Bread Newsletter: October-November 2018

Contents:

Mothers and their children attend a food demonstration conducted by Female Community Health Volunteers with the Suahaara II Program in Nepal. Kesi Marcano-Collier/Bread for the World.

Fulfilling the Vision of Ending Hunger

The Global Food Security Reauthorization Act was signed into law in October—thanks to your calls, letters, and Hill and in-district office visits.

Bread for the World members played an integral role in securing half of the 133 cosponsors in the House. Bread members also organized more than 65 in-district meetings in August and September urging representatives to pass this legislation.

“God calls on us to end hunger,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “This important victory will make a significant difference in the lives of millions of people around the world.”

The world has made tremendous progress against hunger and malnutrition. However, a United Nations report found that in 2017 the number of people struggling with hunger grew to 821 million—marking the third year in a row that the hunger rate has increased. The United States has historically been at the forefront of global food security and nutrition efforts, and our leadership is needed now more than ever.

The GFSA authorizes U.S. efforts to strengthen global agriculture, food security, and nutrition, and improves the accountability, implementation, and effectiveness of anti-hunger and malnutrition programs in low- and middle-income countries. This legislation will help ensure continued U.S. leadership on global food security and nutrition by building upon the progress already made through Feed the Future, which served nearly 11 million farmers and 23 million children last year.

The GFSA also creates partnerships for U.S. farmers, universities, businesses, researchers, and nonprofits to play an integral role in crafting and sharing solutions with counterparts across the globe, providing a path from poverty to prosperity and hunger to hope.

As countries become more prosperous, they become trading partners with our country and create markets for American businesses and farmers. This is critical at a time when American farmers are struggling.

Bread is especially encouraged that this legislation seeks to improve and promote nutrition for mothers and babies in the first 1,000-day period from conception to age 2—the most critical time in a child’s development.

Thank you again for your work on global hunger and malnutrition. But our work is not done.

In the final weeks of the year, Congress still has lots of unfinished business. The most critical are the farm bill, which sets SNAP and international food aid policy, and annual spending bills, which fund programs like Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), summer meals, global nutrition, and poverty-focused development assistance.

The Senate and the House have both passed their own versions of the farm bill. Bread for the World opposes the House version, which cuts SNAP benefits. The bipartisan Senate bill maintains those essential benefits and includes provisions to reform international food aid so that emergency food reaches people more quickly.

“Despite the improving economy, many families are still not able to make ends meet,” said Heather Valentine, Bread for the World’s director of government relations. “A farm bill with strong SNAP provisions is critical for the 1 in 8 Americans struggling with hunger.”

Congress has until Dec. 7 to finalize or extend funding for annual spending bills. The House and Senate continue to consider bills to fund key domestic and international nutrition priorities. We are urging lawmakers to support the highest funding levels for WIC, international food aid, and global nutrition programs.

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Founder of Florida's Joshua's Heart Foundation, Joshua Williams speaks about engaging young people in advocacy during the Faith Leaders Consultation for Global Nutrition in Washington, D.C., September 25, 2018. Pho: Nina Ramadan for Bread for the World

Bread Hosts Faith and Global Nutrition Consultation

By Robin Stephenson

Even before he started first grade, Joshua Williams was already fighting global poverty through a nonprofit he founded—Joshua’s Heart Foundation.

A teenager now, he continues to educate and engage his peers in anti-hunger advocacy. Williams says to end hunger we must engage advocates of his generation—including listening to them about their vision for the future. They need to know that they have power and can make an impact.

“Bringing my generation in and teaching them is going to be key,” Williams says.

Williams was one of several speakers at Bread for the World’s Faith and Global Nutrition Consultation in September, in partnership with Food for the Hungry. The event, held at Bread’s Washington, D.C., office, brought together 33 grassroots and faith leaders for a conversation about global nutrition.

Participants followed a day of learning with a day of action by visiting their members of Congress on Capitol Hill, urging robust investments in global nutrition.

The goal of the consultation was for participants to learn about global nutrition challenges and to develop grassroots strategies that will lead the United States to renew its commitment to ending malnutrition globally. Malnutrition is responsible for millions of preventable deaths each year.

Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, opened the consultation by urging  participants to “shape and propel a campaign that God has put in our hearts.”  

During the consultation participants heard from House Appropriations Committee staff member Susan Adams, and notable leaders in the fight against global malnutrition including Alma Golden, senior deputy assistant administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Global Health; Beth Dunford, deputy coordinator for development for Feed the Future—USAID’s global hunger and food security initiative; and Roger Thurow, senior fellow for global agriculture and food policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Thurow, who has authored several books on hunger, encouraged the leaders gathered to use storytelling as a strategy to build awareness. He spoke passionately about seeing malnutrition in the eyes of a father and his son and how it changed his life.

