Persuading the President to Prioritize Ending Hunger
Bread for the World’s presidential petition, which asks President Barack Obama to work with Congress on a plan to end hunger, is gaining traction. In early August, a team of Bread for the World staffers personally delivered a batch of petition signatures—more than 30,000—to the White House.
Visiting the White House
On Aug. 7, four Bread staffers—Director of Church Relations Gary Cook, Director of Organizing and Grassroots Capacity Building LaVida Davis, Director of Government Relations Eric Mitchell, and Senior Policy Analyst Amelia Kegan—visited the West Wing and presented the presidential petition to White House staff during a meeting with the Office of Public Engagement (OPE). They handed over two boxes filled with signatures, as well as a thumb drive containing the same information electronically, to Paulette Aniskoff, deputy assistant to the president and director of OPE, and Paul Monteiro, OPE’s associate director. During the meeting with OPE, which is the office that facilitates direct dialogue between the Obama administration and the public, Bread updated the White House on our work to end hunger in the United States and abroad, and stressed how crucial the president’s role is in this fight.
“We shared with them the strength of Bread’s membership,” says Davis. “Our members’ actions and calls for a circle of protection around programs that help hungry and poor people made a big impression. My colleagues and I emphasized the importance of presidential leadership in ending hunger and also talked about the farm bill, sequestration, the budget, and immigration.”
Bread for the World has held similar meetings with White House staff in the past; they are part of our work to engage the administration. The petition — a new strategy for Bread — has helped strengthen this relationship and show the White House that there is a strong constituency of advocates waiting for the administration to speak up about hunger and poverty.
The petition is part of a multi-pronged approach to persuade Congress and the president to make ending hunger a national priority. Bread for the World will continue to ask advocates to add their signatures to the petition, collect the signatures of others, and also to write letters to Congress about legislation that helps hungry and poor people.
The 30,000-plus signatures collected thus far reflect an incredible showing on the part of Bread members—the goal is to generate at least 100,000 signatures and make additional deliveries to the White House. The Aug. 7 delivery was a first, crucial step. The petition is just one piece of Bread’s work to engage this nation’s decision makers around issues of hunger and poverty.
The president must lead by setting time-bound goals and bringing together those affected by hunger and poverty, experts, and policy makers to develop a comprehensive plan to end hunger. The president must then work with Congress and other leaders to enact the plan and put our country on track to achieve an end to hunger.
“We must continue to show the president and Congress that the movement to end hunger has momentum,” says Mitchell. “Together we can compel our leaders to show moral courage and work to end hunger.
Bread staff and OPE staff also discussed how decisions made during the next few months are especially important and will affect the lives of hungry and poor people for years to come. Your voice is desperately needed. (See this month’s “Policy Focus” for an overview of current, crucial issues that will be at the forefront of political debate in the coming months). This is a critical time for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), international food aid, poverty-focused development assistance, Head Start, and WIC, as well as immigration and the debt ceiling.
“We need faithful advocates to remain vigilant this fall, and continue to both spread the word about the presidential petition and contact their members of Congress,” Mitchell adds.