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The number of people in the United States experiencing hunger is on the decline, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But too many families still struggle with food insecurity compared to the time period before the Great Recession.
In 2017, 11.8 percent of households in the U.S.—40.0 million people—were food insecure, which means that they were unsure at some point during the year how they would provide for their next meal.
Unfortunately, the overall food insecurity rate has not recovered to pre-recession levels. In 2007, 11.1 percent of U.S. households experienced food insecurity, compared to 11.8 percent in 2017.
"We celebrate the news that the number of Americans who struggle with hunger declined again in 2017," said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "Hunger has been declining gradually as the economy has been improving over the last seven years. Unfortunately, millions of families, especially single parent and African American and Hispanic families, are still struggling to put food on the table."
The food insecurity rate for households with children was unchanged from 2016 and continued to be significantly higher at 15.7 percent than for households without children at 10.1 percent.
Overall, 12.5 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2017.
Food insecurity has real-life consequences for children. Children who are hungry and at risk of hunger are more likely to struggle in school and have an increased risk for illnesses and weakened immune systems.
The data found that food insecurity rates also remain disturbingly high for African American and Latino households, nearly double that of the national rate and even higher when compared to white households.
In 2017, approximately 1 in 5 African-American households (21.8 percent) and 1 in 6 Latino households (18.0 percent), was food insecure, compared to fewer than 1 in 11 white households (8.8 percent). While we anticipate that food insecurity levels are equally as high among Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, food insecurity data has not been released on these groups.
Where you live in the U.S. determined your level of food insecurity. The highest rates of food insecurity remained in the South (13.4 percent), followed by the Midwest (11.7 percent), the West (10.7 percent) and the Northeast (9.9 percent).
Food insecurity was highest in cities (13.8 percent), followed by rural areas (13.3 percent), and was lower in the suburbs (9.4 percent).
Ending hunger is feasible. However, the current rate of progress is not sufficient to meet the goal by 2030. It will require more accelerated progress, strong political commitment, and a comprehensive approach that addresses hunger’s root causes.
This story was written by Christine Melendez Ashley, interim director of government relations at Bread for the World, and Marlysa D. Gamblin, domestic advisor for policy and programs, specific populations at Bread for the World Institute.
By Rev. Rubén Ortiz
The airplane was ready to leave when two women seated next to me were taking the kind of photo where you stretch out your arm awkwardly called “selfies.” Seeing them try out several angles, I offered to help but they declined, saying, “it’s that we want a picture that’s just us.”
The passage from the Gospel of Mark (Mark 10:35-45) talks about a special request that James and John asked of Jesus: we want to be seated, one at your right and one at your left, in your glory. In response, the Master asked them, are you prepared to accept the same end that I am? And almost childlike, James and John agree that if Jesus will do what they ask, they will suffer for the cause. Of course, Jesus withholds the decision to assign the placements by his side because this decision belongs to the Father. Hearing this, the other disciples were alarmed by James and John’s request. They had been left out. It looked like one of those scenes where siblings argue over a toy and are ready to fight to have it. Jesus reminds them that they are like those officials in the world who always seek to be in power.
James, John, and the rest of the disciples were confused by Jesus’ command that in order to be great and be by his side, you must be a servant. That is the measure.
It is a valuable story. You and I could easily be James and John, wanting a VIP reservation — possibly like those of us with decals in our cars saying that our children are part of the honor roll in that great school that has been chosen as the best in the county. Or maybe we pride ourselves for living in one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful countries.
This biblical story could have been written yesterday. In that line of thinking, our prayers contain more requests than thanksgivings because we seek the joy of privileges and special blessings from those that occupy the highest offices that make news and in the light of flashes from thousands of “likes” on their photos. But unlike the others, Jesus did not want to promote himself. He sought only to announce the Kingdom of God. And so today he calls us, humbly, not to be self-sufficient or egocentric, but rather to participate, with the rest of humanity in the transformation of the world. To be in solidarity with those who have less.
We are also called to be prophetic and announce or denounce what is right or wrong about those who are in power. When budgets are made that do not take into account the needs of the most vulnerable. When those who can eradicate poverty and hunger in our time do not. When those who should serve others would rather promote themselves. This is what unites us on a Sunday as we pray for the Lord to touch our hearts and your hearts and to tell the rulers that they should put the interests of those most in need first.
We do this because we believe that to follow Jesus is to love and serve those whom he preferred, loved, and served.
Perhaps this is a good day to consider some questions. What does it mean to say that I am a disciple of Jesus? How much time and resources am I investing in promoting myself? Who benefits from this? How can I invest my life in those who are a priority in Jesus’ agenda? What is my place in the kingdom?
