Wednesday, July 30, 2014

.0033rd of an Acre

Community Garden
Reprinted from the Roadrunner Food Bank Blog

By Jason Riggs

Sometimes all the pieces fall in place when you try to do something that will help people.

Roadrunner Food Bank had considered putting together a small, community garden pilot project for a few years. We thought the best approach was to find a food pantry with the ability to plant a garden. Produce grown on site could be given out to clients attending the regular food pantry distribution. As great as this sounded, we knew that this would simply supplement the regular food boxes. The clients would get some wonderful locally grown vegetables, but not much else.

That’s when we learned about container gardening. A seed was planted, and a plan began to grow.

What if, in addition to the fresh produce from the food pantry garden, we sent clients home with a small seedling that could be easily grown on small window sills and front stoops?

Again, this would only be a nutritious supplement to the food clients received from the food pantry. But, perhaps it would inspire people to grow a few things of their own. Children might learn a little about gardening. If you’re on the SNAP program, you can actually buy seeds that produce food. Perhaps this could start a small ‘window sill’ gardening movement similar to the Victory Gardens in World War II.

Ann Sharpe runs the Christ United Methodist Mobile Food Pantry in Albuquerque’s International District. Once a month, they provide food to 50-100 households. Ann is a passionate gardener and was very enthusiastic about the concept. Christ United Methodist already had some existing beds that would be suitable for the community garden phase of the project. The garden is pictured in the photo at the top.

But, how could we get the Container Garden phase going?

Out of the blue, Susan and Mike Reed from La Orilla Farm contacted Roadrunner. They had lots of seeds and wanted to use their skills to help hungry people. We met with The Reeds and told them what we wanted to do.  They were already two or three steps ahead of us.

They seeded six-packs of basil, parsley, chives, and bush tomatoes.  All of these seeds were chosen because they could be easily grown in small containers.  They even managed to get a discounted rate on potting soil from Soilutions.  And, once they got word out among their friends and colleagues, other people starting donating seeds.

Everything was moving along.  Now, all we needed was at least 220 plastic containers to put the seeds and soil in.

As fate would have it, a company called New Mexico Recycle Process donated 200 plastic containers.  A school group volunteering at Roadrunner cut them to size and punched holes in the bottom for irrigation.
Seedlings from La Orilla Farm were planted in the raised garden beds at Christ United Methodist by Ann and her crew as the Reeds readied the container gardens.

Now, all we needed to do was to wait for Mother Nature to do her thing.

By the June 3, some of the container gardens were ready to give out.  They went fast.  The rest were ready by the following food pantry distribution in July.  The clients loved them.  Each plant came with instructional brochures in English and Spanish on how to care for the seedlings.

Soon, the community garden should be ready to harvest, and clients will be treated to chile, tomatoes, squash, quelites, arugula, and squash.

At some point, Ann Sharp measured the garden beds and realized they came in at .0033 of an acre.  This was fitting.

The area around her church could be considered a food desert.  Save for one high-end specialty market, there are no grocery stores.  For families living nearby, it means bus fare or a long, long walk in the summer sun to get food.  Many people rely on the Christ United Methodist Mobile Food Pantry each month when their SNAP benefits run out.  Fruits and vegetables are often the first item crossed off a grocery list when money gets tight.  It can be a lot cheaper to buy starchy staples.  Without produce, the lack of the vitamins and nutrients can lead to poor nutrition and other health problems.

One food pantry alone cannot help everyone in need.  One community garden cannot either.  But, like those seeds, little things can grow and take on a life of their own.  With the help and generosity of a few people, many households will enjoy some fresh chile and spinach next month.  Some folks will be able to pick tomatoes from a milk-jug garden on their kitchen window sill.

This year, it’s just .0033rd of an acre.  Next year, we hope to grow.

(Jason Riggs is the SNAP Outreach Coordinator for Roadrunner Food Bank.  If you are interested in participating in a Community Garden, please send us your contact information to  If you are interested in volunteering for SNAP Outreach, please call Jason at 505-349-8833).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Aquaponics (Part 3): Creating a Living Food Bank in Northwest Haiti

Rebecca Nelson and John Pade are well known as the authority on aquaponics in the United States. So much so the URL for their Web site is simply  Before I tell you more about the Nelson & Pade operations, I want to highlight a great project they developed in Haiti to provide both protein and  greens via a partnership with Northwest Haiti Christian Mission (NWHCM), The aquaponics system is housed in a tropical greenhouse at the NWHCM campus in the community of St. Louis du Nord (about 58 kilometers or 36 miles west of Cape Haitien). The aquaponics portion of the farm at St. Louis du Nord, which  produces  tilapia and a variety of vegetables, is managed by Stephen Jernigan. (The vimeo below was uploaded in May 2014)

Aquaponics from NWHCM on Vimeo.

While the NWHCM operating provides food for a small section of northwestern Haiti, Nelson and Pade are hoping to help introduce aquaponics to many areas of the island. "The Living Food Bank® produces a high volume of fresh food in a small space, using minimal resources," Nelson & Pade said in an article in their Web site. "This reduces the reliance on imported food rations for feeding programs in developing countries while providing higher quality, more nutritional food."

And there are possibilities beyond Haiti. "The Living Food Bank® was designed for missions and social projects in developing countries, urban areas and other places that traditional agriculture doesn't work or access to fresh food isn't available," said Nelson & Pade.

Nelson & Pade Provides Great Resources & Training
If you have a chance to peruse through the Nelson & Pade Inc. site, you can find all sorts of training opportunities, links to the Aquaponics Journal, a blog, all sorts of training videos and live seminars and classes at their facilities in Montello, WI.

Rebecca Nelson leads a workshop
As of 2011, more than 1,000 individuals from around the world had participated in  Nelson and Pade’s aquaponics workshops. “They are attended by everyone from school teachers to hobbyists, as well as individuals interested in commercial operations or backyard aquaponics for home food production,” said Nelson,

While this effort to combine aquaculture and  hydroponics to create gardens might seem new to most of us, Nelson and Pade have been practicing and perfecting aquaponics since the early 1990s. But the practice goes back at least a century-and-a-half to China, Thailand and Peru.

"Modern aquaponics recycles water, a precious resource. Fish give off carbon dioxide (CO2) as they breathe. Plants take in CO2, strip the carbon to build their leaves and then release the remaining oxygen molecules. The oxygen-rich air is filtered and then blown into the water for the fish to recycle. In this symbiotic mini eco-system, wastes in one facet of the system are utilized as a resource in another," said the online news site Natural Awakenings.

