History & Mission

Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decisions makers to end hunger at home and abroad. Moved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, we advocate for a world without hunger.

Bread for the World’s work in organizing communities and individuals to speak up about hunger and poverty gets results! Photo: Laura Pohl / Bread for the World

Our Mission

Bread members send letters and emails, make phone calls, and visit their members of Congress about legislation that addresses hunger in the U.S. and around the world. Bread equips its members to communicate with Congress and to work with others on advocacy. It educates members on hunger-related issues and inspires members to be legislative activists as a way of putting their Christian faith into action.

Bread works in partnership with churches, campuses, and other organizations to mobilize Christians and others in congressional districts and states.

Bread’s goal is to help end hunger by 2030. It believes that everyone must play a part in ending hunger, especially our federal government. We work to change the policies and conditions that allow hunger to persist. Bread seeks long-term solutions to hunger and advocates on legislation that addresses the root causes of hunger.

We have a track record of winning bipartisan legislation that helps hungry people feed their families. We are successful because our grassroots network of members and activists works in concert with national denominations, networks, and organizations supported by Bread’s staff in Washington, D.C., and around the country.

God’s grace moves us to build the political commitment needed to overcome hunger and poverty. We believe it is possible to end hunger in our time.

Bread founder Art Simon with Senators John Melcher and Paul Simon. Photo: Brian Jaudon

Our History

It’s better to build a fence at the top of a cliff than to have an ambulance at the bottom – Rev. Art Simon

In the 1970s, Rev. Art Simon, the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church on New York City’s Lower East Side, often found himself responding to emergency situations caused by hunger and poverty in his neighborhood.

Simon, along with a dozen other church leaders in the area — Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, and Lutherans — began meeting to explore how they might address the local and global root causes of hunger. They saw a place for Christians to try to prevent hunger from happening in the first place rather than just reacting to it. In 1974, this group founded Bread for the World with the mission of ending hunger in the world by speaking out to their elected officials in Washington, D.C.

Individuals don’t have to be part of an organized group to work toward ending hunger. Photo: Laura Pohl/Bread for the World

Building a Grassroots Network

From the very start, Bread has been a group effort. Its success has been made possible only because people of faith seized the opportunity to reach out to our nation’s decision makers for action against hunger.

“We began with a tiny seed of an idea, but the seed had life and, when planted, God gave growth,” recalls Simon.

Bread’s grassroots network was born with the launch of Project 500 — an effort to recruit and train 500 advocates. Many of those early advocates remain active Bread members today. And this network, which has grown exponentially since then, remains the engine of the organization.

Bread's Offering of Letters is Born

Bread launched its first large-scale letter writing campaign, the Offering of Letters, in 1975 — on the right to food. Despite having fewer than 10,000 members at the time, Bread was able to generate more than 100,000 letters to Congress on this issue because its active members invited their fellow church members to participate.

The landmark Right to Food Resolution, passed overwhelmingly by Congress, states: “…the United States reaffirms the right of every person in this country and throughout the world to food and a nutritionally adequate diet.…”

Four decades later, this simple, brilliant idea — the Offering of Letters — remains one of Bread’s core organizing strategies. It is still Bread’s signature campaign and is an annual occurrence that Bread members look forward to every year.

Over the years, Bread’s Offering of Letters and other campaigns have won far-reaching changes for hungry and poor people. Photo: Laura Pohl / Bread for the World

Bread Grows in Experience, Expertise, and Reputation

Over the years, Bread’s Offering of Letters and other campaigns have won far-reaching changes for hungry and poor people. Bread’s members have written millions of letters to their members of Congress.

In 1991, Rev. David Beckmann succeeded Simon as president. Also a Lutheran pastor, Beckmann had worked for 15 years at the World Bank. Under his leadership, Bread has become increasingly more prominent, with a significantly bigger membership, budget, and staff.

On July 1, 2020, Rev. Eugene Cho succeeded Beckmann as president. Cho, an Evangelical Christian, is the founder and visionary of One Day’s Wages – a grassroots movement of people, stories, and actions to alleviate extreme global poverty. He is also the founder and former Senior Pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, Washington.

Bread has also branched out over the years, establishing two affiliates:

  • Bread for the World Institute, established in 1975, provides policy analysis on hunger and strategies to end it. Each year since 1990, the Institute has published a highly regarded Hunger Report, an authoritative analysis of hunger trends and a resource for hunger statistics.
  • The Alliance to End Hunger, established in 2001, engages diverse organizations—including Jewish and Muslim groups, charities, universities, and corporations—to build the public and political will to end hunger at home and abroad.
Photo: Bread for the World

Valuing Diversity

Bread for the World welcomes all people — whoever they are and wherever they are on their journey. We celebrate the gifts of God that empower us to engage boldly in the struggles of life and to care for others with love, justice, and compassion.

We value and embrace differences. We foster an environment of diversity and welcome opportunities to become more inclusive.

We work to strengthen the presence and participation of diverse constituencies in our office, our outreach, and all of our work. 

We are moved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ to work for justice for hungry and poor people. They may be in the next house or in the next country. No matter where they live, whoever they may be, they are our neighbors. We affirm our mission to work by God’s grace with and for our neighbors.

"In the contemporary United States, few can rival the voice and energy of Bread for the World…”

World Bank Report

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