Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

478 posts categorized "U.S. Hunger"

Thank You for Your Advocacy

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Bread for the World staff.

By David Beckmann

Thank you for your advocacy last week! Congress was busy voting on budget proposals, and you heard from us a lot. Because of your efforts, hundreds of calls and thousands of emails went to Congress.

At the end of the week, the House and Senate both passed their budget resolutions. Their budgets included some drastic proposals to cut anti-hunger programs. But we know your voices — your calls and emails — made a difference.

The Senate considered a number of very bad amendments. Some drastically cut foreign assistance funding. Others cut or negatively impacted SNAP (formerly food stamps), the earned income tax credit, and child nutrition programs. Thanks to your advocacy, these amendments failed or were withdrawn, which means they didn’t get a vote.

Your voice helped ensure these troubling proposals were defeated. One amendment to cut international affairs funding by 50 percent only got 4 votes of support. The last time this proposal was up for a vote, at least 20 senators voted in favor of it.

The House and Senate have passed their budget proposals, but our work continues. These budgets set the tone for anti-hunger policy for the rest of this year and beyond. But your faithful advocacy throughout the year will be critical in making sure these proposals do not become law.

We’re asking you to make one more call this week. See how your senators and representative voted on the budget resolution. If they voted against it, call (800-826-3688) and thank them for their vote. If they voted in favor, call and express your disappointment in their vote for a budget that would increase hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Thank you for continuing to raise your voice to end hunger.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Strength to Serve our Neighbors

By Bishop José García

This weekend, we celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection because the Passion forms the basis for everything we do as Christians. As advocates, we serve our neighbors, local and global, by working to end hunger. But Jesus did something before he served us by going to the cross. 14407747355_2bebecf966_o

He prayed.

Before he endured the cross “for the sake of the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2), Jesus took his disciples into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray: “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36).

Jesus knew what he had to do. He asked God to spare him from it if possible. Sometimes our advocacy can seem heavy and difficult, but we draw strength from the same place Jesus did—prayer.

Prayer both sustains our advocacy and calls for God’s continued action in this world. Will you join us and commit to pray for an end to hunger?

When you commit to joining in praying for the end of hunger, we will email you twice a month with specific prayer requests and sample prayers. 

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Together, we can work toward an end to hunger and poverty around the world. Let’s follow Christ’s example and put prayer first.

Bishop José García is the director of church relations at Bread for the World.

 

Urgent: Say No to Vote-A-Rama Amendments That Target Poor People

http://bread.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341d945753ef017d42340f38970c-piBy Bread Staff

As budget debate and voting continue in the Senate today, Bread for the World is deeply concerned about several proposed amendments that would cut critical programs that serve vulnerable populations.

Yesterday, the House passed a budget resolution, which would balance the budget on the poorest in our nation. We need your voice to tell the Senate they must not do the same. 

Budgets are moral documents. A faithful budget values ending hunger and protecting the most vulnerable - not cutting programs that would make it harder to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Please call 800-826-3688 and tell your senator that this budget is unacceptable.  

  1. OPPOSE any amendments that cut foreign assistance or the 150 account including Paul Amdt #940, which increases the defense budget by cutting the entire international affairs budget by 50% over two years or a $42 billion reduction. These proposed cuts can severely impact funding for humanitarian and poverty-focused development assistance, including critical life-saving programs like maternal child health treatment, agriculture development and nutrition interventions, and humanitarian relief to millions of refugees. Amendment #940 failed in a recorded vote of 4 yays and 96 nays.
  2. OPPOSE any amendments that cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), change eligibility, or reduce benefits and oppose amendments that cut or make harmful changes to school nutrition programs. SNAP and school meals provide more than 21 million children with meals they need to learn and grow. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #375 and Rubio Amdt #547. Withdrawn.

  3. OPPOSE any amendments that cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), change eligibility, or establish barriers that make it more difficult for low-income working families to put food on the table. TANF is often the only source of support for families who receive it. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #372,which creates a financial burden on taxpayers and states while unfairly punishing children and familiesWithdrawn.

  4. OPPOSE any amendments that prevent individuals from claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Child Tax Credit (CTC), including Grassley Amdt #469. The EITC and CTC prevent more people from falling into poverty than any other program in the United States (outside Social Security). These tax credits reward work, promote economic mobility, and have a long history of bipartisan support. Withdrawn.

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators now - even if you have already reached out to them. This message is so important it must be repeated until they hear us and act. Call 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

If you use Twitter, please tweet your senators here: Aid Saves Lives.

