Bread Newsletter: April-May 2018

Contents:

Photo: Bread for the World

SNAP Threatened in House Farm Bill

The farm bill is finally making its way through the legislative process. The House Agriculture Committee last month passed H.R.2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (the farm bill), on a partisan 26-20 vote.

While the bill maintains and improves international food aid programs, it also proposes harmful changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is expected to bring the bill to the House floor this month.

“The farm bill is an opportunity to help end hunger in the United States and around the world,” said Bread President David Beckmann. “We are pleased that the House bill maintains and improves international food aid programs. But we must oppose this bill as written because it proposes changes to SNAP that will put millions of women, children, and families at risk of hunger.”

In fact, SNAP would be cut by $23 billion over 10 years, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Specifically, the bill imposes benefit and eligibility cuts in addition to stricter work requirements with the aim of getting SNAP recipients back to work. But SNAP already encourages work. When individuals can meet their basic needs, they don't need to worry about where their next meal will come from. Rather, they can focus on finding and keeping a job.

“Work is the surest, most sustainable, and dignified way out of poverty,” Beckmann said. “It is a cornerstone of our society that all adults who can work, should work. However, today’s evidence does not demonstrate that strict work requirements on assistance programs, such as SNAP, effectively reduce poverty.”

In fact, this bill would require many people to attend job readiness programs, but the funding for these programs would not allow for job training that would actually get people into jobs.

Here is a closer look at the House Farm Bill.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Provisions

  • The bill proposes weakening categorical eligibility requirements that make it easier for families to access the program. The changes to categorical eligibility will make it more cumbersome for families to apply for SNAP benefits, and exacerbate the threat of a “benefit cliff” wherein low-income families would lose their food assistance if their earnings increase slightly.
  • The bill also expands tight work restrictions on SNAP recipients, imposing them on individuals who have school-aged children and all individuals aged 18-59. Under this proposal, individuals aged 18-59 must either work or be in an approved training program for at least 20 hours a week. Despite increased funding for employment and training, the level of funding for these programs would still not allow for job training that would actually get people into jobs.
  • The bill would also limit the ability of states to waive these requirements (for instance, to protect vulnerable populations such as youth aging out of foster care, or in regions with high unemployment rates), while also requiring them to develop expensive training programs and tracking systems without adequate additional funding.

International Food Assistance Provisions

  • Funding for local and regional food procurement, increased cash flexibility for development programs, and efforts to improve the nutritional quality of U.S. food assistance as included in the 2014 Farm Bill.
  • Elimination of the monetization requirement in Food for Peace, and allowance for the Community Development Fund to count toward non-emergency programs.

The Senate continues to work in a bipartisan fashion on its version of the farm bill. A draft is expected in early May.

In the meantime, you can help ensure the House Farm Bill doesn’t progress any further by calling (800-826-3688) or emailing your representative and telling them to protect SNAP by opposing the House Farm Bill.

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The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

On Faith: The Jesus Movement and the Bread of Life

By Most Rev. Michael B. Curry

Five loaves of bread, five thousand people. It is a familiar tale. It is also a singularly important one, indeed the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels, apart from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That’s right. The one common miracle in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is not a healing—but a feeding. 

Earlier, at the onset of his ministry, when he himself was famished from fasting, Jesus had rebuffed Satan’s offer to use his divine power to turn rocks into food: “Human beings do not live on bread alone, but on the word of God.” Later, when faced with a massive crowd aching for spiritual sustenance—while also physically hungry—Jesus took a handful of loaves and a couple fish, blessed it, broke it, and had it distributed to the people. They ate their fill, and there was more than enough left over when they were finished. 

From that moment on in the Gospels, Jesus began to move towards Jerusalem—and beyond. He moved towards a supper where his Body would be broken, towards a sacrifice where his Blood would be spilled. He moved towards a time when, by the Spirit, his followers, few in number, would become as many as the grains of sand on a beach or the stars in the sky. He was moving to a time when his mission and ministry would become the Jesus Movement, and transform the world from the nightmare it all too often is into the dream of God.

That Jesus Movement that would spread across the globe started there, in Palestine, as Jesus looked out at a crowd of people and saw that they were hungry. There are multitudes who hunger still. They hunger for the Bread of Life, and they hunger for bread! “You give them something to eat,” Jesus told his apostles. 

When they brought him the little they had, he made sure that it was enough, indeed it was more than enough. Those followers would at times forget what Jesus was showing them. 

The first conflict in the early Church was not about theology, or ecclesiology, or eschatology, but about scarcity and a failure to provide. In the book of Acts, it says that a complaint arose because some followers of Jesus were not receiving the same daily distribution as others. They were receiving the Bread of Life, but they still needed bread as well. 

