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  • Writer's pictureRev. David Beckmann

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

Advocates on hunger and poverty issues won a surprising victory last week - a major allocation of funding for nutrition assistance. The state of our nation is depressing in many ways. But this advocacy achievement encourages us to keep working. Two huge political decisions are pending and require our involvement now.

Hunger has surged during the COVID crisis, especially among children. Church groups, food charities, and others have been working since the onset of the COVID crisis to support increases in the national nutrition programs and other government actions to address widespread hunger and hardship.

Already in March, Congress and the administration took steps that increased access to SNAP and WIC. They also launched the Pandemic EBT program, which has allowed low-income families to receive school lunches and breakfasts even when school buildings are not open.

Yet the Census Bureau’s weekly surveys still show that hunger is much more widespread than before the pandemic. The number of children who are going without needed food in a given week is more than five times what it was before the pandemic. Thus, many of us have been pushing to secure additional nutrition funding.

We have recruited support from a growing number of Republican senators. But Republican leadership delayed consideration of another COVID relief bill for several months and then proposed a much smaller package than the Democrats believe to be essential. The two parties have been too far apart on the size of the relief package to start negotiations.

The Circle of Protection has worked together to increase nutrition assistance in the next COVID relief bill. When we met last Monday, we all concurred that our effort had been stymied.

But in a happy surprise, a few House Republicans joined with Democrats that evening to add $8 billion for nutrition assistance to a must-pass bill to keep the government open. The $8 billion will continue Pandemic EBT for another 12 months and extend pandemic-related flexibilities for SNAP and WIC. The appropriation bill passed the House with these additions and seems very likely to become law in the next few days.

It’s a little miracle -- like the spring of water at Meribah in the Sinai desert (Exodus 17). When the people of Israel were ready to give up, water suddenly gushing out of a dry rock kept them moving forward.

In fact, $8 billion for nutrition is a not-so-little thing. To provide a sense of scale, the value of all the charitable food assistance in the country is about $14 billion a year. Failure to extend Pandemic EBT would have taken away more than half that much food from needy families over the next 12 months.

It now also seems that there might be some chance for agreement on the entire COVID relief package. Both sides have made recent moves to open discussion. Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be speaking at an interfaith vigil in support of COVID relief on Tuesday, September 29, at 9:50 a.m. ET. I'll be speaking and offering a prayer right after that. The all-day event will be live-streamed at

Our Members of Congress need to hear that we don’t want them to leave Washington without passing a robust COVID relief bill. The fund the administration is using to add $300 a week to unemployment insurance is running out, and families can’t wait until January to pay their bills. Many state and local governments are on the edge of deep cuts to schools and other community services. If Congress and the President fail to agree on continued COVID relief, the human cost will be severe.

We must also do everything we can to influence the upcoming election. The future direction of our nation - maybe even the continuation of U.S. democracy - is at stake. So we should make it our business to talk with friends and family about voting and voting wisely. We should make generous political contributions. We should offer volunteer time to campaigns we support. One of my sons is writing notes to people he doesn’t know in one of the swing states, explaining why their vote is important to him.

Maybe we needed a little miracle to keep us moving forward.

  • Writer's pictureRev. David Beckmann

Updated: Aug 30, 2020

Tomorrow, Sunday, August 30th, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Biden-Harris campaign will launch Believers for Biden, its program of outreach to faith voters Click here for the invitation from Josh Dickson, the campaign’s faith engagement director. The campaign is actively seeking the support of faith voters, and Believers for Biden is one good way for people of faith to connect to the campaign.

According to an Associated Press story, Joe Biden’s team is rolling out an array of new religious outreach efforts targeting a diverse set of communities. The campaign is holding a trio of virtual events in the swing state of Florida this weekend. They are focusing on Christian, Jewish, and Muslim voters.

Josh Dickson told the AP reporter, “We think that many people of faith are not single-issue voters as much as Republicans paint them to be, and we believe our campaign is deeply aligned with the core values that are most important to people of faith.” He added that systematic racism is a pivotal issue for many devout voters in this election.

On Sunday evening, we will hear from Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, pastor of New Hope Church in Decatur, Georgia; QuanTez Pressley, pastor of Third Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan; and other pastors who are active and important in the campaign. I’m guessing that we may also hear from a political leader who is close to Vice President Biden. We will pray together, and Josh will suggest ways each of us can help determine the outcome of this extraordinarily consequential election.

If you sign up for a Believers for Biden event, you will subsequently be kept abreast of election news, invited to other events, and asked to help in specific ways as the campaign unfolds. You may be asked, for example, to make calls to friends and other people in key states.

I find that the campaign’s frequent messages help me remain aware that we have only a few days (now 65 days) to make an impact on an election that will shape the future of our nation and world.

