Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Next Step Toward Ending Hunger in New Mexico

Photo via Rep. Melanie Stansbury
Today I officially pre-filed our first Bill and Memorial for the upcoming Session! 

Reflecting over five months of work by food and hunger experts, organizations, and legislators—House Memorial 6 and House Bill 75 call for a task force and study to look at systemic hunger, food, and agricultural issues in New Mexico. So proud of this important work and grateful for everyone who made it happen!  -Rep. Melanie Stansbury, Dec 20, 2019

A couple of dozen people have gathered in the conference room at Roadrunner Food Bank on random days over the past five months to discuss strategies and specific steps to begin to address hunger in New Mexico in a more systematic manner. Several organizations and coalitions, including our own Interfaith Hunger Coalition, were part of this dialogue. It wasn't necessarily the same people in the room at every meeting, and some engaged in the conversation via a conference call. The participation was broad, and so were the proposals.

Rep. Melanie Stansbury coordinated the effort, with other legislators participating in the process. Rep. Joanne Ferrary, Rep. Karen Bash, Rep. Bill Pratt and Sen. Michael Padilla were among those who engaged in the dialogue  Other legislators have provided input, including Rep. Gail Armstrong and Sen. Liz Stephanics.

The effort incorporated the ongoing plan to create a legislative Hunger Caucus in the New Mexico State Legislature to address hunger-related issues. The idea of the council/caucus grew out of a plan proposed by  the IHC  (spelled out in Legislative Memorials in 2018 and 2019). The caucus will be coordinated by Rep. Ferrary, with the assistance of Rep. Rebecca Dow, Sen. Michael Padilla and others. The caucus will be launched officially as part of the Food and Farms Day organized by the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council (NMFAPC) on February 6.

A Broad Conversation
So who else was at the table? Roadrunner Food Bank, the Food Depot, Feeding Santa Fe,  and Meals on Wheels, brought the perspective of direct service providers. The NMFAPC/Farm to Table, the New Mexico Farmers Marketing Association, Thornburg Foundation and New Mexico First ensured that our agriculture system was viewed as part of the solution. The NMFAPC also offered proposals on school nutrition, as did New Mexico Appleseed.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and New Mexico Voices for Children presented proposals intended to create a space for the needs of low-income and working families. Hunger among college students was also a topic of conversation, with University of New Mexico faculty and staff engaging in the conversations. Additionally, a  representative of Cullari Communications from Dallas also offered good insights. (Allison Griffin flew in from Dallas for every meeting!). Representatives of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's administration were also at the table, including Patty Keane (the governor's recently appointed coordinator for hunger initiatives).

Some organizations that focus on health issues, including the Alzheimer's Association, the Center for Health Innovation,and Health Action New Mexico have offered input, as has the North Central New Mexico Economic Development Agency.

A Plan for the 2020 Legislative Session
The participants took a short- and longer-term approach. We drafted our first set of proposals with the knowledge that coming 30-day session, which will focus on budgetary and funding issues.

The initiative piggy-backed on some of the proposals that some of the participating organizations were already drafting for the coming legislative session, including the NMFAPC, the NM Center on Law and Poverty and NM Voices for Children. New Mexico First helped put the proposals in a single document that was presented to members of the Legislative Finance Committee in early December.

The proposal incorporates three broad areas:
  1. The creation of a comprehensive study to give us the most up-to-date information (which would help us move forward in a more efficient way); 
  2. support and enhance local food systems and local agriculture; and 
  3. move to increase the monthly food budget for low-income families in our state. 
There are several elements contained in each of these proposals. The broad issues are contained in House Memorial 6 and House Bill 75, which Rep. Stansbury pre-filed on Dec. 20, 2019. The memorial is related to the first area, which directs the Secretary of Human Services to convene a task force to assess data and make recommendations to address barriers to food access.

Taking the Long-Term View
Participants are also hoping to set up a structure that will address hunger in a longer-term and broad approach, beginning with the 2021 60-day State Legislative session. In one of our early meetings, the discussion centered on the promotion of an omnibus bill, similar to the federal Farm Bill, that would take a broad look at hunger-related issues. More importantly, it would ensure that our approach takes into account the interconnections among the various areas that affect hunger in New Mexico.

