Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

18 posts categorized "WIC"

Tell Congress to Protect Child Nutrition Programs

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

By Eric Mitchell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Child Nutrition Legislation Kicks Off With a Hearing on Wednesday

Child-hunger-gap
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.

How You Helped My Family

Thaddeus and Destany
Thaddeus with his daughter, Destany, when she was 7 and 18.

By Thaddeus Cooks

I was a 17-year-old single father struggling to make ends meet. At an age when most young men are thinking about college, I was trying to figure out how to feed my child and replace the clothes she kept outgrowing.

I'll never forget the woman from my church who told me about the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC).

With the assistance in getting nutritious food through WIC, I could use the little cash I had for clothes, diapers, and medicine. WIC's resources helped me keep my daughter healthy, happy, and nourished. I couldn't have done it without them.

Now the program that did so much for me and my daughter needs help.

WIC and other critical child nutrition programs are set to expire in 2015, and without strong voices fighting for them, they face serious financial cuts. Donate before December 31 to make sure children and families have the support they need in the new year.

Today, my daughter, Destany, is a healthy, happy, straight-A student. I can hardly believe how smart, passionate, and impressive she’s become. She has no memory of how hard it was in the very beginning. I thank God that her days of going to bed hungry as a child were short and that the future that followed was bright.

WIC changed our lives, and I’m determined to do everything I can to make sure the other 7.5 million families with young children at risk of hunger will have the same support we did.

The best way I know to do that is to support Bread for the World.

Bread has decades of experience protecting programs like WIC that make a real difference in people’s lives. Bread has a smart strategy to win over key legislators in 2015, but it takes more than that to end hunger. Your prayers, your advocacy, and — critically — your financial support are needed right now.

Please donate before December 31 to protect anti-hunger programs in 2015.

Together, we can make sure WIC and other programs continue to be the strong lifeline for families in need.

 

Eleven Days and Three Big Issues: Will Congress Act?

Capitol
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)


By Robin Stephenson

An expiring budget, food aid reform, and a humanitarian crisis at the border await Congress. After hearing from the voters, will Congress return from a five-week recess on September 8 ready to act on these connected issues?

Asked if it is possible, Amelia Kegan, Bread for the World’s deputy director of government relations, answers emphatically. “Absolutely. If they have the political will and make ending hunger a priority, they will work together.”

“These issues are too important for Congress to sit on any longer.”

The 2014 budget expires October 1. Congress has only 11 working days to pass a temporary extension before going on another break or face a government shutdown.

In addition to simply extending the budget, Congress should protect funding for WIC and maintain a strong safety net as the United States continues to recover from the Great Recession. As the economy slowly improves, further cuts could sink more Americans into deeper poverty.

Looming famine in South Sudan, drought in Latin America, and Ebola in West Africa are wreaking havoc with global food security – not to mention the millions of conflict-displaced families needing help in the Middle East. Efforts to address global hunger today mitigate food prices and global security concerns in the future.

Boosting poverty-focused development assistance is an investment that will decrease hunger in future food emergencies. Programs like Feed the Future, which take a long-term approach to building food security, are saving lives and building resilience in countries like Tanzania.

There is an opportunity to make our U.S. food aid—programs that respond to global disasters—do more with reform. Senators can build momentum for even more flexible and efficient food aid by cosponsoring the Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) and holding a hearing during this session.

Funding smaller reforms passed in the farm bill will free up the funds needed to help more people now and expand programs that are already working. For example, Guatemala has some of the highest rates of malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere and is one of the countries children are fleeing for the U.S. southern border. Catherine Pascal Jiménez, who is featured in the 2014 Offering of Letters, can keep her children at home thanks to a U.S.-funded food-aid program.

Ignoring the humanitarian crisis at the border or criminalizing children who flee poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America will not stop the flow of migrants. Funding global anti-hunger programs that can address economic stability in the sending countries is a first step in stemming the tide of hungry people seeking refuge. Congress must act quickly with emergency funding on its return to Washington.

Swift action may be a tall order, and there is certainly a reason to be pessimistic with this unproductive Congress. However, this is a democracy, and as Kegan points out, “Members who don’t listen to voters don’t stay in Washington.”

Kegan says faithful advocates need to make a lot of noise as Congress returns to the nation’s capitol next week. “If enough people demand action, they will act.” 

