Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Bread for the World and Catholic Charities of New York Partner to End Hunger

Bread for the World joins Catholic Charities of New York to kick off annual Feeding Our Neighbors campaign. From left to right: Terry Meehan, Bread member; Margaret Tran, regional organizer at Bread ; Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of New York; Sarah Rohrer, deputy director of organizing at Bread; and Joe Martingale, Bread member. Sarah Rohrer/Bread for the World.

By Margaret Tran

Earlier this month, in my first event as the newest regional organizer at Bread for the World, I attended a mass led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, to kick off the annual Feeding Our Neighbors campaign.

Feeding Our Neighbors is an interfaith food drive led by Catholic Charities of New York to replenish local food pantries. Interfaith efforts were reflected in our prayer intention: “For all those who gather together today from different faith traditions, that we will continue to make room at the table so that no neighbor is turned away hungry. Let us pray to the Lord.”

The need to help families in New York is great. Throughout the 10 counties of the Archdiocese of New York, more than 12 percent of all our neighbors have difficulty affording food, and nearly 325,000 children do not have enough to eat.

Bread for the World is committed to ending hunger, and we are grateful for the opportunity to work with Catholic Charities of New York to make that goal a reality. One hundred percent of the contributions to the campaign will support local food pantries that serve New Yorkers, non-Catholics, and Catholics alike.

“Our partnership with Bread for the World is important because it adds a component of trying to impact, in a positive way, policies that can help hungry people to have adequate and nutritious meals,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of New York.

I am excited to engage New York City-area Catholic churches in advocacy outreach alongside our new partner, Catholic Charities of New York. I grew up in Kansas with my four older siblings and parents, South Vietnamese Catholic refugees, who gratefully received help from Catholic Charities while resettling in the United States after the Vietnam War.

The help my family received would not have been possible without good policy. I’m blessed to have my  job at Bread, which combines both charity and advocacy to bring about the changes that can end hunger.

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030.

Margaret Tran is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

World Prayers for Jan. 25-31: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden

Fjord Norway
A fjord in the Lofoten Islands, Norway. Stephen Padre/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 more, act more, and give more. In this blog series, we will provide 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 January 25-31: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden

God of all seasons, in this wintertime, we lift up in prayer this week some of the most wintery countries we know: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. We thank you for the wintery and rugged beauty of these places—fjords and islands, seas and hot springs, Northern lights and midnight sun.

We also thank you for the peoples of these countries. Thank you for Christians there who, for decades, have given through their financial gifts and service for the relief of disaster and poverty for people in far-away places, from Africa to southeast Asia. We thank you for the leaders these countries have produced—world leaders in diplomacy, church unity, and the arts. Strengthen the work of the churches and current leaders and institutions as they seek peace, justice, and relief from the scourge of poverty for people around the world.

Also, we know that even among the wealthy places of the world there can be hunger and poverty. We pray for refugees and immigrants in these countries, that they may find acceptance and a home where they can thrive. And we pray for a just use of the wealth that many of these countries enjoy, so that all may have enough to eat and live an abundant life. In the name of your son. Amen.

Percentage of the gross national income of these countries that goes toward poverty-focused development.

Denmark: 0.9
Finland: 0.6
Iceland: 0.3
Norway: 1.1
Sweden: 1.0
United States: 0.2 (for comparison)

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


Bread for the Preacher: Be a Faithful Steward of God's Grace

A film still from A Place at The Table, courtesy of Participant Media.

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.  You can also sign up to have the resource emailed to you each month.

By Bishop José García

1 Peter 4:10 reads: "Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received."

What awesome advice from the apostle Peter! In this letter, he shares with his readers words of wisdom concerning their Christian witness to be good stewards of the manifold grace of God. The grace of God is manifested through the many gifts bestowed to us by God. Each and every one of God's children has been given talents, abilities, and gifts to share the full Gospel with love, compassion, mercy, and justice. The apostle encourages us to serve one another with a commitment to always being prepared to defend the faith, to have a serious life of prayer, and to love one another with a "fervent" love.

As you reflect on the lectionary passages for this month, consider Peter's advice to be a good steward of the manifold grace of God, using your God-given gifts to minister to one another with a commitment to prayer and a fervent love.

