What a (Lobby) Day!

June 15, 2017
Bread activists urge members of Congress to protect programs that help hungry people. Photo: Joseph Molieri / Bread for the World.

By Lacey Johnson

On a scorching hot day in Washington, D.C., roughly 400 faithful activists on Tuesday descended onto Capitol Hill to meet with their members of Congress as part of Bread for the World’s 2017 Lobby Day. The activists came from as far as Alaska and as nearby as Maryland and Virginia.

Young and old alike started their day at the beautiful and historic St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, near the Capitol, to worship and receive a legislative briefing by Bread’s government relations department, before heading out to meet with senators and representatives.

Eric Mitchell, director of government relations at Bread, imparted a message to the activists, “For those who are Bible readers, there is a season for everything. There is a season for silence. And there is a season to speak. This is not the time to be silent.”

He asked activists to tell their members of Congress to:

  • Oppose any budget cuts that would increase hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.
  • Fully fund domestic safety-net and international development programs that end hunger and poverty.
  • Oppose harmful structural changes to SNAP, Medicaid, and international development assistance.

This year’s Lobby Day occurred during a perilous time. Both the Trump administration and Congress want to make drastic cuts to programs that help poor and hungry people. The administration’s fiscal year 2018 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).

“Healthcare has a correlative relationship with hunger issues,” said Joseph Evans, a former pastor and current dean of the Morehouse School of Religion in Atlanta, Ga. He was one of 10 Bread activists who attended a meeting in Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R-Ga.) office.

“I had a lot of seniors who had to make a decision between whether they were going to purchase their medications or eat,” Evans told Isakson’s legislative assistant, Ryan Evans. At the end of the meeting, Bread president Rev. David Beckmann delivered an award honoring the senator’s leadership on issues affecting hungry and poor people in the U.S. and around the world.

President Trump’s budget also calls for cuts to SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the elimination of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, international food aid, McGovern-Dole, development assistance, and makes deep cuts to global health programs.

“This is not just something we can brush aside. People are starving,” said Grace Lauer, 13, who traveled from York, Pa., to lobby with her Sunday school group.

During a packed meeting in Sen. Bob Casey’s (D-Pa.) office, Lauer told staff members that she helped start a program to send food home with students after learning that children in her community were only receiving meals at school.  

“We have to start elevating these issues here in the Senate more than we have, and I’ll take responsibility for some of that,” said Casey, before squeezing in for a photo with over 20 of his constituents.

Another Bread activist, Michael Forbes, was with a large group from New Jersey who visited with a staff member from the office of Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.).

Originally from Jamaica, he was on the receiving end of domestic assistance programs when he first immigrated to the United States. The help allowed him to have a normal life, and he assumed everyone received the same assistance.

Forbes, who went on to earn a master’s degree and become a computer engineer, said he was only able to succeed because his family received assistance. “I reflect on the potential I see in starving countries…It makes me think that cutting back on aid cuts back on the potential of all of society," he said.

Lobby Day wrapped up with a reception and worship service in the Rayburn House Office Building. U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.) were honored for their outstanding leadership toward ending hunger and poverty at the reception. Casey, who was also honored, received his award earlier in the day at his office during a visit with Pennsylvania constituents. 

The evening ended with several people coming forward and giving testimony about their day on the Hill. At times it was both touching and motivational.

“We do not have to give in to any kind of discouragement,” said Sister Doreen Glynn, with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Albany, N.Y. “I’m inspired to hear our congresspeople say, ‘we can win this thing.’”

Lacey Johnson is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer. Jennifer Gonzalez, Bread’s managing editor, and Andrew Frey, a summer communications intern at Bread, contributed to this article. 

The activists came from as far as Alaska and as nearby as Maryland and Virginia.

from our Resource Library

For Education

  • The Nourishing Effect

    Hunger and food insecurity add at least $160 billion a year to U.S. healthcare costs.

  • The Impacts of Proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Cuts on the Latino Community

    To end hunger and poverty in the United States by 2030, our country needs to support a budget that improves the lives of men, women, and children. Unfortunately, the Trump administration and Congress are proposing dramatic cuts to programs that promote economic opportunity or provide food...

  • The Dream Act of 2017 (S. 1615 & H.R. 3440)


    The United States is a nation of immigrants. Throughout its history, people have moved here from all over the world and have contributed to their communities and our national life. Today, as in the past, immigrants are also creating prosperity for this nation. 


For Faith

  • The Bible on Health as a Hunger Issue

    A brief examination of the biblical approach to health as a hunger issue.

    Includes an introduction to the issue, a Scriptural reflection, practical actions you can take, and a prayer.

  • Bread Newsletter January 2016

    In this issue: Another Great Year for Bread; Catholics Begin Observance of Holy Year of Mercy; Serving on ‘God’s Wave Length’ for 39 Years; and more.

  • Interfaith Religious Leaders’ Pledge to End Hunger

    A wide array of the nation’s faith leaders have come together on the eve of Pope Francis’ arrival in the United States to commit ourselves to encourage our communities to work for the end of hunger by 2030 and, toward that end, for a shift in U.S. national priorities.

    We are deeply pleased...

For Advocacy

  • Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit

    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.


  • The State of Black Poverty: A Pan-African Millennial Perspective on Ending Hunger by 2030

    Over the past year and a half, about two-dozen young adults from the United States and countries in Africa and the Caribbean, have gathered virtually and in person to reflect on the effects of hunger and poverty in black communities. The working group has been considering socio-political and...

  • Fact Sheet: The Hunger-Medicaid Connection

    Congress is considering proposals that would jeopardize healthcare coverage for millions of poor and near-poor adults and children. 

    Legislation under consideration in the House and Senate would gut...