Friday, September 30, 2005

New Mexico Ranks Fourth in the U.S. in Food Insecurity

As Congress decides whether to cut food stamp benefits, let's consider what it would mean to us here in New Mexico. Our state has the dubious distinction of ranking fourth in food insecurity in the nation. Food insecurity is another word for hunger. Any person who at one time or another does not know where his or her next meal is coming from is food insecure.

A study published in 2001 by America’s Second Harvest, a network of U.S. food banks, reported that one out of every two clients served by social services agencies in New Mexico said they must choose between paying for utilities and fuel, or food; 39 percent face the choice of paying for their housing or for food; and 27 percent say they must decide whether to buy medicine or eat.

And many of the people who require some sort of food assistance already have jobs. “The biggest worry is the rise in the number of working poor, those who work and receive wages that don’t cover all their bills,” Melody Wattenbarger, director of the Roadrunner Food Bank in Albuquerque, told The Santa Fe New Mexican in April. Read article: New Mexicans Using Food Banks Rising The article was actually a translation of a Spanish-language piece published by La Voz del Norte, Danos Hoy Nuestro Pan de Cada Día

To make matters worse, the ever-rising cost of transportation (i.e. fuel), a reduction in state funding for food banks, and an uncertain U.S. economy are hampering the ability of the eight food banks in New Mexico to provide as much food to agencies that serve the poor.

So yes, a cut in food stamps would worsen an already bad problem here in New Mexico.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Cruelest Cuts

As Congress wrestles with its budget resolution to cut $3 billion in agriculture programs, funding for nutrition initiatives such a food stamps could be in danger. An article that local activist Mark Winne wrote in May for In These Times magazine is more relevant than ever at the end of September. "The impact of such cuts on lower-income families would be enormous," said Winne, a member of New Mexico Task Force to End Hunger and the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council. "For millions of households, food stamp benefits—now encoded on an electronic card that can only be used to purchase food at retail food outlets—are literally the only thing that stands between them and hunger." Read full article
This is why the letter that religious leaders wrote to every member of Congress is so important. Many legislators, including Rep. Heather Wilson, Rep. Tom Udall, Sen. Pete Domenici and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, endorsed the Hunger-Free Communities Act, which calls on our country to cut hunger in half by 2010 and end hunger by 2015. Any reduction in food stamp benefits would be a step in the wrong direction.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Religious Leaders Call On Congress To Protect Food Stamps

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Every member of Congress received a letter last week from a prominent group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders asking representatives to protect the Food Stamp Program from funding cuts during the federal budget reconciliation process. This letter is the next step in the anti-hunger efforts of leaders who came together on June 6, 2005, for the first Interfaith Convocation on Hunger at the National Cathedral, representing more than 100 million people of faith, to call on Congress and the President to make a new national commitment to fight hunger. This diverse group of signers includes His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Catholic Archbishop of Washington D.C.; Commissioner W. Todd Bassett, National Commander, The Salvation Army, United States; Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Rt. Rev. Philip R. Cousin, Sr., Senior Bishop, African Methodist Episcopal

Read article by Religion News Service

The text of the letter follows:

Care for hungry people is a mandate for every major religious tradition. As leaders from many of these traditions, we appeal to you to protect the Food Stamp Program from cuts in the current budget process.

Food stamps are the frontline defense against hunger for many of the most vulnerable members of our society. More than 50 percent of food stamp beneficiaries are children. Virtually all of the rest are seniors, people with disabilities, or those making the transition from welfare to work. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of the first actions authorities undertook was distribution of food stamps, tapping a program that has helped curb hunger for 40 years.

Although we understand the challenge you face in finding $3 billion in savings from the Agriculture Committee, budget constraints do not release us from our obligation to care for poor and vulnerable people. It would be a moral failure to take those cuts from the Food Stamp Program. The number of people experiencing hunger in the United States has been on the rise and our national nutrition programs are as important as they've ever been. The unprecedented destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina will force many more people to depend on the federal nutrition programs.

On June 6, 2005, many of us participated with a group of more than 40 religious leaders in the first Interfaith Convocation on Hunger at the Washington National Cathedral. This event was unique in U.S. religious history because of the diversity and level of responsibility of the religious leaders involved. All of us were able to come together to call for an end to hunger. This issue is one on which we all agree.

In a deeply religious country like the United States, it is no surprise that the majority of Americans also believe that fighting hunger is an issue of utmost importance. A recent poll conducted by Jim McLaughlin for the Alliance to End Hunger found that 75 percent of likely voters say that even in a tight budget year, the Food Stamp Program should be protected from cuts.

More than one in six children (13 million) in the United States live in households that struggle to put food on the table, giving us the highest rate of childhood hunger in the industrialized world. We implore you to reject a budget that would deprive more working families of food for their children. Any such reductions would break our national commitment to help hard-working people who struggle daily to feed their families and build better lives.

The budget must reflect the best of our nation's moral values: our resolve that poor and vulnerable people not go hungry.

