Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bon Voyage to Marge Williams; Albuquerque's Loss is Florida's Gain

Marge Williams, one of our most active and loyal Bread for the World members in Albuquerque, is leaving our community to live near her brother in Florida.  

Marge has been a leader in the local anti-hunger and anti-poverty movement (and connected this passion to her advocacy for environmental protection, simple living and sustainability).  

Year after year, she organized Offerings of Letters at Trinity United Methodist Church and also served as a great link to the local United Methodist community not only in Albuquerque but other parts of the state.

Marge was one of a handful of local activists who met up with Rep. Martin Heinrich at a Congress on Your Corner session to talk to him about cosponsoring foreign-aid reform legislation.  No doubt this personal contact was one of the factors that led Rep. Heinrich to cosponsor this bill.

We will miss her greatly, but our loss is Florida's gain.  She has promised to remain active in Bread issues in her new home.

Please join us in saying Thanks and Bon Voyage to Marge at 

A Reception of Gratitude and Blessing
Sunday, February 7, 2:00-4:00 p.m.
Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice
202 Harvard SE

Bring a cutout, drawing or picture of a bird (to celebrate Marge's passion for birdwatching).  Write on it your message of gratitude and blessing.  These messages will be hung on the branches of a tree as a gift to her.  Desserts and beverages will be provided

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Food Hardship a Growing National Problem; New Mexico Near the Middle

New Mexicans have become used to ranking near the top of the list on many hunger and nutrition deficiency categories.  Therefore, it was a mild surprise not to find our state in the Top 10 in the new measure of Food Hardship created by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Food Hardship is defined simply as the lack of money to buy food that families need.  

The fact that we're not on the top of the list in this particular measure does not mean that hunger and poverty are not a problem in communities around our state.  Far from it. Recent USDA data showed that our state remained very food insecure.

In compiling the report about food hardship, FRAC analyzed survey data collected by the Gallup polling organization between January 2008 and December 2009. "The ability to provide such localized data and such up-to-date data comes from Gallup, interviewing 1,000 households per day almost every day since January 2, 2008 for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project," said FRAC. 

The organization notes:
The data in this report show that food hardship is truly a national problem. It is a national problem in the sense that the rate for the nation is so high. And it is a national problem in the sense that rates are high in virtually every state, Metropolitan Statistical Area, and congressional district.
    New Mexico Data
    According to the FRAC report, New Mexico had food hardship of 19.2%, ranking 18th in the nation.  

    Three states in the South--Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama topped the list. 

    The least rate of food hardship was found in North Dakota, which was ranked 51st. (The table includes the District of Columbia).

    Among our neighboring states, Arizona ranked 22nd, Texas 14th, and Colorado 27.

    Here's what FRAC said about the states:
    In 20 states in 2009, more than one in five respondents answered the food hardship question in the affirmative; in 45 states, more than 15 percent answered the question “yes.” For households with children in the states, the situation is even worse. Rates for such households were higher in every state than for households
    An interesting trend was that New Mexico had a food hardship of 22.9% in households with children, compared with 18.1% in househoulds without children.

    FRAC says this follows a national trend:
    The food hardship rate is even worse for households with children. Respondents in such households reported food hardship at a rate 1.62 times that of other households - 24.1 percent versus 14.9 percent in 2009.
    Congressional Districts
    Of the 436 congressional districts (including the District of Columbia), only 23 had a food hardship rate below ten percent. 311 had a rate 15 percent or higher. In 139 food hardship was reported by one fifth or more of all respondent households.  

    New Mexico's First Congressional District (primarily Albuquerque) has a food hardship rate of 15.9%, ranking 282.

    New Mexico's Second Congressional District (Las Cruces, Roswell, Carlsbad, Silver City) has a food hardship rate of 18.4%, ranking 205.

    New Mexico's Third Congressional District (Santa Fe, Gallup, Las Vegas, Taos), has a food hardship of 18.5%, ranking 198. 