 

Rep. Jim McGovern Uses Paper Plates to Tell SNAP Stories

By Robin Stephenson

During a floor debate on the fiscal year 2016 House budget proposal today, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) used paper plates to illustrate the human stories behind hunger statistics. The budget resolution, if enacted, would cut SNAP (formerly food stamps) by at least 34 percent, the equivalent of up to 220 missed meals annually for each SNAP participant.

SNAP served more than 46 million Americans in 2014.  You can find data about your community and its SNAP households in a state-by-state interactive map created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“The numbers don’t lie,” McGovern said. “But the stories are far more powerful.”

McGovern, a Bread for the World board member, recently asked SNAP participants to send their messages to Congress on paper plates. The following are samples of messages McGovern read out loud on the House floor earlier today:

“SNAP means that as a single mother I was able to finish college, feed my family, and find a career where I am able to advocate for a program that really works."

“SNAP means dignity.”

“SNAP matters to me because no senior should have to choose between buying food or paying for their medication.”

“When I was a child my father left, and the only reason we could afford food was because of food stamps.  I never get a chance to say thank you.  So, thank you.”

The House will continue to debate the budget resolution with a final vote expected later this week. The Senate is also considering a budget resolution that could lead to devastating increases in hunger and poverty in the United States and abroad. 

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators and representative at 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Find more resources to understand the budget process here.

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

 

 

Congress Wants to Cut Food Stamp Benefits by 220 Meals a Year

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SNAP is our nation's largest child nutrition program and provides 21 million children with meals. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Eric Mitchell

The House and Senate Budget Committees just released their budget proposals. Both proposals contain enormous cuts to effective anti-hunger programs. I'm outraged!

The House budget proposes cutting $140 billion from SNAP (formerly called food stamps). The Senate budget proposes cutting Medicaid by $400 billion. Medicaid provides health coverage for 28 million children.

Under these cuts, participants in SNAP would lose 220 meals a year. That’s 10 weeks worth of food!

Congress repeatedly wants to use anti-poverty programs as their piggy bank for deficit reduction. I’m tired of it. I need your voice.

Will you call or email your members of Congress? Tell them to protect SNAP and Medicaid from cuts.

SNAP is our country’s largest child nutrition program. It provides nearly 21 million children with meals when many would have gone without them otherwise. Medicaid provides health coverage for 28 million low-income children. Hungry children can't learn, and unhealthy children won't reach their full potential.

The federal budget is a statement on the priorities of our country. Our children's health and nutrition must be taken seriously. How can Congress propose cutting a program that helps nearly 23 million households, with 21 million children, put food on the table?

Call (800/826-3688) or email your senators and representative today, and urge them to oppose these budgets. Tell your members of Congress to oppose SNAP cuts and  to oppose Medicaid cuts. Congress should be investing in our children—not undermining their health and taking meals away from them.

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

Transformative Conversations on Faith and Race in Florida

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Clergy at the Symposium on Faith and Race in Orlando, Fla. Blair Hall for Bread for the World.

By Dan DeBevoise

I’ve been in conversation for a while with a friend and community organizer about the possibility of gathering people from our local community to talk about race relations. We talked about having honest, intimate conversations. We talked about sharing in the context of our faith.

I had no idea how important, inspiring, and transformational such an event would be until we actually did it. I thank God that Bread for the World and Faith in Florida provided the opportunity by sponsoring the Symposium on Faith and Race in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month. 

Sometimes it seems that the most significant leap is the one from talking to taking action. Bread and Faith in Florida made it possible for us to take that big, sometimes intimidating step. 

Rev. Alvin Herring, deputy director for Faith and Formation at PICO National Network, opened the event by teaching two Zulu phrases: a greeting, “Sawu Bona,” which means “I see you,” and the response, “Sikhona,” which means, “I am here.”  This set the tone for our work together. We learned anew the power and affirmation of deeply acknowledging the presence of another person’s full humanity – “I see you.”  And we were asked to experience the freedom of being present in the fullness of our humanity – “I am here.”  

We did the risky work of sitting down with another person different from ourselves and asking, “Can I share a story of something important that happened to me that I want you to know?”  And we did the hard work of listening to one another in ways that opened us to the truth of whom they are and whom we are. 

We sought the truth about our communities and society. We listened to panelists describe the circumstances and challenges they face every day: youth, single women, people of color, people who know poverty and have struggled with hunger and feeding their families. 

