Activist in Action: Building a movement in Iowa

December 20, 2017
David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World

By Robin Stephenson

Bread leaders know that to build the political will to end hunger, we need to grow our grassroots base. When enough constituents in a state or district speak in unison, their lawmakers—who often have re-election foremost on their minds—listen and respond. To increase those constituent voices, leaders need to start at home.

In October, Iowa leaders Rev. Russell Melby and Stephen Panther used the World Food Prize event, which takes place each year in Des Moines, and a visit from Bread’s president, Rev. David Beckmann, as an opportunity to build an Iowa Bread team. To do so, they coordinated a house meeting.

A house meeting is a gathering of people for the purpose of building relationships, identifying common concerns, and stimulating interest in further involvement.  Sixty-five people came to the meeting held at St. James Lutheran in Johnston, Iowa.

“We thought we could piggyback off the World Food Prize event,” Melby said. “The house meeting created an environment to meet new people who were interested in ending hunger. Once we understood more of what they wanted, we could give them a place to plug in and affect change.”

Unlike a presentation, where speakers talk at an audience, house meetings are interactive and use shared stories as a way to identify interest and further engagement.

Matt Gross, interim co-director of organizing at Bread for the World, says house meetings are an effective way to grow Bread for the World. “People trust people,” he said. “Think about it: Many of us got involved in social justice because we had a passionate and committed friend who invited us to join them in this work.”

The meeting at St. James Lutheran began with a 20-minute speech by Beckmann and then the 65 participants broke into smaller groups and were given prompts—such as ‘why did you come’—to start conversations.

Gross said smaller groups are sometimes better but it depends on the circumstance. ‘The key elements of a house meeting are providing next steps—action people can take, like organizing an in-district meeting—and then following up,” he said.

Melby and Panther are now having one-on-one conversations with the participants.  They will host a conference call at the end of the year with everyone who wants to engage further.  The goal of that call will be to plan a collective action in 2018 that can influence their members of Congress around hunger issues.

Bread for the World is founded on the idea that we are more powerful together.  We have won victories for poor and hungry people in our 40 years of existence because people acted for a common cause. We must increase our numbers as we face a challenging future in our quest to end hunger and there is no better place to start than at home.

If you are interested in learning more about house meetings, contact your organizer or email organizing@bread.org.

Robin Stephenson is senior manager for social media at Bread for the World.

To increase those constituent voices, leaders need to start at home.

Tools
from our Resource Library

For Education

  • Feed the Future

    Feed the Future, launched in 2010, grew out of the U.S. response, led by President George W. Bush, to the 2007-2008 global food price crisis. Prices of basic foods doubled or tripled in some countries and pushed an additional 150 million people into hunger and malnutrition.

  • U.S. Hunger and Poverty State Fact Sheets

    These fact sheets provide a snapshot of hunger and poverty in the United States and in each state plus Washington, D.C. 

  • Hunger and Poverty in the African-American Community

    While hunger declined from 2017 for the general U.S. population, African Americans experienced a one percent increase, an increase of 153,000 African American households.

For Faith

  • Unity Declaration on Racism and Poverty

    A diverse body of Christian leaders calls on the churches and Congress to focus on the integral connection.

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    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...

  • In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

    This devotional guide invites deepened relationship with and among Pan-Af­rican people and elected leaders in the mission to end hunger and poverty.

  • Sermon by David Beckmann at Duke University Chapel

    Remarks delivered October 1, 2017 at Duke University Chapel in Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

    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...

For Advocacy

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    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.

    ...

  • U.S. Hunger and Poverty State Fact Sheets

    These fact sheets provide a snapshot of hunger and poverty in the United States and in each state plus Washington, D.C. 

  • Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017

    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...

Field

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