Once there was a man who thought of establishing a public “lock box” in every town and city in his country. The idea was that a community would collect money in a central place, and the funds would be used to care for poor people, among other things. This “community chest” would make caring for poor people an organized activity and a civic obligation in his country.
If this sounds something like a modern-day government program, the idea is actually 500 years old and came from Martin Luther.
On this day in 1517, Luther, then an Augustinian monk, Catholic priest, and professor, nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. This action of posting his long list of grievances (protests) against the Catholic Church sparked the Protestant Reformation. And because it happened today, on Halloween (a word that is short for All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day, Nov. 1), many Protestant denominations mark today as Reformation Day.
During his lifetime, Luther wrote volumes of works about many issues, and he became one of the greatest Christian theologians of all time. The theological subject he is perhaps best known for is the idea that we as humans cannot earn God’s favor. Luther struggled with constantly trying to please God but knew that he would always come up short because of his imperfections. Finally he realized, through his study of the Bible, that God’s love is truly and only a gift—it is pure grace. God’s love is freely given to us, apart from anything we can do to earn it, not dependent on our works.
So it’s ironic that I am writing about an organization—Bread for the World—that is devoted to doing good works on a day that is dedicated to the radical idea in the Gospel that our good works don’t save us, the idea that Luther wanted the church in his day to focus on.
So why should we do good works if we don’t have to in order to earn God’s favor?
A popular saying goes: God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does. God’s unconditional grace frees us to do good works—not to win God’s favor, but for our neighbors’ well-being. Bread for the World is working to end hunger so that everybody shares in the abundance of God’s creation. We come together as Christians of all stripes across the country to do these good works through Bread for neighbors near and far.
And so we can look at Luther’s idea of the community chest as a model for ending hunger. The place where our common resources are assembled—the taxes collected by our government—becomes the community chest. Some of these resources are used to assist people when they are hungry, through domestic nutrition programs or through food aid overseas, for example. This work carried out by our federal government on behalf of Americans makes caring for poor people an organized activity and a civic obligation in our country.
Let us go forth and do good works—for the sake of our neighbor—knowing that God’s grace has already saved us.
Stephen Padre is Bread for the World’s managing editor and a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Photo: re-creation of the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany, where Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses. (Stephen Padre)
The Cooperative Des Agricultures De Cereales is a farmers cooperative in Rwanda that is using techniques to increase production, improve the quality of the harvest, and use land consolidation for selected crops. Their main crop is maize as it can be dried and stored with little product loss. Bread for the World Institute's 2015 Hunger Report will focus on women's empowerment and uses cases in Rwanda as examples. Bread for the World Institute photo
This is a weekly prayer series that appears each Friday on the Bread Blog.
One aspect of Bread for the World’s new Bread Rising campaign is prayer. The campaign is asking Bread members to pray, act, and give. In this blog series, we will be providing a prayer for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.
This prayer series will follow the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, a list compiled by the World Council of Churches that enables Christians around the world to journey in prayer through every region of the world, affirming our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing their challenges and sharing their gifts.
We will especially be lifting up in prayer the challenges related to hunger and poverty that the people of each week’s countries face. In prayer, God’s story and our own story connect—and we and the world are transformed. In a prayer common to all of us—the Lord’s Prayer/the Our Father—we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This line from this prayer can also be a prayer for the end of hunger.
We invite you to join Bread in our prayers for the world’s countries to end hunger. And we encourage you to share with us your prayers for the featured countries of the week or for the end of hunger in general.
For the week of November 2-8, we pray for: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda:
Almighty and benevolent God, with love you created us and bestowed upon us the dignity of sons and daughters. In your divine providence, you gave us the whole world and all its fullness for our support and preservation. But because of our human greed, millions continue to suffer from hunger and are deprived the opportunity to live a life of dignity. This week, we place under your care and protection the people of Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda. Touch the hearts of all of us to challenge global injustice—that your sons and daughters on the margins of society may claim their place at the table. In your most holy name we pray, amen.
Percentage of the population of these countries living below the national poverty line (2014 figures):
Burundi: not available
Democratic Republic of Congo: not available
Source: World Bank World Development Indicators as found in the upcoming 2015 Hunger Report
Fact Sheet: Churches and Hunger (updated).