The epistle of James says that “if a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” 

Jesus looked out at the multitudes and reminded his followers that those multitudes were hungry: spiritually hungry, physically hungry.  And even more importantly, he reminded all those who would follow him in the Jesus Movement that what they had to provide was enough, was more than enough. It still is. Let us do as Jesus did, and provide the hungry with bread AND the Bread of Life.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. He has called the church to be the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, focusing on evangelism, racial reconciliation, and the care of creation. Since last May, he has also taken part in Bread’s fasting campaign, “For Such a Time as This,” which urges fasting, prayer and action, on the 21st day of each month.

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Join Bread for the World for Lobby Day 2018

News Briefs

Register Now for our 2018 Advocacy Summit and Lobby Day

Join hundreds of Bread members in Washington, D.C., on June 11 and 12 for our Advocacy Summit and Lobby Day. You'll have the opportunity to listen to inspirational speakers, participate in worship, and visit the offices of your senators and representative.

The event will conclude with a reception where members of Congress will be honored for their outstanding work on hunger and poverty related issues. This year's honorees are Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN).

To register and to learn more about the event, go here. May 29 is the registration deadline.

Pan-African Devotional Guide

During 2018, Bread's e-newsletter will highlight each month's theme of our new devotional guide: "In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional Guide for Public Policy Engagement." The year-long devotional guide was written on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Poor People's Campaign.

In April, the devotional guide focused on honoring and remembering the martyrdom of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mothers are the focus of the May devotionals. In the black community, mothering is not limited to those born into the family unit. Rather, mothering also takes place in the community.

Racial Wealth Gap Learning Simulation Coming Soon

Bread understands that we need to address racial inequality to end hunger in the United States. To that end, Bread has created a tool to help you engage in a productive conversation about racial equity.

Bread for the World Institute's new Racial Wealth Gap Learning Simulation is an innovative and engaging tool that helps participants learn about the role public policies have in widening racial inequality on a structural level overtime.

Through the simulation, participants understand the connections between racial equity, hunger, poverty, and wealth. It is a good first step for people unaware of structural inequality and a support tool for those who want a deeper understanding of structural inequality.

Look for emails and check future Bread e-newsletters for more information.

Plan Now to Celebrate Bread for the World Sunday

This fall, thousands of churches across the country will include special prayers in their services for those who struggle with hunger and for our leaders who can make decisions that will lead to an end to hunger. This outpouring of prayers for an end to hunger is the primary focus of Bread for the World Sunday, which will be celebrated on Oct. 21, 2018.

Many churches arrange additional activities—including sermons devoted to hunger, bread baking for the Eucharist, and taking time to do their Offering of Letters (write letters to Congress). In some cases, special offerings will be gathered to support Bread for the World, denominational hunger programs, and local feeding programs.

Rev. Amy Reumann, director of advocacy for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has written a scripture study on Mark 10:35-45, the Gospel appointed for Oct. 21. Rev. Dr. John Crossin, OSFS, director of spiritual formation for the St. Luke Center and formerly the executive director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has prepared a new litany or responsive prayer for the day.

These two new resources along with scripture studies for Latino and African American communities will be available in early July. A poster and a printed worship bulletin insert, in English and Spanish, will also be available. Look for emails and check future Bread e-newsletters for more information. Look for emails and check future Bread e-newsletters for more information.

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Photo: Emilie Rex / MercyCorps

Nepal: Farmers Leading Locally

Editor's note: This story is from a guest writer with Mercy Corps and highlights the important work of U.S. government food security programs. 

By Jyoti Shrestha

Man Singh Bohara sits on a carved bench overlooking healthy rows of cauliflower, tomato, and cabbage. This farm, he said, was not always so lush. Local canals provide barely enough water to irrigate 15-20 plants, and those that receive enough water to thrive must also survive the harsh weather conditions in Nepal's Far West Region. For vulnerable families like Bohara's, problems that lead to not getting enough to eat are often interconnected in a vicious cycle where each reinforces the others. For example, when crops fail, a family's income plummets and people are unable to afford healthy food. With farmers sometimes weakened by hunger and malnutrition, the next problem—whether it is pests devouring the crop, prices at the market falling, or any of a host of other stresses—can easily force a household to spiral into a nearly inescapable cycle of debt and poverty.

“Last season, the hailstorm took away all my bitter gourds,” Bohara recalled. “We did not have proper nutritious food to eat. My wife was often sick. I had to borrow money at high interest rates from the money lenders for her checkups.” 

