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On the night that President Donald J. Trump won the 2016 election, he professed that the hard-working men and women of this country would be forgotten no longer. During his campaign, he promised health care for all, jobs, and even said he didn’t want Medicaid touched.
Fast-forward to May 23, 2017 — the day the Trump administration unveiled its fiscal year 2018 budget proposal. The budget calls for a $610 billion cut to Medicaid, and that’s on the top of the $880 billion already taken from Medicaid in the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The House passed the AHCA in early May, but the Senate has not passed its version yet.
“President Trump’s budget robs poor people to pay the rich,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “More than half of the spending cuts come from programs focused on ending hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.”
Unfortunately, the proposed Medicaid cuts are just the beginning. Others include:
While these cuts are unconscionable, we are people of faith and hope. “The U.S. must continue its leadership during times of global crisis,” Beckmann said. “I urge people of conscience to contact their members of Congress and tell them to vigorously resist these budget cuts.”
Coming to Lobby Day on June 13 is one way to make your voice heard. Meeting your members of Congress is the best way to make an impact on a particular issue. If you can’t make it to Washington, D.C., you can still get involved by participating in Virtual Lobby Day.
On June 11, go to www.bread.org/lobbyday and find a downloadable script you can print out.
Your phone calls will amplify the voices of hundreds of Bread members as they go to Capitol Hill on June 13 to personally urge members of Congress to pass a budget that will end hunger. If you find the phone lines swamped — and they will be — call and call again. Or call the night before, on June 12, and leave a message in their voicemails.
In response to Trump’s budget, Bread and its faith partners have launched a nationwide, monthly fast to ask God’s help with their advocacy for hungry and poor people.
Continuing to pray and fast as part of the For Such a Time as This: A Call for Prayer, Fasting, and Advocacy movement is a wonderful way to get involved in our advocacy to end hunger. We are fasting on the 21st of each month until the close of the 115th Congress because that is the day of the month when most individuals and families run out of SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps).
Learn more about the fast and how you can join the movement here, and also check out the Fasting Guide and Social Media Kit. Also, make sure to check out Bread Blog periodically, as we will be posting prayers to sustain you through your fast and also stories of those who are fasting. Remember, that fasting isn’t just about refraining from food. You can also fast from TV or social media as well.
Regarding the president’s budget, it is unlikely that his budget will be adopted wholesale. Rather, the budget lays out for lawmakers where the president’s fiscal and legislative priorities lie — and where they don’t — as they begin to put together a budget for fiscal year 2018.
Of course, at Bread, a priority is always to advocate for those most in need — poor and hungry people.
Editor’s note: This is a discussion with Ryan Quinn, a senior international policy analyst at Bread for the World, about the role Bread and other organizations played in getting Congress to approve $1.1 billion in additional famine relief in the fiscal year 2017 budget. The budget passed on May 2.
Q. Given the fact that the world is addressing a record four simultaneous famines and potential famines, our members want to know how Congress is responding. Was Congress able to provide funding for famine relief in the fiscal year 2017 budget, and if so how much?
A. Compared to the continuing resolution that Congress passed in December 2016 to fund the government through April 2017, the new legislation provides $1.1 billion more for famine relief. The additional money is split between the International Disaster Assistance account, which will receive $990 million and of that, $300 million can be transferred to Food for Peace programs. There is also an additional one-time funding of $134 million in Food for Peace.
Total funding for famine relief comes to about $5.4 billion, which is a 20 percent increase from the December 2016 level.
Q. This is great news. What was your role, as Bread’s senior international policy analyst, in securing this additional funding? Who else was involved?
A. A lot of this work started with a meeting I had on March 24 with staff from the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss food aid and the famines. Representatives from several other nonprofits, including CARE, WFP USA, CRS, and Mercy Corps, were with me.
At the meeting, I asked about the possibility of $1 billion in additional funding for famine relief in the current year, given the direness of the crisis. The Senate staff wasn't opposed to it but he hadn't heard from any Senate office and the committee would need to have broader support to gain traction. I used this information to take action, verifying with development workers and others that an additional $1 billion could actually be used and would be helpful.