 “Aquaponics is the ideal answer to a fish farmer’s problem of disposing of nutrient-rich water and a hydroponic grower’s need for nutrient-rich water,” Nelson said in an interview with Natural Awakenings.

Stay Tuned for Parts 4 of the Series, where we will  examine how the practice of aquaponics has taken root in the inner  cities of Milwaukee and Chicago (Growing Power).

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Aquaponics (Part 2): Sunflower Sprouts in Mesilla Valley in Southern New Mexico

There are some things that are intuitive. Such as the fact that trout cannot survive above 70 degrees.  But you don't think about that when someone gives you a big gift of trout to help build up your aquaponics operation.

"We thought we had it made," said Shahid Mustafa, general manager of the Mountain View Market (MVM) coopeartive, which serves the Las Cruces area.

As it turns out, trout are not the ideal fish to use to start an aquaponics operation in southern New Mexico, where summer temperatures at times reach the triple digits.  Aquapronics operations around the country use a variety of fish, and experts in the practice like Nelson & Pade say certain varieties of fish have provided good results in the U.S., including blue gill, crappie, sunfish, tilapia,  and even ornamental fish. (In Perth, Australia, they like these fish). Blue gill and catfish are among the fish that are native to middle and lower Rio Grande, while various species of trout are found in the higher elevations.

An ideal fish for all climates of New Mexico is tilapia, but that is not a native species in New Mexico, and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) has  made it illegal to raise this variety of fish. Tilapia is considered an invasive species.
Tilapia are potential competitors with native fish for spawning areas, food, and space, as well as potential vectors for parasites and di seases. Populations of various species of tilapia are established in Arizona and Texas where these invasions have coincided with reductions of native fish species. Tilapia (possibly Tilapia aurea ) was introduced into New Mexico at two locations prior to 1990 as fish stockings. While these populations did not survive, the NMDGF has received and approved importation requests for small- scale, contained food industry opera tions at two facilities in th e state. The current threat is from humans illicitly translocating live fish from approved facilities or from range expansion via shared drainages. -report from New Mexico Aquatic Invasive Species Advisory Council
Advocates of aquaponics in the state, including Michael McNair, chair of the New Mexico Black Chamber of Commerce,  do not understand why state wildlife officials have imposed a prohibition on the use of tilapia, which is allowed on a limited basis in some sites around the state. McNair, who organized a presentation at the End Hunger in New Mexico summit in late July and trying to promote aquaponics statewide, has launched a campaign to convince the NMDGF to lift the prohibition on the use of tilapia in aquaponics operations in the state.

Sunflower sprouts
Sunflower Sprouts and Salad Greens
For now, MVM is experimenting with catfish and other varieties some which are not typically eaten--such as goldfish). "If we could get tilapia, we could grow more produce," Mustafa said at a workshop about aquaponics at the End Hunger in New Mexico summit.

This means that the emphasis at MVM is more on the hydroponics (the cultivation of plants in water) than on aquaculture (the raising of fish). One of the top crops that MVM grows with the use of aquaponics is sunflower sprouts, which are in high demand in Las Cruces. "The reason we like sunflower sprouts is because they only take a week to grow," said Mustafa.

Shahid Mustafa gives presentation at End Hunger Summit
Mustafa believes aquaponics is uniquely suited to New Mexico, a state where saving water is important. “Aquaponics uses only one-tenth of the water as traditional field agriculture to produce the same amount of food; the same amount of water could be gone in one day or a few hours, but in the system, it will last for a few weeks," the MVM general manager said in an interview posted in Marisa Coronado's blog

On a yearly basis, Mesilla Valley Cooperative uses aquaponics to grow about 15% of its produce, mostly for sunflower sprouts, but other produce-- like greens and lettuce--are part of the present and future plans. “A head of lettuce is more fragile and has a higher price point;  we’ll be able to grow more delicate forms of produce away from the pests and harvest them for longer. We may try mixed greens,”said Mustafa. (Read More in the MVM Web site)

Stay Tuned for Parts 3 and 4 of the Series, where we will look at the aquaponics training offered by Nelson & Pade and  examine how the practice of aquaponics has taken root in the inner  cities of Milwaukee and Chicago (Growing Power).

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Aquaponics (Part 1): A Former Brewery in St. Paul Produces Organic Swiss Chard, Cilantro

Photo: Urban Organics
The concept is simple. Local equals fresh. Fresh equals nutritious. Nutritious equals healthy, for people and community. -Urban Organics

The multi-story building in St. Paul, MN, once produced the iconic Hamm's beer. This was the original location where Hamm's was produced for generations, but was abandoned in 1997 and sat in disrepair for years. The City of St. Paul, which acquired the site in 2001, sold the site to four investors, who are turning the former brewery into an urban aquaponics farm.

So what is aquaponics? This practice of growing produce combines aquaculture (the raising of fish) and hydroponics (the cultivation of plants in water)--to grow organic produce.

Photo: Urban Organics
"Modern aquaponics recycles water, a precious resource. Fish give off carbon dioxide (CO2) as they breathe. Plants take in CO2, strip the carbon to build their leaves and then release the remaining oxygen molecules. The oxygen-rich air is filtered and then blown into the water for the fish to recycle. In this symbiotic mini eco-system, wastes in one facet of the system are utilized as a resource in another," said the online news site Natural Awakenings.

 “Aquaponics is the ideal answer to a fish farmer’s problem of disposing of nutrient-rich water and a hydroponic grower’s need for nutrient-rich water,” said Rebecca Nelson,co-founder of  the Wisconsin-based Nelson & Pade, one of the country's original commercial aquaponics operations.

The Urban Organics farm in St. Paul, which started operations this year, is already producing kale, Swiss chard, Italian parsley, cilantro and other orgranic edible plants.

The brewery building was an ideal location to set up this operation. "Urban Organics' co-founders--Fred Haberman, Chris Ames, Dave Haider and Kristen Haider--were drawn to the location for the same reason Hamm's was: its water. The naturally occurring wells at the site provide their operation with a free source of water, the essential ingredient in aquaponics. And most of the water is recycled," said an article in

With its limited production, Urban organics is already supplying organic greens to a couple of local grocery stories in the Twin Cities. The farm--which is in the process of developing the entire six-story building--expects to 720,000 pounds of greens and 150,000 pounds of fish per year.  Here is a report from KSTP- TV in the Twin Cities. 

Stay Tuned for Parts 2-4 of the Series, where we will look at the aquaponics training offered by Nelson & Pade, examine how the practice of aquaponics has taken root in southern New Mexico (Mountain View Market Cooperative) and in the inner  cities of Milwaukee and Chicago (Growing Power).  We will look at a new effort to promote the practice throughout New Mexico.

