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New Data Show Trends, Challenge Old Wisdom

Knowing the numbers for hunger and poverty can go a long way to helping us talk about the issues accurately and craft effective, forward-looking responses. For those who share with their congregation information about hunger and poverty, these numbers can also be helpful in putting together presentations or workshops.

There are several sources for data that are particularly reliable and useful[1]:

  • The World Bank’s poverty report;
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) annual “State of Food Security” report;
  • The US Census Bureau’s annual reports on poverty and income; and
  • The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) annual “Food Security in the US” report.

We are still waiting for the release of the USDA’s report, hopefully within the next week, but already, the data are showing some troubling trends and some surprising shifts in understanding hunger and poverty.

Rather than litter this post with a ton of footnotes, the sources are summarized below.

Information and infographics about global hunger and food security come from:
FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2023. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023.
Urbanization, agrifood systems transformation and healthy diets across the rural–urban continuum. Rome, FAO. https://doi.org/10.4060/cc3017en
Information and infographics about incomes in the United States come from:
Gloria Guzman and Melissa Kollar, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60-279, Income in the United States: 2022, U.S. Government Publishing Office, Washington, DC, September 2023.
Information and infographics about poverty in the United States come from:
Emily A. Shrider and John Creamer, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60-280, Poverty in the United States: 2022, U.S. Government Publishing Office, Washington, DC, September 2023.

 

Global Hunger

The first troubling trend in the data is that the spike in hunger we have seen in recent years has not eased. Hunger is still “far above pre-pandemic levels” (FAO, 2023, viii). In 2022, between 690 and 783 million people were hungry. If we look at the middle of this range – 735 million – we find about 122 million more people hungry in 2022 than in 2019 (613 million.) The prevalence of undernourishment, which is the measure the FAO uses to determine the rate of hunger, has increased from 7.9% in 2019 to 9.2% in 2022 – nearly 1 in 11 people around the world.

Prevalence and number of undernourished people globally, 2023 (FAO)

Fortunately, that’s come down a bit from 2021. There were about 3.8 million fewer people facing hunger in 2022 compared to 2021, but the number remains remarkably high. The rate of hunger in 2022 was a slight decrease from 9.3% in 2021, but still the highest rate since 2005. In some areas, especially Africa, Western Asia and the Caribbean, hunger continues to rise, in part because of reliance on more expensive exports.

We see even more concerning news if we turn to another measure the FAO reports, namely food security. While the prevalence of undernourishment measures long-term, chronic signs of hunger, the FAO also reports on food security, which is a shorter-term measure of people’s access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food year-round.[2] In 2022, 2.4 billion people were food-insecure, an increase of 391 million people since 2019, relatively unchanged from 2021. This means nearly 30% of people around the world cannot reliably access the food they need.

What is keeping hunger and food insecurity so high?

For starters, one critical factor is the war in Ukraine. The FAO estimates that, without the war, 23 million people would not have faced hunger in 2022. Another factor is rising costs. Food is more expensive, fuel is more expensive and incomes haven’t risen to match the jump in prices. Many countries at risk of hunger are dependent on exports. The “world food import bill,” which measures how much is spent globally on the import of food and food products, reached nearly US$2 trillion in 2022, the highest on record and an increase of 10% from 2021. This puts enormous pressures on importing countries and translates into much steeper prices for consumers. The cost for imports of agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer (a huge export of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus), was even more staggering – $424 billion in 2022, an increase of 48% from 2021. Put together, it’s more expensive to bring food in and significantly more expensive to produce food in-country.

One of the trends impacting hunger and the cost of food is urbanization. More and more people globally are moving into large cities or closer to cities. By 2050, nearly 7 in 10 people worldwide are expected to live in cities. The result of this shift, according to the FAO, is that the old framework of a rural-urban divide simply doesn’t match the world as it is. In general, as people move toward cities, their economic prospects grow, and their risk of hunger and poverty decreases (slightly.) The problem we are seeing now, though, is rapid urbanization without economic growth. While we used to think of hunger as primarily a rural issue globally, the data point us toward understanding the need to attend to a continuum of rural-to-urban, including people who live in the in-between spaces between cities and rural areas.

As people move into cities, their diets change, and this presents a challenge to traditional thinking about hunger. For years, the truism has been that the world produces enough food to meet everyone’s needs. That might not be the case going forward. Between diets changing and more people moving away from food production in rural areas, the FAO finds that “the availability of vegetables and fruits, in particular, is insufficient to meet the daily dietary requirements in almost every region of the world” (FAO, 2023, xxii; 62). The reality seems to be that the world doesn’t produce enough food for everyone in every region to enjoy a healthy diet. Hunger isn’t just a problem of access but of production that meets changing needs – and changing understandings of nutrition and health.

The availability of food groups to meet a healthy diet (FAO)

 

Another surprising finding is that, in most of the countries the FAO analyzed, the majority of food consumed in rural households is purchased, not produced. This, too, challenges the traditional picture of rural subsistence farmers relying solely on food they grow or produce and makes the relationship between access and production more complex. The reality is that, in rural areas, the share of food that is produced by a household represents only about 33-37% of the food they consume, according to the FAO. The rest is purchased from grocery stores, street vendors or other suppliers.

There are a couple of consequences here. First, the growth in food purchases also means, in many cases, increased consumption of highly-processed foods, which can have lower nutritional value. This may mean that improving food security and nutrition will require new regulations to incentivize healthy eating and prevent exposure to unsafe foods, especially convenience foods purchased from street vendors. Second, focusing on increasing yields and production among rural farmers is important but may need to be combined with other efforts. It may also be important to focus on ways to generate income and to connect people to markets, particularly through improved infrastructure, such as navigable roads. That said, there still needs to be a focus on increasing farming production, especially of fruits and vegetables but also of staple grains, to meet the growing needs of an urbanizing population and to build resilience to shocks to export markets, as we’re seeing with the war in Ukraine.

The long-and-short of it is that the data suggest that the world may face a problem of not producing enough food to meet the changing diets of the world, and rural subsistence, as we tend to envision it, doesn’t completely reflect people’s actual dietary lives. These are huge shifts in our understanding.

Poverty and Income in the United States

As mentioned above, we are still waiting for new data on food security, but we do have information on income and poverty, courtesy of the US Census Bureau.

In 2022, the official poverty rate in the US was 11.5%, representing about 37.9 million people living in poverty. The good news is this wasn’t significantly different from 2021; the bad news is that this rate is far too high and still slightly higher than in 2019, before the pandemic.

Number of people in poverty and poverty rate over time in the US (US Census Bureau)

 

One thing to note in the data is geographic differences in poverty. While people living in every type of setting – city, suburb, rural– face vulnerability to poverty, the highest rate of poverty in the US is found “outside metropolitan statistical areas” or, in other words, rural areas. Fifteen percent of people living in rural areas in 2022 experienced poverty, compared to 11.0% living in urban centers (“metropolitan statistical areas.”) In principal cities themselves, poverty remained above 14% for 2022. So, the picture of poverty in the US as being primarily urban is not quite borne out by research; rural areas actually experience poverty at a slightly higher rate.

In addition to the official poverty measure, the US Census Bureau also calculates a Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM.) You can read more about the differences here, but one of the interesting things the SPM lets us see is how certain safety net programs and benefits help alleviate poverty. It also allows us to estimate how much certain costs contribute to poverty. Moreover, it determines the threshold of income that is “in poverty” a bit differently.

One important caveat before getting into the numbers: the numbers below are from the Supplemental Poverty Measure, not the official poverty measure. While they are illuminating and help us to analyze poverty more deeply, they should not be used as a replacement for the official poverty measure.