“Both were on the doorstep of starvation,” Thurow says.

A foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal at the time, the experience of reporting from an emergency feeding camp in Africa never left him. “That was a moment of great disruption in my life,” he added.

Since then, the former journalist has committed to ending global malnutrition by using storytelling to “outrage and inspire” others to act. Each participant received a copy of his book, “The First 1,000 Days: A Crucial Time for Mothers and Children—And the World.”

But perhaps the most inspiring speakers at the consultant were the participants themselves, who told stories about how they create change in their local communities.

ELCA Pastor Dan Fugate of Indiana spoke about how the faith community in Indiana has built an intentional relationship with Republican Sen. Todd Young. Kansas farmer Doug Keesling also stressed the importance of relationship building as a key strategy for anti-hunger advocacy, but also a basic tenant for Christian living.

And Margarita Romo made the connection between global and local food insecurity when she talked about her work in Florida with Farm Workers Self-Help Inc.

It was an eye-opening event for Romo, who founded her nonprofit nearly four decades ago and is no stranger to anti-hunger work. “After so many years I realize there is still so much to learn,” she says.  “After today, I feel rejuvenated to continue doing work on behalf of the poor and the hungry.”  

Robin Stephenson is senior manager for digital campaigns at Bread for the World.

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Rev. Dr. Robert Williamson Jr. is associate professor of religious studies at Hendrix College and founding pastor of Mercy Community Church of Little Rock.

On Faith: For Just Such a Time as This

By Rev. Dr. Robert Williamson Jr.

The book of Esther is a tale of resistance. It tells the story of three brave people—Vashti, Mordecai, and Esther—who stand up against the forces of patriarchy and ethnic hatred that seethe at the heart of the Empire. Likewise, the book of Esther can empower us to stand up for truth and justice today.

The book begins not with the story of Esther but of Vashti, the prior queen of Persia who refuses to be objectified by a roomful of drunken men. Her husband, the mercurial King Ahasuerus, calls upon her to “show off her beauty...to his important guests” (1:11). When the king beckons, Vashti simply says, “No.”

Vashti’s refusal reverberates throughout the Empire. The king’s advisors, fearing their own wives might be empowered by her example, advise the king to deal harshly with Vashti. Ever in service to the patriarchy, Ahasuerus deposes of Vashti, decreeing that “every man should be master in his own house” (1:22).

It might appear that Vashti’s act of resistance has failed, as the law now enshrines women’s subservience to their husbands. Yet, I like to think that Vashti’s refusal has exposed the patriarchy for the false and fragile ideology that it is. Other women, hearing of Vashti’s resistance, may be inspired to resist, too.

One of those women may have been Esther, a Jew, who replaces Vashti as queen by concealing her ethnic identity. Her cousin Mordecai instigates a crisis in the Empire when he refuses to bow to the king’s chief advisor Haman, an Agagite, who harbors an age-old resentment against the Jews. Mordecai’s defiance enrages Haman, who orders that all Jews in the Empire should be killed. Mordecai’s act of defiance provokes the ideological forces of the Empire out into the open. But, like Vashti, he is powerless to defeat it.

Rather, it falls upon Esther to save her people. She has by now become queen, a position of influence in the Empire. Though initially fearful, Esther responds courageously to Mordecai’s insistence that she has become queen “for just such a time as this” (4:14).

Unlike Vashti and Mordecai, who make dramatic gestures of defiance, Esther works within the system, using her official position to her advantage. When the king offers her half his kingdom, she instead extends a dinner invitation to the king and Haman. Only when she has won Haman’s trust and ingratiated herself to the king does Esther spring her trap, resulting in Haman’s execution. By following imperial protocol, Esther saves her people.

Together, Vashti, Mordecai, and Esther provide models of resistance for us in our own time. Each of the three resists in their own way, using their positions and opportunities to their best advantage.

So, too, with us. We are collectively tasked with resisting the powers that threaten us. But we aren’t all meant to resist in the same way. Some of us will be in the streets. Some of us will be in the boardrooms. Some of us will be in the pulpits. Some of us will be in the halls of Congress.

But each of us—whoever we are and wherever we find ourselves—is called to stand up for the good of us all. Perhaps our lives, too, have been preparing us for just such a time as this.

Rev. Dr. Robert Williamson Jr. is associate professor of religious studies at Hendrix College and founding pastor of Mercy Community Church of Little Rock. His most recent book is “The Forgotten Books of the Bible: Recovering the Five Scrolls for Today.”

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News Briefs

NEW PUBLIC CHARGE RULE TO HARM MILLIONS OF IMMIGRANT FAMILIES

The Trump administration recently released a proposed rule that could deny green cards (permanent residency) to legal immigrants who have used, or might use, safety-net programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid.