Friday, July 25, 2014

John Denver and Dave Mallett Sing The Garden Song

It's summer, and our gardens (or the gardens of others are on our minds).  This song from the late John Denver helps us gives thanks for our gardens and celebrate our commitment to grow healthy food. (from Season 4, episode 1 of the Muppet Show).

"Inch by inch, row by row, someone bless these seeds I sow, someone warm them from below, 'til the rain comes tumbling down..."

And here is the original version from the song's author Dave Mallett

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mark Winne's Take on the New (Old) Effort to End Hunger in New Mexico

:Photo from 2003 Conference
I must confess. I am a prolific photographer, and sometimes I take good pictures. I took a lot of photos at the End Hunger in New Mexico Summit last week, but I did not shoot many photographs at a similar event in 2003. In the photograph on the left, Kari Bachman (a nutritionist at New Mexico State University and a Bread for the World member) and I  are holding  a Bread for the World canvas sign. The photo is not great, but it's the only one I have from that event.  The slogan for the conference, "Together We Can; Juntos Podemos," was used frequently (as you can see from the World Food Display in the text below)

I shared my summary about this year's End Hunger summit a few days ago, in which I mentioned Mark Winne's keynote address (where he alluded to the 2003 conference).  Now I would like to share with you the piece that Winne wrote after this year's summit, entitled Ending Hunger in New Mexico: Finding the Road to Beijing.  This blog post is basically the same as Winne's keynote address. The piece is reprinted with Winne's permission from his blog entitled Mark's Food Policy Blog.

Ending Hunger in New Mexico: Finding the Road to Beijing
Like most of you, I’ve come to this gathering to ask the question that no one has yet succeeded in answering: How do we end hunger in New Mexico?

I’m one of those people who has attended countless gatherings across this state, and through my national work, in almost every state in the country, to ask the same question: how in a country as wealthy as ours do we continuously fail to find a solution to food insecurity and hunger?

In the fall of 2003, I stood on a stage very similar to this one at another hotel in Albuquerque. The occasion was then-Governor Richardson’s Hunger Summit, a gathering attended by about 300 people. That summit, by the way, was precipitated by USDA statistics that found New Mexico ranked number one in the U.S. in food insecurity.

The story I told then is the same one I’ll tell today. We must shift our attention from only addressing the symptoms, namely hunger and food insecurity, and stop ignoring the disease, namely poverty. We must emphasize the quality of food over the quantity in recognition of the severity of the obesity crisis before us. We must work together in a truly collaborative fashion, which means we each have to put aside something for the greater good. We must hold government accountable, no matter which party is in office. And we must ask ourselves hard questions about our own programs and organizations: just because we’ve been doing things one way for the past 20 years doesn’t mean we should do them the same way forever.

Comprehensive Report in 2003
The report that came out of that 2003 Hunger Summit was startlingly clear, comprehensive, and held real promise for change. Its recommendations called for:
  • A unified approach to ending hunger that involved state agencies and non-governmental stakeholders
  • The continuation of a Hunger Task Force, the body that wrote the report
  • The development of a sustainable statewide food system that emphasized community based solutions and statewide networking Higher participation in all federal nutrition programs
  • Improvement in the quality of food and the nutritional environment throughout New Mexico
  • An increase in the knowledge and skills necessary to choose and prepare healthy food
  • And lastly, it reminded everyone that food banks and pantries were not intended as long term solutions to hunger; they should refocus their efforts on services that help people exit poverty.
What became of these recommendations? Believe it or not, many concretes steps were taken:
  • Working with state officials, the Hunger Task Force simplified the food stamp application to help increase enrollment
  • A food stamp outreach campaign began
  • Summer meals and school breakfast received more promotion, attention, and financial support
  • Seniors received a small state-funded supplement to their small monthly food stamp allotment.
While not direct outcomes of the Task Force’s work, numerous indirect results can be linked to it including:
  • Better access to farmers’ markets by the state’s lower income shoppers
  • The formation of the NM Food and Agriculture Policy Council and four local food policy councils
  • Elimination of junk food from most public schools making New Mexico one of the first states to do so
  • Expansion of Cooperative Extension Services to tribal communities
  • Expansion of farm to school activities to almost half of New Mexico’s 345,000 school children.
2003 slogan used frequently in displays
But what else has happened since the 2003 Summit?

Well, the Task Force itself dissolved leaving New Mexico without a single, unified voice to oversee the implementation of the report’s recommendations. Why? Ask a dozen people and you’ll get a dozen different answers: lack of trust between members, lack of political will, and poor leadership that fluctuated between weak and overbearing, and finally, a lack of community engagement and too much reliance on a professional elite.

What else happened?
  • Well, food insecurity went from 14% to over 15% from 2002 to 2012, and very low food security, or hunger, grew from just under 4% to almost 6%.
  •  Nationwide, SNAP participation soared to 48 million from 27 million people in 2007
  •  State government, once a strong partner for ending hunger, backed away from that commitment. Recently, the New Mexico Law and Poverty Center documented that almost 13,000 New Mexicans are forced to wait over a month for food and Medicare benefits because the NM Department of Human Services is not processing applications fast enough.
  • Food banks didn’t shrink, they grew, expanding into ever larger facilities.
The hunger of the overfed and the hunger of the underfed cry out for our attention daily, and the perils of global food insecurity and the limits to our earth’s natural resources rarely escape our notice.

2014 summit logo
A Chinese Proverb
When I reflect on our efforts to end hunger I’m reminded of a Chinese proverb, one version of which goes like this: A powerful warlord was leading his army of warriors, horses and chariots down a country road when he came upon an old monk. The warlord asked the old man how long it will take his army to get to Beijing. The monk looked up at the warlord and told him that it will take him forever since he is going the wrong way. The warlord said, “Posh! My horses are the fastest in the land and my chariots are swift.” “With all due respect, Your Lordship,” replied the monk, “you are going the wrong way so you’ll never get there.” Now getting angry, the warlord shouted, “Disrespectful old fool! My army is the strongest and I am the boldest warrior in all of China!” With that the monk said, “That may be true, your horses and chariots may be swift, and your army may be the mightiest, but you will never get to Beijing going this way.” With that, the warlord struck the monk with his whip as his horses and men charged off in the same direction.

As much as we must insist that our state and federal food programs are working well and are adequately funded, we must also engage the economic injustices and disparities that tragically underlie hunger. Without that kind of effort, we will never make it to Beijing.

