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By Jennifer Gonzalez and Christine Meléndez Ashley
As the partial government shutdown heads into a fourth week—with no end in sight—the threat against hunger and poverty programs increases by the day.
For now, there is enough funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, according to the Trump administration and food assistance advocates.
However, funds may not be available by the end of February or early March. This is concerning since roughly 40 million people rely on SNAP and another 8 million women, infants, and children benefit from WIC.
“Congress and the Trump administration should immediately reopen the government and address the root causes of migration, which are causing families to flee their home countries and seek asylum at the southern border,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.
Beckmann added: “The partial government shutdown is harming working families and putting at risk millions of Americans who rely on food assistance programs to feed their families.”
The shutdown is the second longest in the nation’s history and affects about 800,000 federal workers, many of whom will not get paid for the first time this week.
At the heart of the stalemate is border wall funding. The president has said he will not sign any funding measure that doesn’t include $5.7 billion for the construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Democratic leadership has said it will not put forth legislation that includes money for the border wall.
The president has said he might declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress and unlock funds from other government sources in order to build the wall.
As the stalemate continues, the lives of hundreds of federal workers are in limbo. Aside from food assistance, tax refunds could be delayed. Roughly 90 percent of IRS workers are on furlough. The delay could impact millions of Americans who rely on refundable tax credits like the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit.
In 2017, refundable tax credits helped 8.3 million people move out of poverty, including 4.5 million children. SNAP helped 3.4 million people, including nearly 1.4 million children, move out of poverty. And WIC helped 279,000 people move out of poverty, including 156,000 children.
Domestic food assistance programs are not the only ones affected. While existing contracts and grants that have previously appropriated funding should continue to operate, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) does not have sufficient operating expenses to continue operations and about half of the 3,100 staff are currently furloughed.
Additionally, failure to pass full year spending bills means global nutrition funding will not be increased as was proposed by both the House and Senate appropriations committees.
“The shutdown is threatening the progress we are making with development assistance, including help for the countries from which most undocumented immigrants are fleeing,” said Marco A. Grimaldo, deputy director of church relations and senior associate for Latino engagement at Bread for the World.
Jennifer Gonzalez and Christine Meléndez Ashley both work at Bread for the World. Gonzalez is its managing editor and Ashley is the deputy director of government relations.
By David Beckmann
Thanks to your prayers, your letters to Congress, and your financial support, Bread for the World achieved significant progress in our shared mission to end hunger.
I was personally delighted that my local church in Alexandria, Virginia, conducted a strong Offering of Letters on SNAP. Among the letter writers were more than 20 people who came to the church’s pantry and weekly breakfast. A group of church members, mostly high school students, personally delivered our letters to members of Congress.
Right now, the president has shut down part of the government in a dispute with Congress over border security. He insists on $5.7 billion for a border wall. With just a fraction of this money, we could more effectively address the current border-management problem and double U.S. support for programs that are reducing hunger and violence in the Central American countries from which most of the undocumented immigrants are fleeing.
The shutdown has caused immediate hardship for many hundreds of thousands of people who work in the government and businesses that relate to the government. It has also interrupted public services and stalled international aid. If the shutdown continues, money for food and other assistance will run out, driving millions of Americans into hunger.
The Bible repeatedly calls on us to welcome the stranger, share bread with the hungry, seek justice and defend vulnerable populations. I urge you to ask your senators to fully fund the government and negotiate humane and effective ways to address immigration.
While partisan conflict is likely to be sharp and sometimes paralyzing throughout 2019, Bread for the World’s 2019 Offering of Letters will seek bipartisan commitment to help end maternal and child malnutrition around the world. This may be an issue that can draw conservatives and liberals together—in churches and communities across the country, and in Congress.
I thank you and all Bread for the World members for your persistent advocacy, generosity, and prayers. And we thank God for being present with us in a challenging time.
David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.