If this public charge rule is adopted, millions of immigrant families could be forced to make the impossible choice: use SNAP benefits to put food on the table and risk the chance of getting deported. Or, not accept help and suffer for lack of food or medical care.

Join us in opposition to the public charge rule by submitting a comment urging the Department of Homeland Security to withdraw this harmful rule. The comment period ends Dec. 10. To learn more on how you can submit a comment, go here.

BREAD’S I VOTE TO END HUNGER CAMPAIGN

The 2018 midterm elections are critical in our work. This year, we can elect leaders who will pass laws, fund programs, and create policy to put our nation and the world on track to end hunger by 2030—an outcome that is achievable, if our elected leaders make ending hunger a priority.

As part of our I Vote to End Hunger strategy, Bread needs you to be part of this campaign and push this message out to candidates in the congressional elections. You can join our campaign by getting in front of the candidates, telling us about your involvement, and using our elections resources.

Election resources are available to help you engage candidates in your state or congressional district on hunger issue.

2019 HUNGER REPORT AND OFFERING OF LETTERS

Both the 2019 Hunger Report and 2019 Offering of Letters will be available early next year. The 2019 Offering of Letters will focus on global nutrition. Like previous years, the Offering of Letters will be available online and in print.

Bread for the World is working to end hunger by 2030. The 2019 Hunger Report will explore how it is possible to achieve this goal, why advocates are making a difference, and what needs to happen between now and 2030.

Look for updates in the coming months on both these materials in Bread emails, and its print and online newsletters.

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.

The devotionals in October focus on the loss of land by African Americans and how that has affected their net worth compared to their white counterparts. And helps to explains why African Americans are disproportionately affected by hunger.

November’s devotionals engage with the theme of inviting the “other” to our tables—along with those who are familiar to us—during this season of Thanksgiving.

CHRISTMAS CARDS HELP END HUNGER

Again this year, Christmas cards can be purchased from Bread for the World, and the proceeds will support our work together to end hunger.

The 2018 card features an original illustration called, “The Holy Family,” by Doug Puller, senior design and art manager at Bread for the World. Inside is a passage from Luke’s Gospel as well as the greeting, “May the angels’ proclamation of Christ’s birth bring you a joyful Christmas and a peaceful new year.”

Ten cards and envelopes are only $15 (includes shipping). To view the full selection of cards available and to place your order, go here. You may also call 800-822-7323.

NORTH DAKOTA BREAD MEMBERS MAKE BIG IMPACT

A series of activities and meetings in North Dakota illustrate how effective and strategic planning can lead to positive results.

Last year, Bread organizing staff reached out to members Ryan Taylor, a rancher and former state senator, and Karen Ehrens, a hunger activist and registered dietitian. In May, Taylor and Ehrens were featured on Bread’s monthly national grassroots call and webinar. Taylor then helped organize an electronic “Protect SNAP” petition in North Dakota. In just three weeks, the email campaign garnered 851 signatures, a significant number in a state with a small population.

At the same time, Bread members worked with anti-hunger organizations and the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to co-sponsor a United Against Hunger Rally in Fargo, North Dakota. More than 100 people from across the state took part in the mid-June event. Attendees were urged to sign the “Protect SNAP” petition, raising the number of signatures to 1,000.

Following the rally, Bishop Terry Brandt of the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the ELCA and Bishop John T. Folda of the Catholic Diocese of Fargo helped organize and secure a joint meeting with Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D) and John Hoeven (R), both of whom serve on the Senate Agricultural Committee. Ehrens and Taylor also attended. Both senators were presented with the petitions from 1,000 North Dakotans in support of SNAP.

The following week, Heitkamp delivered a powerful defense of SNAP on the floor of the Senate. And on June 28, the Senate passed its version of the farm bill—without any cuts to SNAP benefits and reforms of U.S. international food aid. The 86-to-11 vote reflects an overwhelming bipartisan commitment to protect and strengthen domestic and international nutrition programs.

The next step is for the House and the Senate to negotiate a final version of the farm bill. Bread for the World members around the country are urging their representatives to pass a version that avoids any cuts to SNAP.

2018 OFFERING OF LETTERS: SEND YOUR LETTERS TO CONGRESS

There is still time for you or your church to get engaged with the 2018 Offering of Letters: For Such a Time as This. This year’s Offering of Letters is focused on asking Congress to invest in and protect key programs that help improve the lives of men, women, and children facing hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.

Our website has all the materials needed to conduct an Offering of Letters. To learn more about this year’s Offering of Letters and to download the toolkit, go here. For additional information, contact organizing@bread.org or call 800-822-7323.