Consider our food chain workers who pick, process, and prepare our food. They make up 15% of the U.S. workforce, the largest single occupational category. They have a median wage of only $9.65 per hour and only 13% receive a living wage. The vast majority of these workers are people of color. We depend on them for our survival yet they are paid so little they are eligible for food stamps one and a half times more frequently than all other workers.

This is but one feature of America’s single greatest socio-economic travesty: the yawning gap between the affluent and everyone else.

One of several workshops at 2014 summit
Because the top 1% of income earners in the U.S. control 40% of the wealth compared to 10% in 1973, everyone in this room must struggle harder to reduce the impact of those disparities on the people you serve.
It is why, according to the Institute of Medicine that among the 17 most developed nations, Americans have the lowest life expectancy, the highest poverty rate, spend the most for healthcare and receive mediocre results.

And it is why, when I interviewed a county food stamp director in New Mexico, I was told that food stamp applications were soaring even though the unemployment rate was 2%. Why? Because the county’s biggest employers were Wal-Mart stores.

Food insecurity in this country would virtually disappear if all Americans earned a living wage, which some cities are trying to set at $15 per hour. I’m proud to be from Santa Fe which, at $10.65/hour, has one of the highest mandated wages in the country.

Getting behind a new national minimum wage of at least $10.10 per hour is something we all must do. That would immediately lift three and a half million Americans out of poverty. We can no longer let business off the hook any more than we can let government off the hook.

With respect to the role of charity in addressing hunger, the Special Rapporteur for the United Nations Olivier De Schutter said that, “Food Banks should not be seen as a ‘normal’ part of a national safety net. They are charity-based, not rights-based, and they should not be seen as a substitute for the robust social safety nets to which each individual has a right….Governments should not be allowed to escape their obligations because private charities make up for their failures.”

Poster from town hall meeting at Holy Rosary Church
To those who say that New Mexico does not have sufficient wealth to fight poverty, and therefore must tolerate high rates of poverty, I say poppycock. If enough of us speak up and fight for justice, a political leader of sufficient courage will one day rise with us to make the change we need a reality.

Returning to the subject of obesity, the simple, sad fact before us is that obesity will kill more New Mexicans than food insecurity and hunger. If we are not making quality, nutritious food a significant part of our response to hunger, we’ll stay on the wrong road to Beijing.

We must make healthy food the easy choice all the time: in school, at home, in the marketplace and workplace, on the road, at food pantries, at playgrounds and football games.

Cooking with Kids programs such as the ones in Albuquerque and Santa Fe must be expanded to every school district and school age child in NM.

Like the WIC program, SNAP must do more to encourage the consumption of healthy food and discourage the consumption of unhealthy food such sugary soft drinks. Yes, there is more SNAP Education funding and flexibility, but tax payer dollars should not be used to subsidize unhealthy eating or the soda industry as it does now through monthly benefits.

And when Michele Obama said she’ll go to the mat to fight the Republican proposal to slow down the increase in healthier food in our schools, I say “Go Michele! I’m with you.” Three-quarters of NM’s school food services implemented the new, healthier food regulations well in advance of the July 1 deadline. All the others should do so immediately.

Physical activity whether through safe street programs, walking, biking, and more places to play must be connected to these efforts as well. Mom and dad, unplug your children’s electronic devices, hide the batteries, and send the kids outside to run, ride, and play.

 NM Lutheran Advocacy Ministry logo
We Need a Well-funded Collaborative Effort
Finally, as I said before, the problems before us are too big for any one agency or non-profit organization to tackle. They are too big for any one government, even the State of NM, to solve. We need a truly collaborative effort that is well-funded, well-led, and well-organized. It won’t be a place for big egos or self-serving organizations. It will be a place to you check your six-shooters at the door and work for the common good.

New Mexico has an excellent Food and Agriculture Policy Council. Perhaps it can incorporate a more comprehensive approach to ending hunger into its work.

We also need a plan. Cities, states, and countries are developing longer term food strategies, food plans, and charters. These actions are engaging citizens like never before in the policy making process.

Edmonton, Alberta committed $1 million to a process that engaged over 3,000 citizens in developing a food plan. On one occasion 700 Edmonton residents turned out at a public hearing about the proposed plan.

Michigan has a food charter, and the Santa Fe Food Policy Council is putting the finishing touches on a food plan for the city and county.

What this organized commitment to food planning represents is a kind of communal responsibility taking, a recognition that we all have a stake in our food system.

Continuing down the wrong road to Beijing is no longer an option. Carving out your own turf to only serve your own programmatic objectives is a disservice to your clients. Large business sectors that exploit workers, and governments that turn their backs on the poor can no longer be tolerated.

So unless you want to hear me say the same thing at the 2024 New Mexico Hunger Summit, we better get started. We’ve got 10 years to make it right. Let’s do it, New Mexico!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

End Hunger in New Mexico Summit a Great Success. Now What?

During his keynote address on the first day of the End Hunger in New Mexico summit, Mark Winne mentioned a previous effort in 2003 to address hunger in our state. At that time, New Mexico  was among the states with the highest rate of hunger/food insecurity. What did that effort a decade ago accomplish? Our ranking and statistics did not improve, and in fact they worsened. In 2002, 14% fo the state's population suffered poverty, and that rate rose to 15% in 2012.

There are mixed results from the last effort. A task force that was created to follow up on the 2003 conference managed to keep behind-the-scenes work alive for some time--and even issued a report that was circulated widely.  Then after several years, the task for ceased to exist (and as Winne would tell you, "ask a dozen people, and you'll get a dozen different responses."

Another thought from 2003. The statistics do tell a story of our progress or (lack of progress).  There were many factors beyond or control, especially the last few years--when a major recession and the mortgage crisis that began in 2008 and has never fully ended,  hammered New Mexico.

So let's measure progress in other ways besides the statistics. As Winne pointed out, that 2003 conference  spawned intense efforts  in areas that hadn't been addressed before, including improvements in the nutritional levels of school meals and direct efforts to connect farming communities with various government feeding efforts.

AARP Foundation Campaign
A relevant, timely conversation
So what about this year's summit and it's follow up? First, let me say that the conference was a great success in making the conversation about hunger relevant and bringing together many stakeholders, although I do think the number of participants could have been broadened a little more. So kudos to the organizers: The North Central New Mexico Economic Development District, the Non Metro Area Agency on Aging, and the New Mexico Aging & Long-Term Services Department.

While the summit succeeded in bringing together those individuals, agencies and organizations who care--we have long ways to educate the public at large--which would mean greater media efforts. But this could come with the follow up

As one of the persons who participated in thatt he first summit and who has been involved in efforts to end hunger in New Mexico (and in our country and overseas), I have some thoughts on how to move forward.

