2016 Offering of Letters: Survive and Thrive

What is the Offering of Letters?

Bread for the World’s annual Offering of Letters campaign engages churches, campuses, and other faith communities in writing letters to Congress. Each year, for the focus of the campaign, we choose specific legislation or a legislative emphasis that can make a real difference to people struggling with hunger and poverty.

People write letters, usually as a group, and present them as an offering to God before mailing them to Congress. Hundreds of Offerings of Letters are held each year, resulting in tens of thousands of letters to Congress. Supported with prayer, these letters are a bold witness to God’s justice and mercy. They have, and continue to have, a significant impact on the decisions made in Congress.

Mother and Child in Zambia. Photo by Joe Molieri / Bread for the World

What is the 2016 Offering of Letters About?

Ending hunger means more than just providing enough food and calories for everyone. Side by side with the need for sufficient food to live an active life is the need for the right foods — for good nutrition. A diet drawing from all food groups that is rich with vitamins and minerals is crucial for the health, growth, and strength of both bodies and minds.

Focusing on women and young children is important because these groups are the most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition. Nearly half of the world’s smallholder farmers are women, with higher rates in developing countries. That means in the rural areas of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the majority of people engaging in subsistence farming to feed themselves and their families are women. Being a smallholder farmer often means living on the edge. Changes in the climate, a natural disaster, or even just the limits of what can be grown on a small plot of land can limit both the quantity and quality of the food a family eats. And this can be devastating to a woman and her family.

Women are also the ones in a family primarily responsible for caring for the children. Bread for the World Institute’s analysis shows that giving children good nutrition early in life — starting in the womb — benefits them in a multitude of ways throughout their entire lives. Studies show that malnutrition during the early months of a child’s life can stunt their physical and cognitive development and increases the risk of illness in childhood and later in life. As a result, the cost of malnutrition is very high in terms of health care, school readiness, amount of education, and lost productivity and income.

In short, Bread for the World believes that good nutrition is a key way of combatting hunger and that good nutrition — eating well — is a pathway to good health and living an active, thriving life.

Women are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.

Mahmoud Fathalla, former head of the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Bread for the World members meet with their elected officials each year at Lobby Day. Photo: Joe Molieri / Bread for the World

Act Now

Bread for the World wants Congress to increase funding for the nutrition and health of mothers, newborns, and young children. In 2015, funding for nutrition in the global health account was $115 million — a slight increase from previous years.

Bread and its partners believe a funding level of $230 million for nutrition programs is needed for 2016. Increasing U.S. investment in global maternal and child nutrition is central to successful development and helps improve the potential of millions of people.

In early spring, members of Congress will make their funding requests to appropriators in the House of Representatives and Senate. During this time, it is important that congressional offices hear from you about maternal and child nutrition programs within the government’s global health account. We need to ensure that increased funding is a top priority for the appropriators. Later in the year, as the appropriations process moves forward, your advocacy will be crucial to ensure that any increased funding is maintained during House and Senate negotiations.

We will urge Congress to pass the Global Food Security Act, which continues U.S. investments in improving nutrition and increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers. For example, food-aid reform will also provide an opportunity to improve nutrition among mothers and children. There will also be an international Nutrition for Growth summit this summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There, governments could decide to make significant new political and financial commitments. Bread is urging Congress to push for those commitments.

Write to Congress    Learn more

Malnutrition is a contributing factor to preventable maternal and infant mortality rates.  Photo: Joe Molieri in Zambia / Bread for the World

Nutrition Means Better Health

Around the world, 17,000 more children will live and 650 more mothers will survive childbirth every day this year than was the case in 1990. Children are surviving at a rate never seen before. Since the 1980s, the United States has led global efforts to improve child survival. Developing countries with growing economies are now better able to invest in their own health systems, accelerating the survival of mothers and children.

However, hunger and malnutrition are still a major factor in preventable deaths. The respected British medical journal The Lancet reported in April 2014 that “high rates of malnutrition underlie more than 45% of all deaths in children younger than 5 years and are a significant factor in maternal mortality.” In fact, while the rate of death for children and mothers has rapidly dropped since 1990, the two Millennium Development Goals that addressed the health of children and mothers (No. 4: reduce child mortality; and No. 5: improve maternal health) were not met before the goals expired last year.

The world is positioned to ramp up progress on the nutrition and health of women and children. In 2015, United Nations member countries adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as successors to the Millennium Development Goals. The first three SDGs tackle this problem head-on:

  • Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

The third goal includes targets to reduce global maternal mortality and to end preventable child deaths. Learn more.

Scriptures speak to the role and responsibility of leaders in caring for poor people (Psalm 72; Jeremiah 22; Proverbs 31:8-9). Photo: Laura Pohl/Bread for the World

A Biblical Reflection

At the very beginning of the Scriptures, we hear that we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Throughout the Bible, we hear that we are precious to God. Our lives are truly a gift from God, and — through our efforts — God cares for all who share that gift of life.

Tragically, though, life for many women and children ends early, and they die unnecessarily. Every two minutes, a woman dies from complications in pregnancy or childbirth. Despite tremendous progress, a child dies somewhere every five seconds, and often the major causes are preventable diseases and malnutrition. Many children who do survive suffer from stunting, which causes lifelong health problems and irreversible damage to their physical and cognitive development.

Isaiah and other prophets challenged Israel — and us today — to practice “right worship.” The worship God desires is that we seek justice and share our bread with the hungry (Isaiah 56-58). In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, we see how Mary and Joseph protect and care for the young Jesus. Later in the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly heals people suffering from disease (Luke 4:40-41 and 6:17-19). In response to a Gentile woman’s persistent pleas and remarkable faith, Jesus heals her daughter (Mark 7:24-30).

Today, we follow Jesus’ lead in caring for people who are vulnerable in our world — especially new mothers and their young children. Nearly half of all childhood deaths before age 5 are caused by malnutrition. Ending this needless tragedy requires continued improvements in nutrition for women and children during the 1,000 days from pregnancy to the child’s second birthday.

In saving the lives of women and children, we live out the prayer that Jesus taught us: that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven, that all may have daily bread (Luke 11:1-4). Learn more about the biblical basis for advocacy.

It begins with you. And can lead to hungry people living in poverty getting the help they need. Infographic by Doug Puller / Bread for the World

Tools
from our Resource Library

For Education

  • Bread Newsletter April 2016

    In this issue: Summer Conference to Put Nutrition on Center Stage; Bread and Global Coalition Work Together to End Maternal and Child Malnutrition; On Faith: Eating and Drinking with Jesus; and more.

  • Fortified for Life: How the U.S. Government Supports Global Nutrition

    A fact sheet that speaks briefly about why support for nutrition overseas is so important and how the U.S. government supports nutrition assistance.

    Relates to the topic of the 2016 Offering of Letters: Survive and Thrive.

  • Bread Newsletter March 2016

    In this issue: Poverty Discussed at February GOP Debate; President’s Budget Proposes New Ways to End Child Hunger; On Faith: The ‘Altaring’ Effects of Communion; New Fact Sheet Shows Blacks Face Higher Rates of Hunger, Poverty; and more.

For Faith

  • 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...

  • Bread for the World Sunday

    Bread for the World Sunday is an opportunity for your church or community of faith to join with others — in thousands of churches across the country — in living out God's vision of a world without hunger. Through our prayers for an end to hunger, letters, and phone calls to our nation's leaders...

For Advocacy