Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Debate Over Food Waste and Hunger in Britain

Photo: Real Food Project Web site
Adam Smith, founder of The Real Junk Food Project, in Armley, Leeds, feeds his punters on goods that would otherwise have been thrown away by supermarkets, independent grocers and food banks. The 29-year-old trained chef cooks up stews, casseroles, soups and cakes with the unwanted food, charging a “pay as you feel” policy - allowing punters to pay what they feel they can, and if that is nothing, they can help with the washing up.

In just 10 months he has fed 10,000 people on 20 tonnes of unwanted food, raising over £30,000. The cafe has had such resonance in a world with such high food wastage and high hunger levels it has inspired 47 other "pay as you feel" cafes to spring in the past few months in Manchester, Bristol, Saltaire – with the concept even exported as far away as Los Angeles and Brazil, Warsaw and Zurich.
Article in The Independent newspaper, December 16, 2014

Punter is not a word we use frequently in the United States. According to the Cambridge Dictionaries Online, the word refers to "a customer; a user of services or buyer of goods." This is something that we probably deduced from context as we read the above quote.

Regardless of whether we call them punters or clients, these are real people who are experiencing hunger and are finding relief in a creative project developed by Adam Smith.  Food waste is a big part of the overall debate on food insecurity in Britain (as it is in the United States and many other parts of the Western world).  Regulations that are designed to protect the consuming public are forcing establishments in Britain to throw out vast amounts of food that is still edible.

The article in The Independent centers on the efforts of Adam Smith, a trained chef, to collect some of  the food that has been disposed (even breaking some food-safety laws) and using it to prepare meals for low-income patrons of his cafe in Leeds. Through his efforts, other similar eateries have sprung up in Britain and other countries.

"We believe it is indefensible that huge numbers of people are going hungry in a country which wastes such vast quantities of food that is fit for consumption," said an all-party report into Hunger in Britain whilst urging the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to set food retailers and manufacturers targets of doubling the proportion of surplus food they redistribute to food assistance providers and other voluntary organisations," said the newspaper.

The big picture
While the report highlighted Smith's heroic efforts, The Independent did not neglect the big picture. "The publication of [the] all-party report into Hunger in Britain  revealed 4m people in the UK were at risk of going hungry, while 3.5m adults could not afford to feed themselves properly, and 272 food banks had sprung up across the UK," said the article. "Britain experienced the highest rate of food inflation in the world the report said, rising 47% since 2003, compared with 30.4% in the United States, 22.1% in Germany and 16.7% in France."

Britain and other European countries are dealing with an increase in food insecurity in a similar manner as we are here in the United States, and the British faith community has launched a campaign to highlight and address the problem The factors driving the increase in hunger are familiar--an increase in unemployment, the growth in poverty and an unfair economic system that favors the wealthy. And there is similar pushback from conservative legislators who are resisting efforts to increase funding for programs that help low-income families deal with hunger.

"After the report was released, Conservative peer Baroness Jenkin of Kennington sparked controversy by saying that hunger in Britain was caused in part because people didn't know how to cook."

See the full article in The Independent  The Daily Mail also ran a piece on the Leeds cafe.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Team of Albuquerque Surgeons to Serve Guatemalan Patients for a Week in February

Each year, the non-profit Faith In Practice sends more than 1,200 medical professionals and support personnel from across the U.S. to Guatemala to provide short-term surgical, medical and dental services and health-related educational programs to low-income families in the Central American country. The US medical professionals and support personnel pay their own way.  Nearly 750 Guatemalan volunteers work alongside the U.S. visitors. Together, the U.S.-Guatemalan teams provide services to more than 25,000 patients annually.

The programs include a Village Medial Clinic and surgical, dental, women's health (including cervical cancer screening), orthopedics/prostjetics and hearing services.  

Michaela Bruzzeze to serve as chaplain
While the teams are comprised largely of medical professionals, there is need for non-medical volunteers to provide support. This is where my friend Michaela Bruzzeze comes in. She has signed up as the chaplain accompanying  a team of Albuquerque surgeons, led by Peter Driscoll, MD. The group will be traveling to Guatemala on Friday, January 30, and returning on Saturday, February 7.

