Saturday, November 28, 2009

Anticipating Advent: Beads of Hope video

The season of Advent is just around the corner. In that spirit of hope and anticipation, I want to share this video that Rene Ronquillo, a member of the Young Adults group at Immaculate Conception church in Albuquerque, recommended.

Beads Of Hope from Lee Springer on Vimeo.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Friend Co-Authors Book about Katrina

For those of us looking at the impact of Hurricane Katrina from the outside,  this was a very sad chapter in our nation's history.

Then there are those folks who were on the inside, residents from New Orleans who stayed or evacuated for a short period,   They have accounts that we cannot even imagine because we weren't there.

One of those "insiders" is Sandy Cordray, a good friend from my days at Loyola University.   

Sandy, who was working in marketing and media relations at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans when Katrina hit, has teamed up with Denise Danna, an associate dean at LSU Health Sciences School of Nursing, to write a book from the point of view of the nursing profession.

Here is a short blurb from the publisher:
Nursing in the Storm: Voices from Hurricane Katrina takes you inside six New Orleans hospitals-cut off from help for days by flooding-where nurses cared for patients around the clock. In this book, nurses from Hurricane Katrina share what they did, how they coped, what they lost, and what they are doing now in a city and health care infrastructure still rebuilding, still in jeopardy.

In their own words, the nurses tell what happened in each hospital just before, during, and after the storm. Danna and Cordray provide an intimate portrait of the experience of Katrina, which they and their colleagues endured.

The book also discusses how to plan and prepare for future disasters, with a closing chapter documenting the "lessons learned" from Katrina, including day-to-day health care delivery in a city of crisis. This groundbreaking work serves as a testament to nurses' professionalism, perseverance, and unwavering dedication.
 Read full account from Springer Publishing (you can purchase the book from this site)

Incidentally Sandy has been a member of the anti-poverty advocacy community in New Orleans, serving on the board of New Orleans Artists against Hunger and Homelessness and supporting the work of Sister Jane Remson at New Orleans Bread for the World and the Global Network for Justice..

If for some reason you happen to be in New Orleans on Saturday, January 16, there will be a book launch at the Garden District Book Shop, 2727 Prytania St., 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Vigil at Civic Plaza Ahead of Climate Conference

The Seventh of the Millennium Development Goals seeks to Ensure Environmental Sustainability as part of the international effort to address global poverty.   As people of faith, we have a great opportunity to make our voices known about this issue.  Sister Joan Brown, director of the New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light  invites us to a special vigil, entitled Light a Candle for Hope: Prayer Vigil for International Climate Change Meeting in Copenhagen.

The vigil, scheduled for Wednesday, December 2, seeks to rally people of faith ahead of the International Climate Change Meeting in Copenhagen, which begins December 7-18.  The vigil will begin with a candlelight procession from Civic Center the Cathedral Church of St. John Episcopal. Participants are invited to bring their own candle to light the 4-block journey that represents our walking as people of faith with brothers and sisters throughout the planet as we enter the meetings in Copenhagen.

An Interfaith Prayer vigil at the Cathedral will involve leaders from various faith traditions and conclude with a blessing of Sr. Joan Brown, osf, who is a religious delegate to the international climate meeting. All are cordially invited to participate. For questions or to become involved in the work of NM Interfaith Power and Light contact or call 505-266-6966.

Sponsored by: New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light in collaboration with Cathedral Church of St. John Episcopal and other faith communities
When: Wednesday, Dec. 2, 5:00-6:30 p.m
Where: Gather at Civic Plaza in downtown Albuquerque and walk in candlelight procession to Cathedral Church of St. John  Episcopal, 318 Silver for interfaith prayer vigil(bring your own candle)
Contact for questions: Sr. Joan Brown,osf, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, 505-266-6966,

C-SPAN features Bread for the World Institute's 2010 Hunger Report

The Bread for the World Institute was featured on CSPAN on Monday morning, Nov. 23, with the launch of the 2010 Hunger Report, A Just and Sustainable Economic Recovery. The report shows that reducing climate change and creating so-called green jobs are key factors for economic growth and reducing world-wide hunger and poverty. This video is 107 minutes, including questions from the audience. (You can also view the video on the C-SPAN site by clicking on this link )

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box

By Monique Rangel
[Reprinted from Aquinas Newman Center Bulletin, Nov. 15, 2009]

 I wake up to a dim light entering into my cardboard box; my face is cold and my feet numb in a freezing straitjacket of a sleeping bag. It is 6:18 in the morning, a time that I can safely say that I usually sleep through most Sunday mornings. And when I do wake up, I’m not cold, tangled or tired. But that is not the case today—today I wake up exposed to the outside. How did I get here?