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

Obama: 'Restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity.'

Tax credits for low-income working families pull more children out of poverty than any other government program. Eugene Mebane, Jr. for Bread for the World.

By Eric Mitchell

In Tuesday night's State of the Union address, President Obama said, “Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.” There is one thing Congress can do right now to accomplish exactly that.

Congress and the president can make the current earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit (CTC) benefit levels permanent. Bread for the World has been pushing this policy since Congress passed the improvements to these tax credits in 2009, but they’re set to expire in 2017. Making the 2009 improvements permanent would prevent 16 million people—including 8 million children—from falling into or deeper into poverty.

At Bread for the World, we envision a world without hunger. We know it’s possible, and we know we can do it by 2030. But it’s going to take more than food banks and soup kitchens. We have to ensure that hard work leads to greater opportunity.

We have to get at the root causes of hunger. When these are addressed, working parents can put food on the table and provide for their children. The EITC and CTC do exactly that—reward work and supplement wages so working parents don’t have to raise their children in poverty.

President Obama called for better tax policy on Tuesday night—one that will benefit low-income working families. Now we need you to call on Congress to make that happen through making permanent the current EITC and CTC benefit levels.

Call (800/826-3688) or email your representative and both of your senators today. Urge them to make the 2009 EITC and CTC improvements permanent.

Be a part of the movement to end hunger. Help us start the 114th Congress with a clear message that ending hunger must be a top priority.

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

Jesus said, "Give Me to Drink"

15791408712_5d03b9c06b_oBy Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith  

This week marks the 2015 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is a time for Christians around the world to give thanks for the unity we already have as followers of the one Christ and for us to pray that we would make that unity visible among ourselves. Congregations and parishes often exchange preachers or arrange special ecumenical celebrations and prayer services during this week.

This year’s theme, “Jesus said to her: ‘Give me to drink’” (John 4:7), centers around the importance of water.  Some may immediately think of their own baptism as one of most popular images of water - a symbol of life and divine affirmation of God with us. In John 4:7, we see an illustration of this in a conversation Jesus had with a Samaritan woman about the difference between good drinking water and living water.

After being tired from his journey and sending the disciples to get food, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a historic well called Jacob’s well in a place called Sychar. This place, which was near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph, was known for having good water that nourished the community. Jesus breaks the cultural taboo of asking a Samaritan to share with a Jew by requesting a drink of water from her. The Samaritan woman responds to Jesus by saying, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”  Jesus responds with a surprising statement that moves the conversation to one that seeks to bridge their cultural and gender identities when he states: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

It is important to point out that although Jesus didn’t need to ask the Samaritan woman for a drink, he did. He put the Samaritan woman in the position of being the giver and hospitable host despite the ethnic and gender differences between them.

This story invites all of us to be givers and hospitable hosts. At Bread, one way we can give is to lend our voice to helping our nation’s children receive the meals they need by supporting the reauthorization of the child nutrition bill. The bill is set to expire this fall. The bill funds five major programs:  National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care food Program and WIC Program.

This year’s Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of nutrition among children, who are especially vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition during their early years of development. Bread is urging Congress to pass a child nutrition bill that protects these nutrition programs and gives more hungry children access to the meals they need to thrive and to ensure such programs are not paid for by cuts to other vital safety-net programs.

During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Bread for the World gives thanks for the support it receives and the partnerships it has with a wide variety of denominations and faith communities—for the ecumenical nature of the mission it carries out. American Christianity has many faces and worships in so many different ways, but there is one thing we can agree on: God calls us to end hunger. Our denominations may not look unified, but we come together in places like Bread for the World because of our mandate from the same Jesus, who set the highest example of caring for people’s bodily needs.

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030. It’s only with persistence and prayer that we can build the political will to end hunger here and abroad.

Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith is the associate for national African-American church engagement at Bread for the World.

Photo: In rural areas of developing countries, women and girls are responsible for retrieving water used in cooking, drinking, cleaning, and washing. Richard Lord for Bread for the World.


