Saturday, March 31, 2007

La Mesa Presbyterian Church holds first Offering of Letters of 2007

La Mesa Presbyterian Church, Albuquerque, has the distinction of holding the very first Offering of Letters in New Mexico in 2007. The initial count from the Offering of Letters, held on Sunday, March 25, indicates that church members wrote about 72 letters. Congratulations to Roxanne Bradley & Mary McLean (pictured above) who played a key role in ensuring a successful letter-writing Sunday.

(Incidentally, our regional organizer Matt Newell Ching presented the Minute for Mission at the service that Sunday).

Two other churches have scheduled Offerings of Letters for this year: Aquinas Newman Center on April 28-29 and Trinity United Methodist Church on April 29 (with dedication on May 6).

We encourage other churches in New Mexico to please schedule your Offering of Letters as soon as possible. And please drop a note to Carlos Navarro so we can post the date for your church
in this page on our website. We will keep a running total of letters. So after you have completed your letter-writing Sunday (or Saturday-Sunday), please drop us a note with the total number of letters and a breakdown of legislators to whom the letters were written.

La Mesa church member writes a letter

Sample Letter

Sunday, March 25

Senator Pete Domenici (Jeff Bingaman)
U.S. Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

Rep. Heather Wilson (Tom Udall, Steve Pearce)
U.S. House of Represnatatives
Washington, D.C., 20515

Dear Sen. Bingaman
(or Sen. Domenici, or Rep. Wilson, Udall or Pearce)

Please support Bread for the World's approach to broad reform of the U.S. farm bill, which is important to progress against hunger and poverty in our country and around the world.

Our current farm policy provides large payments to some farmers but does little to help most farmers and other rural families of modest means. I ask you to improve the farm bill to provide better and broader support for U.S. farmers, strengthen communities in rural America, help hungry people in this country, and support the efforts of farmers in developing countries to sell their crops and feed their families.

Your Name
Your Address
Your City, State, Zip

Photos from Offering of Letters Workshops

Santa Fe
Sunday, March 25, First Presbyterian Church

Conversing with Guest Speaker: Mary Singleton
of Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church-Truchas and Aurelia Fule of First Presbyterian Church-Santa Fe chat with Mark Winne communications director of the Community Food Security Coalition.

Exchanging Views During Break: Charles Cole
(St. John's United Methodist Church) converses with John Bulthuis (St. Stephen's Episcopal Church-Espa

Saturday, March 24, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church

A look at the Offering of Letters Booklet: Forefront:
Beth Kissling (Church of the Good Shepherd), Mary McLean (La Mesa Presbyterian Church). Back: Hugh Doyle and Virginia Pitts (Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church), Vicky Scheidler (New Mexico Public Interest Research Group-UNM Chapter), Carol Holland and George Huggins (New Life Presbyterian Church).

Deanna Vick
(St. Andrew Presbyterian Church) and Terese Bridges (St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church).

More photos from the workshops and other related events (meals with Regional Organizer Matt Newell Ching) are located in this
Yahoo Photo Album

Saturday, March 17, 2007

National Anti-Hunger Organizations’ Statement on the 2007 Farm Bill Reauthorization

The 110th Congress will reauthorize the “Farm Bill.” That important legislation has a breadth and reach far beyond American agricultural policy. The Farm Bill also will reauthorize a number of nutrition assistance programs crucial to the health and well-being of some of America’s most vulnerable people.

The undersigned organizations comprising the National Anti-Hunger Organizations (NAHO) are a coalition of the nation’s leading anti-hunger advocacy, food bank, and emergency feeding organizations working to reduce hunger in the United States.

The members of NAHO, representing member organizations in every State and Congressional District in the country numbering in the thousands, are united in the effort to ensure that the Farm Bill reauthorization provides adequate resources and program polic
y changes that are necessary to reduce the still-serious problem of hunger in our country.

We are deeply concerned about the many people in our communities who, for lack of resources, are not consistently able to put food on their tables for themselves or their families. Indeed, the most recent USDA/Census Bureau survey of food security documents that more than 35 million people in the United States live in households that face a constant struggle against hunger. Thus, it is essential that the 2007 Farm Bill address the pressing problem of hunger amidst plenty by strengthening the nation’s food assistance programs.

