Bread for the World is a non-denominational bi-partisan organization that advocates for the poor and hungry, both here and abroad. It is the largest grassroots advocacy network on hunger issues in the United States. Bread for the World’s strength comes not from money, but from the many thousands of letters that people of faith write each year concerning one poverty and hunger issues that are coming before Congress. St. Dunstan’s has long been one of Bread’s “covenant churches” and so once each year, members write letters, emails, Tweets, or make phone calls, asking our legislators to support key legislation addressing hunger, poverty and food security issues.
In October of 2015, Dan Geisler spoke to the congregation to tell us a little about why Bread’s approach matters so much – why it matters to speak up to our elected officials, even as we also work to feed our neighbors. Here’s what Dan said:
“…. From my perspective, the most effective of [all the ways our parish works to fight hunger] has been advocacy. The reason why is because the US government is, by far, the largest supplier of food for low-income families facing poor nutrition and hunger. Let’s look at the numbers. The US government spends about $100 billion dollars a year on food programs for low-income people. That is a huge amount of money, but it helps to feed a huge number of Americans, the almost 50 million of us who live in low-income families. That’s one in 6 Americans.
Charitable organizations, by contrast, provide not much more than 5 billion dollars in food aid for these families.
So, if concerned people become advocates and are able to convince Congress to give US support programs a little more funding, that small change in governmental policy might help millions of low-income families get better nutrition and avoid hunger. It’s the same as when there is a small fractional increase in the load of a 10-wheeler semi. That increase in load provides much more food than can be carried by a small car. Of course it works the other way, too. If the semi’s load is decreased just a fraction, it will take many carloads to make up the difference.
OK, you might say, I will write to my Congressperson and ask him-or-her to increase help for low-income families. If you are lucky, you might get back a form letter telling you how much that Congressperson loves such families. But that is a vague answer that says nothing about how my elected representative will vote on bills to increase, or decrease, funding for specific hunger-relief programs.
And that is where Bread for the World comes in. “Bread”, as it is called, is a nation-wide non-denominational Christian organization that is truly bi-partisan. I can verify that last point, because when I was on Bread’s national Board of Directors in 2007-8, sitting or retired Congressmen of both parties were also members. Bread is supported by many churches and denominations, including the Episcopal Church, which has recently endorsed advocacy for adequate federal hunger relief. The proven effectiveness of Bread’s approach is based on two principles: focus and wide participation.
If, for example, a thousand Christians, and other people of good will, should write (or email or call) their Congressperson to urge generous support of the bill now before Congress to fund the WIC program, it lets that Congressperson know the explicit desires of these thousand constituents and that they will be watching his-or-her vote on that bill (Bread keeps track of those votes). It then becomes more difficult for that Congressperson to vote a decrease in WIC funding, as some legislators are now threatening. Bread’s history clearly shows that enough focused letters can and do change Congressional votes on hunger-support issues.”