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Throughout Bread’s history, our faithful advocates have tirelessly campaigned on legislation moving through Congress that impacts people struggling with hunger and poverty. One of our primary concerns has been the federal budget.
Budgets are more than fiscal documents – they are also moral documents. Budgets are a statement of our nation’s priorities and values. When the annual budget is signed into law, policies are made with the stroke of a pen that can redirect millions of dollars and affect millions of lives. This makes the federal budget an important place for advocacy to end hunger.
The U.S. budget process is long and often confusing. Over a period of many months, several different budget proposals are released and debated.
The administration’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget would make massive cuts to programs that help people who face hunger and poverty – both U.S. nutrition programs such as SNAP and emergency aid to people overseas on the brink of starvation. The House of Representatives is likely to propose similar cuts.
As the federal budget process unfolds over the coming months, Bread for the World has resources on our website that explain the budget process – including issues such as reconciliation and sequestration. These resources include:
We hope these resources will make it easier for you to urge your members of Congress to fully fund hunger, nutrition, and poverty programs in the fiscal year 2019 federal budget. Our federal budget should reflect our values, and that includes helping to ensure that people in the United States and around the world get enough to eat.
Editor's note: Last year, Lynne Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church joined Bread for the World's For Such a Time as This: A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Advocacy. Here is an excerpt from her blog post of September 9, 2017, sharing the reasons she joined the effort.
"Some weeks ago, my friend David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, invited me to join him and a coalition of other Christian leaders in fasting and prayer on the 21st of each of month.
The 21st day of the month was chosen because 90% of SNAP (food stamp) benefits are used up by then, making the last week of each month the hungriest week in America.
I did not take David’s invitation lightly. Knowing the campaign will run through the end of 2018, I did not want to make a commitment I wasn’t prepared to keep for the long term.
I also knew that promoting the campaign would mean speaking more explicitly about my conviction that political advocacy is a vital part of Christian discipleship, as well as about my ongoing disagreement with the direction of our President and Congress. Based on past experience, I could imagine how many critical emails I would receive. So, I hesitated.
Then #Charlottesville. I woke last Saturday morning to the news of what had happened on Friday night and I knew the only appropriate response—for me, anyway—was fasting and prayer. It was an easy decision, actually, since I was too sick to my stomach to eat and the only outlet I had for the deep grief I felt was prayerful lament. So, really, fasting and prayer was less of a choice than a necessity.
As the week has progressed, it has become increasingly clear that joining #ForSuchATime is also less of a choice than a necessity. I need to join with a community of people committed to fasting, prayer and action on behalf of the vulnerable in our country and throughout the world.
I'll fast and pray for those facing the risk of physical hunger and for those making decisions that impact them.
I'll fast and pray for increasing bipartisan condemnation of sinful and selfish attitudes and policies, and increasing bipartisan support for policies that support and protect the vulnerable.
I'll fast and pray about the hunger of spirit in our country—about the undernourished hearts and minds filled with ideologies that believe racism is okay, that white supremacy is justified, that differences of race, religion, culture or sexual orientation offer licenses to hate.
I'll fast and pray that my own heart will be broken ever more deeply for the vulnerable and marginalized.
I'll fast and pray that more Americans will adopt a consistent ethic of life that includes but is not limited to protecting the unborn.
I'll fast and pray for my friends in the U.S. and globally who are refugees, immigrants, undocumented, unwelcome, fearful, facing famine, discriminated against, desperate, hungry, lonely.
I'll fast and pray for women I've met in the Congo who are victims of horrific rape as a weapon of war, for displaced women I've met in Iraq who have been brutalized by ISIS, for Israeli and Palestinian women I've met working daily for reconciliation and peace in the Holy Land.
I'll fast and pray for persecuted Christians and for victims of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
I'll fast and pray for Chicago, confessing that I've poured much passion, energy and time into people and places around the globe, and very little passion, energy and time into the city right next door, the city I blindly drive through on my way to somewhere else.