By Robin Stephenson
Speaking to a crowd of 250 people gathered for the 15th Annual Gala to End Hunger: Perseverance with Heart and Courage, former Vice President Joe Biden said that advocating to end hunger was the most important thing a person could do.
He called it “God’s work”—work that gives people hope.
Biden was the keynote speaker at the annual gala, which benefits Bread for the World, Bread for the World Institute, and the Alliance to End Hunger. The gala took place in November in New York City.
The evening also provided all three organizations with an opportunity to thank donors, renew members’ ties to the mission to end hunger, and introduce new audiences to the work.
The members of all three organizations have played an important role in helping build consensus and political will during the past two years. During that time, $2.5 trillion dollars of cuts proposed to anti-hunger programs were averted and important anti-hunger legislation passed Congress with bipartisan support.
All of this during a time of heightened brinksmanship, said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.
During his almost 25-minute speech, Biden admonished the divisive defeatism that permeates Washington, D.C., these days and noted that efforts to end hunger are where Democrats and Republicans could find common ground.
“There is nothing beyond our capacity in this country,” he said.
“We are in a better position to lead the 21st century than any other time in history,” he added, stressing that action is a matter of political will.
In a speech peppered with remembrances of his own family and childhood, Biden distilled the tragedy of hunger in the single image of a parent, helpless to feed a hungry child and tell them everything will be O.K.
“Ending hunger and malnutrition at home and around the world is consequential in more than just making sure that people don’t die of hunger,” he said, as he thanked Bread and Alliance members for their strategic and moral investments in the future.
The hope and opportunity resulting from advocacy are consequential and measurable—something Beckmann noted as he acknowledged the work of Bread and Alliance members in advocating for the passage of the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2018.
Tens of millions of farmers around the world will not face hunger because individuals spurred on their members of Congress one-by-one to cosponsor the bill.
“This is evidence of the power of good in this turbulent time,” Beckmann said. “And we got to help these things happen.”
Robin Stephenson is senior manager for digital campaigns at Bread for the World.
By Monica Mikhail
Remembering others in the midst of the busyness of our everyday lives, and especially during the holiday season and the start of the new year, requires effort.
While forgetfulness is passive in nature, remembrance necessitates action which can take on many forms such as reminding ourselves of those who are in need and giving from our abundance, reconnecting with someone we have grown distant from, or simply offering a prayer in the name of another before our Lord Jesus Christ.
To remember is to extend outside ourselves and to think of ourselves in relation to those around us.
The act of remembrance is central to many cultural and religious traditions, especially the Orthodox Christian faith. At the core of Orthodox Christian faith is the Divine Liturgy which is a grand remembrance of all that the Lord Jesus Christ has done for humankind and a response to His request, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19).
As we remember all that He has done for us, we ask our Lord to bless us and to remember us just as the thief on the cross asked the Lord (Luke 23:42). On behalf of the congregation, the celebrant prays, “Bless the crown of the year with your goodness for the sake of the poor of your people, the widow, the orphan, the traveler, the stranger, and for the sake of all of us who entreat you and seek Your holy name” (The Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great).
Through this prayerful request, we remember those who are in precarious situations, such as those living in poverty, before our Lord who is the sole provider of peace and consolation.
Peace and comfort should be desired for all during this time of the year when we celebrate the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ and the start of the new year. Our Lord was incarnate and became man for the salvation of all humankind, which includes those most marginal in society.
His remembrance of all humankind inspired this great act of love in which He “emptied [Himself] and took the form of a servant and blessed [our] nature” (The Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great). Even more so, He inhabited the lowest ranks of society, being born in a manger to a lowly maidservant, Mary, and to her betrothed, Joseph. Like many in this world, the Holy Family at times experienced social, economic, and political insecurity.
For our sake, our Lord took refuge in Egypt as a young Child to escape the wrath of Herod, was mocked for associating with those despised in society and was rejected by His own people for the words that He spoke. For the sake of those who were lost and forgotten, Christ came to unite them to Himself. As the Good Shephard, He came to gather us into the sheepfold, neglecting no one. He did not forget us.
