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At the beginning of every year, we traditionally look back at the previous year to see what we’ve accomplished. In 2015, the advocacy of Bread and its members resulted in some huge legislative victories for people who live in hunger and poverty. Bread is continuing its winning streak since 2014 and before. Here are the five biggest legislative wins of 2015 with two other successes that Bread is celebrating:
Congress passed a tax deal that made permanent the 2009 improvements to the earned income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit (CTC). This is a victory for low-income workers and will prevent 16 million people — including 8 million children — from falling into or deeper into poverty. Bread has been working on making these improvements permanent for the past six years, and they have been a focus of two Offering of Letters campaigns.
Bread for the World's president, Rev. David Beckmann, delivers a thank you to Bread members, donors, and activists for their part in making 2015 a successful year for the organization.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act was extended for 10 more years. Its reauthorization gives more incentives for businesses to invest and stimulates export-led economic growth in the nearly 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that participate in the program. It also expands U.S. technical assistance specifically aimed at businesses that engage women and smallholder farmers. Read the full story.
By Elisabeth Román
Pope Francis commenced the Holy Year of Mercy on Dec. 8, 2015, to strengthen the faith of Roman Catholics and encourage works of compassion.
The pope began this observance by opening the Door of Mercy in the Vatican. Pilgrims to Rome will pass through the door during the year as they seek Christ in their journeys. The opening of Holy Doors in every cathedral around the world — the first time in the history of the church’s Jubilee Years — followed on Sunday, Dec. 13.
For Catholics, this is a great religious and spiritual event: a Holy Year with mercy at its center, a period of forgiveness, reconciliation, solidarity, and compassion. At the heart and mission of this glorious Jubilee is experiencing God’s love and expressing it by being “Merciful like the Father,” the Holy Year’s theme.
In Misericordiae Vultus, Bull of Indiction for the Extraordinary Jubilee, Pope Francis wrote: “Perhaps we have long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy. The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope… Consequently, wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident. In a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.”
The initiatives planned for the church body include organized programs in every diocese, parish, group, movement, and association. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Missionaries of Mercy will receive a special mandate from the Holy Father to be preachers of mercy and confessors full of mercy with the authority to grant forgiveness of sins, normally reserved for the Holy See, as signs of God’s closeness and forgiveness for all.
Every Catholic is also called to become, as the pope called it, “an oasis of mercy.” This begins by listening to the Word of God. “This means rediscovering the value of silence in order to meditate on the Word that comes to us. In this way, it will be possible to contemplate God’s mercy and adopt it as our lifestyle… It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy,” said Pope Francis.
Our baptism calls us as Catholics, as the papal bull (letter) on the Year of Mercy says, to ”rediscover the corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.” We must also remember “the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, be patient with those who wrong us, and pray for the living and dead.”
This is the time to help people in need, to welcome the immigrant, to care for the elderly, poor, and helpless, and to share the love of Christ with everyone we touch. It’s a time to turn our backs to rampant consumerism, where bigger and better triumphs over helping the poor and protecting the Earth we call home.
The time has come for us to pass through the Holy Door. Christ waits on the other side, ready to transform each and every one of us into an oasis of mercy.
Elisabeth Román is president of the National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry.
By Marc Hopkins
During the McGovern Hunger Summit at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D., in mid-November, Cathy Brechtelsbauer got official recognition for the advocacy that many have admired for decades. The longtime Bread member received the McGovern South Dakota Hunger Ambassador Award for her efforts to spark systemic changes that address the root causes of poverty.
“She exemplifies what it means to put together passion and a big heart,” said Michael Troutman, who oversees Bread’s Midwest donor relations, and who presented the award to Brechtelsbauer.
While Brechtelsbauer was recognized for advocacy, she’s really a gifted storyteller whose talents span visual arts, plays, and music. During her 39-year involvement with Bread, her narratives have helped to educate the public and advance causes that drive the organization’s values.
Her credits include the song “Justice Means,” which has been used at Bread workshops. It starts:
“Justice means that all are fed and everyone will have their bread, a place to lay their heads.” And there’s the play she wrote during the campaign on developing world debt that’s been performed in numerous churches. The plot is inspired by the Bible’s jubilee theme of debt forgiveness, and some of the main characters are indebted farmers from developing countries. Read the full story.
