Hunger and Systemic Injustice

May 21, 2012

Jesse Epp-Fransen writes about hunger and systemic injustice in the latest Third Way Cafe.

Economic justice in the United States is an incredibly complex topic. It covers far more than the simple math of the cost of food and shelter compared to the average wage. Economic justice must be rooted in the ability to meet not only immediate needs, but future needs as well.


Food insecurity not only inhibits households from having enough food, but decreases their chances of being able to be successful in work and school. Hunger combines with interrelated issues such as unemployment and lack of health insurance to create a larger structure of economic injustice from which there is no simple escape.

Read the entire article here.

What is food insecurity?

May 14, 2012

When we envision hunger in the world, it is not usually our own communities that we picture. Yet reports from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) tell a different story. Hunger not only exists in the U.S., it is common. Yet the United States is one of the largest agricultural exporters.

One helpful concept to understand hunger in the U.S. is food insecurity. Unlike hunger, food insecurity measures the difficulty a household has accessing food. Rather than focusing on how much food is consumed or the nutritional value of the food consumed, food insecurity is concerned with the ability of a household to access food reliably. Food insecurity points to two separate but related barriers to adequate food, the economic and the social.

Economic inaccessibility of food is clear and what is usually envisioned when thinking about hunger. If a household does not have enough income to purchase enough food then they suffer from food insecurity due to economic causes.

An example of a social cause of food insecurity is a family who find themselves living in a food desert. Food deserts are areas where nutritious food is not readily available for sale. This could be in an urban center where there are areas that do not have grocery stores and so most food must be purchased at restaurants or corner stores. These are both more expensive and often less nutritious than the fruits and vegetables that can be purchased in grocery stores. This means that a household that earns sufficient wages to purchase nutritious food might end up spending more money for less nutritious food and so still not receive adequate, nutritious food.

Read the rest of this entry »

Poverty in Appalachia

March 28, 2012

Duane Beachey of MCC Great Lakes SWAP program, writes about poverty in Appalachia and the complex relationship between economic development and resource extraction interests.

What struck me most living in Appalachia was not the poverty, which I expected, but the wealth that goes out of these counties. In 2010, a billion dollars worth of coal was sold out of the half dozen or so coal counties in southeastern Kentucky alone. Yet the poverty rate is the highest in the counties with coal. All of the poverty indicators—unemployment, disability rates, and people on food stamps—are some of the highest in the nation. The economic problem is that most of the mineral rights to the coal were purchased by outside investors years ago. So all of the wealth leaves the county except for the wages paid to relatively few people who work for the coal companies and supporting businesses.

Read the entire article here.

Farm Policy to Heal Nations

January 19, 2012

Jesse Epp-Fransen writes about the the Hunger Report put out by Bread for the World and the need to refocus  farm policy on producing healthy food and supporting small- and medium scale farmers in the latest Mennonite Weekly Review.

The 2008 farm bill is expiring and will need to be reauthorized this year. This is a chance to put the focus of farm policy back where it belongs, on supporting farmers to produce the food we all need for healthy bodies and healthy lives… A farm bill is an opportunity to build justice, health and economic stability. This could be a chance to work for the healing of the nations.

Read the entire article here and then let us know what you think on facebook or in the comment section.

The full 2012  Hunger Report is available at Bread for the World.

Faithful Budget Prayer Vigil November 15 2011

November 23, 2011

MCC U.S. Executive Director Ron Byler leads a prayer vigil across from the Capitol. Also speaking from the MCC Washington Office are Pastor in Residence Earl Zimmerman, Legislative Assistant Patricia Kisare, Intern Emily Wilson-Hauger, Intern Heather Sell, and Legislative Assistant and Communications Coordinator Jesse Epp-Fransen.

The Faithful Budget Campaign

November 15, 2011

MCC U.S. Executive Director Ron Byler leads a prayer vigil across from the Capitol. Photo by Jesse Epp-Fransen/MCC

The MCC Washington Office, along with other Washington area religious organizations, is participating in the Faithful Budget Campaign. This campaign calls on legislators to recognize the federal budget as a moral document that demonstrates our national values and as such should care for the disadvantaged, both within our borders, and around the world.

On November 20th groups around the country will join in prayer with Washington participants to call on the administration and congress to bring about a faithful budget. Those in Washington will gather at Lafayette Park at 3pm. Those around the country can click here to find a local prayer vigil, or to get tools for planning a vigil of your own.

This campaign focuses on issues of domestic economic justice and protecting safety net programs from cuts to be proposed by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “Super Committee”). Programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps) and WIC (Women, Infant and Children) vouchers, which address domestic hunger needs, as well as programs like Medicare and Medicaid are at risk of being cut or structurally altered as a way to find savings to put towards deficit reduction even as the use of these programs has swelled with the increased need caused by the recession.

International programs that address HIV and AIDS, extreme poverty, food insecurity, overwhelming debt, violence against women, natural disasters, and protection of the environment are also at risk of being cut. In the name of preserving our economy, which has consistently been unjust, we are choosing to turn our backs on those around the world who have the greatest need.

While reducing the federal deficit comes with many positive benefits, it cannot be accomplished by setting aside our values and contravening God’s command to care for creation and our neighbors. The Faithful Budget Campaign is one way that the MCC Washington Office participates with a broad range of partners to speak to legislators and administrators on behalf of partner organizations and constituent members.


The Faithful Budget website with links to tools and a litany available for use in local contexts:

A video of the prayer vigil held in Washington in October is available:

Annual High School Essay Contest

September 19, 2011

The MCC Washington Office is inviting submissions for our annual high school essay contest.  This year’s grand prize is $300 with three regional winners each receiving $100. Students can choose to write on domestic violence; the wealth gap in the United States; global poverty; or faith, values and voting. All essays must be submitted by January 27, 2012.

The contest is open to Anabaptist youth of high school age, and to all youth who attend Mennonite high schools.

Contest Guidelines and Topics



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