Washington, D.C., November 17, 2023 – Bread for the World mourns the passing of its founder and first president, the Rev. Arthur “Art” Simon (July 28, 1930 – November 14, 2023).
Art’s vision and direction established Bread as one of the leading Christian organizations advocating for the end of hunger. His work helped initiate programs that have reduced hunger, decreased poverty, and improved nutrition, impacting hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the world.
“Rev. Art Simon has left behind a powerful legacy,” said Rev. Eugene Cho, president and CEO of Bread for the World. “When I consider the many millions of people around the world whose lives have been changed for the better because of the policies and programs created and improved by anti-hunger activism; when I see the 200,000-strong citizen’s movement that Bread is today; when I hear from individuals about how Art’s message and work led to a new orientation in their life toward justice; I feel an enormous weight of gratitude.”
“To this day, I’m inspired by the three ideas he had in the founding of Bread,” Cho continued. “To prevent hunger from happening in the first place rather than just reacting to it; to work within the system of American democracy to ensure political leaders hear about hunger from their constituents; and to organize Christians to speak up collectively against hunger – these speak to things that are as relevant in the 2020s as they were in the 1970s.”
Simon first became involved in hunger issues during his pastorate at Trinity Lutheran Church in New York City’s Lower East Side. He found himself frequently responding to emergency situations caused by hunger and poverty in his neighborhood, and soon recognized that emergency response was not enough – he needed to find a way to address the reasons why people were experiencing hunger.
Simon pulled together an organizing committee of seven Catholics and seven Protestants to explore how they might address the root causes of hunger. In 1974, the committee founded Bread with the mission of ending hunger by speaking out to elected officials in Washington, D.C. Simon became its first president, a position he held for 16 years.
Rev. David Beckmann, Bread’s second president emeritus, said of Simon, “Arthur Simon led the development of Bread for the World from a prayer into a powerful, nationwide movement to get our nation’s elected leaders to help end hunger. In the 50 years since Art started organizing, Bread for the World and its members across the country have played a leadership role in expanding and improving poverty-focused international aid. Bread has also helped to protect and improve programs that are important to hungry people in this country. The world has made dramatic progress against hunger, partly because Arthur Simon responded to God’s call to make the world more consistent with God’s love for everybody.”
Simon received numerous awards and honorary degrees for his work. These include the Presidential Hunger Award for Lifetime Achievement, the national Religious Book Award, the Center for Public Justice’s Leadership Award, and the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award. In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring Simon’s accomplishments. When introducing the resolution, Congressman Mike Bost (R-IL-12) said, “He used his faith as the foundation for his mission to feed countless vulnerable communities throughout the world. Art is such an inspiration for putting faith into action.” Co-introducer Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) said, “…the work he has done has touched a countless amount of lives around the globe.”
Simon authored numerous books, including the foundational Bread for the World; How Much is Enough? Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture; Rediscovering the Lord’s Prayer; The Rising of Bread for the World; Silence Can Kill: Speaking Up to End Hunger and Make Our Economy Work for Everyone; and The Politics of World Hunger, which he co-authored with his brother, former United States Senator Paul Simon of Illinois.
“Art Simon challenged Christians to put God’s message of love into action,” said Katherine Pringle, chair of Bread’s board of directors. “His faith sparked a movement, and it inspires activists across the country. We honor Art by dedicating ourselves to ending hunger for all of God’s children.”
Following Simon’s retirement from Bread he served as director of the Washington office of the Christian Children’s Fund from 1992 to 1997.
He leaves behind his wife, Shirley, and four children. Simon was proceeded in death by his brother, Paul.
An online memorial service will be held on Monday, December 4. More information can be found at Bread.org.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we may walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10 (NRSUE)
Bread for the World is a Christian advocacy organization urging U.S. decision makers to do all they can to pursue a world without hunger