Here is where the news gets a bit frustrating, to be honest. We knew when the Child Tax Credit was expanded that we would see a rapid reduction in child poverty, and we did. Of course, that expansion and COVID-19 stipends expired in 2022, so the rate of child poverty in the US went up, as we knew it would. In fact, between 2021 and 2022, according to the SPM, child poverty more than doubled, from 5.4% in 2021 to 12.4% in 2022. At the same time, the official poverty rate for children stayed relatively stable, showing the deep impact the Child Tax Credit expansion had on child poverty. Perhaps even more worrisome is that the share of children in households with income of less than half of the poverty line also doubled, showing an increase of more than 100% for children living in what is considered deep poverty. Increases in deep poverty were true across the board for all age groups. The share of the population with resources below 50 percent of the SPM poverty threshold increased for every age group in the US. What this may point to is the way in which tax credits and stimulus payments had had a particularly significant impact on people living in deep poverty. What it also suggests is that ending poverty for households, even households in deep poverty, is not impossible; progress just takes bold but doable policy choices.

Child poverty – supplemental poverty measure vs. official poverty measure, US (US Census Bureau)

 

From the SPM, we can also get an idea of how effective certain public programs were in keeping people out of poverty in 2022. As the graph below indicates, for example, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; formerly food stamps) and the National School Lunch Program lifted 5.1 million people out of poverty, while out-of-pocket medical expenses moved 7.1 million people into poverty, which means that, after medical expenses are subtracted from their resources, more than 7 million people had household resources below the poverty line.

Supplemental poverty measure – the impact of various sources of income or costs (US Census Bureau)

 

In terms of income, real median household income in the US decreased 2.3% between 2021 and 2022, from an estimated $76,330 per household to $74,580. More people were working full-time, year-round, but real median earnings of workers (including both part-time and full-time) decreased 2.2%. For just full-time, year-round workers, the drop in earnings was 1.3% from 2021 to 2022. So, the next time someone complains about how workers “these days” earn so much, you can gently and gracefully remind them that earnings are lower now than they were last year when accounting for inflation– at the same time (and partially because) goods cost so much more.

 

Credit: US Census Bureau, 2023

 

Moreover, the next time someone says, “People just don’t want to work anymore,” it might be helpful to point out that the number of full-time, year-round workers increased 3.4% between 2021 and 2022, compared to an overall increase in workers of 1.7%, which, according to the US Census Bureau, suggests that what we are actually seeing is a shift from part-time work to full-time, year-round work. The percentage of people 16 years and older who were in the labor force in 2022 was 63.5% – not much different from the 63.6% 5-year average from 2017-2021.

In terms of racial disparities in real median income, White and non-Hispanic White households experienced a decrease of 3.5% and 3.6%, respectively, while the change in income for other racial groups was not statistically different from 2021. This change may be because of long-term income disparities. White and non-Hispanic White workers tend to be paid disproportionately higher incomes than other racial groups, sometimes as much as 25-100% higher, and still, despite the modest decrease, get paid real median incomes of $108,700 per year per household, the highest among racial groups. Further analysis shows that the losses in real median income nationwide largely occurred in middle and high income brackets, so this makes some sense.

This drop in middle and high incomes means that income inequality was lower in 2022 than in 2021. In fact, the US Census Bureau reports that 2022 represented the first drop in the Gini coefficient – a common measure of income inequality – since 2007. There is some good news there, though, if we look at other measurements, such as the mean logarithmic deviation of income, which is a bit more sensitive to changes at the lower end of the income spectrum, we still see income inequality at the highest rate it has been since 1967, with the exception of 2021, of course.

What this means is that, yes, income inequality decreased because of drops in income at the middle- and high-income levels. But when the lowest 20% of income earners draw in only 3% of the total income of the country, and the highest 20% get more than 52% of the total income, can we really say that we are making headway on inequality? Probably not. There’s more work to be done.

Where to go from here?

“More work to be done” is a good way to sum up what we can learn from the data. Certainly, we are nowhere near the worst of projections from the early months of the pandemic. But we are also a far cry from the Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger by 2050.

We know, though, that things do not have to be this way. We have come a long way from where we were as a country and a world in 1974, when the Lutheran hunger appeals that became ELCA World Hunger began. As we look ahead to the 50th anniversary of this ministry next year, we do so with hope and faith. Hunger and poverty are not givens. What the last few years’ worth of data demonstrate isn’t the intractability of hunger but the risk our world runs when we collectively ease up on progress toward ending hunger and poverty.

Working together, learning from one another, listening to each other, advocating together and creating spaces for communities to build trust and address the injustices that create vulnerability will all be important steps along the way.

 

[1] What makes data “reliable and useful”? One of the first things to consider is whether the sources of data describe their methods, including limitations of the data. This can help point to whether the data are reliable or not. Another factor to consider is consistency. The agencies named in the list use the same methods year after year, so data can be compared over time, and they report any changes to methods that might impact comparability.

[2] In the past few years, there has been more attention to “food crises” around the world and reports that use a measurement referred to as IPC/CH to determine risk of famine. The FAO has a great explanation of how food crisis measurements compare to undernourishment and food security measurements in the 2023 “State of Food Security” report. See Box 1, page 12 of the report.

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Virtual Tour: Malawi

 

In March 2023, countries in southeastern Africa were hit by one of the most powerful cyclones in memory. Tropical Cyclone Freddy moved across Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, bringing torrential rain and powerful winds. Freddy was one of the longest-lasting tropical cyclones and most intense cyclones on record, generating accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) that the World Meteorological Organization has said was equivalent to a full North Atlantic hurricane season.

Church building damaged by cyclone

A church building damaged by Cyclone Freddy

The storm created new challenges and worsened existing challenges in the country of Malawi, where over 70 percent of the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.90 per day.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to join colleagues from the ELCA in visiting the Blantyre region in southern Malawi to learn more about the impact of the cyclone and to hear about the ways the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi (ELCM) and its development arm, the Evangelical Lutheran Development Service (ELDS), are accompanying communities impacted by hunger, poverty and disaster, with support from ELCA World Hunger and Lutheran Disaster Response.

The stories we heard of the cyclone were devastating. The people who spoke with us told of homes destroyed by winds and rock slides, livestock and fields of crops washed away, and family members lost in the floodwaters. The pain was palpable as they shared their stories and showed us piles of bricks that used to be their homes. Many of the people we met spoke of trauma and a need for both material goods, such as food and clothing, and spiritual and emotional care as they discern a path forward.

Yet, we also heard a bold commitment to continue moving forward, to replant and to rebuild, and to continue making progress against hunger and poverty. “We cannot remain idle,” one woman said. A man from a community near Chimvu echoed her: “We have to keep going.”

men standing in front of bags of meal

Presiding Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe of the ELCM and Rev. Philip Knutson, ELCA regional representative for Southern Africa, stand in front of bags of dry food that will be distributed to communities in need

ELCM and ELDS are accompanying the communities as they forge a new path ahead. With support from Lutheran Disaster Response, ELCM and ELDS are distributing food in areas hit by Tropical Cyclone Freddy. The bags of meal and soya will not meet every need, but they will provide critical food for the hardest-hit communities. And, as we heard, the food is an important symbol of the ongoing presence of ELCM and ELDS within the communities. It is a sign that they are not alone.

Despite the challenges of recovery, the communities accompanied by ELDS and ELCM are also continuing the important long-term work of reducing food insecurity and poverty. With support from ELCA World Hunger, ELDS is working with communities to expand food production, support small businesses and strive for gender justice. Our group had the chance to visit newly planted fields of sweet potatoes and cassava, to learn about women-owned businesses and even to meet some young piglets.

There is much need in the communities we visited, but there are also so many assets and strengths to witness. The leaders in each community inspired us with their hope, determination, creativity and resilience that make it possible for this work to continue.

Below, you have the chance to virtually witness some of this for yourself through a virtual tour of the communities in Zomba and Phalombe. In this virtual tour, you will be able to meet some of the people we visited, to watch as one leader describes her fuel-efficient wood-burning cookstove, to hear the exuberant singing and dancing of the communities and to learn more about how ELCA World Hunger, Lutheran Disaster Response, ELCM and ELDS are partnering together to accompany our neighbors in Malawi.