Click on Michaela's personal page on the Faith in Practice site if you would like to help defray the cost of the trip. Click here to see the many options available to donate to Faith in Practice.

Monday, January 19, 2015

ValLimar Jansen Featured During Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Albuquerque

ValLimar Jansen, a highly regarded singer, cantor and recording artist, will be featured in two events during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in New Mexico.  Ms. Jansen will be the presenter at an ecumenical service on Friday, Jan. 23, at Our Lady of the Annunciation Catholic Church, 2532 Vermont NE (map) at 7:00 p.m.  (Open to the Public).

She is also a featured presenter at the New Mexico Conference of Churches' Turquoise Challenge Award Dinner at St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church, 425 University Blvd. NE (map) on Saturday, Jan. 24. The dinner will honor Rev. Carole McGowan of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande. Tickets are $35 and available at the NM Conference of Churches Web Site through tomorrow. Tickets are also available at the door on Saturday..

The week of Christian Prayer begins with a service at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Community in Albuquerque tonight, Jan. 19, followed by services at the Santuario de Chimayo and Santa Maria de la Paz Catholic Church on Wednesday, Jan. 21.  Details for all the events are in the flyer below.

The Essence of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

How the State Legislature Can Become More Transparent & Responsive to Citizens

With the 2015 legislative session starting on Tuesday, New Mexico In Depth created a guide aimed at examining how the New Mexico Legislature can be more transparent, accessible and responsive - and what's keeping that from happening.

Here are quotes from a few pieces in the guide.

In a functioning democracy, the assumption is people have the knowledge to make decisions when elections roll around. But how much information do state legislators truly share with New Mexicans about their day-in, day-out working out the public's business? -Introduction by Trip Jennings, NMID executive director

"In recent sessions, there have been more than six lobbyists for every legislator, often with access that ordinary citizens can only imagine."  Viki Harrison, executive director, Common Cause  New Mexico

Some bad news on legislation can come when it is first introduced and assigned to the committees that will consider it before it gets a floor vote...If the bill gets three committee assignments in the House or Senate, it is generally considered bad news. It is difficult enough to get legislation through two committees in either chamber before a session ends; a third committee can doom legislation.   Matt Reichbach, reporter NMID

In organizing, we say power resides in relationship. If you are at the Roundhouse for any number of days you see the same people passing you in the stairwell and circling the top floors...Currently power resides in people who can afford time and money to spend 30-60 days in Santa Fe each year, people who speak English and can express a public policy analysis in the dominant language, people who can travel around the state to interim committee hearings, have cell phone numbers and know which restaurants and bars legislators frequent.  Sarah Nolan,  executive director, Comunidades en Acción y de Fé

One of my greatest frustrations during my service in the House was seeing citizens from around the state waiting for a bill to be heard, but the hearing never happened. No explanation. No notice. Nothing was more disheartening than to encounter citizens who had driven or waited hours to attend the hearing, when the staff knew the schedule had changedJanice Arnold-Jones, former House member from Albuquerque.

These are just samples.  I encourage you to read the full articles (as well as many other very insightful pieces) in  New Mexico Legislative Guide online. You can also get an App for your smartphone

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Two Celebrations of Thomas Merton's 100th Birthday

We commemorate what would have been Thomas Merton's 100th birthday with a local event on Jan. 31 and an announcement of the release of a new documentary entitled The Many Storeys and Last Days of Thomas Merton  

On Saturday, January 31, Santa Maria de la Vid Norbertine Abbey, 5825 Coors Blvd SW (map), invites you to “An Encounter with Thomas Merton: Themes of His Journey, and Ours,” 9:30 a.m.-Noon.

The Rev. Brian C. Taylor Brian Taylor, former rector at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Albuquerque, recently spent time in Thomas Merton’s hermitage at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. He will speak from his personal experience and in-depth study of Merton’s writings.

