Bread for the World on Jan. 17 launched its 2012 Offering of Letters campaign to urge Congress to create a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people during this election year.

“We thank God that the deficit-reduction decisions Congress and the president made in 2011 avoided most of the proposed deep cuts in programs that help struggling families make ends meet,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

“Since 2012 is an election year, Congress is even more focused on cutting federal spending, and many programs for hungry and poor people are being targeted,” he added. “We will have to work much harder to protect the gains we have made and ensure that anti-poverty programs are not sacrificed to meet political needs.”

Through visits, phone calls, and personal letters and emails, Bread for the World activists and other people of faith were successful in 2011 in keeping the needs of vulnerable people before Congress. Some of the victories include preventing deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), food assistance to poor senior citizens, school feeding programs in developing countries, and emergency food aid.

Bread for the World’s 2012 Offering of Letters urges members of Congress to “create a circle of protection around programs” that give hungry and poor people in this country and abroad the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty.

Within the broader campaign are four mini-campaigns that address specific legislative topics that will come before Congress in 2012: nutrition, poverty-focused development assistance, tax policy, and food aid.

“Sometimes we wish churches could just do it — make sure the hungry are fed — and stay out of the policy realm. But in some of our cities, over ninety percent of food for poor people comes through federal programs,” said Sharon E. Watkins, president and general minister for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). “Food pantries alone can’t fill the gap. As followers of Jesus, we need to lift a voice to our legislators: Protect the programs that put food on our neighbor’s table.”

Thousands of churches representing nearly 50 Christian denominations throughout the United States will participate in Bread for the World’s 2012 Offering of Letters campaign. As part of a worship service or Mass, Christians will write letters to their members of Congress in support of legislation that will benefit hungry and poor people. Instead of money, these letters are placed in offering plates and dedicated to God.

Bread for the World members generate hundreds of thousands of letters to Congress every year. Offering of Letters materials are available online at www.bread.org/OL.