As we remember the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ and His great love for us all, it is our obligation to remember all those who He came for through our deeds and our words.
Let us welcome refugees and speak kindly of them who, like the Holy Family, flee their own countries or are internally displaced; let us pray and advocate for persecuted religious minorities such as the Coptic Orthodox Christians of Egypt, remembering that Egypt was once a place of refuge for the young Child; let us feed the poor that live among us and offer them gifts from our abundance, recalling the words of our Lord: “‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matt. 25:40).
As Pope Shenouda III, the late Patriarch of the See of Alexandria, once said, “Remember those who have no one to remember them.” Let us remember one another, for to remember is to love and to be called to action.
Monica Mikhail is a member of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
An ideal way to celebrate is to read Lament and Hope: A Pan-African Devotional Guide Commemorating the 2019 Quad-Centennial of the Forced Transatlantic Voyage of Enslaved African Peoples to Jamestown, Virginia (USA).
The devotional will be available in February—online and in print. The 2019 Quad-Centennial is a global historic moment to acknowledge how the practice of slavery in the United States led to the development of public policies sanctioning the enslavement of Africans and African descended people.
To honor Black History Month, we connect the history of slavery to a theme of resistance and honorable leadership among African American/Pan African leaders working in nutrition, both domestically and globally.
Read here more about how the arrival of African peoples to Jamestown, Virginia began the process of the legalization of slavery—part of the structural history of why African American/Pan African communities still struggle disproportionately with hunger, income disparities, poverty, lack of wealth, and poor nutrition.
Bread for the World’s 2019 Offering of Letters: Better Nutrition, Better Tomorrow will be available online in late January. Print toolkits will be mailed in February.
The 2019 Offering of Letters will focus on urging Congress to expand support for global nutrition programs that improve the lives of millions of children and mothers worldwide. Specifically, we want Congress to support legislation and increase funding to accelerate progress on global nutrition.
Look for additional updates in the coming months about the 2019 Offering of Letters in Bread emails, and its print and online newsletters.
By Lacey Johnson
Nearly 50 Pan-African women of faith gathered in Washington, D.C., in November to address challenges faced by Pan-African people around the world. The two-day summit tackled a host of issues that disproportionately affect women of color, including hunger, poverty, domestic and sexual abuse, HIV, and gender discrimination.
There were speakers who traveled internationally to be there, including a Methodist pastor, Rev. Dr. Elvira Cazombo, representing the Angolan Council of Churches and the All Africa Conference of Churches. She flew more than 20 hours from Angola, while others addressed the conference via video recording. More than a dozen women of African ancestry took the stage to share stories of hardship and progress from their respective regions.
The event was held at the African Union Mission to the United States. It was co-hosted by Bread for the World, the Pan-African Diaspora Women’s Association (PADWA), the African Union, the Pan-African Women Ecumenical Empowerment Network (PAWEEN), and the World Council of Churches.
“This is one of the most exciting things I’ve been to,” said Marjorie Lewis, a minister for the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, who currently resides in Halifax, Canada. “As black women, the church is our survival. The church is our everything.”
The summit began with a dinner and prayer service that paid homage to Pan-African women change-makers. Attendees took turns invoking the names and calling on the presence of influential figures like Rosa Parks and Maya Angelou, followed by proclamations of “ashe!” a West African concept derived from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, which means, "be with us," in some African cultures.
Afterward, ecumenical and African policy leaders shared messages of empowerment with the room, which was arranged to resemble a miniature meeting of the United Nations.
“This is our call to action as Pan-African women of faith, and I would say, there’s no better time,” said Emira Woods, a Liberian-American advocate with the group Africa Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity.
“We have to understand that there’s an opportunity to reflect the foreign-policy goals that we feel are rooted in our values – to have those reflected on Capitol Hill.”