Our efforts are only in their initial stages, but we have laid down the groundwork to begin to reverse the pervasive hunger problems that have affected New Mexicans for many generations. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

Gratitude can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. 

-Melody Beattie 

(read her full reflection)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Albuquerque Sikh Community Celebrates 550th Birthday of Guru by Planting Trees

The Albuquerque Sikh Gudwara is planning to plant 550 trees around New Mexico, including the first five at Alvarado Park in Albuquerque (in partnership with the City of Albuquerque), to commemorate Guru Nanak’s 550th Birth Anniversary. In this video, Kulmeet Singh speaks briefly about the life of Guru Nanak.


Here are some pictures of the commemoration, which concluded with a light lunch of rice, curry lentils and nan.












Wednesday, October 16, 2019

World Food Day 2019 (Part 3): Collaborations, Chants and Blessings

While the emphasis of our World Food Day celebration was on local sourcing and sustainability (see Part 1 and Part 2), we also promoted the ability of our faith communities to collaborate and to work together to address local human needs.

Jessica Corley and Rachel Sternheim, Congregation Albert
Helping Central American Refugees
Jessica Corley of Congregation Albert spoke of the commitment by her congregation and Nahalat Shalom to support asylum seekers from Central America earlier this year.

The two Jewish congregations were part of a broad coalition of faith communities that supported the asylees. Others involved in this work were Catholic Charities, Lutheran Family Services, St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church and Albuquerque Interfaith. '

Even though the federal government has shut down the flow of asylum seekers, Jewish Asylum Seekers Initiative continues to support efforts at the border by providing shelters in Juarez, Mexico, with life sustaining food, supplies and financial support.

In addition to the threat of violence from criminal organizations and drug traffickers, many of the asylees were forced to leave their homeland because of the impact of climate change on their ability to survive."Smallscale producers and rural communities remain the most vulnerable to drought, an important socioeconomic phenomenon--given its effects on the loss of livelihoods, decapitalization of household economies, impoverishment and migration to overpopulated urban centres," the Food and Agriculture Organization said in a recent report.

America Burciaga
SNAP, Title I and Support for Public Schools
The formula used by Albuquerque Public Schools for counting Title I eligibility is unfair to schools with a large number of immigrants.

America Burciaga, a student at South Valley Academy, spoke about the appeal she made at an APS School Board meeting. APS uses SNAP eligibility as opposed to school lunch forms.

I am both sad and disappointed that my school is being treated unequally because we have undocumented students.  Title I is a federal program designed to help all students, not just those that were born in the United states.  Most parents at South Valley Academy, just like my own mom and dad, came from different countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and so many others, looking for a better future, for themselves as well as their children.

The reliance on SNAP for the APS forumla could create additional elegibility problems in the future if the federal administration follows through with its threats to remove more people (including legal immigrants) from the SNAP rolls.

"Last spring, [the federal administration] put out a proposal for new time restrictions on food assistance for adults. This summer their proposal took power away from the states and made it harder for hungry families to access the help they need. And now, they’re going after poor people once again, taking $4.5 billion out of SNAP benefits over the next five years," said Food Policy Action. "Congress debated – and rejected – each of these cuts when it passed a bipartisan farm bill in 2018. So they’re going after hungry people through regulations."

A Baha'i-Muslim Outreach
The Lighthouse of New Mexico mosque and the Albuquerque Baha’i community are working together to offer meals for homeless people in Albuquerque. The two communities first became acquainted at the 2018 World Food Day  at La Mesa Presbyterian Church.The joint effort provides 250 to 300 meals each Thursday.

A special byproduct of their collaboration  are the joint prayer gatherings held before the members for the two groups and other in the community go out with food sacks to distribute in Albuquerque's International District (still known by some by its previous name of "the war zone.")

According to Caroline Hess, members of the Albuquerque Baha'i Community meet on Wednesday evenings by preparing sandwiches and other items. Two other volunteers prepare other items, including cookies baked with nutritional ingredients like whey.

The effort, said Hess, has expanded beyond the Baha'i-Muslim community, as other groups like the Bosque Center for Spiritual Living have joined in the collaboration.


