420 posts categorized "U.S. Hunger"
Forty-nine years ago,
President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty in response to a national
poverty rate of 19 percent. President Johnson believed that the U.S.
government could eliminate crushing poverty and created policy initiatives such
as Head Start, Volunteers in Service to America, and Job Corps. Although the
poverty rate has decreased since 1964, it remains unacceptably high at 14.5
percent of U.S. households, with nearly 49 million Americans, including 16.2
million children living, in poverty.
On July 31, House Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) held a hearing on the progress of the War on Poverty. Although both want to revitalize the American dream so that more people have the opportunity to achieve a better life, they offer starkly different paths to alleviating poverty. Rep. Ryan favors decreased taxes and incentives to get people off of assistance programs. Rep. Van Hollen argues that the budget put forth by congressional Republicans is akin to waging war against the poor, citing calls to block-grant SNAP and cut other federal anti-poverty programs. To illustrate their respective viewpoints they called on witnesses, including as Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK.
Sister Simone Campbell said that we, as people of faith, need to love and care for the poor, and she also addressed the vital importance of the federal government and the private sector in lifting people out of poverty. She also discussed how low wages, a major driver of poverty, make it extremely difficult for working families to put food on the table. An increased minimum wage is, along with SNAP (formerly food stamps), our most effective tool in helping people lift themselves out of poverty. A faithful budget is needed to end hunger and poverty in the United States.
At Bread for the World we know that the best way to alleviate poverty is to create good jobs that pay a living wage. No one should go hungry while working full time at the federal minimum wage. We also know that the current sequester will hurt working families and increase hunger in the United States. Congress should replace the sequester’s indiscriminate and catastrophic cuts with a balanced plan of increased revenue and responsible spending reductions. The only thing holding America back from ending poverty is a scarcity of political will. It will take not only faith but patriotism to lift 49 million Americans out of poverty.
To learn more about how to end hunger in the United States, read the background paper "Ending Hunger in the United States."
Traci Carlson is Bread for the World's government relations coordinator.
Photo: At Our Daily Bread Employment Center in Baltimore, people line up for the Hot Meal Program, held seven days a week (Jim Stipe).
A $20 billion cut to SNAP, the amount proposed in a House farm bill that failed earlier this year, is equivalent to eliminating half of all the charitable food distribution by churches and food banks over a 10-year period. The legislation that is currently being drafted doubles those cuts (Rick Reinhard/Bread for the World).
Last year it was $16 billion, but that wasn’t enough. Earlier this year, the number was $20.5 billion, but even that wasn’t enough. Now, the House of the Representatives has proposed $40 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) over 10 years – a horrifying amount that would substantially increase the suffering of the 47 million Americans who depend on SNAP to keep hunger at bay.
The Hill reports that the House is expected to vote on the bill in September after returning from August recess. The proposal is the product of a working group convened by House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in an effort to attract conservative votes and pass the stand-alone nutrtion title of the farm bill on partisan lines.The farm bill proposed by the House Agriculture Committee earlier this year "would have cut SNAP by $20 billion—which would have kicked 2 million people out of the program, reduced benefits for more than 800,000 families, and left 210,000 children without school meals,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, in a statement released earlier today. In the current bill, the House doubles the number of people hurt. Beckmann calls both proposals "truly cruel and unacceptable."
During a period of continued high unemployment where there is only one job available for every three applicants, this proposal would increase work requirements, meaning that people who want to work and are looking for a job, but haven’t found one, would see their benefits cut –benefits that help feed children. Ninety-nine percent of households receiving SNAP live well below the poverty line and have no room to absorb these cuts in their household budgets.
In the effort to cut benefits, much has been made of the increased participation in the SNAP program. SNAP participation has closely followed poverty and unemployment rates and has responded quickly and effectively to the recession. As the economy recovers, the Congressional Budget Office projects the participation rates will drop to pre-recession levels.
For Christians, feeding the most vulnerable among us is not a partisan issue – it’s a moral call. We know there is enough for everyone. A proposal to cut $40 billion from a program that offers much-needed food to so many is distressing.
