Activists in Action: Grassroots leadership in Iowa

June 1, 2017
Rev. Russel Melby, left, and Stephen Panther, right, at the Southeastern Iowa Synod Assembly (ELCA) in Des Moines, Iowa.

By Bread Staff

Stephen Panther is just the kind of committed leader that helps Bread for the World win victories for people experiencing hunger and poverty.

Panther, who lives in Iowa City, has been encouraging local congregations to write letters urging Iowa’s lawmakers to help craft a fiscal year 2018 budget that protects funding for anti-hunger programs. He will deliver the letters in Washington, D.C., as part of Bread for the World’s Lobby Day on June 13.

This year’s Offering of Letters: Doing Our Part to End Hunger asks Congress to pass a budget and appropriations bills that put us on track to end hunger by 2030. Reaching out to members of Congress on our nation’s spending priorities has never been more urgent. The work that Panther is doing in his community to scale up advocacy is vital, especially in the face of President Trump’s budget proposal that ‘robs the poor to pay the rich.’

Encouraging letter writing is just one part of Panther’s strategy to ensure that he is influencing his U.S. senators, Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA). On May 24, Panther led a group of seven faith leaders to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to meet with Grassley's regional director, Fred Schuster and Sam Pritchard, the regional director for Ernst.

“We expressed our concerns about President Trump's budget, cuts to hunger programs; especially SNAP, block grants, the American Health Care Act, cuts to Medicaid,” Panther said. Each of the participants at the meeting was able to contribute to the meeting, making it clear to Schuster and Pritchard that policies crafted in Washington, D.C., have consequences in Iowa City. The leaders left pleased to hear from Grassley’s office that the Trump budget would be extensively modified.

It will take more advocacy actions targeted at Sens. Ernst, Grassley, and the rest of Congress to ensure those modifications include protections for programs ending hunger both at home and abroad — and Panther is planning ahead. “I feel this meeting has formed a foundation for the D.C. Lobby Day,” he said. 

“We couldn’t do what we do without people like Steve organizing in their own communities and building relationships with members of Congress,” said Matt Gross, interim co-director of grassroots organizing at Bread for the World.

Grounded in faith, citizen advocates like Panther drive Bread’s success.

Grounded in faith, citizen advocates like Panther drive Bread’s success.

from our Resource Library

For Education

  • The Nourishing Effect

    Hunger and food insecurity add at least $160 billion a year to U.S. healthcare costs.

  • Mass Incarceration: A Major Cause of Hunger

    Mass incarceration has far-reaching effects in the United States. It poses a significant barrier to ending U.S. hunger and poverty by 2030—a goal the United States adopted in 2015. But the connection is not always obvious.

  • Advancing Nutrition through Food Aid Reform

    The United States has long been a global leader in responding to humanitarian emergencies. Food assistance that includes nutritious food for pregnant women and young children is both a life-and-death matter for individuals and an economic imperative for countries.

For Faith

  • Unity Declaration on Racism and Poverty

    A diverse body of Christian leaders calls on the churches and Congress to focus on the integral connection.

    Dear Members of Congress,

    As the president and Congress are preparing their plans for this year, almost 100 church leaders—from all the families of U.S. Christianity—are...

  • In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

    This devotional guide invites deepened relationship with and among Pan-Af­rican people and elected leaders in the mission to end hunger and poverty.

  • Sermon by David Beckmann at Duke University Chapel

    Remarks delivered October 1, 2017 at Duke University Chapel in Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

    Thank you for inviting me to preach here at Duke University Chapel. And I especially want to thank the Bread for the World members who have come this morning.

    Bruce Puckett urged...

For Advocacy

  • Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit

    A set of how-to sheets for carrying out advocacy and fact sheets on the current issues Bread for the World is working on.

    For new and current Bread grassroots hunger activists.

    Ideal as a starter toolkit for new Bread activists or as a set of updates for current activists.


  • Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017

    Unnecessarily long prison sentences, combined with the lack of rehabilitative programs for people in prison, exacerbate hunger, poverty, and existing inequalities.

    Overly harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences have contributed to the rapid increase of our country’s prison population. The...

  • Health Care Is a Hunger Issue

    Learn more about the principles that Bread for the World supports regarding health reform.


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