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, keynote speaker 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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

An Invitation to Join Communities of Faith in Albuquerque in Prayer Vigil for Immigrant Children

A coalition of faith communities in New Mexico invites you to participate in an Interfaith Prayer Vigil and community gathering to bring attention and prayer to the growing humanitarian crisis of the newly arrived children in Southern New Mexico.

Tuesday, July 15     6:00 pm, 
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
619 Copper Ave NW

Sponsored by El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice (NMFCIJ), the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Catholic Charities, and other Albuquerque faith communities

For more information contact El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, 505-246-1627 or New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice, 505-307-2218.

Una coalición de comunidades de fe en Nuevo México le extienden una cordial invitación para que participe en una Vigilia Interreligiosa de Oración/Reunión Comunitaria para llamar la atención y orar por la creciente crisis humanitaria de los niños recién llegados en el sur de Nuevo México.

Martes, 15 de julio   6:00 pm, 
Iglesia católica de la Inmaculada Concepción
619 Copper Ave NW

Patrocinada por El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, la Coalición de Comunidades de Fe de Nuevo México para la Justicia del Migrante (NMFCIJ), la Arquidiócesis de Santa Fe, Caridades Católicas y otras comunidades de fe en Albuquerque

Para más información póngase en contacto con El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, 505-246-1627 o con la Coalición de Comunidades de Fe Nuevo México por la Justicia del Migrante, 505-307-2218.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Would You Eat Frog Shakes and Fish Sperm wiith Andrew Zimmern?? No Way!! (But You Can Help Him Fight Hunger in Africa)

If you watch the Travel Channel, you know about the bald guy who eats durian fruit.
Watch him here.

Durian fruit is not the only food item that Andrew Zimmern will consume that might not be on our personal diets. How about frog shakes and fish sperm in Peru? Or jungle rats and reptiles in Colombia? Or bamboo rat and dung beetles in Thailand? Or crane meat and pigeon feet in Nashville, Tennessee?

You get the point. Zimmern travels the world to find foods that you and I might consider unusual, but these food items are part of someone's regular or semi-regular diet.(And I must say, the best thing about these foods is that they are natural--and not the processed stuff that many of us in the United States consume).

Zimmern on Global Poverty
The Bizarre Foods guy's travels around the world have also helped widen his own horizons. “Millions of people have seen me on television eating outrageous things, perhaps thinking I was born without a gag reflex. But you’d be wrong. I’ve been to 126 countries and the most revolting thing I’ve found is extreme poverty. The gap between those who have and those who don’t is abhorrent, and the most repulsive part is that it’s unnecessary."

His experiences have led him to become a spokesperson for ONE's Electrify Africa campaign.  Zimmern believes that providing electricity in areas where power is in shortage will help reduce hunger. 

"It’s staggering the amount of vegetables and meat I’ve seen rotting on the streets of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s countryside has vast tracts of arable land, but, like many places around the world, the issue is collection, storage and distribution of the foods. That can’t happen without reliable electric systems.“

Read more in the ONE blog and his full Op-Ed in USA Today.

So how can you help?  Sign ONE's petition to the U.S. Senate to approve legislation to bring electricity to 50 million people in Africa  You and Zimmern might not be on the same page regarding durian fruit, but you are certainly in solidarity on your advocacy efforts before the U.S. Senate.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Adding Perishable Items to Foods Offered by Food Banks and Pantries

Quality fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meat are essential to a balanced diet but can be expensive and difficult for food assistance programs to provide on a regular basis. To fill that gap, the Food Bank rescues fresh foods from area grocers and wholesalers and distributes them throughout our 21-county Central Texas service area.  -Capital Area Food Bank of Texas
In fiscal year 2014, City Harvest will collect 46 million pounds of food, greater than the total amount of food collected in its first 14 years combined.  Sixty percent of this total will be comprised of fresh fruits and vegetables.  At City Harvest, we recognize our responsibility to the people we serve and ensure the highest food safety standards in every facet of our food rescue operations.  We take careful steps to ensure that each pound of food is rescued and delivered safely.-City Harvest (which serves the New York City metropolitan area).

Hungry people benefit from rescued food providing a more well-rounded, balanced meal and diet. For the Food Bank, the program helps us secure food we would otherwise not have to distribute and ensures we always have a variety of different food available in our warehouses. There are benefits for the food donor too. Rescued food prevents good food from being thrown away and diverts food from landfills. It also helps food industry donors reduce disposal costs and frees up valuable floor space for storage of surplus food. -Roadrunner Food Bank, Albuquerque

When a union, a non-profit group, business or sports team organizes a food drive, the appeal is for participants to donate non-perishable food items. There are non-perishable protein items (peanut butter, canned tuna and beans), non-perishable vegetables (canned peas, corn, green beans), and non-perishable staples (pasta, rice).  These foods, in and of themselves, are valuable items to put in a food box.

