Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

504 posts categorized "U.S. Hunger"

Advocates Spring Into Action to End Hunger

By Margaret Tran

About a hundred people from nonprofit organizations and churches in New York put pen to paper last month and wrote letters to their member of Congress, urging them to reauthorize the child nutrition bill.

Bread for the World and Catholic Charities of New York organized an Offering of Letters at St. Peter’s Church and New York Catholic Youth Day, both in Yonkers, and at St. Cecilia’s Church in East Harlem. Catholic Charities Community Services of Rockland County in Haverstraw plans to host one in the future. GuadalupeandJoyceMerino

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.

This fall, the legislation that funds child nutrition programs will expire. The bill funds five major programs: National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the WIC Program. These programs serve roughly 40 million adults and children nationwide.

New York high school students were busy during New York Catholic Youth Day. They were simultaneously involved in a Feeding Our Neighbors food drive and an Offering of Letters. The students and their youth group leaders donated hundreds of pounds of food to local pantries and wrote letters to members of Congress, urging them to support the child nutrition programs.

Youth groups were eager to write letters since they personally know students who struggle with hunger and depend on school meals every day as their only source of nutrition. Leaders were eager to have their entire parish act to end hunger, planning to take what they learned that day back home to encourage a parish-wide Offering of Letters.

At St. Peter’s, our message of advocacy was translated into Spanish. Parishioners learned about child hunger during our presentation at Plaza, a social gathering area after Spanish mass where parishioners sell home-cooked lunches. While their children played nearby, the parents were inspired to write letters after hearing that 1 in 5 children in the U.S. struggle with hunger.  Father Jose Felix Ortega, priest at St. Peter’s, blessed all the letters during mass the following Sunday before they were sent to Congress.

The senior leaders of the various ministry groups at St. Cecilia’s also participated in an Offering of Letters. After huddling to pray over the letters with Father Peter Mushi, the leaders were empowered to lead an Offering of Letters for their respective ministry groups in the coming weeks. Flor Abad, case manager for Catholic Charities Community Services at St. Cecilia’s, said she was pleased that all the leaders were enthusiastic about advocacy since so many in the community are struggling.

“At St. Cecilia’s food pantry, I see families in need. I hear people who have 5, 6, 7 children in the house and don’t have food,” Abad said.

Catholic Charities Community Services of Rockland County (CCCSR) will host a future Offering of Letters that will engage youth from county parishes to write letters to Congress. The goal will be ambitious – 1,000 letters ahead of CCCSR’s annual September hunger awareness action event.

“Policies and community efforts to increase access and provide education and resources is needed. Our goal is to build a greater sense of community awareness and build an advocacy group to end hunger,” said Martha Robles, executive director of CCCSR.

Margaret Tran is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Photo inset: Guadalupe Merino, a St. Cecilia parishioner, writes a letter to Congress, while her daughter, Joyce Merino, takes a nap in her arms. Margaret Tran/Bread for the World.

The Power of the Phone Call

PhoneBy Jon Gromek

Making a call to Congress can be powerful. It is how you can make your voice heard on important issues like ensuring Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill.

We need you to speak up on Tuesday, May 5 and urge Congress to protect the nutrition programs that give hungry children access to the meals they need to thrive. Call (800) 826-3688 and ask for the office or your senators and representative and tell them to protect child nutrition programs by reauthorizing the child nutrition bill.

If you think making a call to Congress can’t make a difference, think again. About a year ago, I got an email late in the evening from my Bread for the World government relations’ colleagues. As is often the case in Congress, an important vote was scheduled last minute in the Senate Appropriations Committee that would provide $35 million for food aid and help feed an additional 200,000 people in need. 

The problem? The vote was set for 10 a.m. the following morning and would most likely fail. We needed our Bread members to make calls to their senators and representative no later than 9 a.m.!

Knowing it was a long shot, especially so late in the day, I nevertheless reached out to some of our most ardent members and activists in Indiana and asked them to contact Sen. Dan Coats (R- Ind.) who happened to be a critical vote. Good news slowly started trickling into my inbox the next morning. Several members committed to make calls before they went to work and followed up with emails. They learned that the senator was actually going to be absent from the vote but with some gentle encouragement and some timely back and forth between Senate staff over email, and phone, they convinced him to cast a yea vote by proxy. 