    By way of comparison, the highest food harship rate was found in the New York Congressional District #16 (the Bronx) at 36%.  The lowest was the California 14th district (Santa Clara, San Jose)) at 6.6%

    Metropolitan Statistical Areas
    Albuquerque was the only community in our state measured in the Metropolitan Stastical Areas (MSAs).  Our city ranked smack in the middle at number 50 among 100 MSAs surveyed.  The highest food hardship rate was in the Memphis area, while the lowest was in Honolulu.  Among comparably sized cities in our region, Tucson ranked 37, Austin-Round Rock 70 and Colorado Springs 81.

    Says FRAC:
    Of the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), 82 had 15 percent or more of respondents answering that they did not have enough money to buy needed food at times in the last 12 months.

    Friday, January 29, 2010

    Happy Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day

    The Center for Budget Policy and Priorities (CBPP) is urging you to observe Earned Income Tax Awareness Day today, January 29.  Believe or not, it was the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Treasury Department that delared this commemoration today.

    Download a flier in English or Spanish
    Find other resources

     As you probably know, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit will be the topic of our Offering of Letters in 2010.  

    While the focus of today's national "commemoration" is not necessarily on expanding the program, it encourages those who might be eligible to find out more about EITC.  

    Here's a note from the campaign organizers.
    In 2010, tax credits will mean more for working families than ever before, as they continue to grapple with the pressures of a weak economy.  Yet, 25% of eligible families do not claim the EITC refund.  Working families and individuals need to know that help may be there when they file their tax returns.  Outreach to eligible families could help to claim nearly $6,000 in EITC refunds. 
    In Albuquerque, CNM TAX HELP New Mexico will provide free tax return preparation services for those whose annual household income is less than $50,000 or who are age 65 or older.  For more information and to find local sites, call 877-212-4TAX.

    Saturday, January 23, 2010

    Time to Start Thinking about Buying Your Sweetheart Fair Trade Flowers

    By Alaina Paradise

    Valentine’s Day is still a few weeks away, but One World Flowers is swamped with preparation work for the busiest floral holiday of the year.

    Valentine’s Day wholesale orders are due on January 26, so the company is busy processing customer requests and communicating with the farms in Ecuador and Colombia.

    Sales nearly doubled in 2009
    One World Flowers is a Fair Trade Certified™ flower wholesaler. The company was started in 2007 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has seen steady growth in sales over the past two years.

    In 2009 sales increased by about 93% from 2008, which was the company’s first full year in business.  (See previous coverage. Valentine's Day and Mother's Day)
    What’s even better than the growth in sales is the increased impact that we were able to make for the Fair Trade farms.  Growth in sales means that we are giving more money back to the program to keep it going. That includes money from our purchases as well as a 10% Fair Trade Premium that goes directly into a fund for the farms’ workers.
    2009 was not an easy year for Fair Trade Certified™ flower farms and importers. A total of four farms were decertified, and another three were suspended from the program. A farm can be decertified or suspended for violating any of the requirements of the Fair Trade Certification agreement.
    Visit Fair Trade Certified Flowers for more information.

    The positive side of these developments is that it is clear that floral producers are held to very high standards and are watched closely after the certification process. The negative is that at least two of the farms were voluntarily decertified, which means they might not have been getting the support that they need to make the program financially worthwhile.

    Business is business, and if the cost of the program is not being covered by the farm, they unfortunately don’t have a financial incentive to continue following it. Our goal is to grow our business and be a faithful Fair Trade customer to support them in their efforts. When talking about sustainability in business, we can’t neglect financial sustainability at all.