I'll fast and pray for bridge-builders, and for those who are so weary they can't find the energy to try to build another bridge.
I'll fast and pray as an act of solidarity with the hungry, as a lament, as a necessary jolt to my comfortable way of living.
I'll fast and pray for boldness and discernment.
I'll devote the day to learning from voices new to me, and determining what actions I can and should take, either politically or personally.
I'll end the day with the prayer that has so often changed the trajectory of my life: God, what is mine to do?
Clearly, there is great need and great potential for transformation in our hearts and minds, in our personal relationships, in our leaders, in our policies, in our country. I want to be part of that transformation—through fasting, prayer and action. Will you join me?"
Lynne Hybels is co-founder of One Million Thumbprints, an international movement of women raising awareness and funds for victims of war in Syria/Iraq, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
By Angelique Walker-Smith
At the end of the newly released and popular superhero film, "Black Panther," an ambassador to the United Nations asked this question: "What can a country full of farmers offer the world?" The question transitions the viewer from the imaginary place of Wakanda to reality today. Wakanda helps us envision new possibilities in advanced development of natural resources, wealth, and prosperity—not only for African nations, but for all nations.
It is a story about political will and resources for all. Unlike popular negative stereotypes and imagery of African nations, the portrayal of Wakanda uplifts the dignity and imagery of African peoples throughout the African diaspora. In a recent interview, Lupita Nyong'o, one of the film’s stars, said that "Black Panther’s Wakanda is Africa if it had never been colonized."
While the material prosperity of Wakanda is important, it is the commitment of the leaders and warriors of Wakanda to the spiritual and ethical care of their people and their wealth that is most compelling. This includes the development of advanced healing properties and practices, equitable relationships, and moral currency.
In essence, Wakandans live out the vision of Acts 2 that promotes sharing within a community. In Wakanda, men and women are warriors and leaders who honor their parentage and ancestors. This contributes to their sense of reverence, not only for their community, but also for strangers. Even in a time of struggle and battle, they fight with resolve to protect their people and their legacy.
The world often forsakes the positive contributions that African peoples have made and continue to make. Agricultural economies of the African continent are often not celebrated and encouraged even while outside nations and groups take advantage of the natural resources of African nations. Nyong’o said that "what colonialism did was it rewrote our history and our narrative—and our global narrative is one of poverty and strife—and so the wealth of the continent is very seldom seen on such a global scale."
Black Panther helps us see African peoples differently and reminds us that Black History is the history of all of us. It inspires hope, which can be seen in the revival of urban and rural farming in Pan-African communities. Groups like the Black Church Food Security Network, and public policies such as the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), are evidence of this.
Today we, too, can live out the principles of Acts 2 by advocating for a moral budget and for appropriations that protect all people, including those most affected by hunger and poverty.
Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Church Engagement at Bread for the World.
Bread for the World won six DeRose-Hinkhouse Awards for work done in 2017. The awards, given annually by the Religion Communicators Council, recognizes “excellence in religious communications and public relations.”
Bread’s awards include our first integrated content marketing project, The Hunger Reports; Bread for the World Institute's monthly newsletter, Institute Insights; the Christmas card, “Nurture”; the 2017 Offering of Letters video, “Doing Our Part”; the radio media tour, “The Ten Hungriest States”; and the poster for the 2017 Offering of Letters. The awards will be given on April 15 during the annual convention of the Religion Communicators Council in Atlanta.
Bread for the World’s 2018 Offering of Letters: For Such a Time as This is available on our website. The materials include a how-to guide on planning an event, an explanation of the issue, and suggestions on how to promote your event.
Spanish materials, both online and print, are also now available.
You can order Offering of Letters materials for free at the Bread for the World online store.
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 March, the devotional guide raises the voices of women, especially those who have cried out and received empowerment from God.