The virtual tour is accessible on computer or mobile device. Each text box also has an icon for a screen reader. Click on the picture or link below to get started.  Once the tour opens, scroll down just a bit to find a button allowing you to view it full-screen. To navigate, simply click any of the pulsing icons on the pictures. Each icon will pull up a video, picture or text box. You can use the back arrow and the home icon at the top left of the screen to go back or to re-start.

May the people and the stories you encounter in the tour inspire your ongoing prayers for continued recovery from Tropical Cyclone Freddy and inspire your hope and active support through the strength and courage of our neighbors in Malawi.

Hunger and Hope in Malawi: Virtual Tour

Ryan P. Cumming, Ph.D., is the director of education and networks for the Building Resilient Communities team in the ELCA.

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Updates to ELCA World Hunger’s Domestic Hunger Grants

ELCA World Hunger’s Domestic Hunger Grants are one way this church accompanies communities throughout the United States and Caribbean as they respond to hunger and poverty.

Domestic Hunger Grants Open May 1!

Our team is excited to share that the application process for Domestic Hunger Grants will open May 1, 2023. For those who are familiar with the Domestic Hunger Grants, this year’s process will look a bit different, but we hope that the changes described below will improve the process in some important ways. To learn more about the updated process and how to apply, please visit https://elca.org/domestichungergrants.

This year, we are implementing a two-step process for ELCA World Hunger’s Domestic Hunger Grants, which we hope will increase efficiency, shorten the time for award decisions, reduce barriers to the application process and allow for deeper engagement with partners invited to submit a full proposal.

New Process for Grant Applications

Prior to submitting a full grant proposal, we ask grant applicants to fill out a letter of inquiry (LOI) which briefly describes the project proposal. Registering on our granting portal, ELCA GrantMaker, is not required at this step. Simply fill out the LOI form located here (https://bit.ly/3Ngcm6f) after May 1. LOI submissions are open from May 1 until May 31, 2023. After May 31, our grants team will conduct a review and send invitations and decline letters directly to applicants on or before July 31, 2023.

Applicant Info Webinar

On May 3, 2023, at 2:00pm CDT, ELCA World Hunger will host a webinar for interested applicants and others to learn more about the process. We will go over the new grant application process and how to submit an LOI, and we will answer questions from grant applicants. To join us for this virtual event, please register here (https://bit.ly/3n9e8LS.) Participants will be provided with a link once registered. The webinar will be recorded and accessible via the Domestic Hunger Grant FAQ page (https://sway.office.com/x58hDlDzJCCe1e4l.)

Domestic Hunger Grants Application Timeline

• May 1-31, 2023: Letter of inquiry form open
• June-July 2023: Letter of inquiry review period
• July 31, 2023: Response to the letter of inquiry sent to applicants (decline or accept)
• August 1-31, 2023: Invited applicants to complete grant application in ELCA GrantMaker
• August-November: Review and correspondence between ELCA World Hunger staff and grant applicants on proposal
• November 2023: Award notifications shared to applicants
• February 2024: Grant agreements signed and publicly announced
• March 2024: New Domestic Hunger Grants begin

Daily Bread Matching Grants Update

Registration and applications for Daily Bread Matching Grants is currently closed while we re-imagine how to better support our feeding ministry partners. Thank you to all of the feeding ministries across this church who have participated in Daily Bread Matching Grants previously and who continue to ensure access to food in their communities.

 

Thank you for all you do to work creatively and courageously toward a just world. If you have any questions about the process or about ELCA World Hunger, please reach out to our team at Hunger@elca.org.

With gratitude for the ministry and mission we share!
ELCA World Hunger

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A Short Tour of Community Gardens

Our garden at home has finally started yielding its bounty, which means we have more tomatoes than we know what to do with and are engaged in constant battle with rabbits to preserve our harvest. Now is the season when we get to enjoy the fruits of our time spent planting and preparing the soil, with fresh bites from the garden in every meal. It’s a reminder of the growing season and of nature’s wonders.

The fresh veggies making their way from my yard to my plate has had me thinking more about community gardens recently, especially with the rising costs of food making harvests more important for many of us. Interestingly, though, it was not my own garden or food prices that made me look into the history of gardens in the United States. It was, of all things, a comic book.

Most people who know me know that I am obsessed with comics, especially propaganda comics from World War II and early 1950s horror comics that drew the ire of parents and the federal government alike. I recently picked up a copy of this little gem from 1943:

World's Finest Comics #11 cover, with superheroes working in garden

World’s Finest Comics is pretty unremarkable, except for its run of war-themed covers in the early 1940s. Issue #11 here features Superman, Batman and Robin working away in a “victory garden.” (Oh, how nice it would be to have the super-speed of Superman or the ingenuity of Batman to take care of weeding and tilling, right?) Victory gardens, as they were called, were home gardens that the US government encouraged people to start during the war, ostensibly to increase food production at home when so much produce had to be sent to troops overseas, though their significance went far deeper, as we will learn below.

Many people trace community gardens today back to these victory gardens. But the community gardening movement actually started much further back, and the government was not as “super”-supportive of victory gardens as Superman and Batman were – at least early on.

The 1890s – Community Gardens Begin

According to Smithsonian Gardens, part of the Smithsonian Institution, community gardens trace their roots back to Detroit, Michigan, in the 1890s. The economic depression of 1893 hit the city hard, particularly affecting its largely immigrant population. Worried about food shortages and high unemployment, Detroit’s progressive Mayor Hazen Pingree started a public works program for jobs and then encouraged the city to use vacant lots to grow vegetables for the coming winter. “Pingree’s Potato Patches,” as they were called were called, were effective and popular.

Mayor Pingree had another motive besides providing food. The depression had increased economic inequality in the city, and the response of Detroit’s wealthy citizens was to provide charity to address the deep challenges faced by the workers most impacted. Rather than addressing the problems, charity drives fostered a system of patronage, leaving low-income Detroiters dependent on small amounts of help from rich benefactors. Pingree’s gardens were steps toward a more equitable solution, providing spaces for Detroiters facing hunger and poverty to exercise agency. It was a movement for both food security and economic justice. As the Detroit Free Press wrote in 1935, “Pingree’s potato patches broke the back of hunger. They were nationally acclaimed and copied. They revealed a city of boundless energy and industry unwilling to live on doles (the meager charity of the wealthy).”

family tends garden in Detroit 1890s

A family tends a Pingree Potato Patch in Detroit. Image courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University

 

Turn of the Century and World War I

Pingree’s model was copied in many major cities. As the depression eased, schools turned to gardens both to supplement nutrition and to help an increasingly urban population of children connect back to nature and learn responsibility and the value of work. Perhaps the most famous advocate for the school garden movement was Fannie Griscom Parsons, a tireless leader whose work led to the creation of gardens and farms for children throughout New York City in the first two decades of the 20th Century. Parsons famously wrote,

I did not start a garden simply to grow a few vegetables and flowers. The garden was used as a means to teach [children] in their work some necessary civic virtues; private care of public property, economy, honesty, application, concentration, self-government, civic pride, justice, the dignity of labor, and the love of nature by opening to their minds the little we know of her mysteries, more wonderful than any fairy tale.

With World War I, the gardening movement gained a lot of ground and new support, this time from the US War Gardening Commission. With this fervor, the Commission reported that by 1917, there were more than 3.5 million war gardens across the country, helping supply needed fruits and vegetables during the lean years of the war.

As should be clear by now, though, the gardens were about more than just food. The war gardens of World War I became a symbol of community agency and renewal, especially for African American residents, whose urban neighborhoods were neglected by governments after the war. Drawing on their horticultural skills and passion for beautifying their communities, African American gardeners in Detroit, Philadelphia and other cities scaled up their post-war efforts, even holding contests for residents with the best gardens. These gardens became an important lifeline during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

World War II – Victory Gardens

The World War I gardens planted the seed (ahem) for the victory gardens of World War II. By this point in agricultural history in the US, the government was more reluctant to support gardens. As the Smithsonian notes, most officials thought that large-scale agriculture was more effective. What ultimately convinced the government to promote victory gardens, though, wasn’t a compelling argument about production. Rather, it was the awareness after decades of use that gardens play a powerful role in bringing communities together, improving relationships between neighbors and strengthening morale.