Perhaps that is a question that some ask every day, but I know why I wake up outside. Project Box is an annual event held at  Aquinas Newman Center at the University of New Mexico. It is intended to raise awareness about homelessness in our community. 

Participants in Project Box spend the night outside to expose the homelessness that is overlooked by people, since it takes place in the “lesser” places of our community: the places that we are eager to forget and quick to pass through (or avoid) on our commute to work/ home/shopping. Besides being a visual demonstration against homelessness, Project Box’s main objective was to invoke thoughtful, prayerful and serious discussion about the needs of this neglected population and what realistic and sustainable solution was necessary.

We had a guest that evening--a homeless woman who, unlike the many biases that exist, does not have a substance abuse addiction nor was she an alcoholic. Before she became homeless, her life was like that of many who live pay check to pay check. Losing her job was the push that led the dominoes as they fell in sequence. Now she does not have a stable home to go to every night, so she camps outside in a sleeping bag in spots where she feels safe. 

As she detailed her daily routine, it became clear that although it may seem that the homeless population does absolutely nothing every day, much activity occurs, and the majority of a homeless person’s time is spent on what takes minutes for people who have basic resources.

Some points she mentioned are:
  • everything from eating to getting clothing to showering involves waiting in lines for hours; 
  • to add time to waiting in line, people who are homeless must walk everywhere (unless they gather enough change for the bus); 
  • they must carry all their belongings, or, stash quantities of their belongings (which is extremely risky) in areas around the city. 

From this aspect, it becomes obvious that most time is spent tending to daily basic needs. When one task is finished, there is no time to waste before the next one is begins, or in many cases, is already over. An important aspect to the lack of consciousness about homelessness in the general community is that a homeless person must stay out of sight so he or she is not harassed. There is a balance in appearance that must be met. If someone looks too nice and like he/she has nice belongings or money, he/she runs the risk of being mugged.  On the other hand, if someone looks too unkempt, he/she is in danger of being noticeable—a nuisance and a target for harassment by law enforcement. 
This discussion made me realize that perhaps the needs of the homeless population were not being truly met. After all, we are not homeless and are reluctant to perceive homelessness for what it is. It is true that we must consider sustainable and measurable improvements on how to approach this issue, but crafting sustainable solutions might be easier if we perceive homelessness as if we were homeless ourselves. In order to find a solution that works--a solution that suits the needs of those who lack a home--we must think outside the box.

(The author is an Economics Major at the University of New Mexico and Gospel Justice Peer Minister with Aquinas Newman Center's Campus Ministry.   The photograph at the very top depicts a mural painted under the highway in Portland, Ore., by a member of the local Franciscan community)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Two Reflections on Thanksgiving

It's less than a week before Thanksgiving, and I'd like to share a couple of reflections appropriate to the season.

First, this wonderful quote from Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet and 1971 Nobel Laureate in Literature
I have often maintained that the best poet is ... the baker who ... does [the] majestic and unpretentious work of kneading the dough, consigning it to the oven, baking it in golden colours and handing us our daily bread as a duty of fellowship.

Rev. John L. McCullough, executive director and CEO of Church World Service, wrote a wonderful reflection entitled, Giving Thanks in Lean Times.

He suggests that on this day, we should not only give thanks for the bounty of harvests and for what we have, but should also heed the urgent challenge of poverty in the midst of plenty, for "there is enough food that no one should go hungry, enough water that no one should thirst, and enough love that all children should reach their potential."
"We are called to be guardians of the dreams,” said McCullough, “and to resist the temptation to turn away from the hurts and pains…  If we can only decide to work together…” said McCullough.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Feeding America vs. a Food Tax in New Mexico

Just as we hear news that the U.S. Senate has designated today, Thursday,   Nov. 19, as Feed America Day, we also hear about a proposal to reinstate the state food tax in New Mexico.