James and John were prepared to take a photo with Jesus that included just them. It was a “celestial selfie” of only three persons, but the photo that Jesus wants to be in includes many more than just a few. It is a giant photo with a multitude of witnesses that have decided to love him and in so doing, give themselves in service to those most in need.
1, 2, and 3… click, you are now part of the photo.
Rev. Rubén Ortiz is a Latino field coordinator at Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Each year, Bread for the World members vote for candidates to fill open seats on the board of directors. The board of directors sets the direction for how Bread will channel its resources. It is a multidenominational, multicultural, bipartisan group of people from all parts of the United States who have expertise on a variety of issues of importance to ending hunger.
This year’s candidates were chosen for the gifts they would bring to the board and to Bread for the World’s work together.
Bread members are invited to cast their votes for new board members through Sept. 17. Results of the election will be announced in late winter. New board members will begin their terms in January 2019.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or to nominate someone for consideration as a board candidate in a future election.
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.
Almost half of Americans said they found it hard to pay for their basic needs in 2017, according to a new report from the Urban Institute. Despite the U.S. economy being near full employment, 39.4 percent of Americans between 18 and 64 years old said they experienced at least one type of material hardship, such as paying for food, housing, utilities or health care.
The most common hardship was food insecurity. More than 23 percent of households struggled to feed their family at some point last year. The study surveyed more than 7,500 adults. The study found that even middle-class households had confronted the problem.
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.
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 August, the devotional guide honored Black August—a time when people of African descent reflect on the inequitable treatment of black persons in the criminal justice system, a major driver of hunger and poverty in the United States. The devotionals in September probe the meaning of dignified work through biblical reflections, prayers, songs, and historical perspectives.
There is still time to order resources for your Bread for the World Sunday celebration on Oct. 21 or another day in the year. Worship bulletin inserts that reflect the theme of Mark 10:35-45, the Gospel appointed for Sunday, Oct. 21, may be ordered free of charge in any quantity. A Spanish-language version of the bulletin insert is also available, as well as an insert designed for African-American communities.
Each order of bulletin inserts comes with a Scripture study on Mark 10:25-35 and a new litany or responsive prayer. A large Bread for the World Sunday poster with English on one side and Spanish on the other side is also included.
Additional resources, which can be viewed and downloaded, include biblical reflections and prayers in Spanish as well as those written by African-American church leaders.
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.
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 email@example.com or call 800-822-7323.
By Marlysa D. Gamblin
Black August originated and has been observed since the 1970s with a decision by African-American prisoners to protest unjust incarceration and police killings of black people.
In papers such as Mass Incarceration: A Major Cause of Hunger, Bread for the World Institute has explored the connection between the unjust over-incarceration of black bodies and the disproportionately higher rates of hunger and poverty in the black community to which this inequity contributes.
In last year’s blog, I wrote about some good first steps in addressing mass incarceration, specifically to reduce the over-incarceration and unjust treatment of African Americans in our criminal justice system. These steps included eliminating racial inequality and bias, prioritizing investments to support communities most affected by hunger and mass incarceration, and implementing plans to release individuals currently incarcerated (particularly those who have been over-policed, over-sentenced, and/or given an unjust mandatory minimum sentence).
Over-policing and unjust sentencing must be addressed to end mass incarceration and ensure comprehensive prison reform. Congress and several state legislatures have demonstrated bipartisan agreement on sentencing and prison reform, so enacting applicable policy provisions would be a good first step.
Since both long prison sentences and a lack of rehabilitative programs for incarcerated people impact individuals’ and families’ ability to put food on the table, we believe that a combination of sentencing and prison reform is critical to achieving real change in the criminal justice system. This change, which Black August participants demanded through protests, would not only yield more racially equitable results, but also dramatically reduce hunger in the United States.
The evidence shows that African Americans are sentenced at higher rates than whites. For example, African-American defendants are disproportionately convicted of offenses that carry a federal mandatory minimum penalty (31.5 percent for African Americans compared to 27.4 percent for the general population). In addition, according to the Sentencing Project, African Americans are incarcerated at up to 10 times the rate of whites due to over-policing and disproportionate convictions.
African Americans are also given longer sentences than whites for the same crime. In 2000, Professor Cassia Spohn released a comprehensive survey of 40 studies of sentencing outcomes over the course of 30 years. The survey concluded that black offenders were both more likely to be convicted and more likely to receive harsh sentences than white offenders.
These are a few examples of the conditions that black prisoners originally protested when they originated Black August. Harsher, longer sentences not only are unfair, but also disproportionately hurt black children and families. We know from research that being incarcerated results in less income and wealth post-incarceration, leaving families with few resources to fight hunger. And since African Americans are racially profiled, policed, arrested, and convicted at higher rates than their white counterparts, mass incarceration means that African-American households are more likely to earn lower incomes. This explains, in part, why African-American households with children experience hunger at twice the rate of white households with children (26.0 percent v. 12.7 percent).
