Issue Overview: Hunger and the Federal Budget

The United States and the world have made substantial progress toward ending hunger and poverty over the past several decades. Worldwide, extreme poverty — living on less than $1.90 a day — has been cut in half over the past 30 years. But more work needs to be done. Nearly 800 million people in the world are still hungry. In the United States, 1 in 6 children lives in a family that struggles with hunger.

Families, churches and community groups, and businesses all need to do their parts to end hunger. It’s crucial that our government also do its part. Photo: Bread for the World

Ending Hunger by 2030

Nations around the world, including the United States, have agreed to work for an end to hunger and related goals by 2030. And there is growing recognition among faith leaders, nongovernmental organizations, and business leaders that ending hunger and extreme poverty by 2030 is achievable.

Families, churches and community groups, and businesses all need to do their parts to end hunger. It’s crucial that our government also does its part.

Through this 2017 Offering of Letters, we urge Congress to make funding decisions that put our country and the world on track to ending hunger by 2030.

This will be a challenging year. Programs that help families alleviate hunger and get out of poverty are threatened with deep funding cuts. As in years past, your persistent and faithful advocacy will be important in defending the interests of people who are hungry.

Photo by Joe Molieri / Bread for the World

What Our Government Can Do

Through the federal budget process, Congress can make funding decisions that put us on track to end hunger and poverty. Regardless of which political party controls Congress or the White House, our elected leaders must write, pass, and administer our nation’s budget. Through the federal budget our government invests in many anti-poverty and anti-hunger programs that help people stay out of poverty and thrive.

The federal process typically begins in February when the president submits a budget for the coming fiscal year to Congress. Congress then crafts a budget resolution — a framework for what the government should spend and take in. These budget proposals lay out a vision for our nation’s future and inform the spending and legislative decisions Congress makes throughout the year. Sometimes it sets the framework for several years.

After Congress concludes its budget debate, the allocation of dollars begins. This is referred to as the appropriations process. Congress must pass spending or appropriations bills to ensure the government remains open. They fund a wide variety of programs, including anti-hunger programs such as WIC, global nutrition, and international poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA). Spending bills become law when they are signed by the president.

This year’s Offering of Letters focuses on this core process that decides our nation’s funding priorities.

Advocacy is hard work, and sometimes the victories do not come right away. But Bread has been doing advocacy for decades and has the expertise, experience, and track record for bringing hope and opportunity. Photo: Joe Molieri / Bread for the World

Two Key Decision Points in the Budget

In 2017, Congress is expected to use two budget tools that could lead to drastic cuts or changes to anti-hunger programs: sequestration and budget reconciliation.

  • Sequestration 
    Enacted in 2011, sequestration — automatic budget cuts — imposes tight limits on the government’s discretionary spending, capping funding for programs that need yearly funding, like WIC, humanitarian assistance, and global nutrition.
    Fact sheet: Consequences of sequestration
  • Budget reconciliation 
    ​This is a legislative procedure that enables Congress to make big changes to many policies and programs at the same time. Reconciliation bills have fast-track privileges that allow them to more easily pass through Congress. Many in Congress are pushing to use this year’s reconciliation bills to fundamentally change the structure and funding for Medicaid and SNAP.
    Guide to the budget reconciliation process
Access to clean drinking water leads to improvements in public health. Photo by Arne Hoel / World Bank.

A Budget to End Hunger by 2030

A budget is more than a financial document — it is a moral document, too. It is a statement of our nation’s priorities and values. Our federal budget should be measured on how it treats the most vulnerable people among us. 

The national funding decisions of 2017 will have far-reaching effects on the lives of people in the United States and around the world who struggle with hunger and poverty. If investments for key programs are cut, millions of families in the United States will struggle with food insecurity and poverty. Their children are less likely to do well in school and in life. Internationally, many more children will lack the nutrition they need to have a fighting chance in life; fragile nations will continue to weaken; and levels of extreme poverty will rise. On the other hand, positive investments and funding decisions could accelerate our progress against hunger, save lives, release God-given potential, and allow us to reach the 2030 goal.

We don’t know for sure what Congress and the new administration will do in 2017. President Donald J. Trump prides himself on being unpredictable. He has said things both for and against safety-net programs and has promised to assist struggling communities — “the forgotten men and women of our country.”

So doing our part as Christians this year should include advocacy with our members of Congress for funding decisions that reduce and move us toward ending hunger. 

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