This Temple Talk was delivered by Paul Manganiello at Our Savior Lutheran Church on Sunday, June 3, 2018.
Our Savior Lutheran Church and Campus Ministry (OSLC) is Covenant Church in the national Bread for the World (BFW) movement. This Sunday is the annual Bread for the World Offering of Letters.
BFW is an Ecumenical Christian advocacy organization working to reduce extreme poverty and hunger, and great progress has been made to reduce extreme poverty and chronic hunger both here in the US, and abroad.
We don’t have data yet for 2017, but in 2016 roughly 40 million Americans lived below the poverty line, of which 1 out of 3 were children (nearly 15 M). Unfortunately people of color suffer a disproportionate amount of poverty as compared with whites. However despite this, from 2015 to 2016, the poverty rate for blacks fell from 24% to 22%, and for Latinos it fell from 21% to 19%. In 2016, roughly 12% of US households were food insecure; this was a decline from the 2011 peak of 15%.
Well what do we mean by the term “poverty line”? It depends upon the number of individuals in a household, so for a household size of 4, it would be $24,000/year. My wife Wendy and I have 2 children and there is no way we could have gotten by on $2000 /month.
Although faith communities are very generous, charity alone is not enough. The problem is systemic. Food assistance from private charities in 2013 was approximately $5B, but food assistance from the Federal government during that time period was 20X that amount, over $100B.
Well, whom does the Federal government report to? To us, you and me, the citizens of this country. Our representatives can pen good, or bad legislation for our country. They need to hear from us as to what the country’s priorities should be. Unfortunately deep cuts to current programs, 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:
- The Women, Infants, Children program (WIC): In 2016, nearly 8 million low-income women and their children receive nutritious food and education from the WIC program. 2 out of 3 recipients are children, the elderly, or the disabled.
- SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program): in 2016 had moved nearly 4 million Americans out of poverty.
- The Refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC): in 2016 moved roughly 8 M people out of poverty of which nearly 5 M were children
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, through reducing hunger related illnesses.
Internationally, factoring in population growth, extreme poverty has been reduced by nearly half since 1990, going from 2B individual to 800M; unfortunately in 2016 the number of malnourished individuals increased from 777M to 815M compared to 2015.
One manifestation of being malnourished results in physical stunting. Stunting rates for children under age 5, has been reduced from 40% to 23% according to 2015 data
International programs such as Poverty Focused Development Assistance (PFDA), which is bipartisan legislation, have included nutritional programs such as the, Feed the Future and the McGovern-Dole School Feeding Program for children and investment programs, which have helped farmers abroad.
Although opponents of these programs like to cite cost, these international programs, make up less than 0.8 % of the Federal budget ($29B), think of it as a fraction of a penny!!!
We should think of PFDA as “preventive medicine” against radicalized terrorists. This assistance offers hope through supporting better nutrition, education, and micro-enterprise projects.
How does this foreign developmental assistance compare with the proposed budgeted for other Departments such as Defense? The administration in 2019 is proposing $639B. For foreign military assistance, it is proposing $6.3B; of which Israel will receive $3.3B, while Egypt and Jordan will receive $1.3B
Studies have shown that personalized letters or e-mails (www.bread.org/eol), of your stories, are the best ways to influence your legislators (updates: 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, the Holy Spirit will give us the strength to be advocates for social justice, following the Way, Jesus has shown us. Thank you!!!
Sample Offering Letter
As Congress works on the fiscal year 2019 budget and spending bills, I ask you to invest in and protect key programs that will reduce hunger and poverty.
Our country and the world have made progress against hunger and poverty in recent decades. I want you to continue to invest in programs like SNAP and tax credits for low-income workers. Continued funding for International programs that reduce hunger and poverty around the world are also important to me.
My faith calls me to urge you to make public investments that will move us toward the end of hunger.
Thanks you for considering my request.
Vermont Senators: NH Senators:
Bernie Sander Maggie Hassan
332 Dirksen Senate Office Building 330 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510
Pat Leahy Jean Shaheen
437 Russell Senate Building 506 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510
Vermont Representative NH Representative
Peter Welch Ann Mclane Kuster
2303 Rayburn House Office Building 137 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515
Digital sample Offering of Letters: bread.org/eol