Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

501 posts categorized "U.S. Hunger"

Building the 2016 Federal Budget: Round 1

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Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.


By Bread Staff

Before Congress left for its spring break, the House and Senate debated and passed their budget resolutions. The House resolution passed 228-199. The Senate resolution passed 52-46. When members of Congress return to Washington, the two chambers will iron out the differences and pass a budget for fiscal year 2016.

Every year, Bread for the World follows the federal budget process to ensure Congress adequately funds programs that provide hope and opportunity to people struggling with hunger and poverty.

This year, Bread is escalating its work on the budget. Unlike the past few years, one party now controls both the House and the Senate. This makes it significantly easier for Congress to cut anti-hunger programs.

Details of the Budget Proposals

Both the House and Senate sought to balance the budget within the next 10 years. They did so without raising taxes, touching Social Security, making any big changes to Medicare within the next decade, or cutting the defense budget. They actually increased funding for defense in some cases. So where did the trillions of dollars in cuts come from? Sixty-nine percent of the cuts in both budgets would be placed on the backs of low-income people.

In some cases, the budgets were clear about their vision for how to accomplish those savings. The House budget cut $140 billion from SNAP (formerly called food stamps). The Senate budget proposed cutting Medicaid by $400 billion. Both budgets also allowed the 2009 improvements to the earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit to expire. Those improvements have kept 16 million people from falling into or deeper into poverty.

Both budgets continued the additional cuts of sequestration, the automatic cuts Congress agreed to in 2011. These cuts are lasting and severe.

The House Budget proposal cut yearly non-defense appropriated spending by another approximately $759 billion on top of these sequestration cuts. By 2025, total funding for these programs (which includes foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, and many other programs) would be at least 33 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

The Senate budget proposal cuts yearly non-defense spending by another $236 billion on top sequestration. By 2025, total funding for these programs would be at least 24 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

This puts even greater strain and heightens competition for every dollar, threatening funding for international foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, low-income housing assistance, emergency food aid, and many other programs. 

Review of the Sequestration Agreements

Back in 2011, when Congress passed the law that established the sequestration cuts, it made an agreement. It was that automatic sequestration cuts would treat defense and non-defense spending equally.

During the committee mark-ups and floor debates, division emerged. Defense hawks protested the lower spending levels from sequestration. Ultimately, both chambers boosted defense spending by $96 billion in a special account that is not subject to the sequestration cuts or spending limit (known as Overseas Contingency Operations). However, a growing number of members of Congress are speaking out against the sequestration cuts, urging Congress to look to other areas in the budget, including revenues and other spending programs.

During the budget debates in late March, Bread stepped up its advocacy efforts, and our members responded. In particular, we urged the Senate to oppose several amendments. In the end, those amendments were either defeated or pulled before they could even get a vote.

Even though the House budget made horrendous cuts to programs that help people move out of poverty and put food on the table, there was a silver lining. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) got an entire section on food-aid reform included. This section: 1) asserted that cargo preference, monetization, and using only food commodities (practices in providing food aid that Bread believes are inefficient or harmful) “fails to use taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively,” and 2) endorsed the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015. This act would make many of the reforms that Bread has been seeking since last year’s Offering of Letters: Food-Aid Reform.

Round 2 and Beyond

When Congress returns after its two-week recess, it will conference the two budget resolutions. Bread will be watching closely to see what Congress agrees upon and the exact funding levels they give to specific programs.

We expect the spring and summer to be busy months as congressional committees mark up various budget bills. This could all come down to some important budget negotiations this fall between Congress and the White House.

Learn more: Budget Basics & Resources

A Chance at Renewal

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By Eric Mitchell

Easter is not only about Christ’s resurrection, but it’s also about renewal and redemption.

Does God's grace in Jesus Christ move you to help others realize a new life and a second chance?

An overwhelming number of people leaving prison and those with felony convictions are at serious risk of hunger because employers don’t want to hire them. Licensing prohibitions can bar certain individuals from working in certain fields. And even when some do get jobs, they earn much less than they did before prison.

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.

This isn’t right. And it doesn’t make sense. We should create conditions that help people successfully reenter communities, reconnect with their families, and make a decent living after serving their sentences. Instead, we’re doing the opposite.

Congress can change this. Call or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators at 800-826-3688. Urge Congress to remove the ban on SNAP and TANF for felony drug convictions. Urge Congress to also oppose restrictions that keep formerly incarcerated individuals from accessing anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs.

Christ extended us a second chance and told us to forgive others. People leaving prison and those who have criminal records should have a genuine opportunity at a new start. Because of Easter, I believe in the power of redemption. Tell Congress to lift the benefits bans.

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

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

Photo: Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

Rev. David Beckmann Receives Anti-Poverty Champion Award


_E0A0457By Bread Staff

The National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) has given Rev. David Beckmann, Bread's president, its Anti-Poverty Champion Award for his leadership in advocacy efforts to end hunger in the United States and globally.

The award was presented at the coalition's annual conference of leaders on March 27 in Orlando, Fla. Beckmann was one of the keynote speakers at the awards dinner.

NaLEC brings together Latino evangelical leaders and seeks to be a voice on public policy for the rapidly growing Latino population in the U.S. NaLEC educates its constituencies on and advocates in the areas of poverty, immigration, education, health care, and criminal justice reform.

NaLEC has a strong connection to Bread. NaLEC's president, Rev. Gabriel Salguero, served two terms on Bread's board of directors until 2013. Bishop Jose Garcia, Bread's director of church relations, is NaLEC's vice president.

Also receiving awards with Beckmann were Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Longwood, Fla., who also serves as a spiritual adviser to President Barack Obama; and Rev. Luis Palau, author, radio show host, and Latino evangelist.

Photo: Rev. David Beckmann speaking at a USAID conference last year about the Feed the Future initiative. Bread for the World.

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.

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