The presentation will include exploring some of the passions of this remarkably authentic, complex, and holy monk that caused him to become, for many, a prophetic spokesman for a generation of seekers. Merton was a social activist on a deep inner journey, a hermit and a gregarious correspondent, a prolific writer and advocate of silence. He was also a sage with areas of emotional immaturity, and a faithful Christian who transcended religious categories. Using excerpts from his writing, we’ll reflect on how some of these themes of Merton’s life challenge us—both individually and as a faith community—to seek authenticity and holiness of life. The morning will also include small group discussion, prayer, and question and answer time.

No registration is required; your free-will offerings are greatly appreciated. Contact Meg Ashcraft ( or 505-873-4399)

New Documentary on Merton's Last Year
A new documentary The Many Storeys and Last Days of Thomas Merton, will premiere in Louisville, Ky., also on Thomas Merton's birthday, January 31. (If you happen to be in Louisville on Jan. 31, the Center for Interfaith Relations is sponsoring a free screening at the Brown Theater, 315 West Broadway.  Seating is limited, so RSVPs are requested.

 In the film, producer Morgan Atkinson tells us the story of the last year of Merton's life.
"It’s a story of adventure and search that takes the viewer from his home at the Abbey of Gethsemani, across America in the turbulent year of 1968 and finally to Asia for meetings with the Dalai Lama and other spiritual seekers. The purpose of the journey? As always with Merton he seeks a fuller union with God. He believed serving as a bridge between west and east was one way in which his call could be lived out.The Many Storeys and Last Days of Thomas Merton celebrates the triumph of all that was gained by his journey, reflects on the tragedy of what was lost with his death and considers why Merton’s life and work challenges us today."
Atkinson enriches the documentary by including interviews with His Holiness the Dalai Lama; Richard Rohr, OFM,; James Martin, SJ; Tori Murden McClure; Kathleen Deignan, CND; Dr. Paul Pearson; Br. Paul Quenon, OSCO; Dr. James Finley; Dr. Anthony Padovano; Paul Wilkes and Penny Sisto. Visit the film Web site. The movie is not yet available for sale online. Check the Morgan Atkinson & Duckworks Inc site for future sales possibilities.  Here is a five-minute trailer.

Friday, January 16, 2015

An App for the CRS Rice Bowl Lenten Program

The Rice Bowl program, sponsored by Catholic Relief Services during the Lenten season, turns 40 this year. The effort was launched to give Roman Catholics in the U.S. the opportunity to respond to famine in Africa. Could we feed the hungry through Lenten prayers, fasting and almsgiving? The answer was yes - and it came in the form of a small cardboard box.

Forty years later, the cardboard box remains a central feature of the campaign. "A cardboard CRS bowl is a tool for families to use to collect their Lenten alms. Each bowl comes with a Lenten calendar -with short reflections for each day of Lent. You'll also find recipes for meatless meals from around the world and Stories of Hope from families that benefit from your donation to CRS Rice Bowl."

A Spanish-language version of the materials is also provided to participants.

Going Digital
Quoting the adage, the "more things change, the more they stay the same," I would like to present to you the CRS Rice Bowl app. You no longer need the cardboard box to participate in Rice Bowl.  CRS now makes a digital application available for people to participate via their cell phone. The app offers the exact same resources, except that they appear on your Android or I-phone. (This includes the opportunity to donate money digitally instead of dropping a few coins and dollar bills into the cardboard box!)

Here is how CRS is advertising its App.

Catholic Relief Services has A NEW way to bring Lent to Life! (in English and Spanish)
  • Thoughtful daily reflections
  • Easy to use tool to set and measure your Lenten sacrifices
  • Delicious meatless recipes from around the world
  • Built-in feature to share your Lenten experience 
Pray: Read a thoughtful reflection each day of Lent.
Fast: Prepare meatless meals using recipes from around the world.
Learn: Hear Stories of Hope from Catholic Relief Services programs around the world
Give: Track your Lenten fast and see how what you give up this Lent can change the lives of the poor in your own community and around the world.

