Saturday, August 30, 2014

Interfaith Hunger Coalition Holds Conversation with Eight Candidates for New Mexico House of Representatives

Eight people who are seeking election to the State House of Representatives on Nov. 4  took time from their busy schedules to learn about the Interfaith Hunger Coalition and to chat about their views about addressing hunger and poverty in New Mexico. The advocacy committee of the Interfaith Hunger Coalition, which organized the conversations, invited all House candidates (incumbents and challengers) from the Albuquerque area who are seeking to serve in Santa Fe. (There are no Senate elections this year, and that is why only House candidates were invited). The committee wanted to make sure the meetings were manageable and intimate, so that is why they were divided into three separate conversations. These were not debates or candidate forums, but informal conversations.

Danny Whatley, Rev. Donna McNiel
First Presbyterian Church (Aug. 21). Rev. Karen Hill hosted the first meeting, which included invitations to candidates whose district is located south of I-40. Many incumbent House members who would have likely joined us were in Minnesota that day for a gathering of state legislators from around the country. Robert Schiller and Andrés Romero, two candidates seeking the open seat in District 10 (vacated by the retirement of Rep. Kiki Saavedra) joined us for the conversation. Danny Whately, director of Noon Day Ministries, was also on hand to tell us about his organization's programs for homeless families and individuals.

Rev. Phil Wangberg hosted meeting
All Saints Lutheran Church,(Aug. 26). Rev. Phil Wangberg hosted the meetings for candidates whose district is located north of I-40 and west of I-25. Rep. Emily Kane (District 15), Rep. Monica Youngblood (District 68), Rep.-elect Debbie Armstrong (District 17), and candidate Catherine Begaye (District 23) joined us for the conversation. Jim Taylor from Casa San Miguel  (affiliated with St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church)also joined us to tell us about the organization's  food pantry  and other services.

Cindy Griebler
Congregation Albert, (Aug. 28). Mary Beth Nelson (on behalf of Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld) hosted the meeting, which was intended for candidates whose district is north of I-40 and east of I-25. Rep. Liz Thomson (District 24) and candidate Robert Coffey (District 30) joined us. Alissa Barnes--a member of the advocacy committee and director of community initiatives at Roadrunner Food Bank--told us about the food bank's statewide operations. Other members of Congregation Albert joined us at the meeting, including Cindy Griebler.
 
Below are pictures of  all eight of the candidates as they listen and converse with us.

At First Presbyterian Church
District 10 Candidate Andrés Romero with Judy Messal

District 10 Candidate Robert Schiller with Rev. Karen Hill
At All Saints Lutheran Church
-District 23 Candidate Catherine Begaye (left) with Judy Messal and Alissa Barnes
District 15 Rep. Emily Kane with Jim Taylor from Casa San Miguel
Disrict 17 Rep.-elect Debbie Armstrong (center) with Ellen Buelow & Ruth Hoffman
District 68 Rep. Monica Youngblood with Rev. Phil Wangberg
At Congregation Albert
District 24 Rep. Liz Thomson (left) with Alissa Barnes
District 30 Candidate Robert Coffey with Ellen Beulow and Rev. Donna McNiel

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bringing Attention to a Debilitating Disease (Without Having Ice Water Poured on Me)

From ALS Foundation Web site
Thanks to the  Ice Bucket Challenge, I am planning to sendi a donation to Doctors without Borders (Medicins sans Frontiers, MSF). Wait a minute, you say, isn't the Ice Bucket Challenge all about raising money for ALS?  And what does Doctors without Borders have to do with ALS?

There is a  common thread between the ALS Foundation and MSF: both organizations care deeply about raising awareness and taking action on debilitating diseases.  The focus of ALS is on what is commonly known as Lou Gherig's Disease (a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

MSF, of course, is involved with a broad range of diseases, illnesses and health-related concerns, but primarily those that occur as a result of emergency and poverty-related situations.  Health professionals and others who volunteer with MSF  provide medical treatment, support and medication for people facing health emergencies. The organization is currently working in the area where the outbreak of ebola hemorrhagic fever epidemic has occurred.

MSF: Global Effort on Ebola 'Inadequate'
Since a good part of the work of Doctors without Borders is to raise awareness, there is concern about the general lack of international action on the ebola outbreak. "Despite the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration that the largest-recorded ebola hemorrhagic fever epidemic is an international health emergency, the global effort to stem the outbreak is dangerously inadequate," said Doctors without Borders.