    The Fair Trade Certified™ label on flowers is a guarantee of a program that supports environmental protection, economic development, and social justice in the areas of each farm.  Pictured in the photo at the right is Julieta Guerrero of Hoja Verde Flowers in Cayambe, Ecuador 

    Many people are unaware of how impactful and comprehensive the Fair Trade label is. Here are just a few examples of how Fair Trade works in all three of these areas:

    Environmental Protection
    • Each Fair Trade Farm converts to a system of integrated pest management, which uses non-chemical methods of preventing insect damage to the flowers.
    • Fair Trade Farms often use chamomile extract and cayenne pepper as natural insect repellants.
    • Over 100 agrochemicals and all GMOs are eliminated from use on Fair Trade farms.
    Economic Development
    • Employees are paid a living wage for their work and are protected from the common practice of unpaid and forced overtime.
    • A workers’ union is established for each farm to collect a 10% Fair Trade Premium from customers. The workers organize democratically and vote on how to use those funds to improve the communities they live in
    • Workers are provided with year-round work and employee benefits to eliminate seasonal layoffs.
    Social Justice
    • Employees are provided with paid maternity leave, proper safety and work equipment, access to an on-site physician, and many other benefits to lift them out of the poverty cycle.
    • The Fair Labeling Organization (FLO), the umbrella organization of Fair Trade Certification, oversees farms to ensure that human rights are being protected for all farm workers.
    • Farm employees are able to report abuses without fear of retribution to a FLO-appointed representative. Farms may be suspended or even decertified from the Fair Trade program until issues are resolved.
    Click here or call (505) 489-1117 to place your order  Remember, orders are due by Jan. 26.

    The author is proprietor of One World Flowers and a passionate advocate of fair trade.

    Friday, January 22, 2010

    Rose Marie Berger: A Prayer for Haiti

    Most Holy Creator God, Lord of heaven and earth,
    we bring before you today your people of Haiti.
    It is You who set in motion the stars and seas,
    You who raised up the mountains of the Massif de la Hotte
    and Pic La Selle. It is You who made her people in your very image:

    Their gregarious hearts and generous spirits,
    their hunger and thirst for righteousness and liberty.
    It is you, O Lord, who planted the rhythms of konpa, Twoubadou,
    and zouk in the streets of Cite-Soleil; You who walk the paths
    outside of Jacmel and Hinche. Your people, O Lord, cry out to you.

    Haiti, O Haiti: The world’s oldest black republic,
    the second-oldest republic in the Western world.

    God, You are the One who answers the cries of the suffering.
    You are a God who sees, frees, and redeems your people.
    “I too have heard the moaning of my people,” you spoke to Moses.
    Now, Lord, speak again to Chanté, Agwe, Nadege, and Jean Joseph.
    Speak now, O Lord, and comfort Antoine, Jean-Baptiste,
    Toto, and Djakout. Raise up your people from the ash heap
    of destruction and give them strong hearts and hands,
    shore up their minds and spirits. Help them to bear this new burden.

    As for us, Lord, we who are far away from the rubble and the dust,
    from the sobbing and moans, but who hold them close in our hearts,
    imbue us with the strength of Simon the Cyrene.
    Help us to carry the Haitian cross. Show us how to lighten
    their yoke with our prayers, our aid, our resources. Teach
    us to work harder for justice in our own country and dignity in Haiti,
    so that we may stand with integrity when we hold our Haitian families
    in our arms once again. We ask this in the name of Jezikri,
    Jesus Christ. Amen.

    Rose Marie Berger

    Note from the author: Please support the people of Haiti who have suffered a devastating earthquake with your prayers and donations. We owe them a debt of gratitude. I recommend Catholic Relief Services and the Mennonite Central Committee, both of whom have a long history in Haiti.

    Rose Marie Berger, an associate editor at Sojourners magazine, is a Catholic peace activist and poet.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Albuquerque-based Haitian Dance Group Sponsors Haiti Relief Event on Saturday

    The Haitian dance group Racine Kreyol needs help raising donations and collecting dried goods and survival items to send to Haiti. Come celebrate Haitian culture and arts while supporting the earthquake relief effort!
    Saturday, Jan. 23
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    The Peace and Justice Center (Harvard and Silver, UNM area)

    Needs: Dried bagged grain and beans, organic seeds, first-aid kits, hygiene goods, survival items , blankets, condoms, baby bottles, cereal and formula, iodine tablets, reusable plastic dishes, ramen noodles, backpacks, flash lights, batteries, candles, matches, tents, tarps, ETC

    Accepting Monetary Donations of $10.00 or $5.00. All proceeds go toward sending the filled bus of supplies to Haiti.


