New York Bread leaders raise hunger issue with U.S. Senate candidates

Offering of Letters blessed at Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Manhattan. Derek Schwabe/Bread for the World.

By Margaret Tran

The New York I Vote to End Hunger goals were simple: engage churches and organizations of diverse faiths to conduct Offering of Letters events and then pool those letters and deliver them to U.S. Senate candidates Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) and Wendy Long (R).

More than 2,500 letters in support of child nutrition and criminal justice reform were written to Schumer and Long! We hand-delivered the letters to Schumer’s office. We tried, but were unsuccessful, delivering the letters to Long’s office.

Our work to make hunger an issue in the senatorial race in New York was truly a team effort led by Bread leaders Julie Grega and Sister Carol de Angelo. Other team members included Bread members Steve Groth and Marg Ripley, and de Angelo’s Sister of Charity interns LeeAnn Brathwaite and Nikki Bogan.

“For me, who’s been working for a long time to end hunger and is very inspired by leadership from Bread for the World, I was glad to see us come together and focus our efforts on the candidates,” Groth said

We began our work by organizing workshops in Manhattan, the Bronx and Westchester County. Bread provided the leaders with sample presentations and tools but they took the reigns. Team leaders trained roughly 30 Bread members on two key hunger issues we want the next senator from New York to lead on: child nutrition and criminal justice reform

Grega was happy with the outcome of the workshops. “It was great to meet everyone at the workshop and to share ideas with them,” she said.  

To ensure churches we were working with were constantly supported, team members checked in with letter organizers throughout the year to see progress on individual Offering of Letters events. By October, we had accumulated 2,500 letters from 15 churches.

On Oct. 15, we gathered to pool our letters and firmly root our activities in our faith. During our celebration at Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Manhattan, we were entertained by The Peace Poets, who use music and poetry to advocate for issues of social justice. Our celebration concluded with the letters blessed by Rev. John P. Duffell, the pastor of Blessed Sacrament.

Organizing the letters was the easy part; getting in front of the candidates took considerable effort. For four months, Groth and Ripley diligently reached out to the Schumer and Long campaigns requesting a meeting to deliver our letters.

Their diligence eventually paid off.

Bread members met with Schumer’s Outreach Director Julietta Lopez on Sept. 29. We talked with her about the policies we want Schumer to support and got a commitment to meet again if Schumer was re-elected to represent New York in the Senate.

On Oct. 18, Bread leaders hand delivered the letters to Schumer’s office. “I was grateful that Schumer and his staff are so supportive of us. We couldn’t have asked for a better meeting,” Ripley said.

After reaching out to Long’s office to meet in person without success, Long on Oct. 21 responded to a photo of her letters on Twitter with a thank you.

Our team effort was more than just about an election. We will continue building the political will to end hunger after Election Day. “The Bread for the World letter writing campaign offers a great way to support systemic change. We can end hunger by 2030,” Bogan said.

Learn more about Bread’s I Vote to End Hunger campaign and then get involved to ensure that our next president and Congress make ending hunger a priority.

Margaret Tran is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

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