Fighting hunger has become more holistic and nutrition-oriented, however, which means that perishable items have to be included in the mix. Capital Area Food bank of Texas (based in Austin), City Harvest in the New York City metropolitan area, Roadrunner Food Bank in Albuquerque and food banks and pantries around the country make every effort to ensure that fruits and vegetables, dairy products and meat are a part of the food items that are offered to client agencies.

One of the workshops at the End Hunger in New Mexico Summit on July 17-18, entitled Food Rescue in New Mexico, will examine the relationship between donations and nutrition, and how food rescue is important in this equation. This workshop will be led by Julie Anderson (Food Rescue Manager, CFR, Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico), Sherry Hooper (Executive Director, The Food Depot) and Hilda Kendal (COO, Community Pantry of Gallup and Grants)
Presenters will share stories of how engaging students, school food service directors, teachers, farmers, agencies, organizations and policymakers can change the health of children through school gardens, innovative nutrition education, getting NM grown fruits and vegetables into school meals, and how changing policies can benefit the health of our children and our farming economy. Listen to each manager on the Food Bank Program they manage. They will discuss the process necessary to rescue food and the rules and regulations around it. You will leave with the knowledge of who are the donors and why this has been such a successful program.    
A Refrigerated Truck for St. Felix Pantry in Rio Rancho
St. Felix Pantry in Rio Rancho wants to enhance its ability to provide perishable food items, and is close to raising enough money to acquire a refrigerated truck. A large share of the $58,000 cost of the truck is covered by a generous donation from the Masons, Albuquerque Lodge Number 60. 

“We still have requests out there for the balance of $18,000 in order to have the total amount necessary to buy a new $58,000 refrigerated truck that will be used daily,” said Manuel Casias, vice president of development at St. Felix. “This truck would serve as one of the necessary vehicles used for the St. Felix Pantry Rescue Food Program, which collects and redistributes nearly 1.9 million pounds of food each year that would otherwise end up in landfills.

“It will collect rescued food venues, including restaurants, schools and businesses, repackaged and donated to people in need,” added Casias.

Read more about Masons' donation in  Albuquerque Journal

Incidentally,Jack Bunting, President/CEO, St. Felix Pantry, will also co-present at a workshop at the End Hunger in New Mexico Summit. The workshop is entitled Collaboration not Competition -“Building Collaborative Partnerships” 
The Purpose of this workshop is to capture the importance of forming collaborative relationships to raise support and to expand needed services. We will examine the value of collaboration; demonstrate the effectiveness of collaboration and offer practical examples on creating powerful collaboration with other organizations.  

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Thomas Merton: All Part of One Another

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.

-Thomas Merton

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Loving Our Neighbor: The Center of Political Engagement

Jesuit motto, Georgetown University
At  Bread for the World Offering of Letters around the country, we sometimes hear comments like "religion and politics don't mix."  Many of us would argue that politics and faith action are one and the same.  Here is an excerpt from Bread for the World's The Biblical Basis for Advocacy to End Hunger.

"In scripture, God calls people into community and sets the expectation that leaders (whether they are kings, pharaohs, or governments) should care for their people. Therefore, we also reflect Christ’s love by challenging individuals and institutions that have the power to change laws and structures that keep people vulnerable. As God’s hands and feet in the world, we work toward a beloved community in which every person has an equal opportunity to thrive."

The Catholic Church's Jesuit order promotes the value "Women and Men for Others." This philosophy, presented by then Jesuit Superior Pedro Arrupe in 1973, insists not only on a spirit of giving and providing service to those in need and standing with the poor and marginalized, but also the pursuit of justice on behalf of all persons. (Read award-winning essay by Kieran Halloran)

UCC document urges politcal engagement
Some communities of faith are indeed encouraging their congregations and followers to become active in the electoral process. The message is clear: political engagement is not necessarily about the candidates but about issues and principles. (However, people are encouraged to work individually on behalf of a candidate  if they feel that candidate's views are compatible with their values).

The United Church of Christ is among those that have developed a campaign for political engagement with a document entitled Get Active in the Elections.  A point of emphasis are the two great commandments, which are spelled out in Luke 10:25-28, Matthew 22:35-40, and Mark 12: 28-31. (Those teachings of Jesus are based on Deuteronomy 6: 4-5 and Leviticus 19:18).

