Hunger, Housing & Poverty Committee


The U.S. government does not use the term “hunger,” but it defines and regularly measures the incidence of two conditions related to it.

One is “low food security,” or not always being sure of having enough money to pay for food.

The other is “very low food security,” skipping meals or not eating for a whole day or longer because there is not enough money for food.

The term “food insecurity” refers to households in either group. Bread for the World considers food insecurity to be hunger. Americans frequently interpret “hunger” or “food insecurity” to mean that someone does not have enough food.

And, of course, it’s true that not having enough food is hunger. But the two terms also encompass not just the number of calories available to people, but the nutrients they consume.

Since nutritious foods tend to cost more and may be harder to access in low-income neighborhoods, people who live below the poverty line are too often forced to choose cheap foods that may be filling but do not provide the nutrients needed for good health. Their health—especially the health of children—can and does suffer as a result.

“The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. … Inequality is the root of social ills.”

-Pope Francis

“The Face of Poverty” by student artist Megan Jackson is a national entry of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) Multimedia Youth Contest. This contest allows students in grades 7-12 to learn about poverty in the United States, its root causes, and faith-inspired efforts to address poverty, especially through CCHD. The contest is sponsored by CCHD and RCL Benziger.

Top Priorities for 2023

1. Focus on Hunger, Housing and Poverty advocacy issues on both the Baltimore City and State levels.

2. Identify direct support of poverty and housing projects

A. Welcome Baskets to families moving in their first homes in Baltimore City

3. Offering of Letters – federal letter writing parishwide event to end hunger at home and abroad

4. Identify parishioners and friends who want to support issues key to the committee

Upcoming Events

Media Watch

of Baltimore City residents live in food deserts where no healthy, affordable food options can be found.

Baltimore City school ages children are hungry when they arrive at school.

# of households in the United States that are food insecure.

Talking Points

Oppose any budget cuts that would increase hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.

One in 8 households in the United States is food insecure-which means that 1 in 6 children’s lives are at risk of hunger. Budget cuts that reduce access to basic living standards like nutrition and health care will increase hunger.

Nearly 800 million people in the world are still hungry, and 20 million people are at risk of starvation due to famine and near-famine conditions in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen. Cuts to international poverty-focused development assistance results in life or death consequences.

Fully fund domestic safety-net and international development programs that end hunger and poverty.

At less than 1 percent of the federal budget, foreign assistance is some of the most impactful money we spend.

We urge Congress to continue to stand firm in its commitment to international affairs programs by providing no less than $60 billion in the international affairs budget for fiscal year 2018.

In the United States, programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), Medicaid, and “Given the current political climate, I have caught myself asking, where are our faith leaders in all of this?”

Talking Points

  • Tax credits provide basic assistance and opportunity to individuals and families working to get back on their feet.
  • Annually funded programs like WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) nutrition program and summer.
  • Electronic Benefits Transfer helps keep hunger at bay for millions of children living at risk of hunger.
Oppose harmful structural changes to SNAP, Medicaid, and international development assistance.

Block grants, per capita caps, and other structural changes that shift the cost of domestic safety-net programs to states threaten the ability of programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and refundable tax credits to help everyone who is eligible.

Our lead aid agency must be independent, strong, and capable. Any reforms to U.S. foreign assistance should be conducted jointly by Congress and the administration – in consultation with the development community – and be guided by core principles ensuring that U.S. assistance has the greatest possible impact, especially on the lives of those most in need.


There are hungry people in the United States. Why should we spend taxpayer dollars on international poverty-focused development assistance?

Globally, nearly 800 million people are hungry, and malnutrition causes approximately half of all deaths of children under age 5 (3.1 million children) each year.

Hunger and malnutrition prevent millions of people in developing countries from living healthy, productive lives and stunt the mental and physical development of future generations.

Foreign assistance is a vital tool within our foreign policy strategy. At less than 1 percent of the total federal budget, foreign assistance is some of the most impactful money we spend.

Poverty-focused development assistance programs, including initiatives like Feed the Future, help to stabilize weak and fragile states, build economic prosperity by driving growth, and promote U.S. moral leadership around the world.

As Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in February, “When I hear if we cut foreign aid we can balance the budget, it’s just a complete lie. Foreign assistance is an insurance policy. Investing over there, even though we have needs here, makes us safer.”

For more information, see the Poverty-focused Development Assistance (PFDA) 101 fact sheet in this packet.

Our government has a spending problem, and our debt is on an unsustainable path. We have to live with the additional cuts to discretionary programs like foreign aid.

Cuts to lifesaving poverty-focused development assistance have real life or death consequences.

  • Fewer farmers will have access to programs that help them grow their way out of poverty.
  • Mothers and their children (particularly in the critical 1,000-days window) will lose access to nutrition interventions and treatments, leaving them vulnerable to stunting.