    THEY WILL HAVE HAITIAN FOOD, DRUMMING, DANCING AND ART at this family-friendly event, so bring a box of items, a bowl to eat, and your cheerful and giving spirits.

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Haiti: Searching for Hope

    As part of the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, I would like to share this is a hopeful video made by Rev. Roy Howard, a Bread for the World member and pastor of St. Mark's Presbyterian Church in Rockville, Md.

    A Single Garment

    "...the rich must not ignore the poor because both rich and poor are tied in a single garment of destiny. All life is interrelated, and all men are interdependent. The agony of the poor diminishes the rich, and the salvation of the poor enlarges the rich."
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    1964 Nobel Lecture

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Hands of the Caribbean Urges Albuquerque Residents to Help with Haiti Relief Efforts



    -Especially needed items are blankets, hygiene supplies, non-perishable food items, medical supplies, anything!


    Hands of the Caribbean, 501-3C Non-profit
    109 San Pablo SE
    Albuquerque, NM

    A Local Appeal for Haiti Relief

    Nancy Pope of the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger sent out this note:

    I have been asked by members of the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger to coordinate pooling donations from any members that are interested in donating money to hunger relief for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

    Whatever money is donated (by end of day Friday) the Albuquerque Community Foundation (ACF), as the fiscal agent for the Collaboration, will send a check to the United Nations World Food Programme

    The thought is that as we pool our donations together, representing a very food insecure State in the United States, it may be more  meaningful to those in Haiti that are also very food insecure, especially now.

    If you or your organization would like to donate money, please call (505) 883-6240 (ACF’s office) and ask for Colleen or Cassidy.

    Thanks so much.

    Light a Candle for Haiti

    By now you've probably seen dozens of appeals come across your e-mail or your social networking site with suggestions about how to help the victims of a devastating earthquake in Haiti this week.

    Indeed, the international community has come through in a big way.  Click here for Bread for the World's list of denominational organizations that are providing assistance.  I would like to add a link to Doctors Without Borders and the American Red Cross. Read the Red Cross blog.  Please keep in mind that assistance will be needed beyond the short term.
    It's too early to tell the exact number of victims but the latest estimates (as of Wednesday) was that thousands of people were killed and up to 3 million people affected in the poorest country in our hemisphere.

    Each of those persons who died, was injured or left homeless was a father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, cousin, best friend. 

    How do we hold each and everyone of those people in our hearts and in our prayers? The website offers us an opportunity to light candles.  As of this morning, more than 8.8 million candles had been lit by people in 242 countries.  The candle lighting is prefaced with these words:
    With the recent earthquake in Haiti, there are many people suffering right now. We have to come together and do what we can to help them. From donating money, clothes and food to your prayers. Join Curvy Island Sista (CIS) in lighting a candle for Haiti.
    Words are not necessary as you light your web candle, but if you want to use a prepared prayer, here is a great one from Catholic Relief Services.

    God of all creation, as we weep with our family in Haiti, console us. In this time of crisis, open our eyes to look beyond the disaster to see Christ in our brothers and sisters in Haiti, as Christ sees us. Be with us as we stand in solidarity with those living and working in Haiti. Be with us in our mourning and guide our efforts to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, comfort the grieving and stand for justice. With your mercy, sustain us at this time as we continue to work for peace and justice.  Amen 

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    New Rules Give More New Mexicans Access to Food Stamps

    Patricia Anders, an attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, brings us a bit of good news about changes in the rules of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that will open the program to more New Mexicans.  SNAP is commonly known as "the Food Stamp program."

    The center has made SNAP one of its projects in New Mexico  Staff attorneys work extensively with government, advocates, and community organizations to protect and improve the SNAP program in our state. Read more

    "The new SNAP rules are expected to be in place in New Mexico in early spring," said Ms. Anders.  "They will allow many more families to access SNAP benefits which are 100% federally funded."