"Working in response to the epidemic since March, MSF currently has 1,086 staff operating in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, treating a rapidly increasing number of patients," said Doctors without Borders. "MSF’s top priority is to provide care for patients infected with the virus. The organization has already deployed the maximum number of its experienced human resources." Read More

Photo: The ONE Campaign
ONE: Let's Stop 'Scary' Disease
Other organizations like the ONE Campaign are also working to bring attention to the ebola crisis."This virus is hitting countries with some of the weakest health systems in the world. Places that don't have enough trained doctors and nurses. Clinics that don't have enough supplies to run labs," adds ONE. "Villages that don't have running water or reliable electricity. This outbreak is showing just how important it is to have strong health systems in place. And it shows why ONE members like you continue to fight for long-term investments in health...We need to work together now to stop ebola in its tracks. Yes, this is a scary and infectious disease - but it can be stopped. And although you may feel removed from the crisis, there are still ways you can help."

ONE lists four worthy organizations providing support on the ground, including MSF, Catholic Relief Services, Africare, and Samaritan Purse.(Note" Donations are not necessarily earmarked for the ebola fight--they simply support the organization)

On the surface, the Ice Bucket Challenge seems like a big summer gimmick. But there was a lot of good that came from the campaign. The activity has brought  people from all walks of life and political persuasions to raise a whopping $23 million in donations for the ALS Foundation.  Heck, even my brother, a Jesuit priest, took the challenge while wearing his Roman collar (and I have a video to prove it).

I am concerned,  however, that the effort to raise money for ALS is overshadowing the urgency of the Ebola outbreak. Therefore, instead of having  a bucket of ice water dumped on my head, I have personally decided to write a check to MSF and write blog post about supporting efforts to address the ebola outbreak.  But I thank the ALS Foundation and its Ice Bucket Challenge  for inspiring me to take this action.

(Note: While I've chosen to focus on the eboloa crisis, some folks are using the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for both the ALS Foundation and MSF.  Check out this video)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Steve Garnaas-Holmes: No Justice (A Modern Psalm)

God of mercy, why is there no mercy?
The poor are robbed, the hungry wait,
prisoners long for the welcoming hand.
The powerful wield their weapons day after day.
Refugees walk in their long lines toward you
and never arrive, never find home.
The laborer used, the child abused, wait
for no announcing angel, no welcome rescue.
The lonely and condemned weep without answer.
God of justice, why is there no justice?
Living Word, why your silence?
Exiled by race, enslaved by greed,
crucified by gunshots,
your children cry to you.
Why, O Loving One, why do you not speak?

You do not hear, my Beloved, for my voice
is wrapped in the cry of the poor.
My tears are there in the prison cell,
my glory with the disappeared.
You do not hear me because
I am whispering to them.

Holy One, we enter your silence as a temple.
May we hear your cry in our heart.
May your song rise up in our throat
as we lift our voice for your justice.
May we bear your mercy in our hands
as we labor for your will.

God of mercy, I will be your mercy, for you are my hope.

-Steve Garnaas-Holmes
from the blog Unfolding Light

Monday, August 25, 2014

National Geographic: The New Face of Hunger in America

Chances are good that if you picture what hunger looks like, you don’t summon an image of someone like Christina Dreier: white, married, clothed, and housed, even a bit overweight. The image of hunger in America today differs markedly from Depression-era images of the gaunt-faced unemployed scavenging for food on urban streets. “This is not your grandmother’s hunger,” says Janet Poppendieck, a sociologist at the City University of New York. “Today more working people and their families are hungry because wages have declined.” -article in National Geographic
 Where do you go to read about hunger in the United States? The Huffington Post? Time magazine? The Christian Science Monitor? The New York Times? Yes. They all have published very good pieces about this unfortunate situation afflicting our country. But did you know that one of the most comprehensive pieces written about the changing trends of hunger here at home was recently published in National Geographic?  It makes total sense. The magazine is not just about geography, culture and anthropology. Sociology and politics are also a big part of its coverage. And hunger in the U.S. is about sociology and public policy. 