Throughout the event, we listened to each other, we pushed each other, we embraced each other, we encouraged each other, we challenged each other, and we walked with each other (literally on a march in downtown Orlando,) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Selma march.

Then, to conclude, Rev. Dr. James Forbes led us in worship. Forbes shared the powerful proclamation that God is in the business of erasing the boundaries and barriers that we set up to protect ourselves from each other. We were given in worship the gift of unity that comes by the love of God for all people: praising, praying, singing, proclaiming God’s word of reconciliation and justice. We were in that moment a part of the beloved community.    

In the big picture, it may look like a small step, but for me, it was a big step. And definitely a step in the right direction.   

Dan DeBevoise is a co-pastor at Park Lake Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla.

 

One More River to Cross

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Thousands march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Asha G. Smith for Bread for the World.

By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith

More than 61,000 people made their way to Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday on March 8. I was one of them. I wanted to be there to recognize that historic moment in 1965 that resulted in voting rights for all in the United States. It was a moment that I’ll not soon forget.

As I was returning from having crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I heard a call to make way for a 1965 participant who was in a wheelchair. I flung my arms open and started to make my way through the pressing crowd to usher this elder, this African-American stateswoman, across the bridge. What an amazing honor to serve for a moment this great woman of faith who had already served me and our nation 50 years ago. She soon offered her thanks. I told her that all the thanks go to her and people like her.

People like me and my children to have a better quality of life today because of the bridges crossed by Ms. Ruby Shuttlesworth and 1965 foot soldiers.  The problem: We have more rivers to cross, and therefore more bridges to build. 20150308_215628selma3

Unfortunately, African-American women still struggle to put food on the table and still live in poverty. Hunger and poverty are still putting more and more African-American women and children at risk of poor nutrition. A principle cause of hunger is the inability to buy nutritious food. Economic empowerment still has to be a priority.

Bread's new fact sheet, Hunger by the Numbers in the African-American Community, informs us of the following:

 • More than one in three African-American children live in poverty. One in five children in our country as a whole live in poverty.

• More than one in four African-American households struggled to put food on the table in 2013.

• 32.6 percent of African-American households with children were food-insecure. 19.5 percent of all U.S. households with children were food-insecure.

Your leadership is needed to ensure that our children are fed. Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Congress must also protect SNAP - our largest child nutrition program - from cuts in the budget. And please pray with Bread to end hunger.

Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith is Bread for the World’s national senior associate for African-American and African church engagement.

Photo: Angelique Walker-Smith, left, and Ruby Shuttlesworth, right, at the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Ala. Ava Bester for Bread for the World.

Letters are the ABCs of Our Power in Ending Hunger

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By Stephen H. Padre

Letters have power.

Take, for example, the last crisis of the week in Washington. A group of 47 Republicans in the Senate signed on to a letter condemning the nuclear negotiations with Iran. The letter had the two parties sparring in a constitutional argument and got the capital all riled up.

The March 15 Parade magazine cover story, “Letters that changed our world,” affirmed the power of letters. “They’ve fueled love affairs and severed friendships, ignited wars and settled them. They can convey the most profound thanks, apology or regret.”

Bread for the World’s signature program, its annual Offering of Letters, harnesses the power of letters. Bread believes the simple act of writing to a member of Congress has the power to bring about change for millions of people who are hungry and poor— especially when written on a large scale. A stack of letters from a group of Christians just might sway a member of Congress to vote a certain way on an important piece of legislation.

 

6521596521_0264dcd35a_oThe idea is simple: A group in a church or faith community writes letters together to their members of Congress on a specific hunger issue. The 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children is about federal child nutrition programs. The letters are collected, and, just as a monetary offering is blessed, the letters are lifted up to God before being mailed to lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

The means of communication have changed over the decades. Now we can communicate with people on other continents instantly via email, and we say less—140 characters or fewer—on Twitter. But we also generate more noise on our electronic channels of communication than we did when ships carried letters across oceans. Letters, although they may seem quaint and old-fashioned, can actually cut through the chatter. So, in a way, everything old can be new again.

A hand-written letter has a way of encapsulating the thoughts and emotions of the writer. A letter on paper records the words in a more permanent and tangible way than an email can. There is almost more of the writer present in a paper letter than in an email on a screen.

A letter to your representatives in Washington, D.C., also carries some of your power as a citizen (or resident) of a state or congressional district. Your voice and power of persuasion is a major expression of your citizenship, and a letter to the people who make decisions on your behalf is exercising that power. A letter is an ideal way for you to connect your power as a voter, citizen, resident, and concerned Christian to the power of our federal government. Through letters, we can persuade our government to lead the way in ending hunger in our time.