    Ms. Anders tells us that eligibility will be expanded in two ways.
    1. The asset test will be removed. Currently, most New Mexicans are ineligible for SNAP benefits if they have over $2,000 in countable assets ($3,000 for elderly or disabled households). In 2008 alone, over 1,000 families requested SNAP assistance and were turned away because of the asset test.

    Extending benefits to these families alone will bring an additional $4.3 million in federal SNAP dollars to New Mexico each year. It will also help asset development in New Mexico.

    2. The SNAP gross income test will be raised from 130% FPL (Federal Poverty Law) to 165% FPL. The Human Services Department (HSD) estimates 5,500 more families per month will qualify and that an additional $10.5 million additional SNAP benefits per year will flow into the state.
    The center works on many other issues related to poverty in New Mexico, such as homelessness, access to health care for indigent New Mexicans, and advocacy for farm workers.   Click here for full list of projects and activities.

    Soup and Dessert at Roadrunner Food Bank

    It's the Colts and the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV!
    Actually, that's wishful thinking for the big event in South Florida on Feb. 7. (It's no secret that I'm a big New Orleans fan. GEAUX SAINTS!)

    But the Super Bowl aside, I would like to bring attention to an event closer to home a week before the event in South Florida.  This event, called the Souper Bowl, will take place at Roadrunner Food Bank, 5840 Office Blvd. (cross streets Jefferson and Singer), on Saturday, January 30, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. 

    And there will be an all-star lineup for this event, which is an annual fundraiser for Roadrunner Food Bank.  You'll get to savor delectable soups and desserts from such all-stars as Chama Brewing Co., Annapurna, Saggio's and dozens of  other local restaurants. Click on the poster below to see the full lineup 

    And unlike the Super Bowl, which would lighten your wallet by several hundred dollars, admission to the Souper Bowl is only $40.  Your admission also gets you great entertainment and the chance to participate in the drawing of prizes.

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Tax on Groceries Appearing Less and Less Likely

    According to the think tank Think New Mexico and political blogs New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan and FBIHOP, the proposal to reimpose a food tax, led by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, may not have much life in this session of the State Legislature, which runs from Jan. 19 through Feb. 18.  Think New Mexico has been a leading voice against this tax on groceries.

    Think New Mexico said a growing number of members of the state House and Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, have come out in opposition to the tax. Lieutenant Gov. Diane Denish and a number of candidates for governor and lieutenant governor have also come out against the tax.  See our previous coverage of this issue.

    It's good to see so many public officials making the right decision on this issue, which would affect many poor people in our state, especially during this economic recession

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    PBS Program Examines Millennium Development Goals, "Bottom Billion"

    Thanks to The ONE Campaign blog for sharing this item.

    A new episode of the PBS program “Great Decisions” looks at the Millennium Development Goals and the state of the world’s “bottom billion”. The spot focuses on a discussion between Noam Unger of the Brookings Institute and Jonathan White of the German Marshall Fund.  Watch for a mention of ONE at about the 18-minute mark.

    Join the Catholics Confront Global Poverty Campaign

    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) have put together a campaign to recruit 1 million Catholics in the United States to join with them in efforts to confront global poverty.

    If you're Roman Catholic, this is a great opportunity to become involved efforts to end hunger, disease, conflict, and other issues that affect the lives of our brothers and sisters worldwide.

    There are opportunities to urge our government to increase international assistance, strengthen international peacekeeping and peace building efforts, push for more debt relief, reform global trade and agricultural policies, and much more.

    Click here to access the website

    Friday, January 08, 2010

    A Bread Person at the U.S. State Department

    It's about six months too late, but I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the new Under Secretary of Democracy and Global Affairs: Maria Otero.  Maria was chair of  Bread for the World's board of directors for most of the six years in which I served on that deliberative body.

    She is pictured here with Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) at a Bread for the World reception on Lobby Day in the mid-1990s.  Also pictured is Canon Burgess Carr, who was vice chair of the board that year.