We have  linked to other hunger-related pieces in National Geographic, including an article on how Lake Victoria had become clogged with water hyacinths, had severely hampered fishing for local villagers. National Geographic has put together more comprehensive pieces on global hunger, including a comprehensive piece entitled Feeding the World.

National Geographic's latest attempt to look at hunger, via a piece, entitled "The New Face of Hunger," addresses hunger in the United States, specifically the changing demographics of hunger in our country. The study contains very valuable pieces of information, such as a map of the United States illustrating levels of participation in the Supplemental Nutrtion Assistance Program (SNAP), and a video with stories of the newly hungry. Hunger is moving to the suburbs, which we wrote  in a three-part series in July of 2013. (Part 1 covered the book Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, Part 2 looked at the Urban Institute's Mapping Tool, and Part 3 examined hunger in Rio Rancho, N.M.)

"As the face of hunger has changed, so has its address. The town of Spring, Texas, is where ranchland meets Houston’s sprawl, a suburb of curving streets and shade trees and privacy fences. The suburbs are the home of the American dream, but they are also a place where poverty is on the rise. As urban housing has gotten more expensive, the working poor have been pushed out. Today hunger in the suburbs is growing faster than in cities, having more than doubled since 2007."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

New Mexico Author Writes Novella About Irish Famine

"Hunger Road is a passionate and compassionate novel of the Irish Famine and the story of the tragedy and bravery of the families who endured it. Its lyricism touches the heart and in so many ways is relevant to the contemporary problems we are now facing with the trials of the families from Mexico and Central America who are trying to escape hunger and poverty and tyranny in their own countries. History, as always, repeats itself."  -Patricia Preciado Martin, (Author of Songs My Mother Sang to Me: An Oral History of Mexican American Women and Days of Plenty, Days of Want)

Victoria Tester has written several touching pieces for the Bread New Mexico blog about her experiences working with poor communities just across the border in Mexico. She told us the personal stories of some of the children of Mixteco migrant workers (orignally from the southern state of Guerrero) who live in Colonia Guadalupe in Chihuhua. She also described the dedicated work of  the Franciscan Sisters who serve at Casa Alexia, located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Ciudad Juárez.

Ms Tester, author of  the award-winning poetry anthology Miracles of Sainted Earth and Dying in the City of Flowers (Five Star Expressions), delved into historical fiction with the publication of Hunger Road: A Novella about the Irish Famine this summer. "This haunting dreamscape of the Great Famine evokes the world of the vanishing tenant farmer population of Ireland through the eyes of its nine-year-old narrator, Una Mac Cormaic -- a visionary child who echoes the Hunger Spirit of Irish folklore. Una spies on the lives of those around her in an effort to hold onto their disappearing world," said Amazon.com

 Here is an excerpt from the book:
Through the glass pane window of their cottage, the Farmer and his wife and children were gathered around a table laden with bread, buttermilk, and steaming potatoes.
Their heads bowed, they spoke a Catholic blessing before they began to eat their evening meal.
As the dishes were passed around, the Farmer eyed his oldest son, a listless boy my brother Michael's age, with hair combed free of oak leaves.
"Put more on your plate," the Farmer tells him.
"I am not hungry, Dad."
The Farmer grew angry.
Blessed as they were by God, and his son was not hungry. His son did not want to be among the lucky. 

The Story Behind the Novella
So, what led this poet, playwright  and sometimes blogger to write about the Irish famine?

The idea of writing the book started with a collaboration with Hollywood director Ralph Bakshi (who lives in New Mexico) on a screenplay"It was an empowering experience, bringing my own deepest sorrows and concerns to the forefront of my creative imagination, and as soon as it was done I realized that the very next thing I wanted to do, if I dared, was to write about the Irish Famine," said Ms. Tester.

Her experiences in Mexico and her life history also had some influence on the writing of the novella. "I try to stay in the present as much as I can as I find the past overwhelming, just as I find the situation in Mexico overwhelming," said Ms. Tester, a deeply compassionate person and a member of the Third Order Society of St. Francis, Anglican and Episcopal Franciscans, "But I am sure my present work to ease hunger on the Mexico border is influenced by the few stories of hunger that survived in my own family, and also the stories of generosity. I know Salvation Army boxes at Christmas were all my mother as a little girl ever experienced of holiday generosity. In one there was a pair of over-sized lace-up boots that helped transform her into her wild hero Annie Oakley. Never discount your ability to serve as a hero in a child's eyes, or what even an old pair of boots might mean to someone." 

