Friday, March 7, 2008

Offering of Letters in Evanston, IL this Sunday, 3/9

The Bread for the World 2008 Offering of Letters will be held next Sunday, March 9 at First United Methodist Church in Evanston. Immediately following worship, please join us in the Great Hall to write members of congress in support of more and better poverty-focused development assistance to eradicate extreme poverty. All, visitors and youth included, are welcome to write 3 letters: one to your representative and one to each of your senators. It only takes 90 seconds to write a letter. It might take you longer to eat the delicious homemade bread we will offer to you!

If you would like to participate, but are unable to attend, please visit this website
It has a sample letter that to help you know the issues we are pushing for. You must include your home address on the outside envelope and on the letter itself in order to be counted! You can mail it yourself and let me know how many you send, so we can include them in our church's total.

If you have questions, feel free to comment. Or, you can visit the Bread for the World website at

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Global Rich List tool: find your ranking

Want to feel better about your salary and even better about giving?

The Global Rich List is a little on-line tool to help people understand where their income puts them on a global scale. It can be surprising to find out what high rank a seemingly low American wage can earn! Here is their website and the explanation of why they created it:

"We are obsessed with wealth. But we gauge how rich we are by looking upwards at those who have more than us. This makes us feel poor. We wanted to do something which would help people understand, in real terms, where they stand globally. And make us realise that in fact most of us (who are able to view this web page) are in the privileged minority. We want people to feel rich. And give some of their extra money to a worthwhile charity."

Using Fact Sheets at Events (Northfield Pantry Facts)

I'm in the process of making up a fact sheet for a food drive party we're going on Thursday. I thought I'd pass this along as a tip for anyone doing food drives or fundraisers for a pantry or other organizations. It's great to raise funds, but even better to educate and raise awareness! From a wine tasting to a pre-school party, it is always a simple and helpful idea to make up a 1/2 sheet flyer to hand to people as they come in the door. Try to find some surprising facts about the org that may catch people's attention. Thank the participants for their contributions on behalf of the receiving organization as well as your own organization. As an example, here is the copy for the flyer we will hand out about the Northfield Township Food Pantry.

"Thank you very much for attending the ----- Pre-School Bounce for Charity to benefit the Northfield Township Food Pantry (NTFP)! Here are a few facts about the pantry to help you know how much your support is appreciated and needed at this time. Did you know…?

• NTFP supports 376 households (over 1000 individuals)
• They are currently experiencing their highest number of clients in their existence.
• With every dollar donated, NTPF can buy over 14 lbs of food.
• The vast majority of community support comes in the Nov and Dec. Donations in the other 10 months are extremely low.
• NTFP supports people in Northfield, Northbrook, and Glenview and Wilmette.
• The pantry is located at 3801 West Lake Avenue in Glenview

------ Pre-School, the Northfield Township Food Pantry and growing HEROS thank you for your generosity!"

Sunday, March 2, 2008

When nothing to lose is a good position

It's astounding how far this country has come in awareness about the US Farm Bill! Newspapers all over the US have editorialized on behalf of Farm Bill reform. Many people are now aware how our subsidy system for commodity crops largely helps already wealthy people, hurts impoverished farmers overseas who can't compete with our artificially cheap crops, hurts small US farmers in poverty, and could be (but isn't) funding the food stamps. Yet we were not able to pull out a win this year. Not in the House, not in the Senate. In both instances, back room dealings undermined real change. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is so eloquent about helping children in poverty (that's not sarcasm..she really is!) and stands at the head of the party that is supposed to care the most about hungry people, encouraged the Dems to back a status quo bill with no change in the subsidy system. Senate democrats won a majority for reform, but because of back room deals didn't get it. They had traded away their position and needed a "super majority" (60 votes) to win. How is this possible? Why didn't members of Congress (especially Democrats) rise up to help the poor and hungry at home and in the world?

I think it has a lot to do with people wanting to keep their seats. Representatives and Senators of farm states have big farm lobbies to contend with. They will have a huge fight on their hands to keep their seats if Big Agriculture turns against them. Don't get me wrong now, there are reform champions in farm states. Senator Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Lugar (R-IN) are the big guns fighting for Farm Bill reform and they are not alone. But they are senior senators with supportive constituencies. Younger reps and senators with less certain support didn't go out on a limb. I think Pelosi was worried about keeping Democratic seats and gave the command for the kids in the hall to support the old tradition of commodity subsidies so they wouldn't lose their seats. So, farm reform failed in Congress.

But wait! Isn't there someone else who can help us? Someone in a position to send it all back to the drawing board? Someone with a veto stamp??? Why yes, there is! President George W. Bush. A man holding a lot of power and nothing to lose. This is exactly the kind of hero the Farm Bill needs. An unlikely anti-hero at this point, but the right guy for this job. Republicans are distancing themselves from him, Democrats paint him as a complete and utter failure, the public that elected him because he seemed to be the "kind of guy you'd want to have a beer with" has found other drinking buddies. But he can be our guy. He has said that he wants subsidy caps and Congress didn't listen. So, here's his chance. Farm Bill reform may not sound like a very sexy legacy, but this could be the most positive accomplishment of his presidency. He can stand up and take the position that is so unpalatable to Big Agriculture. What are they going to do? Make sure he never works in this town again? People may try to say that it's his fault for stalling the Farm Bill if he does veto, but I'd rather have a more just legislation later, than continue a system of social injustice sooner. Bush's "nothing to lose" position makes his veto threat the best thing we have going for us. I hope he uses it.