An evangelical Christian leader is calling on Congress to extend the federal child tax credit to help alleviate food insecurity.
Rev. Eugene Cho, the president and CEO of District-based relief group Bread for the World, said the tax credit — along with more involvement from churches and individuals — is needed to help the one in 10 households in the U.S. struggling to put food on the table.
Mr. Cho, formerly the senior pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, was named to his position in March 2020, succeeding the organization’s longtime president, the Rev. David Beckmann, who now advises Virginia Theological Seminary’s dean on political and economic justice.
Bread for the World has a goal of “influencing U.S. policies that address the causes of hunger,” according to its website.
“There is no one singular entity, whether it’s an individual, whether it’s a church and certainly not the government — no one single institution can end hunger, everybody has to work together, everybody has to be involved,” he said in a telephone interview.
Mr. Cho said the problem of food insecurity is now a domestic issue: “There are some people that would just assume that issues of hunger and malnutrition and poverty is just over there in faraway countries.”
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The reality is far different, he said.
Along with the one-in-10 overall household number, Black households “are more than twice that” figure, and, he added, “as many as 13 million children in the U.S. are not getting enough food to eat right now.”
Mr. Cho said the tax credit, which last year’s American Rescue Plan Act raised to $3,600 annually per child under 6 years of age and $3,000 for each child ages 6 to 17, lowered child poverty numbers.
The expiration of the tax credit, market disruptions from the war in Ukraine, and resulting high inflation, he said, have created “a very difficult situation for many millions of American families and children right now.”
He said the one-year implementation of the tax credit cut childhood hunger “by 24%,” and that making the payments permanent “has the capacity of reducing childhood hunger by nearly 50% in this nation.”
But private efforts are also essential, he said.
“We want to encourage individuals to have a posture of empathy, to care, [and] to use more direct blunt language, to give a damn,” Mr. Cho said. “We’ve got to acknowledge that even if we’re doing okay, even if we’re able to handle the rising gas costs and food costs, many of our neighbors are really, really being challenged, and certainly our global neighbors as well.”
Mr. Cho emphasized what he considered the inequity of the hunger issue.
“We’re in the wealthiest nation in the world, and 13 million of our children don’t have enough food to eat,” he said. “That’s just not right.”
He said “hunger doesn’t have a partisan lens,” asserting that food issues cut across political and regional boundaries.
“We have blue states and red states, we have people in lots of different political inclinations who experience hunger and poverty,” Mr. Cho said. “We have Black and brown families. We have indigenous families, we have White families [and] we have urban and rural contexts who have experienced hunger.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the founder of Bread for the World. The evangelical organization was founded by the Rev. Art Simon.