Congress Urged to Pass Legislation to Help Working Families

Pete Souza/The White House via Wikimedia Commons.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama laid out an aggressive agenda aimed at reducing income inequality in the United States – a factor that can keep millions of Americans in a cycle of poverty.

Although the economy has gotten stronger, President Obama acknowledged that too many hard-working families still struggle. He called for increasing the child care tax credit, raising the federal minimum wage, enacting paid sick leave, creating a "second-earner" tax credit for families in which both spouses work, and boosting the earned income tax credit.

“We have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth,” Obama said. “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?” 

Roughly 45 million people in the United States live at or below the poverty line. If enacted, many of the proposals put forth by the president would certainly help struggling Americans, especially boosting the maximum child care tax credit to $3,000 and expanding the earned income tax credit for childless workers.

The earned income tax credit along with the child tax credit are among our country’s most effective anti-poverty tools. Bread for the World is calling on Congress to ensure that these two measures stay intact. Both expire in 2017. Making the 2009 improvements to these credits permanent would prevent 16 million people—including 8 million children—from falling into or deeper into poverty.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) delivered the Republican rebuttal. And not unlike President Obama, she also sympathized with struggling Americans. “These days though, many families feel like they're working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it,” she said. “We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs.”

Obama reminded Americans that government programs have their place in history and can make an impact. “In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity.  We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure, and the internet – tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.”

At Bread, we know the power of good policy, especially as it applies to children. That’s why this year our top priority with this new Congress is to ensure that the nation’s child nutrition programs are reauthorized. The current bill is set to expire this fall. Making sure children receive meals, especially during their early years of development, is crucial for their development and guards against malnutrition.

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030.

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

Participate in the Souper Bowl of Caring on Super Bowl Sunday

Wikimedia Commons.

By Stephen H. Padre

"Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat" is a prayer that began a movement to take action against hunger on a day when Americans come together around football, fun, and food.
The Souper Bowl of Caring takes place every year on the day of the Super Bowl—Feb. 1 this year. The idea is simple: Led by youth, your congregation or community collects money and/or canned goods before or on Super Bowl Sunday. You report your results at tacklehunger.org, where national results are compiled and reported. You then donate 100 percent of your collection to an organization of your choice that is fighting hunger.
Make participation in this national event fun in your congregation. Some congregations serve a soup lunch after worship services. Use football images and sports metaphors to build excitement. Send youth out to collect money and canned goods from homes in the neighborhood.
The event is locally driven—you choose where your collection goes—but why not make broader connections in your participation? Pass on in-kind donations to a local organization, and give part or all of your monetary donations to an organization that works nationally or internationally, such as Bread for the World or your denomination’s hunger program. Groups across the country have donated to Bread in the past.
Start planning for your participation now. Promotional materials that you can use and adapt are available at www.souperbowl.org, where you can find information about other events around the Souper Bowl, including a service blitz.

Stephen H. Padre is the managing editor at Bread for the World.

Prioritize Hunger in the State of the Union Tonight

Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons. 

By Robin Stephenson

Tonight at 9 p.m. EST, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address – a time-honored tradition – and outline his priorities for next year. Immediately afterward, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) will deliver the Republican response. Will hunger and poverty rank as priorities?

“The State of the Union matters to those of us working to end hunger,” says LaVida Davis, director of organizing and grassroots capacity at Bread for the World. “Both the president and the response will give clues as to what will be prioritized in next year’s budget. If they aren’t talking about ending hunger, they won’t fund the programs that will.”

Although the economy is improving, millions of families still struggle to make ends meet - 45 million Americans live at or below the poverty line. Policies that marginalize groups of individuals increase food insecurity in the United States. Laws passed with the aim of ending hunger make an impact. Internationally, the implementation of smart policies has achieved dramatic progress against hunger and poverty; the number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut in half since 1990. We believe that we can end hunger and poverty by 2030 if our nation’s leaders make it a priority.

Tonight we will listen for hunger-ending key words. Below is a list of the words or phrases we hope to hear. Positive reinforcement helps, so we will praise each mention as we live tweet the speeches from @bread4theworld.