Is this a case of "good news, bad news?"

Not necessarily.  But there is some sense of irony.

Each of these two pieces of news merits its own reflection. They are linked only because they come at a time when recently released statistics show that hunger and food insecurity are still high in our country.

First, let me recognize and thank our own Sen. Tom Udall for sponsoring a resolution that led to the Senate recognition of Feed America Day.   The resolution has the effect of bringing the issue of hunger in America to the forefront of the Senate agenda at a time when that legislative body is engaged in many other pressing issues.

The resolution also asks everyone in the U.S. (especially those of us who are fairly well off) to take this issue seriously.  In fact, Sen. Udall urges us to skip two meals today and donate the cost of those meals to charities that serve the poor and hungry.   A noble request indeed.

Here's a quote from Sen. Udall.
“As we approach the Thanksgiving festivities, it is my hope that individuals will take the time to think of those in their community who may be struggling to keep food on the table. “To miss a few meals and make a modest donation to a local food pantry is a small thing, but if many of us join together in this effort, we can have a large impact. And a large impact is what we must have if we are to keep our families and food pantries afloat this year.”
Read more in the Democracy for New Mexico blog 

Now, let me get to the other issue, the proposal to reinstate the gross receipts tax on food sales in New Mexico.  This is not a done deal, but according to various reports, this is one of the options on the table to help the state of New Mexico with its revenue shortfalls.  Read more from KOAT.

A task force that is considering several revenue options will make recommendations to Gov. Bill Richardson by Dec. 21

I personally don't think it's a good idea to impose a tax on basic foodstuffs during this time of crisis.

If the state must impose a tax, they should at least exempt all basic items like fresh fruits and vegetables, milk and dairy products, certain meats and proteins, rice, beans, noodles and pastas, breads.  There would only be the "junk food" left to tax.

I know the processed food companies won't like this, but go ahead and tax the heck out of Cheetos,  soda pop and potato chips.  This is not a new suggestion. There was a proposal from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council a few weeks ago to tax junk food and soft drinks in order to fight obesity. 

A couple of side notes. First,I do want to point out that the progressive community was divided when the elimination of the tax on food was first proposed in New Mexico in 2002.  The arguments were that the loss of revenue would force the government to cut programs that directly assist the poor.  The other argument was that the elimination of the tax would be as beneficial, if not more beneficial, to the middle class and wealthy food shoppers who did not need the tax cut in the first place.

Secondly, we recently experienced a "food tax" effect of sorts.  Remember when prices at the gas pump were $4 a gallon?   It wasn't that long ago. This was increasing the cost of transporting, processing and warehousing food around the country, which translated to a higher price for food at the supermarket counter. (Buying local is a solution, but that's a subject for another blog post).  Anyway, this "food tax" was not going to fund government operations.  Rather, it was going to the large multinational oil companies, who were reporting record profits as a result of the increased revenues.  

I'm sure we'll be hearing more debate about the proposed food tax in coming days and weeks, and it certainly will be a topic that we';ll continue to cover in this blog.

It's Not Too Early to Start Thinking about the 2010 Offering of Letters

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are just around the corner, which means there is probably a lot on your mind right now (not to mention the need to slow down and take time to give thanks and to enjoy a prayerful Advent).

So now would not be the right time to have you start thinking about the 2010 Offering of Letters. Right?

Wrong.  It's never too early to at least become familiar with the subject of our letter-writing campaign. Perhaps you can familiarize yourself with the topic, and then set it aside until after the holidays.

We are planning to have an Offering of Letters workshop in February or March, hopefully in each of our three congressional districts in New Mexico.  Stay tuned for more details.   Here is a little blurb about the topic of our 2010 OL.
Bread for the World’s 2010 Offering of Letters will push for changes in the U.S. tax code that will benefit low-income families and help them lift themselves and their children out of hunger and poverty.

Here is the relevant text in the brochure that Bread for the World put together regarding the 2010 campaign


It sounds so obvious:  Parents want to do their best to care for their children. 

