, director of outreach ministries at St. George’s. She wanted to create a space where struggling people could shop for food with dignity and respect.

“It’s very much our belief that when we come forward to receive the Eucharist as Episcopalians, we are setting down all our own assurances,” Chirico said. “We are setting down any privilege we have. That there is nothing that makes us unique in receiving this beautiful, beautiful gift. So we try to do the same thing at The Table – approach each other on a person-to-person basis.”

“We’ve tried to really let go of ‘we have, you don’t; we give, you take,’” she said. “And we encounter each person as we are treated at the Eucharistic table.”

The uniqueness of St. George’s food pantry was not lost on me. When I left St. George’s that day, I wondered if there were other food pantries doing the same thing. I got my answer last week when I came across a New York Times article that focused on this idea of the “customer choice pantry” and how some food pantries across the country were converting to this new standard.

The idea is rooted not just in providing dignity to the shopper, but also offering more nutritious food, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. A lot of the packaged food given out at food pantries is not healthy.

This is important given the fact that many families who utilize food pantries are already facing health issues. In fact, 58 percent of households who use food pantries nationwide have a family member with hypertension, and more than 30 percent include someone with diabetes, according to Feeding America.

Historically, St. George’s food pantry began as an emergency food pantry – giving grocery bags filled with food to families in crisis. But Chirico said that set-up really wasn’t working. “We realized that we were not meeting a lot of people’s needs. We were not giving them food that was culturally appropriate or nutritionally sound.”

And so The Table was born after the church found out that people really enjoyed picking vegetables from a garden the church had started. Today, a shopper leaves the food pantry with an average of 25 lbs. of groceries – 60 percent of which Chirico hopes is fresh produce.

“Our goal is to improve the quality of the food people are getting, the quality of the experience they are getting, and invite them to come back every week,” Chirico said.

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

Photo inset: Fresh produce is a staple at The Table food pantry at St. George's Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Va. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

 

 

Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation

Summer-Food-Program-Infographic

By Christine Melendez Ashley

Across the country, children are counting down the days until summer. Most children look forward to a summer filled with vacations and fun. Yet for some children, summer vacation means long months without nutritious school meals. 

Call or email your U.S. representative today. Tell your U.S. representative that child hunger doesn't take a vacation. Urge your U.S. representative to support legislation that gives hungry children access to meals during the summer months, like the Summer Meals Act (H.R. 1728).

Here in Washington, D.C., Congress is busy examining and considering child nutrition programs. This week, the House committee responsible for writing a new child nutrition bill will meet. Its hearing is blatantly titled "Addressing Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Federal Child Nutrition Programs." In other words, they will consider ways to cut and gut these programs at a time when our children need these services most. Do they care more about waste, fraud, and abuse or getting children the meals they need?

Your representative needs to hear from you. Children are more likely to be at risk of hunger during the summer months. Six out of every 7 low-income children lack access to regular, nutritious meals during the summer. We can't allow Congress to take even more away from children who already lack so much.

Call your U.S. representative today. Urge your U.S. representative to support legislation that will feed our children — in the upcoming summer months and all year long. 

Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day is June 9. Join us to make some real changes in Washington, D.C., when it comes to feeding our children. You don’t need to be a policy expert to participate. You just need to care. 

Registration is free but space is limited. Register today to reserve your spot!

Christine Melendez Ashley is a senior policy analyst at Bread for the World.

Child Hunger: 'It is just sinful'

LIP_0230
Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ congregants write letters to their elected officials. Lena Isely for Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

“It is just sinful,” said Raul Hernandez, shaking his head, about the fact that some children in the United States go to bed hungry.

As he made his remark, he addressed an envelope to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla). The envelope would later be stuffed with a letter written by one of the many congregants of the Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ in Coral Gables, Fla., taking part in an Offering of Letters on Mother’s Day.

Tables were set up inside the church’s Fellowship Hall, as well outside the church, as a bright sun beat down on congregants writing letters. The idea was to have congregants write letters to their elected officials on behalf of the many mothers who struggle every day to feed their families.

“As a person of faith, I think there is nothing so contrary to God’s will for this world than to have people and especially children be hungry, said Rev. Dr. Laurinda Hafner, the church’s senior minister. “More than anything else, Jesus talked about feeding the hungry, so as members of a Christian congregation it is our faithful and moral imperative to do everything we can to fill the bellies of those who are without food.” LIP_0343

Bread for the World’s 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children is focused on ensuring Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill. The legislation is set to expire in the fall. It is vital that Congress hears from their constituents, especially since over 16 million children in the U.S. don’t always know where their next meal is coming from.

The church’s Offering of Letters was a well-coordinated effort, from the pulpit announcement to the near-precision assembly line of letter writing and envelope stuffing. Hernandez, who lives in Miami, was part of that assembly line – addressing envelopes to speed up the process.

Over 100 letters were written to Sen. Rubio and President Obama on Sunday. For Karen Newpauer of Key Biscayne, sitting down to write a letter to the senator was personal. “We are food-insecure right now,” said Newpauer, a divorced, single mom raising three daughters, including daughter Michelle Murcia, 11, who was also writing a letter to the senator.

“I try to shield the kids from what is going on,” she says. Newpauer said children should not be going to school with growling stomachs.

Sometimes you have to write a letter to correct a wrong. That’s the way Virgin Vanderblugt felt about the letter she wrote. She said too often elected officials get into office and begin to think about themselves and not their constituents.

She hopes the letters from her church will make elected officials think harder about the plight of others. “There are a lot of people who are struggling,” she said.

When Victor Tejera of Miami sat down to write his letter, he thought about the children he encounters every day as a school social worker – many who are hungry. Tejera said he connects students and their families with government services if they qualify. If they don’t, he “gets creative.”

He said he taps into his faith and nonprofit communities contacts to connect struggling families with services such as a local food pantry. He said he knows that his letter alone won’t have much of an impact, but he hopes that the sheer volume of letters elected officials receive will make enough of an impression to ensure that hungry kids get the food they need.

Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day is June 9. Join us to make some real changes in Washington, D.C., when it comes to feeding our children. You don’t need to be a policy expert to participate. You just need to care. 

Registration is free but space is limited. Register today to reserve your spot!

Photo inset: Michelle Murcia, 11, writing a letter to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Lena Isely for Bread for the World.

Lobby Day: Use Your Voice to End Child Hunger

5837690610_502c71a803_o
Bread activists on Capitol Hill during Lobby Day. Jim Stipe for Bread for the World.

By Amelia Kegan

Do you wonder whether your letters, calls, and emails to Congress break through the gridlock and partisanship on Capitol Hill? Could you use a reminder that your voice really does make a difference in Washington?

Looking at the news reports, it’s hard not to become cynical. I sometimes feel that way. But then Lobby Day comes around, giving me new energy and new inspiration. And each year, Lobby Day brings real results in the movement to end hunger.

Join us for Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day on Tuesday, June 9, to personally and powerfully urge your senators and representative to support child nutrition in the U.S. and around the world. Registration is free and easy.

There is no better boost than Bread’s annual Lobby Day. Renew your faith in the power of your voice. Connect with other faithful advocates doing this work around the country. Get inspired.

I invite you to join us in Washington on Tuesday, June 9 for Bread’s 2015 Lobby Day. You don’t need to be a policy expert. You just need to care.

Nothing reminds me of the power of individual advocacy to end hunger like Bread’s Lobby Day. And it will be even better if you’re there with us.

Don’t delay. Register today. Registration is free but space is limited. Register today to reserve your spot!

Amelia Kegan is deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World.

Stay Connected

Bread for the World