At the time, not many people were pushing for famine funding in the fiscal year 2017 budget. I worked with others over the next few days to convene a number of coalitions and pitched the need to work together to try to make this happen.
We made the case that, given that this was the worst famine crisis since World War II, it was incumbent upon us to lobby hard for additional funding. We got most of the groups on board. We jointly created advocacy materials and worked hard from March 29 to April 6, holding nearly 50 meetings before Congress went on recess on April 6, to urge congressional offices to make calls to both the Senate and House appropriations committee.
Over the recess, we continued to work but those two weeks, from March 24 to April 6, were the most important to getting the famine relief funding. During that time, grasstops leaders also met members of Congress and their staff. After that, we saw numerous Senate and House offices responding positively, writing letters, and making calls to the appropriations committee to find additional funding for famine relief.
Equally vital to our success were Bread's grassroots and online activists visiting, calling, and emailing their members of Congress to create a groundswell of support as Bread staff and others lobbied on the Hill.
Without their hard work, we would not have gotten the additional funds for famine relief.
Q. Speak to the current famine conditions abroad? What countries are involved?
A. There are four famines going on — Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. This is unprecedented. Twenty million people across these four countries are at risk of famine. Unless more is done, an additional 10 million people could join them. Conflict in all four countries, compounded by drought in the case of Somalia, has created a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions. In many places, insecurity prevents aid delivery.
Moreover, more than 5.4 million children are malnourished across the four countries. In Yemen, a child dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes such as malnutrition, diarrhea, and respiratory infections.
We need to ensure that this additional money gets spent for direct famine relief now, but we also need to consider how to respond later. When famine is averted, we must continue to help people rebuild their lives and livelihoods. To prevent this from happening again, we must help strengthen their country's social safety nets and bolster the resilience of local communities, markets and economies to future shocks.
Q. How will the funding you and others worked so hard to secure help with the famine?
A. We hope that the Trump administration will move quickly to get all this additional funding out the door and spent on humanitarian relief. We cannot wait for the situation to deteriorate further before we take action. The response should ideally be an integrated one — using it for food security and nutrition, as well as on health and water, sanitation, and hygiene.
Q. The president’s fiscal year 2018 budget was released in late May. What is your greatest concern about the budget in terms of famine relief?
A. We are deeply concerned with the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2018 International Affairs budget request. He proposes slashing effective, lifesaving programs that help create a safer and more secure world, including funding for famine relief. Unfortunately, these cuts would have life and death consequences for the poorest people in the world, and they would reduce the lifesaving and economic impacts that we see every day.
On a positive note, time and time again, Congress has acted in a bipartisan manner to support smart global engagement through programs, budgets, and policies that demonstrate American values and leadership. I would encourage everyone to contact their members of Congress and urge them to continue to ensure U.S. leadership, reject any proposed cuts to these vital programs, and to fight against removing programs from our foreign policy toolkit when even more are needed.
By Rev. Elizabeth Eaton
These are politically charged times. Americans hold significantly different views about the proper role of government in caring for its citizens and about the proper role of the church as it relates to the state and as it advocates for the most vulnerable in our society. In these charged times, I think it is helpful to consider two things: the relationship between church and state, and how Christians participate in civil society.
Often, we speak about the “separation of church and state.” This principle is sometimes raised when parishioners feel that their pastors or church are being “political.” The assumption is that the church should only deal with the spiritual and that it should have nothing to do with civil and political life. The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The separation of church and state is intended to protect religious liberty and keep the government from interfering in the church.
In this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, the thinking and teaching of a 16th century German monk are remarkably relevant. Martin Luther formulated the doctrine of two kingdoms — the temporal and the spiritual.
Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms has been misinterpreted to mean that the temporal realm is inferior to the spiritual, or that God — and therefore the faithful — should not be as concerned with the temporal. In this mistaken notion, the temporal is not to be allowed into the church, and the faithful really need not be too engaged in the public square.
