Offering of Letters

 

UPDATE: expand the impact of our OL

Bread for the World just released a pledge you can sign to commit to making hunger a priority as you decide for whom to vote in November. Elections matter because governments decide which hungry people get feed and how much money goes toward feeding them. Read more about this on Pastor Dave's blog. Read, commit, act.

Click here to sign the pledge

 

Thank you for making our Offering of Letters a huge success!

On Sunday, October 5th, we raised our voices on behalf of the world's hungriest people. Our offering of letters netted over 100 letters! That means more than 100 voices crying out for the Senate to feed nine to seventeen million more people, to feed them more nutritious food, and to feed more people that better food quicker - all without raising funds.

In other words, 100 voices asked our Senators to pass the bill S. 2421 which makes U.S. international food aid more effective and more efficient. Scroll down for photos from our OL.

UPDATE: We now have 72 letters for Senator Kirk and 30 for Senator Durbin. Thank you!

 

What's next?

With help from local Bread for the World organizers, we're seeking a meeting with both Senators in their local offices in November so we can hand-deliver our letters. 

 

Any response from our Senators?

Not to our letters yet. We hope to deliver them in person in November.

But one of our local Bread for the World organizers, Zach Schmidt, reports these thoughts on the Senators' current responses regarding food aid reform:

Response from Sen. Durbin

My colleagues at Bread for the World met in August with Sen. Durbin’s staff and were informed that Sen. Durbin supports food aid reform but is not planning to cosponsor S. 2421, the Food for Peace Reform Act (one of our main asks) out of concern for damaging his relationship with the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. (S. 2421 would transfer the authority over U.S. food aid from the Agriculture Committee to the Foreign Relations Committee, which we believe is a good thing, but senators are typically reluctant to give up jurisdiction—they think they can do the job better than their colleagues, I guess.) As a part of the Senate leadership team, Durbin appears to be treading lightly. So this was disappointing and not the response we had hoped for, but it sounds like he supports food aid reform and would vote favorably.

 

Response from Sen. Kirk

We have had greater difficulty getting a response from Sen. Kirk, even after repeated phone calls and emails from faith leaders on the North Shore. I know from talking with some of you that this is a pattern for his office. I met last month with Jackie Muhammad, one of Kirk’s staffers in DC, and shared our disappointment with the lack of communication. She committed to consulting with the senator and others on his staff and getting back to me with his response. I received a follow-up email from Jackie several weeks ago putting me in contact with a staffer in Sen. Kirk’s Chicago office and letting me know she is still working on a response to our letter. So that was a positive sign, and we will hope to hear more.

 

Reading those responses, it is easy to see why our letters are so necessary! 

 

It's not too late to add your voice!

Until we have those meetings with the Senators, we can continue to collect more letters. So if you didn't get one written before, just use the sample letter and all the other information available here to write your letter today. Then bring it to church or simply mail it yourself. If you chose to mail it yourself, please notify Pastor Dave so he can include your letter in our tally. 

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on September 26, 2014 @ 7:55 AM
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2014 Offering of Letters

As you can see from the video above, this year's Offering of Letters (OL) seeks to feed more hungry people, feed them better food, and feed them that better food more quickly - all with existing funding. In other words, we're speaking up to ask our law makers to use our money more effectively and more efficiently. Here in Illinois, we're addressing our Senators: Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin.

 

Ready to write?

Use the most up-to-date sample letter below as your guide; adjust or add personal insights as you see fit. Hand-written notes are most effective. Simply bring your letter to church anytime between now and Sunday, October 5th. All the letters we collect will be hand-delivered to our Senators' local office.

 

Want to learn more?

Read on for information and links about world hunger, the OL, poverty-focused developmental assistance, the efficacy of advocacy, Bread for the World, and the Christian responsibility to speak truth to power with and for poor and hungry people.