Before I do that,  let me acknowledge that there is the impetus for a follow-up.  People were asked to sign up to be part of the effort to move the process forward. And Gene Varela from AARP/AARP Foundation put together the "Take Action on Hunger in New Mexico Workshop Report," summarizing Issues and Challenges and Recommendations or Action Areas (Awareness & Education, Advocacy, Support for Existing Programs, Community Collaboration and Coordination). And there was a sign-up sheet for those who attended the summit to participate in crafting solutions to hunger in New Mexico.

So hopefully, those efforts will take root and create mechanisms to begin to address the problem.

Here's what I propose...
I myself propose a different and simpler approach. My thoughts came in response to a question from summit participant Ari Herring from United Way during an informal conversation outside of the Isleta Conference Center after the summit had ended.  My response was insticntive--and not the result of sitting down and giving the matter deep thought. However, I think there is something to instincts when one has been involved in any effort for a long time.

I told Ari was that our response must start with a sense of focus. The document that Gene Varela handed out was filled with proposals and valuabe input from the various participants at workshops and during plenary sessions.  All of that is a good starting point. The question is how  we make the best use of those resources and expertise.

Commemorative Pot
There are various ways in which hunger and poverty affect New Mexicans, and we must take this into account into our solutions. There isn't a one-size fits all approach, so let's examine the various how hunger affects different New Mexican populations and respond accordingly.

Most of the public officials (including Gov. Susana Martinez and all of our congressional representatives) who spoke at the plenary sessions, mentioned two populations in particular: children and seniors. 

There are three other populations that merit serious discussion, not only on immediate solutions but on sustainable long-term responses. For example, working families are hit hard by hunger, and a solution would be to address the issue of low wages in our state. My proposal would be to  form task forces to look at the problems and draft a set of steps to address hunger for each of these populations.
  • Children and Mothers
  • Seniors
  • Working Families
  • Rural Communities
  • Native American/Indian Communities
I admit there is the extreme likelihood of overlap. And yet, each of these populations merits its own study and set of solutions that will be part of the overall effort to address hunger in New Mexico.I think the unique (and common) problems in each of these communities are what is contributing to our poor rankings.

I also would like to bring in a suggestion that I made to conference moderator Myles Copeland in an earlier informal post-summit conversation. Just so we can build on what was discussed in the 2003 conference, it would be useful to bring in individuals and organizations that participated then. The one natural ally should the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council (which would include Mark Winne and Pam Roy).

A final word about those rankings. As a person who also looks at the national picture, I don't think we should be measuring our progress in relation to where we stand against other states, but more in regards of where we have been and how we have improved since that time.

A word from two speakers
At this point, I think it would be useful to share a couple of quotes from presenters at this year's summit, Ellen Teller from the Washington, D.C.-based Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and Terry Brunner, USDA's Director of Rural Development for New Mexico.

Ellen Teller, FRAC
On Income Disparity: Hunger is a symptom of poverty..Income of the bottom fifth of the population was about 2% lower in 2012 than it was in 1973.The wages and income of the top fifth grew by 46% That shows you how lopsided [income levels have evolved'

On Advocacy: We have to continue to educate our elected officials at all levels of government what the problem is in your back yard...The best way to educate your member of Congress is to invite them to come to your agency.  This is the most relaxed way to communicate with an elected official."

Terry Brunner, USDA
Ladders of Opportunity: This is a concept that we've been working on for the last two years.We want to make sure that if you [live in a town growing up in America, (and I often growing up in rural America) regardless of your race, regardless of  whether you grew up poor or grew up hungry or whether a small town in the middle of nowhere, you should have the same opportunities as everyone else to succeed.  We're working with communities across the nation to make sure those ladders of opportunity exist...When you grow up in a small town you should have access to food, access to health insurance, access to jobs, or education... You can climb that ladder to reach success. That's something that we're aiming for.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan: Shine the Light on Hunger

Las Vegas (NM) Mayor Alfonso Ortiz  meets with Rep. Lujan
All five of our elected members of Congress in Washington was invited to address the End Hunger in New Mexico summit on July 17-18. Two factors conspired to prevent elected leaders from making an appearance at the summit: other crucial commitments in Congress and the long commute from our nation's capital back home to New Mexico.  Sen. Tom Udall, Sen. Martin Heinrich, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Rep. Steave Pearce sent comments, which a local aide presented to the summit.  Excerpts from those statements follow at the end of this post.

One our elected officials, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, circled the dates  on his calendar when he first learned about the summit--and was able to juggle his schedule sufficiently not only to present a passionate address, but also to mingle with participants. Some were his constituents in the Third Congressional District, but many (like me) who were constituents of Rep. Lujan Grisham and Rep. Pearce. The issue has been on Rep. Lujan's radar. In September 2013, he sponsored a virtual Town Hall meeting on hunger and poverty in the Third Congressional District.

Here is an account of Rep. Lujan's remarks.

The congressman began his address by pointing out that this year marked the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty and the 51st anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington. The greatest legacy of the two milestone events was that they brought attention to poverty, hunger and related issues, a situation that is very relevant in our times.

"I don't have to remind you of the statistics, but I am going to do anyway," said Rep. Lujan.. "Forty percent of New Mexicans who receive  food assistance are under the age of 18,  seven percent of them are under the age of 5, and  thirteen percent of them are seniors--our grandparents...our parents. This myth that only those who are homeless are hungry is not right--these are our neighbors, or friends with whom we work every day."

Quoting Mother Teresa 
There were also plenty of words of encouragement from Rep. Lujan.. "When I look across the room...I'm reminded by what Mother Teresa said, 'if you can't feed 100 people, then feed one'. That what you're doing. You're braaking the cycle.

Rep. Lujan also acknowledged that he was "preaching to the choir," but urged participants to contribute to shining a light on the problem so that it won't be ignored or swept under the rug. "We need to make sure that this is not kept a secret, not in New Mexico, not anywhere in the world."

"We have to find a way to break the cycle and we have to have the courage to stand up for our convictions and shine a light on the in recognizing that when several choose to keep a secret: that New Mexico's children are struggling, that New Mexico's seniors are struggling."

"In the United States of America, as we were reminded by President Johnson,and we are reminded by Martin Luther King, and we are reminded by the teachings of Mother Teresa, and now Pope Francis: We can't turn a blind eye," said Rep. Lujan. "The personal stories that we hear--share them. As soon as those stories disappear, those hungry children will disappear, those hungry seniors will disappear. Sometimes we'd rather close our eyes and not see what is happening around us. Let's keep our eyes wide open."