What Luther was trying to get across was that the church and the state, the spiritual and the temporal, are both established by God and are both part of God’s two-fold rule. When we pray, “Give us today our daily bread” we are also praying that God send us the gift of good government (Luther’s Small Catechism).
Both church and state are good gifts from God and have been established for specific purposes. The proper work of the church is to “preach the gospel in its purity and administer the sacraments according to the gospel” (Augsburg Confession).
The proper work of the state is to keep peace and order and to support and nourish the lives of its citizens. And, since we confess that God entered human life through the incarnation of Jesus Christ — who took our flesh upon himself — we do not have a hierarchy of value that places the spiritual above the temporal.
Active participation in public life and the duty of the government to care for its people — especially the most vulnerable — have been hallmarks of the Reformation movement from its very beginning.
In his explanation of “give us today our daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer, Luther says that, “It would be therefore fitting that the coat of arms of every upright prince were emblazoned with a loaf of bread instead of a lion” (Large Catechism). In commenting on Psalm 82, Luther wrote that the “second virtue of a prince is to help the poor, the orphans, and the widows to justice and to further their cause.” Christians do not withdraw from public life. We fulfill our baptismal vocation when we keep showing up.
Rev. Elizabeth Eaton is presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Coming to Lobby Day on June 13 is a great way to make your voice heard. Meeting your members of Congress is the best way to make an impact on a particular issue. If you can’t make it to Washington, D.C., you can still get involved by participating in Virtual Lobby Day.
Your phone calls will amplify the voices of hundreds of Bread members as they go to Capitol Hill on June 13 to personally urge members of Congress to pass a budget that will end hunger. If you find the phone lines swamped – and they will be – call and call again. Or call the night before, on June 12, and leave a message in their voicemails.
You can download or order a printed copy of the Offering of Letters handbook and DVD at www.bread.org/ol or call 800-822-7323.
You may also order free bulletin inserts with sample letter in any quantity. The bulletin insert is available in Spanish and English.
Here are some blog stories that appeared on Bread Blog in May that you may have missed or you may want to read again. We have two great stories about what advocacy looks like on the ground. First, read about what activists are doing in Wisconsin, and then read about how one call made a difference in getting Congress to fund famine relief. Want to learn more about how climate change affects hunger? Read a Q&A with environmentalist Bill McKibben.
Editor’s note: Jordan Teague, an international policy analyst with Bread for the World Institute, traveled to Uganda in April to explore how U.S. government investments impact maternal and child nutrition in the country. This article first appeared on the Agrilinks blog, a part of the federal government's Feed the Future initiative, which aims to address the root causes of hunger, poverty and undernutrition, and to establish a lasting foundation for change.
By Jordan Teague
Most areas of Uganda are considered food secure, meaning that people can afford to eat three meals a day of diverse foods. But Uganda also has vulnerable regions facing food insecurity and malnutrition. Twelve percent of the population is food insecure, and according to the latest data, 29 percent of children five years old or younger are stunted. Only 14 percent of infants have what is called a minimum acceptable diet, meaning that they get both enough food and enough essential nutrients.
Uganda has made significant progress in food security and nutrition, but these figures show that more can and should be done. The U.S. government, through its Global Food Security Strategy, is helping Uganda tackle food insecurity and malnutrition from every angle.
Food security and nutrition efforts cannot fully succeed and be sustainable without nutrition-sensitive agriculture. One way to help agriculture better support proper nutrition is to diversify the crops that are grown. Often this means encouraging farmers to grow vegetables and greens in addition to staple crops such as maize and sorghum. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) partners with Mercy Corps and is doing just that in northern Karamoja through the Growth, Health and Governance project, which is jointly implemented with World Vision. Mercy Corps works throughout the agriculture system to ensure that seeds for vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants and kale are available; encourage families to buy seeds to grow vegetables; and promote diverse diets by explaining why they are important.
