Poverty and politics


Controversy gives our 2016 presidential campaign the sizzle that media outlets and the public thrive on. The brutal critique of candidates’ worthiness is just one example of the sitcom mentality of this race. Hunger and poverty, by contrast, don’t generate much sizzle, but faith leaders, social service providers and even some politicians are working to capture the nation’s attention on these issues. Their strategies require our engagement to pull it off.

An ecumenical rally to encourage Iowans to make hunger a priority issue in the presidential campaign will be held Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. at Sisam Arena on the Grand View University campus in Des Moines. The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, and Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates, a board member of the ecumenical, hunger-fighting organization, are collaborating on the initiative. Our Davenport Diocese is also involved. To sign up for the free rally, visit the website votetoendhungeriowa.eventbrite.com.

Their initiative responds to Pope Francis’ Sept. 24 address to the U.S. Congress, in which he observed that “The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts.” The Holy Father’s advocacy for the poor and their dignity is a central theme of his papacy. He calls for a “culture of care,” which we can nurture by the decisions we make in our daily lives.

Rev. Beckmann and Bishop Pates envision the hunger rally as a way to educate participants about the realities of hunger in Iowa and overseas and to mobilize them for further action. Both faith leaders will speak at the event, whose other supporters include the Iowa Catholic Conference (the public policy voice for Iowa’s Catholic bishops) and the Northeast and Southeast Synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.


These rally organizers know that too many people still struggle to ensure their families get enough to eat and must skimp on the essentials to put a roof over their heads. Nearly 47 million people live in poverty in the United States — 14.8 percent of our population — based on information collected in 2014. For children, the poverty rate was 21.1 percent in 2014; for adults 18-64 years old, the rate was 13.5 percent; for seniors 65 and older, the rate was 10 percent. People we interact with, including some of our family members, represent the faces behind the statistics. Let those faces inspire us to act — whether by attending a rally, writing to Congress to support a living wage for all workers or volunteering for an agency that serves people living on the margins.

Be inspired by leaders from the Circle of Protection. Following Pope Francis’ heralded visit to the U.S., this broad coalition of about 100 national faith leaders met with key House and Senate members to urge them to address poverty in budget negotiations. The “Circle” will continue to meet with congressional and administration officials to ensure that the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people are met through compassionate legislative action. While Congress averted a government shutdown this month, the possibility of another one looms in December. Let’s buttress the Circle of Protection’s efforts by sending a message to Congress to stop kicking the can down the road!

Consider registering for this year’s Iowa Hunger Summit, scheduled Oct. 13 at the Downtown Marriott in Des Moines. The event celebrates outstanding efforts of Iowans to ensure adequate food for all, encourages Iowans to expand these efforts and increases awareness of hunger, poverty and related issues. Visit the website at http://tinyurl.com/oqvsx4o.

Encourage the efforts of House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) in their plan to host a poverty powwow with Republican presidential candidates on Jan. 9 in Columbia, South Carolina. Ryan says there are few challenges tougher than the fight against poverty. The event provides an opportunity to explore ideas. That’s a good start.

Finally, make a commitment to support the 4th Annual Humility of Mary Shelter Sleep Out, scheduled Oct. 17 at Brady Street Stadium in Davenport. If you’re really adventurous, you can participate in the event’s Build a Shelter competition. General admission is $10 per person, which supports one bed per night per shelter guest.

Hunger and poverty don’t generate much sizzle in a presidential election campaign; our responsibility is to create the spark and sustain it.

Barb Arland-Fye

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