The vote passed by 16-14, with the senator casting a critical swing vote. A handful of calls one sleepy morning made the difference in the life of 200,000 people in need. Later that day, I got an email from one of the brave few who took a few precious minutes of his early morning to make those calls.  “When I got your note last night I thought ‘I don't have time for this,’ he admitted.  “God is very good. To get this result is great.”

In the coming weeks, members of Congress will begin the serious work of reauthorizing our federal child nutrition programs, including a hearing in the Senate scheduled for Thursday, May 7, at 10 a.m. EDT. Lawmakers will hold in their hands the lives and future well-being of children across the country who depend on the nutritious food they get from services like school meal programs and the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) program. One in five children in the U.S. lives in households that struggle to put food on the table. In a country such as ours that is unacceptable.

We need you to speak up on Tuesday, May 5 and urge Congress to protect the nutrition programs that give hungry children access to the meals they need to thrive. Call (800) 826-3688 and ask for the office or your senators and representative and tell them to protect child nutrition programs by reauthorizing the child nutrition bill.

Jon Gromek is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Tackling Hunger Head On

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Kelvin Beachum, Jr., an offensive lineman with the Pittsburgh Steelers, is working with Bread for the World to ensure an end hunger by 2030. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Faith has always played a strong role in the life of Kelvin Beachum Jr., an offensive lineman with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It has guided many of his personal and professional decisions. And now that strong faith has led him straight to Bread for the World.

Beachum is partnering with Bread to ensure an end to hunger in the United States and around the world. The partnership was announced over the weekend during Beachum’s annual football camp for children in his hometown of Mexia, Texas.

Texas is the third hungriest state in the country, where one in four children lives in poverty. Nationally, over 16 million American children or 1 in 5 don’t always know where their next meal is coming from.

Beachum understands the issue of hunger firsthand. “As a child, my family and I bounced around from WIC, free and reduced lunches, and some food stamp assistance when we qualified. There were times when we had enough, but there were also times that we needed help.”

He said he finds it unacceptable that in the United States, one of the world’s most blessed countries, there are children who go hungry every night.

The grandson of a pastor, and a son of a minister, Beachum believes that God has given him many talents, on and off the field. He likens his current work around child nutrition for the NFL and the work he plans to do with Bread as ministry.

He’s doing God’s work in various ways: through his children’s sports camp, visits to schools, and now lobbying Congress with Bread.

“There is a pastor in Pittsburgh that says something I really love: ‘Taking care of family is one block, one family at a time.’ At the end of the day, that is what I’d like to do from a hunger standpoint – take care of one community, one family, one state, and one nation at a time. That is what it boils down to.”

Beachum recently visited Bread’s offices in Washington, D.C., to learn more about the issue of hunger and how we accomplish our work. He also got an opportunity to visit Capitol Hill and speak with a handful of members of Congress about the importance of child nutrition.

This year’s Offering of Letters is focused on ensuring that Congress reauthorizes the legislation that funds child nutrition programs. The legislation is set to expire this fall.

“We are delighted to welcome Kelvin into our campaign to write hunger into history. His passion for promoting anti-hunger programs rooted in his deep faith is a great example of what constitutes a hunger champion,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. 

The expectation is that Beachum, an NFL player with many Twitter followers, will offer a different voice at Bread - one that especially entices a younger demographic to join our cause.

At Bread, our work intersects with poverty, mass incarceration, immigration, climate change, and among other issues. Beachum acknowledged that he doesn’t know everything about hunger and is excited about the possibility of learning more and helping Bread end hunger in the United States and abroad.

“God is stretching me to do things I have never done before, like advocate for hungry children,” Beachum said. “It truly takes a team to make that dream work. It takes a team from all different walks of life, all different upbringings, backgrounds, circumstance, to all to come together and help end hunger.”

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

 

 

 

 

 

Injustice Ignites Social Fury in Baltimore

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Protest at the Baltimore Police Department Western District at N. Mount St. and Riggs Ave. Wikimedia Commons.

By Jennifer Gonzalez and Kimberly Burge

The events unfolding in Baltimore are a deep reminder of the systemic inequities that exist in many of our cities across the country.

Yes, the riots and anger are connected to the death of Freddie Gray – a 25-year-old black man who suffered a spinal cord injury following his arrest by police. But the social fury is also a symptom of the city’s high unemployment rates, low high school graduation rates, and high poverty rates.