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

Feeding America Report: Reliance on Emergency Food Increasing

By Robin Stephenson

Electricity, rent, or food on the table to feed your kids? This choice is a game of poverty roulette that families like Jim and Christina Dreier grapple with each month and it isn’t fun.

The Dreiers and their three children live in Mitchel County, Iowa. Like many families, they use a patchwork of assistance – WIC, SNAP (food stamps), and the food bank – to make it through the month. Jim Dreier works two jobs, but that is not enough.

“It’s rough every day.  Where’s my next meal going to come from?” asks Christina.

Reading the Dreier’s story in a National Geographic article, “The New Face of Hunger,” one gets the impression that this is a family that lives on the edge of catastrophe.  It’s a life of fear and worry as they are always one step behind.  

“Moneywise,” says Christina, “coming in is a lot less than what has to go out every month.”

The Dreiers are food insecure – a term that describes households that do not have enough food in a given year. And they are not an anomaly. The shocking truth is food insecurity is epidemic in America. A job is no longer insulation from poverty and hunger.

According to a report released this week by Feeding America, one of Bread for the World’s partner organizations, one in seven people - 46.5 million Americans a year- rely on food banks to feed themselves and their families. Over half of the households included at least one person who was employed.

In the past, a trip to the food bank was an emergency situation that followed a job loss or financial crisis. Today, food insecurity is a chronic condition for too many Americans. But instead of helping low-income families, policy proposals in Congress appear to be working against them.

Earlier this year, the House passed the fiscal year 2015 House budget proposal, which makes deep cuts to programs for hungry and poor people in the United States, including cutting food stamps by $125 billion. Just last month, the House voted to reduce the child tax credit to the most vulnerable families, which would push an estimated 12 million people into deeper poverty.

A job that pays a living wage, not an emergency food box, is the only real buffer against hunger. Yet wages have not kept pace with economic productivity since 1950. Today, 28 percent of Americans make poverty level wages. A vote to raise the minimum wage failed earlier this year in the Senate.

It is time for Congress and the administration to set a plan to end hunger in the United States. Churches and charities can only provide a fraction of what is needed and cannot adequately address the root causes of poverty. The status quo is not ending hunger in America; policy targeted at ending hunger needs an overhaul.

We will never food bank our way out of hunger, so let’s stop trying. We also need the government to do its part.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.

 

The Perfect Food: Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week

Pisano program
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)


By Robin Stephenson

Breastfeeding was not something I expected to be a key point in a sermon on hunger, until I heard Rev. Dr. James Forbes.

“In God’s world, food is not negotiable,” said the renowned preacher to those gathered for a homiletics course in Portland, Oregon, last year. He paused to let the statement sink in. “God made the arrangement that every child has food to eat.”

Rev. Forbes was talking about breastfeeding. Women are designed to produce not just food, but the perfect food.

Earlier in the year, I visited a local WIC clinic – a domestic nutrition program designed to help women, infants, and children at nutritional risk. Walking in the door, I was greeted by a poster on the wall. One side of the sheet was a short list of the ingredients in formula with a lot of hard-to-pronounce words. The other side included the long list of what comprises breast milk – ingredients that change over time with the baby’s nutritional needs. Wow, I thought, God is an amazing creator!

It is World Breastfeeding Week, a yearly campaign to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding. The perfect food is a key resource in combatting hunger and malnutrition.

Globally, malnutrition leads to about 3 million deaths of children under five each year – deaths that could be prevented. There is a critical1,000-day “window of opportunity” between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday where nutrition is vitally important. Investments in nutrition interventions can prevent stunting and other harmful consequences of malnutrition. Nutrients received through breastfeeding provide important protections to fight infection and disease. Malnutrition, especially in children under age 2, can affect brain development, cognitive performance, and even earning potential later in life. Yet, only 37 percent of the world’s babies are breastfed for the recommended six months.

World leaders are starting to see nutrition as an ingredient of economic growth. In this week’s U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington, D.C., Nigeria’s Agriculture Minister Akinwumi Adesina said, “We invest so much in infrastructure, in bridges and roads. But most important is grey matter. We really need to invest in that.” It was reported from the Summit that poorly fed children rob Africa of up to 16 percent of its potential growth. Exclusive breastfeeding and early childhood nutrition is one of the best investments Africa can make – one of the best investments every country should make in their children.