 

Sample Letter

The optimal response is writing two letters - one to each Senator. However, if you only have time to write one letter, Senator Kirk is the top priority. Why? Sen. Kirk's office has not responded to recent letters from IL faith leaders, nor to repeated contacts from different faith leaders reaching out to different members of his staff. We need to make sure both Senators know that their constituents believe feeding hungry people is paramount!

You may use this sample letter verbatim or adapt it as you see fit. When you are finished, you may mail it to the Senator(s) yourself or simply bring it to church. All the letters collected will be prayed over and then hand-delivered to the Senator's local office.

 

[today’s date]

Dear Senator Mark Kirk [OR Dear Senator Dick Durbin,]

The humanitarian and security crises in Syria, South Sudan and West Africa highlight the need for robust and efficient U.S. assistance. I ask you to cosponsor S. 2421, the bipartisan “Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014,” from Senators Bob Corker and Chris Coons. This bill will make our international food aid more flexible and efficient at responding to hunger and disaster. It will free up as much as $440 million annually, allowing us to reach seven to nine million more hungry people in a substantially shorter amount of time, and in a way that helps vulnerable communities build resilience against future crises.

At a time when our budget is strained and 842 million people in the world are hungry, we must maximize taxpayer dollars by making our food aid as efficient as possible. Supporting S. 2421, the “Food for Peace Reform Act,” is the right decision—both morally and fiscally—and I ask you to cosponsor this important legislation.

Sincerely,

 

[your name]
[your address]
[city, state, ZIP]

 

 

More to Explore: Links!

If you prefer to investigate issues on your own; if you enjoy diving into the deep end of issues; if you want to navigate websites with your particular method...this is for you because there is just so much available.

Click here to explore the Offering of Letters, including more on the issues of hunger and food aid, a question and answer page, the case for reforming aid, biblical reflection on hunger, aid, and human flourishing, personal stories of those helped, and videos.

Click here to explore eight essays on why and how development aid works, including common myths and misconceptions. There is also a video series.

Click here for FAQs on advocacy in church. 

Click here to read about global hunger.

Click here for more on who Bread for the World is and what they do.

Click here for everything the General Board of Church & Society, the United Methodist Church's advocacy arm, offers. 

 

 

More to Explore: Highlights

The links above offer enough to read, watch and listen for days on end. If, however, you prefer (or simply need) a more condensed version, this section is for you!

Global Hunger

  • Nearly 1.2 billion people in developing countries live in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.25 a day.
  • Around the world, more than 840 million people suffer from hunger.
  • The vast majority of the world's hungry people live in developing countries, where 13.5 percent of the population is undernourished.
  • Each year, 2.6 million children die as a result of hunger-related causes.
  • 14.3 percent of U.S. households—a total of 49.1 million Americans, including 15.8 million children—struggle to put food on the table.
  • More than one in five American children are at risk of hunger.
  • Locally, the West Suburban Community Pantry serves an unduplicated 9800 people, including 4100 children.

 

Reforming Food Aid

By reforming U.S. food aid laws, we can feed more people - as many as 17 million more! - we can feed them better food, and we can feed that better food to more people faster than ever before.

The practice of obtaining food close to the source of need, called local and regional purchases (LRP), allows for better-quality food aid that reaches those in need more quickly. Reaching women and children in the 1,000-day window with timely food aid is crucial. It’s also less expensive—on average, 30 percent cheaper than food aid that is shipped from the United States and other countries, which is the current practice. LRP would promote long-term food security because it supports local farmers’ efforts to improve their lives.

Development assistance allows people in poor countries to build better lives for themselves and their children. Investing in training, tools, or start-up costs can yield significant improvements because people make good use of the resources available to them. 

Good nutrition early in life lays a foundation for health and productivity later in life and decreases people’s risk of hunger.

 

Why is now the time to reform U.S. food-aid programs? What are the benefits of reform?