While creativity played a central role in the making of the book, research was an important and necessary part of the process. "I began with Tom Hayden's Irish Hunger: Personal Reflections on the Legacy of the Famine, and I read and read as much historic and contemporary material as I could find, and talked to present day scholars and others, until a parable, a story, of the Famine began to form in my mind," said Ms. Tester.

Here are some links for you to purchase the book:  Amazon.com (paperback and kindle) and Barnes & Noble.

Friday, August 22, 2014

School-Meal Nutrition Standards are Important to Address Hunger in New Mexico

In June of this year, we posted a piece in this blog linking to an article in The Economist about an emerging controversy about proposed changes to nutrition guidelines in the public schools.  In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which set higher nutritional standards for meals, based on recommendations from scientists. The changes were endorsed and supported at that time by the School Nutrition Association (SNA). Then the SNA apparently changed its stance. suggesting that the program had become expensive. The SNA sought temporary waivers to to the rules for any school-meals program that has been losing money for six months.

In the comments section of the blog post, Angela Haney of the SNA insisted that the change did not mean that fruits and vegetables would be taken entirely out of the equation, but would be made voluntary. "The rules state that each child has to have at least 3/4-1 Cup of fruit or vegetable on their tray even if the child has no intention of eating it," said Ms. Haney. "It is frightening to see how much food is going into the trash cans."
 
"We just want to go back to the old regulations where fruits and vegetables had to be offered but only those children who wanted to eat them had to take them," added Ms. Haney.  "In a world where so many people are starving it makes me sad that much food is in the trash every single school day."

But some believe it would be a big mistake to weaken the nutrition guidelines, especially since there is evidence that food waste is not as much of a problem. "Schools have been implementing the new [nutrition] guidelines incrementally since 2012, and according to the USDA, 90 percent of schools are meeting guidelines, meal participation, and school revenues are on the rise, kids are eating more fruits and vegetables, and food waste hasn’t increased," said Patty Keane, a registered dietitian in New Mexico, who works across the state supporting child nutrition policies and programs at the local, state and federal level.

'An apple a day'
In an piece written for Albuquerque's weekly newspaper The Alibi, Keane argues that the high rate of food insecurity and child hunger in New Mexico makes it especially important that the nutrition standards remain in place. Overall, 30 percent of New Mexico’s children are food insecure, ranging from 16 percent in Los Alamos County to 39 percent in Luna County, Keane points out.

"In the 2013-2014 school year, of the 345,000 New Mexican children enrolled in schools participating in the NSLP, 61 percent qualified for free lunch, and 10 percent for reduced-price lunch," said Keane. "All of these factors warrant strong nutrition programs that meet, or even exceed, current nutrition standards. The success of this hinges on not just the hard work and dedication of those in school foodservice, but also the support of school administrators, parents and community members, and most of all, students."

And it's true that kids will be kids and will tend to leave food on the plate. Keane suggests, however, that most school kids could actually like fruits and vegetables--and lower-sodium entrees--if given a chance. "Across the Unites States and in New Mexico, school foodservice directors and administrators have been highlighting the need to engage students in the process, marketing new foods to kids through tasting programs and creating venues for student input," said Keane.

She used a quote from an educator to highlight the need to stay the course on maintaining nutrition guidelines. “Just because kids don’t like math, doesn’t mean we stop teaching math.”

Read her full article in The Alibi entitled Stay the Course: Nutrition standards for kids should remain in place, despite challenges

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Every Day is World Humanitarian Day

I missed putting together a post on Tuesday, August 19, to commemorate World Humantarian Day.  The thought occurred to me,  however, that any day is a good day to recognize those who face danger and adversity in order to help others.  So, in that spirit, I offer you this great tribute from Church World Service.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lyndon Johnson: The RIchest Nation on Earth Can Afford to Win War on Poverty

This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. ... It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.” - Lyndon B. Johnson (State of the Union Address,  January 8, 1964)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mark Your Calendars: Connecting the Dots: A People's Climate Pilgramage in Albuquerque

Image promoting New York event on Sept. 21
The New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, the Sierra Club, Environment New Mexico, the New Mexico Conference of Churches are just a few of the organizations participating in the  People's Climate Pilgrimage: Connecting the Dots, on Saturday, September 20, 9:00-11:00 a.m., downtown Albuquerque.

