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At the heart of Bread’s advocacy is developing relationships with members of Congress. But it’s best not to wait until after the election to introduce yourself and start a relationship with any new elected leaders in your district and state. The time to start that is now, during the campaign.
The elections for Congress – all of the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate – are just as important as the high-profile presidential election this year. Bread wants both the new Congress and the president who will take office in 2017 to have addressing hunger, poverty, and opportunity high on their to-do lists. Both the legislative and executive branches of our government will have to get right to work if we as a country and world are to end hunger by 2030. This is a goal that Bread and many other international institutions have set.
This all means that Bread needs you as voters, constituents, citizens, and residents to get in front of your candidates so that we as a collective Christian voice can raise hunger as an important issue during the campaign.
Be part of Bread’s I Vote to End Hunger campaign:
Whether during public forums, town hall meetings, or a meeting at a candidate's office, you can engage all candidates on hunger. In most cases, that will be a candidate from each of the major parties. It is important to engage candidates on both sides so that regardless of who wins, there is a relationship established with the office-holder.
We want you to ask candidates the following questions:
After meeting with a candidate, please let us know how it went by completing the Activist Field Report Form. This will help Bread for the World track the number of candidates who are being engaged.
Additionally, writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper and posting your experience on social media will publicize your efforts. All of the materials you will need are posted in the Elections Resources section below.
If you have any questions or need support with elections, please contact us by email or 202/639-9400.
Bread provides resources in English and Spanish for you to use in your state/district to engage candidates on these issues. These materials include:
Materials to present to candidates when you meet with them:
And remember to fill out the Activist Field Report Form after talking to your candidate.
Resources for activists
Bread has many other elections resources to help congregations and individuals engage in the election. See the full list.
Bread is thrilled that the Global Food Security Act (GFSA) achieved final passage in Congress in July. We had been campaigning for this act for two years, and Bread’s activists recruited nearly half of its co-sponsors one by one. In the same week as that victory, the Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act also passed Congress. We started lobbying Congress to support foreign-aid reform with Bread’s 2009 Offering of Letters.
Congress’ approval of GFSA will continue U.S. leadership against world hunger. Just as our country led the world’s fight against AIDS during the George W. Bush administration, the U.S. has led a global effort to strengthen agriculture and nutrition in low-income countries during the Obama administration through the Feed the Future initiative. This initiative began in response to a spike in world hunger in 2008, and it has helped to put the world back on track toward ending hunger.
By passing GFSA, Congress provides formal, bipartisan authorization ($3.8 billion a year for the next two years) to continue and further improve this highly successful initiative of help and opportunity for many of the world’s most desperate people. GFSA will provide agricultural and nutrition assistance to many millions of poor, rural families and locally purchased food assistance to help cope with the current surge of displaced people in Syria and other countries. It requires the current administration to develop a global food-security plan this fall and sets up formal conversations in 2017 and 2018 between Congress and the next administration about how this plan is being implemented and developed.
The Foreign Assistance Accountability and Transparency Act mandates an evaluation system for all of the U.S. government’s international development and humanitarian-assistance programs and for some security-assistance programs too. This law will also maintain a recently established website that gives the public information about U.S. assistance projects. This makes it easier for people in the U.S. and recipient countries to get involved and help make sure that these projects work effectively.
We as a country are discouraged by years of sharp, partisan conflict and a presidential campaign of recent months that has exposed harsh attitudes of some candidates. But we can take some encouragement from the fact that leaders from both parties came together to pass a major world-hunger bill and a bill to improve the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance. People of faith and conscience like you who work together through Bread for the World and other advocacy organizations have helped to make our democracy work in response to problems that are geographically distant but morally and spiritually important.
I thank you for your faithful support of Bread for the World, which powered our efforts to push to get GFSA and the foreign-assistance act passed in Congress. I also thank you for direct efforts — for raising your voice with your members of Congress to tell them of the importance of these bills in ending hunger. We have much to be proud of in these victories, but we know these were not victories truly for us but wins for people who are hungry.
