Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Bread Pioneer Barbara Howell

By Patricia Bidar

Barbara Howell is like a cherished friend at a dinner party — she came early to help set up and stayed long. The North Carolina native was one of Bread for the World’s very first staff members. Her impressive 25-year tenure as director of government relations made a powerful impact on ending hunger in God’s world.

In 1973, Howell was working as a journalist in Singapore. A college classmate who was visiting her from India knew of her interest in international issues and her Capitol Hill experience at the Council of Churches. When the classmate told her about a hunger advocacy group that had just moved from New York City to Washington, D.C., Howell was intrigued.

“I felt strongly about Christian ways to work and about helping end international hunger,” Howell remembered. When she met Rev. Art Simon and read The Politics of World Hunger, the book he wrote with his brother, Paul Simon, who would later become a U.S. senator from Illinois, Howell knew her next step.

Soon Howell was installed at Bread’s office in the Methodist Building, right next door to the Supreme Court. Opened in 1924, the United Methodist Building is the only non-government building on Capitol Hill. The building has incubated some of the most widespread justice movements of the 20th century.

“I shared an office with a young mother who worked for the Friends of the Filipino People. She worked with her baby beside her, installed in a desk drawer!” Barbara recalled. “Terry Martin and Brennan Jones were helping Art Simon to create a policy group. When they came from New York, they’d sleep in the office.”

In those days, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) was still a pilot program. Introduced by Sen. Hubert Humphrey and Rep. Carl Perkins, WIC provides healthcare and nutrition for low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five.

In the 1980s, when efforts to cut food programs began in earnest, Bread began holding Offerings of Letters aimed at ensuring that all who needed WIC’s help could access it. Bread members got creative, with Mother’s Day cards that read, “Remember the mothers who need this help.” “Another time, we sent small candles with the message, ‘Keep WIC lit!’” Howell said.

“We always pointed out the benefits. For each dollar invested in the program, you’d save $3.50 in medical care. We constantly needed to push that cutting WIC meant costing more money and hurting child development. What satisfaction there is that such a wonderful program has remained strong and so many helped!” Yet Bread remains on watch for WIC and other child nutrition programs. Its 2015 Offering of Letters will return to this issue.

Howell is well-known as a mentor to the many interns and young staffers she worked with during her years at Bread. “I used to be envious of the interns and young staffers who worked with Barbara,” said one of Howell’s fellow staffers, Kimberly Burge. “She was there to do her job—and also to equip others to accomplish great things. Her interns did not lick stamps or file papers. They were on Capitol Hill, attending policy meetings.”

Today Howell is retired and enjoys spending time with her three grandsons. She has been an active member of Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church as long as she’s been involved with Bread, including as a member of the congregation’s mission committee. The congregation holds an annual Offering of Letters and is a Bread Covenant Church, providing an annual donation.

“Barbara was with Bread for over 25 years, a duration of service almost unthinkable today,” Burge said. “In this day and age, people expect instant change. This work can be frustrating, because changes are so incremental. Yet she found a way to stay energized for two and a half decades. Her quiet strength continues to provide inspiration!” 

Patricia Bidar is a freelance writer

World Prayers for Nov. 30-Dec. 6: Liberia and Sierra Leone

A road in Sierra Leone. Derek Schwabe/Bread for the World

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 30 – December 6, we pray for Liberia and Sierra Leone:

O God, as we enter this season of Advent, we pray that you will always be our Emmanuel—God-with-us. Be God-with-us here in the United States, but we also pray that you will be God-with-others—our neighbors near and far, especially those we lift up this week to you in Liberia and Sierra Leone. We have seen great suffering of the people in these countries in recent months from the Ebola virus and suffering for years before that from civil war. Bring peace and healing to people who are broken in body, mind, or spirit from conflict, sickness, hunger, or other challenges. Sustain and strengthen health care workers, churches, and aid agencies that are working tirelessly to bring Ebola under control. Send your healing and comfort to families that have lost loved ones or who are ill. Provide for the food needs of everybody in these countries so that all may have health and the opportunity for an abundant life. We pray for a day in Liberia and Sierra Leone when all may have enough and live in peace. Keep us in the United States awake and aware of the needs of our brothers and sisters there and how our lives are linked with theirs. In the name of Emmanuel, amen.