By Christine Meléndez Ashley
A new survey released this week by the Food Research and Action Center and Tyson Foods reveals eye-opening trends about American attitudes toward hunger in the United States.
Not only do a majority of Americans believe hunger is a bipartisan issue, but 71 percent also believe the federal government has a fair amount to a great deal of responsibility in dealing with it. Fifty-seven percent responded that local nonprofits, churches, and food banks have a fair amount to a great deal of responsibility.
These results make clear that ending hunger is a partnership among federal, local, and community-based entities.
In 2012, Bread for the World analyzed the cost of drastically cutting federal nutrition programs to churches. If cuts of the magnitude proposed by the House of Representatives had been enacted, each church would have had to come up with $50,000 a year for 10 years to feed people.
Clearly, churches and charities alone cannot feed everyone who is hungry. As food bank demand has increased, charitable donations to houses of worship have decreased, making the role of federal nutrition programs even more crucial.
To show the great importance and reach of federal nutrition programs, Bread analyzed federal funding of nutrition programs compared to the cost of food distributed by private charity. Food benefits from federal nutrition programs amounted to $102.5 billion in 2013, compared to $5.2 billion of food distributed by private charity.
In other words, federal nutrition programs delivered nearly 20 times the amount of food assistance as did private charities.
Members of Congress should take note. According to the survey, 61 percent of Americans believe we should do more to support and improve government-sponsored food-assistance programs. Yet, this Congress has voted at least 13 times to cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), our country’s largest anti-hunger program.
Christine Meléndez Ashley is senior domestic policy analyst at Bread for the World.
By Robin Stephenson
Over $9 billion dollars was spent on transporting food aid compared to $7.4 billion on actual food during a 10-year period, according to a joint investigation by USA Today and graduate students at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
With lives at stake, that ratio should shock us.
Legislation passed in the 1960s mandates food largely has to be purchased in the United States and then shipped on U.S. cargo carriers, which means 65 percent of the money is spent on transportation and business costs, rather than food. As part of Bread for the World’s 2014 Offering of Letters, people of faith have called on their members of Congress to reform outdated laws that govern our food-aid policy.
Special interests have lobbied hard to maintain the status quo. Companies like Liberty Martine have spent $1.13 million in 2013 to fight reforms according the USA Today report.
Earlier this year, a provision was slipped into the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4005) that would increase, from 50 to 75 percent, the amount of food aid that must be shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels. The House passed the bill by voice vote. The Senate version (S. 2444) awaits mark-up in committee. We will continue to advocate for the absence of cargo preference in a final bill.
In addition to regions with chronic food insecurity, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has responded to food emergencies in Syria, South Sudan, the Philippines, and Central African Republic in 2014. Food shortages resulting from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa are expected to put more pressure on already strained resources. Making matters worse, the Medill/USA Today report says that the cost of buying and delivering food from the United States has tripled in the past 12 years – all while funding has been cut.
There is a solution in the Senate right now that could change the lopsided food-aid ratio. The Food For Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) would eliminate cargo preference. The bill would free as much as $440 million annually through greater efficiencies in delivering aid and enable U.S. food aid to reach up to nine million more people annually.
Smart food aid is about more than feeding people; it helps create stability.
In Liberia, the Ebola epidemic is destroying lives and livelihoods. Markets are disrupted and food is becoming scarce. To maintain political and economic stability, people’s basic survival needs must be met. Supporting the response by the World Food Programme, USAID had provided $6.6 million worth of U.S.-grown food aid as of last month.
In a time where needs are great and resources are stretched thin, every dollar must count. It is time to flip the equation and make ending hunger the priority.
Act Now: Email or call your senators at 800-826-3688 and ask them to cosponsor S. 2421, the Food for Peace Reform Act.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and seneior regional organizer at Bread for the World.
Did you know that each month the church relations department at Bread for the World produces a resource specifically for pastors? Whether you are searching for inspiration for a sermon you're writing, or just a lectionary enthusiast, Bread for the Preacher is for you.
After reading this introduction, explore this month’s readings on the Bread for the Preacher web page, where you can also sign up to have the resource emailed to you each month.