    And with Rep. Steve Schiff (R-NM) at the same reception.  The late Rep. Schiff preceded Rep. Heather Wilson and Rep. Martin Heinrich in the New Mexico First Congressional District.

    Maria comes to the job with very strong credentials. Here is a quote from the State Department website
    Ms. Otero was formerly the president and CEO of ACCION International, a pioneer and leader in microfinance working in 25 countries in around the globe. Under Ms. Otero’s tenure as CEO, ACCION’s network of microfinance institutions expanded its reach from serving 460,000 people to over 3.7 million, through a combined portfolio that grew from $274 million to nearly $3.6 billion. She is a leading voice on sustainable microfinance, publishing extensively on the subject and speaking throughout the world on microfinance, women’s issues and poverty alleviation.
    (which by the way, has a passing mention of her role at Bread)

    And Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had high praise for Maria in the aftermath of her Senate confirmation back in August 2009.
    “I am proud to have Maria Otero join my team as Under Secretary of Democracy and Global Affairs in order to advance issues crucial to America’s foreign policy,” stated Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. “I look forward to working with her to address crucial challenges that face our nation and the international community.”

    Maria's presence at the State Department is even more important, given Secretary Clinton's commitment in a speech this week to make global development a higher priority for U.S. foreign policy.  See Asma Lateef's post in Institute notes.

    I saw Maria just this past summer at the dinner commemorating Bread for the World's 35th birthday.  This was a few weeks before her confirmation.  Check out this photo.

    Thursday, January 07, 2010

    Tax Policy Fights Hunger in a Recession

    (Reprinted with permission from Institute Notes, the blog of the Bread for the World Institute.  This piece offers great background for Bread for the World's 2010 Offering of Letters)

    By Todd Post

    At a time of high unemployment rates and a consensus among economists that this will be the norm for some time, it might seem like we’re aiming away from the bull’s eye by targeting tax credits for help against hunger. But Bread for the World’s 2010 Offering of Letters on tax policy changes -- specifically improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a benefit designed to increase the earnings of low-wage workers -- is dead-on accurate. 

    Let me explain why. Low-income families usually depend on two wage-earners. These are also the families most likely to lose their jobs in a high-unemployment economy. In a recession, low-income jobs vanish more quickly than middle- and high-income jobs.

    For  low-income families, the  loss of one wage-earner’s income is devastating. Fortunately, help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may now become available, when previously the family’s earnings could have been too high to qualify. Unemployment insurance also can cushion the blow. And so does the EITC.
    The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) can lift wages by up to 40 percent in some households.
    It’s true that in many families both wage-earners have lost their jobs. That’s the most tragic of all cases, and this group needs SNAP and unemployment insurance. We don’t know the numbers for sure, but in all probability, fewer families have lost two earners than one, or one of the two (and maybe both) has been forced to work fewer hours.

    Without the EITC, low-wage jobs barely allow families to escape poverty. The EITC can lift wages by up to 40 percent in some households. Anybody who discounts the EITC’s importance in a recession fails to appreciate how essential this program is to families where there is one wage-earner when there used to be two.

    The optimal solution to poverty would include something other than simply improving the EITC. A higher, regularly adjusted minimum wage, affordable health insurance and child care, more housing assistance, or legislation that makes it simpler for labor to organize are all solutions that should be part of how the country addresses inequalities in the labor market.

    But the political reality is that the present government doesn’t want to take a comprehensive approach. The tax code has become the preferred policy area lawmakers in both parties have been willing to use to help poor families. While that may not be optimal, that’s the country in which we live.

    (The author is the editor of the Bread for the World Institute's annual Hunger Report).

    Tuesday, January 05, 2010

    A Comprehensive Food Resources Directory for Albuquerque

    St. Joseph Community Health has created a comprehensive directory for local food sources called Food Resources in Your Community.  You can also find the directory under the resources listing in the website of the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger

    Kudos to Janet Page-Reeves and Linda Perez for all the hard work they put into compiling this useful resource both in English and in Spanish.

