Sunday, March 26, 2017

George Washington Carver: Tune in to God's Broacasting Stations

I love to think of nature as unlimited broadcasting stations, through which God speaks to us every day, every hour, and every moment of our lives, if we will only tune in and remain so.

- George Washington Carver

Friday, March 24, 2017

Join Us for Urban Way of the Cross on Good Friday

Three weeks from today, a group of pilgrims will be processing along the streets of downtown Albuquerque to pray for and stand in solidarity with homeless children, immigrants, refugees, returning citizens and their families, hungry families, and Mother Earth.  Our journey will begin at 9:00 Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 619 Copper Ave. We invite you to join us in this prayerful pilgrimage.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Offering of Letters Season is Here!

Writing letters to Congress at St. Timothy's Lutheran Church
The Offering of Letters season, coinciding with the arrival of Spring, got off to a good start on the weekend of March 18-19. Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church and St. Timothy's Lutheran Church in Albuquerque and Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces organized their congregations to write letters to Congress around Bread for the World's Doing Our Part to End Hunger campaign. Peace Lutheran Church and St. Timothy's Lutheran Church will continue their letter-writing campaigns the following Sunday, March 26.

The 2017 Offering of Letters is focused on urging members of Congress to make funding decisions that put our country and the world on track toward ending hunger. We want Congress to fund and protect programs such as SNAP, WIC, international poverty focused development assistance, and tax credits for low-income workers.

Three other churches in Albuquerque--All Saints Lutheran Church, Central United Methodist Church and St. Andrew Presbyterian Church--have scheduled Offerings of Letters over the next two months.  We hope to add a few more churches to the calendar in the near future.

We also plan to organize visits to the local offices of Representatives Michelle Lujan Grisham (and maybe Steve Pearce and Ben Ray Lujan) and Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich on the week of Bread for the World Lobby Day which will be held in Washington on June 13. Larry and Ellen Buelow from Albuquerque (and possibly Art Meyer from Farmington) will visit the offices of our elected officials in Washington that day. In preparation for our local visits, our recent Offering of Letters workshop included a panel of veteran anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocates.  Happy Letter Writing! (And don't forget to get your letters blessed by your pastor and congregation before you send them off to Washington).

Monday, March 20, 2017

SNAP Supplement for Seniors Back in Budget

We posted earlier that the the State Legislature's recommended budget HB2 eliminated $1.2 million needed to fund the State SNAP Supplement program which serves about 12,000 seniors and increases their minimum federal benefit of $16 to $25 per month. According to Ruth Hoffman of the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-New Mexico, the funding was restored to HB2 before the budget bill went to the governor.

State Legislature Eliminates SNAP Supplement, Raises Minimum Wage

Below are summaries from the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-New Mexico and the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy on the outcomes of important legislation on poverty, hunger and food issues during the recently concluded 60-day Session.

From LAM-New Mexico
(via Ruth Hoffman)
HB2, the bill that outlines the state budget, is on the governor's desk for signature. Gov. Martinez has said that she will veto HB2 along with HB202 which would enact a number of revenue proposals to balance the state budget. That action would mean that a special session would be needed.

The legislature's recommended budget eliminated $1.2 million needed to fund the State SNAP Supplement program which serves about 12,000 seniors and increases their minimum federal benefit of $16 to $25 per month.

It is very important that New Mexico have tax policy that is fair and provides stable, sustainable & adequate revenue to meet the needs of our state, particularly the most vulnerable.

Affordable Housing & Homelessness
Funding for programs that serve people experiencing homelessness must be protected from cuts and expanded. HB2 does not include any cuts to current funding for programs that serve people experiencing homelessness but also does not include any increases in funding for these programs.

Minimum wage:
Bills to increase the state minimum wage from its current level of $7.50 per hour have been introduced: HB27 (Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero) would have raised the minimum wage to $15. HB67 (Rep. Miguel Garcia) would have phases-in increases to a total $10.10 by 2020. HB27 & HB67 died in committee.

HB442 (Reps. Rodella, Egolf, Carl Trujillo, Ruiloba & Miguel Garcia)would raise the minimum wage to $9.25, would increase the tip wage to 40% of the minimum wage, and has been amended to only preempt local governments from enacting ordinances regarding advance scheduling. HB442 has passed the House and the Senate and heads to the governor's desk.