Mass incarceration also plays a role. About one-third of Maryland’s prison population comes from inmates who hail from Baltimore.

Returning citizens with felony convictions are at serious risk of hunger and poverty because employers often don't want to hire someone with a criminal record. Licensing prohibitions can bar certain individuals from working in particular fields. And even when ex-offenders do get jobs, they earn much less than they did before going to prison.  

Studies show that a prison record reduces yearly earnings by 40 percent.

Worse, laws ban individuals with felony convictions from getting government assistance. Many can’t receive SNAP (food stamps), TANF (welfare), or housing assistance. With no job, no shelter, and no help, many people in these situations are denied a second chance.

Bread for the World is trying to change that. We are supporting several key pieces of legislation this year that would help people create a post-prison life where they can work, support, and feed themselves and their families.

The bills are the following:

The Smarter Sentencing Act is a bipartisan bill that would reform U.S. sentencing laws. It 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.

The Redeem Act (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act) proposes allowing people convicted of nonviolent crimes to ask the courts to seal their criminal records. They could then present themselves, according to the legal system, as lacking a criminal background.

These measures would improve their chances of getting a job and, in turn, reduce the threat of hunger or recidivism. The bill would remove offenses relating to possession or use of a controlled substance from the categories of drug offenses that result in the convicted individual being ineligible for assistance.

The Corrections Act (Corrections Oversight, Recidivism Reduction, and Elimination Costs for Taxpayers in Our National System) would offer incentives and programs to help the incarcerated not offend again once they leave prison. It would also allow some prisoners to participate in recidivism-reduction education programs and, in exchange, they could earn time credit toward pre-release custody.

Additionally, President Obama’s budget calls for $120 million in continued support for the Second Chance Act. Passed in 2008 with overwhelming bipartisan support and signed into law by President George W. Bush, this law has provided critical resources for prisoner reentry programs. With approximately 600,000 individuals returning home from prison each year, successful reentry is a public safety and cost-savings imperative.

The riots and anger swelling in Baltimore will eventually subside and give way to normalcy. However, the issues that are the underbelly of the social unrest will continue to simmer behind the scenes – in neighborhood bars, college classrooms, and homes.

Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators. Urge Congress to remove the ban on SNAP and TANF for people with felony drug convictions. The time is ripe for criminal justice reform, and this should be a part of it.

Learn more by reading our fact sheet: Hunger and Mass Incarceration.

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World. Kimberly Burge is a freelance writer who lives in Washington, D.C.

'From Kids Whose Stomachs Ache to Parents Whose Hearts Break'

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By Bread Staff

Editor’s note: This is a first-person account told to Bread staff members by a Bread colleague about the importance of good nutrition, especially during a child’s early years. Proper nutrition plays a significant, time-sensitive role in a child’s growth and development.

Over 16 million American children or 1 in 5 don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. Hungry children are not a rare exception. They are your neighbors. They are my neighbors.   

But statistics and reasoning are often not enough to convince us to take actions.  Real-life stories bring home the critical importance of good nutrition to a child’s growth and development.

I have one such story.

My younger son’s birth mother wasn’t able to provide him with strong pre-natal nutrition. There was no Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) nutrition program.  There were not enough nutritious breakfasts and lunches for the first 7 ½ years of his life.  He was robbed of his best potential because he did not receive critical nutrients.  Each day now and for the rest of his life he will pay the price of malnutrition.

Like many children in developed countries who have been malnourished, my son did not “look hungry.”  Only later, would we know the effects of his hunger – his shorter stature but more importantly the gaps in his brain’s development.

Today, at 17, he uses his fingers to count while doing his math homework because he lost out in having the brain development that supports the memorizing and recalling of elementary math facts.  My son is not lazy.  He does apply himself.  My husband and I support his educational efforts with countless hours of at-home tutoring. But, despite spending the equivalent of months trying to learn the multiplication table, he has not been successful because he does not have the capacity to learn them.

As we look to the future, my husband and I are asking, “Will a college degree pay off?  Who will hire him?  How will he be successful in a world that values speed and high productivity?”  We swallow hard and say a prayer, “Guide us Lord.  We don’t know what to do. We need your grace to figure something out.” 

