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Photo: Malnutrition is a contributing factor to preventable maternal and infant mortality rates. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.
By Chase Cabot
The number of people experiencing hunger worldwide has increased, while the number in the United States has fallen, according to newly released data. The poverty rate in the United States also fell, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
More than 815 million people — 11 percent of the world’s population — were food insecure in 2016, according to a new United Nations report. This marks the first increase in international hunger rates since the food price crisis of 2007 and 2008, and is a significant increase from the 777 million who suffered from hunger in 2015.
According to the report, “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World,” this reversal is due to conflict and the effects of climate change in parts of Southeast and West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.
“The progress the world has made against hunger is nothing short of remarkable – a sign that God is indeed moving in our time,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “However, this report raises the alarm that conflict and climate change stand in the way of ending hunger within our lifetimes.”
Food insecurity has spiked in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Western Asia, according to the report. The report found that growing conflict and climate-related disasters such as flooding are key drivers in creating food insecurity. Famine and near-famine conditions threaten over 20 million people worldwide. With the civil war in South Sudan has come famine, and conflicts in Nigeria, Yemen, and Somalia have brought these regions to critical levels of food insecurity, the report found.
International food insecurity began a slow rise in 2014, from 775 million in 2014 to 777 million in 2015, according to the report. The World Food Program sees the 2016 spike in global hunger as “a statistically significant structural break in the trend,” and expressed concern over the feasibility of the United Nation’s goal to end hunger by 2030 unless new measures are taken, the report said.
Since 2010, decreases in world hunger have been slowing, giving further credence to fears that greater conflict and climate change have reversed a 20-year trend of falling food insecurity.
Women are more likely to experience food insecurity in all regions of the globe. Malnourishment during pregnancy and early childhood leads to growth stunting. While stunting has remained steady as hunger increases, the report warns the effects of this rising hunger have yet to be seen.
Domestically, hunger continues to fall with 12.3 percent of U.S. households food insecure in 2016, declining from a peak of 14.9 percent in 2011, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Food insecurity is defined as “when consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year,” according to the USDA. The USDA’s annual report, “Household Food Security in the United States in 2016,” shows that more than 41 million Americans, including nearly 13 million children, lived at risk of hunger in 2016.
Communities of color experienced higher rates of food insecurity than the general U.S. population. More than 22.5 percent of African-American households and 18.5 percent of Latino households experienced food insecurity – at nearly twice the national rate in 2016.
“There is political pressure from the president, and some in Congress, for unprecedented cuts to anti-poverty programs,” Beckmann said. “If Congress slashes the programs that help families who struggle with hunger and poverty, food insecurity and hunger will increase again.”
Bread for the World’s 2017 Offering of Letters: Doing Our Part to End Hunger is focused on ensuring Congress passes a budget and appropriations bills that put us on track to end hunger by 2030.
Congress must invest in key programs that have a proven track record and improve the lives of hungry men, women, and children.
Vital policies and safety-net programs — including the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, global nutrition, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and refundable tax credits — must be properly funded and protected. Dismantling or cutting funding for such programs by the 115th Congress would take us backward and make the goal of ending hunger by 2030 unlikely.
The poverty rate also continues to fall, with 12.7 percent of Americans living in poverty in 2016 compared to 13.5 in 2015. This means 2.5 million fewer people are living in poverty than before.
While this is good news, 40.6 million Americans are still living in poverty. Bread for the World warned that proposed budget cuts could reverse the progress that has been made and push millions more families into poverty.
“It is certainly good news that the number of people living in poverty continues to decline in the U.S.,” Beckmann said. “We must keep building on this progress. But if Congress cuts programs that help families who are struggling, we will again see the number of people living in poverty rise.”
U.S. poverty rates fell or remained unchanged for every demographic group. For African-Americans, the poverty rate fell from 24.1 percent in 2015 to 22 percent in 2016. For Latinos, it fell from 21.4 percent to 19.4 percent, and for female-headed families, the rate fell by 1.6 percent. However, African-American and Latinos communities still have disproportionately higher rates of poverty than the general population.
Without federal anti-poverty programs, such as SNAP, it is estimated that 3.6 million more people would have lived in poverty in 2016 – including 1.5 million children. The earned income tax credit and child tax credit helped keep 8.2 million people out of poverty in 2016.
And the federal school lunch program took 1.4 million people out of poverty.
The Trump administration and Congress could slash the budget for these programs, which could reverse progress on reducing hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.
Chase Cabot is an intern in the communication department at Bread for the World. Chris Ford, senior manager for media relations at Bread for the World, contributed to this story.