In addition to contributing volunteer work, I have also made a financial gift (the maximum allowed) to Biden’s general-election campaign, and I signed up to ask friends to consider gifts. Funding is important to the success of a campaign, and the Trump campaign has already raised $1.2 billion.

Donald Trump is a profoundly self-centered person, and this character flaw has led to harsh policies toward vulnerable people, blatant corruption, and a constant stream of lies. He is anti poor people, anti democracy, and anti most of the things that Jesus embodied and taught. He has managed to reshape the Republican Party in his image (at least for now), and I am appalled by his influence on the thinking of many Christians.

On the other hand, I’ve watched Joe Biden for many years and trust him. I’m impressed by his plans to address our health and economic crises, by his embrace of the possibility this moment has given us to address long-standing racial injustices, and by his commitment to opportunity for all people.

Please visit the invitation website and sign up for the Believers for Biden event tomorrow afternoon.

  • Writer's pictureRev. David Beckmann

For the last 30 years, I have worked with administrations, members of Congress, and citizens in both parties to secure help and opportunity for people struggling with hunger. Bread for the World’s bipartisan approach has proved effective in winning change, and it will continue to be important in our divided country. But I am no longer the spokesperson for Bread for the World, and nothing is more important to renewed progress against hunger and poverty than a victory for Vice President Biden and Senator Kamala Harris in November. President Trump is the most dangerous president in U.S. history, while I trust Biden and find his strategy to Build Back Better compelling,

Biden’s top priority as president would be leadership of a nationwide strategy to moderate the spread of COVID-19. Our country has done worse than most other countries in managing the virus, because Trump has downplayed the risk, shifted responsibility to 50 governors, and given them and the nation bad advice about how to respond. All of us have suffered losses, millions of people have been driven into hunger, and 160,000 people have died (disproportionately, people of color and low-income white people).

In recent weeks, Biden has outlined other elements of his Build Back Better plan: investment in U.S. manufacturing and innovation, job-promoting investment in infrastructure and green growth, investment in child care and care for elderly people, and advancing racial equity by empowering small business creation and expansion in economically disadvantaged communities. Biden also plans to expand the Affordable Care Act so that everybody in America gets the medical care they need.

Vice President Biden also supports strengthening the national nutrition programs to address hunger directly, increasing the minimum wage, and expanding tax credits for low-income workers. These three actions, in the context of the Build Back Better program, could take us from today’s very high rate hunger to virtually no hunger within eight years.

Biden would also be effective in rebuilding America’s global leadership, including support for prosperity and poverty reduction worldwide.

I first met Vice President Biden in 2003. He was then chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I went with two Bread for the World members from Delaware to ask him to help establish the Millennium Challenge Account, which President George W. Bush (who had been skeptical of all foreign aid) had proposed. He agreed, and the two parties worked together - with strong support from Bread for the World - to establish this new and effective approach to foreign aid.

This photo comes from a Bread for the World and Alliance to End Hunger event in December 2018. Biden spoke at length without notes - knowledgeably and passionately - about the policies that would allow us to end hunger in our country and around the world. He came at the invitation of Terry Meehan, and the photo includes Terry and his son Luke.

I agree with Kamala Harris that we now have “a president who cares more about himself than about the people who elected him, a president who is making every challenge we face more difficult.” Trump has certainly done harm to many people struggling with hunger - relentlessly pushing to cut programs that help them, promoting racism, and treating immigrants and refugees harshly. World hunger has been increasing in recent years, mainly because of conflict, climate change, and the slump in international trade -- all problems that Trump has made worse.

I have connected to the Biden campaign through its Believers for Biden program. The campaign’s strong faith outreach staff offers informative Zoom calls featuring people whose faith undergirds their support for Biden’s candidacy. They suggest specific ways that individuals can help get the Biden-Harris ticket elected. They also offer sub-groups for people from different faith traditions.

There are only 88 days left before November 3. We need to achieve a clear and decisive win to discredit the legal and illegal efforts Trump will almost certainly make to reverse the outcome of an electoral defeat. A sweeping defeat may also lead to the rise of a reformed Republican Party.

It’s not enough for us to complain to like-minded people about how bad things are. We need to request vote-by-mail ballots now and vote as soon as possible, so that the postal service and local election officials will have ample time to deliver and count our ballots.

We need to give money to the Biden campaign and good candidates for other offices. People who generously support church and charity often fail to support electoral candidates. But the results of this election will have more effect on poor and vulnerable people than all of our charitable giving for years to come. Since white Christians have been among Trump’s core supporters, the integrity and gospel witness of Christianity in this country are also at stake.

We should encourage like-minded neighbors, friends, and relatives to join us in practical actions to help win this election. And we should also reach out to neighbors, friends, and relatives who may not agree with us to listen carefully and share our point of view. We may influence a vote, and, in any case, we won’t fully succeed in Building Back Better unless we can over time also moderate the sharp divides in our society.

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