Bread for the World Institute’s 2018 Hunger Report, The Jobs Challenge: Working to End Hunger By 2018, will be available in April. The report discusses an array of public policies that could improve job opportunities, especially for low-wage workers.
Join us on June 11 and 12 in Washington, D.C., for Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day. Last year, more than 400 faithful advocates descended onto Capitol Hill to meet with their members of Congress. Keep reading Bread’s e-newsletter to learn more as the date draws near.
By Faustine Wabwire
A woman clung tightly to her 6-year-old daughter Arifa, as if to protect her from death itself. Her little girl stared helplessly. Hunger had sapped her flesh and muscle, leaving only her bony frame with veins visible under her thin layer of skin. It was evident from her sunken eyes that Arifa, a child once filled with energy, was hours or perhaps only minutes away from dying of starvation.
During my recent travels, including a conference in Cape Town, South Africa, on “Tackling the Root Causes of Migration,” I absorbed many such painful-to-hear stories from people working in war-torn countries. The heartbreaking experiences of millions of people trapped by conflict strengthened my resolve to urge the administration and Congress to act, so that no more mothers will be driven to say, “We will die anyway, from war or hunger.”
What did Arifa do to turn her country into a battleground, with food now being used as a weapon of war? Nothing.
The current near-famine conditions in Yemen are not due to a lack of food in the country. Rather, Arifa and 1 million other children in Yemen are starving because of constraints on food distribution and, especially, on people’s lack of ability to purchase it.
Since November 6, 2017, a Saudi-led military coalition fighting the armed Houthi movement has blockaded Yemen’s two Red Sea ports, Hodeidah and Saleef. This has had a devastating effect because Yemen imports up to 90 percent of its food.
As World Food Program Executive Director, David Beasley, explained, "Hodeidah Port is a humanitarian lifeline for millions who are on the brink of famine. We are committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure a consistent flow of life-saving food and supplies to the country."
The world’s largest man-made food security crisis is now unfolding right before our eyes. More than three-quarters of Yemen’s population of 29 million need immediate humanitarian assistance—food, medical supplies, water, shelter, and protection. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) projects that more people are likely to go hungry in 2018 than in 2017—and reports from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) indicate that 8.4 million people are at risk of famine, up from 6.8 million in 2017.
The continuing port blockade means that supplies of essential items such as food, medicine, and fuel are limited, dramatically increasing the number of people who need help. Ongoing conflict and economic decline have steadily eroded both the government’s and families’ ability to cope with the crisis. Preventable diseases, including cholera and diphtheria, have struck an already weakened population in all parts of the country. As the Washington Post reported, “One million people have contracted a disease that we've understood how to treat and contain since John Snow sat by a water pump in 1854.”
But there is hope. Last year, more than 1 million people in Al Hudaydah, Yemen, benefited from improvements in water, sanitation, and hygiene, which are critically important to preventing infections, cholera, and other health problems. These are more dangerous for malnourished people because of their weakened immune systems. The funding came largely from a multi-donor pooled funding source.
There are also technological solutions to help reach people with only days or hours to live. For example, on January 17, 2018, Ambassador Mark Green, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), announced that USAID was providing funding for four mobile cranes at a central Yemeni seaport. The cranes will reduce the time needed to unload ships from a week to as few as three days, "which means food, medicine, and other necessities will reach people more quickly,” said Green.
These examples show that even in areas where life-threatening hunger took hold some time ago, there are ways to prevent death from starvation and disease. We must ask and answer the question: Can we really stand by as Arifa and 1 million other children die? We must guard against the collective paralysis that can take hold when people in donor countries hear about children in situations such as Arifa’s.
Both examples show that aid organizations must be able to reach people in need with food, supplies, and medical treatment. Aid workers continue to be denied access to regions where people are trapped and death rates are rising.