"Assuring government’s obligation to advance the common good, ensure fairness, and defend the most vulnerable is good religion and good politics," said Rev. Beckmann. "Massive cuts to SNAP are neither."
This month, members of Congress will travel home to hear from their constituents. What they do upon their return – pass a farm bill that guts food assistance or cut social programs deeper while protecting defense spending – will depend entirely on what they hear from you. If they hear nothing, expect more proposals that, like this one, will hurt hungry and poor people.
To learn more about how you can get involved and specific priorities in your state or district, contact your regional organizer.
Next Wednesday, I will attend a meeting at the White House and hand-deliver Bread for the World’s petition. We are asking President Obama to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger.
More than 25,000 people have signed thus far, but we want the strongest possible showing for this meeting with White House staff. Help us get to 30,000 signatures! Please take a moment to add your name to this effort by signing the petition. Once you sign, we'll keep you updated on our efforts.
Let’s show the president that the movement to end hunger has momentum. Let’s show him that there’s a strong constituency waiting for him to speak up about poverty.
Together we can compel our leaders to show moral courage and work to end hunger. That’s why we started this petition, and that’s why we need your voice.
God's grace in Jesus Christ moves us to help our neighbors, whether they live in the next house, the next state, or on the next continent. Adding your name to the petition is a simple but powerful way to help your neighbors. Speak out against hunger just as the Hebrew prophets spoke out against injustice in their time.
I invite you to stand with us by signing the petition. I would be honored to bring your name with me to the White House next week.
If you can get 10 of your friends to sign, we’ll send you a pack of 10 Bread for the World Christmas cards to say "thank you." The deadline for signatures is 11:59 p.m. on Monday, August 5. Your friends can indicate that you referred them when signing the petition. You can use Bread’s online petition recruiting page or share the petition using Facebook.
By Traci Carlson
Despite the toll that the recession has taken on hungry and poor people, and the rising cost of food and other basic necessities, Congress hasn't raised the federal minimum wage for four years.
With the rate stuck at $7.25 per hour since 2009, workers earning the federal minimum wage find themselves struggling to make ends meet—even when holding down multiple full-time jobs, in some cases. An increase in wages would reduce hunger and poverty in the United States.
Today, as senators held a hearing on the 75th anniversary of the federal minimum wage, activists gathered at the Methodist Building, in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, to pray for a living wage.
Those gatherered reflected on the fact that the federal minimum wage would be $10.74 today, had it kept pace with inflation over the last 40 years. They shared stories of real people struggling to feed their families and they prayed for political leaders to act justly on this issue and raise wages for millions of America's lowest-paid workers.
Please join them in praying for those who are hungry, those who have the political power to increase the minimum wage, and also for people of faith, who can help pressure this nation's leaders to change wage policy.
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had." (Acts 4:32)
"[T]hat there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need." (Acts 4:34-35)
To learn more about how jobs that pay a living wage help fight hunger and poverty, click here.
Traci Carlson is Bread for the World's government relations coordinator.
Last month, a Washington Post piece on sequestration maintained that most of the devastating consequences of those across-the-board budget cuts have failed to materialize. In "They said the sequester would be scary. Mostly, they were wrong," the authors wondered what exactly had happened to all of the ill effects Americans were supposed to feel? In some cases, they noted, Congress intervened, but in other instances, as a feature in yesterday's Post found, the cuts were heaped on the backs of people whose woes don't often make front-page news: the poor.
"Not everyone is sharing proportionally in the pain of these budget cuts," said Elizabeth Crocker, who directs a Head Start program in Oakland, Calif., in the piece. While, as the article points out, some federal agencies have figured out ways around the worst cuts, many programs were hit hard, and people who depend on this nation's safety net have felt this the most.
The story examines the ways in which Hispanic families who depend on social programs, Head Start in particular, have been stung by the sequester. Maireny Cammacho, 33, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, wonders what she will do now that the Head Start center in her Yonkers, N.Y., neighborhood has closed. The early childhood education program not only prepared her sons for kindergarten, it fed them and gave them a safe place to stay while she and her husband were at work, relieving them of the burden of an enormous day care bill.