The consultation not only addressed social justice issues, but also called on attendees to advocate for policies that support Pan-African communities and a united Africa. In 2016 the group held their first official gathering in Washington, D.C., which included lobbying visits with members of Congress and a walking tour of historic landmarks, including sites where enslaved people were sold.
The second day of the consultation featured a keynote address from Arikana Chihombori-Quao, who serves as ambassador for the African Union.
“How, honestly, can you put Togo in the same boxing ring with China … with India? That battle is lost before the game even begins,” said Chihombori-Quao, who spoke by video about the importance of uniting the African continent. “It’s going to take us, the children of Africa, coming together and speaking with one voice … realizing that these boundaries that were imposed on us by the Berlin Conference, they have got to go.”
Before departing, the women broke into groups to exchange ideas and consider strategies for a call to action in the future. A range of recommendations inclusive of a faith-based advocacy agenda related to ending hunger and poverty emerged. The building of new partnerships and training the next generation of religious leaders to be more inclusive were also priorities.
These recommendations will center around the upcoming season of the 2019 Quad-Centennial of the Transatlantic Slave Trade from Angola to Jamestown, the UN International Decade in Solidarity with People of African Descent, and the Africa We Want Strategic Plan for 2063.
The women also agreed to another Pan-African Women of Faith Education and Advocacy Summit in 2019, which will include education and mobilization campaigns before and after the summit.
“We leave here enriched by the gifts, the talents, and the realness of African women’s stories,” said Rev. Everdith Landrau, a manager of ecumenical relations for the Presbyterian Church (USA) and a central committee member for the World Council of Churches.
“I feel that these two days are energizing my own work,” she said.
Lacey Johnson is a freelance writer and photographer in Washington, D.C.
Editor's note: This blog post first appeared on Sojourners' website.
By Rev. Angelique Walker-Smith
Recently, I had the honor and opportunity to serve on an official delegation convened by Christian Churches Together (CCT) to visit Hidalgo, Texas to witness firsthand the plight of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
When I landed at the airport in Brownsville, Texas, the U.S. Border Patrol was visibly present. I was suddenly reminded of my ancestors who were also greeted by “border patrol” while fleeing from the brutal chattel slavery in the southern states and making their way north – even all the way to Canada.
This treacherous journey to freedom was enabled by the Underground Railroad – a network of secret routes and safe houses. It operated from roughly the early to mid-19th century until the Civil War.
On their trek, my ancestors were met by both hostility and hospitality. They were confronted with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 that was later solidified and strictly enforced by the Compromise of 1850. These congressional policies guaranteed the rights of slaveholders to recover escaped slaves.
Still, Christian leaders like Harriet Tubman, a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, led the Underground Railroad. There were abolitionists who aided these northern bound caravans seeking new life and advocating for policies of justice. Many were Christians who risked hiding, feeding, and prayerfully encouraging those seeking a new life.
This reflection led me to a deepened spiritual and historical kinship with my brothers and sisters from Central America. Such kinship manifested as we prayed at the border, witnessed busses transporting migrants at the detention center, engaged families at the respite center, and observed immigration hearings in McAllen, Texas.
Each location exposed the horrific and heartbreaking circumstances of the home countries of the people migrating. Their journeys to the U.S.-Mexico border are reminiscent of the stories of my ancestors’ own path to freedom. Then and now, a new life free from violence, desperation, persecution, hunger, and poverty emboldened a courageous people to engineer an “Underground Railroad.”
As people — seeking freedom and protection — walk on foot in long journey to the U.S., the Trump administration is responding to the humanitarian crisis by separating and incarcerating families, detaining and prosecuting parents, turning away asylum seekers, and deploying the military along border communities.
The administration’s announcement, to deny migrants asylum unless they seek protection at a port of entry, is not only cruel and impractical but also the antithesis of the welcoming gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is a human right to seek asylum. As people of faith, we affirm this right and urge the administration and all members of Congress to do the same. Further, the U.S. must stop facilitating displacement and should partner in remedying the root causes of forced migration.
