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As the peak of heat and humidity descend on Washington, D.C., next month, lawmakers will leave town to go back to their home districts for August recess.
Many of them will use the break to travel around their districts, meeting with as many constituents as possible. They may visit county fairs, host town halls, or keep open hours in their in-district offices.
And each year, Bread members takes advantage of this opportunity to speak with their members of Congress about hunger.
A focus of this year’s in-district work is conducting listening sessions about the farm bill – scheduled for reauthorization next year. The listening sessions will take place in the home districts of 13 lawmakers who will be instrumental in writing the next farm bill.
The listening sessions will be an opportunity to hear from practitioners “on the ground” and also build ownership and allies for the work ahead, said Matt Gross, director of organizing and faith engagement at Bread for the World.
The U.S. farm bill has tremendous influence on efforts to end hunger at home and abroad. The farm bill, despite its name, includes much more than farm policies and programs. As much as three-quarters of its funding is spent on nutrition programs, primarily the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
SNAP is the largest federal nutrition program, enabling tens of millions of people across the country to put food on the table. “No other nutrition program has such widespread reach,” said Sergio Mata-Cisneros, an advocacy and policy analyst at Bread.
The farm bill also plays a significant part in the U.S. commitment to ending global hunger by supplying U.S. agricultural surpluses to fight world hunger, expanding international trade to combat poverty, and fostering friendly foreign relations and U.S. foreign policy to promote peace and security.
Back in May, the Southwest Pennsylvania Bread Team convened an early listening session on the farm bill at the Waverly Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, a Bread covenant church. Six members of the local Bread Team were joined by 12 community members to provide input during the listening session.
Community members included representatives from the regional food bank, pantries, Church World Service, a local hunger advocacy organization, Latino refugee and immigrant support agency, and Christian denomination faith leaders.
An organic farmer and a social work professor provided written input.
Cheri Andes, a Bread regional organizer who attended virtually, said the listening session proved fruitful as community members discussed their particular interest in the reauthorization of the farm bill and how they plan to advocate for the legislation.
The need for more affordable and accessible fresh fruits and vegetables came up in almost every small group conversation, she said. “More fresh fruits and vegetables, people pointed out, are needed for SNAP recipients, in food deserts and swamps, and in the senior boxed meal program that is run by community food banks.”
Listening sessions can be an invaluable tool in laying the groundwork for advocacy. “Fostering ownership and building allies around a particular legislation is really the bedrock of organizing. And the earlier that can happen, the better,” Andes said.
Reach out to your regional organizer about how you can get involved with the August in-district listening sessions or advocacy in general.
The U.S. farm bill has tremendous influence on efforts to end hunger at home and abroad.
Afghanistan would be considered likely to have high rates of hunger because at least two of the major causes of global hunger affect it—armed conflict and fragile governmental institutions.
Malnutrition is responsible for nearly half of all preventable deaths among children under 5. Every year, the world loses hundreds of thousands of young children and babies to hunger-related causes.
Bread for the World is calling on the Biden-Harris administration and Congress to build a better 1,000-Days infrastructure in the United States.
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in faith.” These words from Colossians 2:6 remind us of the faith that is active in love for our neighbors.
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Bread for the World and its partners are asking Congress to provide $200 million for global nutrition.
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