It's a rare media report on the impact of the cuts. Although some outlets have done fine work on sequestration's impact on hungry and poor people (see the Atlantic's "The Sequester's Devastating Impact on America's Poor" and National Journal's "How the Sequester Hurts Poor People"), it's a narrative that has been largely absent from newspapers, magazines, and television news programs. As the Atlantic piece pointed out, it's “fashionable in political circles to say the mandatory budgets cuts haven't been the predicted disaster"—even if cuts to programs that help hungry and poor people prove otherwise.
Last week, during Bread's monthly grassroots conference call and webinar, policy analyst Amelia Kegan pointed out that the media has largely ignored the effects of sequestration on vulnerable people, and stressed how important it is that Bread members continue to push their members of Congress to replace these cuts with a balanced approach. “We know if it’s not front page news, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening and isn’t important—if Congress doesn’t hear from you, they won’t think it’s a problem,” she said.
The bottom line is, if Congress doesn't hear about it, Congress won't fix it. And when an important issue isn't in the news, it becomes even more important for advocates to speak up and bring that issue to their senators and representative. A short-term sequester fix is still possible, but it's up to advocates to push for it, and make this nation doesn't solve its budgetary woes in a way that unfairly burdens hungry and poor people.
Photo: Children in a Head Start class in Tucson, Ariz., eat a nutritious lunch (Jeffrey Austin).
As part of the 2013 Offering of Letters campaign, Bread for the World is petitioning the President to make ending hunger a priority. (Robin Stephenson).
Ignoring poverty won’t make it go away, but if one were to listen to our nation’s leaders, you might think that is their plan.
Allotting only 26 percent of his presidency addressing poverty—ranking last among all presidents since John F. Kennedy, according to the Washington Times—President Obama has not yet proposed a comprehensive strategy to alleviate growing poverty. We are petitioning the president to show leadership on this issue.
A recent Kids Count report by the Annie E. Casey foundation shows that child poverty is on the rise. In 2011, 23 percent of children lived in poverty—an increase of 3 million since 2005. Poverty, especially child poverty, impedes the future potential that can move our nation forward. As Christians we know that there is enough of everything to go around, from food to shelter, but what there is not enough of is political will. We are called to a vision where all have a place at the table.
We need to remind President Obama of his promise, made during the last election campaign, to earnestly address hunger and poverty. With enough pressure, we can show that there is a large constituency of people who want to take hunger out of the shadows. We can start the conversation.
Students eating school lunch at Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, Va., on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. (USDA photo by Lance Cheung)
Summer break can mean going months without free school meals and snacks for many hungry children. The U.S. Department of Agriculture program provides free summer meals, but with some school buildings closed and limited school bus service, it's hard to get the kids to the food. This weekend, the Washington Post ran a piece about a school bus "bread truck" in Tennessee, a USDA program that brings food to children in communities where the need is great during summer months.
The reporter meets many people while riding the bus, but spends a lot of time with one family in particular, the Laughrens. The mom is struggling to make ends meet—she works 12-hour shifts as a cook at a nursing home, but risks being fired if she brings leftovers home to her kids. She receives SNAP benefits, but they don't stretch as far during the summer months, when her kids aren't receiving two free meals and snacks at school each day.
Hunger and food insecurity has affected each family member in a different way, all of them equally heartbreaking.
"Desperation had become their permanent state, defining each of their lives in different ways," the author writes. Courtney, 13, is "rail thin," while Taylor, 14, has been "stockpiling calories whenever food was available, ingesting enough processed sugar and salt to bring on a doctor’s lecture about obesity and early-onset diabetes." Anthony, 9, has decided to move out of the family's trailer and live with his grandparents. For Hannah, 7, hunger has "meant her report card had been sent home with a handwritten note of the teacher’s concerns, one of which read: 'Easily distracted by other people eating.'"
The comments section of the post is, as comments sections typically are, filled with poor-shaming and judgment, but there is also compassion, smart ideas about reducing hunger and poverty in America, and calls for lawmakers to strengthen, rather than snip, our country's safety net as so many families continue to struggle.
House farm bill negotiations continue, and while a version of the bill that included more than $21 billion in cuts to SNAP failed to pass last month, a current proposal to split the bill would leave vital nutrition assistance programs vulnerable to deep cuts.