Education on nutrition practices and building the skills and motivation to put the information into practice is a critical piece of the nutrition puzzle. Mothers and caregivers are given information on how to best care for the nutrition of their children and themselves, for example, through exclusive breastfeeding, diverse diets and recognizing when children who are sick need to be taken to a health center. USAID partner Concern Worldwide has taken this approach in Uganda’s Karamoja region in its project Resiliency through Wealth, Agriculture and Nutrition (RWANU), implemented jointly with U.S. nonprofit ACDI/VOCA and Welthungerhilfe. Concern used the concept of “lead mothers,” who are trained in nutrition and health practices in Mother Care Groups and then taught these lessons to their own groups of household caregivers. Through this “multiplier” strategy, RWANU has reached thousands of women and caregivers with nutrition education. In Atedeoi village in Karamoja, one lead mother said recently that because of the nutrition education, her family’s nutrition has improved and her children are less sickly.
Safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and improved hygiene (WASH) are crucial for a holistic approach to reducing and then ending malnutrition. Without the three components of WASH, children are vulnerable to illnesses such as diarrhea that — among other effects — weaken their nutritional status. In Karamoja, Mercy Corps partnered with local rural service utility organization Whave to rehabilitate and maintain boreholes that provide safe drinking water to communities. Mercy Corps also educated mothers and caregivers, through their network of lead mothers, on why sanitation and hygiene are essential and how to improve them by building latrines and simple “tippy taps” for handwashing.
In some situations, people, especially women and children, need food assistance to get the nutrients they need. It can be given in many ways, including by distributing food directly but also by issuing vouchers for diverse foods to be bought in local markets. Action Against Hunger, a partner of the State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM), is working in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement to provide fresh food vouchers (FFVs) to children who are being treated for acute malnutrition and their families. The vouchers can be used to purchase nutritious foods that are commonly lacking in their diets. In Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, Action Against Hunger gives families FFVs for meat, eggs, milk, fruits and vegetables.
Lastly, strengthening the Ugandan health system, particularly in the regions with the highest malnutrition rates, is another important part of improving food security and nutrition. Responsibility for preventing and treating severe acute malnutrition rests with the health system, but in vulnerable areas such as the Karamoja region and refugee settlements, the Ugandan health system currently lacks capacity to fulfill all of its responsibility. That is where U.S. government partners such as Concern Worldwide and Action Against Hunger can step in. Action Against Hunger, with support from BPRM, is working in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement to build the capacity of the district’s health system to prevent and treat acute malnutrition. They have trained lead mothers to screen children for acute malnutrition and refer malnourished children to a health center. Village health teams work to prevent severe acute malnutrition through active efforts to identify children early on. They build better nutrition one family at a time.
In Uganda, the U.S. government, as called for in the U.S. government Global Food Security Strategy, is taking a comprehensive approach to helping communities increase food security and improve nutrition including ways not explored here such as income generation and supporting livelihoods. And it’s working, especially combined with all the other various efforts by Ugandans and other donors. In Karamoja, stunting decreased from 45 percent in 2011 to 35 percent in 2016. In Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, the global acute malnutrition rate decreased in just one year from 24 percent in 2014 to 8.5 percent in 2015. Integrated approaches to tackling food insecurity and malnutrition are the key, demonstrated by the U.S. government and its partners in Uganda.
Jordan Teague is an international policy analyst with Bread for the World Institute.
Photo: USAID/RWANU supports health centers in Karamoja in order to reach more people with health services such as immunizations, vitamin A supplementation and other basic health services. Ryan Quinn/Bread for the World.
President Trump's proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 cuts more than $1.7 trillion from programs that help move millions of Americans out of hunger and poverty. It also eliminates international development assistance programs at a time when 20 million people are at risk of starvation due to famine in Africa and the Middle East.
Call (800-826-3688) or email your representative and senators and urge them to oppose cuts to critical programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, refundable tax credits, and international development.
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