Hunger is not a partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats know that hunger hurts -- from kids whose stomachs ache to parents whose hearts break.  But, the biggest hurt is the lifetime price that children who have experienced hunger and malnutrition will pay.

A child whose brain does not develop optimally can’t eat extra food as an adult to make up for this deficit.  In our fix-it society, the effects of poor nutrition cannot be fixed later when the budget deficit is lower, when jobs are more plentiful, or when universal access to food is a reality. We need to make sure now that children have access to nutritious food so that they can be all that God intended for them to be.

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

 

 

 

SNAP Safe For Now, But Automatic Cuts Loom in Budget

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The joint budget resolution for the 2016 fiscal year includes deep cuts to anti-hunger programs.  (Screen shot from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media)

By Robin Stephenson

The House and Senate are close to finalizing a deal for the overall parameters of the 2016 fiscal year budget. The joint budget resolution, with deep cuts to anti-hunger programs, could be ratified by votes in the House and Senate this week.

“It’s a budget that fails to prioritize the most vulnerable, but there is a silver lining:  Thanks to our advocates, the joint resolution does not include reconciliation instructions to the agriculture committees,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World.

In the final compromise, instructions were not included that would have put SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) directly on the chopping block.

“This is good news,” said Kegan. “It postpones our fight to protect SNAP. SNAP is always vulnerable and continues to have a target on its back, but this gives us some breathing room.” On the other hand, reconciliation instructions still leave Medicaid, the earned income tax credit, and the child tax credit potentially at risk.

However, given that 69 percent of the cuts put low-income people at risk, Kegan warns there is still much work to do. “The decisions of what programs get funded and what programs get cut is part of a complex process. There will be a few key opportunities and threats over the next five months in particular,” she said.

A budget resolution sets the top-line numbers for annually appropriated programs – the overall size of the pie that is then sliced up in what is called the appropriation process. Those slices fund individual programs administered through the federal government. Because the budget was balanced by cuts exclusively and not through revenue, the slices are thin. Making matter worse, unless Congress acts, the slices will shrink even more because of a process called sequestration.

Sequestration was offered as a stick during 2011 budget negotiations. In 2011, negotiators were given a choice: They could decide where to enact entitlement cuts and raise revenue or accept additional cuts that shrink the annual appropriations budget. The group of lawmakers, dubbed the Super Committee, failed to compromise. That result triggered the draconian policy to shackle spending even more.  

Since then, Congress and the Obama administration enacted moderate and temporary measures that eased the impact of the cuts.  Lawmakers must enact measures soon that would again ease cuts that affect anti-hunger programs like The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The domestic nutrition program, which is already stretched to meet unprecedented need, provides funding for food banks to purchase nutritious foods and to help transport and deliver that food to Americans in need.

“Sequestration is unacceptable and unsustainable. It is a decision that can be changed, if,” Kegan stressed, “Congress makes it a priority. But they have to hear from their constituents.”

There are several programs under the jurisdiction of the agricultural committee that are critical in our efforts to end hunger, but would be subject to a sequestration squeeze. The WIC program supports nutrition for children from low-income families so they grow healthy but would lose vital funding if the automatic cuts are not removed. The dollars that fund food aid and increase our ability to buy food closer to disasters like Nepal would be in jeopardy if sequestration goes into effect.  And the poverty-assistance programs like low-income housing assistance and Head Start would also be at risk.

Bread members are urged to tell their members of Congress to enact measures that will remove sequestration from the budget and develop a bipartisan, balanced approach to deficit reduction.

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

Churches and Charities are Key Partners, But Can't Fight Hunger Alone

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Federal nutrition programs are finding ways to connect the people who rely on them with a healthy selection of foods. Jim Stipe for Bread for the World.

By Alyssa Casey

“Many people call SNAP a safety net, but for me it was like a trampoline – bouncing my family back into work and a brighter future,” said Keleigh Green-Patton, a working mother and former SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) recipient, who recently testified on Capitol Hill.

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives held two separate hearings, both on critical anti-hunger programs. The House Agriculture Committee focused on the relationship between SNAP and the charitable sector, while the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing on serving students and families through child nutrition programs.

During the SNAP hearing, Green-Patton told her story of turning to SNAP after losing her job, participating in a job-training program through the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and then finding employment and moving off SNAP. While the three-month training program was facilitated by the food depository, the program was unpaid, and so to keep food on her family’s table, Green-Patton turned to SNAP.