Rev. David Beckmann
By Jordan Teague
Bread for the World and its members can celebrate some important legislative victories this summer in the international arena. In early July, Congress passed both the Global Food Security Act (GFSA) and the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (FATAA) with overwhelming bipartisan support. In addition, both chambers have now recommended $125 million for nutrition in global health programs for fiscal year 2017.
Bread had been campaigning for GFSA for two years, and Bread’s activists recruited nearly half of its co-sponsors one by one. Bread started lobbying Congress to support foreign aid reform with its 2009 Offering of Letters. And this year’s Offering of Letters focuses on maternal and child nutrition funding through the appropriations process in Congress.
We’ve advanced the cause on all three. But you may be wondering: How do all of these things fit together? Are they all related?
The U.S. government has led the global effort to strengthen agriculture and nutrition in low-income countries through the Feed the Future initiative. Congress’ approval of GFSA will continue U.S. leadership against world hunger. By passing this legislation, Congress provides formal, bipartisan authorization to continue and extend this highly successful program of help and opportunity for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. GFSA will help provide agricultural and nutrition assistance to millions of poor rural families as well as locally purchased food assistance to help with the current surge of displaced people in Syria and other countries. GFSA also reinforces improved maternal and child nutrition as a key priority of U.S. agricultural assistance.
FATAA focuses on tracking foreign assistance spending and programs across all U.S. government agencies involved in this area. It institutionalizes the important gains that have been made in increasing aid transparency and improving monitoring and evaluation practices over the last few years. FATAA will help to ensure that this progress is built upon when a new administration and Congress take office next year. The bill requires that detailed foreign assistance information be regularly updated on the ForeignAssistance.gov website and that development and economic assistance be rigorously monitored and evaluated.
This is the area addressed by this year’s Offering of Letters: Survive and Thrive.
The funding for nutrition in global health programs through the appropriations process supports nutrition programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). These programs provide lifesaving nutrition support to women and children around the world. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees recommended $125 million for these programs for fiscal year 2017. While this falls short of Bread’s request of $230 million through its Offering of Letters campaign, both chambers rejected the president’s proposed cut to the programs ($108.5 million) and recommended a strong investment in nutrition.
However, the appropriations process is not over yet. There will still be opportunities to increase the funding for global nutrition in fiscal year 2017 between now and when both chambers pass either the State and Foreign Operations appropriations bills or an omnibus appropriations bill.
The passage of GFSA and FATAA will strengthen the investment of $125 million in global nutrition programs even further. At USAID, these nutrition programs are often conducted as part of the Feed the Future initiative. The passage of GFSA enshrines the efforts of Feed the Future and makes nutrition a priority of U.S. government foreign assistance. FATAA will help to ensure the impact of U.S. government nutrition investments is maximized and the programs are held accountable to nutrition goals.
Again, Congress has not yet fully met Bread’s request of $230 for nutrition in global health programs, and this is disappointing. But advocacy does not yield complete victories all the time. Bread takes a long-haul and broader perspective in its advocacy, and even the medium-term perspective – looking at the results of this summer together – shows that we have ended up with more than we started with. Bread views all three congressional actions as victories that give us momentum in our work to end hunger, malnutrition, and poverty around the world.
Jordan Teague is international policy analyst for food security and nutrition for Bread for the World and Bread for the World Institute.
It's been an interesting and exciting year on Capitol Hill so far. Here’s a look at our victories and what still needs to be done.
Several years of advocacy from Bread staff and members have resulted in the final passage of the Global Food Security Act (S. 1252)! GFSA passed Congress on July 6 with broad, bipartisan support.
In the first half of 2016, there were several interim victories. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Senate version of the bill, S. 1252, in March. Then the House of Representatives passed its version, H.R. 1567, on April 12, followed quickly by the full Senate passing S. 1252. Because the two bills were slightly different, the House decided to take up the Senate’s version of the bill. The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed S. 1252 in May, and the full House of Representatives passed the bill in July.
The final bill included strong provisions for nutrition and women’s empowerment as well as measures for the accountability and transparency of the funds and programs. The bill also authorized the existing International Disaster Assistance programs, which include a critical Emergency Food Security Program to address the full spectrum of global food security.
