Saturday, February 27, 2010

Monica Mills: The Voices of Poor People Must not be Lost in the Debate

Monica Mills, Director of Government Relations at Bread for the World, talks about Bread's 2010 Offering of Letters, which focuses on changes to U.S. tax policy that will benefit low-income families.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

You're Invited to a Webinar

I'm sure most of us are very familiar with Wikipedia by now.  But Webopedia??  

There is such a site, and I came across it while looking for the definition of a Webinar.  Why was I looking for the definition, you ask?  

That's because our regional field organizer Robin Stephenson is hosting one of these events (to provide background about of 2010 Offering of Letters), and she would like to invite you to attend.  All you need is a telephone and a computer. 

Before I pass on the invitation, let me pass on the definition of "Webinar" from "Webopedia."

Short for Web-based seminar, a presentation
, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the Web.
A key feature of a Webinar is its interactive elements -- the ability to give, receive and discuss information. Contrast with Webcast, in which the data transmission is one way and does not allow interaction between the presenter and the audience.
Now to the details of  Robin's Webinar.

I especially participate in the webinar if you can't come to the Albuquerque Offering of Letters workshop on March 13. (And even if you're going to the workshop, you're welcome to join in on the webinar) 

New Mexico Webinar: 
Advocating Loaves and Fishes: Helping Families Make Ends Meet
Where: Your Phone and Computer
Time: 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM  
(Mountain Time)
Bridging the gap between low wages and life’s basic necessities like food, medicine, and housing is a struggle for hard working parents now more than ever. 

Bread for the World's 2010 Offering of Letters Campaign will focus on the erosion of income by supporting tax credits that help millions of American workers support themselves and their families.

At Bread for the World, our job is to make sure you have the tools to be effective anti-hunger advocates. This webinar is part of our effort to make Bread's resources more accessible to everyone. 

What is a webinar? Think of it as a conference call, but in addition to being on the phone, you'll be able to see the presentation we'll be doing on your computer at your home or office. Join us for this webinar and learn ways you and your friends, church and campus colleagues, and others can help reduce poverty and hunger.

Registration is free, and after you register, we'll send you simple instructions on how to participate using our toll-free conference call number and how to login online.

If you'd like to attend this event you can RSVP online

Click here to sign up

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Albuquerque's Nancy Pope Among Finalists for Hunger Award

The Conagra Foods Foundation has just chosen Nancy Pope, director of the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger, as one of five finalists for its Champions Against Child Hunger award. 

Nancy is competing against worthy candidates from Ohio, Texas, Nebraska and New York for this award.  But we want her to get the award, not only because it would recognize all the good work she has done in Albuquerque and the rest of the state, but because it also brings some new grant money home.

The grand prize winner of the Champions Against Child Hunger contest will receive:

- a three day/two night trip for two to New York, NY
- a tour of the Food Network studios (subject to availability)
- $1,000 cash as a reward for his or her advocacy against child hunger
- $5,000 donation by ConAgra Foods Foundation made in their name to Share Our Strength, Feeding America, Feeding America food bank, or a recognized charitable hunger relief organization of the finalist's choice

So please vote for Nancy by clicking on this link. (Be sure to scroll down if you need to. Nancy was listed fourth on the ballot on Feb. 24).  You have until March 19 to cast your votes, and you can participate one time each day per computer.  

"You can vote...once at work and once at home," says Sarah Newman of the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger.
Not only that.  Please urge all your friends, colleagues and family to vote too. 

And every time you vote ConAngra Foods will donate $1 to Feeding America. 

By the way, here's what the ballot says about her:

Lent: Transformation, Not Denial

In the God's Politics blog (Sojourners), author Julie Clawson writes a great piece about Lent and the practice of sacrifice.  This reflection really speaks to me.
But for a long time I thought it was. Everything I heard about Lent revolved around acts of self-denial. It was all about what object or habit one would give up and how hard it was to deny oneself of that thing. Of course that denial was meant to help one think about God and Christ’s sacrifice, but in truth the focus was always on the act of denial itself. The question always is, “what are you giving up for Lent?” as if that is what the season is about.

On one hand it’s understandable that we miss the point of Lent. In our religious traditions rituals and legalism are far easier to promote, understand, and implement than spirituality and faith. We can grasp rules. It is far easier to tell kids to obey rules than to explain to them why they should desire to act rightly. They then end up following the rules simply because the rules exist. When it comes to Lent we often do the same, denying ourselves something for the sake of denial. We give up chocolate or Facebook, thinking the act of denial is the purpose of Lent. And we end up missing the point.

But Lent isn’t about denial; it is about transformation. It is the season in which we prepare to encounter Christ’s sacrifice by endeavoring to become more Christ like ourselves.
Read full reflection

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Staggering Numbers

790 million
850 million
960 million

Do these numbers mean anything to you?

Let me just say that they do not represent good news in any way. In fact, quite the opposite.

These figures represent the number of chronically hungry people in the world: those consuming under 1,800 calories a day.