The gardens ended up proving effective in both areas, though. They strengthened communities and they provided an abundance of food – as much as 40 percent of vegetables grown in the US by 1944.

Hidden Depths

The brightly-colored produce, however, hid some gnarled roots, and Superman, Batman and Robin’s smiling faces on the cover of World’s Finest Comics #11 belied deep injustices when it came to gardens and farms in the United States in the 1940s.

As World War II began, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal and internment of Japanese Americans. While in public press, the order was motivated by fear of spies (a belief that had no basis in reality), the internment campaign had more sinister roots. Japanese Americans, especially in California, had drawn on their deep agricultural knowledge to build successful farming businesses upon their arrival in the US. It was these farms, and the valuable land that Japanese Americans owned, that drove some to call for internment.

Indeed, one of the first documented lobbying efforts to remove Japanese Americans from the West Coast came from none other than the Salinas Valley Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association, which sent a lobbyist to Washington, DC, to argue for forced removal of Japanese American farmers.

By 1942, with Japanese Americans interned and their land under government supervision, white farmers began seizing control of their farms, and the managing secretary of the Western Growers Protective Association reported “considerable profits were realized” by member growers “because of the Japanese removal.”

While incarcerated at the internment camps, many Japanese Americans continued using their skills, however, and developed camp gardens. Despite the desolate landscape of many of the camps, internees used their wisdom, creativity and tenacity to start thousands of thriving gardens. These gardens helped to supplement their diet, but perhaps more importantly, the gardens served as a symbol of resistance against internment, an attempt to hold on to community and traditions and to refuse the dehumanization of internment.

Gardens that had once been indicators of successful business and wealth for immigrant families now, through acts of protest against the injustice of internment, were revealed as symbols of courage, strength and resilience.

Sowing and Reaping

Still today, community gardens carry these multiple layers of meaning. On the one hand, they provide fresh, healthy food. But on a much deeper level, as researchers Rina Ghose and Margaret Pettygrove report, community gardens are spaces where community is formed and citizenship is fostered. They are a protest against powers that control food, land and jobs. And they can be spaces that bear witness to new kinds of communities, new kinds of relationships and new understandings of the economy.

Martin Luther once wrote that farming is an act that imitates God’s creation of the world. By digging into the soil, planting and nurturing crops, we are imitating God’s hands-on approach to making the world. But the long history of gardens in the United States – from immigrants tending “Pingree’s Potato Patches” to investments in gardens for under-served urban children to beautification of segregated neighborhoods and the witness of camp gardens – points to an expanded understanding of how this work imitates God’s creative endeavors.

Yes, we are gifted with the opportunity to witness the Creator God in action as crops take root, but on a deeper level, the community that is nurtured and grown at the garden testifies to the ongoing work of God as the redeemer of the world, reconciling us to one another and building a just world where all are fed.

We aren’t superheroes, but we don’t need to be. The world does not need superheroes as much as it needs neighbors willing to work together, to participate in the restoration of just relationships and communities, asserting together that our neighborhoods are worth investing in and that each and every one of us can play a part. As we’ve learned time and again, gardens can be sacred spaces where neighbors build relationships with one another, assert their pride and dignity, and create a bountiful harvest for the community to enjoy. The hard work of tilling, planting, weeding and watering yields far more than vegetables. It can nourish the growth of communities in profound, life-giving ways.

As we harvest from gardens this season and get ready for planting next spring, this history begs the questions: what are we really sowing? And what new wonders might neighbors working together for the transformation of the landscape and the community reap?

 

If you are interested in starting your own community garden, or finding new ways to expand the garden your community has, check out ELCA World Hunger’s Community Gardens How-To Guide, available in English and Spanish! You can order hard copies from the ELCA World Hunger resources page too!

 

Ryan P. Cumming, Ph.D., is the program director of hunger education for ELCA World Hunger.

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NEW Resource! Housing: A Practical Guide to Learning, Advocating and Building

A New Resource on Housing!

The United States faces a looming crisis in housing, the second in barely more than a decade. The job losses and other economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have many of us facing an increased risk of eviction and foreclosure; at the same time, there is a marked shortage of available housing within reach for most Americans. The problems of homelessness and housing insecurity are ongoing and growing. Solving them means developing sustainable solutions for the long term, rather than temporary fixes for a current crisis. This church has a clear imperative to help those of us experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. The church also has a big opportunity to make a difference.

This new resource from ELCA World Hunger will help you get started in learning about homelessness and affordable housing, advocating on issues connected to homelessness and affordable housing, and even building affordable housing!

Download “Housing: A Practical Guide for Learning, Advocating and Building” from https://www.elca.org/Resources/ELCA-World-Hunger#New. Check out other resources from ELCA World Hunger on the same page and at https://www.elca.org/Resources/ELCA-World-Hunger#HungerEd!

Who Is This Resource For?

This resource is for congregations concerned about homelessness and affordable housing. For congregations new to this work, this resource will provide step-by-step guidance on how to build awareness and capacity around the root causes of homelessness, how to become an advocate for affordable housing and people experiencing homelessness, and, finally, how to build affordable housing. For congregations already involved in this work, the resources in this guide can help with congregation and community education, training new volunteers, and refining your current project.

About This Resource

This resource contains three sections: “Learn,” “Advocate” and “Build.”

The “Learn” section contains activities and information to educate congregations and groups about the complex issues of housing and homelessness. If your group is just getting started, use the information and activities in this section to learn more about a wide variety of topics: common myths about homelessness, effective responses to housing insecurity, and the historical impact of the discriminatory practice of redlining. This section also introduces common terms used to describe housing insecurity and homelessness.

The “Advocate” section contains information and activities to help participants become effective housing and homelessness advocates. It includes helpful information on the roots of Lutheran advocacy, housing policy, insights from leaders and more.

The “Build” section contains a guide on how to build affordable housing, with helpful information about choosing a team, forming a nonprofit, funding a project and more. There are also checklists of the tasks necessary to create a successful affordable housing project.

Learn More

Interested in learning more about affordable housing, homelessness and learning from some of ELCA World Hunger partners about this important work? Check out the latest Hunger at the Crossroads webinar on Hunger and Housing here: https://vimeo.com/726168452

Get Connected

If you use “Housing: A Practical Guide for Learning, Advocating and Building” or have questions about how to use the guide, get in touch with us at hunger@elca.org.

Note: the housing guide is having some issues with sizing in peoples’ browser windows. If you have this issue, try downloading the resource to your personal device!

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Global Farm Challenge Podcast

Welcome to “More than Food,” the podcast of ELCA World Hunger’s Global Farm Challenge!

Find out more information below about the Global Farm Challenge and how you and your group can become involved. Links to the podcast episodes are also below.

What is the Global Farm Challenge?

The Global Farm Challenge is a youth-centered, whole-church effort to raise awareness and gifts to support the work of ELCA World Hunger with farming communities around the world. ELCA World Hunger works through congregations, companion churches and partners to accompany smallholder farmers around the world. This work includes adapting to climate change and sustainable farming practices. But it also includes helping farmers learn new techniques for increasing yields and decreasing costs, build collectives for shared power and gain access to land, seeds and tools. By joining the Global Farm Challenge, you can be an important part of supporting this work!

Why the Global Farm Challenge?

We know that the world produces more than enough food to feed everyone person. But hunger is on the rise, and the very people who produce the world’s food – farmers and farmworkers – face higher levels of hunger and poverty. They are vulnerable to climate change-related disasters, health risks and laws and policies that lock them out of access to land or financing they need to expand their farms.