Our organizations’ top priority in the 2007 Farm Bill reauthorization is a strong Nutrition Title that reauthorizes and improves the Food Stamp Program, the nation’s first defense against hunger, and bolsters the efforts of the emergency food assistance system. We strongly urge that the 2007 Farm Bill and the Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Resolution reflect those urgent national priorities and ask you to consider the following recommendations.

The Food Stamp Program, the nation’s first defense against hunger, is a crucial and effective program that has nearly eliminated malnutrition from the national landscape and helps prevent the problem of hunger from becoming worse in our communities. Food Stamp Program participation closely tracks economic trends, responding quickly to increases in need, whether due to local or national economic circumstances or to disasters, as seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Food stamps help strengthen families and the American communities where those families reside—rural, urban and suburban. More than 80 percent of food stamp benefits go to families with children, allowing their parents to obtain food at grocer stores for meals at home. Much of the remainder goes to seniors and persons with disabilities. Through the nationwide use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, program utilization has been streamlined for transactions for consumers and store clerks, and EBT has quantifiably reduced the chances of program abuse.

Food Stamps pay dividends for consumers, food producers and manufacturers, grocery retailers and communities. As food stamp purchases flow through grocery checkout lines, farmers’ markets and other outlets, those benefits generate almost double their value in economic activity, especially for many hard-pressed rural and urban communities desperately in need of stimulus to business and jobs.

The Food Stamp Program’s basic entitlement structure must be maintained while greater resources are provided to the program to more effectively fight hunger in our communities. Areas for program investment include:

  • Adequacy of Benefits Must Be Improved. The first step to reducing hunger in the U.S. is to ensure that everyone in the Food Stamp Program has the resources to assist them in purchasing and preparing a nutritionally adequate diet. Neither the average food stamp benefit level of $1 per person per meal, nor the $10 monthly minimum benefit is sufficient to help families purchase an adequate diet. This dietary shortfall negatively impacts recipients’ health and impedes the ability of children to learn and adults to work. Another key element to securing an adequate diet will be finding ways to improve access to affordable and healthful foods for food stamp households in low-income neighborhoods.
  • Access to the Program Must Be Expanded. Too many people in our communities are in need of food stamps but cannot get them. Only 33 percent of the people in food bank lines are enrolled in food stamps. Those people in need of food but excluded from the Food Stamp Program include working poor families with savings slightly above decades old and outdated resource limits, many legal immigrants, and numerous indigent jobless people seeking employment.
  • Program Simplification and Streamlining for Caseworkers and Clients Must Continue. While food stamp outreach and nutrition education are making important inroads, these efforts need more resources, and enrollments are hampered by shortfalls in state technology and supports. Too many eligible people—especially working poor and elderly persons—are missing out on benefits.

In addition to the necessary improvements to the Food Stamp Program, the 2007 Farm Bill also will provide Congress with an opportunity to assist the front-line agencies that deal with the problem of hunger every day. The nation’s food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens are stretched to serve more and more people whose food stamps have run out mid-month or whose income and resources put them just above the food stamp eligibility threshold. Currently, more than 25 million unduplicated people are accessing emergency food annually through food banks. In any given week, some 4.5 million people access food through pantries and soup kitchens throughout the United States. Requests for emergency food assistance are outstripping the resources provided through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). In TEFAP alone, surplus commodity deliveries have declined more than 50 percent in the past year, at the same time that requests for emergency food have increased.

Therefore, we urge the 2007 Farm Bill and FY 2008 Budget to invest significant new resources to make food stamp benefit allotments sufficient to real world needs, to open eligibility to more vulnerable populations, to connect more eligible people with benefits, and to adequately support emergency feeding programs.

We are fortunate to live in a nation with an abundant and varied food supply. In the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization, we strongly urge the Congress to help connect more vulnerable people with that food supply and move our nation closer to a hunger-free America.