President Obama signed GFSA into law on July 20.
This is the focus of Bread’s 2016 Offering of Letters: Survive and Thrive.
Over the past several months, Bread has led and worked as part of coalitions to build and sustain support in Congress for global maternal and child nutrition and to request that global nutrition funding be increased to at least $230 million in fiscal year 2017. Due to the many requests from Bread staff and members and a variety of partners, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the Ranking Member of the House State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations subcommittee, included $230 million for global nutrition in her personal appropriations request to the subcommittee.
Bread also pushed congressional offices to sign on to two Dear Colleague letters (sent from members of Congress to other members of Congress) focused on nutrition funding in FY 2017. Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wa.) and Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) initiated a letter to the members of the House State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations subcommittee requesting “robust funding” for maternal and child health and nutrition. 146 members of Congress signed on to this letter. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) initiated a separate letter to the subcommittee specifically requesting $230 million for nutrition in global health programs in FY 2017. This letter had 55 signatures from members of Congress. Finally, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) initiated a letter to the Senate State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations subcommittee requesting robust funding for maternal and child health and nutrition, and 27 senators signed on to it. Bread staff and members conducted significant outreach to offices to sign on to these letters.
By mid-July, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees had marked up and passed their State and Foreign Operations appropriations bills. Both chambers provided $125 million for nutrition in global health programs for FY 2017. While this is short of Bread’s official goal (in its 2016 Offering of Letters) of $230 million, it is a rejection of the president’s cut to the funding for global nutrition and still represents a strong investment in global maternal and child nutrition.
Both the House and Senate still have to consider final passage of the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriation bill. Moving forward, we will continue to push for increased funding through the appropriations process.
The same week Congress passed the Global Food Security Act, it also passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 3766), sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Gerry Connelly (D-Va.), as well as Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.). The legislation was signed into law by President Obama on July 15.
Bread strongly supported this bipartisan legislation. It will now codify important reforms to ensure that U.S. government agencies involved in foreign assistance are focused on rigorous and consistent monitoring and evaluation of programs and on making comprehensive, timely, and comparable aid data publicly available. By reinforcing its existing commitments to transparency and evaluation through legislation, the U.S. government can better track, measure, and allocate scarce aid resources.
Bread has been working on making U.S. foreign assistance more accountable for nearly a decade, and foreign assistance reform was the focus of both the 2009 and 2011 Offering of Letters campaigns.
Advocacy on child nutrition and summer meals bills throughout 2015 resulted in a bipartisan Senate Agriculture Committee child nutrition bill in January 2016. The Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016 (S.3136) overall met our 2015 Offering of Letters asks to continue investments in child nutrition programs, improve children’s access to feeding programs, and ensure improvements were not paid for by cuts to other vital safety-net programs. Many of the positive provisions included in the bill mirrored policies Bread advocated on throughout 2015. For example, the bill includes provisions to streamline summer and after-school meal programs, allow some states to provide summer electronic benefits transfer, and allow some states to provide alternative summer meal delivery. Additionally, the bill increases the WIC eligibility age through age 5 for children who are 5 but not yet enrolled in kindergarten. Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) hope to pass their bipartisan bill by unanimous consent sometime this year.
The House Education and Workforce Committee considered and passed a partisan child nutrition bill in April and May. The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 (H.R. 5003) would make it more difficult for children to access school meal programs in particular. In addition to changes to community eligibility and increased school meal application verification, the bill also includes a block grant proposal.
In the fall, Congress is still expecting to consider final passage of child nutrition reauthorization legislation. Bread and its partners will work with congressional champions to pass strong legislation that will increase access to healthy meals for low-income kids.
Despite attempts by the House of Representatives to pass a budget resolution including likely cuts to SNAP and other low-income programs, Republican leadership was unable to muster the votes to pass a resolution. The FY 2017 appropriations process began moving forward this spring, adhering to the spending cap of $1.07 trillion agreed to in the bipartisan budget agreement passed at the end of 2015. However, the likelihood of Congress passing a budget by Sept. 30 is very unlikely due to the few legislative days left to pass spending bills after returning from the summer recess. What is certain is that Congress will have to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open past the end of the fiscal year. It is unknown how long the CR will last and what form the spending bill will take, i.e., omnibus or “cromnibus” (combination of a long-term omnibus spending bill and a shorter-term continuing resolution).