We come together as friends, as partners, and it has made a difference in doubling our output of food for homeless people, but also bringing two communities together in friendship with kindness and honor and respect. One of those special parts of our program before we go out into the street is a joint prayer. It's really a special thing.   Imam Abdur Rauf, The Lighthouse of New Mexico

One of the Baha'i community's principles is that service is prayer. It is the greatest prayer to God is to care for his trust. His trust are the poor.  -Caroline Hess, Albuquerque Baha'i Community
Prayers, Reflections, Chants and Blessings
Our World Food Day celebration included two Sikh reflections, prayers and chants and a Cherokee closing blessing.

Dr. G. Dave Singh


Manjeet Kuar


Beverly Wilkins

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

World Food Day 2019 (Part 2): Resiliency and Use of Local Resources

Achieving Zero Hunger is not only about working to alleviate hunger, but also nourishing people, while nurturing the planet.  World Food Day 2019
Our World Food Day event began outdoors by with a focus on sustainability and the organizations that place importance on local food production, sound environmental practices and resiliency.  We hope you enjoy these stories.

East Valencia Urban Garden Program
Lindsey Diaz related the first story about the communities of Meadow Lake and El Cerro-Monterey Park, which created a food system and community enhancement model in an area that had long been a food desert.


There was consensus that one of the best ways to build a stronger and more resilient community to climate change was for the area to produce its own food locally, and that this would also help the economy. And that these efforts these efforts should be emphasized working with youth and kids.
The Garden's Edge and Qachu Aloom
The Albuquerque-based organization provides resources and training to farmers and community organizations that fight environmental degradation, global climate change, loss of small-scale farms, and the erosion of indigenous cultural knowledge. Qachuu Aloom Mother Earth Association, based in Rabinal, Guatemala, works closely with The Garden's Edge on these same goals. In this video, Sarah Montgomery and Josselin Chun Cojom spoke of the work of the two organizations, offering a presentation on the use of amaranth. 


We've had a lot of success working with amaranth. It's native from Mesoamerica, but it's also grown in New Mexico. It's very weedy. You'll find it a .lot of growing in cracks, and it's probably one of the plants that you pull out of your garden when you're weeding. But it's also super highly nutritious. You can eat the leaves and you can eat the seeds.
The Garden at St. Therese Catholic School 
Principal Donna Illebrun and students Hayden Rodriguez and Willow Luna spoke about the vegetable garden and greenhouse located on the grounds of St. Therese School in Albuquerque. 


When we got here, (the site) was in rubbles--all of this was all asphalt, falling apart. We knew that we needed a safe place for our children to run and play and learn about the many blessings that our Earth has for us. Over 10 years ago, a grant was written, and we got our greenhouse that is very active in the lives (of our students).
Agri-Cultura Network 
Helga Garza spoke about the challenges facing farmers in the South Valley of Albuquerque and also the work of the Agri-Cultura Network, which provides access to local produce to promote nutrition and economic development through traditional and innovative agricultural practices. This presentation took place indoors in the church (so please pardon the echo).


As small farmers, we came together because we were on our last generation of traditional farmers, reaching (the ages) of late 50s to late 70s, and no longer having the strength to keep up their farming.  So in 2008, we sought farm techiques and a new generation of farmers.  In 2010, three of those farmers formed the cooperative. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

World Food Day 2019 (Part 1): A Locally Sourced Path to #Zero Hunger

Sarah Montgomery, The Garden's Edge
This year's global celebration of World Food Day (a Healthy Diets for a #ZeroHunger World) calls for action across sectors to make healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible to everyone. At the same time, it calls on everyone to start thinking about what we eat.

As part of our celebration in Albuquerque, we invited three organizations that promote the cultivation of locally sourced and native plants to help address the food gaps in the Albuquerque area.

The East Valencia Urban Garden Program, The Garden's Edge and its Guatemalan partner Qachuu Aloom, and  the South Valley farmers association Agri-Cultura Network offered examples of how they promote sustainability, availability, and local options for food production. Two students and the principal from St. Therese school also spoke about the vegetable garden and greenhouse present on the school grounds.

A Focus on Human Needs
As a secondary theme, we looked on efforts to address local human needs, including  the five faith communities/organizations that came together during a refugee crisis, the challenges faced by two schools in the Albuquerque South Valley with primarily Latino and immigrant populations, and a collaboration between The Lighthouse of New Mexico mosque and the Albuquerque Baha’i community to offer meals for homeless people in Albuquerque. Videos and/or accounts of all our stories will be featured in subsequent posts.