A chat with Manuel Casias, Rev. Jack Bunting of St. Felix Pantry
Summer Feeding Programs, SNAP
 "The congressman--whose district includes Santa Fe, Farmington, Gallup, Las Vegas and other communities in northern New Mexico--also commended state and federal officials for expanding the summer lunch program in New Mexico. But also offed this caveat. "I I hope that you all remember that this is not just in the summer that kids are hungry."

The congressman also alluded to the debate on the Farm Bill over the past couple of years, and the controversy over the funding of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  He said the push in the House to cut benefits was a clear example that some people in Congress were putting blinders on their eyes and not seeing the true problem. 

"When people and leaders are suggesting that we should cut programs that feed the most vulnerable, we should hold them accountable," said Rep. Lujan. 

"Our Tea Party colleagues said they wanted to cut this program and they said we want to cut by $20 billion. [Other] colleagues came forward and said $20 billion is not enough, so they came up with $40 billion," the congressman added. "A $40 billion cut that would have devasted this program."

Rep. Lujan lauded Sen. Tom Udall, Sen. Martin Heinrich and the rest of the Senate for proposing and sticking to a much smaller cut ($8.6 billion in the final Farm Bill). "Thank goodness for the Senate did, they were able to push back," said the congressman.

A final word
"We're reminded by Dr. King as well that our lives begin to end when we stop talking about things that matter. This matters. We have a moral obligation. No one anywhere in the world should go hungry. In New Mexico, we're better than that. So thanks everyone here for making a difference in the lives of so many."

Comments from Others in House, Senate
I'm beginning with the prepared comments from Rep. Steve Pearce and Rep. Lujan Grisham because they also had views on the recent SNAP debate. (A coming blog post will incorporate the views of Ellen Teller from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), who was also speaker at the event).

Rep. Lujan Grisham: 'I will continue to fight against cuts in SNAP'
The struggle that New Mexicans face to feed themselves is daunting. The state has the worst rate of child hunger in the country, and the second worst in adult hunger. More than 40,000 New Mexicans, half of whom are children, receive food assistance through SNAP.  But despite the vital role SNAP and other nutrition programs play a role in New Mexicans' food security, several in Congress want to see the program cut...Next Thursday (July 24), the Agriculture Committee will be holding its first hearing on the SNAP program since 2011.  I will use this hearing and every opportunity thereafter to change the minds of my colleagues that wish to make deeper cuts to the program...We need to work together and continue to fight because we share the same goal: eradicating hunger and poverty in our state and in the country.

Rep. Steve Pearce: 'Reform Nutrition Programs to Help Those Who Truly Need Them'
No one should struggle with hunger. We as a nation must work together on addressing this horrific issue...I believe the federal government  does have a role to play in nutrition assistance. The government should be there to  help support the people it serves when they are in times of great need. Our nation should be there to support those through the toughest of times and protect our children, families, seniors and veterans from going hungry. In Congress, we must do all we can to protect this vital lifeline. That is why I support rooting out the fraud and abuse that exists in the system.  We cannot afford to allow individuals to take advantage of this system --doing so takes away from those truly in need and only places greater strains on the system. The federal government alone is not responsible for ending hunger in our state. Local communities, organizations, churches, and the State of New Mexico can all play an important role in solving this critical issue.

Sen. Tom Udall: Championing Initiatives to Help New Mexico
Hunger poses one of the health challenges of our time  Today, close to 50 million Americans live in households that struggle to put food on the table, placing millions of families and children at risk of hunger and poor nutrition. Many many New Mexicans are up against this situation, and we must treat it as a call to action. That is why as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have championed initiatives to help New Mexico. This includes funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program which provides food and adminisrative funds to states so that they can supplement the diets of seniors children, young children and mothers. I have also supported legislation that would allocate $7.7 billion in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC), and 228.5 million in funding for  TEFAP, which makes USDA food prgrams available through state selected soup kitchens and pantries. As your senator, I will continue to fight for funding for innovative community programs that promise a brighter healthier,more sustainable future for all new Mexicans.

Sen. Martin Heinrich: Food Assistance is Critical to New Mexico Families
Food assistance programs are critical to New Mexico. This is why I voted to approve funding increases for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which benefits 443,000 households in our state...and the Supplemental Progrm for Women infants and children (WIC), which helped 64, 000  low-income women and children under the age of 5 in New Mexico...I know our work is not finished. Last year, over 150,000 children lived in a household that experienced food insecurity in our state..I remain committed to working with you to fight hunger, and I give thanks to the volunteers, faith based organizations, nonprofits and all those people who are here today to create a hunger-free New Mexico.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tweets and Pictures from the First Day of the End Hunger in New Mexico Summit

I wish I could say there were a lot of tweets from the first day of the End Hunger in New Mexico Summit.  I couldn't find any tweets but my own.(I don't think there was a hashtag designated for the summit, so I created my own: #EndhungerNewMexico). I later found out that Roadrunner Foodbank was tweeting under the hashtag #hungersummit2014

My tweets came after the fact because I couldn't get a Wi-fi connection on my smart phone at the site of the summit.

Anyway, I'm using my tweets and some photos to relate what I thought were personal highlights at the summit.  These tweets are not in chronological order, but I placed them in an order that would best tell my story.  And each tweet reflects a theme.

Economic Justice
Mark Winne, author and food-justice advocate,  was the keynote speaker during lunch.  Winne said we've been down this road before--a similar gathering in 2003 brought together people from a broad range of non-profits, government agencies and the private sector, and yet it doesn't look like we've made much progress. While there are many reasons for this situation, Winne says a central problem is that we have not worked with the right priorities

Alicia Edwards, Executive Director of the Volunteer Center of Grant County, also spoke about a lack or priorities in a workshop. She said we've been stuck in a band-aid mode, and we need to look at transforming our economic system. And even our approach to the immediate feeding solutions is misguided. For example, she said, when we put a food box together, the word that should come to mind should not be food, but meals.

Lieutenant Gov. Chewiwi
Investment in the Future
Lieutenant Governor Antonio Chewiwi at Isleta Pueblo (where the conference was held), presented the organizers of the conference with a gift: a small clay pot to hold seeds.

This was a highly symbolic and appropriate gift, since seeds are a symbol of future growth, and the small pot was a place to hold this future growth.

Mayor Berry
 Private-Public Model
Mayor Richard J. Berry, spoke about a broad range of interests coming together in the our largest city in New Mexico to address important issues like homelessness (though the Albuquerque Heading Home program) and hunger. Mayor Berry spoke about empowering all citizens to attain economic mobility.