During the appropriations process, we track two bills that include domestic and international anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs – Agriculture Appropriations and State & Foreign Operations Appropriations:
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees passed their respective Agriculture Appropriations bills this spring. Agriculture appropriations bills fund domestic nutrition programs as well as international food-aid programs. Both FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bills fund WIC at $6.35 billion, which is level funding compared to FY 2016 and sufficient to meet caseloads for FY 2017. Both chambers also funded summer electronic benefit transfer demonstration projects, with the House providing $21 million and the Senate $23 million.
On the international side, the House provided level funding for Food for Peace (P.L. 480) and the McGovern-Dole child nutrition program. The House did not fund the Local and Regional Purchase program and included anti-food aid reform language in its committee report. The Senate provided $1.6 billion for P.L. 480, $250 million above the president’s request. The Senate also included $10 million for the Local and Regional Food Aid Procurement program authorized in the farm bill.
Neither bill has come to the House or Senate floor for a full vote.
State and Foreign Operations Appropriations
The House subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations marked up its FY 2017 appropriations bill July 6, and it passed in full committee on July 12. In total, the bill provides $52 billion in both regular discretionary and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. This total is $595 million below the FY 2016 enacted level and $691 million below the president’s request for these programs. Within this amount, OCO funding totals $14.9 billion, equal to the FY 2016 enacted level. Despite the overall decrease, the House increased funding for Global Health (USAID) and maintained funding for nutrition and development-assistance programs.
Now that both chambers have passed their bills out of committee, we expect that the two committees will come together in the next few months to settle the differences in conference.
The year began with strong momentum for the passage of criminal justice reform legislation. The House Judiciary Committee passed a number of bills late last year, such as the Sentencing Reform Act, Smarter Sentencing Act, and others. The Senate Judiciary Committee also passed its own legislation, S. 2123, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.
In 2016, Bread’s primary focus has been to increase the number of cosponsors of the Senate bill. By the end of May, more than 30 senators had cosponsored the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (SRCA), almost half of whom are Republican. However, despite strong bipartisan support for the bill, the window of opportunity is shrinking fast. Advocates are pushing Senate leadership to bring the SRCA (S. 2123) to the floor for a vote.
We continue to focus on getting Republicans, particularly moderates up for reelection in swing states, to cosponsor the SRCA and to get all senators to support voting on and passing the SRCA.
There is some division in the Republican Party over support for the SRCA. While many Republicans support the bill, a vocal minority opposes the bill. We have heard there are other Republicans who don’t necessarily oppose the bill but would prefer to not have to publicly vote on it during an election year. Our understanding is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is unlikely to move the bill unless there is unanimous support from his caucus.
In order to show strong support from constituents, faith leaders have been meeting with congressional offices, both at home and in Washington, D.C. Bread leaders have met with House and Senate leadership, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Meanwhile, the House is still prepared to pass criminal justice legislation in September. Bread and its partners will be meeting with targeted House offices in August and early September to urge support of the legislation.
This has been an exciting year for hunger and poverty legislation. Both the Global Food Security Act and Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act are finally becoming law, and there’s substantial movement on important bills for child nutrition and criminal justice reform. Read about our victories so far and work to come in the second half of the year.
The beginning of 2016 also saw the launch of Fresh Bread. Subscribers to Fresh Bread have received weekly updates by email throughout the year — and you can too!
Sign up for Fresh Bread today. When you subscribe, you’ll get the latest details on important legislation moving through Congress, along with actions you can take each week to ensure that Congress does the right thing for people who are hungry and poor in the U.S. and around the world.
Fresh Bread is sent every Tuesday when Congress is in session. New subscribers will start receiving Fresh Bread weekly when Congress returns from its summer recess on Sept. 6 but will receive special updates this summer.