Manjeet Kuar leads Sikh chant
In between the seven stories that resonated with nearly 70 people who attended the event, we were also fortunate to have two prayer/reflections from the Albuquerque Sikh Gurdwara and a Cherokee closing blessing

As has been our tradition for the past four years, David Poole taught participants the World Food Day chant that he composed (words and music) for our first celebration in 2016. Keri Sutter developed some movements to go along with the chant, which we have used for all four of our annual celebrations. 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

'An Instrument of the Lord's Peace'

Fifteen years ago, Bread for the World  celebrated its 30th birthday. There were commemorations in Washington and also in communities around the country. 

In 2019, as Bread celebrates its 45th birthday, we remember the special event that we put together 15 years ago.

Jesuit Father Bill Byron, who collaborated with Art Simon in forming Bread for the World in 1974, joined our celebration in Albuquerque in September of 2004.

The Albuquerque Journal covered or event, interviewing Rev. Byron.  The full article is pictured in the left.

Here are some excerpts

Albuquerque Journal Reporter Paul Logan: Why does hunger exist in the world? 

Father Bill Byron, S.J.  replies: Because God chooses to work with human hands.

"And humanity's hands, including our own, have not applied themselves effectively to the task of eliminating hunger and balancing the worldwide scales of hunger," 

"Bread for the Word is, I'm convinced, an instrument of the Lord's peace."

In his article, Logan noted the misconceptions among the public that nutrition programs, welfare and foreign aid account for a large portion of the U.S. federal budget. This perception, said Father Byron, creates a challenge and a motivation for people of faith.

"Our legislative adovcacy work will defend against efforts to cut back on nutrition and other programs at home and abroad," said the Jesuit priest.

Celebrating Art Simon on Bread's 45h Birthday
Art and activist Kimball Forrester
Incidentally, on the 45th anniversary of Bread for the World, Art Simon launched his new book Silence Can Kill: Speaking Up to End Hunger and Make Our Economy Work for EveryoneBread members feted the book and Art's lifetime achievements with a modest celebration in Washington this summer.

In an interview with Religion News Service this past August, Simon spoke about the challenge before us to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals established in 2015. The ultimate objective of the 17 goals is to end hunger on the planet by 2030.

"We’ve made tremendous progress in recent decades. But the last few years have actually set us back a little bit. So the goal of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, getting us to the end by 2030 — possible but a very steep hill. It will take some extraordinary efforts to make that happen by 2030."

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Fūdrr, Peace Choir Support School Backpack Program in Moriarty

The program this year has made a huge difference. Test scores, attendance and grades are up. It has been a wonderful blessing for me to watch the entire community and churches working together for these children.Sue Gibson, parent-teacher liaison at Moriarty Elementary School
Photo: Central Baptist Association
The Moriarty Elementary School weekend backpack program has been in place since the 2014 school year, when Sue Gibson, parent-teacher liaison, brought Pastor Dennis Garcia of The People Church in Moriarty and Sheryl Stewart from the Mountain Valley Church Bible Study in Edgewood to help address a chronic problem faced by students at the elementary school.

“On Mondays, we would have hungry, sick children,” Gibson told K. Faith Morgan from Lifeway in an article published in October 2015. “They would come to school so hungry that they would overeat for breakfast and then throw up because of it. Some of them were so hungry, they couldn’t eat.”

Garcia and Stewart teamed up to create a program to send students home on Fridays with  backpacks stocked with food for the weekend—two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and plenty of between-meal snacks. Over the  past several years has helped put a dent on hunger among families in Moriarty, where an estimated 28 percent of residents live below the poverty line.

A Web-Based Effort and a Concert
Other organizations are helping with the effort, including Fūdrr, the healthy lifestyle website created and managed by Kids Cook and sponsored by Presbyterian Center for Community Health.

With support from the Interfaith Hunger Coalition, Fūdrr is helping ensure that the weekend backpacks are filled with healthy alternatives. This web-based effort encourages participants to earn produce at local retailers by participating in certain activities. If you are not a member of Fūdrr, you can join here.