Percentage of the population of these countries living below the national poverty line (2014 figures):

Liberia: not available
Sierra Leone: 52.9

Source: World Bank World Development Indicators as found in the new 2015 Hunger Report




A Holistic Message is Needed

Jerusalem - Old City ramparts 3
Temple walls, Jerusalem. (Stephen Padre/Bread for the World)

By Bishop José García

There is a pressing need to preach a holistic Gospel. We need to hear of the challenges and opportunities in responding to God’s call for an engaging ministry that can lead to spiritual and moral change, which in turn leads to socio-political and economic change. Scripture provides examples of men and women of God who acted as agents of change by engaging the political structures of their time.

One such case is that of Ezra and Nehemiah. They used what Dr. Ray Rivera calls the “Community Engagement Method.” Nehemiah, as a concerned citizen, felt burdened in a situation that was creating distress in the Jewish community. He addressed that need by using the available resources in the powers of government. Nehemiah was able to sort out the ethical differences between co-belligerency and advocacy on issues and survived as a capable leader working for a corrupt politician. Understanding that it was in the public interest of the king and a good political move for Israel to have the walls restored, Nehemiah engaged the king to get the resources and involved the local community in Jerusalem to support the wall-restoration project. In doing so, he got Ezra outside the “temple walls” to help rebuild the city walls. Ezra had rebuilt the temple, yet the city walls were in ruins. Sometimes the Church is too concerned with building the house of worship while the community around it is in emotional, social, and economic ruins.

In the book Heart for the Community, we find this quote: “It is unfortunate but true that many sermons on Sunday have nothing to do with our neighborhood reality of Monday.” This calls for the Church today to leave the church building in an incarnational spirit, to become one with the community, and to learn about conditions of pain, misery, suffering, and oppression outside its walls. By staying inside the walls, the Church has lost its prophetic voice to call for justice and righteousness. It is time for the Church to incarnate the values and lifestyle of the Kingdom and to share the Gospel that will “proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19). This is a holistic message.

Because of the fall and curse on all of creation, this will require also dealing with the dysfunctional systems and structures that have an impact in the total welfare of people’s spirit, mind, and body. Jesus wants his church to “feed the hungry, give water to those who are thirsty, invite the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and those in prison.” Then he will say, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:40).

At Bread for the World, we believe this is the generation that can end hunger in the United States and throughout the world by 2030. This will require a holistic message, where the Church can come out of the temple walls into the city walls to “proclaim release to the captives” from individual and systemic sin.

José García is the director of church relations at Bread for the World.

What We Are Thankful For

(Bread for the World)

By Rev. David Beckmann

We have a lot to be thankful for this year at Bread for the World, and you're at the top of the list. I thank God for you.

Here are just a few examples of the incredible work you have helped accomplish this year:

We won reforms that have allowed U.S. food assistance to reach 1.5 million more hungry people. Humanitarian crises in South Sudan and Syria along with the terrifying spread of Ebola in West Africa have dramatically increased the need for food aid, so our successful campaign to increase the reach of U.S. food aid could not have come at a more critical time.

As unaccompanied children crossed the U.S. border, fleeing violence at home and often deplorable treatment in detention centers, you opened your heart. You sent more than 10,000 personalized emails to your members of Congress urging them to protect these vulnerable children while addressing the root causes of their plight in the long term. A bill has been introduced into the House (H.R. 5368) to address these concerns.

On Monday, Bread for the World Institute launched its 2015 Hunger Report: When Women Flourish ... We Can End Hunger. Because of their leading role in farming, caregiving, and child nutrition, women are the primary agents the world relies on to fight hunger.  Your support makes this research and analysis possible.

And in June, we celebrated 40 years of your faithful advocacy and victories from earlier decades. We also launched Bread Rising: A Campaign to End Hunger, the most ambitious campaign in Bread's history. More to come on this campaign in the new year.

Through your dedication and through God's amazing work, we have accomplished so much. But our work isn't finished yet. As you gather around your Thanksgiving table, I ask you to pray for people who are hungry. And to pray harder for our nation and our leaders — that we might realize the political will to end hunger.

Are you asking yourself, "What more can I do?" If you have just five minutes, please help with this urgent opportunity to make a difference for people who are hungry around the world right now: email your members of Congress, and urge them to co-sponsor the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 5656 and S. 2909), which will boost agricultural development and address malnutrition. It passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week and will be voted upon next in the full House.

Rev. David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World.

The 2015 Hunger Report Launch in Slides

By Bread Staff

The 2015 Hunger Report was unveiled on Monday to a jam-packed room at the National Press Club. Holding the report aloft, Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, said,  “We publish these reports every year. I think this will be our most popular.”

The report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger, identifies the empowerment of women and girls as essential to ending hunger, extreme poverty, and malnutrition in the United States and around the world.

