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By Marc Hopkins
Standing in the pulpit of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale didn’t hold back. “If we are honest with ourselves, we know God is not pleased with us.”
She set the tone for Bread’s 2019 Advocacy Summit, which since its inception has embodied both a spiritual and political calling.
“If we want America to change, then we must change,” said Hale, senior pastor of the Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Ga. “Everyone has a duty to perform justice. Some can feed the hungry, but others can give them a job. We are our brother’s keeper.”
St. Mark’s is a modest red brick church with picturesque stained-glass windows with images of Jesus. A white cross dotted with colorful paper butterflies hung from the rafters. As in previous years, it was the launch point for members to fellowship together before heading out to meet with their members of Congress.
Nearly 400 Bread activists took part in this year’s summit on June 10 and 11—visiting roughly 200 congressional offices. Activists, young and old alike, came from as far as California and as nearby as Maryland and Virginia.
The day before activists descended on Capitol Hill, many attended a reception and a book launch for Rev. Arthur Simon—Bread’s founder and first president. Simon’s latest book, “Silence Can Kill,” argues that working to end hunger can unify our nation.
In addition, during the dinner program Bread activists Edith Avila Olea and Barbara and Rev. Bud Miller received the Rev. Arthur Simon Award for Faithful Service to End Hunger. Earlier in the day, Latino and Pan African Bread activists met to learn from each other and raise their distinct voices against hunger and poverty.
This year, Bread is asking lawmakers to support a bipartisan Global Nutrition Resolution. The statement is a nod to U.S. influence in stemming maternal and child malnutrition. Bread is also seeking $250 million to fund global nutrition programs in fiscal year 2020 spending bills.
Christine Melendez Ashley, Bread’s deputy director of government relations, said the organization’s enjoyed a series of legislative wins over the years. The most recent was the Global Food Security Act signed into law by President Obama in 2016. The measure was reauthorized in 2018 and helps with global efforts to address hunger.
Without the commitment of Bread’s members those victories wouldn’t have been possible. “They come here just so excited, and I love the energy they bring to the issue,” Ashley said. “Their faith motivates them, and it’s energizing for us in D.C. who do this every day to see that energy across the country.”
Standing a few feet away from Ashley at St. Mark’s was Jasman Roberson, 21, of Knoxville, Tenn. She’s been active with Bread for three years on the campus of Fisk University, a historically black university, where her passion for anti-poverty issues was nurtured at the Fisk Memorial Chapel. “It allows me to speak for people who can’t speak for themselves,” she said.
Inside the sundrenched atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building, a group of Bread members were met by a staffer from Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s (D-Md.) office. They made their pitch on Bread’s initiatives, but it was John Holden, active with Bread since the 1980s, who made an impression. He delivered 45 handwritten letters in support of the organization’s goals. He had another stack of 240 for Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).
“Hunger and malnutrition shouldn’t exist in a world of abundance,” said Holden of Silver Spring, Md. “It affects me deeply when you think about children who don’t have what they need to grow and thrive.”
One of the largest Bread teams was from Florida. Nearly 40 Sunshine State constituents crammed their way into a conference room inside Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) office suite. Organizer Florence French introduced the group with a few lines from Bread’s credo: “Charity alone is not enough. We must urge our government to make fair decisions so struggling families can provide for their children. We must change laws and structures that allow poverty to persist.”
Board member Rev. Beth Bostrom followed those remarks by opening the meeting in prayer. Some in the group, who immigrated to the U.S., shared their personal stories with hunger and the hardship it created for their friends and families.
And there was Jafet Rivera, 22, of Gainesville, Fla. He lived in Puerto Caimito, Panama, until age 3. Rivera would have shared his own hardship stories if not for his all-star father, Mariano Rivera, a retired pitcher who played 19 seasons for the New York Yankees.
Instead, the younger Rivera expressed how fortunate he was, and how his father often sends assistance to his hometown for food and education.