The event, which features a diverse coalition of local environmental, human-services and faith organizations,coincides with the People's Climate March and the UN Climate Meeting in New York on Sunday, September 21, just two days before the important UN climate meeting with world leaders, business and civic leaders that will set a path to the UN Climate meeting in Paris in 2015. The Sept. 21 event in New York is organized by representatives of more than 600 organizations.

The Albuquerque  features groups and individuals that are already engaged and concerned about climate change as well as those involved in other issues like national security, food security and prices, economics, immigration/refugees, and the future of children. This will be a lively walk accompanied by international music to various stops downtown where short and creative presentations about each issue and the relationship to climate change will be made.

Stay tuned for more details.

Here are some of the stops on  the Albuquerque walk.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

New Mexico Catholic Bishops Oppose Governor's Proposal to Change SNAP Rules

New Mexico is not yet through the bad times brought on by the recession. In fact, our job growth is the worst in the region, and among the worst in the country. Unfortunately, some in our state government are poised to strike another blow to our still-weak communities. The administration of the State wants to deny food benefits to those who cannot find a job in a market that isn’t producing any. -New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops (NMCCB)
Food line in Truchas
The New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty in opposing the proposal by the New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD)to bring back and expand work-related requirements on low-income New Mexicans to qualify for food stamps.

Effective in October of this year, the state plans to restore a 20-hour-a-week work requirement for an estimated 26,600 childless adults to get food stamps. The mandate was suspended in 2009 because of the national recession. On-the-job training and community service also can help meet the work mandate. announced plans to limit food benefits to adults on food stamps, including parents of children over six years old. New Mexico would be one of six states to reject available federal benefits that currently bring millions of dollars into New Mexico’s grocers and surrounding communi ties, while alleviating hunger. 

Here is the full statement from the NMCCB:

Statement: In Defense of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
August 14, 2014

New Mexican families need access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The bishops oppose changes to requirements for families to receive SNAP (food stamps).

Prosperous communities are made up of strong families. Our families are strong when jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage are available, and safe housing and nutritious food are affordable. New Mexico’s communities have been weakened by the recession, which caused many workers to lose their jobs, homes and life savings. Jobs that were lost have not returned and many were replaced with jobs that pay much lower wages.

It is in times like these that communities pull together and we all help each other get through life’s challenges. We do this because it is the moral thing to do and also because we recognize that we are all connected. When we help raise one another up, we are elevating our communities.

Bishop Oscar  Cantú of Las Cruces
New Mexico is not yet through the bad times brought on by the recession. In fact, our job growth is the worst in the region, and among the worst in the country. Unfortunately, some in our state government are poised to strike another blow to our still-weak communities. The administration of the State wants to deny food benefits to those who cannot find a job in a market that isn’t producing any.

Undoubtedly these administrators believe they are acting in the state’s best interests, and in a strong economy their idea might be defensible. However, in one of the worst economies since the Great Depression, it is unconscionable.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly known as food stamps—is needed to help families. Food stamps are now called SNAP because it does not pay for all the food a person needs, only supplements it. It helps out-of-work parents feed their children, it also helps local grocery markets keep their customers, which helps them keep their employees. In short, it helps keep communities strong.

Pope Francis has called on all of us to do all we can to help the poor. This proposal, to deny food to our families and most of all to our children, is not right. In Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry and you gave me food,” speaks to all New Mexicans. As faith leaders, we ask that the State see that this requirement will turn hungry children away. We need to strengthen our communities, not take food out of the mouths of those who are already suffering by requiring them to find jobs that do not exist. We pray that jobs will be created and that struggling families will earn income. Until the unemployment rate changes we must provide supplemental nutrition for our children.

In Christ,
The New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops

Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan, S.T.L., J.C.D.
Diocese of Gallup, Most Rev. James S. Wall
Diocese of Las Cruces, Most Rev. Oscar Cantú, S.T.D.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Discussion of Food Aid on Central and Second Street

Google Maps tells us the location of Sen. Tom Udall's Albuquerque office
There was a discussion about U.S. food aid policy at 219 Central NW (Suite 210)  in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Tuesday, August 12. The participants in this dialogue were two local volunteers for New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps, one for Bread for the World, and a local aide to Sen. Tom Udall (as well as an intern from the senator's Washington office).