The mayor mentioned that Albuquerque is one of five cities selected for a special grant under the national Living Cities Integration Initiative.  The program promotes "a new type of type of urban practice focused on addressing income inequality and disparate access to opportunity at a systems level,” according to Ben Hecht, president and CEO of Living Cities. Watch for a future blog post on the initiative in this blog 
A Tweet from Roadrunner Food Bank
The Bottom Line
Tim Armer, executive director of the North Central New Mexico Economic Development District (one of the organizations sponsoring the conference) said it best.
Like all summits and conferences, this one was packed with information and speeches, so this is the tip of the iceberg. And there's more tomorrow, so watch for a blog post for the second day of the summit.

Monday, July 14, 2014

How Much for that Breakfast Burrito? Whatever You Want to Pay

The menu at  Downtown Growers Market
"When customers pay what they feel the food is worth, they are given the opportunity to contribute towards a world where respect, generosity, trust, equality, freedom and kindness rule." -

One of the new food stands at the Albuquerque Downtown Growers Market this year is Food Karma, a not-for-profit food service that places a high value on promoting on using local ingredients for food. The menu choices are wholesome, locally sourced and available to customers for whatever price they want to pay.

Wade McCollough,founder of Food Karma, borrowed the concept from the Australian based non-profit business Lentil as Anything, which is also the source of the quote at the beginning of this post.

Funding a non-profit
McCollough's dream was to build a permanent facility (or as he called it a brick-and-mortar restaurant) based on that concept.So he started a campaign on Kickstarter, a fundraising site for non-profits, to raise the funds needed to cover the cost of the endeavor.

"We set a goal of $50,000 to fund our restaurant start-up but fell $45,369 short of our funding goal.," said McCollough. "We were a bit ambitious, sure, but timidness never got anyone anywhere!"

So on to Plan B, which was to develop a much simpler version of the project: a mobile community-based food organization and catering operation.  The goals of the operation are still the same, only without  an actually physical facility to serve patrons. And not only that, Food Karma has become quite involved in community events. "Since the end of our Kickstarter campaign, we have been involved in many charity events like the Roadrunner Food Bank annual Souper Bowl, two events for New life Homes (a subsidised community housing program), and "Street Fair" food days," said McCollough "These events have all been supplemented by our market vending and catering program."

Wholesome food, not profits
While it is important to get some return on its investment to keep the operation going, Food Karma does not put a high priority on making a profit. (And there are likely some people who give generously). Instead, the focus is on the quality and the wholesome nature of the food.  "Food Karma takes a fresh look how we go out to eat," said McCullough. "It challenges and creates new ideas about how we source our food, supporting local growers and producers to build a stronger food system."

"Furthermore, it makes us take a fresh look at how we treat our fellow human beings, within OUR local community, and how we can improve these social connections," the organization/business says on its Web site," said the Food Karma founder.

'Shouldn't you hide the money box?'
The concept of providing wholesome food over making a profit has met some skepticism among some of  patrons of Food Karma at the Downtown Growers Market at Robinson Park. McCollough relates an anecdote about what happened on the second day of the market this season. While the Food Karma staff was busy cooking and chatting with patrons, their backs were turned to the box where patrons place whatever money they wanted to pay for a meal.

A patron came up and told McCullough, "You better move this where you can keep an eye on it, someone is going to snatch it and run away!"  McCollough  smiled, said "Ok, thanks", and returned to cooking. A few seconds later, the gentleman moved the money box to a place where the thought was more secure.  McCollough thanked him for his good intentions, but also pointed out,  "If someone feels the need to steal our box, then I guess they need the money more than we do." With his jaw dropped he replace the box and continued through the line."

And then there is the story of the first day of the Kickstarter Campaign last fall, when Food Karma hosted , Friday Pie Day, for people to pay whatever they wanted for a piece of pie. "You're going to go out of business damn quick! No one is going to pay," said a person who attended the event.  McCullough explained the concept of Food Karma,whose goal was not to actually make any money but to feed as many people as possible. "Still stuck with his negative thoughts, he shrugged and began to walk away," said Mc Then he stopped, turned and said, "I'll take a piece of pie". Here is a video of the Friday Pie Day.

Catering your event
The stand at Robinson Park is available only one day a week on Saturdays during the summer and early fall. But Food Karma is around throughout the year. Perhaps you can hire them to cater an event. "Meetings, Conferences, Parties or Community Events, we will bring our best to your table!," the promotion for the catering operation says. But  the non-profit also emphasizes its mission, even with the catering operation. "Food Karma's goal and mission is to provide healthy meals for those in our own community who may not have resources to frequent, healthy food."   Click here  for more information

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Rev. Gabriel Salguero: Central American Children Escaping Hunger, Violence

"The problem is that when there's vast hunger in a region, the children are the canaries in the coal mine. The most who are disproportionately and immediately impacted are the children." 
By now you've read and heard dozens of accounts  (in The Christian Science Monitor, The Toronto Globe & Mail, The New York Times), of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who are arriving on our borders from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and other countries to escape poverty and violence and perhaps to reunite with family members (Read more from the Pew Research Center). While our response should be to push for our government to take a more humanitarian approach to the situation, communities around the country are rallying to learn more about the situation, provide assistance and offer prayers. That's what we're doing in Albuquerque on Tuesday.

Rev. Gabriel Salguero,  president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, offered a passionate reflection on immigration at Bread for the World's National Gathering on June 9, placing a special emphasis on the situation of the children and youth who are coming across our southern border. He offers suggestions on how we must respond as people of faith and as a nation. His comments are in Italics.
"Tenemos un problema. Tenemos una crisis. Y si esta nación no despierta, la justicia nos juzgara junto con la historia. We have a problem. We have a crisis.  And if we do not respond, both justice and history will judge us." 
The real threat of violence
Rev. Salguero offered an example of how gangs have taken control in Honduras. He spoke about young 38-year-old pastor who was invited to preach at a church in San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras. "While he was there...he starts talking about and preaching against violence in the city, and why the future of children--and particularly young men--it's important to enculturate them to a Gospel of love, and that violence is not the way  forward.  This young pastor, who spoke in Spanish, actually thought he was doing something good. Then the pastor of the local church said "you will leaving through the back door."

There was a legitimate reason for caution. Apparently, the visiting pastor's comments were not the type of suggestions that would be welcomed by members from the MS-13 gang, also known as the Mara Salvatrucha. Perhaps some of these gang members might be waiting outside the front door.

