Bread Teams Send a Message to Congress
Finding strength in community
The newest iteration of Bread’s organizing efforts are Bread Teams—groups of highly-trained local community activists who work with Bread organizers to mobilize their neighborhoods for specific changes in state and federal legislation that affects hungry and poor people. Currently, Bread Teams are working on sending a message to Congress asking for a circle of protection around programs that help poor and hungry people survive this tough economic climate.
In Oregon, Bread Team member Mike Hiland, 51, recently helped organize a training session for about 100 people focused on how to effectively ask Congress to protect programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Earned Income Tax Credit (among others). The 100 or so activists spent four hours on a recent Saturday morning training with activists and organizers from the Portland area.
“The turnout was better than expected, and we focused on what we need to say, when we need to say what, and to whom,” Hiland explains. “The situation is dire in Washington right now. The government cannot ignore the poor and hungry, so the circle of protection was the theme of the event.”
During the training session, keynote speakers on public policy and local organizers tied to national advocacy groups—including Bread—presented information on poverty and hunger in Oregon and the nation. Participants concluded the event by writing letters to their members of Congress and brainstorming ways they could take action on issues of hunger and poverty.
“An effective response combines both public and private actions, and you can’t be effective unless you’re doing both,” says Hiland.
For Terrence Ruth—an activist based in Orlando, FL—protecting poor and hungry people is not just a necessity, but a calling. As an active church member at Northland, A Church Distributed, and a graduate student of public affairs, Ruth, 28, believes that addressing hunger is a matter of Christian duty.
“What should the church do in connection with government and nongovernmental organizations to address poverty? That question really motivates me right now,” Ruth says. Now, he uses Facebook and Twitter to expand the message of protecting valuable programs that help poor people to thousands of people.
Recently, Ruth connected with local Muslims and coordinated discussions among Christians and Muslims on poverty, demonstrating his passion for expanding the community of people of faith working for justice.
“We’re not just addressing hunger from a Christian context,” says Ruth, “but from a global context.”
To find or start a Bread Team in your area, contact your regional Bread organizer.