Sincerely Yours,

Dr. Thomas E. Armiger, General Superintendent, The Wesleyan Church
Commissioner W. Todd Bassett, National Commander, The Salvation Army, United States
Rev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
Dr. Peter Borgdorff, Executive Director of Ministries, Christian Reformed Church
The Right Rev. John Bryson Chane, D.D., Bishop, The Episcopal Diocese of Washington D.C
Rt. Rev. Philip R. Cousin, Sr., Senior Bishop, African Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. R. Randy Day, General Secretary of Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church
Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA
Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein, Executive Vice President, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Mr. Joseph Flannigan, National President, Society of St. Vincent De Paul
Mr. Bob Forney, President and CEO, America's Second Harvest: The Nation's Food Bank Network
Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary, Reformed Church of America
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church, USA
Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Dr. Stan Hastey, Executive Director, Alliance of Baptists
Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain, Georgetown University
Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)
Dr. Jan Love, Deputy General Secretary, United Methodist Women's Division
Ms. Joanne Lyon, Executive Director, Baptist World Aid
His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Catholic Archbishop of Washington D.C.
Rev. Brian D. McLaren, Founding Pastor/Minister-at-large, Cedar Ridge Community Church
Ms. Mary Ellen McNish, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee
Rev. Dr. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA
Mr. Paul Montacute, Director, Baptist World Aid
Dr. Glenn R. Palmberg, President, Evangelical Covenant Church
Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank, President, Rabbinical Assembly
Bishop Lawrence L. Reddick III, The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Bishop Monroe Saunders, Jr., Presiding Bishop, United Church of Jesus Christ, Apostolic
H. Eric Schockman, PhD, President, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
Dr. Carl Sheingold, Executive Vice-President, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
Dr. Ronald J. Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action
Rev. Dr. John Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
Dr. Daniel Vestal, Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
Sister Christine Vladimiroff, President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Bishop George Walker, Senior Bishop, A.M.E. Zion Church
Rev. Jim Wallis, Convener, Call to Renewal and Editor, Sojourners
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Mr. Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union of Reform Judaism

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Jesuit Magazine Endorses U.N. Development Goals

In two recent editorials, the Jesuit magazine America strongly endorsed the U.N.'s Millenium Development Goals (MDG's. The magazine's editorials came before and after the U.N. Summit in New York on Sept. 15-17. In its September 12 editorial before the summit, America called on the U.S. and other nations to take the MDGs seriously. "Huge challenges are involved, and yet [Secretary General Kofi Annan] and others, like Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, are convinced that the essence of the goals can still be met by 2015," said America. In its October 3 editorial, the magazine criticized the lukewarm support for the MDGs on the part of U.S. President George W. Bush's administration: Just as, in the past, U.S. leadership had a multiplier effect in stimulating development assistance from other countries, the weakness of its current commitment threatens to undercut the millennial antipoverty campaign.

ABQ City Council, Gov. Richardson Support MDGs

The Albuquerque City Council and Gov. Bill Richardson both issued Proclamations in support of the Millenium Development Goals.The proclamations came about at the urging of the local coalition for The ONE Campaign, which includes Bread for the World, DATA and RESULTS. Thanks to Heidi Brooks, who worked with an aide to CouncilorMartin Heinrich on the Albuquerque City Council proclamation, and to Vickie Gottlieb,, who worked with Richardson's office on the governor's proclamation. Heidi and Vickie are both RESULTS partners. The proclamations were read at a press conference for White Band Day in Albuquerque on Sept. 10, We’re hoping to get similar proclamations in Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Taos, Valencia County and other communities.
View photos of The ONE Campaign events in Albuquerque
Listen to KUNM Report by Shari Barth

PROCLAMATION BY The Council of the City of Albuquerque

August 15, 2003

WHEREAS more than a billion of our fellow men, women and children are currently subjected to the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty; and

WHEREAS we believe that in the best American tradition of helping others help themselves, now is the time to join with other countries in a historic pact for compassion and justice to help the poorest people of the world overcome AIDS and extreme poverty; and

WHEREAS we recognize that a pact including such measures as fair trade, debt relief, fighting corruption and directing additional resources for basic needs - education, health, clean water, food, and care for orphans would transform the futures and hopes of an entire generation in the
poorest countries, at a cost equal to just one percent more of the US budget; and

WHEREAS at the 2000 UN Millennium Summit, 189 Heads of State and government from the North and South, as representatives of their citizens, signed onto the Millennium Declaration, with the urgent mission to "free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected"; and

WHEREAS UN General Assembly will convene a follow-up Summit to the 2000 Millennium Summit in New York City on September 14th through 16th undertake a comprehensive review of the progress made towards the commitments articulated in the United Nations Millennium Declaration;

Be it proclaimed that the council, the governing body of the city of Albuquerque, declares its support for the Millennium Development Goals, urges the United States Government to live up to its commitment to meet these goals, and declares September 10, 2005 to be WHITE BAND DAY in Albuquerque in order to draw attention to the Millennium Development Goals declared at the UN Millennium Summit, so that citizens in Albuquerque and beyond can learn about and speak out on this critical issue.