“We went on mission trips to Honduras where these kids would wait for the garbage truck to come in because it was a source of food,” he said. “I could have been in that situation. I thank God. That’s why I want to be a part of Bread for the World and bring awareness to the problems of malnutrition.”
Later in the day, Bread President David Beckmann made himself comfortable on a six-foot couch inside Rep. Ted Yoho’s (R-Fla.) office suite. He was hoping to chat with Yoho, who also serves on Bread’s board. Beckmann was seated near Rivera, Fabi Marrero, 17, and Johnathan Oquendo, 20, both from Gainesville.
While Yoho casted votes on the House floor, Beckmann pitched the congressman’s staff on the importance of Bread’s push to increase funding for better global nutrition.
In just 10 years, Peru has cut the rate of children who grow up physically and mentally stunted. “A lot of experts thought stunting was intergenerational,” Beckmann said. “But what we’ve seen is in one family, if the mom gets nutrition assistance for the second child, that child grows much taller than the first child.”
Bread’s advocacy continues to have a positive impact on poverty and hunger issues, but change can’t happen without allies in government. During the Tuesday evening reception and worship, both Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), received the Hunger Champion Award for their efforts in support of Bread’s goals. Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio-11) and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas-20) also received the same award. All spoke during the reception.
“It’s crucial to have champions in Congress on both sides of the aisle, who become ambassadors for Bread’s mission,” Beckmann said. “But they don’t do that on their own. They have to have a lot of people back home who support that, and love that, who encourage that, who vote for them and campaign for them.”
Bread supporter and travel author Rick Steves stepped to the podium to praise the organization for its efforts and plugged an upcoming PBS special, “Hunger and Hope, Lessons Learned in Ethiopia and Guatemala.” Over the years, Steves has raised money for Bread and encouraged others to join the fight against hunger.
After the lawmakers and Steves left and the custodian crew of the Rayburn House Office Building removed the leftover hors-d'oeuvres and tables, a handful of Bread members remained. They ended the day as it began. In worship.
The song leader stepped to the front of the room and sang acapella the first verse of the call and response: “We’re expecting, great things.”
Marc Hopkins is a freelance writer in Silver Springs, Md.
We sat down with Bread for the World founder Rev. Art Simon to talk with him about his new book, “Silence Can Kill.”
BREAD: What prompted you to write “Silence Can Kill”?
ART: I wanted to make a clear, compelling case that charity is not enough to end hunger; so, government leadership and citizen action are essential. Our silence as citizens is killing people and diminishing life on a very large scale.
BREAD: What were some of the challenges you faced in writing the book?
ART: The big challenge was the crisis that exploded with the 2016 presidential election. That exposed how economic and racial inequalities are undermining our democracy, the same inequalities that underlie hunger and poverty. So, in the second half of the book, I propose a more inclusive economy—one that works for everybody.
BREAD: That requires hope. With so much going wrong, what makes you hopeful today?
ART: As a Christian, my hope is not anchored in the latest poll or the next election, but in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. That sets me free to keep working for justice whether the momentary trends are good or bad.
BREAD: Rick Steves notes in his foreword to “Silence Can Kill” that your first book, “Bread for the World,” inspired many to use their citizenship to address the causes of hunger. The list of those who have endorsed “Silence Can Kill” is impressive. That should inspire others.
ART: I was gratified that the endorsements came from respected liberals and conservatives. That encourages me to think the book is on the right track. Ending hunger would be so humane and is so achievable that making it a national goal could bring us together across partisan lines and help us see how to deal with other injustices that currently tie us in knots.
BREAD: What would you like your readers to take away from this book?
ART: That ending hunger is not a stand-alone goal but deeply connected to racial, social and economic justice. I hope readers will have a better grasp of the crisis we face in our nation and the huge importance of speaking up to end hunger. The United States is the richest country in the world. That 40 million of us live in poverty, and an overlapping 40 million face food insecurity is a terrible inconsistency. Shameful. We need to bend the nation’s arc toward justice.
BREAD: What special words do you have for Bread for the World members as we work together to end hunger?