In addition to Green-Patton, expert witnesses from food banks and anti-hunger programs emphasized the critical role of SNAP, even in the midst of the innovative work being done by private charitable organizations. “We are proud of our daily impact on hunger, but it pales in comparison to the tremendous job done by federal nutrition programs, including SNAP, WIC, CACFP, School Lunch and Breakfast and Summer Meals,” said Kate Maehr, chief executive officer of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) echoed this theme by citing Bread for the World’s research on charities and hunger. “I think the message that’s loud and clear is that churches and charities cannot do it on their own. To put it in perspective, I have a fact sheet here from Bread for the World… it says federal assistance for food and nutrition programs [in 2013] was at about $102 billion. Assistance from churches and charities was at $5.2 billion.”

It is encouraging to see members of Congress acknowledge the hard work of charitable organizations in feeding hungry people. But with federal nutrition programs – including SNAP, school meals, and WIC – providing 19 times more food assistance than private charities, these hearings couldn’t have been timelier. Members of Congress in the Education and Workforce Committee also heard from a panel of witnesses who spoke to the effectiveness of and need for strong child nutrition programs.

Charitable organizations, including food banks and pantries, churches, and faith organizations, are critical partners in the fight against hunger because they are on the ground in so many local communities. Yet many of these organizations rely largely on donations, work with extremely limited resources, and their presence varies by region. They cannot provide the certainty and consistency of SNAP or child nutrition programs.

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

Alyssa Casey is a government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.

We Need You on Lobby Day: Strength in Numbers

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Bread for the World activists walking through the Russell Senate Office Building during a Lobby Day. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

By Zerline Hughes

Most of us are familiar with that now-antiquated Schoolhouse Rock cartoon on how a bill becomes a law. You know the one, where the talking bill travels on the steps of the Capitol singing about patience and courage, sitting and waiting in committee. Though still very applicable today, what that animated lesson doesn’t explain is how people – not necessarily our congressional leaders – are needed to help make a bill into a law.

Petitions, letters, emails, and phone calls to your representatives are definitely one way to make change happen. Even social media is a way to incite change.  However, the most effective way to influence your members of Congress on an issue is to personally meet with them. And what better time than Bread for the World’s Lobby Day – when a host of advocates from all walks of life and from across the country band together to do it as a large contingency.

Bread’s Lobby Day is around the corner – June 9. This year, much is at stake. June will be an important month, and Congress will be in the middle of debating important pieces of legislation such as the reauthorization of the child nutrition bill, among others. We believe we can convince Congress to do what's right for people struggling with hunger and poverty. However, we can't do it alone. We need you!

“I'm on Capitol Hill quite a bit, and I can tell you there are many Christians in Congress. And they can be moved by Christ,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread.  “They can be moved by faith. Moved by the gospel. There's a power there that the special interests just can't compete with.”

Lobby Day will begin with worship, followed by an issues briefing, and then visits to congressional offices on Capitol Hill. In the evening, Bread will host a reception honoring members of Congress who have championed efforts to end hunger and poverty. The day will end with a closing worship service.

Walking through the halls of Congress and meeting decision makers or their staff is exciting and easy. For legislators, a visit from a constituent is a welcome event. They want to hear about what is going on at home.

Once you make it known to your member of Congress that hunger is of dire importance to you and your family, our hope is that it becomes their priority. You also empower your legislator to act on your behalf. When officials hear directly from constituents, they get a better understanding of what you and your counterparts deem important.

And that’s why we need you.                  

Join us June 9.  Help bring us one step closer to ending hunger. Register today for Bread’s Lobby Day and join us in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill.

Zerline Hughes is a media relations consultant at Bread for the World.

 

 

 

Update on 2015 Offering of Letters Legislation

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By Bread Staff

Bread for the World's 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children focuses on our federal government's child nutrition programs. The heaviest activity in Congress on this issue is expected later in the year when a bill setting funding and policy for the major child nutrition programs is introduced.