During a panel discussion, Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute, said putting women in the center of policy and program decisions is logical. “When women are empowered benefits extends beyond them,” she said.

Lateef stressed that empowerment must support women’s inclusion as decision makers in civil society. However, she added, that women too often are faced with barriers that limit their ability to engage fully in economic activity.

A key takeaway from the panel discussion was that the experts are the women who are working to overcome barriers of discrimination every day. Professionals and advocates must listen and act to remove those barriers that hinder women’s untapped potential.

“We have to be intentional about empowering women, it won’t happen on its own,” Lateef said.

Aside from Lateef, other speakers who took part in the panel discussion were Victoria Stanley, senior rural development and land specialist at the World Bank; Fouzia Dahir, executive director of the Northern Organization For Social Empowerment in Kenya; Gary Barker, co-chair of MenEngage Alliance and Andrea James, executive director of Families for Justice as Healing. The panel was moderated by Sandra Joireman, chair of Bread’s board of directors and a professor of political science at the University of Richmond.

Watch the photographic slide show above to learn about the launch and what the panelist had to say.  And then explore www.hungerreport.com to learn more about the program and policy recommendations that will build equality. 


Bread for the Preacher: Show the World the Kingdom of God

(Bread for the World)

Every 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 are 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

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. — Isaiah 9:6-7

This is a glorious passage with a glorious promise. There will be a great, perfect government of peace, justice, and righteousness. It will be like that because the Prince of Peace, our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and Everlasting Father will be in charge. No earthly government can accomplish that.

However, we do not have to wait for the reign of the Messiah to experience God's peace. Scripture clearly states that the Kingdom of God is joy, peace, and righteousness. As citizens of God's kingdom, let us celebrate this Christmas by emulating the government of the Prince of Peace to change the circumstances provoked by financial despair, wars, social inequalities, crime, drugs, greed, injustice, hunger, disease, corrupt authorities, abuse against children, women, those helpless in society, and many other maladies. Let us reach out with the message of salvation, justice, and hope. Let us preach this message, not only from the pulpit, but from our hearts with acts of compassion, love, and service that exemplifies the life of Christ when he dwelled among us. Let us join the voices of those who are crying out for an opportunity to have and make choices that can deliver them from the strongholds of poverty, hunger, and inequality.

Let us intentionally put off our old self, be made new in the attitude of our minds, and put on the new self. Let us do this so the Holy Spirit can work through us in an endeavor to live a true Christian witness that allows the world to experience the righteousness of the Kingdom of God.

José García is the director of church relations at Bread for the World.

A Reflection on the Executive Action Taken by President Obama

Ricardo and the Bishop
Pictured from left to right: Rev. Ricardo Moreno, associate for Latino outreach at Bread for the World, Bishop José García, director of church relations at Bread for the World, and Pablo Chavez, son of the farm-worker advocate, Cesar Chavez. (photo courtesy of Ricardo Moreno)

By Bishop José García

Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him: Proverbs 14:31

Bishop and Dolores
On Friday, November 21 at Del Sol High School in Henderson, Nev., I heard President Barack Obama share his executive action with a very enthusiastic crowd. The action will temporarily stop deportations and keep families together. I was able to enjoy the excitement experienced by the many men and women who have been champions in advocating for a fair immigration reform in our country. I met with Dolores Huerta, who together with Cesar Chavez, fought hard for the rights of farm workers; Pablo, Chavez's son; Eliseo Medina, who fasted for 30 days in front of the Capitol calling on Congress to enact a fair immigration reform; Gaby Pacheco, the young woman who became a voice and a face for the "DREAMers"; Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Bill Richardson, former New Mexico governor; Rev. Ricardo Moreno, associate for Latino outreach at Bread for the World and Rev. L.B. Jackson, among many others. It was a great day in America.

It brings me great joy to know that as a result of the executive action, roughly one million of the five million who will benefit from the president's action will be able to overcome the struggle of food insecurity and that experiencing hunger may no longer be a part of their lives. Now they will have the opportunity of getting better jobs, higher wages, and other opportunities inaccessible to them before because of their migratory status.

This is Divine Justice because it responds to the biblical mandate to care and provide for people who are the poor among us. In doing so, God is honored because God cares about people who are poor as they are close to his heart. There are more than 200 biblical references dealing with the treatment of people who are poor. Some of these Scriptures talk about the blessings for those who help, as well as the consequences for those who oppress people who are poor. Throughout the ages, God has used kings and government officials as instruments for divine purposes. In my mind there is no doubt that God's sovereignty moved the president to order his executive action. In doing so, he has brought about justice to the many hard working parents who have lived in fear of being separated from their children.