While the effort has applied broadly to many areas of New Mexico, Fūdrr and the Peace Choir have targeted Moriarty Elementary School for a special campaign around a concert on Sunday, September 29, 4:00 p.m. at the Moriarty High School Performing Arts Center, 200 Center Street, Moriarty, NM 87035

The Peace Choir concert, which is free, will promote the Fūdrr effort.

The concert also serves as a farewell for Peace Choir director and founder Christy Conduff, who taught for many years in the Moriarty/Edgewood and Estancia School Districts for many years.To attend the concert,pick up a free ticket or purchase a special VIP ticket via Eventbrite. (VIP tickets allow attendees early entrance and a choice of seats).

While the concert is putting a strong focus on child hunger in the Moriarty area, overall food insecurity remains a concern for the area. To that end,  Fūdrr has begun a conversation with the Bethel Community Storehouse pantry (partly on behalf of the Interfaith Hunger Coalition). The East Mountain Food Pantry in nearby Tijeras is also a possibility for our outreach efforts in the areas east of Albuquerque. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Santa Fe Arts Commission Sponsors Exhibition on Hunger

The City of Santa Fe Arts Commission has invited 17 local artists to participate in an exhibition that focuses on hunger in our state and around the world. 

The artists, who work in a variety of media, will display their work at the Santa Fe Community Gallery, 201 W. Marcy St, which is inside the Santa Fe Convention Center. The exhibition, entitled “Longer Table: Food, Nourishment and Sustainability,"will be launched with a special reception today, September 27, 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM, at the community gallery.  The works of the artists will be in display until January.

The artists were asked to address the myriad issues related to food production, sustainability, scarcity, affordability, safety, access and availability, and the ramifications of our food policies in New Mexico.

"According to an article in 2016, the effects of climate change on food production around the world could lead to more than 500,000 deaths by the year 2050," said the Santa Fe Arts Commission in a Facebook page for this event. "Climate related impacts on agriculture could lead to an overall global decline in food availability. We are headed into a world food crisis and the evidence is mounting."

"If you are fortunate to have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher wall," said Santa Fe artist Bette Yozell, who works primarily in watercolors and gouache, with explorations in glass, etching, and various other media. "I am grateful to have this opportunity to address the challenge of global food sustainability in a visual format."

Other artists include Bobbe Besold, Matthew Bollinger, Liz Brindley, Eric Heithaus, Kathamann, Angela Kirkman, Will Karp, Marietta Patricia Leis, Andrea Lozano, Darlene Olivia McElroy, Catherine Molland, AnaMaria Samaniego, Michael Sharber, Melinda Silver, and Laurinda Stockwell.
 
Yozell is the only one of the 17 artists I know personally.  I met her and her husband on  an educational trip to Havana, Cuba,in December 2016, sponsored by the Latin American and Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico. I was one of the LAII staff people accompanying the group of more than a dozen people from New Mexico and other areas to study art deco architecture in the Cuban capital and to experience the Havana Jazz Festival.

 You can see more of Yozell's work via a separate exhibit, entitled Mixed Media, at the Jean Cocteau Cinema gallery in October. "The opening will be on Thursday, Oct. 3, from 5:30-7. I am hoping you can make this, as well. A videoed interview of me in my studio has been made in conjunction with this exhibit," said Yozell.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

World Food Day 2019: Healthy, Affordable, Sustainable Diets for All

A #ZeroHunger World
Celebrate World Food Day in Albuquerque

Sunday, October 13, 2019
2:30-4:30 p.m.
St. Therese School
311 Shropshire Pl NW
Albuquerque

Listen to stories of hope, of individuals promoting environmental sustainability and addressing hunger.

This year, World Food Day calls for action across sectors to make healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible to everyone. At the same time, it calls on everyone to start thinking about what we eat.

Achieving Zero Hunger is not only about working to alleviate hunger, but also nourishing people, while nurturing the planet.

Photo: St. Therese School
Starting in the St. Therese school garden, we will hear from the East Valencia Urban Garden Project and from the students who tend the school garden.

We will then process across the street to Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus Church, where we will learn about The Garden's Edge and its Guatemalan partner Qachuu Aloom,  about the South Valley farmers association Agri-Cultura Network, about a cooperative effort between the Lighthouse Muslim community and the Albuquerque Baha'i Community to feed people who are homeless in Albuquerque.