But many hard-working Americans can’t even feed their families. Housing and food costs have risen while wages have stagnated. Low-income workers especially cannot keep up, and their children suffer.

Hunger will persist as long as people lack the resources to buy food.

Bread for the World has a long history of working to expand the national nutrition programs, our country’s safety net for vulnerable people. These are critical services that keep people from going hungry. But nutrition programs alone are not enough to help families overcome hunger. Low-income families also need broader measures to reduce poverty and help them build financial stability.
Current tax credits for low-income workers were designed so that people who work would have enough financial resources to meet their basic needs, including food. But that’s not happening anymore. These programs are falling short of their intent. The result: Millions of working families are struggling to put food on the table. Millions of children are trying to learn, to play, to live their lives without adequate nutrition—sometimes with empty stomachs.

In 2010, tax policies will be debated as previous tax cuts enacted earlier this decade are due to expire. Congress will decide which ones to renew or change. The needs of low-income families and hungry children will be lost in this debate—unless senators and representatives hear from you.

The president and others have said it should be our nation’s goal to end childhood hunger in the United States by 2015. Achieving this goal would require not only stronger nutrition programs but also long-term measures to reduce poverty such as tax credits for low-income families.

Bread for the World’s 2010 Offering of Letters will push for changes in the U.S. tax code that will benefit low-income families and help them lift themselves and their children out of hunger and poverty.

Expanding existing tax credits to low-income working people will help to make work pay and enable parents to educate and feed their children. Please join us. Order your 2010 Offering of Letters kit so you can learn how to get your church, campus, or community to take action.

Download a copy of the fuil brochure (in .pdf format)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

USDA Data Shows New Mexico Households Still Very Food Insecure

By Robin Stephenson
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released US Food Insecurity data for 2008 this week and the results are not encouraging.  

According to an analysis by Bread for the World, a record numbers of American’s are going hungry.

Bread's analysis uncovered a few startling facts: 

  • The number of food insecure households increased from 13 million in 2007 to 17.1 million in 2008.
  • 49.1 million people lived in food insecure households, an increase of 12.9 million from 2007 to 2008.
  • The number of children experiencing hunger, or very low food security, topped one million for the first time since data has been collected.
  • 37.2 percent of households made up of single mothers and their children were food insecure
  • Food insecurity among Hispanic households grew by 35.3 percent, or 947,000 households from 2007 to 2008.
What Does this Mean for New Mexico? 
 These are more than just numbers.  In them are reflected the lives and dinner tables of New Mexico families.  Although New Mexico has made strides in decreasing food insecurity rates by household (-0.9%) from 2007 to 2008, the state still ranks fifth, with 14.1 percent of New Mexico households in food insecure 2008. 

  • As of November 9, 2009, SNAP or Food Stamp participation in New Mexico is 133,205 households, with 321,422 individuals using the program.
  • School lunch programs, one of the most successful programs in combating child hunger, served 217,092 of New Mexico’s children in 2008.
  • TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program), which helps meet the short term emergency food need provided through food banks and church pantries distributed $1,892,533 worth of food to New Mexico.
  • The Commodity Supplemental Food Program which provides monthly food packages to qualifying low-income people served 16,420 New Mexicans in 2008.
  • [Note: All 2008 data is preliminary]
All these programs provide a vital lifeline to both New Mexico’s adults and children.  Bread for the World continues to follow legislation on Child Nutrition Reauthorization.  Congress needs to hear that these programs are important. 

(The author is the field organizer for Bread for the World's western region, which includes New Mexico and 11 other states.  Photo by Margaret Neas from Bread for the World website

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Talking Turkey

Immaculate Conception Church
Young Adult & Social Justice

November 13th–November 20th for turkey donations
 Bring a 10lb (or larger) frozen turkey to Immaculate Conception church 619 Copper Ave. NW (downtown Albuquerque) during business hours from 9am-12:30 pm or 1:30-5pm Monday through Friday

Saturday, November 21st at 2:30pm
 join us for a community gathering and giving of the turkeys at Casa de las Communidades
On the corner of Bell and Chama
(Near the intersection of Zuni and Louisiana)

Casa de las Communidades is
A Catholic Worker House here in Albuquerque
That accompanies migrant families in need


Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Party for Rev. Barbara Dua

Rev. Barbara Dua is retiring as director of the New Mexico Conference of Churches after many years leading that great ecumenical organization. 

