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WORK TO END POVERTY MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER, BOARD TOLD

October 1, 2001, NEW YORK CITY - The National Council of Churches’ decade-long concerted effort to end poverty is all the more important in the "September 11 context," the Rev. David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, a grassroots anti-hunger advocacy movement, told the NCC’s Executive Board at its October 1-2 meeting here.

The NCC launched its "Poverty Mobilization" last November (2000), resolving to reduce U.S. poverty measurably by the end of this decade. It is working with a host of partners, including Bread for the World, to conduct situation analyses and set goals in such areas as eliminating child poverty, hunger and poverty housing and improving health care coverage, especially for children.

The Rev. Beckmann led opening worship, then addressed the NCC Executive Board. The NCC is "a really important structure in American church life," he said. "The focus on overcoming poverty is exactly right. I’m grateful for the openness to working together with movements such as Bread for the World, Habitat for Humanity and Call to Renewal."

"We need to think how we’ll represent the interests of poor and hungry people in Sept. 11 context," the Rev. Beckmann went on. "There will be more poor and hungry with higher unemployment in this country, and slower economic growth in poor countries. Economy hits poor people like others and they are least able to take the hit. And there’s this huge diversion of resources to the counterterrorism campaign. In the long term our nation’s security depends heavily on whether we do justice to poor and hungry people."

Despite the dire economic news, the Rev. Beckmann said he is optimistic that hunger can be eliminated – because there are specific proven strategies. "For a dime per American per day," he said. "we can end hunger in America and cut world hunger in half."

"It looks like our best chance to win anything for poor people is in the context of the economic stimulus package," the Rev. Beckmann said. "If you really want to stimulate the economy, give more to poor people. They’ll spend it, not bank it."

Supporting an increase in the minimum wage and national nutrition programs like Food Stamps would reduce U.S. hunger quickly, he said. "The Food Stamps program has been so badly damaged that it represents a huge opportunity," he said. "There’s a program already in place, and it works. It’s a quick and proven way to reduce hunger and poverty."

Bread for the World’s membership numbers about 45,000 and includes 2,000 congregations. The NCC’s 36 member communions count 50 million adherents in 140,000 congregations.

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