Max Finberg, Director
Alliance to End Hunger

Vicki Escarra, President & CEO
America’s Second Harvest—The Nation’s Food Bank Network

David Beckmann, President
Bread for the World Institute

Robert Greenstein, Founder & Executive Director
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Andy Fisher, Executive Director
Community Food Security Coalition

Edward Cooney, Executive Director
Congressional Hunger Center

Michael Robitaille, Executive Director
The End Hunger Network

James Weill, President
Food Research and Action Center

H. Eric Schockman, Ph.D., President
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

Meredith Dodson, Interim-Co-Executive Director

Pat Nicklin, Managing Director
Share Our Strength

Bill Ayers, Co-Founder & Executive Director
World Hunger Year

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Right Hand

"How different is the father's right hand! This hand does not hold or grasp. It is refined, soft, and very tender. The fingers are close to each other and they have an elegant quality. It lies gently upon the son's shoulder. It wants to caress, to stroke, and to offer consolation and comfort. It is a mother's hand.... Henri Nouwen on Rembrandt's The Prodigal Son

The Gospel Reading for the Fourth Sunday of Lent is perhaps one of the most familiar scripture passsages, Luke's version of The Prodigal Son.

Too often we think of this passage as an account of the son who came back, repented and was forgiven.

In his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen asks us to consider the point of view of the father, or should I say the parent. He alludes to Rembrandt's painting about the prodigal son (pictured at the left) to portray a parent who is both firm and compassionate.

"As soon as I recognized the difference between the two hands of the father, a new world of meaning opened up for me. The Father is not simply a great patriarch. He is mother as well as father. He touches the son with a masculine hand and a feminine hand, " said Nouwen.

Nouwen would argue that the father's right hand in the painting is a symbol of God's compassion.

In this spirit, I would like to celebrate three friends and fellow activists who recently received recognition for their dedication and compassionate work on behalf of the poor.

Elaine Van Cleave
On International Women's Day, The ONE Campaign blog carried an extremely impressive tribute to Elaine Van Cleave of Birmingham, Ala., entitled International Women’s Day Profile: Elaine Van Cleave. I've come to know Elaine as one of the most passionate advocates of The ONE Campaign and one of the most dedicated grassroots leaders of Bread for the World.

How dedicated is Elaine? She would not let a bout of laryngitis stop her from meeting her commitment to speak at the Christian Methodist Episcopal's Spring Convention (161 churches) about the 2007 Offering of Letters. I could go on an on: She started the ONEAlabama Yahoo Group, she often speaks to College students about The ONE Campaign, and she was part of a group that convinced her member of Congress to become a champion for debt relief...

What makes Elaine tick? It's easy she says. "...simply, I am motivated by my faith. I strongly feel that my faith requires me to care for the 'least of these'. I think of
Matthew 25:31-46 as the most powerful instruction in the Bible, when Jesus says, among many things, 'I was hungry and you fed me."

Laura Casselman
The ONE Campaign blog also published a piece entitled ONE's First Scholar: Laura Casselman. Laura has become the face of The ONE Campaign in Albuquerque. Any time there is an opportunity to set up a table, whether it is World AIDS Day or White Band Day or a Fair Trade Fair, Laura is there to gather signatures, pass out literature and sometimes white bands. Sometimes there are volunteers to help. Other times she does it solo. Dedication is her middle name. But Laura is not only motivated by ideals.

"I was one of the first to join ONE in my region. I've been a strong believer in equality and social justice since the 1960's when I was a teenager inspired by Martin Luther King," says Laura.

David Miner
It's so great to see a fellow grassroots activist become the chair of the board of Bread for the World! David Miner and I served together on the BFW board for many years. On occasion, we would exchange experiences, but I really didn't know the breadth and depth of his work on behalf of BFW until I read the feature in the Indianapolis Star, entitled "He Writes the Wrongs of Hunger"

What a great tribute!

Isn't it great when Sen. Richard Lugar's office calls you "an honest advocate for the hungry?"

But his fellow Bread for the World members speak highly of his motivation. "He is the personification of the Gandhi statement that your message is your life," said Fran Quigley, a Bread for the World member from Indianapolis. "This guy just very quietly has devoted himself to working for hungry people for dozens of years."