Download the App for free via the App Store or Google Play.

(On Wednesday, Jan. 21, the CRS Rice Bowl team will be hosting a webinar @ 2:00 PM EST, Noon MST) The online session will discussthis year's featured countries, new resources and ways for Diocesan Directors and CRS Rice Bowl Coordinators to animate communities this coming Lent. Register Here).

Monday, January 12, 2015

Oxfam America Seeks Community Organizing Volunteers in Albuquerque

Coming together at the Climate Pilgrimage, September 2014
Oxfam America is recruiting volunteer leaders of various ages and professional backgrounds to serve in Albuquerque and 14 other communities in the U.S. in 2015-2016. Those chosen for the program will receive a free  national advocacy training in Washington, D.C., on April 24-28. 

 "It’s a great opportunity for people to take local action on world issues and to collaborate with other local organizations," said Brian Rawson, Senior Advisor, Community Organizing  for Oxfam America  "Applicants should have some prior experience with organizing and a passion for global justice."

Click here to apply by February 1.  For more  information contact Brian Rawson.

Volunteer leader will organize activities and work with other local organizations in support of Oxfam’s GROW campaign for policies that will save lives, defend the rights of women and farmers, and protect communities worldwide from rising food prices and climate change. Online training and information sessions about select issues will be available during the year for leaders and other volunteers in each of the local chapters.

New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps volunteers have also worked closely with the New Mexico Interfaith Power & Light and Bread New Mexico over the past several years. The local Oxfam-Bread  partnership has included joint  advocacy on Food Ad Reform, including lobby visits to local offices of Sen. Martin Heinrich and Sen. Tom Udall. In addition, NM Oxfam Action Corps have made presentations at our Offering of Letters workshop and participated in  our Circle of Protection prayer vigilin 2012.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

FRAC Video: Hunger is Solvable

This two-minute video from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), entitled "Hunger Is Solvable," highlights the role of federal nutrition programs in helping ensure that infants and toddlers, school kids, adults and seniors receive the food assistance they need to thrive. Forty percent of Americans have experienced hunger in the past year or know someone who has, according to a recent FRAC survey.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Interfaith Worker Justice New Mexico to Host Rev. Dr. James Forbes

"The church perhaps is the only institution in the nation that can ask: Okay, how are your policies squaring up, not only with the principles of the Bible, but with the principles found in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? Everybody else is scared to do it. The Church had better be afraid not to do it." -Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Senior Minister Emeritus of The Riverside Church in NYC, and President of the Healing of the Nations Foundation.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015, is the day that the New Mexico State Legislature begins its 60-day session for this year.This is also the day after the national commemoration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, 

Therefore, it is very appropriate that one of the  most prominent prophetic voices of our time will speak at the Roundhouse Rotunda in Santa Fe at 3:00 p.m. that day. Rev. Dr. James Forbes, known as the preacher's preacher in national and international religious circles, is coming to New Mexico to help commemorate Dr. King's birthday, to speak truth to power, and to offer a prayer for our legislators.  His visit is sponsored by Interfaith Worker Justice-New Mexico.

In 1996, Newsweek magazine recognized Forbes as one of the twelve "most effective preachers" in the English-speaking world. This pastor, educator, community activist and interfaith leader was designated as one of America's greatest Black preachers by Ebony magazine in 1984 and 1993. He won the Alumni Charter Day Award of Howard University for Distinguished Post Graduate Achievement In Ministry. In 1995 he emerged in the Baylor University Survey as one of twelve remarkable and most effective preachers in the English-speaking world.

He was the keynote speaker at the Children's Defense Fund National Conference in Cincinnati in 2012 during the Multi-Faith Children's Sabbath Service with an audience of 3,000 advocates, organizers, researchers and young leaders. He stated "If there's no justice, there's no righteousness." He ended by urging everyone to take action and agitate until justice is the law of the land.