Currently in the U.S. food-aid programs, there is a great deal of inefficiency. It is time to update and modernize policies that were put in place in the 1950s and make our government able to respond more flexibly and quickly in a 21st century, globalized world. There is a unique opportunity to make reforms this year that will use funds more efficiently and ultimately feed more hungry people at no additional cost.

Obtaining more food in the country or region where it is needed is, on average, 30 percent cheaper than traditional food aid, and the food can be moved to where it is needed more quickly. For women and children in the 1,000-day window, timely arrival of food aid can mean the difference between a life of health and opportunity and one of stunted growth and limited potential. If the government had more options in its programs, such as being able to use local and regional purchases (LRP), it could target the best possible mix of food products to vulnerable groups.

We also need to improve the nutritional value of food aid that we provide. For example, the main type of U.S. food provided in general distributions (such as in feeding camps in Sudan) provides energy and calories but can fall short in providing essential vitamins and minerals. New types of specialized food-aid products have been developed to address this issue, and reforming food aid will make it easier to provide them where they are needed.

Over the past decade, Congress has allocated between $1.18 billion and $2.32 billion to the Food for Peace program. However, pressures on the federal budget have caused funding to decrease 37 percent from its peak five years ago. When rising transportation costs and higher food prices are factored in, an equivalent amount of funding reaches only half as many hungry people as it did when the Food for Peace program began.

 

What does S. 2421, "Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014" do?

With the reforms included in the Food for Peace Reform Act (S.2421), we can reach more people in a more cost-effective manner.

  • Feed More People — Small changes to provide more flexibility would allow up to nine
    million more people in crisis to be reached by food assistance.
  • Now More Than Ever — Crises in Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan,
    along with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the horrifying conflict in Iraq have
    pushed food aid to the limit. It’s more important than ever to have efficiencies and
    flexibilities to reach as many people as possible.
  • Save Money — Having flexible options, such as the ability to buy food locally and
    regionally, can result in savings of between 25-50 percent, compared to commodities
    purchased in and shipped from the United States. Moreover, eliminating current
    transportation restrictions on food aid, which require 50 percent of all food aid to be
    shipped on U.S. flagged vessels, will save an additional $50 million per year.
  • Provide a Faster and More Effective Response — Currently, U.S. food aid typically
    takes four to six months to arrive at its destination. Reforms would help food aid reach
    those most in need 11-14 weeks sooner, through local and regional purchase, and by
    providing U.S. commodities that are prepositioned in countries near food-deficit areas

 

Food Aid Reform at Work

"A hunger crisis becomes famine when four out of every 10,000 children die every day. Experts predict that South Sudan will qualify as early as December. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Reuters that 50,000 children under age five were at risk of dying of malnutrition in the coming months." - Bread Blog.

The U.S. is sending food aid to help South Sudan. But we could use the same money to help even more people. 

"Changes in U.S. food aid policy can build resilience against future catastrophes. Food aid that takes into account the quality of food and not just quantity can stem the tide of needless deaths from malnutrition. The future of food aid is the Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421).

We can unlock food aid from archaic policy. By increasing program efficiency, flexibility, and improving the nutritional value of food aid, we can help 9 million more people who deserve a future free of hunger." - Bread Blog.

 

Why Advocate?

Jesus summed up all of scripture saying, "Love God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself."

We advocate - we speak with and for hungry and poor people from around the globe - because they are our neighbors and they are in need.

There are over 2000 verses in the bible about hunger and poverty. Dealing with hunger was important to the biblical writers because they understood it to be important to God.

"Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31:8

When people, communities, and congregations take responsibility for the nourishment and prosperity of their members and their neighbors, they express God's ordained purpose.

 

 

Too many words!

Ok, scroll down for pictures from previous OLs and more videos, including stories from those helped by food aid.

 

 

Have Questions or Comments? 

Leave them in the comments section following  the video at the top of the page!

 

 

 

Pictures from previous Offerings of Letters