Sunday, July 19, 2009

Albuquerque Presbyterian Churches Coordinate Anti-Hunger Strategies

Feeding the hungry and providing other sorts of assistance to those in need in our communities is a very important ministry for many Presbyterian churches in Albuquerque, These churches have served the community through their own pantries or by linking people in need with organizations in the community that serve the poor. Two churches in particular, La Mesa Presbyterian Church and Rio Grande Presbyterian Church (which supports the Rio Grande Food Project), have been known in the community for their generosity and their wide outreach efforts.

The generosity of these churches and nearly a dozen others in the Albuquerque metropolitan area has been greatly appreciated by members of the community. But over the past couple of years, these churches have been noticing a surge in the number of people coming to them. "We were beginning to see huge numbers of people requiring our services," said Rev. Trey Hammond (pictured above), pastor of La Mesa Presbyterian Church.

So the churches, led by Rev. Hammond and supported by the Presbytery of Santa Fe, decided they could serve the community and growing needs by working together rather than going solo. They decided to hold a couple of consultations to discuss strategies, including making better use of available resources and becoming more involved in legislative advocacy, especially at the state level.

Among the resources that are available are food stamps. During its second consultation, the group heard from two local advocates who are involved in facilitating participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which covers food stamps. The advocates talked about how churches can assist in helping clients overcome some of the barriers that prevent them from participating in SNAP. But they also discussed barriers presented at the state level for participation. This is where the Presbyterian churches decided to become involved in state advocacy, deciding to put together strategies to work both with state legislators and the administration (including the Human Services Department and Lieutenant Gov. Diane Denish).

Four of these churches are already committed to Bread for the World, and hopefully more will participate in 2010, when our Offering of Letters will address issues that will help address similar issues that will keep bring people out of poverty. These issues are directly compatible with the goals of the advocacy goals of the 13 Presbyterian chuches in Albuquerque. I promised them more information once it became available.

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