Dr. Forbes. minister emeritus at Riverside Church in New York City, was the featured speaker at the 2011 Interfaith Worker Justice Conference in Chicago.  His the founder and president of the Healing of the Nations Foundation.
For more information, contact Rev. Holly Beaumont at Interfaith Worker Justice-New Mexico

2015  Witness for the People
"Where there is no vision, the people perish."
- Proverbs 29.18

Tuesday, January 20
3:00 PM
 in the Rotunda of the Roundhouse

Guest Speaker:
The Reverend Dr. James Forbes
Minister Emeritus, Riverside Church, NYC
Founder and President of the Healing of the Nations Foundation

Music: The Choir Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Fe

Friday, January 09, 2015

Faith-Based Organizations Offer Advocacy Training in Santa Fe on Sunday

The 60-day session of the New Mexico State Legislature is just around the corner (starting on January 20). Three of our state's most prominent faith-based organizations--Interfaith Worker Justice, Interfaith Power and Light, and Lutheran Advocacy Ministry(LAM)--have joined together to offer an advocacy training session this coming Sunday, January 11, 1:30-4:00 p.m., at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Fe, corner of Barcelona and Galisteo (Map

The session, which is open to beginners and experienced advocates, provides information on Best practices for the greatest impact, including these four topics:
  • Navigating the State Legislature Web site
  • Framing the moral, ethical and spiritual imperative. 
  • Advancing the issues you want to work on. 
  • Overview of legislation expected at this 60-day session
The presenters are familiar names Ruth Hoffman (LAM), Sr. Joan Brown (Interfaith Power & Light), and Rev.Holly Beaumont (Interfaith Worker Justice). Hoffman is also a participant in the Interfaith Hunger Coalition. The coalition met with a handful of legislators and candidates last spring and summer.  Pictured above are Rep. Monica Youngblood (with Rev. Phil Wangberg) and Rep. G. Andrés Romero (with Judy Messal of All Saints Luthearn Church).

The sessions are free, but an RSVP is requested to
RSVP to if you are in Albuquerque and would like to carpool.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Ephiphany Sunday: We are the Light

Photo: Rene Ronquillo
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radianceIsaiah 60: 1-6
“We who have seen the light of Christ are obliged, by the greatness of the grace that has been given to us, to make known the presence of the Savior to the ends of the earth…not only by preaching the glad tidings of His coming, but above all by revealing Him in our lives….Every day of our mortal lives must be His manifestation, His divine Epiphany, in the world which He created and redeemed.”  -Thomas Merton

Photo: Pax Christi
When Robert Louis Stevenson was a little boy he lived in a house on a hillside in Scotland. Every evening he would watch the lamplighter walk through the streets in the valley below lighting each of the village street lights. “Look, Mother,” he would say, “Here comes the man who punches holes in the darkness.”

Epiphany celebrates the time when God punched a hole in the darkness. The story tells us that Magi in the East saw this sign of God — a bright star — and left everything to follow the Light of Salvation. The gospel tells us too that the star which the Magi saw “filled their hearts with delight.” Mary Lou Kownacki, osb Read her full reflection in Pax Christi site.  

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Second Annual End Hunger in New Mexico Summit Planned for September in Albuquerque

The End Hunger  in New Mexico Summit held last July already seems like a distant memory. There were a few questions in the aftermath of the event that drew a few hundred people to a conversation and a set of workshops and talks. The conference succeeded in launching the conversation, but as keynote speaker, food justice and anti-hunger advocate, Mark Winne pointed out, follow-up actions are imperative for our state, which remains at the bottom of the list in terms of child hunger, senior hunger and general food insecurity.

In his keynote address, (which was later published in his blog and also in Bread New Mexico), Winne left no doubt about what must be done.  "We must shift our attention from only addressing the symptoms, namely hunger and food insecurity, and stop ignoring the disease, namely poverty," Winne said in his keynote speech. "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."

