(RNS) — The Rev. Arthur “Art” Simon, the founder and first president of the Christian advocacy group Bread for the World, died Tuesday (Nov. 14), the organization announced.
Simon, 93, started Bread for the World in the mid-1970s. The anti-hunger group aimed to reduce poverty, decrease hunger and improve nutrition for people across the globe.
He died at his Maryland home of natural causes, said Bread for the World spokesman Chris Ford.
The Rev. Eugene Cho, Bread’s current president and CEO, summed up Simon’s legacy in a statement: “When I consider the many millions of people around the world whose lives have been changed for the better because of the policies and programs created and improved by anti-hunger activism; when I see the 200,000-strong citizen’s movement that Bread is today; when I hear from individuals about how Art’s message and work led to a new orientation in their life toward justice; I feel an enormous weight of gratitude.”
Simon, a Eugene, Oregon, native, in recent years had continued his advocacy through his 2019 book, “Silence Can Kill: Speaking Up to End Hunger and Make Our Economy Work for Everyone.” In it, he encouraged religious and nonreligious readers to move beyond solely charitable efforts to writing to members of Congress to address hunger.
“Charity is essential and I’m still actively part of charitable efforts in hunger,” he told Religion News Service in an interview at the time of the book’s release. “But charity can only do so much. It’s quite limited in what it can do in the long run.”
Writer and public television travel host Rick Steves said Simon’s work taught him how to put his faith to work in the broader world, not just his own personal life. When Steves was a student, someone gave him a copy of Simon’s 1973 book, “Bread for the World.” The book changed his life, Steves said, showing him that hunger was as much about politics and economics as it was about food.
“We can be accidental accomplices in keeping people poor,” said Steves, whose show holds an annual Christmas fundraiser that raises about a million dollars to support the organization’s work.
Steves said of Simon, who would give him an annual call to thank him for supporting Bread for the World: “He was a dear soul.”
Simon’s father helped run “The Christian Parent” magazine when he was growing up, and his brother was the late Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., with whom he co-authored the book “The Politics of World Hunger.”
“The Institute mourns the passing — and especially celebrates the life — of Reverend Arthur Simon,” reads a statement on the X, or Twitter, account of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. “Art was a deeply admirable man who was a hugely positive figure and force in American life.”
Art Simon began his involvement in anti-hunger advocacy when he responded to urgent needs prompted by poverty and hunger in the Lower East Side neighborhood of New York City’s Trinity Lutheran Church in the 1960s and ’70s. He determined to get to the root of why people were hungry and founded Bread with a committee of seven Protestants and seven Catholics in 1974.