Child nutrition: When one in five children lives in families that struggle to put food on the table, passing a child nutrition bill with improvements will give more children at risk of hunger access to healthy food. Protecting SNAP (formerly food stamps) will also be key to reducing child hunger.

The earned income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit:  Low-income tax credits pull more children out of poverty than any other government program. It is time to make the credits permanent.

Paid family leave: The president will take executive action to extend paid leave to federal employees, reflecting a key recommendation in the Bread for the World Institute’s 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. Congress should follow suit with policy changes that will benefit all U.S. workers

Mass incarceration: Policies that regulate our criminal justice system are increasing hunger and poverty in low-income communities, especially communities of color. Passing smarter sentencing laws and improving the re-entry process for returning citizens would help restore fairness in our justice system.

Immigration reform:  An estimated 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants live in the shadows where hunger and poverty persist. Reform should include a path to citizenship and also address the root causes of migration to the United States.

Feed the Future:  A global hunger and food-security initiative, Feed the Future  is a driver behind recent progress against global hunger. It is time to codify the initiative into permanent law.

Food-aid reform:  By updating our food-aid policies, we can help feed millions more with no additional tax dollars.

AGOAThe African Growth and Opportunity Act seeks to increase mutually beneficial trade ties between the United States and Africa and can help move millions out of poverty.

Join the conversation on Twitter, and help us empower our leaders tonight. When they talk about hunger, make sure they hear us applaud with a tweet. Let’s start by asking them to talk about hunger now. 

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


Quote of the Day: Martin Luther King, Jr.


Living on the Outskirts of Hope

Derick Dailey preaching. He is a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

By Bread Staff

Derick Dailey, a board member of Bread for the World, recently wrote on the issues of hunger and poverty for Yale Divinity School's Reflections: A Magazine of Theological and Ethical Inquiry. 

He said "too many Americans still live on the outskirts of hope" because of  the country's "broken immigration system, dysfunctional public schools, black and brown genocide in our city streets, and chronically unproductive legislative structures."

At Bread, we are committed to ending hunger by 2030. It is only with voices like Dailey’s, spreading the message of the challenges and the solutions, that ending hunger can become reality. The following are excerpts from Dailey’s insightful piece:

On how faith institutions play a role in ending hunger:

Social justice is a larger priority for faith institutions and theological education. Congregations are embracing strands of political theology to fight poverty and hunger.

Involvement looks different for each community. Some groups run local soup kitchens and food giveaways. Others ask Congress to support strong poverty-reduction policies. Others directly invest in building schools and libraries in underdeveloped countries. Another trend is the collective mobilization of their church, typically the national body, to divest from companies that do not support their vision of justice. Thanks to progressive theological education, new generations of faith leaders are demanding that social justice be central to a prophetic gospel in ecclesial bodies, businesses, and global.

On how “smart power” is changing the fight against hunger and poverty:

Smart power is now in the policy arsenal of most developed countries. Rich countries are investing unprecedented dollars toward poverty reduction to ensure stability and exert influence throughout high-conflict regions. The United Kingdom, in 2013 alone, spent 11.3 billion pounds on international aid. 7 Non-state actors such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank invest in anti-poverty policies through debt relief and development. Under President Obama, the U.S. State Department has doubled the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the executive agency tasked with issues of food aid and humanitarian assistance. Hunger reduction continues to infiltrate American mainstream political discourse and policy circles.

On how people of faith can get involved:

Ending hunger will not happen without a move of God. For the Old Testament prophets, food was, in effect, a basic human right. They remind us to seek justice for everyone, especially the orphan and the widow, so that everyone has enough to eat. There is no shortage of biblical support for food justice and God’s continued grace. So we must pray and act. Pursue food justice locally. Urge policymakers to embrace poverty-reduction strategies. Leverage your voices and your votes.

In this election season, consider contacting your federal legislators about eliminating hunger in the world. Tell them you are moved by God’s grace to work to end hunger by 2030, and your vote depends on their support for poverty-reduction policies. Encourage your church to pray for the end of hunger in its weekly devotionals, Bible study, and worship.

Dailey graduated with a master's degree from Yale Divinity School last year and is now attending Hofstra Law School in Hempstead, N.Y.

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030.




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