Let us pray for God to move the minds and hearts of our government officials so they can do what is right for people who are marginalized in our country. However, let us also act and exercise the responsibilities of our democracy by calling, writing, and advocating before Congress to enact a fair immigration reform, for in doing so, they will honor God.

Learn more about the connection between hunger and immigration here. And urge your members of Congress to pass legislation that addresses the root causes of hunger, poverty, and violence that are driving unaccompanied children to flee their home countries.

José García is the director of church relations at Bread for the World.

Inset photo:  Dolores Huerta and Bishop José García in Las Vegas, Nevada. (photo courtesy of José García)

The Gender Matrix

 Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 3.13.39 PM

Reprinted from the Hewlett Foundation Blog: Work in Progress. Bread for the World Institute is a Hewlett Foundation grantee. 

By Alfonsina Peñaloza

In the movie The Matrix, the main character, Neo, is offered two pills: a red one, which will show him the painful truth of life outside the Matrix; and a blue one, which will erase all memory of what has occurred and send him back to blissful ignorance within it. Sometimes I feel that trying to understand gender and development issues, we’re all Neo, working inexorably towards our own moments of choice. A word of caution: once you look at the world through the lens of gender-based differences in power and opportunity, you can never unsee it.

Today, Bread for the World Institute launched its flagship 2015 Hunger Report. This year’s edition focuses on women’s economic empowerment, tackling issues that are at the forefront of gender and development. Poverty affects women differently than men. Working conditions, discrimination, and social norms mean women and the work they perform (both within and outside the economy) are less valued then men and their work. Women experience more poverty in terms of income, and are also more impoverished in other ways—education, health, time.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the burden of domestic work. Women and girls are usually responsible for what is sometimes called reproductive work, such as taking care of family, cooking, and cleaning. More women have joined the workforce, but men have not stepped up at home, so overall women work more and get paid less. The upshot is that many women (particularly in low-income countries) work double shifts, one of which one is unpaid.

Bread for the World Institute's report also highlights the importance of collective action. A critical element of empowerment is voice, and women who advocate collectively for their rights are more likely to be heard.

Perhaps most important, the 2014 Hunger Report draws a very clear picture: Women are missing from economic data. We just don’t know how and how much women are contributing to the economy, since most of their work is undervalued, invisible in the statistics, or both. This is not a data gap like many others we worry about in global development; it’s a reflection of systemic gender-bias, and it prevents sound policy-making.

To accompany the report, Bread for the World Institute launched a powerful visualization tool to illustrate how women are missing from data.

The tool allows you to search by country, region and five main indicator categories: public life, human rights, health, education and economic participation. Each indicator – such as mortality rate or wage gap- is represented by a pixel, and all the pixels together make up the picture of a woman. The more data available, the clearer the image. The conclusion is stark: in most cases we can’t see the women, and so the visualization imparts a powerful message: without the data, women can’t be seen. And if they can’t be seen, how can women have a voice and a seat at the table where economic decisions are made?


(As an aside: This tool was created at a hackathon, and initially set out to visualize data on women’s economic empowerment. It ended up taking a much more novel approach by visualizing the absence of data, rather than the data itself. It cost the organization no money other than the costs of organizing the hackathon—a great example of how innovation and creativity can go a long way in the face of limited resources.)

Bread for the World Institute has always included women in their reports. After all, the role that women play as caregivers and farmers puts them at the center of the hunger issue. However, this year’s report doesn’t just include women as research subjects; rather, it examines the social constructs and the gender biases in policies that hold women back, and impede development. You could even say that Bread for the World Institute has come to their moment of choice and decided to take the red pill, applying a gender lens to their work and seeing for the first time behind the “Gender Matrix.” Like Neo waking up to his revolution, there is no going back.

Alfonsina Peñaloza is a program officer in the global development and population program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation


Millions of Immigrants Offered Temporary Legalization via Immigration Overhaul

"The biggest victory for immigrants and their allies in the past 25 years," said one veteran immigrant advocate
about President Obama's immigration action. (Bread for the World)  

By Andrew Wainer

During a televised address to the nation last week, President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) legalization program. It’s an ominous sounding name for a program with the primary goal of legalizing almost half of all 11.2 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

One veteran immigration advocate called it, “the biggest victory for immigrants and their allies in the past 25 years.” That may be an understatement. DAPA has the potential to be the largest immigrant legalization program in history. However, more than 6 million undocumented immigrants in the United States would be ineligible for the program and temporary legalization.

