Monday, November 21, 2005

Albuquerque Observes World AIDS Day

You are cordially invited to join us at the Albuquerque commemoration of World AIDS Day on Friday, December 2, 7:00-9:00 p.m. First Congregational Church, corner of Lomas & Girard.

The global commemoration of World AIDS Day is on Dec. 1, but we decided to hold our event a day later because of logistical reasons.

The local event is a collaborative effort by the Albuquerque coalition for The ONE Campaign: Bread for the World, DATA, Outreach for Africa, RESULTS, Students United Against AIDS and Women Can International.

Poster designed by Nancy
Kinyajui of Women Can International

For more information contact Chao Sio, Carlos Navarro, Heidi Brooks, or Laura Casselman

Friday, November 18, 2005

New Mexico Must Take Another Bite Out of Hunger

By Mark Winne
Santa Fe Freelance Writer

Two years ago, Gov. Bill Richardson took a step that was nearly unprecedented in the United States. He acknowledged that New Mexico had one of the highest rates of hunger and food insecurity in the country, and that it was finally time to do something about it.
To that end he convened The Governor's Hunger Summit, which was attended by 300 government officials and community leaders. Out of that came a statewide commitment to significantly reduce hunger in New Mexico.
Whether it's marriage or ending hunger, a commitment is something to take seriously. And in the case of hunger, when the commitment determines which children will thrive and which children will fall forever behind, it's important to take stock of how well we are doing. I say "we" because the responsibility to end hunger in New Mexico does not only belong to our elected officials and public agencies. As human beings and citizens of this state, hunger is a problem we all own.
According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study released last month, 15.8 percent of the state's residents (about 300,000 people) were forced to skip meals, not eat so their children could, or simply worry about where their next meal would come from.
This gives New Mexico the second worst hunger and food security rate in the country. If for just one moment we could put ourselves in the shoes of someone in these circumstances— say choosing between heating and eating— then we'd know why it was necessary to fix the problem.

It wasn't that our public agencies and private charities were failing; it was that the low level of financial resources and limited coordination between service providers were no match for New Mexico's entrenched poverty, the true cause of hunger and food insecurity.
While not intractable, poverty is a tough beast to subdue. Fortunately, the same is not true for hunger. With an adequate commitment of public and private resources and an effective collaboration between food banks, government agencies, farmers, the private food industry and faith-based institutions, no New Mexican should ever go to bed hungry.
The positive news is that we have started to make good on our commitment. Through more staff, the N.M. Human Services Department (HSD) has increased the number of food stamp program participants from 55 percent to 70 percent of those families who are eligible. An innovative outreach partnership between the New Mexico Association of Food Banks and HSD is also increasing the number of hungry state residents now benefiting from America's most important anti-hunger program.
And the Legislature in its 2005 session took a bite out of childhood hunger by providing funds that will help all children in New Mexico's poorest school districts start the day with a healthy breakfast.
New state funds have also created a hunger coordinator position. The good thing about coordination and cooperation is that they generate a high return for a modest investment. Formerly empty state government trucks, for instance, are now being used when not otherwise in service to haul food for food banks.
Other legislative actions like the elimination of New Mexico's gross receipts tax on food and the creation of healthy food standards in the state's public schools are also good anti-hunger policy.
Yes, New Mexico appears to be on the right track. But as the poet Langston Hughes once said, the people are "hungry, hungry yet today, despite the dream."
The same Legislature that directed more state resources to poor school districts failed to increase the minimum food stamp benefit from $10 to $35 per month, an injustice that hits the elderly particularly hard. Soaring gasoline prices are cutting like a knife through the state's emergency food banking system where a truckload of food now costs $3,000 to $4,000 to ship compared to half that amount a year ago. And even after Hurricane Katrina supposedly led Americans to re-discover poverty, the U.S. Congress is considering a $600 million cut in food stamps.
To keep faith with our commitment to reduce hunger in New Mexico— the fulfillment of which means a fair chance in life for every child and a dignified life for every adult— we must continue to expand the availability of public resources and the creative collaborations that have characterized our work so far. To do any less only preserves an unacceptable, and unjust, status quo.

Mark Winne is a member of the New Mexico Task Force to End Hunger. The U.S. Department of Agriculture study on Household Food Security study can be read at

Published in the Albuquerque Journal Editorial Page, November 18, 2005
Reprinted with permission from author

The above photo borrowed from the Call to Renewal website.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Brazil's Lula Honored for Anti-Hunger Policies

In a recent presentation on world hunger to a social welfare class at the University of New Mexico, I happened to mention that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva received a recognition in October for his tireless efforts to create "a world free from hunger and want."

Then I thought: "Wait a minute, isn't this the same thing
The ONE Campaign and the Make Poverty History Campaign are asking the leaders of the Group of 8 industrialized nations?" Indeed it is, and Lula's efforts could serve as a great example to all other leaders.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) awarded the Agricola Medal to Lula for creating the Zero Hunger program to combat hunger in Brazil. The medal is the highest distinction awarded by the FAO to honor distinguished individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the fight against hunger and poverty.

In recognizing the Zero Hunger program, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf underscored Lula's vision in making the fight against poverty a priority of his government.