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Indigenous communities have some of the highest hunger rates in the United States. Credit: iStock

Honoring Native American Heritage Month: Drawing on Strengths to Boost Nutrition

By Marlysa D. Gamblin

November is Native American Heritage Month, also known as National American Indian Heritage Month—a time to celebrate the history, culture, and traditions of Indigenous communities in the United States, similar to Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Women’s History Month.

One attribute that Indigenous communities have in abundance is resilience. For hundreds of years and continuing today, Indigenous communities have persisted through a series of traumas, including colonization, genocide, forced migration, land loss, and current forms of structural and institutional racism such as discrimination in the workplace and criminal justice system. Persistent efforts to preserve their own cultures have been essential to their very existence.

I was fortunate to attend the Native American Third Annual Nutrition Conference in October, where resilience was celebrated and promoted through a commitment to ancestral traditions. The conference brought together tribal officials, elders, community leaders, researchers, and people from younger generations to discuss the urgent problem of hunger, malnutrition, and food insecurity in Indigenous communities.

The national statistics on child food insecurity in the United States show that hunger among children is far too common in such a wealthy country, but the situation is far bleaker for children from Indigenous families than for U.S. children as a group. As we point out in Bread for the World Institute’s new fact sheet, this is largely because of structural racism that has perpetuated deep poverty in these communities. Poverty rates among Indigenous groups are regularly between two and four times as high as for the United States as a whole. The latest available data indicate that Indigenous households as a group have a poverty rate of 25.4 percent and that female-headed Indigenous households have a poverty rate of 54 percent. These rates compare to 12.3 percent for the nation as a whole.

Complex historical traumas have shaped the situation of today’s Indigenous people. The arrival of Europeans several centuries ago meant violent conflict and exposure to new diseases, particularly smallpox. The result was death on a staggering scale. Some researchers believe that the population decreased by as much as 95 percent within a few generations. Even beyond outright violence, a host of U.S. policies contributed to concentrated poverty, both on and off reservations. Today, many Indigenous people lack access to sufficient affordable nutrient-rich foods, leading to medical problems such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

The community, tribal, and research leaders at this year’s nutrition conference expressed their determination to end hunger and malnutrition in their communities. Indigenous communities can draw on their cultures of resilience and perseverance, as well as their traditional emphasis on nutrition, to make this goal a reality. The conference was an opportunity for Indigenous leaders from different regions, customs, and age groups to share innovative projects.

As a part of honoring Native American Heritage Month, Bread for the World would like to lift up some recommendations that conference participants offered to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition among Indigenous communities. These include:

  • Providing financial support and technical assistance to Indigenous entrepreneurs who want to participate in improving food systems. Supporting the creation of Indigenous-led agricultural projects can help eliminate the common problem of food deserts while also creating jobs. This is currently being done, for example, through a two-year USDA grant in Wyoming.
  • Increasing support for Indigenous chefs and nutritionists to establish their own businesses, prepare healthy Indigenous cuisine, and teach cooking skills to others. This will help shift Indigenous cultures toward following nutrition practices that have stood the test of time as well as equipping people to improve their nutritional status and that of their children. Visit the website of the Indigenous Food Lab for more on one approach to doing this.
  • Increasing funding for the Indian Health Services. This would enable the agency to hire additional staff, provide more nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive services to vulnerable communities, and conduct the research needed to identify best practices and future priorities.
  • Increasing the monthly budget for households that participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This is particularly important during seasons when other costs rise steeply—for example, heating for families on reservations in North and South Dakota, where sub-zero winter temperatures are not uncommon.

These recommendations are not comprehensive—rather, they are only a few examples of policy changes discussed during the conference that will help Indigenous communities become better nourished. They are steps in the right direction that are essential if the United States is to meet its goal of ending domestic hunger and food insecurity by 2030.

We can honor Native American Heritage Month by recognizing the incredible work being done by Indigenous leaders and communities—and by urging our elected leaders to enact these policy recommendations, as well as other policies that will move the United States toward zero hunger, both for Indigenous communities and for everyone.

Marlysa D. Gamblin is domestic advisor for policy and programs, specific populations, with Bread for the World Institute.

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Act now. Urge Congress to pass a bipartisan farm bill that strengthens SNAP and improves international food aid. Photo: Bread for the World

Act Now

Call 800-826-3688 or email your members of Congress and urge them to pass a strong bipartisan farm bill that strengthens the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and improves international food aid.

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

  • 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. 

  • Fact Sheet: Hunger by the Numbers

    In 2017, 11.8 percent of households in the U.S.—40 million people—were food-insecure, meaning that they were unsure at some point during the year about how they would provide for their next meal.

  • 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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