SB36 (Sen. Bill Soules) would have raised the minimum wage to $8.45 with cost of living increases. SB36 died on the Senate Floor.

SB386 (Sen. Clemente Sanchez) would phase in an increase in the minimum wage to $9, passed the Senate and House and heads to the governor's desk.

From the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council
(from Pam Roy)
HB387, Repeal of Fees for the Organic Certification Program Sponsored by Representative Bill Gomez This bill passed passed the full House of Representatives and Senate on March 16 and goes to the Governor for her signature. Thanks to the NM Department of Agriculture, Siete del Norte and NM Food and Agriculture Policy Council for great team work in this last stretch!

HB289, as amended, Agriculture in Economic Development Act
Sponsored by Representatives Sweetser, Small, and Gomez This bill was passed by the House Committees and Senate and goes to the Governor to be signed. The Act utilizes the combined expertise and resources of the Economic Development Department (EDD) and the New Mexico Finance Authority (NMFA) in helping fund certain economic development projects and adds agriculture enterprises and value added agriculture products to the list to be supported.

SM87, Demise of Rural Grocery Stores Study
Sponsored by Senator Stefanics This bill was for passage by the full Senate last night and goes to the Governor for approval.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Acting Compassionately

When we know ourselves to be connected to all others, acting compassionately is simply the natural thing to do. 

-Rachel Naomi Remen

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Santa Fe Proposes to Tax Sweetened Beverages to Fund Early Childhood Education

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The next time you buy a bottle or a six-pack of Coke or a Pepsi at a grocery store in Santa Fe, you might be helping to fund early childhood education in the City Different. The Santa Fe City Council recently voted to put a sweetened beverage tax of 2 cents per ounce to a vote by city of Santa Fe residents in May. The tax, if passed by voters would invest in Pre-K education for children in Santa Fe, closing a funding gap for parents who are not always able to afford Pre-K. Santa Fe would be joining the municipalities of Boulder, Berkeley and Philadelphia, the Navajo Nation, and the country of Mexico in imposing a tax on sugared beverages.

Mayor Javier Gonzales estimates the soda tax would raise about $10.6 million a year. However,  Santa Fe's daily newspaper  The New Mexican  points out that the estimate appears to be much higher than revenue estimates in other cities that have approved similar taxes. Regardless, Gonzales believes the revenues would enable the city to send 1,200 more 3- and 4-year-olds to early education programs at no cost to their families.

There is some opposition to the tax. a coalition called Better Way for Santa Fe & Pre-K suggests that the tax is regressive and harmful to certain businesses. "It’s a tax that places a larger share of the tax burden on Santa Feans least capable of paying it. Stores and restaurants in Santa Fe would be hurt by this tax. They’d have to pass it on to customers, many of whom will shop and eat outside city lines to avoid the tax. That will cost people who work here their jobs and income," says the organization.

Conversely, The Santa Fe Food Policy Council and other organizations offered public testimony in support of the tax.

In a recent blog post, author and food activist Mark Winne noted that raising funds for Pre-K is just one part of the equation. The other important aspect of the proposal is health and nutrition.

"As I look at this flurry of soda taxing activity around the nation, I have to ask myself, why are we suddenly emboldened to take on Coke, Pepsi, and the nation’s other sugar pushers? Do we want to raise municipal revenue, reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, or really improve human health?"

"The evidence on the deleterious health effects of sugar is virtually ironclad. When a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola contains 65 grams of sugar, and health experts tell us that we shouldn’t consume more than 50 grams per day (25 grams being the more desirable level); when our obesity and overweight rates have risen two- to three-fold since 1994 due in large part to an overconsumption of calories, a disproportionately large share of which are derived from beverages; and when dental caries, diabetes, and host of other human illnesses are linked to the overconsumption of sugar, we shouldn’t have to waste any more time making the case against sugar."

Read Winne's full piece, entitled Should the Food Movement Embrace Soda Taxes?  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Trump Budget Removes the Wheels from Meals on Wheels

The need is growing rapidly, and federal funding has not kept pace. The network is already serving 23 million fewer meals now than in 2005, and waiting lists are mounting in every state. At a time when increased funding is needed, we fear that the millions of seniors who rely on us every day for a nutritious meal, safety check and visit from a volunteer will be left behind. -Statement from Meals on Wheels America
A few weeks ago, we posted a video created by Albuquerque Involved, featuring Shauna Frost, executive director of Meals on Wheels in Albuquerque, who said the organization serves over 500 people a day locally. Many of those clients have special medical needs, and Meals on Wheels prepares the meals accordingly. "We basically serve food and friendship, and we've done that for the past 45 years," Frost said in the video (which we reposted at the end of this blog piece).

