By Katie Furrow
On Nov. 23, members of the faith community, the press, and the government came together in Washington, D.C., for the release of Bread for the World’s 2016 Hunger Report. During this event, panels of medical professionals, leaders of government agencies, and activists who have experienced hunger firsthand spoke on the report’s theme: “The Nourishing Effect: Ending Hunger, Improving Health, Reducing Inequality.” Staff from the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness was present to support the work of Bread for the World.
The report and panelists highlighted the undeniable connection between health and diet. According to the report, approximately 46 million Americans received SNAP benefits (formerly Food Stamps) in 2014. At the same time, nearly $160 billion was spent on food insecurity-related health care such hospitalizations for diabetes complications. Despite living in households where there is frequently uncertainty of when or where the next meal will be, many SNAP recipients struggle with obesity, blood sugar difficulties, and other health problems due to the poor quality of cheap food they are able to purchase in greater quantities.
Panelist Dawn Pierce, who received SNAP benefits for 14 months after being laid off from her job, recalled how she could purchase more foods like instant noodles and microwave dinners for less money than the nutritious foods she and her son needed to be healthy. She understood that it was not an ideal situation, but she also knew that the cheap meals were what would help her to stretch her benefits further each month.
While many strides have been made to improve health and make feeding programs more accessible to larger numbers of people, there is still more to be done. With the help of federal and local programs, more children could receive meals during the summer, families could learn about making healthy food choices, and more.
Congress is currently debating appropriations for the federal budget, and this includes deciding how much funding hunger-based programs will receive in 2016. Through Bread for the World, the Office of Public Witness encourages you to write to your members of Congress to ask them to support strong funding for these programs, which ensure that everyone has access to the food they need.
Those who are interested in reading the report in full can find it online at http://hungerreport.org/2016 .
As part of growing effort to engage the denomination in issues of hunger and food security, the Office of Public Witness is working to partner with Bread for the World to share an annual Offering of Letters and other resources to connect churches and individuals with their policymakers around important legislation. To learn more about what the Office of Public Witness is doing, and how to become involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
— Katie Furrow is a legislative associate and a Brethren Volunteer Service worker at the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C.