"It is an organized gang that preys on poor young men and poor young women because of the [detriorated]situations in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and other places.  It is now an international gang, with branches in Long Branch, NJ, Lakewood, NJ, and LA, and Phoenix Arizona, and Tucson., and McAllen, Texas

The reason these gangs are surging is because there is a real economic need. 

Genesis puts it this way, "..because there was a famine in the land, Abraham descended into Egypt (Genesis 12:10)."  Hunger, crime and gangs are all related."

How do we respond?
Photo: New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice
When I'm comfronted by these situations, I ask "what's the right answer?" 

Many of you have probably seen it in the last month or so, maybe you have seen it before--there was a report in The New York Times about the unaccompanied children. Four or five years ago, we were averaging between 12,000 and 15,000 a year unaccompanied children crossing the border. And there was a famine so Abraham and his children descended into Egypt.

Then two years ago, the number went up: 25,000-30,000 This year,---we're in June, we're close to 60,000 uaccompanied children in America....

Maybe their parents died on the way here, maybe their parents were here first and tried to get them...The coyotes are exploiting them.  Some of them are being exploited via human trafficking and prostitution.  

Tenemos un problema. Tenemos una crisis. Y si esta nación no despierta, la justicia nos juzgara junto con la historia. We have a problem. We have a crisis. And if we do not respond, both justice and history will judge us.

Now, 68,000 unaccompanied children  are expected by September, and close to 80,000 by December.  

Wikimedia Commons:
'Christ did not call for us to build walls'
Rev. Salguero spoke about the images of the children at detention centers from McAllen, TX, to Tucson, AZ.  "Children are sleeping on top of one another...There are 300 kids in one room, and one of them is in diapers, and the other one is a 17-year-old with a moustache. There are young girls, 5, 6,and 7, together with 16- and 17-year old young ladies who are pregnant because somewhere along the way before they reached the border of the United States, somebody raped them. 

Tenemos un problem. There's a problem, and you're the answer.

The problem is that when there's vast hunger in a region, the children are the canaries in the coal mine. The most who are disproportionately and immediately impacted are the children.  

We receive that call...there are  68,000 refugees of hunger and violence.  If you think building more walls in world (is the answer), we don't understand Christianity. The cross is not a wall.  

Read More from Bread for the World
Action: Contact your representative and tell him or her to support compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Sophisticated Cook Book for People on Limited Incomes

Kitchen skill, not budget, is the key to great food. This cookbook is a celebration of the many delicious meals available to those on even the most strict of budgets....Cooking on a limited budget is not easy, and there are times when a tough week can turn eating into a chore. I hope the recipes and techniques in this book help make those times rare and tough choices a little more bearable.. Good cooking alone can’t solve hunger in America, but it can make life happier—and that is worth every effort.   -Leeanne Brown

Leeanne Brown is an avid home-studies scholar and a home cook in New York City. She developed this wonderful cookbook as part of her Masters Degree thesis project at New York University.In addition to recipes, the cookbook gives you tips for eating and shopping well, pantry basics. The cookbook finds ways to help low-income people learn how to prepare low-cost, healthy meals. These recipes are designed for the budget of people on SNAP. Good and Cheap is available via free PDF link or for a low-cost bulk purchase or donations to the Kickstarter campaign to anyone who wants a copy. (See links at the bottom of this post
"The meals are generally healthy and use ingredients common to most low-income New York City neighborhoods...My intent was to create satisfying food that doesn’t require you to supplement your meals with cheap carbohydrates to stave off hunger. I strove to create recipes that use money carefully , without being purely slavish to the bottom line."  (excerpts from the introduction)
Some of Ms. Brown's preparations sound downright sophisticated, and yet they are very simple to prepare. Each recipe is accompanied by enticing food photographs. 'To encourage people to eat fruits and vegetables, these recipes do not feature large amounts of meat," said Ms. Brown.

You probably agree that this is a great concept, but you want some examples. I won't give you the actual recipes, but I'll reprint what she says about each creation. 

Lightly Curried Butternut Squash Soup: Squash is almost the perfect vegetable for soup: it’s flavorful and has a divinely smooth texture when cooked and pureed. Serve this soup to people who think they don’t like squash or curry, and you’ll change some minds. You can substitute any winter squash for the butternut; I just like butternut because it’s faster to peel and chop than its many cousins.

Banana Pancakes: With the creamy texture and delicious flavor of bananas, these pancakes are stunningly good. You will be seriously popular if you feed these to your family or friends. Another plus: this is a great way to get rid of mushy bananas (that doesn’t involve making banana bread).

Broiled Grapefruit: If your oven has a broiler, this is a fast and fun way to liven up a standard, healthy breakfast of grapefruit. This method produces a hot and sticky treat.

Broccoli Apple Salad (with two options of dressing) The texture of thinly sliced apple and broccoli is wonderfully crunchy, and the bitterness of the broccoli with the sweet and tart apples is delicious.

Mexican Street Corn: This recipe takes fresh, sweet summer corn— already amazing—and adds salt, tang, and spice to the experience. If you have an outdoor grill, prepare the corn that way, but for those without, a broiler is a great shortcut!

Potato Leek Pizza: Obviously you should just make all kinds of pizza. Seriously, do it. Make it a Thursday- night tradition and an excuse to use up leftovers. This pizza, for one, is a fun variation that confounds expectations—proof that, indeed, anything is good on pizza!

Creamy Zucchini Fettucine: Zucchini and summer squash are so abundant in the summer months. This simple pasta is like a lighter, brighter fettuccine alfredo. It also comes together in no time—the veggies will be ready by the time your pasta is cooked. You’ll love it, I promise.

Chana Masala This Indian chickpea dish is a staple in my home. If you don’t have cooked chickpeas around, you can use canned, but it will cost about $1 more.:

Vegetable Jambalaya: I don’t make jambalaya exactly the way they do down south, but this vegetable- heavy version is faster and just as good—a great, throw-everything-in- the-pot kind of meal. It’s spicy, savory and deeply satisfying. The leftovers are great for making burritos or warmed up with a fried egg on top.

Here are a few more examples of recipes contained in the cookbook:  Black-Eyed Peas and Collars, Savory Summer Cobbler, Cauliflower Cheese, Shrimp and Grits, Spicy Pulled Pork, Cauliflower Tacos, Jacket Sweet Potatoes, Beet and Chickpea Salad, Whole-Wheat Jalapeño Cheddar Scones, and MUCH MORE.

Options to Obtain the Cookbook

Back the Kickstarter project for printed copies!

Non-profits: apply for donations, or buy bulk for $4