ART: Anchor your life in God’s grace. Pursue with all your heart the mercy and justice of God. And pray fervently that God’s will may be done here on earth. We do that in the Lord’s prayer but perhaps with little thought about its deep meaning.
Editor's note: This is a condensed version of a sermon given at Bread's 2019 Advocacy Summit in June.
By Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Hale
A silent epidemic affects 49 million people in our country every day—32.6 million adults and 16.2 million children are “food insecure.”
People want to live in safe communities. They want and deserve clean air, clean water, grocery stores in their neighborhoods that provide fresh vegetables, meats and can foods that have not been left on the shelf way past their expiration date.
The fact is we have reneged on the promise when young children of any race have to depend on school meals to survive and wonder how they are going to make it when school isn’t in session. Sadly, African American and Hispanic children are more adversely affected.
We have reneged on the promise when working people still making less than a living wage and cannot afford to provide for their families, get sick and take off from their job.
As those who trust in the one true and living God, who have been saved by grace through faith, we have to ask ourselves the same question that Israel asked, What does the Lord require of us?
While we could be totally disheartened by this sad state of affairs, I believe that we have been provided an undeniable opportunity, to stand in the gap for our nation, acknowledging the wrong that has been done, hearing from God about how we can make it right.
Throughout history, the people of God have been called upon to stand in the gap as a bridgebuilder between God and humans to respond to the ills of our society, the injustices against the most vulnerable among us and provide the means by which we can address the needs of our people.
For poverty and hunger to end in America, there are some who will have to give up the whole notion that one is entitled to certain rights, privileges, positions, because one thinks he or she is “superior” to others in any way must die.
God wants people to radically change their attitudes and their actions toward one another. If we want America to change, we must continue to be the agents of and examples of that change.
God said, to act justly or to act or be in conformity with what is morally upright and good. The word “justice” talks about persons having the responsibility of giving God and others their due. It is believing that all persons have equal worth and value and treating them fairly.
We have a responsibility to address the issues that keep folks down and bound and bring them up with us.
We are the church; we represent the community of the faithful. More importantly, we represent God!
God has called us to be the conscience of America, to set an agenda for justice and be vigilant to see that it is carried out.
God is concerned about the most vulnerable in our nation and world. People all over the world are vulnerable, especially women and children. One billion people worldwide still live in extreme poverty.
Malnutrition is the leading cause of death of millions of children. Those who survive early malnutrition are likely to suffer stunting, which effects their entire life, robbing them of quality of life. Global hunger affects economies and the well-being of nations.
We are called to impact and transform this nation and the world, which requires that we fight the systems and the attitudes that dehumanize and demean people in anyway and never tire of crying for justice in our land.
The tensions that exist in our nation and world and in our relationships with one another are of a spiritual nature, and they must be dealt with by spiritual means.
What does the Lord require of us—to do justice, to love kindness or mercy?
Loving mercy or loving kindness though intimately related to justice goes beyond it. My brothers and sisters, when love is the way, there will be no more poverty, no more discrimination, no more dehumanization of people! This love can conquer anything.
What does the Lord require of us? To act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with the Lord.
To walk with God is to have all of our ambitions, passions, and desires in line with what he wants., and our purpose in life are to do what He wants.
Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Hale is the founder and senior pastor of the Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Georgia.
Hundreds of Bread for the World members persuaded 30 senators on both side of the aisle to sponsor legislation that will help end maternal and child malnutrition.
Bread members visited roughly 200 congressional offices and delivered more than 50,000 petitions from our “Honor Mothers” campaign asking Congress to co-sponsor resolutions in both the House and Senate that will make the United States a leader in advancing global nutrition.
As a result, 64 cosponsors have signed on the House Global Nutrition Resolution (H.Res.189) and the Senate Global Nutrition Resolution (S.Res.260) has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations and currently has 30 cosponsors.
