By Rev. David Beckmann
Happy new year! Congress finalized many of its 2015 decisions at the end of the year, and we can now celebrate major victories for hungry and poor people!
Bread for the World and its members played an important role in pushing Congress to strengthen tax credits for low-income working people — the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit. Congress temporarily increased these credits in the depths of the recession, but just last month agreed to make this level of benefits permanent. This legislative achievement will prevent 16 million people (including 8 million children) from falling into or deeper into poverty.
Bread and our partners also fended off cuts to programs that help hungry and poor people. Despite intense political pressure throughout the last five years, we have succeeded in maintaining a circle of protection around poverty-focused programs. Bread has played a leadership role within the faith community in this effort. Surprisingly, Congress has actually increased funding for programs that help to reduce hunger and poverty globally in each of the last five years. The increase this year was $1.1 billion, including more funding for refugees, for the Central American countries from which most immigrants without documentation are coming, and for global efforts to reduce child malnutrition.
A backroom deal in late December almost reversed the reforms we won in international food aid last year. Shipping companies almost managed to get their subsidies increased. This shift in funding would have resulted in food aid for two million fewer needy people each year! But Bread members in target states responded quickly. Thanks to Bread and organizations that work with us on this issue, the reforms we won in 2014 are intact.
Earlier in 2015, Bread helped to win a ten-year extension of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, including a new provision to strengthen trade opportunities for farmers, especially women farmers.
So thank you. I am deeply grateful to you and all of Bread’s members for your crucial contributions to these remarkable achievements for hungry people in 2015. Your letters, calls, and financial support are the backbone of Bread’s advocacy. With your help, 2015’s advocacy clearly benefited many millions of hungry and poor people.
Looking ahead, the 2016 Offering of Letters will focus on nutrition among mothers and children. We will also be calling on you to help win final passage of the Global Food Security Act and improvements in the programs that provide nutrition to at-risk children in our own country.
We will also be pursuing an innovative campaign — Vote to End Hunger — to make hunger an issue in the 2016 elections. Bread and our church partners have already secured video statements from ten presidential candidates on what they would do to provide help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in our country and around the world. Our goal is that the next president will make hunger, poverty, and opportunity a priority, and that Congress and the president together will put us on track to end hunger in the U.S. and worldwide by 2030.
This goal is breathtakingly ambitious, yet feasible — partly because of the crescendo of advocacy victories you have helped Bread achieve. Your generous and active involvement in Bread make it possible to aim high.
I pray that God will bless you personally in 2016 — and that our loving God will advance and accelerate the great liberation from hunger and poverty that is underway in the world.
Rev. David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World.