Faithfully persisting for an end to hunger

Elaine Davies with U.S. Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) during the 2016 Lobby Day. Photo courtesy of the office of Rep. Austin Scott.

By Yumi Ko         

 “You need to commit to an issue you can stay with for the rest of your life.” For Elaine Davies, these words of encouragement from her pastor, the late Rev. Jon Walters, have motivated her to fight for anti-poverty legislation for over four decades.

So it was no surprise that Davies was at Bread’s annual Lobby Day in June. This year Bread activists were focused on asking House members to pass the Global Food Security Act of 2016 (S. 1252) and to oppose H.R. 5003, the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016, which would fund school meals through block grants to the states, effectively preventing potentially millions of children from getting school breakfasts, lunches, and summer meals.

Congress was also asked to invest at least $230 million in nutrition in global health programs in fiscal year 2017.

Davies, 71, met with staffers from the Georgia offices of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R), Rep. Sanford Bishop (D), and Rep. Austin Scott (R). She also had a brief chat with Scott, her representative, in front of his office in the hallway. As a conservative member of the Tea Party, he is on record as having said that “the nation could save billions of dollars by cutting the budget for SNAP (formerly food stamps) in order to discourage long term use.”

“Well, that’s a myth because not everyone is dependent on SNAP in the long-run,” Davies said. After Lobby Day, Davies called Bread’s government relations department so that they could send reading materials and the annual Hunger Report to Scott’s legislative assistant in order to educate her about the facts of domestic hunger programs. Developing a relationship and educating key staff personnel is essential in our work, Davies said.

For Davies, fighting hunger and malnutrition has been a lifelong mission. At the time she was introduced to Bread in 1974, she was living in Indiana where her husband was enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana University-Bloomington, and attending the Church of the Cross United Methodist Church located near the campus.

One couple from the church attended one of Bread’s initial meetings in New York City, and after they went home, their “passion fired up,” they recruited the late Rev. Jon Walters. He organized a group in the church who started writing letters to their members of Congress.

About a year or so into Davies’ involvement with Bread, a famine broke out abroad. She said it broke her heart to see starving children on T.V. Then she became outraged when Bread alerted people about a bill that would provide funding for furniture in the “lavish offices” of Congress. Because of letters from Bread members, an amendment to that bill was passed allocating the money for hunger relief instead of furniture.

Along with other Bread members, Davies made phone calls, talked to people, and let the press know about the bill. “There was a limited number of activists then, but we turned this around and millions of dollars were diverted from purchasing more furniture,” she said.

After this successful lobbying event, she got hooked because of her belief that “if we could have an effect on budget allocations and policy, this is the way to go.”

Of course, her journey in fighting hunger has not always been a smooth one. “I’ve seen the ups and downs but I’m a persistent person who believes we are called to remain faithful in serving hungry people,” said Davies, a member of the United Methodist Church since her junior year of high school.

She sees her activities as work for the Kingdom of God and believes that the existence of chronic hunger is not the way God intended this world to be. She also sees an importance in the social gospel and the progressive mission of the United Methodist church.

“Bread for the world’s mission fits right into that,” she said.

Yumi Ko is a communications intern at Bread for the World.

Related Resources