By Bishop José García
We are at a unique moment in history that makes ending hunger possible by 2030. In order to do this, however, the U.S. government must do its part to lead here and around the world in the work of making hunger history. Bread for the World has a plan to do our part to make this a reality. We must win a series of advocacy victories, urge our government to take the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals seriously, and, of course, elect officials who will make ending hunger a priority by 2017. Our texts make clear this month that now is the time for justice and that justice is impossible without good leaders.
Bread for the World has launched a campaign called Bread Rising, which will enable this plan, strengthen the organization financially, strengthen our collective Christian voice in every congressional district, and ground our advocacy in prayer and God's love. In the coming months, we will be calling on our partners to pray, to act, and to give as part of the campaign. We hope you will join us. To learn more about the campaign visit www.bread.org/rising.
Bishop José García is the director of church relations at Bread for the World.
Photo: Pastor Judith VanOsdol leads the noon church service at El Milagro (The Miracle) Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
When the school bell rings on the last day of the school year, most children teem with excitement as their summer break begins. But for too many schoolchildren in the nation’s fifth-hungriest state, that bell means not knowing where their next breakfast or lunch will come from for the next few months.
In Wilkesboro, N.C., the Samaritan Kitchen does what it can. It provides schoolchildren with backpacks of easy-to-prepare meals to take home on the weekends.
“I have a student in my classroom who was starving,” an elementary teacher from Elkin wrote the Samaritan Kitchen. Reprinted in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, the note continues, “He couldn’t get enough to eat. We were trying to feed him all the extra food we could find. There was no food in his house.”
Samaritan Kitchen’s goal for 2013-2014 was to serve 800 children per week with backpack meals, but lack of funding kept them from reaching that goal.
Churches and charities across the United States are answering the call to feed the hungry, but they cannot do it alone. For every 20 bags of food assistance to feed hungry Americans, only 1 is provided by churches and charities. The bulk – 19 out of every 20 bags – come from federal nutrition programs. We need strong federal policies to protect and support these national nutrition programs.
More than 1 in 4 children in North Carolina live at risk of hunger and poverty. Of the 60 kids riding your child’s school bus, more than 15 go to school with empty stomachs, counting down the hours until lunch, which may be their first – or only – meal of the day.
School meal programs are a key tool in fighting child hunger. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides a free or reduced-price lunch to low-income children in schools across the country. While the NSLP is able to reach many children while school is in session, weekends, holiday breaks, and summer months present a unique challenge to struggling parents who rely on school lunches to help feed their child.
In 2015, Congress will renew and improve the legislation that governs national child nutrition programs, including school and summer meals. These policies significantly affect North Carolina’s state and local child nutrition programs. The North Carolina Senate race between incumbent Kay Hagan and state House Speaker Thom Tillis is too close to call. Whoever wins has the opportunity to bring the voice of North Carolina’s children to Capitol Hill.
Next year, to coincide with Congress’ consideration of the legislation that oversees child nutrition programs, Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters will focus on this topic. Churches will be asked to communicate with Congress on renewing this legislation.
Whichever state you live in, ask your candidates what their plans are to increase access to food for hungry children. Look at how current members of Congress voted on hunger and poverty issues. Thank them for votes that combat hunger, or ask them to explain votes against policies to rid our country of hunger.
If we raise our voices and votes across the United States, we can end hunger in our lifetime.
View a state-by-state map of hunger and poverty rates in America.
Alyssa Casey is Bread for the World’s government relations coordinator.
Cards with messages of hope and joy are popping up in supermarket aisles around the country. But what if you could send real hope and joy this Christmas — not just to your friends and family, but to people around the world?
One hundred percent of revenue from Bread for the World Christmas cards supports efforts to end hunger and poverty. Choose from multiple designs, each featuring a beautiful photograph that captures the spirit of the season and the ways in which God's grace moves us to help our neighbors, whether they live next door, in the next state, or on the next continent.
I hope you will join me in sharing Bread for the World's vision of a world without hunger with your friends and family. Order your cards today.