Please join the New Mexico Conference of Churches in a Thanksgiving Reception for Barbara's Ministry on Sunday, November 15, at Monte Vista Christian Church, 3501 Campus Blvd. NE, 3:00-5:00 p.m.

There will be a basket at the reception for you to drop a letter or a card expressing your appreciation to Barbara for her service to our community. And if you cannot attend and still want to honor Barbara, send your card/letter to The New Mexico Conference of Churches, P.O. Box 606, Bernalillo, N.M. 87004-0606.  (By the way, Babara is on Facebook, in case you want to communicate with her that way).

I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the times when Barbara collaborated with Bread for the World.  In particular, I would like to highlight our local celebration of Bread for the World's 30th anniversary. Barbara, Rev. Julian Phillips and the NMCC helped us put together a very successful event, which featured keynote speaker Father Bill Byron ( who collaborated with Art Simon in the founding of Bread for the World) and Rev. Jim McDonald, Bread for the World's vice president of policy and programs.

It was great to hear the national VIPs discuss the history of our organization and our letter writing campaign for that year, which was entitled  Elections Matter: Vote to End Hunger.  

But it was just as good to hear Barbara's reflection on a related campaign promoted by the National Council of Churches and the New Mexico Conference of Churches entitled, Faith and Community Voices Against Poverty: Let Justice Roll. This is the leading national faith, community, labor and business coalition committed to raising the minimum wage to a living wage at the state and federal level.

Barbara has long been an advocate of economic justice. And even though she won't be at the forefront of this effort through the NMCC, I'm sure she will be doing what she can in the background.  

But for now, that goes in the "To Do" basket.  Our task at hand right now is to celebrate with Barbara on Nov. 15.  And please don't bring a gift.  Barbara requests that in lieu of presents that you make a donation to The Storehouse.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Bag of Food Right By Your Mail Box

Next Saturday is November 14.  Do you know what happens on Nov. 14?  Yup, there are a bunch of college football games on TV and one at University Stadium vs. a Top 25 team (BYU).  Perhaps there is a fall harvest festival somewhere in the Albuquerque metro area.

But as you wander onto the streets, you might notice your mail carrier with an extra load in his or her vehicle.  That's because Saturday is also the annual food drive sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association.

On that day, your friendly postal carrier will not only deliver your mail but will also pick up your donation of food.  (Please ignore the date on the illustration.  It's from another year).  Please be sure to leave a bag with non-perishable goodies by your mail box.  To make it easier for you, look for a special bag enclosed with the Albuquerque Journal on Thursday, Nov. 12.

While you might have extra food in your pantry, please be sure that it's not expired before you put it in the bag. Better yet, I would recommend that you pick up extra non-perishable items like cans of tuna, beans and vegetables, along with peanut butter, when you do your shopping this weekend.  Or perhaps you can make an extra trip to the grocery store and spend about $10 on food to donate.

In Albuquerque, the food will go to Roadrunner Food Bank.  This year, the donations are very important, the food bank said in a newsletter.
Roadrunner Food Bank needs your help as we experience unprecedented demand.  Individuals who been laid off or had their hours reduced are experiencing hunger and are seeking food assistance for the first time. The agencies who serve are reporting 30 to 50 percent increases of individuals who need help with food. This holiday season more and more of our neighbors here in New Mexico need your help.
Roadrunner recently released a touching video featuring some of the clients who receive the food and the people who serve them.

Speaking of Roadrunner Food Bank, the Oct. 23 edition of "In Focus," hosted by Weekly Alibi columnist Gene Grant, had a segment on the organization.  The piece, which ran on KNME, Channel 5, was produced in cooperation with two other PBS stations. 

The segment on the food bank is preceded by an interesting discussion between Mr. Grant and Timothy Krebs, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico, about the recently ended special session for the New Mexico State Legislature. Prof. Krebs also talked about the 2010 regular session. "Next year is going to be a really tough in terms of the budget situation." This could possibly mean cuts in programs that help poor and hungry people in our state.