Lawmakers in the United States have a role to play. The United States has a global nutrition strategy through USAID (the U.S. Agency for International Development), but Congress has proposed budget cuts to international programs that promote nutrition. Domestic nutrition programs like WIC, which help American mothers learn about breastfeeding, have seen their funding shrink over the last few years.

Adequate funding for programs that invest in nutrition both here and abroad is a smart investment. After all, in God’s world, food is not negotiable.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.

Nutritional Guidance from...Lobbyists?

'Potatoes' photo (c) 2011, jamonation - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Let's pretend, for a moment, that you're the parent of a two-year-old, and you want to make sure you're buying your toddler the most nutritious food possible, so she will grow healthy and strong. You're looking for advice. Whom would you turn to? Maybe a doctor? A nutritionist? Or a lobbyist?

Most people would pick the doctor or nutritionist, but it seems that some members of Congress would be inclined to go with the lobbyist.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee are currently embroiled in a debate about the nutritional value of one of America's favorite foods—the white potato.

Potato growers have recently voiced outrage over the exclusion of the white potato from the approved list of food that can be bought with Women Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program benefits. WIC provides healthy food to pregnant women and young children, allowing families to buy certain items deemed nutritious by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Milk and fruit are on the list, as are vegetables—save for white potatoes. USDA guidelines exclude white potatoes from WIC because, according to its dietary data, no Americans, rich or poor, are eating too few white potatoes in any form—in fact, we are eating too many. Potato growers maintain, as anyone with a financial stake in selling more potatoes might do, that white spuds are a nutritional powerhouse that should be available to WIC beneficiaries. 

Today, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee sided with potato growers, voting during its agriculture appropriations committee markup process to examine the issue more closely but, in the meantime, add white potatoes to the list of approved WIC foods.

Allowing a powerful special interest to have any say in determining guidelines for federal child nutrition programs sets a dangerous precedent. The move opens the door for lobbyists and special interests to begin promoting their foods. Luckily, there is still time to fix it! You can still contact your senators and tell them that the WIC foods program must address the nutritional needs of children, not the interests of the most powerful lobbies.

New York Times food writer Mark Bittman has written a piece on the potato battle, and what seems to be a trend toward members of Congress throwing science out the window and considering the profits and needs of special interests, to the detriment of children. It doesn't stop with Congress caving to the demands of potato growers—a recent House bill proposed allowing schools to ignore healthy eating guidelines for school lunches if they find that ridding their cafeterias of junk means they're making less money from food sales.

This week, a large group of national, state, and local organizations penned a sign-on letter to Congress, asking them to continue to let science-based decisions govern federal nutrition programs, whether deciding what foods can be purchased with WIC benefits, or what nutritional guidelines school lunches should follow. Hopefully, members of Congress will realize that science, not special interests, should be determining what is considered the most nutritious food for growing children.

Economic Recovery Misses Long-Term Unemployed

8214124711

By Robin Stephenson

Dirk Benson lives in Portland, Ore.—so do I. Dirk Benson is a writer—so am I. But Dirk Benson lost his unemployment insurance, sometimes sleeps in the airport or an abandoned house, and struggles to find work. I, on the other hand, can look out my window from the security of my apartment, and feel grateful to have a job. Through the morning fog, I see the Portland hills, filled with mansions and manicured lawns, and Dirk’s story haunts me.

When I first listened to Dirk’s story on National Public Radio, all I could do was sit and wonder "what if?" I wondered why Congress won’t extend emergency unemployment insurance (EUC) when employment rates have yet to reach pre-recession levels. The news is filled with stories of people whose situations have gone from bad to dire.

In a recent Forbes piece, John T. Harvey aptly characterized the debate over extending EUC as “ridiculous.”  The unemployment crisis is not over; there are still three applicants for every job opening.

The economy is slowly recovering and the job market is picking up, but the rate of long-term unemployment is worse than during any other economic downturn since the World War II, and remains at record levels.

“I can’t imagine that anybody in Congress or the Senate can be looking at this thinking that I don’t want to work or that any of us that are out here in this situation don’t want to work,” Clarissa Garcia Jewett, who lost her nursing job last May, tells the National Journal. “We’re looking for work; we’re just not getting it.”

Although some call the jobless lazy and characterize unemployment benefits as handouts, the facts tell a different story. As Harvey points out in Forbes, in just three years the number of unemployed Americans grew from nearly 7 million to more than 15 million. “[W]e have to explain why the United States experiences mass waves of laziness interspersed with periods of industriousness,” he writes.

