Remembering Bread for the World Founder Art Simon


Rev. Arthur “Art” Simon died on November 15, 2023. His vision, knowledge, and foresight established Bread for the World as one of the foremost organizations advocating for the end of hunger, impacting the lives of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

Art was born on July 28, 1930, in Eugene, Oregon. Growing up, he helped his father publish his monthly magazine, The Christian Parent. Art graduated from Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, where he advocated for scholarships for minority students as student body president. He later attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, and was ordained as a Lutheran pastor. 

“Rev. Art Simon has left behind a powerful legacy. 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. 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.”

Rev. Eugene Cho, president and CEO of Bread for the World.

In 1961, Art was called to serve Trinity Lutheran Church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It was an impoverished neighborhood, and Art often found himself responding to emergency situations caused by hunger and poverty. Many churches provide emergency assistance, but Art soon recognized that this did not address the reasons why people find themselves experiencing hunger in the first place.

On December 4 at 7p.m. Eastern Time, a memorial service will be held online to celebrate Art’s life and legacy. Register here to attend. If you’d like to express your condolences with the Simon family, share your wishes, or reminisce about Art, please visit the memorial board Bread has created at

Art studied up on U.S. government policies that are important to people struggling with hunger in the United States and around the world. He also saw that, in his own words, “almost nothing was being done to encourage Christians as citizens to urge decision makers to craft policies that would address hunger and poverty.” Art felt that by doing little or nothing to influence elected leaders on the problem of hunger, Christians were silently approving of or reinforcing policies that contribute to it. 

“Arthur Simon taught me how to weave economics, justice, and my Christian faith together, empowering me to better love my neighbor through public policy advocacy. I read Art’s seemingly simple book back when I was a student. It gave my love traction. I’ll forever be thankful to the stranger who gave me that little book and to Art for writing it.  Art’s vision gave rise to a grassroots network called Bread for the World, which has, over the years, made our government more effective in providing help and opportunity to hungry people in our country and around the world.  As a result, hundreds of millions of hungry people are better off.”

Rick Steves, travel writer and television host.

He began to contemplate what more could be done to get the kind of government response that was needed to address hunger. And what could churches do that they were not doing? He thought, “Why not organize a citizens outcry against hunger?”. With this in mind, Simon began developing the idea of a national, non-partisan Christian movement mobilizing against hunger.

In 1972, Art gathered an organizing committee of seven Catholics and seven Protestants to further explore his idea. And in May 1974, with no staff and virtually no money, the group founded Bread for the World with the mission of ending hunger by encouraging Christians to speak out to their elected officials in Washington, D.C. Art became its first president, a position he held for 16 years. 

Art saw the work of ending hunger as an extension of his pastoral ministry. Under his leadership, Bread helped pass legislation and establish programs that reduced hunger and improved nutrition in the U.S. and around the world. 

“Art was a true saint and prophet.  It was a profound honor to have known and worked with him.  He was an extremely generous listener and deeply kind person.  He led Bread with humility and tenacity, ever seeking to bridge potential religious and political divides and engage more people in the vital work of ending hunger.  May he continue to inspire and intercede for us and all those whom he touched by his tireless advocacy!! May he be dancing.”

Betty Anne Donnelly, Bread staff member from 1977 to 1980 co-founder and preacher coordinator of Catholic Women Preach

Bread’s first major legislative initiative was the Right to Food Resolution in 1975, which affirmed each person’s right to a nutritious diet. It was the focus of Bread’s organizing initiative called Project 500 – the effort that Art and Joel Underwood, Bread’s first staff member, led to recruit 500 local leaders for the first Offering of Letters. When the Right to Food Resolution was introduced, Congress largely ignored it. But then the letters started coming in from churches across the country – more than a hundred thousand of them – and lawmakers took notice. The resolution was passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and the effort brought thousands of new members to Bread. 

Other notable Bread successes under Art included the establishment by Congress of two grain reserves, one of which was for international emergencies; the creation of the federally-funded Child Survival Fund, with the intent of saving as many children as possible through cost effective interventions such as growth monitoring and immunization; the Horn of Africa Recovery and Food Security Act, which secured aid for famine recovery and development assistance; and the expansion of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Bread was also able to fend off numerous attempts to cut aid for people experiencing hunger. 

“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.”

Rev. David Beckmann, Art’s successor and Bread’s second president emeritus.

After Art retired from Bread, he continued his advocacy towards the end of hunger for the rest of his life – through his writings and speaking engagements, as director of the Washington office of Christian Children’s Fund from 1992 to 1997, and his ongoing support for the efforts of Bread.   

He authored numerous books, including Faces of Poverty (1966); The Politics of World Hunger (1973, with his brother, former Illinois Senator Paul Simon); the foundational Bread for the World (1985); Christian Faith and Public Policy: No Grounds for Divorce (1987); Grace at the Table: Ending Hunger in God’s World (1999, with David Beckmann); How Much is Enough? Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture (2003); Rediscovering the Lord’s Prayer (2005); and The Rising of Bread for the World (2009). In 2019, at the age of 89, Simon released his final book Silence Can Kill: Speaking Up to End Hunger and Make Our Economy Work for Everyone.  

“Art Simon was a giant in the Christian faith, an advocate for the hungry and impoverished, and a kind mentor to many. Those of us working with Bread for the World past and present stand on the shoulders of his faith animated legacy. Art bent the world more towards justice and we will miss him.”  

Jeremy Everett, founder and executive director of the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty and incoming chair of Bread’s board of directors.

Art received many accolades for his work, including the Presidential Hunger Award for Lifetime Achievement, which President George H.W. Bush awarded him in 1990; the national Religious Book Award for his book Bread for the World; the Center for Public Justice’s Leadership Award; and the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award in 2004. In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring his accomplishments. Introducing the resolution, Congressman Mike Bost (R-Ill) noted, “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-Ill), said, “…the work he has done has touched a countless amount of lives around the globe.”

One of Art’s favorite Bible passages was Ephesians 2:8-10, which exemplifies the way he lived his life: “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.”

More information about Art’s remarkable life can be found in this article published by Religion News Service.

Please join us in keeping his wife Shirley and the entire extended family in your prayers.

Art’s family has asked that memorial gifts be made to organizations that help people. If you would like to make a gift to Bread, you may do so at

Click here for information about the hunger community memorial service that will be held online to celebrate Art’s life and legacy on December 4 at 7p.m. Eastern Time. Click here to visit the message board where people are sharing memories and reminiscences about Art and add your own.

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