Issue Overview: Hunger and the Federal Budget

The United States and the world have made substantial progress toward ending hunger and poverty over the past several decades. Worldwide, extreme poverty — living on less than $1.90 a day — has been cut in half over the past 30 years. But more work needs to be done. Nearly 800 million people in the world are still hungry. In the United States, 1 in 6 children lives in a family that struggles with hunger.

Families, churches and community groups, and businesses all need to do their parts to end hunger. It’s crucial that our government also do its part. Photo: Bread for the World

Ending Hunger by 2030

Nations around the world, including the United States, have agreed to work for an end to hunger and related goals by 2030. And there is growing recognition among faith leaders, nongovernmental organizations, and business leaders that ending hunger and extreme poverty by 2030 is achievable.

Families, churches and community groups, and businesses all need to do their parts to end hunger. It’s crucial that our government also does its part.

Through this 2017 Offering of Letters, we urge Congress to make funding decisions that put our country and the world on track to ending hunger by 2030.

This will be a challenging year. Programs that help families alleviate hunger and get out of poverty are threatened with deep funding cuts. As in years past, your persistent and faithful advocacy will be important in defending the interests of people who are hungry.

Zambia. Photo by Joe Molieri / Bread for the World

What Our Government Can Do

Through the federal budget process, Congress can make funding decisions that put us on track to end hunger and poverty. Regardless of which political party controls Congress or the White House, our elected leaders must write, pass, and administer our nation’s budget. Through the federal budget our government invests in many anti-poverty and anti-hunger programs that help people stay out of poverty and thrive.

The federal process typically begins in February when the president submits a budget for the coming fiscal year to Congress. Congress then crafts a budget resolution — a framework for what the government should spend and take in. These budget proposals lay out a vision for our nation’s future and inform the spending and legislative decisions Congress makes throughout the year. Sometimes it sets the framework for several years.

After Congress concludes its budget debate, the allocation of dollars begins. This is referred to as the appropriations process. Congress must pass spending or appropriations bills to ensure the government remains open. They fund a wide variety of programs, including anti-hunger programs such as WIC, global nutrition, and international poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA). Spending bills become law when they are signed by the president.

This year’s Offering of Letters focuses on this core process that decides our nation’s funding priorities.

Advocacy is hard work, and sometimes the victories do not come right away. But Bread has been doing advocacy for decades and has the expertise, experience, and track record for bringing hope and opportunity. Photo: Joe Molieri / Bread for the World

Two Key Decision Points in the Budget

In 2017, Congress is expected to use two budget tools that could lead to drastic cuts or changes to anti-hunger programs: sequestration and budget reconciliation.

  • Sequestration 
    Enacted in 2011, sequestration — automatic budget cuts — imposes tight limits on the government’s discretionary spending, capping funding for programs that need yearly funding, like WIC, humanitarian assistance, and global nutrition.
    Fact sheet: Consequences of sequestration
  • Budget reconciliation 
    ​This is a legislative procedure that enables Congress to make big changes to many policies and programs at the same time. Reconciliation bills have fast-track privileges that allow them to more easily pass through Congress. Many in Congress are pushing to use this year’s reconciliation bills to fundamentally change the structure and funding for Medicaid and SNAP.
    Guide to the budget reconciliation process
Access to clean drinking water leads to improvements in public health. Photo by Arne Hoel / World Bank.

A Budget to End Hunger by 2030

A budget is more than a financial document — it is a moral document, too. It is a statement of our nation’s priorities and values. Our federal budget should be measured on how it treats the most vulnerable people among us. 

The national funding decisions of 2017 will have far-reaching effects on the lives of people in the United States and around the world who struggle with hunger and poverty. If investments for key programs are cut, millions of families in the United States will struggle with food insecurity and poverty. Their children are less likely to do well in school and in life. Internationally, many more children will lack the nutrition they need to have a fighting chance in life; fragile nations will continue to weaken; and levels of extreme poverty will rise. On the other hand, positive investments and funding decisions could accelerate our progress against hunger, save lives, release God-given potential, and allow us to reach the 2030 goal.

We don’t know for sure what Congress and the new administration will do in 2017. President Donald J. Trump prides himself on being unpredictable. He has said things both for and against safety-net programs and has promised to assist struggling communities — “the forgotten men and women of our country.”

So doing our part as Christians this year should include advocacy with our members of Congress for funding decisions that reduce and move us toward ending hunger. 

Have a question? Connect with your local organizer: 800/822-7323 or organizing@bread.org.

Tools
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.

  • The U.S. Contribution to Ending Global Malnutrition

    We have a new opportunity in 2017 to speed up global progress against malnutrition among pregnant women and young children. Worldwide, maternal and child malnutrition causes millions of deaths each year. In some countries, it holds entire generations back from reaching their economic potential....

  • Fact Sheet: Nutrition During Famine

    Famine means that 20 percent or more of the households in an area have “an extreme lack of food and other basic needs where starvation, death, and destitution are evident.”

    Famine has been declared in two counties of South Sudan, while other areas of South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and...

For Faith

  • The Bible on Health as a Hunger Issue

    A brief examination of the biblical approach to health as a hunger issue.

    Includes an introduction to the issue, a Scriptural reflection, practical actions you can take, and a prayer.

  • Bread Newsletter January 2016

    In this issue: Another Great Year for Bread; Catholics Begin Observance of Holy Year of Mercy; Serving on ‘God’s Wave Length’ for 39 Years; and more.
     

  • Interfaith Religious Leaders’ Pledge to End Hunger

    A wide array of the nation’s faith leaders have come together on the eve of Pope Francis’ arrival in the United States to commit ourselves to encourage our communities to work for the end of hunger by 2030 and, toward that end, for a shift in U.S. national priorities.

    We are deeply pleased...

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.

    ...

  • The State of Black Poverty: A Pan-African Millennial Perspective on Ending Hunger by 2030

    Over the past year and a half, about two-dozen young adults from the United States and countries in Africa and the Caribbean, have gathered virtually and in person to reflect on the effects of hunger and poverty in black communities. The working group has been considering socio-political and...

  • Fact Sheet: The Hunger-Medicaid Connection

    Congress is considering proposals that would jeopardize healthcare coverage for millions of poor and near-poor adults and children. 

    The bill under consideration, the American Health Care Act, would gut...

Field

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