Bread for the World is playing its part. Bread staff met with lawmakers including Senator Todd Young (R-IN), and highlighted the need for high-level USG attention to the issue. Senator Young and a bipartisan group of senators have emerged as champions on humanitarian issues in Yemen, and have been critical to ensuring that both the administration and the American public pay attention. Thanks to these efforts, Saudi Arabia temporarily and partially eased its blockade of the port of Hodeida in December. Unfortunately, the significant elements of the blockade remain in place or have been re-imposed, extending the suffering of the Yemeni people in the process.
Bread for the World emphasizes that the United States must lead and coordinate diplomatic efforts with global partners to push the Saudi government to allow an immediate return to full-scale humanitarian operations. All warring parties should help protect humanitarian staff and the facilities that make their work possible, and they should cease any undue interference in the work of humanitarian organizations.
Unfortunately, the people of Yemen are not alone, as more than as 20 million people stand on the verge of famine due, in part, to conflict and effects of climate change. The United States must continue to be at the forefront of the diplomatic and humanitarian response. Yet, cuts to foreign assistance have been proposed in the administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget which would gravely hinder our ability to respond to crises, and reverse the tremendous progress the world has made against hunger.
A new briefing paper being released by Bread for the World Institute in Spring, 2018 will examine the deteriorating situation in South Sudan, as conflict threatens to slip the country into famine conditions. It will offer recommendations on what the United States, regional, and global partners must do to save children, men, and women on the brink of death.
Faustine Wabwire is senior foreign assistance policy advisor with Bread for the World Institute.
By Robin Stephenson
Any good teacher knows that learning occurs in steps—a process Peter England is using to introduce the 2018 Offering of Letters: For Such a Time as This to parishioners at his St. Louis Catholic Church in Pinecrest, Florida.
In 2018, the administration and Congress will once again target vital domestic and international anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs for deep cuts. Letters that let lawmakers know people of faith care and are knowledgeable about what is at stake will be essential to averting budget cuts that would lead to increased hunger and poverty.
England, a seasoned advocate and Bread leader, has been helping his church write letters since 1989. As a Bread for the World covenant church, St. Louis Catholic has made anti-hunger advocacy central to its mission.
Before congregants put pen to paper during their May 4 Offering of Letters event, England will lay a foundation of facts about hunger and the government funded programs that can help. In teaching, this technique—called scaffolding—gives students a better chance of using newly acquired knowledge independently.
England, who chairs the Bread for the World ministry in the parish of over 3,000, begins teaching as soon as the Offering of Letter’s toolkit is available. "I use the fact sheet in the kit and pepper information about what is at stake in our church bulletin each week until it is time to write," he said. He also shows videos and gives altar talks to build momentum in the weeks before letter writing is scheduled.
Familiarity with hunger issues is important to England’s strategy. "We demand that each letter be original and it must be handwritten," he said. "By the time of writing, we have educated them and they know what they are writing about."
His leadership in anti-hunger advocacy is deeply embedded in a Catholic faith that puts the needs of the poor above the desires of the rich. For England, that includes changing the structures that cause hunger and poverty. "Christians are often more interested in charity than they are justice," he said.
The process of writing letters might educate parishioners at St. Louis Catholic, but it is the delivery that impacts decision-makers who can change the policies that perpetuate hunger. Last year, England and his team hand-delivered 1,500 letters to U.S. congressional offices in Florida.
In Mathew 7:24, Jesus teaches that a sturdy foundation guards against ruin. A house built on a rock does not fall. In the same way, building a strong foundation for the Offering of Letters is a sure way to build a base of knowledge about hunger that will last—a lesson England will continue to teach.
Robin Stephenson is senior manager for social media at Bread for the World.
Immigration is a hunger issue. People without documentation are more likely to live in poverty and struggle to put food on the table. Call (800-826-3688) or email your member of Congress. Tell them to protect Dreamers by passing bipartisan legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship, keeps families together, and addresses the root causes of migration.
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