You now have the opportunity to receive a copy of Art Simon’s new book–and help advance Bread for the World’s campaign to accelerate global nutrition. When you donate $50 or more, you will receive "Silence Can Kill: Speaking Up to End Hunger and Make Our Economy Work for Everyone" by Art Simon, Bread for the World’s founder and president emeritus.
A longtime Bread for the World member will also match your gift dollar for dollar up to $50,000. The success of this challenge match will result in $100,000 in funding for Bread for the World’s campaign to accelerate global nutrition.
"Silence Can Kill" includes a foreword by Bread for the World member and travel writer Rick Steves. Harvard University’s William Julius Wilson, whom Brookings Institution calls "America's leading voice on the sociology of race and poverty," commends the book for its “illuminating vision of a moral center” that “reveals in sharp relief the limitations of private charity and the important role of public justice in ending hunger and addressing other deeply rooted inequalities.”
Social work students from Barry University, a Catholic liberal arts university in Miami Shores, Florida, recently completed a six-week curriculum on hunger and advocacy. The curriculum was developed by Bread for the World staff and included hands-on organizing opportunities.
As part of the curriculum, students participated in Bread for the World Institute’s Racial Wealth Gap Learning Simulation. “Everyone was really engaged, [and the simulation] was a great experience for the participants,” said Yolmar Chacon Garcia from Barry University.
The simulation guides participants to an understanding of why racial equity is so important to ending hunger and poverty in the United States. To learn how you can bring this tool to your church, work, or community, visit bread.org/simulation.
Bread staff also had the opportunity to share about our ongoing work with Latino leaders and young leaders at colleges and universities.
August recess means opportunities to engage with your members of Congress. You can invite them to your local event or to take a tour of your church pantry. You can schedule an in-district visit with them or attend one of their town hall meetings.
Regardless of your plans, it’s never too early to start. The Senate begins its August recess the first week of August. The House is scheduled to break for August recess July 26.
Your members will be in their home districts and states and looking to hear from constituents all month. Make sure ending hunger is part of the conversation. Contact your organizer for more ideas and talking points.
By Marlysa D. Gamblin
The United States must address root causes to be equipped to end hunger by 2030. People of color, namely African American, Indigenous, and Latino communities experience higher rates of food insecurity and poverty compared to their white counterparts. In some states, people of color are six times as likely as their white counterparts to face hunger.
Black August is a time to acknowledge that mass incarceration, rooted in racism, has disproportionately impacted African Americans and is a major cause of hunger and poverty in the United States. This year, the month of August also marks the 400-year commemoration of when Africans were brought to the United States for the purpose of enslavement known as the Quad-Centennial. Unfortunately, the enslavement and incarceration of African Americans are connected, and research supports that structural racism and incarceration are the very reasons we see higher rates of hunger within the African American community. So, to end hunger by 2030, we must address these two driving roots of hunger.
Racism and incarceration were driving root causes of hunger within the African American community during and after slavery. To start, as documented as early as 1790, freed African Americans were incarcerated at higher rates than their white counterparts. That means that over-policing of African Americans took place even before slavery ended. In Pennsylvania, for example, freed African Americans were just 2.3 percent of the state’s population but almost 15 percent of the statewide prison population—meaning that freed African Americans were 7 times over-represented.
Unfortunately, racism and over-incarceration did not end after slavery. Upon the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, many U.S. states introduced the "Black Codes"—a set of policies that incarcerated former African American slaves for meeting in large numbers or violating curfews. This system, in many ways, continued the practice of enslaving African Americans through incarceration. Following the Black Codes in 1877, came the "Convict-Lease System" which allowed prisons to rent out inmates to work on plantations and other sites. Unfortunately, the prospect of getting access to cheap labor motivated many local governments to continue targeting African Americans for “crimes.” This system formerly lasted until 1965 and is now in the form of free market prison labor.
