The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Providing daily bread

ELCA Hunger Program pulls poverty out by its roots

Maybe it's the word — hunger. To many it suggests that the ELCA World Hunger Program is about giving food to people who don't have enough. But this is a little off-target.

During an average year, 20 percent to 30 percent of the roughly $12 million that ELCA members give to the hunger program is used for relief, including food, clothing, shelter and transporting food.

Sixty percent to 70 percent of hunger dollars, whether used in the United States or internationally, goes for development to help the poor learn how to grow food, improve their economic situation and change systems that lock them into poverty. It assists with health care, literacy, water development and peacemaking.

Lutherans have good precedent for this understanding of hunger ministry. In the Lord's Prayer, we ask, "Give us today our daily bread." Martin Luther, in the Small Catechism, explains: "Daily bread includes everything needed for this life."

Sometimes the first need is to get food to starving people. Drought, war, poverty and long-term refugee situations are examples. But even then church hunger dollars usually go to distribute rather than to acquire food, which governments typically give.

More often ELCA hunger work goes beyond handing out food. It develops income-producing work and changes circumstances that keep people poor. Here are five examples.

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