Here is what the UCC says:
Politics is often taken to be a dirty word, but political processes are simply the way communities organize their common life. For people of faith, public policyis never merely politics. It is a way of living out the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.

It is fitting for local congregations and church structures across the country to develop nonpartisan programs to help the faith community reflect upon the political order. The Our Faith Our Vote Campaign is designed to help you discover the ways in which you, as an individual and as a congregation, can get involved in the political process.

Our country is in crisis in many ways. It is time for well minded, engaged and faithful people to speak out and get involved in the political process. Let's go public with our faith! We'll show you how! 

Bread for the World's Biblical Basis for Advocacy to End Hunger reinforces this UCC statement. "Our proclamation of God’s love and our demonstrated concern for others are two sides of the same coin. We work to end hunger and poverty in our communities, in our country, and in other countries because we hear God’s word and see Jesus’ model of compassion and justice. We express and embody God’s reconciling love at all times and in all places."

Friday, July 04, 2014

Who Will Participate in the Conversation on Ending Hunger in New Mexico? Nutrition Experts, Elected Officials and YOU

This is serious stuff. Our entire congressional delegation, our governor, the mayor of Albuquerque, and a handful of state legislators and other state officials are going to be there. So will several prominent local and national anti-hunger advocates and nutrition experts.

And it is not just the public officials and the experts who have some thoughts on how to solve the problem.  The input of average citizens is important and very valuable. You too can be among the hundreds of people from all corners of New Mexico who will be converging in the Albuquerque area on a Thursday and Friday in July (17th and 18th) to learn more about hunger in our state and talk about how we can work together to address the problems and its root causes.

See flyer and snapshots of the program at a glance and keynote speakers below. And here is the link to the full program (in PDF format) The summit is sponsored by the Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging and the North Central New Mew Mexico Economic Development District.

Organizers won't pretend to find all the answers at the End Hunger in New Mexico Summit, but at least participants will be taking steps to work together to find solutions that inspire self-sufficiency and community empowerment. So  please join me in the conversation. All you need is half a grocery bag (or more) of non-perishable food items as your registration fee. See you there!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

A 'Reverse Food Truck' in Albuquerque?

The food-truck culture has taken root in Albuquerque, thanks in part to a couple of programs supported by the city administration, including Truckin' Tuesdays and 1st Friday Food Trucks  On Tuesdays, residents of the Duke City who work or reside downtown or nearby neighborhoods have options for lunch (11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.). Trucks parked on 3rd and Marquette (just north of Civic Plaza) offer German, Caribbean, Japanese, Latin American and other types of food. Most of those  same options are available for dinner on the First Friday of the month on the corner of 1st and Central, starting at 6:00 p.m. Patrons can keep updated on food trucks in the city through a Facebook page entitled ABQ Food Trucks.or through Twitter (handle @ABQFoodTrucks).

A truck that collects, not sells, food
While the food-truck culture is very much a part of the Albuquerque dining scene, the city could use a reverse food truck. What is a "reverse food truck," you ask? In Minneapolis-St. Paul, Finnegan's brewing company has developed a food truck that collects nonperishable food items and cash donations from attendees at events in the greater Minneapolis–St. Paul area.
'Rather than serving food, our food truck does the opposite. It accepts food donations. Think of it as a food drive on wheels.'  -Finnegans
The company launched the  reverse food truck in March of this year through a partnership with the Emergency Foodshelf Network’s Harvest for the Hungry Program in the Twin Cities. The food truck fits well with the company's philosophy. Finnegan's CEO Jacquie Berglund--who previously worked for the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) in Paris, France--made social responsibility a strong component of Finnegan's business since the company was created in 2000. The companyy gives 100% of profits from the sale of two types of beer (Irish amber and blonde ale) to the non-profit community. To date, that has amounted to $100,000.  Read more about the company in a great piece published in the takepart Web site.

So while the City of Albuquerque has done a great job to promote the food trucks that dispense and sell food, wouldn't it be  great to see a public-privave-non-profit effort come together to create a reverse food truck locally?

FINNEGANS - Reverse Food Truck from FINNEGANS on Vimeo.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Working Space: An Exhibit Sponsored by Art Street at 5G Gallery

Art Street is a community-based project and collective open studio space where art is used as the connection for community-building for those without and those with homes. A number of high-quality works of art are produced in this space sponsored by Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless. The public is  invited to experience the diversity of community artists at a special exhibit entitled "Working Space," on July 5-13 at the 5G Gallery (part of the Factory on 5th Art Space). More information below.