    Here are some excerpts from the report.  I have included the table of contents, which gives you an idea of how comprehensive this report really is.

    Did you know…that more than 238,000 New Mexicans have trouble getting enough to eat?
    Did you know…that more than 81,000 children in New Mexico go to bed hungry?
    Did you know…that 51% of Americans will use food stamps at some point in their lives?

    Today, more than ever, it’s hard for families to make ends meet. The cost of food and energy are going up dramatically. Many in our community have a hard time putting food on the table, and often the food people can afford is not very healthy. But we know that it is important for our kids to have a healthy diet. We know that children who don’t get enough to eat don’t do well in school and can develop health and behavioral problems.

    St. Joseph Community Health and The New Mexico Alliance for School-Based Health Care recognize the importance of helping struggling families find ways to provide good food for their families. We have put together this directory as a resource for the community. It provides information about the SNAP Program (Food Stamps), WIC benefits, TEFAP Commodity distribution sites, Share New Mexico bulk-buying sites, soup kitchens, food pantries, senior meal sites, community gardens, and summer food programs.

    We hope that you will find this resource helpful and that it will assist you in providing a nutritious diet for your family.


    8 School-Based Health Centers in Albuquerque

    10 THE SNAP (Food Stamp) PROGRAM
    10 ISD Offices in Albuquerque
    10 To Report Problems

    12 WIC Offices in Bernalillo County

    14 TEFAP Distribution Sites in Albuquerque

    18 Share Sites in Albuquerque

    20 Soup Kitchens in Albuquerque

    22 Food Pantries in Southwest Albuquerque

    23 Food Pantries in Southeast Albuquerque
    24 Food Pantries in Northwest Albuquerque
    25 Food Pantries in Northeast Albuquerque

    32 Senior Meals at Satellite Senior Centers
    33 Senior Meals at Other Sites
    33 Home-Delivered Senior Meals

    38 WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
    39 Farmers’ Markets in Bernalillo County

    42 Intergenerational Summer Food Program Sites
    43 Other Southeast Albuquerque Sites
    44 Other Northeast Albuquerque Sites
    44 Other Northwest Albuquerque Sites
    45 Other Southwest Albuquerque Sites


    A Reflection from Hubert Humphrey

    There is no such thing as an acceptable level of unemployment, because hunger is not acceptable, poverty is not acceptable, poor health is not acceptable, and a ruined life is not acceptable.
    - Hubert Humphrey,
    U.S. vice president 1965-1969

    Sunday, January 03, 2010

    Hunger in the Public Schools

    New Mexico Appleseed, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that focuses on policy solutions for poor and underserved communities, recently issued a report discussing deficiencies in the meal programs in the Albuquerque Public Schools and how the problem can be addressed in all the school systems in New Mexico.

    The organization is part of Appleseed, a network of 16 public interest justice centers in the U.S. and Mexico. The Appleseed Network is dedicated to building a just society in which opportunities are genuine, access to the law is universal and equal, and government advances the public interest. The work of New Mexico Appleseed was recently featured in the New Mexico Business Weekly.

    According to the report, entitled Full Stomachs, Full Minds, the controversy that erupted after Albuquerque Public Schools decided to give cheese sandwiches to students whose parents were in arrears in payments for school lunches is a symptom of a larger problem,  This problem, of course, is inadequate funding for school lunch (and breakfast) programs.  Here is an excerpt from the summary of the report.
    Once in awhile, if we are paying attention, we encounter a seemingly small problem that turns out to affect a huge number of people. And, if we are very lucky, that problem will have definable and manageable solutions. The Albuquerque Public School’s Alternative Lunch policy turned out to be one of those small plumes of smoke signaling a large state‐wide brush fire. I hope the “Full Stomachs ~ Full Minds” report not only helps to put out the fire, but stops it from happening again.

