President of Bread for the World (and ELCA pastor) David Beckmann’s words at the Houston Food Bank tonight:
I’m hopeful. Since 1990 the world has cut in half the number of people living in poverty. In Bangladesh the kids are better nourished. You can see the kids. You can see it in the markets. They’re still poor, but they have made rapid progress.
If such progress is being made elsewhere, certainly we here in the US can do it. Hunger in America is a problem we can fix.
I want to propose a conservative goal for Houston. In 2017 hunger should be 1/3 less than it is now. We can do this. Houston will be even more prosperous than it is now.
You can’t change the world without advocacy. All the charitable food giving in the country amounts to 5% of the food the hungry receive. 95% comes from government programs like the summer feeding program, WIC and so forth. The big thing that helps people get out of hunger and poverty is jobs.
I’m impressed that you’re enrolling people in SNAP. I’m impressed by what you are doing here in Houston. These programs were strengthened and funded during the George W. Bush administration. If congress cuts the national nutrition programs by just 5% you’re going to be scrambling. Most of the people who represent Houston in the Texas legislature have voted for deep cuts in hunger programs. Advocacy matters.
Bread for the World organizes for people who pray “Give us this day our daily bread,” and now we are working more and more closely now with the Jewish and Muslim communities. We ask those who pray for the poor to speak to their legislators who create legislation for the poor to speak on behalf of the poor. We didn’t plan on this, but we’re spending the year defending the budget on behalf of the poor.
Congress made huge decisions about the fiscal cliff. They made no cuts to programs for the hungry. We have a month and a half until the next fiscal cliff. Maintain the circle of protection around the hungry and the poor.
Let’s get it done and get it done without brinksmanship. We are gambling with our economy. And those on the edges of our labor economy get hurt most of all.