"The fight against hunger was a prominent part of your political platform during the elections, and since the very start of your mandate you have been showing exemplary leadership in the fight against hunger, inspiring other leaders, both at national and international level," said Diouf.

Lula's initiative was a necessary step to begin to reverse a problematic situation, with
roughly one-fourth of Brazil's population of 44 million living in poverty. "In Brazil, hunger means having a half-full plate or perhaps just eating one meal a day, said Andrew MacMillan, director of the FAO's field operations. "Over the long-term this is debilitating for the population and it weakens the development opportunities of a country rich in potential like Brazil.

Lula created Zero Hunger with an eye on meeting the U.N.
Millenium Development Goals . His program, which has received some financial support from the FAO, combines short-term measures like income assistance and innovative agriculture programs with long-term steps like education.

"It represents the strongest and most concrete position taken by a government to reach the goal set by Heads of State and Government during the World Food Summit: to halve the number of hungry people in the world by 2015," said Diouf.

Lula would like his program to serve as a model for the rest of the world. "It is certainly a successful program, and it will be even more successful when it is being practiced by other countries," the Brazilian president said in a radio address in October 2005. Read Article in Brazzil Magazine.

If we can convince other leaders--not just in rich countries, but countries of all income levels-- to follow the same or a similar path as Lula, then perhaps we can reduce global hunger, poverty and disease at a much faster rate.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Fairest Cup of Coffee

Ahhhhh! The first cup of coffee. What a joy! The full flavor! The enticing aroma...hmmm! The caffeine kick! Sometimes we become so immersed in the pleasure of the moment that our thoughts do not necessarily revolve on the workers who grew, collected, packaged and transported the beans. But I'm sure we'll be forgiven if we devote this particular time to enjoyment of our coffee.

The time to think of the folks who are responsible for bringing that cup of coffee to our tables is when we make our purchase decisions. Is the coffee that you drink in the morning
Fair Trade? (This basically means that the coffee beans were purchased from a cooperative or a grower at a fair price of at least $1.26 per per pound).

Several months ago, we stopped buying Folgers, Maxwell House, Hills Brothers and switched to Green Mountain Coffee, a popular Fair Trade brand sold at Wild Oats supermarket. Then we started hearing reports that Green Mountain paid the benchmark price of $1.26 per pound on only 12 percent of the coffee bean it purchases. After some research, I learned that the reports were true. Then I started to wonder if the packages of coffee were were buying were actually Fair Trade. Did this mean that the Green Mountain coffee packages sold at Wild Oats had a mixture of Fair-Trade and not-so-Fair-Trade beans?

Not so, said
Transfair USA, one of the organizations that certifies a product as Fair Trade. "Mixing Fair Trade coffee with non-Fair Trade coffee is not allowed in terms of being considered a Fair Trade product," Transfair staffer Kay Allen told me in an e-mail message. "100 percent of the contents of a product must be Fair Trade certified in order to label it as such."

What happens is that Fair Trade varieties represent only about one-eighth of Green Mountain's offerings. The remaining 88 percent of the coffee sold by the company has not been certified as "Fair Trade." Now, Green Mountain has pledged to gradually increase the share of Fair Trade coffee it sells to 25 percent. That would still leave 75 percent as non-Fair Trade! One of the criticisms of Green Mountain is that its flexibility to sell Fair Trade coffee is limited because of its public listing on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Shareholders would not stand for a policy that would limit the company profitablity.

As a matter of principle
, we have begun switching our loyalties to companies like Dean's Beans and Equal Exchange, which purchase 100 percent of their beans at fair-trade prices. Still, I would have no qualms buying Green Mountain's Transfair-certified varieties at Wild Oats (and there are many) every now and then. I have confidence that the beans contained in those particular packages were purchased at fair prices.

And Green Mountain actually looks good when compared with the likes of Starbucks, which only buys 1 percent of its beans at fair prices.
"Most of the Big Boys...have turned Fair Trade over to their marketing departments. So, instead of seeing the need to pay all farmers a living wage because it is ethical and good for business in the long run, these companies are limiting Fair Trade to just another offering ('Today we have Colombian, Hazelnut and Fair Trade'), " said Dean's Beans. (The above photo is of a young Nicaraguan girl holding coffee berries. It comes from Dean's Beans Web site).

Honoring Rosa Parks: The Power of Hanging in There

My friend Elaine VanCleave, a Bread for the World grassroots leader in Birmingham, Ala., recommends the article The Real Rosa Parks. Too often those of us involved in the fight for justice get discouraged or impatient when change does not come immediately. There's something about the power of "hanging in there." "This is a great article about Rosa Parks that speaks to what it really takes to create a movement," says Elaine.

This excerpt speaks volumes: In short, Rosa Parks didn’t make a spur-of-the-moment decision. She didn’t single-handedly give birth to the civil rights efforts, but she was part of an existing movement for change, at a time when success was far from certain.

And then there's this quote: Parks’s journey suggests that change is the product of deliberate, incremental action, whereby we join together to try to shape a better world. Sometimes our struggles will fail, as did many earlier efforts of Parks, her peers, and her predecessors.
So  Read the Full Article  and hang in there!