Sadly, the Laughrens story isn't unique or even uncommon—50 million Americans are food insecure, one-third of them children. Now is not the time to slash programs that ensure that children don 't go to bed hungry and parents don't have to choose between providing their children with food or shelter. Now is the time to ensure a place at the table for all God’s people by using our voices to oppose cuts to programs that help hungry and poor people.
Bread for the World interns Katy Merckel, Theresa Martin, and Hampton Stall volunteering at D.C. Central Kitchen. Bottom photo: Bread for the World interns assembling salads at D.C. Central Kitchen. (Photos by Bread for the World intern Donald Soffer)
By Theresa Martin
Clad in aprons and hair nets, Bread for the World interns were busy chopping onions and arranging salads on the eve of July 4. While our time at Bread is usually spent working on advocacy in the office rather than direct service, we spent the afternoon volunteering at D.C. Central Kitchen.
D.C. Central Kitchen is an organization that focuses on providing both food and skills training for those in need. However, as its website reads, it is “not a soup kitchen.” Through programs like the 14-week culinary job training program for the unemployed, D.C. Central Kitchen provides those it serves with tools for ending the cycle of poverty. Rather than just offering food, the organization teaches others how to prepare food and then deliver meals to food pantries and other agencies around the city. Fresh Start Catering, D.C. Central Kitchen’s revenue-generating arm, which employs culinary job training program graduates, catered Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering.
As volunteers, we had the opportunity to work alongside culinary students and to get to know some of the people we advocate for and with at Bread.
“D.C. Central kitchen gave me a great chance to get to work for a good cause while learning a lot about the people I [volunteered] with!” says Bread intern Hampton Stall.
Intern Sara Doughton said the experience “was a powerful reminder that, although we may seem to be on different paths, or using different tools, we’re traveling together – and with countless others – as we work to end hunger.”
It was encouraging to learn about the work of the DCCK, and above all, it was a reminder to be creative in the pursuit of a just food system. Through their passion for cooking, the founders of D.C. Central Kitchen’s culinary training program have "changed the lives of over 1,000 men and women." Are you passionate about cooking? Writing? Politics? Music? Use what YOU are passionate about in the fight against hunger!
Theresa Martin is an intern in Bread for the World's Church Relations department.
By Theresa Martin
More than 3.5 million unauthorized immigrants in America live below the poverty line. Many of them flee hunger in their home countries only to arrive in the United States and find themselves struggling to feed themselves and their families yet again. In a country where 33 million tons of food is wasted each year, and roughly 75 percent of our farm workers are migrants, how is it that so many immigrants go hungry? “For I was hungry and you gave me food… I was a stranger and you welcomed me”—have we forgotten Jesus’ words?
I recently had the opportunity, along with immigration advocates from across the country, to attend the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference, hosted by Esperanza, an organization that works to support Latino communities in the United States. Both Democratic and Republican leaders spoke to the topic of immigration reform, and attendees had the opportunity to lobby members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
Rev. Dr. James Forbes speaking at Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).
When the Rev. Dr. James Forbes was a child, his family’s Raleigh, N.C., dinner table was a place not only where meals were shared, but where accomplishments were celebrated and compassion encouraged. After saying grace, the family members ate and talked about how they could best extend kindness and love to each other and the members of their community. “If we had been faithful in caring and sharing then we had the sense that justice and peace had a chance in the world,” Rev. Forbes, senior minister emeritus of the Riverside Church in New York City and president of the Healing of the Nations Foundation, said in a recent sermon.
During Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, “A Place at the Table,” Rev. Forbes offered words to fortify advocates working to ensure that all families can gather around dinner tables filled with compassion, love, and nutritious food. Now, Rev. Forbes, who is often called "the preacher’s preacher," is traveling the country, conveying God’s message that we can end hunger.
In the coming months, he will be preaching in churches across the nation and leading homiletics workshops for ministers, pastors, and others who also preach to end hunger. Click here to see if Rev. Forbes is coming to a church near you and to obtain registration information.
Get updates on issues and actions to take on behalf of hungry people.