Part of honoring Black August is being truthful about the real reforms we need to see in our criminal justice system, which should include both sentencing and prison reform as a first step. We must also fully acknowledge and address the system’s racial inequities in order to complete the needed reforms.
Marlysa D. Gamblin is a domestic advisor for policy and programs, specific populations, with Bread for the World Institute.
By Jordan Teague
Researchers have established that exclusive breastfeeding—meaning no other food or water—provides the best nutrition for babies younger than 6 months. Breast milk is also an important supplementary food until a child’s second birthday. Not only does breast milk provide essential nutrients for growth, but it also supplies antibodies that help babies fight off infections. Infections are a leading cause of child mortality around the world.
Breastfeeding saves lives every day. In 2016, The Lancet, a renowned British medical journal, released an analysis showing that increasing breastfeeding rates could save the lives of more than 820,000 children every year. The calculation was made using data from the 75 countries where 95 percent of child deaths occur. It assumes that 95 percent of infants younger than one month are breastfed exclusively, 90 percent of infants ages one month to 6 months are breastfed exclusively, and 90 percent of children 6 to 23 months are partially breastfed.
There is some evidence that breastfeeding mothers are healthier as well—for example, breastfeeding has been associated with lower cancer rates. The Lancet analysis estimates that increasing breastfeeding could also save the lives of 20,000 mothers annually.
In addition to improved survival and health for babies and mothers, there is also evidence that breastfeeding is associated with cognitive development. Children who are in better health and better equipped to learn can contribute more to the development of their countries’ economies. In fact, the 2016 Lancet breastfeeding analysis calculated the economic losses associated with not breastfeeding at about $302 billion every year.
At Bread for the World Institute, we recognize that not every mother is able to breastfeed. For example, some women have medical conditions that would make breastfeeding too risky for their babies or themselves. Some are able to breastfeed for only a short time before they must return to jobs that do not permit the necessary work breaks. Certainly, infant formula is critical to the nutrition of babies who cannot be breastfed. On the other hand, we should encourage and support policies that enable women to breastfeed as they are able.
A significant amount of evidence shows, unfortunately, that problems with the marketing of breast-milk substitutes and infant formulas undermine breastfeeding. Product labels are frequently confusing, leading to children being fed breast-milk substitutes and formulas that are meant for other age groups.
This is not a new concern. In 1981, the World Health Assembly (WHA) – the governing body of the World Health Organization – adopted the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes to help countries better regulate the marketing of breast-milk substitutes as part of their efforts to promote breastfeeding.
Every two years, breastfeeding is on the agenda at WHA’s annual meeting. In 2016, the WHA endorsed the recent World Health Organization Guidance on Ending the Inappropriate Promotion of Foods for Infants and Young Children.
This year, events unfolded differently. As has now been widely reported by Malnutrition Deeply, The New York Times, and other news media, WHA considered a resolution promoting breastfeeding, but the United States, led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), attempted to block the resolution entirely. In the end, the resolution was adopted, but with final wording on breast-milk substitutes that is weaker than in the original. The changes include deleting references to the 2016 World Health Organization Guidance.
Particularly in the wake of these actions, it is important to understand that none of the documents we have mentioned—this year’s WHA resolution on infant and young child feeding, the 2016 World Health Organization Guidance, or the 1981 International Code—ban or propose banning the sale or use of breast-milk substitutes or infant formulas. The purpose is to ensure that the products are not marketed to women and families inappropriately and that when breastfeeding is a viable option, it is promoted as the best choice.
In 2016, the U.S. government developed and launched the U.S. Government Global Nutrition Coordination Plan. The plan provides for better coordination on nutrition among federal departments and agencies with nutrition responsibilities, with the goal of progressing as far as possible toward the 2025 WHA global nutrition targets. The agencies that agreed to participate in the coordination plan include HHS. The United States has endorsed the global nutrition targets, one of which is to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in babies younger than 6 months to at least 50 percent by 2025.
It is disheartening that HHS disregarded these commitments to the point of leading the U.S. delegation’s opposition to this year’s WHA resolution on infant and young child feeding.
Bread for the World Institute calls on the U.S. government agencies that signed on to the federal Global Nutrition Coordination Plan to prioritize coordination that advances U.S. support for the WHA nutrition targets and, more broadly, our country’s support for saving infant lives by promoting evidence-based policies that ensure that babies get the best available nutrition.
Jordan Teague is international policy analyst with Bread for the World Institute.
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.
Good nutrition is a critical part of ensuring that all human beings can use their bodies and minds to live an active life and reach their full potential.
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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.
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...