Hoping to break the cycle of debt and hunger, Bohara joined Pragatishil Krishak Samuha, a farmers' group founded by the Promoting Agriculture, Health, and Alternative Livelihoods (PAHAL) Program and funded by USAID Food for Peace. He began by receiving training in integrated pest management (IPM) and kitchen gardening. He later volunteered to construct a poly-house—a structure that provides cover for crops against harsh weather and extends the growing season—on his land to demonstrate its use and benefits. Soon after, he adopted a drip irrigation system to provide crucial water during droughts. Before long, he was harvesting coriander, radish, cauliflower, tomato, cabbage, brinjal, and chili, all on the land where he once grew only cucumber.

“I know how difficult the life of a farmer becomes when you have very little water and your production is affected by natural calamities,” he reflected. “With the help of a poly-house, I was able to save my bitter gourds and other vegetables from hailstorms this season. Also, it helped me grow off-season vegetables, which increased my income.”

Because PAHAL can work with each community for only a limited time, the program works to ensure that farmers can sustain their new production with their own knowledge and resources. It fosters partnerships and supports local champions to help build resilience. Bohara and others have been trained as lead farmers, for example, in a model that invests in strong networks and teaching skills for participants. He has demonstrated strong abilities—hitting the ground running and organizing training in IPM, kitchen gardens, crop management, and vegetable farming for other farmers in his group.  

Ultimately, this approach catalyzes engagement and ownership in a diverse set of activities—from financial services, to natural resource management, to hygiene and sanitation. All aim to ensure that communities can  learn, cope, adapt, and transform in the face of the complex shocks that threaten their food security.

Bohara walks a beaten path toward his poly-house. He now produces enough vegetables to sell the surplus at a nearby market. He recalls how PAHAL helped establish a collection center that linked farmers with markets and enabled them to increase their yields. “Organizations will not support me all the time,” Bohara pointed out. “Their job is to make me capable enough to face difficulties. I will make the most of what I have learned and adopted, and make sure that I transfer the knowledge to the community.”

Jyoti Shrestha is a communications specialist with Mercy Corps in Nepal.

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Charlie Gardner speaking during an Offering of Letters workshop. Photo: ToddCreations

Advocates in Focus: Organizing Through Ecumenism

By Robin Stephenson

When the Bread Indiana Leadership Team met in early March for an Offering of Letters workshop, they had two goals: Get at least 50 churches to join a multi-church Offering of Letters and persuade Indiana’s members of Congress to cosponsor the Global Food Security Act (GFSA).

They can check one of the goals off their list.

U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) added his name to the cosponsor list for the Global Food Security Act (S. 2269), a week after his office was flooded by roughly 45 calls from the Indianapolis workshop participants.

The legislation—passed in 2016 and up for reauthorization this year—sets the U.S.-government strategy for increasing global food security and nutrition through programs, such as Feed the Future. Matt Gross, director of Bread’s organizing department, said building a strong bipartisan list of cosponsors was key to the 2016 passage and will be equally important again. “The more cosponsors leadership sees on a bill, the more likely it is to come up for a vote and pass,” he said.

Including multiple issues is not business as usual at a traditional Offering of Letters workshop, which usually aims to teach participants how to facilitate a letter-writing event. However, the Bread Indiana team was thinking outside the box.

“The leadership team was looking for an opportunity to use the power of the voices gathered to make an immediate impact. Building the GFSA list is a big priority for us right now,” Gross said. “Bread for the World advocacy has been growing in Indiana because they are organizing an ever-growing number of voices into targeted action—and it’s paying off.”

One Bread leader who understands the power of multiplication is Charlie Gardner, a member of the leadership team. Gardner encourages multiple churches to work together and combine letters. Last year, 42 congregations in central Indiana participated in a joint ecumenical Offering of Letters, delivering 3,630 letters in-district. He’s aiming even higher this year.

“We are hoping that we will have at least 50 congregations this year,” said Gardner, who was happy with the workshop’s turnout, which included many representatives from congregations. In the next two months, churches will hold letter-writing and blessing events and then representatives will reconvene to hand-deliver most of the letters to Indiana’s members of Congress.

Fostering Christian unity is the calling that drives Gardner to come back each year and bring even more congregations along. “When we work together doing what the Gospel calls us to do, then we are not just building stronger relationships across denominations, we are building stronger faith communities based on understanding and not fear,” Gardner said.

Whether it is mobilizing around the GFSA or organizing letters about the U.S. budget, the Indiana team has figured out a winning formula that combines faith, a dedication to ecumenism, and a commitment to strategic action.