With the war in Ukraine causing global food shortages and rising prices making it harder for vulnerable families to feed themselves, meeting immediate needs now and building resilience for the future are critical steps. The Global Farm Challenge, by empowering ELCA World Hunger to accompany farmers around the world, is a key way we can all be part of God’s work toward a just world where all are fed.

What is “More than Food”?

“More than Food” is a podcast designed to go along with the “Global Farm Challenge To-Go Card Game,” a game your group can play anywhere – even on the road! In the game, players follow stories of smallholder farmers and farmworkers and learn about the challenges and opportunities farmers face. Each of the stories in the game is based on real stories of neighbors involved in the projects supported by ELCA World Hunger and the Global Farm Challenge. In the podcast, we will dive into these stories and learn more about the projects and the communities involved.

You can share this podcast on your congregation’s website or social media, listen to episodes as part of a group study or play episodes in the car while you travel to a service site this summer.

Play the game, talk about your experiences and hear about our neighbors’ experiences as you consider supporting ELCA World Hunger’s Global Farm Challenge!

Join us in learning more about the many ways God is at work through us and our neighbors!

 

Episode 1 – In this episode, learn more about the Global Farm Challenge and how to get involved.

Transcript: Ep 1 Introducing More than Food Transcript

Episode 2 – In this episode, Brooke and Ryan talk about why justice is at the very foundation of faith and why it is so important to think about ending hunger as “more than food.”
Episode 3 – In this episode, Ryan talks with Franklin Ishida, the director for the Asia and Pacific regions for the ELCA, about growing pumpkins – and a whole lot more – through a project in Cambodia. This project is one of the stories featured in the Global Farm Challenge To-Go Card Game.

Transcript: Episode 3 – Pumpkins and Cambodia Transcript

Episode 4 – In this episode, we hear from Giovana Oaxaca, the ELCA’s program director for migration policy, who shares some of the ways ELCA World Hunger supports farm workers in the US. This work part of the story of citrus fruit in the Global Farm Challenge To-Go Card Game.

Transcript: More than Food Episode 4 – US Farmworkers Transcript

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Lent Reflection 5: A Way in the Wilderness

ELCA World Hunger’s 40 Days of Giving

Lent 2022

In English and en Espanol

Week 5: A Way in the Wilderness

“Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)

Read

  • Isaiah 43:16-21
  • Psalm 126
  • Philippians 3:4b-14
  • John 12:1-8

Reflect

Each of the sessions of this Lenten study has been grounded in a verse from this week’s readings:

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19).

From the first-fruits offering of Deuteronomy to the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, our reflections have pointed to how God continues to “make a way in the wilderness” and calls us to be part of that journey for ourselves and our neighbors. The Scripture readings this season remind us of the promise of new life in Canaan for our ancestors and new life in Christ for us all.

We have imagined a world without hunger, heard of God’s abundant provision of manna and seen the ways the church has worked tirelessly, in the past and today, to end hunger.

Now we reach the culmination of this movement toward the fulfillment of God’s promise, wherein Jesus announces: “You will always have the poor among you” (John 12:8 NIV).

It’s not the most encouraging verse in the Bible.

How often have people twisted these words into an excuse for passivity or a sneering retort to proclamations of hope that hunger and poverty can, one day, end? Along with its partner in 2 Thessalonians (“Anyone unwilling to work should not eat”), it’s one of the “hard passages” for people of faith eager to inspire others to respond to hunger and poverty. These troublesome verses are often used to support restrictive, counterintuitive policies and practices that inhibit real progress against hunger and poverty. Why try harder to end hunger and poverty if even Jesus says poverty isn’t going away?

The passage yields more when we dig a little deeper. Jesus may actually be referring to an earlier part of the Bible here, and in that earlier verse the words are no statement of fact but a challenge to the people of God. The verse appears in a section of Deuteronomy about the Jubilee Year, a time every seven years when debts were forgiven. That earlier passage sheds new light on the verse from John:

Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:11).

Far from resigning us to poverty in the world, the verse challenges followers of Christ. In his commentary on Deuteronomy, Martin Luther writes, “‘The poor you always have with you,’ just as you will have all other evils. But constant care should be taken that, since these evils are always in evidence, they are always opposed.”

For Luther, to “always have the poor among you” meant to be confronted always by God’s call to respond to human suffering and oppose the evil that creates it. This is not resignation but activation of the people of God in the service of the neighbor.

What’s more, we may find in Jesus’ words a lesson for our identity as church together. “You will always have the poor among you.” If we are truly the
people of God, then we are called to be in community with neighbors who have been marginalized, excluded, oppressed and impoverished by the world’s injustice.

As church, our calling is not merely to minister to our neighbors but to bear witness to the “new thing” God is doing in our world, a new community God is making possible. This is not easy work. Confronting hunger and poverty alongside our neighbors means facing the dangerous realities that impact our neighbors.

In Palestine, Defense of Children International–Palestine (DCIP), supported by ELCA World Hunger, works with children and families to protect their rights and give them the care and support they need. Settlement expansion in the West Bank and increased military presence in daily life put children at risk of negative encounters with Israeli forces. Children detained for
violating the often-discriminatory laws of Israeli occupation risk abuse from both Israeli and Palestinian forces. Despite significant legal reform in recent years, DCIP has found that practices have yet to fully align with domestic or international legal frameworks for juvenile justice and that children are paying the price, navigating a military legal system that fails to meet the minimum international standards, particularly for juveniles.

DCIP provides both legal and social support for children accused of crimes, and it works with their families, many of whom live in poverty, to improve their situations emotionally, socially and financially through vocational training, the support of social workers and more. This support is critical to addressing the root causes of hunger and poverty in Palestine.

Responding to hunger means accompanying neighbors as they confront the systems of injustice that create hunger. It means facing harsh realities with realistic perspectives. This is not the false “realism” that twists Jesus’ words in the Gospel but the realistic acknowledgement that we face our own journey in the wilderness before we reach the fullness of God’s promise. Friends, we have a long way to go.

And yet … and yet …

As we have seen throughout our Lenten journey, we are not going it alone. God is with us along the way, inspiring hope and courage and revealing Godself in the neighbors we encounter along the way. We know that this Lenten journey is not the end. The season’s fasting, praying and selfreflecting spiritual disciplines prepare us for the road ahead, the road that leads to the cross — and beyond, to a new community God makes possible.

This is not an easy road to travel. But we know that, even amid the challenges ahead, the “new thing” God is doing “springs forth,” that God is even now working to “make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

Do you not perceive it?

Ask

  1. What does it mean for the church to “always have the poor” with us? How might we rethink Jesus’ words in light of the study session for this week?
  2. In what ways does your congregation act as a neighbor toward people in need in your community?
  3. Why is the church called to work for justice in the world? What might the work of DCI-Palestine teach us about being the people of God?
  4. How can the church inspire hope when the promised future can seem so far away?
  5. Where is God calling you and your congregation to be today? How can or will you be part of the “new thing” God is calling forth?

Pray

God of the poor widow, the lost sheep, and the wandering Aramean,
God of the hungry, the thirsty, and the stranger,
God of the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned,

We confess before you that the church has not always been where
you have called us to be. We have failed to seek your face in our
neighbors in need. We have allowed despair to bind our hands and
feet. Change us, O God. Free us to act with hope and courage.

Open our hearts to perceive your presence in and among our
neighbors. Inflame us with holy passion for the work you invite us
to in the world. Breathe new life into your church, that we may be
the people you call us to be in the world you call into being:

A church of the poor widow, the lost sheep and the wandering Aramean.
A church of the hungry, the thirsty and the stranger.
A church of the naked, the ill and the imprisoned.

Do a “new thing” with us and through us, that we may be a
community of hope, comfort and welcome — a living sign of the
way we are making in the wilderness. Amen.

 

SEMANA 5: Un camino en el desierto

“¿No se dan cuenta?” (Isaías 43:19).
Lecturas: Isaías 43:16-21, Salmo 126, Filipenses 3:4b-14, Juan 12:1-8

Cada una de las sesiones de este estudio de Cuaresma se ha basado en un versículo de las lecturas de esta semana:

¡Voy a hacer algo nuevo! Ya está sucediendo, ¿no se dan cuenta? Estoy abriendo un camino en el desierto, y ríos en lugares desolados (Isaías 43:19).