President Reagan signed the last large-scale immigrant legalization law in 1986. That law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, led to the legalization of about three million undocumented immigrants. President Obama’s program will allow about 4.3 million immigrants the opportunity to apply for temporary legalization, a work permit, and protection from deportation. Those who qualify for the program would be granted protection for three years.

The DAPA legalization program consists of two main components: keeping families together and expanding legalization for immigrants who came to the United States while young.

The first component addresses the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents who have lived in the United States for at least five years – roughly four million people. The president’s action would offer them legal reprieve and remove the constant threat of deportation they live under now.

The second component is targeted toward undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children – specifically younger than 16. It expands the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was created for “DREAMers” – undocumented immigrants who grew up in the United States. An additional 300,000 immigrants would benefit from the expansion, resulting in the potential for the legalization of a total of 4.3 million immigrants.

The president’s action will help undocumented immigrants escape and stay out of poverty by providing them with an increased opportunity for further education, job training and freedom to pursue opportunities throughout the employment market. Most are now confined to the “grey market” where they can only work without being detected as undocumented immigrants.

When immigrants are able to work legally, they can better protect themselves from workplace abuses. Also, it is estimated that immigrants could see a wage increase of 8.5 percent as a result of the president’s action because they will be better able to find jobs that match their skills. This will significantly help immigrant families who disproportionately live in poverty and experience food insecurity.

While the DAPA announcement was hailed a major victory for immigrants – particularly those struggling in low-wage jobs – it was only a temporary victory. The program could be rescinded by a new president in 2016 and some in Congress, who are upset with the executive action, are already threatening to defund the government agencies that will be responsible for implementing the law.  

In order for this poverty reducing-action to become permanent – and for the remaining 6 million undocumented immigrants to be legalized – Congress will have to act on immigration reform so that it becomes the law of the land.   

Andrew Wainer is senior immigration policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute


Hunger in the News: Feed the Future Moves Forward, Pope Francis on Nutrition, Immigration Reform, Beyond Ebola, Lame Duck

Hunger in News Graphic
A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

House panel approves bill to strengthen Feed the Future program,” by Daniel Enoch, Agri-Pulse. “The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday favorably reported to the full House a bill that supporters say would strengthen President Obama's Feed the Future Initiative as it works to alleviate hunger around the globe.”

Pope Francis urges concrete action in global nutrition challenge at UN conference in Rome,” UN News Centre, “Pope Francis today urged leaders attending a United Nations Food and Agriculture (FAO) nutrition conference in Rome to view food and nutrition and the environment as global public issues at a time when nations are more tightly linked with each other than ever before.”

Evangelicals a mixed bag on Obama’s immigration move,” by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service.  “While Republican leaders blast President Obama for taking executive action on immigration reform, some prominent evangelical leaders are welcoming the president’s plans to keep about 5 million undocumented immigrants from being deported.”

Empowering women key to ending hunger, Bread for the World says,” by Daniel Enoch, Agri-Pulse. “Ending discrimination against women - including in the United States - is key in the global battle against hunger, according to a new report from Bread for the World Institute."

“Why are Hispanic Catholics so concerned about climate change?” by Mark Silk, Religion News Service. “According to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, Hispanic Catholics are more concerned about climate change than any other religious group in America.”

A Step Forward on Child Care,” by The Editorial Board, The New York Times.  “Ensuring access to safe, good and affordable child care is crucial for helping to lift low-income parents out of poverty and build futures for their children.”

Beyond Ebola: Why rural development matters in a time of crisis,” by Kanayo F. Nwanze, DW.  “Ebola's impact on health distracts from another looming danger - hunger, says Kanayo Nwanze, the International Fund for Agricultural Development's president, as the One World Forum for the Future kicks off in Berlin.”

Millennium Challenge Corporation Celebrates 10th Anniversary,” by Bridget Bowman, Roll Call.  “While bipartisan efforts in Congress can seem few and far between, policymakers from across the ideological spectrum point to the tenth anniversary of the Millennium Challenge Corporation as evidence they can find common ground when addressing global development.”

Lamest lame duck," by Burgess Everett and Manu Raju, Politico. "Congress left for Thanksgiving without checking anything big off its to-do list during the lame duck, leaving just 10 days to fund the government when they come back in December and likely pushing big items like authorizing force against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants and the confirmation of an attorney general into 2015.”


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