    When I first read about the Alternative Lunch policy promoted by the Albuquerque Public School district, I was torn. The policy gave children whose parents/guardians owed the school money for past lunches an alternative lunch of cold cheese sandwiches and milk. On one hand, the school had a debt to collect and had been generous in allowing children to charge meals on days when they had no money – hence the debt. On the other, the children receiving the alternative lunch were being punished and humiliated for something over which they had no control: whether or not their parents paid the bill.

    As I delved further into the issue, it was clear that the cheese sandwiches were merely a symptom of a larger ill: the school systems in New Mexico were, for the most part, implementing the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) such that they were losing money, leaving federal money on the table while hungry children went unfed.
    The organization's executive director Jennifer Ramo wrote more about the topic in an opinion piece that was published in the Albuquerque Journal on Jan. 2.  (Note: Sorry, you can only see the piece online if you have a subscription to the Journal,  But the gist of the piece is contained in the two excerpts below).
            Mondays are the most crowded days in the school cafeteria.
            After a weekend of empty refrigerators, children rush to the front of the line for the meal that may be the only one they have all day.
            If you peer into the procession of little round faces waiting for a tray of food — number four hasn't eaten yet today; number eight might not have dinner tonight; and number 12 is going to save her hamburger for her little brother at home.
            The statistic that 25 percent of children in New Mexico go hungry reveals itself in those Monday surges.
            New Mexico school cafeterias have become virtual soup kitchens. If you ask the student nutrition directors, they can tell you who wanted the second helping to take home for dinner. If you ask their teachers, they'll tell you those same kids aren't paying attention in class.
    And here are some recommendations:
           The recommendations largely focus on changing and implementing policies that increase the number of children being enrolled in and eating free and reduced price lunch. The more students enrolled and eating, the more reimbursement the school receives, the less each meal costs, and the more kids have full stomachs with the opportunity to have full minds.
            Recommendations include:
            • Increasing the number of schools on Provision Two, a federal program that allows schools to eliminate federal reimbursement-related overhead by giving all students in a school free lunch. New Mexico schools wait an unusually long time to utilize it.
            • Improving the direct certification process that automatically enrolls children on certain public benefits into the free and reduced price lunch program by increasing the frequency of the data matches to schools and the number of public benefit programs that can be used to directly certify children.
            • Requiring proper debt collection practices ensuring a greater debt payoff rate and fewer children being given the cheese sandwich alternative lunch.
            • Requiring adherence to the federally mandated 10-day rule for enrollment. This means schools would have to enroll or deny children within 10 days of their application or pay for those children's lunches until they process their applications.
    In the executive report, Ms Ramo points out that the report is just a starting point in the search for solutions.
    As New Mexico Appleseed’s role is to work on systemic solutions to issues disproportionately impacting the state’s underserved, we remain committed to the issues of education and hunger. We will continue to investigate the issues herein and are available for further research and collaboration.

    Christmas Throughout the Year

    I found this quote almost a week-and-a-half after Christmas.  But it's appropriate to post it now because the message applies more than ever.

    I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year.
    - David Grayson
    American author and journalist (1870-1946)

    Friday, January 01, 2010

    Starting the New Year with Bread for the World's Best-Ever Brochure

    The year 2010 begins today, and I don't have any words of wisdom, resolutions or predictions to share.   There will be plenty to write about during the coming year.

    For now, I would like to step back into the 1980s and talk a bit about my favorite Bread for the World brochure. In this day of electronic communication, I'm not sure how useful a brochure is now as opposed to what it used to be.  Still, brochures have been a big part of Bread since my involvement in the early 1980s.

    I have nothing against the brochures that have been produced before and since this one.  I just think this particular one has the clearest message of what we're all about at Bread for the World.

    The message in this brochure is very simple.  Many churches are already very good at becoming involved in projects that involve direct relief, i.e. charity.

    There is a simple question.  What Else Can I Do About Hunger?  And there are many messages:
    • "We can do more.  We have the gift of citizenship.  We can write letters and get others to write letters to support legislation that will address the structural causes of hunger.
    • We can make hunger and poverty a priority of our national policies.
    • We can make our anti-hunger efforts more effective