We also hope to hear from a local Jewish congregation that has been involved with helping Central American refugees and a student who urged the Albuquerque Public School Board to change the district’s policy of counting SNAP eligibility for Title I funding (as opposed to counting school lunch forms).

Please bring fruits and vegetables to share at a reception following the event.

Parking at St. Therese School and across the street at St. Therese Church.

Sponsors: Interfaith Hunger Coalition, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, St. Therese School, St. Therese pf the Infant Jesus Parish, Surgite: A Sacred Dance Company. World Food Day theme song composed and led by David Poole.

 

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Reps. Haaland, Torres Small Cosponsor Global Nutrition Resolution

Recognizing the importance of sustained United States leadership to accelerating global progress against maternal and child malnutrition and supporting United States Agency for International Development's commitment to global nutrition through its multi-sectoral nutrition strategy.   Summary of House Resolution 189 and Senate Resolution 260
As of mid-July, Bread for the World members in New Mexico had written 29 letters to Rep. Xochitl Torres Small and 254 to Rep. Deb Haaland urging our congressional representatives to support efforts to boost our country commitments to global child and maternal nutrition. This ask is part of Bread for the World's 2019 Offering of Letters. Better Nutrition, Better Tomorrow.

Collage of Lobby Day Visits
The letters from constituents might have played a part in the decision of Reps. Haaland and Torres Small to cosponsor House Resolution 189. Our two members of Congress were among the broadly bipartisan group of 94 House cosponsors

Of course, our Lobby Day visits to the Washington offices of the congresswomen might have helped, along with follow-up from Bread government relations staff.

We have also been in touch with Rep. Rep Ben Ray Lujan, who promised me during a conversation in Albuquerque that he would consider cosponsoring the initiative. This conversation came during the August congressional recess, and hopefully he will add his name when Congress returns in September.

On Lobby Day, I also visited the offices of Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. We also requested that they sign on to the Senate version of the resolution. As of mid-August the two senators were not yet among the bipartisan group of 35 Senate cosponsors of SRes260. We are hopefully that they will add their names to the list.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A 'Farm Bill' for New Mexico?

On Aug. 23, Rep. Melanie Stansbury coordinated a meeting of more than two dozen anti-hunger advocates at Roadrunner Food Bank, including three of us from the Interfaith Hunger Coalition. The three of us are also part of the newly formed Hunger Council.

Meals on Wheels, Roadrunner Food Bank, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, the Agri-Cultura Network (representing farmers in South Valley of Albuquerque), the Food Depot in Santa Fe, and the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council were also represented.

Collari Communications, which spearheaded a proposal to create a nutrition council in New Mexico last year, was also there, along with allies in the state's nutrition community. 

Representatives from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office, including the director of the Children's Cabinet, another member of the State House (Rep. Karen Bash),  and two foundations (Thornburg and New Mexico First) also joined in the dialogue.

The presence of all the expertise resulted in some very rich conversations. We were divided into three groups in the room.  While part of the conversation involved identification of barriers and challenges to address hunger in New Mexico, some compelling plans were put forth. One especially interesting proposal, which came before the room was divided into groups, was presented by Rep. Stansbury: the possibility that hunger legislation would be considered in the context via omnibus legislation like the federal farm bill.

Here is one definition of the omnibus legislation from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
The farm bill is a package of legislation passed roughly once every five years, which has a tremendous impact on farming livelihoods, how food is grown, and what kinds of foods are grown. Covering programs ranging from crop insurance for farmers to healthy food access for low-income families, from beginning farmer training to support for sustainable farming practices, the farm bill sets the stage for our food and farm systems. As a leading advocate for family farmers and sustainable agriculture, it’s our job to make sure that this important bill is good for farmers, good for consumers, and good for the natural environment. 
Feeding America, the national entity that works with our nation's food banks, has published a general report on how the Farm Bill helps reduce hunger in the U.S. The organization then examined the anti-hunger initiatives  in the latest (2018) Farm Bill. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) also put together its own analysis.

Omnibus Legislation
So how would something like this work in New Mexico? Given the limited time in which our "citizen legislature" meets, this could be a good approach to address a myriad of issues, including our farm-to-table initiatives, strengthening our senior and children's nutrition programs, including school lunches), setting policy on access to commodities, leveraging federal assistance programs (like SNAP), and other issues.