Oxfam USA and Bread for the World have both put a strong emphasis on reforming food aid to make the assistance more responsive to the needs of the recipients (as opposed to have a big chunk of the money go to intermediaries). Bread for the World members brought this issue to Capitol Hill in June, while Oxfam Action Corps volunteers have made the request to the House and Senate during visits to Washington the past several springs. Here is a link to the petition drive from 2013.

NM Oxfam on Caiptol Hill, 2014
Urging Sen. Udall to Cosponsor  S2421
So the requests that Jasmine McBeath and Amanda Dezan from New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps and Ellen Buelow from Bread for the World made to Sen. Udall were not much different that those that have been brought to the senator in meetings with his aides in Washington. Xochitl Campos was the staff representative from Sen. Udall's office who met with the three advocates.

Both Bread for the World and Oxfam USA are seeking Senate supporters for  Senate Bill 2421 (Food for Peace Reform), a bipartisan initiative that provides needed flexibility to deliver food aid, making the program more efficient. So this was one of the requests that was presented to Ms. Campos.

Before the meeting, Jasmine (who is a national advisor of Oxfam Action Corps) outlined two other related requests from  from Oxfam Action Corps (two issues that Bread has supported).
  • Sen. Udall's support for effective poverty-fighting assistance (including  $1 billion for the Feed the Future program) and 
  • His co-sponsorship of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act [HR 2638 and S1271]. The bill currently has eight Senate cosponsors Republicans Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Democrats Christopher coons of Delaware, Elizabeth Warren of Masschusetts, Benjamin Carder of Maryland, and Jon Tester of Montana. (The House version obtained 47 co-sponsors and passed 390-0 in 2012).
The Aug. 12 meeting (photo: NM Oxfam Action Corps)
Ellen's Report
And Ellen wrote a short report about the meeting which also included one of the senator's interns from the Washington office. Below are some excerpts. (Note: Xochitl Campos replaced the staff member who had originally been assigned to meet with Oxfam. The meeting with Ms. Campos lasted about 10 minutes).

"The intern remembered  our New Mexico delegation that attended Senator Udall’s coffee with constituents on June 10...Jasmine chaired the meeting. Xochitl mainly asked questions about Oxfam and their local causes. I was able to include a personal story working with refugee students from Somalia. Sen, Udall is on the African subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee...My story was about teens who have stunted growth because of malnutrition. I brought up Bread’s agenda on the need for expedient aid and using local resources (build the local economy) 9 million more people could be fed with money now going to shipping companies. Xochitl consistently told us that she would pass the information to staffers in Washington...Oxfam left a folder of their material that will be sent to the DC office. Xochitl did not bring up any concerns. I really enjoyed being with Jasmine and Amanda! Thanks for the opportunity!"

Friday, August 15, 2014

New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty Offers Data on How Changes to SNAP Rules Would Hurt Our State

 
A couple of days ago we posted a note from the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-NM pointing out that the proposed changes to SNAP rules in New Mexico would be counterproductive in our efforts to reduce the high rate of food insecurity in our state.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (NMCLP) put together a briefing paper to support that position. The NMLC is also urging us to contact Gov. Susana Martinez's office to express our opposition to the changes.  Here are some excerpts from the briefing paper. The full briefing (courtesy of Louise Pocock, staff attorney at the NMCLP) is embedded just below the excerpts.

On August 1, 2014, the NM Human Services Department (HSD) announced plans to limit food benefits to adults on food stamps, including parents of children over six years old. New Mexico would be one of six states to reject available federal benefits that currently bring millions of dollars into New Mexico’s grocers and surrounding communi ties, while alleviating hunger. 

The NMCLP offers a couple of important reasons why the changes are not a good idea.