But some other legislative activity is happening. Following is an update on some of it:

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) reintroduced the Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S. 613) on Feb. 27. The bill aims to improve the summer meal programs and help give more children access to meals and programs during the summer months. The bill specifically would:

  • Lower the area eligibility threshold to allow communities to participate if 40 percent of the children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Currently, a summer meal site qualifies if 50 percent or more of children in the area qualify for free or reduced-price school meals as defined by school or census data. The current threshold prevents many communities with significant numbers of low-income children, but not a high enough concentration of poverty, from participating. In addition, the 50 percent threshold is inconsistent with federally funded summer programs, such as the 21st Century Community Learning Center programs and Title I, which have 40 percent thresholds. These important education programs should all be able to provide summer meals. 15725784024_a8738dc2e9_o
  • Allow local government agencies and private nonprofit organizations to feed children year-round through the Summer Food Service Program. Currently, sponsors must apply to and operate the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) separately in order to feed children — often the same children — after school and during the summer. This has created duplicative paperwork and confusing administrative rules that discourage participation.
  • Provide funding for transportation grants to fund innovative approaches to providing meals and mobile meal trucks. Transportation is one of the biggest barriers to children's participation in summer programs. These grants will increase low-income children's access to summer meals in rural and other under-served areas.
  • Allow all sites to serve a third meal. Many summer meal sites provide child care to working parents and operate all day, but most sites are able to serve only two meals. This leaves children without enough nutrition to get through the day or forces sites to use program dollars for food.

Bread for the World has endorsed this bill and supports this and other efforts to strengthen and improve summer nutrition programs.

The other primary bill to improve summer meals, which was introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in the previous Congress — the Summer EBT bill — has not been reintroduced yet in this Congress.

Keep those letters coming! Bread's office in Washington, D.C., has received a few reports from congregations elsewhere in the country about the Offering of Letters that they have held. Many more congregations and faith communities have letter-writing events planned for this year. Bread encourages you to keep your letters coming!

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

Photo: Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

Child Nutrition Legislation Kicks Off With a Hearing on Wednesday

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SOCIAL SHARE: Click on the image above to open in a new window, then right click and save it. Tweet it or put it on your Facebook wall and tag your member of Congress. Tell him/her to #FeedOurChildren and pass a child nutrition bill that closes the hunger gap.

By Robin Stephenson

The moment has arrived! 

The first step towards passing a child nutrition bill that can end the hunger gap is here. The House will hold its first hearing titled “Serving Students and Families through Child Nutrition Programs” this Wednesday at 10 a.m. EDT. You can watch the hearing via a live webcast.

“This really kicks off the moment when our Offering of Letters Campaign starts moving in Congress,” said Christine Meléndez Ashley, Bread for the World’s policy expert on child nutrition. 

Every five years, Congress must craft a bill that sets the policy for child nutrition programs, which includes those for school meals, summer feeding, and the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) nutrition program. Many of you have already written letters as part of the 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children, letting Congress know their constituents at home care.

Over 16 million children in the U.S. don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. School lunch or breakfast is sometimes the only nutritious meal children from low-income families receive. It is easier for a nourished child to pay attention in class and learn more quickly. A good education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty later in life.

As we tune into the hearing tomorrow, we look for signs the House Education and Workforce Committee – the committee that will write the first draft of legislation – has the facts and is making ending hunger its target.

“This is the committee’s first chance to hear from experts on child nutrition programs,” Meléndez Ashley said. “The hearing will not only give us insight into the future of programs that keep hunger at bay for millions of kids, but also signal what members are thinking about in terms of child nutrition policy priorities.”

For example, summer is the hungriest time for kids. Pilot programs have shown that we can improve access to nutrition during the summer months. This committee has the opportunity to build on those programs and reach more children.

Another area that Bread will watch closely is whether committee members are viewing child hunger with a wider lens.

Parents who utilize child nutrition programs usually have a job, but low-income paychecks are not stretching to the dinner table - let alone the lunch counter. The last time Congress passed a child nutrition bill, they cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), a program that helps put food on the dinner table. When nearly half of SNAP recipients are children, cutting benefits makes no sense if ending hunger is the priority.

The budget proposals passed by both the Senate and House last month repeat a disturbing trend in Congress to balance the budget by cutting anti-hunger programs, especially SNAP. Tomorrow the House Agriculture Committee will continue their series of hearings reviewing the food stamp program in what some fear is a veiled attempt to cut even more. It's time for a new trend: making ending hunger a priority.

Tell Congress to act for kids. Don’t let the moment slip us by.

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

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