As we potentially face the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, almost 13 million people could be cut off from lifesaving food aid; and over 1 million people could lose access to safe and sustainable water sources, and/or sanitation services that prevent the spread of disease.

For more information, see the Consequences of Sequestration fact sheet in this packet.

Does all U.S. foreign assistance get wasted or sent to corrupt governments? Should we overhaul USAID & the State Department to make them more efficient?

The United States does not provide most of its poverty-reducing aid directly to foreign governments. Instead, it is distributed through U.S.-based NGOs, including many faith-based organizations. There are checks in place to minimize the risk of fraud and abuse.

If done right, foreign assistance can push local institutions to do the right thing and increase accountability to both their citizens and U.S. taxpayers.

Slashing the budgets of the State Department and USAID is not reform and will not improve the effectiveness of these institutions.

Instead, it will hamper the progress that has already been made toward more effective overseas aid.

Reform should be based on sound policies guided by proven aid effectiveness principles.

Congress should oppose dramatic cuts to foreign assistance, and instead provide the necessary resources to ensure our security, reaffirm U.S. global leadership, and maintain the positive bipartisan trajectory toward sensible, policy-based reform.

Cuts to SNAP (formerly known as food Stamps) and Medicaid are necessary “to maintain the integrity of the program” or “to make sure the truly needy receive it.”

SNAP is already an effective and efficient program that reaches exactly whom it’s supposed to.

The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $786,well below the strict national income limits. Eighty-three percent of SNAP households have incomes below the poverty line, which is $24,250 for a family of four.

Eighty-two percent of all SNAP benefits go to the most vulnerable households-those with children, elderly, or disabled people.

In fact, roughly 1.7 million veterans live in households that participated in SNAP at some point during the past 12 months, and about 980,000 veterans lived in households that participated in SNAP in an average month in 2013.

More than half of Medicaid recipients are children, and more than one-third of all U.S. children rely on Medicaid fir their health care. For more information, see The Hunger-Medicaid Connections fact sheet in this packet.

Structural changes to SNAP or Medicaid- whether a block grant, per capita cap, or shifting of costs to the states- will hurt the programs’ ability to respond to increases in need and will result in increased hunger and hardship in our country.

For more information, see the Budget 101: Block Grants, Flexibility, and Per Capita Caps fact sheet in this packet

What do you propose we cut instead? Where is the money to support programs for hungry people supposed to come from?

Congress should look to a combination of revenue increases (closing tax loopholes and tax expenditures) and responsible entitlement cuts that won’t hurt vulnerable populations.

Most of the deficit reduction enacted over the past few years has already come from nondefense appropriated spending programs, the same programs that the Trump budget and current spending caps hit especially hard. It’s time for a more balanced approach.

In the United States, the health-related costs of hunger and food insecurity to our economy are a staggering $160 billion. Investments in anti-hunger programs and antipoverty policies will curb future costs.

Charitable and private responses to hunger are more efficient and caring than government programs.

Ending hunger and poverty requires strong partnerships between the federal government, state and local governments, and local communities. Churches and individuals through private charity alone cannot serve every person who is hungry.

Including SNAP and child nutrition programs, the U.S. government provides 20 times more food assistance than private charity. Federal nutrition programs ensure that struggling families and individuals- regardless of what state they live in- have access to the food they need to thrive.

Cuts of the magnitude included in the Trump budget cannot be made up by churches and charity. Proposed cuts to SNAP, Medicaid, refundable tax credits, and TANF (the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) alone would require religious congregation in the United States to raise nearly $250,000 a year for 10 years to make up the difference.

Direct Action

Hunger & Poverty

Good nutrition during the 1,000-day period from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday is critical to a child’s health and future well-being.

To accelerate progress on nutrition, we must scale up what we know works: improved access to nutritious foods, vitamins and minerals, clean water and sanitation, promotion of breastfeeding, and treatment for severe malnutrition.

All children deserve the opportunity to live a healthy life and reach their full potential. Join us in making this opportunity a reality!

Leading Facts about Immigration Poverty

Leading Fact: Immigrants as a group have a poverty rate of 30 percent. Meanwhile, the national poverty rate is 14.8 percent. Hundreds of thousands of people could be moved out of poverty if comprehensive immigration reform is achieved and a pathway to citizenship provided for undocumented immigrants.

Learn More about Immigration Poverty

Learn More: Bread for the World recognizes immigration to be a hunger issue “on both sides of the border.” This means that when considering the way immigration and hunger intersect, we need to think about how hunger pushes people to migrate and how they experience hunger once they arrive in the United States. For example, many people migrate in the first place due to poverty in their home country. As advocates, we can promote more foreign spending on food aid and less on border security, which has been proven to be ineffective in preventing people from migrating. Domestically, we must consider how those most marginalized within our own country are experiencing hunger, and address why they are experiencing such hunger. Bread for the World explains, “No group of immigrants is more harmed by hunger and poverty than those without documentation. Lack of legal status contributes to their economic insecurity and exploitation. It also means that they have limited access to the social safety net in the United States.” To learn more about the intersectionality of immigration and hunger, check out the following fact sheets from Bread for the World: Immigration is a Hunger Issue and Border Policy Fact Sheet.