New Mexico Cannot Afford to Reject Millions of Dollars in Federal Food Assistance: SNAP benefits are 100% paid for by the federal government. Every $1.00 of food assistance given through SNAP goes direct into local food and grocery stores, creating $1.70 to $1.80 in economic activity. By ref using to waive the work requirements until employment improves , New Mexico could lose over $47 million funneled directly into our poorest counties , while incurring administrative costs

Food Banks Cannot Replace Such a Significant Loss of Food Assistance: Every week, nearly 40,000 New Mexicans seek food assistance. This is equivalent to a city the size of Farmington seeking food assistance. SNAP benefits last an average of 2.3 weeks. Demand for food assistance through food pantries and other charities is already at an all - time high and there are simply not enough resources to meet the needs of those thrown off of SNAP under the proposed rule.

There are a couple of ways to make your voice heard to oppose the changes..

You can also call Gov. Susana Martinez's office to oppose the changes.  The phone number is (505) 476-2200

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Roadrunner Food Bank Invites Growers and Volunteers to Participate in Gleaning Program

Earlier this summer, La Montañita Co-op, Feds Feed Families volunteers and Roadrunner Food Bank joined forces to hold a gleaning event, collecting 1,000 pounds of cherries and apricots. The folks at Roadrunner Food Bank want to encourage the community to participate in the gleaning process. So there is an appeal for growers to donate their excess produce, and for volunteers to help collect it. Below are two posters.  The produce, of course, goes to supplement the food bank's offerings to the community.  Last year, the folks at Roadrunner Food Bank distributed more than 10 million pounds of produce last year, but but the food bank could always use more produce.

To become a partner with Roadrunner Food Bank in gleaning or to get a gleaning volunteer program started,  please contact Candace Rodriguez at 505.349.8837 or by email at candace.rodriguez@rrfb.org.




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry: Proposed SNAP Rule Changes Will Not Help Reduce Hunger in New Mexico

Earlier this month, Gov. Susana Martinez's administration proposed to bring back and expand work-related requirements on low-income New Mexicans to qualify for food stamps. Effective in October of this year, the state plans to restore a 20-hour-a-week work requirement for an estimated 26,600 childless adults to get food stamps. The mandate was suspended in 2009 because of the national recession. On-the-job training and community service also can help meet the work mandate.

Louise Pocock, an attorney for the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty, argues that this is not the right time to restore the requirements.  “If we had a glut of jobs in this state it would be one thing to consider making this mandatory, but that’s just not the case,” Ms. Poccok told The Associated Press. Read More in The Albuquerque Journal.

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Speaks Out Against Changes
Here is what the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-New Mexico, led by Ruth Hoffman, said in its August newsletter.

New work requirements should not be added to our state's SNAP program. This proposed change in the rules reverses rules that have been in place for well over a decade. Waiving the work requirement recognized the economic realities of our state. Unemployment remains high and jobs are not easily found.

New Mexico has among the highest rates of hunger in the country and nearly 30% of our children are experiencing hunger. The SNAP program is vital to those struggling to meet their families' nutritional needs. It is also vital to local food and grocery stores and to America's farmers. Remember, SNAP is administered by the U.S. Agriculture Department.
Implementing such a work requirement is a complex task for the Human Services Department which already has a huge backlog of applications and is under a federal judge's order to improve its administration of the SNAP program to deal with that backlog.

Whether or not HSD will be able to administer this proposed change is not a small question. Let's work together to address poverty and hunger by raising the minimum wage, creating high-paying jobs that can provide family-sustaining income, making quality child care more affordable and available as well as increasing the amount of affordable housing, not by putting up more barriers for people living in poverty to overcome.   

 Want to make your voice heard on this issue?  Here's how. 
 
Addressing this issue in a House Agriculture Subcommittee
Incidentally, this issue came up during a hearing of the Oversight & Nutrition Subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee in July. Two New Mexico officials were involved in this discussion, Human Services Secretary Sidonie Squier (who was testifying) and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (who asked some tough questions). Watch the exchange on YouTube.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Janet Page Reeves to Speak at Bookworks

Six weeks ago we published a post about Women Redefining the Experience of Food Insecurity: Off the Edge of the Table. The book offers 12 case studies that focus on low-income women who must negotiate the constraints of the food system in order to put nutritious food on the table. Janet Page, the editor of the book and co-author of one of the chapters (as well as the introduction), will speak about the book on Tuesday, August 26, 7:00 p.m. at Bookworks, one of the few remaining independent bookstores in our city.  Read more about the presentation in the Bookworks Web site.  The bookstore is located at 4022 Rio Grande Blvd NW (Map).