Robin Stephenson is senior manager for social media at Bread for the World.

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Margery Austin Turner of the Urban Institute speaks during the launch of the 2018 Hunger Report. Eric Bond for Bread for the World

Launching the 2018 Hunger Report: The Jobs Challenge

By Todd Post

Bread for the World Institute last month launched the 2018 Hunger Report: The Jobs Challenge: Working to End Hunger by 2030. As in previous years, the event was held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and featured an excellent lineup of speakers.

The new Hunger Report focuses primarily on the jobs crisis in the United States, although there is a chapter on jobs in developing countries. A word like crisis may sound like a misnomer, since the federal unemployment rate has held steady at 4.1 percent for the past six months. The crisis stems from wage stagnation—the fact that the incomes of most households have been stagnant for decades. Worse, the incomes of the lowest-paid households have actually decreased when accounting for inflation. They can afford fewer necessities than before.

David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and Bread for the World Institute, opened the launch by discussing the report’s main recommendations. He emphasized that many already have bipartisan support—for example, investments in upgrading the nation’s infrastructure. There are partisan differences in specifics, but widespread agreement that the nation’s physical infrastructure is in dire need of improvement. Infrastructure investments not only have the potential to create millions of jobs for workers of varying incomes, but would also make the U.S. economy more productive in the long run. Productivity growth is a key component of raising the living standards of everyone. You can find all the recommendations in the report here.

After Beckmann’s opening remarks, Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute, moderated a discussion of jobs and the economy between Jared Bernstein, a senior economist with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Jimmy Kemp, president of the Jack Kemp Foundation. Jimmy Kemp’s father, Jack Kemp, was a Republican member of Congress, a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and a candidate for Vice President.

Bernstein and Kemp disagreed sharply on some issues, such as taxes, with Bernstein favoring much higher marginal tax rates for the richest households. But the two were also able to find some common ground; for example, on the need to invest in communities with perennially high rates of concentrated poverty. This is a crucial theme in the 2018 Hunger Report, because where there are high levels of poverty, there are corresponding levels of unemployment and hunger.

Following the discussion between Bernstein and Kemp, I moderated a panel that included Thea Lee, economist and president of the Economic Policy Institute; Diana Ramirez, labor organizer and deputy director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United; Margery Austin Turner, urban policy expert and senior vice president of the Urban Institute; and Rafi Peterson, reentry specialist and organizer with Southwest Organizing Project in Chicago.

Not only were each of the panelists there to shed light on prominent themes of The Jobs Challenge, but you could say that the panelists themselves were featured in the report. The Economic Policy Institute is a research organization dedicated to bringing the problems of working families to the forefront of critical policy debates. Its research helps untangle the factors behind wage stagnation, an important topic throughout the report. The report pays particular attention to restaurants as a large employment sector with many low-paying jobs. The Urban Institute provided insightful analysis for our coverage of policies related to urban areas of concentrated poverty. I visited Chicago in the summer of 2017 to meet with Peterson and his colleagues at the Southwest Organizing Project. I was so impressed by the work they are doing in the communities they serve, some of the poorest in the city, that I knew I wanted to feature their work in the report and at the launch.

The 2018 Hunger Report is the fourteenth I’ve worked on, and may possibly be the most important of all. Jobs are the defining issue linking the U.S. economy with those of developing countries.  Many U.S. workers stuck in jobs that don’t pay enough to meet their basic needs believe, mistakenly, that gains in developing countries are threatening their own prosperity. Among the many reasons to help working poor Americans is to prevent them from becoming immovable opponents of U.S. policies aimed at enabling developing countries to increase their own prosperity. It is self-defeating in the end, because once developing countries achieve some gains, they become customers for U.S. goods and services—the very markets that workers here need to thrive.

Trade and many of the other topics surrounding work, particularly jobs that pay enough to support a family, are without a doubt, complex and thorny. The 2018 Hunger Report will help you untangle these knotty issues.

Todd Post is senior researcher, writer, and editor for Bread for the World Institute.

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Act Now: Tell Congress to Protect SNAP and Oppose the House Farm Bill

The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R.2), known as the farm bill, maintains and improves international food aid programs. However, it also proposes changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that would put millions of Americans at risk of hunger. Call (800-826-3688) or email your representative and tell them to protect SNAP by opposing the House Farm Bill.

Tools
from our Resource Library

For Education

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.

    ...

  • U.S. Hunger and Poverty State Fact Sheets

    These fact sheets provide a snapshot of hunger and poverty in the United States and in each state plus Washington, D.C. 

  • 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...

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