Desde la ofrenda de primicias de Deuteronomio, hasta la enseñanza de Jesús en el Evangelio de Lucas, nuestras reflexiones han señalado cómo Dios continúa “abriendo un camino en el desierto” y nos llama a ser parte de esa jornada para nosotros y nuestro prójimo. Las lecturas bíblicas de esta temporada nos recuerdan la promesa de una nueva vida en Canaán para nuestros antepasados y una nueva vida en Cristo para todos nosotros.

Hemos imaginado un mundo sin hambre, hemos oído hablar de la abundante provisión que Dios hizo de maná, y hemos visto las formas en que la iglesia ha trabajado incansablemente, en el pasado y en la actualidad, para acabar con el hambre.

Ahora llegamos a la culminación de este movimiento hacia el cumplimiento de la promesa de Dios, en la que Jesús anuncia: “A los pobres siempre los tendrán con ustedes” (Juan 12:8 NVI).

Este no es el versículo más alentador de la Biblia.

¿Cuántas veces la gente ha tergiversado estas palabras en una excusa para la pasividad o una réplica burlona a las proclamas de esperanza de que el hambre y la pobreza pueden, algún día, terminar? Junto con su versículo compañero en 2 Tesalonicenses (“El que no quiera trabajar, que tampoco coma”), es uno de los “pasajes difíciles” para las personas de fe ansiosas por inspirar a otros a responder al hambre y la pobreza. Estos versículos problemáticos a menudo se usan para apoyar políticas y prácticas restrictivas y contraintuitivas que inhiben el progreso real contra el hambre y la pobreza. ¿Por qué esforzarse más para acabar con el hambre y la pobreza si incluso Jesús dice que la pobreza no va a desaparecer?

El pasaje brinda más cuando cavamos un poco más profundo. En realidad, Jesús podría estar refiriéndose aquí a una parte anterior de la Biblia, y en ese versículo anterior las palabras no son una declaración de hechos, sino un desafío al pueblo de Dios. El versículo aparece en una sección de Deuteronomio sobre el año del jubileo, un tiempo cada siete años en que las deudas eran perdonadas. Ese pasaje anterior arroja nueva luz sobre el versículo de Juan:

Gente pobre en esta tierra, siempre la habrá; por eso te ordeno que seas generoso con tus hermanos hebreos y con los pobres y necesitados de tu tierra” (Deuteronomio 15:11).

Lejos de resignarnos a la pobreza en el mundo, el versículo desafía a los seguidores de Cristo. En su comentario sobre Deuteronomio, Martín Lutero escribe: “‘El pobre siempre lo tienen con ustedes’, así como tendrán todos los demás males. Pero se debe tener el cuidado constante de que, dado que estos males siempre son evidentes, siempre se les presente oposición”.

Para Lutero, “a los pobres siempre los tendrán con ustedes” significaba ser siempre confrontado por el llamado de Dios a responder al sufrimiento humano y oponerse al mal que lo causa. Esto no es resignación sino activación del pueblo de Dios al servicio del prójimo.

Lo que es más, en las palabras de Jesús podemos encontrar una lección para nuestra identidad como iglesia juntos. “A los pobres siempre los tendrán con ustedes”. Si realmente somos el pueblo de Dios, entonces estamos llamados a estar en comunidad con los vecinos que han sido marginados, excluidos, oprimidos y empobrecidos por la injusticia del mundo.

Como iglesia, nuestro llamado no es simplemente ministrar a nuestro prójimo, sino dar testimonio de “algo nuevo” que Dios está haciendo en nuestro mundo, una nueva comunidad que Dios está haciendo posible. Este no es un trabajo fácil. Enfrentar el hambre y la pobreza junto a nuestro prójimo significa enfrentar las peligrosas realidades que afectan a nuestros vecinos.

En Palestina, Defense of Children International–Palestine (DCIP) [Defensa Internacional para los Niños de Palestina], con el apoyo de ELCA World Hunger, trabaja con niños y familias para proteger sus derechos y brindarles la atención y el apoyo que necesitan. La expansión de los asentamientos en la Ribera Occidental y el aumento de la presencia militar en la vida cotidiana ponen a los niños en riesgo de encuentros negativos con las fuerzas israelíes. Los niños detenidos por violar las leyes a menudo discriminatorias de la ocupación israelí corren el riesgo de sufrir abusos tanto por parte de las fuerzas israelíes como de las palestinas. A pesar de la importante reforma legal de los últimos años, el DCIP ha descubierto que las prácticas aún no se han alineado plenamente con los marcos jurídicos nacionales o internacionales para la justicia de menores, y que los niños están pagando el precio, navegando por un sistema legal militar que no cumple con las mínimas normas internacionales, particularmente para los menores.

DCIP da apoyo legal y social a los niños acusados de delitos y trabaja con sus familias —muchas de las cuales viven en la pobreza— para mejorar emocional, social y financieramente sus situaciones a través de la capacitación vocacional, el apoyo de los trabajadores sociales y más. Este apoyo es fundamental para atacar las causas profundas del hambre y la pobreza en Palestina.

Responder al hambre significa acompañar a los vecinos mientras enfrentan los sistemas de injusticia que crean hambre. Significa hacer frente a realidades duras con perspectivas realistas. Este no es el falso “realismo” que tergiversa las palabras de Jesús en el Evangelio, sino el reconocimiento realista de que enfrentamos nuestra propia jornada en el desierto antes de alcanzar la plenitud de la promesa de Dios.  Amigos, nos queda un largo camino por recorrer.

Y sin embargo… y sin embargo…

Como hemos visto a lo largo de nuestra jornada cuaresmal, no vamos solos. Dios está con nosotros en el camino, inspirando esperanza y valentía y revelándose a sí mismo en los vecinos que encontramos en el camino. Sabemos que esta jornada cuaresmal no es el fin. Las disciplinas espirituales de ayuno, oración y autorreflexión de la temporada nos preparan para el camino por delante, el camino que conduce a la cruz; y más allá, a una nueva comunidad que Dios hace posible.

No es un camino fácil de recorrer. Pero sabemos que, incluso en medio de los desafíos que tenemos por delante, el “algo nuevo” que Dios está haciendo “brota”, que Dios incluso ahora está trabajando para “abrir un camino en el desierto y ríos en lugares desolados” (Isaías 43:19).

¿No se dan cuenta?

Preguntas para la reflexión

  1. ¿Qué significa para la iglesia que “a los pobres siempre los tendremos con nosotros”? ¿Cómo podríamos replantearnos las palabras de Jesús a la luz de la sesión de estudio de esta semana?
  2. ¿De qué maneras actúa su congregación como el prójimo de las personas necesitadas en su comunidad?
  3. ¿Por qué está llamada la iglesia a trabajar por la justicia en el mundo? ¿Qué podría enseñarnos la obra de DCI-Palestina en lo que respecta a ser el pueblo de Dios?
  4. ¿Cómo puede la iglesia inspirar esperanza cuando el futuro prometido puede parecer tan lejano?
  5. ¿Dónde está llamando Dios a su congregación y a usted a estar hoy? ¿Cómo puede ser o será parte del “algo nuevo” del que Dios está hablando?

Oración

Dios de la viuda pobre, de la oveja perdida y del arameo errante, Dios del hambriento, el sediento y el extranjero, Dios del desnudo, el enfermo y el encarcelado:

Confesamos ante ti que la iglesia no siempre ha estado donde nos has llamado a estar. No hemos podido buscar tu rostro en nuestros vecinos necesitados. Hemos permitido que la desesperación nos ate las manos y los pies. Cámbianos, oh Dios. Libéranos para actuar con esperanza y valentía.