Bread for the World believes ongoing prayer is essential for creating and sustaining the political will needed to achieve the end of extreme hunger by 2030.
To encourage this outpouring of prayers, Lenten Prayers for Hungry People was mailed to all Bread for the World members in early January. This six-panel table tent includes the Scripture lessons appointed for the five Sundays in Lent as well as the Sunday of the Passion.
Ash Wednesday is especially early this year: Feb. 10. You are welcome to order additional copies of Lenten Prayers to share with family, friends, and members of your parish. To view the prayers and order free copies, visit www.bread.org/lent or call 800/822-7323, ext. 1072.
At the beginning of 2016, you can take a small step that will add up to a big difference throughout the year. You can join the Baker’s Dozen giving program by making a gift of just $10 a month. Using your credit card or electronic funds transfer saves gift processing costs, so your giving in this way creates the equivalent of a 13th gift – a baker’s dozen. Your Bread for the World membership is automatically renewed and you receive less mail in the course of the year.
Starting this new habit is easy. Visit our Baker’s Dozen page or call 800/822-7323, ext. 1140. You may change the amount of your monthly gift or discontinue giving at any time.
Toolkits to help congregations and other faith communities participate in Bread for the World’s 2016 Offering of Letters: Survive and Thrive will be available in February. See ordering information below.
The Offering of Letters campaign has an international focus this year on the nutrition of mothers and children. Zambia will feature prominently in stories. The country is a focus of the Feed the Future program — the U.S. government's global food security initiative.
The 2016 toolkit for coordinators of letter-writing events will contain many of the same items that past years’ kits have contained — how-to-information on planning an event, an explanation of the issue, items to help promote your event, videos to show during a presentation, a sample PowerPoint presentation, and more.
The Offering of Letters content will be on the Bread for the World website. In addition, materials will be available in Spanish.
In February, you can order:
All materials will be available in:
Bread will hold its annual Lobby Day on Tuesday, June 7, 2016. Mark your calendar now and save the date.
The location, as always, is Washington, D.C. Some details have not been determined yet but will be shared in this newsletter as the date gets closer. The morning gathering and orientation will happen, as usual, at a church on Capitol Hill, and the day will end with a reception, worship, participants sharing about the day, and awards given to legislators.
Bread will not be holding a national gathering this year, but Lobby Day will happen as it does every year.
Lobby Day is a chance for Bread members and activists to come together and visit Capitol Hill en masse. It’s a favorite annual event for veteran activists who like to maintain their relationships with their representatives and their staffs in Washington. It’s also a good event for people new to hunger-related lobbying because it provides exposure to the halls of power in D.C. often in the comfort of a group. Bread staff assist Lobby Day participants in setting up meetings with the offices of members of Congress, and newbies or people who come to D.C. alone can often visit offices with other people from their state.
Participants are required to pay for their own travel to and from Washington, D.C., as well as for accommodation, meals, local transportation, and other expenses. But Bread will provide orientation to lobbying and background on the day’s issues as well as access and scheduling to congressional offices.
The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL), meeting in its annual national conference in Los Angeles Dec. 2-5, adopted a resolution related to ending hunger in the United States by 2030.
The resolution commits the NBCSL to call on “all elected leaders in state legislatures, the U.S. Congress, and the White House to make it a top priority to end hunger by 2030” and to call “on the U.S. Congress and the White House to provide adequate and consistent funding for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).”
The NBCSL said churches, schools, communities, local charities, and people of goodwill have a role in generating the political will to end hunger. In the resolution, the organization recognized the importance of government policy in ending hunger.
The action by the NBCSL came out of the Indiana Statehouse Hunger Forum convened in Indianapolis in July 2015 by Bread for the World in partnership with the African Methodist Episcopal national Women's Quadrennial, the Indianapolis Recorder newspaper, local clergy, congressional leaders, and Indianapolis mayoral candidates. The event was hosted by the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus. The NBCSL resolution was a follow-up to the forum, and Bread staff collaborated in writing the resolution.