The New Mexico "farm bill" plan is only a broad proposal at this time and there are many issues to discuss, including what initiatives would be addressed, which committees would have jurisdiction, how to set the framework for debate and deliberation before and during one of our 60-day sessions and much more.

Fortunately, the administrative infrastructure to help the process along is under development. For one, our proposed legislative Hunger Caucus is close to becoming a reality thanks to the leadership of Rep. Joanne Ferrary (with support from Rep. Rebecca Dow, Sen. Michael Padilla and Sen. Liz Stefanics).

At the executive level, Gov. Lujan Grisham has developed a Children's Cabinet (in part to deal with , child hunger) and created a new position for a person designated specifically to address hunger issues in our state.

After years of spinning our wheels, we now have a path forward to make some strides in eliminating hunger in New Mexico.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Santa Fe, Las Cruces Mayors Oppose Administrative Cuts to SNAP

Mayors Alan Webber of Santa Fe and Ken Miyagishima of Las Cruces are among the 70 mayors who signed this letter.

"On behalf of the US Conference of Mayors (USCM), we are writing to express our strong opposition to the proposed revision of “broad based categorical eligibility”in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP )published in the Federal Register on July 23, 2019. 

As noted in the proposal’s regulatory analysis,this far reaching executive action will escalate food insecurity and hunger for an estimated 3.1 million individuals -including children, seniors, and people with disabilities in our states,regions and cities nationwide.

Furthermore, this proposal will put children’s health and developmentat risk by removing their access to healthy school meals; and harm our economy by reducing the amount of SNAP dollars available to spur  regional and local economic activity...  Read Full Letter

Monday, August 12, 2019

Grandparents Raising Children and Other Hunger-Related Issues

It's no coincidence that the director of  a food bank and northern New Mexico and the representative of the U.S. Census for Santa Fe and surrounding areas would make the same observation: many  grandparents are raising children, which has a direct correlation to hunger.

On recent trip to Española, Sherry Hooper engaged in a conversation with a local official about demographics in area schools. "Someone told me that 60 percent of the children in Española schools are being raised by their grandparents. Sixty percent!"said Hooper. director of The Food Depot, which covers Santa Fe and a good portion of northern New Mexico. "I knew there were some, but I had no idea there were that many."

Incidentally, the organization Grandparents Raising Grandchildren was created in Española and is supported by Las Cumbres Community Center.

Below is an excerpt of Hooper's talk about hunger in northern New Mexico at Feeding Our Neighbors, a workshop sponsored by the Interfaith Hunger Coalition (IHC) and Temple Beth Shalom.



Many problems are associated with this scenario of grandparents raising children. For one, many seniors or near-seniors are income-limited and already have to make tough decisions like choosing on whether to spend their funds on utilities, medication or food. On top of that, they must take care of all the expenses associated with raising children. The New Mexico state government offers some resources to grandparents who are raising grandchildren.

Marisa Santistevan
From the standpoint of the census, some seniors often won't admit to authorities that they are raising grandchildren for fear that they would lose privileges, such as the right to live in subsidized housing that is limited to people of a certain age. According to Marisa Santistevan, partnership director for the U.S. Census Bureau in Santa Fe, there is the risk that these children living with grandparents will not be counted in the 2020 Census. Among other things, an accurate count would help a state of New Mexico obtain all the resources to which we are entitled. Read more on why the census is important.

Santistevan was  among the speakers at Feeding Our Neighbors. Other presenters included Tracey Enright from Feeding Santa Fe and Rachel White Sternheim, education director at Congregation Albert in Albuquerque and a member of the IHC steering committee. White Sternheim prepared the opening reflection based on Psalm 137 and also spoke about MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.  Carlos Navarro, convener of the IHC, presented a history of our organization and additional statistics on hunger in New Mexico.

We also offered participants an opportunity to write letters to Rep. Ben Ray Lujan urging him to oppose new administrative rules that would restrict many more families from retaining access to the SNAP program. Ellen Buelow, chair of the IHC advocacy committee, explained that new rules offered by the federal administration would push more than 3 million Americans off food stamps,

We are thankful to Judah Horowitz, social justice director at Temple Beth Shalom, and Rabbi Neil Amswych for hosting our event.

Judah Horowitz

Tracey Enright

Ellen Buelow

Workshop participants