Stephen H. Padre is managing editor at Bread for the World.

Photo: A college campus group writes letters to Congress. Bread for the World.

When 'Reconciliation' Becomes a Bad Word

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By Robin Stephenson

For Christians, the term reconciliation is a sacred calling to heal the broken world – a call for heaven on earth. However, in the hands of the 114th Congress, budget reconciliation could become a tool that widens the gap of inequality and pushes more people – especially children– into hunger.

Reconciliation, in the legislative sense of the word, is expected to be included in the 2016 budgets the House and Senate plan to release next week. Both chambers are likely to call for deep cuts in non-defense spending.

Budget reconciliation is a set of instructions sometimes added to the yearly budget resolution – the overall amount Congress decides the U.S. government will spend in one year. Once the budget is passed, each committee is given its share of the total to distribute between all of the programs in its jurisdiction. When budget reconciliation instructions are included, certain committees are instructed to meet spending and revenue criteria – even if it includes finding additional savings by changing policy.

Budget reconciliation makes it easy to slip controversial changes through Congress that are hard to reverse, which is all the more reason we must pay attention to the process. To learn more, read Budget Reconciliation 101.

Under reconciliation, committees could include deep cuts to program funding or pass harmful policy changes to anti-hunger programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Medicaid, and the earned income tax credit (EITC) - programs, we believe, that have giant targets on them. In this scenario, children will pay a hefty price.

3963295139_3351abd412_bOur 2015 Offering of Letters aims to feed our children. The child poverty rate is already unacceptably disproportionate to our resources, but has improved since the height of the recession–nationally, we stand at 18 percent.  Without government interventions, the rate would be 33 percent, according to a recent analysis.

Deep cuts to a program like SNAP, in which half of the participants are children, would be a move in the wrong direction. The earned income tax credit and child tax credit moved 5 million children out of poverty in 2013 and must be protected to make further progress on reducing child hunger. Medicaid, another piece of the poverty-ending puzzle, provided healthcare to 32 million children in 2012.

Defending SNAP from the chopping block is becoming the new normal. Just last year, your faithful advocacy halted deep cuts to SNAP in the farm bill. Up to $40 billion in cuts were proposed during the two-year negotiations. Without SNAP, many families would go hungry. Food banks and pantries, already stretched thin, cannot make up the difference

Every time there is talk of fiscal belt-tightening, the most vulnerable in our society are targeted as notches. This is not the kind of reconciliation that God calls us to and not the kind of reconciliation people of faith should stand for from our leaders. We must speak up early and ensure these programs don't become a bull's-eye for lawmakers' cuts.

Christians across this nation must do the real work of God’s reconciliation--urging Congress to prioritize and protect critical anti-poverty initiatives in any budget reconciliation bill, especially programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and tax credits for families struggling to make ends meet. We have done it before, and we must do it again.

Find more resources to understand the budget process here.

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

Smarter Sentencing: Get in the Way of Injustice

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Nate, a returning citizen in Ohio, who has been able to overcome the employment barrier, and now works to feed his family. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World

By Eric Mitchell

As Christians, it’s our duty to stop injustice when we see it.

On Wednesday, the results of a federal investigation showed widespread racial bias in the law-enforcement system in Ferguson, Missouri.

I was in Missouri last December, and I listened to the pain and frustration of my brothers and sisters who are confronted with the inequality of racism every day. This inequality leads to hunger and broken communities.

Ferguson is not unique. The federal investigation there makes it clear that we need change in many places. Our criminal justice system is broken. Congress passing the Smarter Sentencing Act would be a critical first step in creating systemic change.

This bipartisan bill would reform U.S. sentencing laws. The Smarter Sentencing Act gives judges the discretion to bypass unnecessary and overly harsh mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent, low-level drug offenses. Mandatory minimum sentences have contributed to the explosion of our country’s prison population. African-Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.

As people of faith committed to ending hunger, we must be at the forefront of this change. Call 800/826-3688 or email your member of Congress. Tell them it’s time to mend our broken criminal justice system and to create a fairer system to ensure justice for all.

Civil rights leader and Georgia congressman John Lewis often says, “You have to get in the way.” This is our moment to let our nation’s decision makers know that we are speaking up getting in the way of this injustice.

Learn more about the connections between incarceration and hunger in our new fact sheet:  Hunger by the Numbers in the African-American Community

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

 

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