“One of the important roles Bread plays is convening diverse sectors of the community in partnership with faith leaders and their partners to create and inform the will to end hunger through public policy,” explained Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, national senior associate for pan-African church engagement in Bread’s church relations department. “In this case, the local and statewide community became the energized leadership that created its own approach to do this after being convened with local, state, and national partners. This resulted in a national resolution that has become a powerful tool for further organizing and mobilizing to end hunger.”
The Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC) called for the member churches of the eight historically African American denominations, along with sister denominations from predominantly White traditions, to intentionally engage in dialogue, worship, and ministry efforts together as a mechanism for reconciliation and to tear down the lingering vestiges of racism that are pervasive in American society.
The conference issued this call in a statement Dec. 17 at the conclusion of its 2015 National Consultation, “The Healing of our Nation: Race & Reconciliation,” in Charleston, S.C. The statement included sections on economic inequality and mass incarceration, two issues that Bread for the World is working to end as causes of hunger.
“Nationally, over 20% of our children live in poverty,” the statement says. “That number more than doubles in the African American community…Economic disparities based on race and its root causes must be honestly confronted in order to advance a collective goal of equal justice for all. Poverty is an insidious, devastating, and life threatening reality that causes African Americans to disproportionately suffer.”
Regarding mass incarceration, the statement reads: “It is therefore our mission to identify and dismantle unjust laws and practices that unfairly target minority individuals for the express purpose of economic gain of the perpetrators and architects of this manner of oppression.”
Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, national senior associate for pan-African church engagement in Bread’s church relations department, represented Bread at the consultation and spoke to the CNBC’s board of directors about renewed links with Bread that informed their call to action.
“I am pleased to say that a developing renewed partnership is underway with Bread for the World for the purpose of working together on our Vote to End Hunger campaign and to end hunger by 2030,” said Walker-Smith.
Nearly 300 people gathered in Charleston for the consultation, which included speakers who addressed racial hatred, white privilege, poverty, gun violence, mass incarceration, and the criminal justice system as well as racism in the church and the road to reconciliation. Participants engaged in “truth-telling” and honest dialogue about how to root out institutional, individual, and internalized racism.
The CNBC also kicked off a three-year initiative to engage in cross-racial dialogue at the local level in partnership with sister denominations, to work with seminarians to come up with new solutions for ending racism, and to continue to fight the systems that continue to perpetuate racism and inequality for African-Americans.
Bread for the World and the Alliance to End Hunger commend the National Commission on Hunger on the recent release of its report, Freedom from Hunger: An Achievable Goal for the United States of America. The commission’s report represents the first time in decades there has been focused, bipartisan attention on policy solutions for ending hunger.
“This report is a historic accomplishment,” said Bread’s president, Rev. David Beckmann. “We support many of the recommendations, especially those designed to improve what the commission identifies as the most important federal nutrition program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps).”
The Hunger Commission is a ten-member bipartisan panel appointed by the House and Senate leaders. It was established by law in 2014 to provide Congress and the Secretary of Agriculture with policy recommendations on how to more effectively use the USDA’s existing programs and resources to combat domestic hunger and food insecurity in the United States.
“We thank the commissioners for sharing their time, expertise, and commitment to ending hunger,” said Ambassador Tony Hall, executive director emeritus of the Alliance to End Hunger. “Unanimous bipartisan recommendations are a rarity in Washington, and the fact that the commissioners developed 20 specific recommendations for their report is laudable.”
While the majority of the commission’s recommendations focus on strengthening the current federal food programs, they also include a call for the establishment of a White House Leadership Council to End Hunger. Recommending the establishment of a new White House Council is an acknowledgement that ending hunger also will require focused actions to address its root causes.
The Alliance to End Hunger and Bread for the World support the creation of an interagency effort that would address food insecurity in a broader and more holistic way. They also support the commission’s call for involvement of other partners – faith-based organizations, secular anti-hunger groups, individuals, businesses, and the philanthropic sector – to end hunger.
In general, Bread and the Alliance believe that the commission’s work is a major step forward in an effort to create substantive bipartisan policy solutions focused on ending hunger in the U.S.
Another report, a joint project of the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution, was released Dec. 3. It is a consensus report on how to reduce poverty and increase opportunity in the U.S. It brought together a bipartisan group of conservatives and progressives and included a couple of moderates as well.
Read more about the report and commentary on it from Bread for the World Institute.
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