Abre nuestros corazones para percibir tu presencia en nuestros vecinos y entre ellos. Enciéndenos con santa pasión por el trabajo al que nos invitas en el mundo. Sopla nueva vida a tu iglesia, para que podamos ser las personas que nos llamas a ser en el mundo que llamas a ser:

Una iglesia de la viuda pobre, la oveja perdida y el arameo errante. Una iglesia del hambriento, el sediento y el extranjero.

Una iglesia del desnudo, el enfermo y el encarcelado. Haz “algo nuevo” con nosotros y a través de nosotros, para que podamos ser una comunidad de esperanza, consuelo y bienvenida; una señal viva del camino que estás abriendo en el desierto. Amén.

 

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Migration Policy: Hunger Policy Podcast December 2021

 

Saturday, December 18, is International Migrants Day, a day set aside by the United Nations to raise awareness and focus attention on the 281 million people around the world where are on the move, in search of peace, stability, security and an opportunity for new life. In 2020, more than 3.6% of people around the world were migrants.

 

Hunger Policy Podcast-Migration (Audio Only)

 

In the US, the latest data we have on hunger and poverty confirms what we had guessed. Hunger is on the rise, poverty is on the rise, and yet neither is quite as high nationally as we thought they would be, due largely to the unprecedented federal legislation that expanded the safety net in the United States. While that is true nationally, that’s not the case for every community and every family here in the US or around the world, however. Immigrant and non-citizens in the US saw a steeper decline in income in 2020. Internationally, migrants are more vulnerable to hunger and poverty than native residents, and migrants experience unique risks when it comes to COVID-19. All this, coupled with the large numbers of people forced to flee their homes worldwide, makes immigration a key conversation we need to be having.

In this podcast, Giovana Oaxaca, the ELCA’s program director for migration policy, joins Ryan Cumming of ELCA World Hunger to talk about the realities of migration and immigration policy. As they describe in this conversation, “immigration policy” refers to more than just who is able to enter the United States, but also to questions about who has access to public benefits, what it means to be a “non-citizen” and how policy changes can impact individuals and communities. Ryan and Giovana also discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic specifically impacted immigration and immigrants in the United States and confront some of the prevailing myths about immigrants and migration.

Prefer to read the interview? Follow this link to access a transcript of the conversation.

Immigration and Migration Links from the Podcast

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Social Media

AMMPARO Resources

  • Bible Studies
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  • Videos
  • Words Create Worlds

ELCA and Peace Not Walls: Advocacy Summer School

Interested in other podcasts? Visit the ELCA World Hunger blog and click “subscribe.”

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Advent 2021- Week Two Study Guide and Children’s Sermon

Advent Week 2

“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us.”

-Luke 1:78

This advent reflection is part of ELCA World Hunger’s 2021 Advent Study and ELCA World Hunger’s weekly Sermon Starter emails. You can download the full study here. You can also download the corresponding advent calendar here. You can sign up for the weekly Sermon Starter emails here on the right side of the page if on a computer or near the bottom of the page if viewing from a phone.

Reflect

Zechariah’s prophecy in the first chapter of Luke, our reading for this second Sunday in Advent, is sometimes overlooked in favor of the  Magnificat of  Mary in the same chapter. Mary’s song, which we will read later in Advent, is a theological ode to God, who “lift[s] up the lowly” (Luke 1:52). Zechariah’s prophecy, however, is a cry of joy for the God who fulfills God’s promise. Both Mary and Zechariah have longed with their people for this moment, have yearned for

the fulfillment of the promise that we heard on the first Sunday of Advent, when “Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety” (Jeremiah 33:16). Now, as Zechariah proclaims, “the dawn from on high [has broken] upon us” (Luke 1:78).

What does it mean for this new day to “dawn”? All too often, the church has tended to conflate metaphors of light and darkness with good and evil. The darkness of night is tied to fear, uncertainty and even despair, whereas the brightness of day symbolizes hope, joy and, in some cases, wisdom. But Zechariah’s proclamation of the coming dawn reveals more than the difference between light and darkness . Indeed, in much of Scripture the dawning of the day of

the Lord is far from a happy occasion. The prophets Micah and Joel both refer to it as “terrible,” and Amos chastises the people who long for it to arrive.

In the Bible and in life, metaphors of light and darkness are more complex than we sometimes assume. In life, the darkness of night can bring risk and uncertainty, as we heard in Charity’s story in the first session of this Advent study. Yet night can also be a time of rest, a symbol for the end of our labors. For the people of the Bible, living in hot, arid climes, the sun was necessary for growing food but its setting would bring a cool, restorative break.

For many of our neighbors who face housing insecurity, night and day each carry their own risks. As the sky dims, the need to find safe, suitable shelter intensifies. As the day dawns, the threat of eviction or displacement looms.

St. Andrew’s Refugee Services (StARS) in Cairo, Egypt, a ministry supported by ELCA World Hunger, accompanies vulnerable neighbors through these risks. The community­ based organizations supported by StARS are key partners in this work. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many governmental agencies to close down or scale back their support of refugees

in Cairo, these community-based organizations remained open, providing critical support.

Hala, a 37-year-old Sudanese mother, was one of these neighbors. Her husband passed away during the first wave of COVID-19 in Egypt, leaving Hala to care for their four children. Forced to support them on her own amid the widespread economic uncertainty of the pandemic, Hala soon fell behind in her rent payments.

Knowing she needed some support, Hala turned to Amal School, an organization supported by StARS. Amal School provided her and her family with an emergency grant so that they no longer had to fear eviction. The school also provided Hala with a caseworker who helped her find a job. Now, her family has stable housing, her job provides much-needed income and Hala has the resources she needs to care for her family. She no longer worries about what they will eat during the day or where they will lay their heads at night.

The season of Advent invites us to journey with our historical forebears, such as Mary and Zechariah, and with our neighbors today, such as Hala. This journey is no metaphorical shift between night and day, darkness and light, but a real, lived transformation from the vulnerability we know surrounds us to the promise we know includes us. For Mary, this meant seeing the proud brought low and “the lowly” exalted by God. For Zechariah, it meant seeing the dawn break from on high. For Charity Toksang, in our first session of this study, it meant seeing the sunrise over a health care clinic in Juba, South Sudan. And for Hala and her family, it means sleeping in a home they won’t be forced to leave the next day.

God meets us where we are with a promise – that we will be reconciled, that the world is being transformed, that we

will live safely, securely and abundantly. God also meets us with an invitation – to participate in this reconciliation and transformation in the world.

Where is God meeting you this Advent? And where is God calling you to be in the new year?

Ask

  1. What does it mean to be vulnerable? What are some ways Hala and her family may have felt vulnerable? What are some ways you feel vulnerable in this Advent season?
  2. What does God’s promise of salvation mean for us today? What will “the dawn [breaking] from on high” look like in our lives?
  3. The term “housing insecurity,” used in the reflection above, includes not just homelessness but a variety of obstacles people face in finding a safe, stable and affordable place to live. Consider the terms “housing-insecure” and “homeless.” What’s the difference? What does it mean to have a “home”? What challenges does your community face in ensuring that everyone is “housing secure”?
  4. Where is God calling the church to be this Advent? How does our faith call us to accompany neighbors such as Hala as they work toward a better future for their families?

Pray

God of promise, we thank you for the darkness of night and the brightness of day, for the change of seasons, the passing of time and the promised future toward which you lead your world. Be present with us and with our neighbors around the world, especially those left vulnerable by rising costs and declining opportunities. Inspire your church to be part of your work in the world, ensuring that all can enjoy the blessings of safety, security, peace and hope that you provide. In your holy name, we pray. Amen.

Children’s Sermon

By Pr. Tim Brown for ELCA World Hunger Sermon Starters

Today the theme of “names” is noticeable by the Gospel writer. 

Bring in a bunch of, “hello, my name is” name tags and a sharpie marker.  You’ll need enough for each child plus enough for each child to take with them, with a few that are blank, and the rest filled in with “Lovely,” or “Beloved,” or “God’s Child,” or “Wonderfully Made.”