Cutting EUC during a crisis does not help job seekers. Long-term unemployed already face diminishing returns in their search. Those who are unemployed for more than six months have a less than 15 percent chance of finding a job in today's market. For Dirk Benson, living rough means that he spends five hours of his day finding food and a shower instead of applying for work.

Last Friday, Congress left for a three-day holiday without giving long-term job seekers a break. Members of Congress still have not passed an extension of EUC, and every additional week they fail to act, another 72,000 unemployed workers continue to lose their benefits.

When I hear Dirk Benson’s story, I realize that he and I are only separated by a job. I get paid for these few words, while his story of struggle doesn’t come with a paycheck. In a country as wealthy as the United States, where most are riding the rising tide of a recovering economy, I shake my head in exasperation when I see that our leaders will not throw job seekers a life preserver.

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

The Faces and Facts Behind Hunger

Dawn
SNAP advocate Dawn Phipps at Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

Behind every hunger statistic is a story of how people have been affected by the ongoing cuts to the federal budget. Telling those stories is the goal of the new Circle of Protection project "Faces and Facts." The Circle of Protection--a coalition of faith leaders, of which Bread for the World is a member--has long maintained that Congress should not balance the budget on the backs of working poor people and struggling families. The stories of those featured as part of "Faces and Facts" help illustrate the human cost associated with budget cuts.

More than 81 percent of eligible infants are enrolled in WIC--Amanda Bornfree's daughter was once one of them. The Chicago resident recounts her experience with WIC--the program gave her vital information about breastfeeding and allowed her to provide her baby with nutritious food even after her husband lost his job. Nearly 15 percent of U.S. households struggle to put enough food on the table, and Dawn Phipps (pictured above) once headed one such household. On the "Faces and Facts" site, the Idaho nurse and SNAP advocate talks about how food stamps (SNAP) helped her put food on her table after she lost her job, and how she now works to ensure that other families receive the same lifeline.

Read these stories of people who've been affected by federal budget cuts, and also take a moment to share how federal net safety programs--or cuts to those programs--have affected you, your friends, your family, or members of your faith community. To learn more about what you can do to protect vital programs that help struggling families, visit Bread for the World's action center.

 

Prioritizing Hope in the Farm Bill and Budget Negotiations

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

The farm bill and 2014 budget conference committees continue to meet, and we continue to ask Bread for the World advocates to keep calling and writing their members of Congress. At stake in these negotiations is more than making columns of numbers balance; at stake is the funding for nutrition programs that allow Alli Morris of Bend, Oregon, the opportunity to move on and move up.

The story of Alli and her infant son Andre, told in the video above, shows that nutrition programs are a hand up. The Bend community takes advantage of federal programs to care for those who experience need in their midst. SNAP (formerly food stamps) is the life preserver Alli needs as she makes her way to solid ground. WIC provides the nutrition baby Andre needs to fight a pituitary disease he was born with.

The decisions made by Congress in the next two months must prioritize nutrition programs like SNAP and WIC that value both Alli and Andre's health and future. Some proposals, if enacted, would mean both programs might not be there for another family and community that need them. The automatic cuts called sequestration are chipping away at WIC funding. SNAP, a program that so many Americans have seen as a blessing during the recession and slow recovery, is at risk of being slashed by nearly $40 billion.

Alli and Andre's story reminds us that even if life throws us a few curve balls, there is always hope. Most of us have experienced hardship and can probably recall what it took to overcome difficulty, but not everyone has the same access to a helping hand. Alli insists that she can make a better life for herself and Andre. Her hard work is the essence of the American dream. This family has a chance because there is a community with the tools they need to provide an opportunity for Alli's commitment to take responsibility for her family's future.

It may be easy for members of Congress, sitting at a conference table in Washington, D.C., with reams of paper in front of them, to focus on the columns of dollar figures without seeing that a family's hope is a line item they may cut. It's might be easy for Congress to forget that programs like WIC and SNAP help communities thrive as we care for one another. But it won't be easy if the people the members of Congress represent tell them to prioritize hope. Perhaps you have a story to remind them that hardship can be overcome with the right tools and opportunities. SNAP and WIC are not just programs of hope, but ladders to move lives on and up. 

Stay Connected

Bread for the World