The work of Meals on Wheels in Albuquerque and elsewhere is in major jeopardy. On Thursday, President Donald Trump released his  Budget Blueprint, also known as the “skinny budget,” to Congress with a plan to release further details in the coming months. The blueprint focuses on discretionary spending levels for Fiscal Year 2018, and makes investments in defense programs, paid for through deep cuts to non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs, such as Meals on Wheels.

"The portions of the President’s Budget that have been released so far call for the elimination of a number of federal programs, including the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), on which some local Meals on Wheels programs rely to deliver nutritious meals, safety checks and friendly visits to our nation’s most vulnerable seniors," said Meals on Wheels America. Here is a post that the organization sent on Twitter on Thursday.

A Place at the Table denounced the cuts. "Support for working Americans is...on the chopping block, and will almost certainly be the next target," said Tom Colicchio, a leader in the anti-hunger organization. "There has never been a time when it’s more important to stand together and demand our leaders take action."

"Our leaders need to fight to end hunger now, not cut vital nutrition programs," said Colicchio. "The last thing policymakers should be doing right now is making life harder for people who don't have enough food to eat. Let’s make sure they know where we stand."

A Place at the Table is providing this link for people to send a message to Congress.

And here is a repost of the video of Meals on Wheels Albuquerque.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Donation-Based Benefit Dinner for Food Karma in #ABQ

Dig & Serve is teaming up with Food Karma (a not-for-profit ‘pay as you feel’ community food concept) to throw a donation-based benefit dinner party. The dinner will be locally sourced with the usual Dig & Serve surprises and only the best quality!

In keeping with the Food Karma vision, there will be NO SET PRICE for this dinner. We trust that once you hear our goals and mission, it will inspire you to donate. Donations will be accepted at the event and 100% of your tax-deductible donation will go directly to Food Karma.

We Dig Food Karma
Sunday, March 19, 2017  7pm
No set price. “Pay as you feel!" donation-based (tax deductible).
5 Locally Sourced Courses
Live Music

SELECT EVENT: Sun Mar 19, ABQ - "Join the guestlist"
USE CODE: wedigkarma


* Exact location to be emailed to ticket holders 24 hours prior to event
**This event is contingent on us booking 40 seats. In the event that we do not book to capacity, the event will be cancelled and we will notify ticket holders no later than Saturday.

Our goal is to raise $5,000 at this event for Food Karma.
We only have enough spaces for 40 guests! Hope to see you there.

What is Food Karma / Karma Cafe?
Food Karma is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization in Albuquerque. Their mission is to provide access to healthy food for everyone, regardless of their financial situation or otherwise. There are NO SET PRICES and the concept is based on a "pay as you feel" model. Donations from those who can afford a meal, go to help others who cannot. Eat Well. Do Good.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dorothy Day: Building Blocks

People say, "What is the sense of our small effort?" They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.

-Dorothy Day

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Greening the Revolution: A Food Justice Documentary Coming to #ABQ this Weekend

The producers of Greening the Revolution have teamed up with University of New Mexico's Food Justice Initiative and Food & Water Watch, to promote a screening of a powerful documentary on food justice. The film is set in Haiti, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, India, Africa and the United States (including migrant farm camps and Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota).

"A high-definition documentary explores the far-reaching effects of international food injustice, from world hunger to the consumption of industrial food. Using food as a symbol of inequality, we explain and expose the corrupt cycle of globalization that perpetuates systems of poverty and oppressive social control," said the documentary producers. "We then present hope: successful, sustainable communities achieving food justice and freedom through the power of the people."

Screening Information
Saturday and Sunday,  
March 18 & 19, 1 p.m.
The Guild Cinema 
3405 Central Ave NE
Tickets $5 for students, $10 General

Join Director Katie Curran for a conversation about the documentary at Tractor Brewing Company, 118 Tulane Dr. SE in Nob Hill, 3 to 4 p.m. on each of the days of the screening

Monday, March 13, 2017

Al Alcazar: The 20 Percent

Al Alcazar, Ph.D., Director of the Twomey Center at Loyola University in New Orleans, offered the Lenten Reflection for Saturday, March 11, 2017. The reflection is part of Loyola's, Lenten Retreat in Daily Life.