Kari Bert is the deputy director of development and membership at Bread for the World
By Robin Stephenson
I turned my television off last night because the campaign ads were too numerous. Besides telling me little about the candidates, the negative tone put me in a foul mood. However, I will not turn off my commitment to using my citizenship to end hunger.
Each election gives me the opportunity to send a leader to Washington, D.C., who will make ending hunger a priority. Bread for the World has given me all the resources I need. I put my favorite resource on my bulletin board about a month ago to remind me that elections can be another opportunity to live out my faith.
- Develop an “elevator speech” for why ending hunger is important to you as a Christian.
- Register to vote.
- Write to your local paper saying that ending hunger is a priority for you as a voter.
- Learn what the candidates are saying about ending hunger.
- Speak about the importance of ending hunger at candidates’ town hall meetings.
- Engage your friends. Make sure they are registered and know what the candidates are saying about ending hunger.
- Magnify your voice by combining it with those of thousands of other Christians. Become a member of Bread for the Word; organize an Offering of Letters.
- Engage your church.
- Give money and volunteer time to candidates who are committed to ending hunger.
- Vote for candidates who are committed to ending hunger.
Voting matters to me because I don’t believe any person should be hungry.
I am a citizen, not a subject, and I “have a stake, role, and responsibility in my government.” Through voting and advocacy, I can influence the legislative framework that structures our society. My sister in Christ who is farming in Kenya does not have a vote, but her ability to prosper may be connected to global trade laws legislated by my government. Programs that provide access to healthy food, so that my neighbor next door can provide for her child, are created through participatory government.
There is one more thing on this list that I would add: Add your name to the pledge to end hunger. Join me and others who are raising our voices and making it clear that we vote to end hunger.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.
For those who leave behind hearth and home, often fleeing hunger and poverty, the drive to succeed is strong. Given the right conditions, immigrant entrepreneurs can improve their lives and the economies of the communities in which they thrive.
Iowa is banking on it. This month, Solidarity Microfinance launched a microcredit program with the goal of reducing poverty rates while increasing economic activity in Des Moines.
“Wherever you find immigrant growth you’ll find entrepreneurship,” Iowa State University researcher Sandra Burke told Andrew Wainer, senior immigration policy analyst for Bread for the World Institute.
Wainer interviewed Burke for “The American midwest is the new microfinance frontier,” recently published in The Guardian.
One such immigrant entrepreneur is Jose Castro, a farmer originally from Michoacan, Mexico. In 1983, he left his small farm and worked a variety of jobs in California before finding himself in Des Moines in 1994. Eventually, he set up a grocery store, La Michoacana. He wants to expand it to include an eating area but additional capital or credit has been difficult to secure. It is enrepreneurs like Jose Castro who will benefit most from programs like that that of Solidarity Microfinance.
Iowa, which has the lowest level of entrepreneurial activity in the United States, has a growing immigrant population. Wainer writes that the potential of many would-be entrepreneurs is blocked by traditional financial services. What was once a development tool to reduce poverty in developing countries could now be the key to unlocking economic potential in immigrant communities here at home. Read the full article here.
To learn more about the connections between hunger and immigration go here.
“Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong,” by Matt O’Brien, The Washington Post. “America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others.”
“Janet Napolitano throws her support behind executive action on immigration,” by Jerry Markon. The Washington Post. “Former homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano is supporting executive action by President Obama to change immigration policy if Congress fails to pass a broad overhaul, citing what she calls her successful 2012 push to delay deportations of many younger immigrants.”
“United States wastes billions of dollars to ship food aid,” by Tom Murphy, Humanosphere. “The United States spent more money to ship, handle and store food aid than on the actual food.”
“Child poverty in U.S. is at highest point in 20 years, report finds,” by Gale Holland, Los Angeles Times. “Child poverty in America is at its highest point in 20 years, putting millions of children at increased risk of injuries, infant mortality, and premature death, according to a policy analysis published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.”
“Ebola is triggering a food crisis in West African countries, says Shenggen Fan,” by Sayantan Bera, Live Mint. “The International Food Policy Research Institute director says the threat of cross-boundary transmission is ratcheting up prices of commercial crops like cocoa.”
Get updates on issues and actions to take on behalf of hungry people.