We invite you to observe Black August with us—to lament and address this history of racism in our country and observe the impacts of unjust over-policing of African Americans. Incarceration negatively impacts food insecurity for individuals, children, household units, and larger communities. Ninety-one percent of people returning from jail or prison experience food insecurity. In addition, when a parent is incarcerated, almost 70 percent of households reported having difficulty meeting basic needs, including providing food for the family. Since African Americans are up to 10 times as likely to be targeted and later incarcerated, they are also up to 10 times as likely to experience food insecurity as a result of mass incarceration.
During the Quad-Centennial, our nation has a chance to acknowledge and address the role of racism in the creation of slavery and its residual impacts, including the mass criminalization of African Americans. Failing to do so will only preserve current racial disparities and exacerbate hunger and poverty.
Marlysa D. Gamblin is the domestic advisor for policy and programs, specific populations, at Bread for the World Institute.
Broad smiles passed across the faces of longtime Bread members Rev. Bud and Barbara Miller as they accepted the Rev. Arthur Simon Award for Faithful Service to End Hunger at the 2019 Advocacy Summit in Washington, D.C, in June.
Joining them was a beaming Edith Avila Olea—who was also given the same award.
Established in 2016, the Rev. Arthur Simon Award recognizes Bread members for their advocacy, their service to Bread’s board and committees, and their tireless efforts to help people who are struggling to overcome hunger.
For more than 30 years, the Millers have been unofficial ambassadors for Bread for the World. Through Offerings of Letters, Bread for the World Sundays, advocacy trainings, and meetings with congressional offices in Washington, D.C., and in their home districts, they have inspired countless advocates—and Bread for the World staff members.
“It was overwhelming,” said Barbara Miller, about receiving the award. “We were workers in the vineyard for decades only interested in feeding hungry people and helping them support themselves and their families. For us it was a justice issue and what God calls us to do.”
The couple’s shared journey with Bread began in Ohio and continued in Michigan—where Bud pastored Lutheran congregations to become Bread for the World covenant churches, and Barbara taught Offering of Letters workshops to ecumenical audiences. They devoted time and energy to the Detroit Metro Council Bread team.
Since fully retiring to Florida—where Barbara chairs the hunger committee of the ELCA’s Florida-Bahamas Synod and Bud keeps council with retired ELCA pastors—they have been leaders for the Naples Bread team and strong contributors to Bread’s statewide efforts through conferences and monthly calls.
Edith’s journey to Bread for the World is intrinsically linked with her experience as an immigrant to the United States. She emigrated with her family from Mexico to the United States when she was a child. Edith is one of six children.
Her family eventually settled in Georgia, where she witnessed the burden poverty placed on her parents, the stress of working multiple jobs, and the failures of a broken immigration system.
Her family’s experiences inspired her to dedicate herself to serving the most vulnerable people in society. Edith is no stranger to accolades for her work. In 2015, she received the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award. It is given to a young adult dedicated to fighting poverty and injustice in the United States through community-based solutions.
Edith currently serves as the Justice and Peace associate director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet in Illinois.
“This is truly an award for our whole Justice and Peace Ministry,” Edith said. “There are so many people and partners that we work with to advocate for those hungry and most vulnerable throughout our world. I am grateful for all the leaders that planted seeds before I got here and honored to be able to continue the mission that so many started years ago.”
Since joining the Diocese of Joliet in 2014, Edith has continued and strengthened its longtime partnership with Bread for the World. In her current role, she supports more than a dozen parishes and campuses in holding an Offering of Letters each year.
Last year, she and her delegation collectively delivered more than 5,400 letters to their members of Congress. Edith continues to be a voice of change and advocacy for her diocese and church.
Edith and the Millers exemplify faith in action. This year’s awards were given during the 45th year since Art Simon and an ecumenical group of faith leaders established Bread for the World.
This story was written by Emily Stone, a summer intern in the Communications Department at Bread for the World, and Jennifer Gonzalez, Bread’s managing editor. Vince Mezzera, from Bread’s Development Department, also contributed.
Call 800-826-3688 or send an email to urge your members of Congress to accelerate progress on global nutrition by co-sponsoring the Global Nutrition Resolution and increasing global nutrition funding to $250 million in the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill.
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