Photo by Kim Joo
Hunger and poverty
“To all who are concerned with making known to a suffering world the teachings and compassion of Jesus Christ, now is a critical time for addressing the crisis of extreme poverty and widespread hunger.”
-2006 Annual Conference Resolution "A Call to Reduce Global Poverty and Hunger"
"If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." (James 2:15-17 NRSV)
Over and over again the Bible calls us to care for the poor. God calls us to “share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house” (Isa. 58:7 NRSV). Jesus even says the impoverished are an embodiment of him, saying “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40 NRSV)
"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." (Matthew 25:35-36 NRSV).
Around the world there are 925 million, or 1 in 7 people suffering from hunger, according to United Nations Food Program (UNFP). This makes hunger the biggest health risk across the globe. This is the highest figure in half a century. Conflict, natural disasters, environmental exploitation, and lack of agricultural infrastructure all cause hunger throughout the globe. In addition, lack of nutrients also weaken immune systems so that people are more susceptible to diseases, stunted mental and physical development, and lack of productivity. Over time this can mean individuals suffering from hunger lose up to 10% of their lifetime earnings, according to the UNFP.
Globally an estimated 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day, according to the World Bank. This totals to an annual income of $65. In the U.S. the annual income of a person in poverty is $11,000. Even as most Americans may not feel rich, the total gross domestic product of the United States and Europe combined make up 10% of the population and hold 85% of the world's wealth.
Global child hunger
Worldwide there are 10.9 million children dying from hunger and malnutrition, according to the UN Food Program. In 2009 almost 9 million children died before they reached the age of 5, and 3 million of these children died from hunger and malnutrition, according to Bread for the World.
In order to address child and maternal hunger issues, and many other aspects of hunger and poverty, the UN has adopted eight Millennium Development Goals.
Global poverty relief: Millennium Development Goals
The Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations work to bring health and wholeness to communities around the world. These eight goals aim to end extreme poverty, hunger, and disease by 2015 are grounded in the same moral directives and high regard for all humankind to which Christians have committed themselves.
The Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) is the primary way that the Church of the Brethren assists hungry people in developing food security. To learn more, go to the GFCF home page.
In the United States 14.3% of households are struggling to put food on the table, according to the 2009 Census data. More than 1 in 5 children, or 15.5 million children are food insecure. About 51% of children in the US will receive SNAP (food stamp) benefits before age 20.
For the full report on Domestic Hunger, visit Feeding America.
Poverty is also a growing problem. Currently 14.3% of Americans live below the poverty line according to the 2009 U.S. Census. The average income of a poor family below the poverty line is $9,042 annually. Of these low-income households, 67% has at least one working member.
With the current recession many Americans have lost their jobs, and have found themselves pushed into poverty. The unemployment rate is at 9.6% according to U.S. Bureau of Labor. Unfortunately, for many people losing their job meant losing health care benefits. The percentage of people working without insurance is at 20%, according to the 2009 U.S. Census.
The Church of the Brethren works with many other communities of faith in “Fighting Poverty with Faith.” The coalition is committed to cutting domestic poverty in half by 2020.
Domestic child hunger relief: Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act
In 2009 16 million children lived in homes where there was not enough food. Lack of nutritious food can stunt the growth of children in their formative years and make it nearly impossible to perform well in school. For many low-income children, school food programs provide their best opportunity to eat a nutritious meal. Every 5 years Congress reviews child nutrition programs and this review process provides an opportunity to improve and strengthen the programs so they better meet the needs of our nation’s children.
A well-funded Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act can reduce hunger in America’s children by improving access to adequate nutrition for all children regardless of economic status. It is critical that Congress puts this legislation in action to ensure all the nation’s children receive adequate nutrition.
Domestic hunger relief: The Farm Bill
The Farm Bill is a large and complex package of legislation that Congress revises and passes again every five years. The bill regulates all of the following areas:
How each of these areas relates to vulnerable populations:
The food assistance part of the bill has a tremendous impact on feeding programs including SNAP (food stamps), food for food banks and pantries, and grants for local feeding and anti-hunger programs.
Rural development provides assistance to rural communities to increase services and economic diversity for its residents.
Trade policies set regulations for American agricultural trade globally, including emergency aid to foreign countries.
Farm support supplies loans to new farmers, commodities payments and subsidies, and disaster insurance.
Land conservation includes funding for the US forestry, and efforts to conserve natural resources.
The next Farm Bill should be enacted in 2012.
Domestic poverty relief
Domestic spending in areas safety-net programs account for 14% of the federal budget in 2010 and significantly help families survive through times of hardship. Low-income tax cuts, tax credits, and poverty-reduction programs makes sense. Families and individuals with immediate need for food, shelter, and other basics will spend most if not all of the money they receive to pay for their needs and therefore the money will go back into the U.S. economy immediately. Programs like SNAP (food stamps) and Women Infant Child (WIC) benefits ensure that families do not suffer malnutirion because of income loss. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) helps pay rent as parents get back to work so that children are not homeless because of their parent's unemployment.
The best tool for poverty prevention is employment. Many Americans are struggling to feed their families, and pay for necessary expenses. The 2009 Census reported the unemployment rate is nearly 10%. The Church of the Brethren believes that even as Congress works to decrease the federal deficit and get the economy growing, that jobs are priority. The government needs to encourage programs that invest in training, infrastructure, and entrepreneurship. Now is the time to get Americans back to work.
The Church of the Brethren encourages the federal government to invest in smarter budgetary decisions in job creation, tax policies that aid vulnerable populations instead of the wealthiest Americans, and fully funding programs that aid America’s low-income families.
In a world where injustice and inequities are the cause of so much suffering, misery, and death, the church cannot be silent. The church, as Christ’s body, must place itself clearly on the side of the poor and the oppressed”
- Statement on World Mission Philosophy and Program, 1981 Annual Conference
US Department of Agriculture (domestic hunger relief)
Department of Housing and Urban Development (urban poverty, service projects)
Department of Labor (grants for job clubs)