Protecting SNaP

Congress Must Protect and Strengthen SNAP and Other Key Anti-Hunger Programs

Give policymakers a brief, up-to-date fact sheet on what they can do to protect and strengthen key anti-hunger programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).


Leading Facts about Minimum Wage

Leading Fact: $17.67: the amount per hour the Living Wage Calculator suggests an individual living with another adult and two children must earn to support their family. The current statewide minimum wage, $9.25 an hour, is simply not enough.

Learn more about Minimum Wage

Learn More: The current minimum wage in Maryland is a major contributor to the reality of hunger and poverty in our state. Minimum wage employees do not make enough money to support themselves and their families adequately, resulting in hunger, poverty, and related social problems. Our work advocating for a $15 statewide minimum wage by 2023 through the Fight for $15 campaign supports legislation that would put Maryland on track towards achieving a living wage for all people and families. A $15 minimum wage would bring great relief to many in Maryland living paycheck to paycheck and renewed hope that practical change can be achieved through just legislative action. This legislation would not entirely address the ever grave situation of poverty afflicting Baltimore, where, according to the Baltimore City Health Department, nearly 30% of families currently have an income below the poverty level, and about 13% of the population is unemployed entirely. However, it would be a drastic improvement. To learn more about hunger and poverty in Maryland specifically, check out this fact sheet on Ending Hunger in Maryland.

Criminal Justice Reform

Reforming our nation’s criminal justice system is critical to ending hunger and poverty in the United States. Harsh mandatory minimum sentences, combined with the lack of rehabilitative programs for people in prison, exacerbate hunger, poverty, and existing inequalities.

People lose income and work skills while serving time in prison and lack opportunities to participate in rehabilitative programs, making it even harder for many to find a job after leaving the prison system.

Reforms, such as reducing mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders, eliminating the collateral consequences to incarceration, and expanding access to reentry services would help reduce hunger and improve the stability of families in the United States.

Leading Facts about Mass Incarceration

Leading Facts: $13,000: The average amount owed by the average family with an imprisoned family member in fines and court fees alone. Also, more than half the gross income of a family of four at the poverty line. Coming at the same time as the loss of income when a wage earner goes to jail or prison, such financial hits cause one in five families with an incarcerated family member to be evicted.

Learn More about Mass Incarceration

Learn More: In November 2017, the Justice and Peace Committee attended the Ignatian Family Teach-In in Washington D.C., during which we discussed the topic of mass incarceration and advocated for criminal justice reform on Capitol Hill. Mass incarceration is of grave concern to us because of the threat such extreme practices of imprisonment make to human dignity, one of the main pillars of Catholic Social Teaching. We are also concerned about mass incarceration because it is one of the leading causes of poverty and hunger in our nation. In fact, according to the Social Science Research Network, U.S. poverty would have dropped by 20 percent between 1980 and 2004 if not for mass incarceration. There are many contributing factors to the creation of this reality, one major factor being the collateral consequences formerly incarcerated people face upon returning from prison. Federal law permanently bans people with felony drug convictions from received welfare benefits and SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. Many returning citizens are also barred from public housing. Without such resources, it is difficult to forge a new life, thus predisposing formerly incarcerated individuals and their families to hunger and poverty. For a more in depth exploration on the intersectionality of these issues, check out the Mass Incarceration Briefing Paper provided by Bread for the World.

Migration & Immigration

Immigration is a hunger issue. People who make the decision to leave home and come to the United States generally have few other options. Central America countries are among the poorest in the world, with very high levels of hunger and malnutrition.

Any truly effective immigration policy must include lasting solutions to push factors of migration: hunger, malnutrition, extreme poverty, and violence.

This year, Congress has the opportunity to strengthen the United States’ development and humanitarian assistance by investing in development assistance targeted to help countries in Central America respond to and address the causes of forced migration.

Loaves & Fishes Ministry

St. Ignatius engages in Direct Action to address hunger in Baltimore City through the Loaves & Fishes ministry. Learn more by visiting our Loaves & Fishes ministry page.

Learn More About Loaves & Fishes Ministry

For more information about getting involved with Loaves and Fishes contact Len Heckwolf at

Viva House

St. Ignatius partners with Viva House, operated by Brendan Walsh and Willa Beckham, to provide food to those who need it in Baltimore.

Learn more about Viva House

Listen to the WYPR Podcast about Viva House