In Pope Francis’ Lenten message for 2017, he reminds us that Lent is a season that calls us to conversion, and to a deepening of our spiritual lives. This deepening praxis is often an inconvenient--even difficult—task. It asks us to see and do below and beyond the superficial level of things. The Bishops of New Zealand, for instance, asked “what the commandment ‘thou shall not kill’ means when 20 percent of the world’s population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive.”

As part of the 20 percent, what inconvenient word and action am I willing to say and do to keep the poor, future generations, and the rest of God’s creation alive?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

More than a Dozen Churches in New Mexico to Urge Congress to Protect Vital Anti-Hunger Programs

Joy Dinaro brought her daughter Cara
The Offering of Letters resource kits had not arrived in Albuquerque by Friday, the day before our March 11 workshop. For some reason, the material was sent later than usual this year. Wouldn't you know it, most of us came home that afternoon to find the Offering of Letters booklets in our mailbox! No booklets, no problem.

A few of us printed the resource material from the Bread for the World website--and the theme of the 2017 Offering of Letters is very familiar: protecting vital domestic and international programs. Here is the bottom line: "Through this 2017 Offering of Letters, we urge Congress to make funding decisions that put our country and the world on track to ending hunger by 2030. This will be a challenging year. Programs that help families alleviate hunger and get out of poverty are threatened with deep funding cuts,"

Representatives of a dozen churches in Albuquerque were represented at the workshop, held at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church. Terese Bridges and Fe Pacheco from the host church helped organize the event. This broadly ecumenical group of churches was represented at the workshop: All Saints Lutheran Church, Central United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, La Mesa Presbyterian Church, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Community, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, St. John XXIII Catholic Community, St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, St. Paul Lutheran Church and St. Timothy's Lutheran Church. Many of these have faithfully held letter-writing Sundays for at least a decade, and a handful of congregations have already set a date to hold their letter-writing Sundays and/or weekend. Check out our local calendar, which includes one church in Las Cruces.

Fe Pacheco & Terese Bridges
The highlight of the workshop was a panel on congressional visits, featuring local Bread activists Larry and Ellen Buelow from our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Community; Amanda Dezan, formerly of Oxfam Action Corps and currently with The ONE Campaign; and Patty Keane, former chair of Child Nutrition Reauthorization work group (Legislative and Public Policy Committee), of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is currently president of the New Mexico Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (NMAND).

The panelists offered very useful insights on congressional visits in Washington and at the local level, including the need to include stories that personalize the ask. Another important tip was to always provide useful background information. This year, we hope to visit our congressional local offices of Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (and hopefully Reps. Ben Ray Lujan and Steve Pearce) on the same week as Bread for the World's Lobby Day, which is June 13. Larry and Ellen Buelow (and maybe Art Meyer from Farmington) will be on Capitol Hill that day. Below are some photographs of our workshop and panel.

Panelists Patty Keane, Amanda Dezan, Larry Buelow, Ellen Buelow (hidden)

Panelists Amanda Dezan, Larry Buelow, Ellen Buelow
Kirsten Marr, Dodie Hawkins, Fe Pacheco, Lucretia Tippit, Marlys Lesley
Amanda Dezan chats with Dodie Hawkins

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Celebrating National School Breakfast Week (the Day After)

In case you missed (and I did!), National School Breakfast Week was March 6-10. This event is sponsored by the School Nutrition Association. We should celebrate school breakfasts every school day and every week of the school year (and then work on ensuring that all kids have access to breakfast when school is not in session). 

The organizers of A Place at the Table are also promoting school breakfasts. Here is their message.
Picture this: You're in school, and you're about to take a math test. You've sharpened your pencils. You've practiced these kinds of problems hundreds of times during the school year. You know the material, but there's one problem you don't have the answer to: You've missed a meal. You're too hungry to focus on the page in front of you.
That's the reality for far too many children in our country. Good news, though: Schools can take action to make sure students get the nutrition they need to start the day.
 It turns out that a simple schedule switch helps significantly more students get breakfast. By serving breakfast after the first bell, instead of before, schools can reach all students, including the ones who might miss meals at home.
This way, every child can fulfill their potential -- they won't be held back by hunger.