By Genevieve Mougey
Every summer I look forward to embracing the fall season. As the morning air crisps, I wake up relieved. The days shorten into longer, cooler evenings. The light softens and becomes a bit hazier. Meals are bit warmer, spicier, and filling. Fall is a season of feasts. Here in the United States, we have a national holiday that embraces, with enthusiasm, this thought. This leads me to believe I am not alone in my association of fall and feasts.
The gospel story for Sunday, Oct. 15, while featuring an invitation to a feast, is complicated and somewhat gruesome. It is the gospel parable of a king who invites guests to a wedding feast for his son. The guests refuse to attend. The king then issues more invitations to a wider array of people. Those invites are refused and his messengers are killed. Again, the king is so insistent people should come to the wedding feast that invites are issued to those in the streets. When a guest shows up not being properly attired, the king has him bound up and dragged away. “Many are invited, but few are chosen."
The wedding feast is a popular image that is used to connote the kingdom of heaven throughout the Bible. In this Gospel from Matthew, we make a connection – the king issuing invites to his son’s wedding is God, inviting us to participate in a life with Jesus Christ, his son. Of course, all of us are invited to participate in a life with Jesus, but many refuse. Further, those who do wish to participate, those who say, “Yes,” are required to participate fully. It is not enough to just show up. We need to properly prepare!
We must attend to the wishes of our king, and one of his commands is that we feed the hungry. In today’s world, we know that there are many people who are hungry, spiritually and physically. We are called to continually prepare our hearts and ask ourselves whether we are living into the mandate to care for all our brothers and sisters: Who is going hungry? What are we doing to ensure that others are fed? Are there policies that are preventing people from getting food? How are we answering these questions?
One way that we can answer is by participating in the work of Bread for the World, an organization that acts as a collective Christian voice urging decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad. This year we are marking Sunday, Oct. 15 as Bread for the World Sunday. This is an opportunity for your church or community to join with others in living out God’s vision of a world without hunger.
St. Louis Catholic Church in Pinecrest, Florida has been a covenant church with Bread for the World for decades. They collect an Offering of Letters with the full support of their pastor. In May, parishioners wrote and signed a total of 1,976 unique letters to their congressional leaders. Of those, 1,672 letters came from adult members of the parish, while 304 letters were written by students from the attached parish school. Another example is Holy Trinity Parish in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The parish had five people participate in Lobby Day in June. These Bread for the World members brought around 300 letters that were collected and signed by parishioners from pre-printed postcards.
There are many ways you can participate in the advocacy on behalf of people who are hungry with Bread for the World. Here are a few:
Genevieve Mougey is senior national associate for Roman Catholic engagement in the church relations department at Bread for the World.
Millions throughout the Caribbean and the southern United States have been and continue to be affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria. Many lives continue to be at risk. At the same time, earthquakes in Guanajuato and Mexico City have left hundreds dead and more missing.
Puerto Rico is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis. Water, fuel, and food are scarce. Most of the island is still without electricity – two weeks after Hurricane Maria lashed the island with 150 mph winds and heavy rain.
Many of our partner denominations and organizations are responding to all of these disasters. They are bringing hope to our neighbors, particularly to the most vulnerable people. Some are working through national agencies, while others are working diligently with local churches and organizations.
Medicaid was saved again through your hard advocacy work. Last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided not to bring the Cassidy-Graham bill to a floor vote due to heavy opposition against the bill. Cassidy-Graham sought to cut Medicaid by $1 trillion.
Bread members made thousands of calls, sent hundreds of emails, and visited more than a dozen Senate offices urging senators to protect Medicaid from drastic cuts. The fight isn’t over, as McConnell promised to bring up healthcare reform again; but the defeat of Cassidy-Graham was another victory for people in need.
Starting in 2018, the full toolkit for Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters will now be primarily accessible through the web, with a condensed print version mailed to regular users. This transition, from primarily print to primarily digital, started in 2009 when Bread began making the full toolkit also available online.
All the Offering of Letters materials you come to expect from Bread — such as the how-to-information on planning an event, an explanation of the issue, items to help promote your event — will be available online in both English and Spanish.
A condensed version, containing sections deemed essential by various user surveys, will be printed in English and Spanish. It will be mailed out in January, along with posters and worship bulletins. However, the printed version will not include all the elements in the online version of the 2018 Offering of Letters.
For the 2018 Offering of Letters, Bread will focus again on the budget. Please keep reading our e-newsletter to find out more information about the 2018 Offering of Letters.
Now is the time to order bulletin inserts and posters for use in your church as you celebrate Bread for the World Sunday on Oct. 15 — or another Sunday this fall. You may also request a new scripture study written by Rev. James Martin, SJ, editor-at-large of America magazine and author of the bestseller “Jesus: A Pilgrimage.” Father Martin writes about Matthew 22:1-14, the parable of the wedding feast.
Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, a Lutheran pastor and co-author of “Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World,” has prepared a new litany or responsive prayer. The litany, scripture study, and worship bulletin inserts are available in both English and Spanish. To view, download, or order printed copies go here or call 800-822-7323, ext. 1072.
When you send Bread for the World Christmas cards to your family and friends, you will help create hope and opportunity for people who are hungry. Proceeds from the sale of these cards support efforts to urge our nation’s decision makers to change the policies and conditions that allow hunger to persist in our own country and abroad.
The 2017 card features an original illustration called “Nurture” by Doug Puller, Bread for the World’s senior design and art manager.
Ten cards and envelopes are only $15 (includes shipping). Additional card designs, including one without a religious greeting, are available. View the cards and place your order today, or call 800-822-7323, ext. 1072.
The tax advantages of gifts to Bread for the World Institute may be especially significant this year. Many stocks are at record highs and would be subject to capital gains taxes if sold. When you contribute gifts of stock to Bread for the World Institute, you may deduct the market value of the stock as a charitable contribution – and avoid capital gains taxes.
You may also wish to use appreciated stock to establish a charitable gift annuity, which provides fixed income for life for you or a person you name. You may also receive some tax savings in the first and subsequent years of the annuity.
If you are 70 ½ years of age or older and have an IRA account, you may be able take advantage of rolling over up to $100,000 directly to a charitable entity, such as Bread for the World Institute. A rollover cannot be counted as a charitable gift for income tax purposes, but it does fulfill your obligation to withdraw funds from your IRA. If you don’t itemize your tax return, you are still eligible to support Bread for the World Institute in this way. A charitable IRA rollover may also be helpful to your heirs since IRA accounts can be subject to taxation.
For more information about making gifts of stock, charitable gift annuities, or the charitable IRA rollover, please contact Vince Mezzera at email@example.com or 800-882-7323, ext. 1128.
Rebuilding for Resilience, the third in a series of three new videos produced by Bread for the World Institute, shows how emergency assistance, in places like Yemen, Somalia and Nigeria, saves lives every day. The video also demonstrates how investments in development can help prevent or minimize the impact of future crises.
To watch this and the two previous Hunger Report videos, visit hungerreport.org. The Hunger Reports series is based on the award-winning 2017 Hunger Report: Fragile Environments, Resilient Communities, published by Bread for the World Institute.
By Robin Stephenson
Tucked in the corner of the parking lot at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Beaverton, Oregon, a tiny pantry serves some very big needs in the community. In 2016, the Food Closet provided over 23,000 Oregonians with emergency food.
Recently, Bread leaders in the Archdiocese of Portland invited some of the staff of Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.-01) to tour the pantry. They wanted to show the impact proposed federal budget cuts to programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would have on local churches and families experiencing hunger. In August, Jagjit Nagra, Alexa Damis-Wulff, and Brian Plinski saw first-hand how churches are on the front lines of the fight against hunger.
“I’m no policy expert,” said Al Schmitt, who manages the pantry, to the three congressional staffers. “I just know the need, and you’ve got people barely hanging on.”
The Food Closet is open three days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Church volunteers serve an average of 8 families every 30 minutes. In addition, Holy Trinity and four other churches run a backpack program that provides nutritious food to qualified students in 12 schools.
Hunger and the demand for food have grown during Schmitt’s tenure as pantry manager. “We have seen an average 10 to 12 percent annual increase in the number of people we serve in each of the past five years,” he said.
About half of the clients need both SNAP and the food pantry to get by until they get back on their feet. Many, he said, have jobs but they just don’t make enough to cover the cost of living. The number of seniors on a fixed income, not able to afford both high rents and food, are frequenting the pantry in greater numbers.
Eileen Sleva, who coordinates social justice ministries at Holy Trinity, set up the tour because she is deeply concerned about cuts to the safety net, including a proposed $150 billion cut to the SNAP program.
“We are doing our part to address hunger in Beaverton,” she said. “The church — our resources and volunteers — can only stretch so far. Cuts would mean families would go hungry.”
Roman Catholics from Oregon sent more than 1,000 letters to their members of Congress. They urged the lawmakers to prioritize the most vulnerable people as they make funding choices in the federal budget.
Schmitt stressed that we all need to do our part to help vulnerable families with few choices and even fewer resources. Leaning against a tower of boxes of food that would soon be transferred into hundreds of backpacks, he ended the tour with a question to the congressional staff: “Every day these families deal with their own Hurricane Harvey,” he said. “If you cut more now, where are they going to go?”
Robin Stephenson is senior manager of social media at Bread for the World.
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