Thousands of churches are preparing to celebrate Bread for the World Sunday. On October 16 — or another Sunday in the fall — people in these churches will lift up prayers for those who struggle with hunger and will rededicate themselves to efforts that help end hunger.
Rev. Beth Bostrom, a United Methodist pastor in Florida and a member of Bread’s board of directors, has written an inspiring reflection on Luke 18:1-8. Rev. Dr. Chris Repp, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Champaign, Ill., has prepared a new litany and other prayers for the day. Dr. Hosffman Ospino, who teaches theology at Boston College, has written a Spanish-language study of Luke 18:1-8 as well as a litany in Spanish.
These resources, as well as a large poster, worship bulletin inserts, and offering envelopes may all be ordered free of charge to help congregations celebrate Bread for the World Sunday. A Spanish poster and bulletin inserts are available. View, download, and order resources.
Every year we ask Bread members to vote in the election of our board of directors.
Bread for the World’s bylaws state that all Bread members are eligible to vote in the election of the board of directors, who govern and guide our work together.
The board of directors sets the direction for how Bread can best channel its resources to help end hunger. The board is a multidenominational, multicultural, bipartisan group of people from all parts of the U.S. who have expertise in multiple and varied issues of importance to making change for and with hungry people.
Each year, one-third of the board of directors is elected to serve three-year terms. All Bread members are invited to vote for the next class of board members.
Read the brief biographies for this year’s 15 board candidates. The candidates were chosen for the gifts they would bring to the leadership of Bread. Then cast your vote for 8 of the 15 candidates. Your vote will be kept confidential.
We will tally all votes received by Sept. 16. The candidates who are elected will join the board on Jan. 1, 2017.
EveryAction, a company that provides customer relationship management products for nonprofits, has recognized Bread's website among its 100 Best Nonprofit Website Designs of 2016. The company's annual list celebrates "some seriously inspiring nonprofit website designs for orgs of all sizes and aesthetics."
In its recognition of Bread's site, the company noted: "One of our favorites, Bread.org uses color, images, and strong information organization to paint the picture of a strong, high-impact organization."
The list also included the websites of such notable organizations as the New York Public Library, the Natural Resources Defense Council, NPR, and the Audobon Society.
EveryAction has offices in Washington, D.C., and Boston.
By Esteban Garcia
Later this month, Bread for the World will collaborate with the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), World Vision, World Relief, and others to stage a pilgrimage walk in Southern California to raise the issue of immigration during the election season.
El Camino del Inmigrante (The Path of the Immigrant) will snake through the southernmost counties of California, beginning on Aug. 20 at the U.S.-Mexico border at Tijuana and culminating in downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 30. The pilgrimage will demonstrate Bread’s solidarity with undocumented immigrants, many of whom face hunger every day.
Along the 150-mile path, several events will give walkers an opportunity to rest and reflect on their journeys. In additional to nightly dinners and debriefs, Bread for the World will be organizing a rally on Aug. 26 in Costa Mesa, in the heart of Orange County, where bishop José García, Bread’s director of church relations, will address walkers and other guests.
The chosen route reflects the one that many immigrants are forced to take when faced with extreme hunger and poverty in their countries of origin. However, even when they have reached the U.S., serious barriers prevent them from obtaining jobs that allow them to adequately provide the nourishing food that their families need.
Currently, there are 4.5 million children living in households with at least one undocumented parent in the U.S. These children are twice as likely to live with poverty or hunger. In addition to high levels of food insecurity, many children of immigrants without employment benefits do not have access to health care, an essential need during the formative years of life.
In addition to facing hunger and food insecurity here in the U.S., many families are separated from one another. Children are either sent away alone from their home countries or live apart from one parent. These arrangements often compound the problem of limited access to resources and opportunities.
At the Camino’s terminus in front of the Los Angeles Detention Center, the pilgrimage will conclude with an event designed to highlight the unjust practices that allow mass incarceration to continue. When parents are imprisoned, absent from the home, and unable to earn an income, access to life-giving food becomes even more precarious.
You don’t have to be a walker to join us for the rally at The Crossing in Costa Mesa on Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. or at the Los Angeles Detention Center on Aug. 30 at 11 a.m.
