I'm headed to the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health tomorrow. President Biden will be speaking at 9:30 am (EDT). You can watch his speech and the whole conference at whitehouse.gov/hungerhealthconference.


In the run-up to the conference, I was skeptical. The White House was late in setting the date and didn't share much information about the commitments they were considering. But this morning they released the Biden-Harris Administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health - and I'm thrilled by what a bold and thoughtful strategy it is. It outlines measures to improve economic security, to make sure everybody has enough food, and to improve nutrition, physical fitness, and health.


The White House announcement and a link to the 39-page strategy is at this link: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/09/27/executive-summary-biden-harris-administration-national-strategy-on-hunger-nutrition-and-health/


The President is proposing that our country aim to end hunger by 2030. The Action Plan defines precisely what the Administration means by "ending hunger." They mean reducing the number of people who suffer what the Census Bureau calls "very low food security" to less than 1% and cutting the number of people who experience "food insecurity" by half. This definition will draw us to focus on the very poorest people.


Ending hunger by 2030 suddenly seems possible again. Just this month the government released Census-based statistics on hunger and poverty in 2021. Hunger and poverty both dropped drastically. Food insecurity among families with children dropped to its lowest level since the Census started collecting food security data in 1998. Two things are now clear: that the massive pandemic response and recovery bills of the last few years have avoided a sustained surge in hunger and poverty, and that the American Rescue Act showed that very rapid progress is possible.


Hunger and poverty increased from their 2021 levels after the Build Back Better Act failed in the Senate by one vote in December. The Action Plan says that the President will work with Congress to restore the expansion of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which played a big role in the dramatic gains of 2021. It says he will also work with Congress to win passage of other proposals that are pending from last year.


It doesn't mention the upcoming elections. But we all know that people who want to end hunger should share our excitement about Biden's commitment to overcoming hunger and play an active role in electing candidates for Congress who are ready to work with the President to overcome hunger in America. Nowadays, that means electing Democrats.


The Action Plan lists many actions that President Biden can approve on his own authority. It's now clear that the departments and agencies of government have been meeting quietly with White House staff since last summer, thinking through ways many of them can contribute to progress against hunger, poor nutrition, and poor health. It's an impressive list, and it will move us toward the 2030 goal over the next two years even if Congress doesn't help much.


The Action Plan also outlines a society-wide effort to end hunger. Nearly all Americans want to help end hunger. The President is suggesting a coherent strategy in which state and local governments, businesses, churches, charities, and individuals can work together effectively toward a society of better-nourished, healthier people and virtually no hunger.






  • David Beckmann

I’ve worked in a bipartisan way all my life. But Trumpism now dominates the Republican Party, and congressional Republicans have repeatedly voted as a bloc in this Congress against programs to reduce hunger and poverty. They also voted as a bloc against a bipartisan investigation of the January 6 riot and against legislation to protect voting rights in future elections.


So I am making bigger political contributions than ever before, and it’s all focused on electing Democrats. Since I retired from Bread for the World, I’ve learned more about electoral politics. Today’s electoral campaigns depend heavily on television advertising and social media, which cost money. Yet only 15-20 percent of Americans contribute any money to candidates, PACs, or parties. Corporations and high-income people provide nearly all the funding for political campaigns. Campaign finance reform could change this reality, but the Supreme Court has blocked campaign finance reform for now. So the rest of us need to step up.


The two parties are evenly divided, and they point our nation and the world in very different directions. If we want to provide help and opportunity to people struggling with hunger in our country and around the world, the most powerful action we can take right now is to give money to Democratic candidates - especially for Congress. It’s also super important to defeat the Republican candidates for governor and attorney general who seem willing to overturn election results they don’t like.


Active involvement in elections is an important aspect of Christian discipleship, and political contributions can be a powerful form of Christian charity.





  • David Beckmann

The Inflation Reduction Act includes none of the poverty-focused components that my colleagues in the Circle of Protection and I celebrated in the Build Back Better package. That bill failed in the Senate by one vote last December.


But the Inflation Reduction Act does address important problems that need immediate attention:

> It includes the largest program to moderate climate change in the history of the world, and some of the environmental programs are designed to especially benefit low-income people and people of color.

> The bill will reduce health-care costs for millions of low- and middle-income Americans.

> The Inflation Reduction Act will also enforce the tax code on high-income people and big corporations. This and some other features of the bill may indeed reduce inflation, which disproportionately burdens low- and middle-income people.


The Circle of Protection coalition of church bodies and Christian organizations has been working together to shape all the massive COVID response and recovery bills since the onset of the pandemic. We had every reason in the early months of the pandemic to expect higher rates of poverty and hunger for a period of years. But the two COVID response bills of 2020 and the three big bills that Congress has developed in response to President Biden's Build Back Better program have (together with declining unemployment) kept poverty from increasing. In fact, hunger and poverty, especially among children, fell sharply after passage of the American Rescue Act last March - but then increased again when Build Back Better was voted down and the expansion of the Child Tax Credit expired.

In the Lame Duck session of Congress this December, there may be a chance to restore the expansion of Child Tax Credit benefits to very poor families and get some wins for struggling families in this country and around the world in a FY23 appropriations omnibus bill. But this and a great deal more depends on the outcome of the elections.