What makes the numbers (from the World Bank's 2009 Global Monitoring Report) more significant is that they get progressively worse. The one on the left is for 2000, the one in the middle is for 2007 and the one on the far right is for 2008. 

And it gets even worse.

By mid-October 2009, the figure had risen to over 1 billion people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, U.N. consultant Justin Frewen said in an opinion piece written for and dated Feb. 21. To put this in perspective, this total exceeds the combined population of the European Union, the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Frewen notes that "despite the expenditure of billions of dollars on development aid and the launch of high-profile initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals, the blight of hunger has not been defeated. If anything, its grip on hundreds of millions of people is as tight as ever.

It is important to remember that deaths caused by hunger are generally the result of chronic malnutrition rather than starvation, said Frewen, who has worked in the area of development for the U.N. since 1997.

Frewen argues that the problem is structural.
Tragically, this situation exists in a "world of plenty" where, despite a 70 percent population increase over the past 30 years, agriculture globally is producing 17 percent more calories per person today than it was then. We would appear, therefore, to live in a world where hundreds of millions go to bed hungry simply because they are too poor to be able to purchase sufficient food.
But he does offer a solution
What is required is a complete rethinking of the manner in which agricultural production in the South, and indeed in the North, is viewed almost exclusively in terms of its market value, with scant consideration being given to the nutritional needs of people, particularly those living in poverty.
There is much more to this thought-provoking Op-Ed piece than the few snippets I have thrown out there.  I recommend that you read the full article 

Lent: Walking in God's Time

At New Life Presbyterian Church, we are taking "a long, loving look" at our world this Lent.  
Our intention is to slow down and savor the special feel of this season of preparation for new life. 

The theme for our labyrinth walk on the second Sunday in Lent (*Feb. 28), is Time.  Let's take a long, loving look at time by walking in God's time.  
Rev. Kay Huggins
Note: The labyrinth shown in the above picture is located at the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque

*If you live in the Albuquerque area,
New Life Presbyterian Church, 5540 Eubank Blvd. NE (map),  cordially invites you to join them in their labyrinth walk, starting with a reflection at 6:30 p.m., the walk at 7:15, p.m., and time to connect socially afterwards.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Our Journey Continues with Emerging Christianity

The Center for Action and Contemplation hosted what I consider a milestone event in April of 2009: The Emerging Church Conference.

The values that the "emerging church" promotes include a fresh understanding of Jesus, a spirituality that links contemplation and action, a connection between spirituality and a holistic mission, and the development of authentic community.  Read the blog post I wrote last year after the conference.

What the conference did was to bring together many people of faith, groups and institutions that practice these values.  It was a marvelous, uplifting event.  The different participants then went home with new connections and ideas of how to strengthen their communities and denominations.  

Many people weren't able to attend last year's conference, so the CAC is offering folks an opportunity to learn more about emerging Christianity.  

There is also an opportunity for those who attended last year to share about how the experience from last year has transformed their worship community.

So here is information about this year's conference.

The Emerging Church:
Our Journey Continues with...
HOW we get there determines WHERE we arrive 

Continuing on with the exploration begun at last year’s Emerging Church conference, the CAC is thrilled to invite you to another large gathering of Roman Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical, and other Christians seeking to explore this emergence and convergence together. We hope to inspire and challenge you with the lens of non-dual thinking, a new politics and a new theology rooted in the "third way."

Join the CAC for
for 3 days of spiritual enrichment, challenge and shared exploration as we envision what the Christian community can be and do in this generation and in generations to come.

Friday, April 9 –
Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town, 

Albuquerque, NM

There will be five great presenters this year: Diana Butler Bass, Brian McClaren, Rev. Cynthia Bourgealt, Phd, Shane Claiborne, and Father Richard Rohr, o.f.m.  

REGISTER.  (On-line registration deadline is April 4).

Bread for the World will have a display table.  Please drop by and say hello. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lent: A Reflection on Hunger and Prayer

[The author is a former staff member at the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque and published poet.  She wrote this during a trip with CAC interns to Ciudad Juarez in 2009.  This is reprinted with her permission from her blog Through the Distances ] 

By Kelsea Habecker

My first night in Juarez, I sat out on the roof and prayed.

I use the word prayer with difficulty. For me, the word is fraught with connotations and contexts that no longer feel applicable. The word prayer feels too heavy-handed and too directed. Meditation, or being still in awareness of the presence of Divine Being, is probably closest to what I actually do, but the word meditation itself connotes a stance that feels too impersonal.

And the term that bridges and combines the two is contemplative prayer, which, though more and more what I aspire those prayerful yearnings within me to become, is just plain bulky in nomenclature. For me, there's no one term that quite captures it.

Whatever it’s called, what happened is this: my heart was crying out.

The second night, sitting on the roof, I heard a small dog whining in hunger in the courtyard below. I climbed down to get her to bring her up to the roof and to hold her and pet her.