Esteban Garcia is media relations specialist for Bread for the World.
By Jennifer Gonzalez
Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, addressed faith activists and delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last month and told the crowd gathered that the huge scale of hunger in America is a “moral scandal.”
He used statistics to make his case. One in five children in America struggles with hunger. One in four military families need food assistance. As a result, Beckmann said, many churches, synagogues, and mosques are moved to help feed hungry people.
“And if you are a political leader, pay attention. Because ending hunger isn’t just right. It’s politically smart,” he told the crowd made up of the DNC’s Faith Council.
Beckmann had sought invitations to speak about hunger at both the Republican and Democratic conventions. Only the DNC invited him to speak. Bread does not support any political party or any political candidate.
His remarks came one day before Hillary Clinton formally accepted the Democratic nomination for president, making her the first woman ever in the United States to receive the presidential nomination from a major political party.
Donald Trump formally accepted the Republican party’s nomination for president last month in Cleveland, Ohio.
The issue of hunger is personal for Beckmann who spoke poignantly about his son’s addiction, which drove his son into poverty and got him in trouble with the law. His son, John, has been sober now for seven years and after a series of poverty-wage jobs, is now a truck driver and a good dad to his children, Beckmann said.
“I love my son John and am really proud of him,” Beckmann said. “But each one of the millions of Americans who struggle with hunger is a precious, gifted child of God – just like my son.”
Because Bread wants to ensure that the next president and Congress make ending hunger part of their agenda, the organization is making the issue of hunger paramount during the 2016 election. Bread’s elections work will consist of engaging members and another 50 million voters in 12 swing states.
This month, Bread will formally launch its I Vote to End Hunger campaign, which will include information on how to get involved, an opportunity to sign our pledge, and biblical inspiration for the hard work ahead.
A recent survey conducted by Bread for the World found that 1 in 3 voters say they will vote for candidates who promise to make ending hunger one of their top priorities.
Today, more than 48 million Americans struggle with hunger. Communities of color tend to experience higher levels of poverty and hunger than the general population. Twenty-two percent of Hispanic households and 26 percent of African-American households were food-insecure in 2014, according to the USDA.
In closing, Beckmann told faith activists and delegates that he was “praying and working in this election for a president and a Congress who will put us on track to end hunger by 2030.”
Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.
By Hope Watson
With cold hands shoved deep in my pockets and my head tipped all the way back, I spun slowly under the covering of the Jefferson Memorial. I read Thomas Jefferson’s words engraved around the dome: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” Just as my footsteps reverberated off the memorial’s stone floor that first morning in Washington, D.C., so did those aged words in my mind as I stepped into Bread for the World for the first time later that day.
Our group of summer interns, an eclectic bunch made up of first-generation immigrants, Southern seminary students, and community activists, gathered to hear about how we could use our collective Christian voice to end hunger in our communities and around the world through advocacy. This was followed by an Offering of Letters to our members of Congress to raise our united concern about nutrition and poverty issues.
As I wrote, I thought again of Thomas Jefferson’s words.
If he was willing to make a pledge that solemn and momentous, his first step must have been making sure he knew what he was getting into. He did not blindly bind himself to eternal hostility without being informed about the nature of his cause. That’s when I knew this interaction with Bread was my first step in understanding the nature of my cause.
Our group finished up our time together the way a day in the nation’s capital should end – with burgers at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove, a popular restaurant a few blocks from the Capitol. Surrounded by boisterous congressional staffers blowing off steam after a long day on the Hill, I realized, like Thomas Jefferson, I was beginning to form my own pledge. That moment marked the start of shaping what would become a lasting commitment to addressing the issue of poverty globally through advocacy.
While I may not have vowed something as forceful and grand as “eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man,” I thought about how Jefferson chose that cause. He must have done it because of the propulsion of his heart, because he felt compelled to defend his cause. And then I thought about why I made my pledge and realized we had the same reasoning.
It was this very pledge that brought me back to Bread for the World a year later. In an act of honoring my commitment to this cause, I applied for a summer internship. During my first week, I was given the opportunity to participate in Bread’s signature event — Lobby Day.
