An Interview with Alliance President Emeritus, Rev. David Beckmann

June 24, 2021

David Beckmann retired as President of Bread for the World and the Alliance to End Hunger a year ago.  He is now focused on learning and teaching about strategies to come out of the pandemic with momentum toward the end of hunger.  His website is www.davidbeckmann.net.

 

Rev. David Beckmann (photo credit: Bob Rolling)

It has been a year since you retired as president of the Alliance to End Hunger, giving you a year to witness changes in an organization you founded.  How do you see the evolution of the Alliance and where it is heading now?

The Alliance is moving forward with new focus and energy. Eric Mitchell is an outstanding leader, and I’m also impressed by the strength and commitment of the Alliance’s board.

The Alliance is doubling down on advocacy and advocacy education.  The Hunger Free Communities network has grown stronger and more active in advocacy, and the Alliance is providing leadership on racial equity as a hunger issue.  I have high hopes for the Alliance’s work with the SDG2 Advocacy Hub to translate this year’s international meetings into new initiatives against hunger and malnutrition.

Finally, I’m proud of the Alliance’s support for its members and their growing policy impact.  The Root Cause Coalition, for example, is successfully organizing healthcare providers to push for policy changes to address hunger and the other root causes of our high healthcare costs and poor healthcare outcomes in this country. 

While you retired from your jobs, you certainly didn’t retire from your vocation.  Your pursuit of building the will to end poverty and hunger continues. Could you talk a bit about what you are doing now, and how you picture your place in our community’s collective fight to end hunger?

I’m dividing my time between learning/teaching and advocacy.  I taught a graduate course at Berkeley this spring and will teach again in New York this fall, and I’m sharing what I’m learning more broadly  through my website – www.davidbeckmann.net – and social media.  I’m especially excited about the Poverty, God, Politics series of webcasts and blog posts we’ve developed.  Strategists in the struggle to overcome hunger will find them thought-provoking.

I also remain active in Bread and the Alliance, and I’m serving as Coordinator for the Circle of Protection, an advocacy coalition of faith-based groups focused on the President’s “Build Back Better” plans. 

This past year has offered its fair share of challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed inequities that have disproportionately impacted people of color and other vulnerable communities. At the same time, political discourse around solutions to these problems has become increasingly hostile. Do you see a need for organizations to adjust advocacy tactics when it comes to advocating for policies that serve poor and hungry people?

Yes, we need to seize today’s opportunities. Increased awareness of racial injustice is certainly an opportunity, and the Alliance is providing leadership –  the recent webinar on the severity of health and nutrition problems among African-American mothers and children, for example.  Some Alliance members are well-positioned to communicate across the liberal-conservative divide; that’s another opportunity. President Biden’s legislative proposals provide a tremendous opportunity, and we need to be active in legislative advocacy now.

We will see a reduction of child hunger over the next 12 months because of the expanded Child Tax Credit.  That will be an opportunity for education about the feasibility of ending hunger once and for all. 

Finally, next year’s elections are both an opportunity and a threat.  I hope Alliance members will disseminate the “Vote to End Hunger” message that hunger and poverty are important campaign issues, and we each need to make personal contributions of time and money to candidates who will help end hunger.  

The Alliance and its members have a lot of young professionals walking through the doors – albeit virtual doors at this point – as interns, fellows, etc. They are passionate about ending hunger and building careers in the advocacy and food security spaces. What advice would you give these young people?

Today’s young adults have already been through tough times, and they have good reason to be concerned about what the future may hold for them.  So I’m grateful to the young professionals who are shaping their careers to make the world better.  We especially need some young people to make fresh judgments about change strategies and take chances to lead the way.

There has been a lot of stress and uncertainty over the past year, but let’s end on a positive note. When you look at the world today, with all its complexities and troubles, what gives you the most hope in our ability to end hunger in a generation?

The world has made dramatic progress against hunger, poverty, and disease over the last generation, and I’m convinced that God wants us to get back on track toward ending hunger.