Our faith traditions teach and call us to welcome the stranger, stand with the vulnerable, and love our neighbor. Respecting the right to seek safety without fearing punishment must be protected in federal policy.
Instead of continuing unnecessary and immoral detention, deportation, and dangerous border policies, our country must follow the historical lineage of hospitability and moral leadership.
Rev. Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Church engagement at Bread for the World and president of Historic Black Churches of Christian Churches Together (CCT).
Bread for the World is delighted to announce the new members of the 2019 Board of Directors.
Thousands of Bread members voted in our annual election of board members. You elected an exceptionally committed group of activists, faith and community leaders, experts, members of Congress, and people who have long been involved in working toward the end of hunger.
New members joined the board on Jan. 1:
They will join the incumbent board members in providing vision and setting the direction for the organization and its initiatives. More detailed biographies for these new members as well as all members of the board of directors can be found here.
The board of directors elected the following officers for 2019:
Bread for the World is honored by the service and commitment of the board of directors. Contact Jamie Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to nominate someone for future board membership.
By Rev. David Beckmann
Back in November, I traveled across Ethiopia, talking with people in urban and rural areas about their country. In all I saw and all I heard, four challenges emerged as the major threats to continued progress against hunger in their country. Ethiopia is coping with all of them and coping well.
Climate change. Temperatures are rising, rains are less predictable, and droughts are more frequent. But Ethiopians have worked hard on a large scale to reforest denuded hills, and this has increased rainfall and raised the water table in drought-prone regions. The government and international agencies have also set up a well-organized system of humanitarian relief when drought is severe.
Conflict. Ethiopia’s biggest political challenge is tension among its more than 80 ethnic groups. In 1995, Ethiopia redrew regional boundaries to reflect the dominance of different ethnic groups in different places and then delegated money and power to the states. This has moderated ethnic rivalries for power at the federal level.
Displaced people. Continued eruptions of ethnic conflicts across the country have compelled 2.5 million Ethiopians to leave their homes and farms, and more than 1 million refugees have come from neighboring countries. The scale of displacement is even more dramatic in neighboring countries, and many more people from neighboring countries are desperately fleeing to Europe or the Middle East. Ethiopia’s current prime minister has been very active in peacemaking across ethnic lines and with neighboring countries.
Governance. Relatively effective governance is the reason why Ethiopia is handling these other big challenges as well as it is. Ethiopia has the benefit of a long-established system of local and state governments. Since the governance reforms of 1995, governments at those levels have been elected, and the new prime minister is setting the stage for multi-party elections at the national level in 2020.
Despite the challenges it faces, Ethiopia has made dramatic progress against hunger and poverty, and nearly all Ethiopian children now attend primary school. The stability and resilience Ethiopians have forged since the devastating 1984-85 famine–caused by drought and bad government–contain important lessons for other states facing conditions of fragility.
To learn more about growing hunger in fragile states, read the 2017 Hunger Report: Fragile Environment, Resilient Communities. And see what else David Beckmann learned in Ethiopia by following along on Facebook and Twitter.
Rev. David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World.
A partial government shutdown is putting programs that address hunger in the U.S. and around the world at risk. Call (800-826-3688) or email Congress today. Tell your senators and representative to open the federal government, address the root causes of migration, and support legislation that helps people living with hunger.
These fact sheets provide a snapshot of hunger and poverty in the United States and in each state plus Washington, D.C.
We cannot end hunger in the U.S. without raising the minimum wage.
Better nutrition is a necessary component of a country’s capacity to achieve development goals such as economic growth and improved public health.
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...
This devotional guide invites deepened relationship with and among Pan-African people and elected leaders in the mission to end hunger and poverty.
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...
Bread for the World and its partners are asking Congress to provide $250 million for global nutrition in the fiscal year 2020 budget.
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.