This “Temple Talk” was delivered by Paul Manganiello on June 4, 2017, Pentecost Sunday.
Our Savior Lutheran Church is Covenant Church in the national Bread for the World (BFW) movement.
BFW is an Ecumenical Christian advocacy organization working to reduce extreme poverty and hunger both here, in the US, and abroad. Great progress has been made and hopefully extreme poverty and chronic hunger can essentially be eliminated by 2030.
Although faith communities have been very generous, charity alone is not enough. Food assistance from private charities in 2013 was approximately $5 B, but food assistance from the Federal government was more than 20X that amount, $104 B.
Who is the Federal government? It’s us, you and me, citizens of this country. Our leaders can pen good legislation or bad legislation. They need to hear from us what the Federal government’s priorities should be. Unfortunately deep cuts to current programs, which have been shown to be effective, are being proposed by the current administration. We need to use our God given gift of citizenship in this country to shape public policy.
Well what programs are we talking about? Domestic programs being threatened include:
- WIC (Women, Infants, Children), whereby 8 million low income women and their children receive nutritious food and education,
- SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) has moved 5 million Americans out of poverty as has the
- Refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC).
Well, how do we define poverty? It depends upon the number of people in a household, so for a household size of 4, that would be $24,000/year. Wendy and I have 2 children and there is no way we could have gotten by on $2000 /month.
Domestic nutritional programs make up less than 3% of the Federal budget, but are cost effective in improving the health and well being of those in need, reducing hunger related illnesses.
International programs such as Poverty Focused Development Assistance (PFDA), which include nutritional programs for children and investment programs, have helped farmers abroad. Although opponents of these programs like to cite cost, these international programs, make up less than 0.8 % ($29B) of the Federal budget, think of it as a fraction of a penny!!!
- Bipartisan legislation such as the Feed the Future and the McGovern-Dole School Feeding Program have, since 1990, reduced chronic hunger and extreme poverty from 2 Billion people to 800 million, despite increasing population. Extreme hunger and poverty have been cut in half!!
- Stunting rates for children under age 5, because of poor nutrition, has been reduced from 40% to 23% according to 2015 data.
We should think of Poverty Focused Developmental Assistance as “preventive medicine” against radicalized terrorists offering hope through supporting better nutrition, education, and micro-enterprise projects.
Well how does all of this compare with money budgeted for other Departments such as Defense; for 2017 the administration is proposing $583 B, and $6B separately for foreign military aid, of which Israel will receive $3 B and Egypt $1B
The good news in the US, is that although many of our fellow citizens continue to struggle to find jobs paying a livable wage, buying nutritious food and having access to decent housing; for the 1st time since the recession in 2007, US poverty and food insecurity declined in 2015, while median household income and health insurance coverage have increased. We can’t turn back.
Studies have shown that personalized letters or e-mails (bread.org/eol), your stories, are the best ways to influence your legislators (updates: http://www.bread.org). Adding a few sentences to the sample letter we have in the Narthex, as to why you feel strongly about this issue will get their attention. A recent survey noted that several letters to a congressional office would result in their “tracking” (paying attention) to that particular issue.
Other effective way to communicate your concerns could include telephone calls and personal visits, but just corresponding will go a long way to getting them to consider your point of view.
BFW is asking us to pray, learn about and advocate for social justice, we need to do more than just offer charity, we need to address the root causes of poverty and hunger. To receive action alerts: www.bread.org/alerts please include both postal and email addresses
I pray that today, as we celebrate Pentecost, the Holy Spirit will descend upon us and give us the strength to be advocates for social justice, following the Way, Jesus has shown us. Thank you!!!