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Our New Mission

When we set up shop 43 years ago, Bread for the City operated with a simple goal: to provide food, clothing, medical care, and other services to DC residents in an atmosphere of dignity and respect. We’ve evolved a lot in that time. We added services (social services, legal assistance, and advocacy) and buildings (our second opened in Ward 8 in 2002.) But one thing that didn’t change was this mission statement:

The mission of Bread for the City is to provide vulnerable residents of Washington, DC with comprehensive services, including food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services, in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.  We recognize that all people share a common humanity, and that all are responsible to themselves and to society as a whole.  Therefore, we promote the mutual collaboration of clients, volunteers, donors, staff, and other community partners to alleviate the suffering caused by poverty and to rectify the conditions that perpetuate it.

What do you notice about this? It’s a bit…long and wordy, right? Plus, it uses language that Bread for the City has moved away from as our racial equity work has expanded– in particular, the word “vulnerable”, which make our strong, resilient, and independent clients sound like a poor shadow of themselves. That’s why in 2017, Bread for the City set out to update our mission for this new phase in our organizational life. Through a process lasting several months, staff, clients, and Board members worked together to craft a mission statement that would meet a few different requirements:

  1. Meet our high standards for racial equity by acknowledging the strength and resilience of the people we serve
  2. Be simple, short, and readable for people with different literacy levels so that all of our stakeholders can understand our mission and hold us accountable for meeting it
  3. Emphasize our commitment to social justice as we continue to shift from being a service provider to also being an advocate

Here’s what we came up with:

The mission of Bread for the City is to help Washington, DC residents living with low income to develop the power to determine the future of their own communities. We provide food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services to reduce the burden of poverty. We seek justice through community organizing and public advocacy. We work to uproot racism, a major cause of poverty. We are committed to treating our clients with the dignity and respect that all people deserve.

Can you see the difference? The new mission explicitly focuses on ending racism and supporting those living on low income as they build power to fight for change. We still provide the vital services that our clients rely on for stability, like grocery bags of nutritious food, medical care, and legal and social services assistance – services that give our clients the breathing room they need to fight inequality alongside us, or simply provide a hand in times of trouble – but we also know that these actions alone will not end poverty. We kept our values intact (dignity, respect, service, justice are still represented) while moving the focus off individual services for “vulnerable” residents and on to systemic change.

Plus, at only four sentences, this new mission is simply more clear and easier to read, so that everyone knows exactly where Bread for the City stands.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

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