I met with the offices of both senators from my home state – Missouri – to request their support of the Global Food Security Act, legislation meant to alleviate nutrition deficiencies around the world. Walking the halls where our nation’s most influential people work was empowering. Also empowering was realizing that I too had the influence to affect positive change through advocacy if I continued to pursue my commitment to that cause.
This realization was actualized when, just a few short weeks later, both the House and Senate passed the legislation I had lobbied for.
During my time at Bread for the World, I have come to understand that my call to advocacy comes from a God who not only knows my strengths but who gave them to me.
In the pews of our churches, the offices of our politicians, and the streets of our community, that same God is calling advocates “to swear eternal hostility” against the enemy and to defend justice for all of God’s people.
Advocacy was the avenue God has used to command me to raise my voice on behalf of the voiceless. With the elevation of other God-inspired voices just like mine, we can collectively bring about change.
Hope Watson is an intern in the church relations department at Bread for the World.
By Patricia Bidar
In January, Kayla Jacobs began serving as Justice and Peace Coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. She came to the job after serving an internship at the Chicago Archdiocese and living in a Catholic Worker house. These houses, scattered across the U.S., are part of a Christian justice and charity movement and provide social services in their communities.
Jacobs hadn’t been at her new job long when an opportunity arose. “A man named Mike Huck contacted me to say that his church, St. Raphael Catholic Church in Naperville, Illinois, held an annual Offering of Letters,” she said. “He thought it would be great to scale up the activity by including more Catholic churches in the Joliet Diocese.”
Bread for the World’s annual Offering of Letters campaign engages faith groups in writing letters to Congress. This year, letter writers are urging Congress to provide robust funding for nutrition among mothers and children so these groups can “survive and thrive,” the theme of this year’s campaign.
The Joliet Diocese was definitely interested in mobilizing a major Offering of Letters. Huck put Jacobs in touch with Zach Schmidt, Bread’s regional staff person for the Midwest. “Once Zach was involved, things moved very quickly,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs contacted every parish in the Joliet Diocese. Eleven parishes decided to participate. “In April, we held a training to equip representatives from each parish,” Jacobs explained. “Most were Peace and Justice Ministry leaders from their churches.” Catholic Relief Services also made a presentation at the training.
Throughout May, all eleven churches conducted Offering of Letters activities. Jacobs organized a conference call in mid-May so participants could check in and share their experiences.
During the call, one participant voiced disappointment that her church’s members had produced only a handful of letters. The group encouraged her and suggested a few new strategies to try.
One parish, St. Anne’s in Oswego, Ill., has a long history of charitable activities, but advocacy with Congress was new to them. In the end, St. Anne’s parishioners wrote over 400 letters!
On June 1, the Diocese of Joliet held a dinner open to all who had participated. The effort had yielded 3,000 letters! Schmidt joined Jacobs and the group to share a meal and discuss the effort. He described what increased aid would mean to women and children.
The participant who had been discouraged during the conference call delightedly reported that her renewed efforts resulted in over 200 letters. She brought two of her colleagues with her to the dinner, where they spoke excitedly about launching a peace and justice ministry at their church.
“Then we prayed together and blessed the letters as an offering to God,” Jacobs says. “Zach Schmidt took them back with him to Washington, where they were hand delivered to congressional offices on Lobby Day, June 7.”
Helping women and children is important because they are the most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition. Good nutrition early in life — starting even in the womb — benefits them throughout their lives.
“We’re already looking ahead to how we’ll do the combined Offering of Letters next year,” Jacobs said.
Patricia Bidar is a freelance writer.
By Marlysa D. Gamblin and Kathleen King
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The Bible on...
Dear Members of Congress,
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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is designed to respond to changes in need, making it well suited to respond to crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bread for the World and its partners are asking Congress to provide $200 million for global nutrition in the fiscal year 2020 budget.
In 2017, 11.8 percent of households in the U.S.—40 million people—were food-insecure, meaning that they were unsure at some point during the year about how they would provide for their next meal.