“Hi all!  I’m so glad you’re here today.” Hold the name tags tightly in your hand out of sight. “Does anyone want to guess what I have here?” Give appropriate time for guesses “They are nametags!  Tell me look at one youth What would you like me to write on your name tag? It can be your name, or it can be any name that you really, really like.”

Allow time for them to answer and write it on the tag.

“Anyone else?” Call on another youth “What name would you like?”

Allow time for them to answer and write it on the tag. Now, look out at the adult congregation.

“How about anyone in the seats?  Anyone want a name tag? What would you like on your tag?”

Call on an adult. Allow time for them to answer and write it on the tag.

“In today’s Gospel lesson the writer names all these names: Pontius Pilate. Tiberius. Herod. John the Baptist. Zechariah. They name all these names because they want us to know what was going on in the world and who these people are.  Names are important.  You all have names.  And God knows all of your names!  But you know what?  You also have other names given by God in your baptism, names you might forget.  I want to show them to you, but they’re a surprise, so come in close.”

Invite the youth in close and show them the name tags.

<whispered> “You are all Beloved.  You are all Lovely. You are all Children of God. And you know what?  They are, too. <point to the assembly>  “Each of you take a nametag to wear, and then take a name tag to give to someone out there, so that they can know what they are named by God, too.  Ready? Go!”

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Hunger, Health and…Honoring Saints? Remembering Martin de Porres and Elizabeth of Hungary

 

It’s no exaggeration to say that observing the festivals and commemorations of saints is an uncommon practice in Lutheran churches. Indeed, a simple Google search for “Lutheran AND saints” returns a wide spread of opinions, ranging from blog posts honoring particular exemplars of faith to lengthy diatribes railing against “the cult of saints.” Commemorations are sometimes controversial in Lutheranism, though, really, they ought not to be. Lutherans believe that we can honor saints by giving thanks for them and by imitating the example they have set in both faith and life.[1] Lutherans may not pray to saints or ask saints to intercede for us, but we still lift them up as examples of what it means to be a person of faith in the world.

I mention this because this month, we commemorate two particularly inspirational Catholic saints, Martin de Porres on November 3, and Elizabeth of Hungary[2] on November 17, who each exemplified “faith active in love” in important ways. What might we learn from these important leaders?

Martin de Porres

Martin and Elizabeth lived 300 years – and a world – apart. Martin was born in Lima, Peru, in 1579. His parents, a Spanish nobleman and a freed slave from Panama, were never married, and Martin’s father abandoned the family when Martin and his sister were still young. Some accounts claim that his father’s decision was due to the fact that their mother was black, and he feared the stigmatization that he and his mixed-race children would face.

Potrait of Martin de Porres from the 17th century.

The children were raised by their mother, who worked to support her children by taking in laundry. The work did not pay well, and the family grew up in poverty. At some point when he was young, Martin had to leave school and worked with a surgeon-barber in Lima, where he learned to cut hair and provide medical treatment to customers.

Martin was deeply religious and committed to helping others. Even amid his own poverty as a child, he would often give what little he had to people begging in the streets of Lima. When he was a young teenager (some sources say at the age of 15), Martin was taken in as a servant by the Dominican religious order. During his early years there, he earned a good amount of money begging, using the money to support the charitable work of the Dominicans among people who were poor or sick.

Despite his diligent work as a servant and supporter of the religious order’s charitable endeavors, many accounts state that Martin faced ridicule and discrimination because of his racial heritage. In fact, he was initially prevented from fully joining the Dominicans because, being black, he was not allowed to do so.

Eventually, this was changed, and Martin took his vows. He was assigned to the order’s infirmary, and he became widely known for the care and concern he showed for everyone in the community, regardless of their economic situation or race. In one story of Martin, there was an epidemic in Lima that sickened several of the friars in his monastery. To prevent the spread of disease, the friars were locked away in a separate part of the building. Martin violated the rules of his order by breaking into the quarantined area to minister to the ill men. When he was caught, he asked for forgiveness , saying that he did not know that obedience took precedence over charity. After that, he was allowed to continue ministering to them.

Martin continued his work in service of people facing poverty and poor health throughout his life, including by establishing an orphanage and school in Lima. He died in 1639.

Elizabeth of Hungary

Elsheimer, Adam; Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Bringing Food for the Inmates of a Hospital

While Martin’s experiences growing up poor may have motivated his charity, this wasn’t the case for Elizabeth of Hungary. Elizabeth was born in wealth, to the king and queen of Hungary, in 1207. Like Martin, Elizabeth showed deep concern for neighbors in need and an authentic spirit of generosity from an early age. She married Louis, the landgrave of Thuringia, when she was 14, and together, the couple was known for sharing their royal wealth with people facing poverty throughout the region.

Louis died in 1227, leaving Elizabeth a widow. Inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, Elizabeth became a lay associate of the Franciscans and continued her charitable work, against the protests of her husband’s surviving family. She refused to remarry, despite the political benefits that might be gained, and used her dowry to continue supporting people in need. Her charitable actions were driven by her faith in God and in memory of her late husband, who was her partner in this work prior to his death.

Like Martin, Elizabeth devoted herself to caring for people who were sick. During a famine and epidemic in 1226, she sold her jewels and opened the royal storehouses of grain to provide for people in need. Toward the end of her life, she established the Franciscan hospital in Marburg, Germany, in 1228, and she could often be found tending to the patients at the hospital alongside the other nurses and caregivers. Elizabeth died in 1231 at the age of 24.

We don’t need to venerate Martin or Elizabeth to recognize them as exemplars of the kind of faith that moves the people of God to act in the world. Their work in caring for neighbors, particularly neighbors facing health crises, has deep roots in the work of the church, from Jesus’ loving care of people suffering from hemorrhages, injuries or leprosy, to the church’s continued support of hospitals, maternal and child health care, and clinics today.

The commemorations of Martin de Porres (November 3) and Elizabeth of Hungary (November 17) are opportunities to lift up the important role the church plays in providing health care in communities. Recognizing this aspect of who we are as people of God can help us see the work of ELCA World Hunger as part of this rich heritage.

So, this month, as we mark the memory of Martin de Porres and Elizabeth of Hungary, we pray for the many ways this work continues. Whether it is through the support of hospitals, ministries among people living with HIV and AIDS, malaria prevention projects, maternal and child health care clinics, vaccination programs or advocacy for health care support in the US and internationally, the church lives out its faith in God’s promise of health and healing for body and soul.

We may not need saints like Martin and Elizabeth to intercede for us in prayer. We may not even canonize them as “saints.” But we can still learn from their memory – from a Peruvian man who refused to let racial discrimination or poverty prevent him from caring for others, and a Hungarian widow who refused to let the comfort of wealth dampen her concern for people who were sick – about what it means to be the kind of people today who can share in the transformation God is enacting in the world.

During this month, particularly on Sundays following November 3 and 17, consider honoring the memory of Martin de Porres, Elizabeth of Hungary and all those who continue the important work of providing health care by praying together:

Gracious God, we give you thanks for the many ways you sustain your creation – for the richness of healthy food, the wisdom to treat and heal, and the workers through whose hands you care for those who are sick. We give you thanks for nurses, doctors, emergency personnel, clinic workers, community educators, therapists and all those whom you have called to the healing arts. Guide them and protect them, Lord, that they may be blessed in their work. We give you thanks for those who have devoted their lives throughout the history of your church to be examples of loving care and concern for their neighbors, especially for Martin de Porres and Elizabeth of Hungary. Let us be guided by their example, that our faith in you may move us to acts of love for others. In your holy name, we pray, Amen.

 

Ryan P. Cumming, Ph.D., is the program director of hunger education with ELCA World Hunger.

 

 

 

[1] Augsburg Confession, Article XXI. See also “Apology of the Augsburg Confession,” Article XXI.

[2] Some writers have suggested that Elizabeth might more accurately be referred to as Elizabeth of Thuringia, but here, we use her more common name.

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