My own proposals suggested a plan to focus on addressing the problem from all the populations that suffer from food insecurity, not only children and seniors, but working families, rural communities, Indian reservations. Some later pointed out that we should also focus on the unique problems facing communities along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Albuquerque to host next summit
To their credit, the agencies that organized the first summit--the Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging and the North Central New Mexico Economic District--are planning a follow-up summit. A few things will be different in this summit. This gathering will be held in September instead of July, and the event will take place in the heart of Albuquerque (the Marriott). Perhaps these changes could be intended to increase participation--not only in numbers but also diversity of participating agencies and groups.

I would hope that more of the relevant state agencies that were missing in 2014 will be a major part of the next summit. This includes the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) and the Human Services Department (HSD). The message should be that hunger needs to be addressed not only among seniors and children, which was a primary focus of the 2014 event, but also for all other affected populations.

Ellen Teller, FRAC, spoke in 2014
The organizers of the second summit are beginning the planning process, so many details have yet to emerge. However, some planning has already occurred since the last summit in July. And workshop presenters and organizations to set up displays are already being recruited. 

This Link contains sample applications, a tentative schedule, a call for financial sponsors, a poster and much more. While the summit is still more than nine months away, it's never too early to start our plans to participate. Keep in mind that even though the summit is scheduled for September, the deadline to submit applications to present workshops or join in as a financial sponsor is Friday, July 31, 2015.

For more information, send an e-mail to Dolores Gonzales ( or call  505-395-2678

Friday, January 02, 2015

2015 Resolutions: Protecting Child Nutrition Programs, Empowering Women Around the World, Elect to End Hunger, Much More....

Whether you put a lot of stock in New Year's resolutions, every Jan. 1 offers an opportunity to develop a list of actions that are possible in the coming 365 days. The actions are goals--but also more than just goals. They demand commitment, dedication and mindfulness. For those of us involved with Bread for the World, the Bread Blog offers some handy suggestions on how we can take action to address hunger in 2015. The  2015 Offering of Letters leads the list of resolutions. 

Photo: USDA
Coordinate an Offering of Letters
Resolve to coordinate an Offering of Letters at your church. In 2015, we will be advocating to protect and strengthen child nutrition programs as Congress begins their work to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act. Contact your regional organizer for more information. Kits and companion website are expected to be available by the end of January or early February.

Start a study group. 
The Bread for the World Institute's 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger, provides a timely topic. The report looks at discrimination as a cause of persistent hunger and makes policy and program recommendations in order to empower women both in the United States and around the world. Increasing women’s earning potential by boosting bargaining power, reducing gender inequality in unpaid work, increasing women’s political representation, and eliminating the wage gap between male and female labor directly contributes to ending hunger.  The report includes a Christian study guide.

Make hunger an election issue
As we enter into a new elections cycle, urge potential leaders to talk about hunger and poverty publicly.  Bread wants to help end hunger by 2030, and to do that, it needs to help build the political will to make hunger a national priority by 2017. If you live in Iowa, Florida, Virginia, or Ohio and want to get involved in the campaign to make hunger an issue in the presidential elections, contact Stephen Hill, Bread's senior organizer for elections issues.

Here are  a few more resolutions suggested in the Bread blog. Happy 2015!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

The Beginning of a New Year

The back yard looks different than it did yesterday.  But not that much different. Yesterday, the colors were brown and (ever)green, typical of winter. Today, there is a very thin blanket of snow draped over everything, making white the dominant color. It's enough to cast this day in a different brighter white light.

This day also happens to be the first day of 2015. The new year is a symbol of change, of transformation. But in some ways, the hope is that things will not be drastically different than last year. We do not forget the path on which we travel. The slight veering in direction is part of our current trajectory.

On that note, I would like to share Sojourners' Verse and Voice for January 1, 2015.

Today's Verse
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.   - Isaiah 43:19

Voice of the Day
For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.  -T.S. Eliot

Prayer of the Day
God, as we celebrate a new year, we celebrate your new creation that is springing forth. As we give new voice to the new year's words, give us eyes to perceive your work. Amen.