I suddenly remember a smashed sandwich in the bottom of my backpack, leftover from lunch the previous day. I got it out and began breaking off pieces of it. She licked peanut butter from my fingers between bites. As I fed her, a stray cat appeared on the roof and watched the meal in progress, licking her lips. I held out a piece of sandwich to her, and she came to join us.

They both ate eagerly. Then, for a few moments, we three sat there together under the nearly-full moon and became still.

A while later, when I finally retreated to my hot bed, the dog whined outside my window for hours, hungry for more. When I awoke at dawn a few hours later, the cat was waiting outside the door, hoping for additional food.

Both nights, I realize, were spent in prayer. At its essence, prayer is calling out. Prayer is waiting on what feeds us. Prayer is feeding what is hungry.

The next day, I swear to God, the dog—whose ribs jutted out through her matted, tick-coated fur—approached me quietly, and laid her bone at my feet.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

If You Ignore this Post Card

You'll hurt the feelings of Jessie Bullock, the administrative assistant at the Bread office in Portland...

Seriously, Jessie did such a great job creating this post card for our Offering of Letters workshop on March 13 at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, 9:30 to Noon.   If you live in the Albuquerque area (including Corrales, Rio Rancho, Belen, Los Lunas), the post card out ought to be in your mail box very soon!

Anyway, the workshop is just a few weeks from today, so mark your calendars.

And there is more reason to come. We have a couple of great experts who will share with us their knowledge and experience about the Earned Income Tax Credit.  You probably already know that an expert from the New Mexico Voices for Children will speak to us about the work of their organization on the EITC at the state level, as well as their work on other initiatives that help poor families in our state.

But we have a new speaker to add to the program: Melissa Binder, Associate professor of Economics at the University of New Mexico.  Melissa also has extensive knowledge of the EITC and how it can help low-income families.

So please join us.   (For a video and other information about the Offering of Letters, please visit our earlier blog post).

And if you flip the post card over, here is the text:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lent: Walking the Walk

When we think about laying down a life for another we usually think in terms of a singular event.  But it is possible for us to lay down our lives over the course of a lifetime, minute by minute and day by day. And it is the work of the Spirit to empower us as we seek to lose ourselves in acts of lovingkindness and sacrificial living.

- Elaine Puckett, professor at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia

(Thanks to Sojourners for this quote.  Pictured in the photo are Sister Jane Remson and Sister Helen Ojario, Bread for the World members in New Orleans)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Starting Lent: A Homeless Persons Memorial Vigil

Lent and Advent are a alike in many ways. Both are times for preparation and prayer, reflection and simplicity, and spiritual growth and conversion, and solidarity with the poor.

That's why the first reflection I am posting during the Lenten season is about an event that actually occurred during this past Advent season: the annual march & vigil remembering the homeless men and women who lost their lives over the past year.  The vigil took place on Dec. 10, 2009.

My wife Karen, who is a Client Advocate at St. Martin's Hospitality Center in Albuquerque, takes great pains every year to put together the most comprehensive list for the vigil so that no one is forgotten.

Then a wonderful group of dedicated people who serve the homeless community, in partnership with some of the members of that community, put together a ceremony of rememberance.

Below is the clip from KOB Channel 4 News in Albuquerque.   Like most news clips, you don't get the whole story. (And there is a commercial before the segment).

But below the video is great a reflection on the vigil through the eyes of Ana Leite Powell, who is originally from Fortaleza, Brazil.  She is also on the staff of Martin's.

In her blog, Coluna da Milk, Ana Cristina Leite Powell writes about the Albuquerque Persons Homeless Vigil 

Rather than translate the entire piece, I am reprinting just a few loosely translated excerpts.  Read full post in Portuguese
The death rate among people who do not have a permanent home is much higher than among the general population.  And the causes of death are so incredible.  A person who lives on the street can die quickly from the flu or viral pneumonia.  We have clients who freeze to death, and others are victims of random violence...

Before the vigil, people gather at the patio of Healthcare for the Homeless...Participants prepare to walk through downtown to the church.  My job, along with other St. Martin's staff people, was to organize this walk...When we arrived at the church, we all received a candle.  Some of the candles had the name of one of the persons we were remembering. This year, there were 66 people who died on the street.  Some of them were our clients, including an 18-year-old. 

The ceremony inside the church was very beautiful, including the opening comments by a minister...the music...the poetry...I cried a lot...especially when they played the song In My Life by the Beatles, and also when a Native American sang some songs from the Sioux tradition.

After all this, we lit the candles in the name of each person and read his or her name out loud.  Then there was a moment of silence when we all blew out the candles at the same time.  This was a very intense moment!

The vigil ended with all of us singing We Shall Overcome.   I cried again.

My thoughts at the moment were that there was nothing better than ending my work year with a ceremony like this one: walking alongside our clients, listening to what they had to tell us, singing and praying together, and celebrating the memory of of those who lived anonymously in the streets of Albuquerque.

Oh my God, I am crying again as I write this. (Sighs)  :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Seeking the New Generation of Hunger Justice Leaders

In a world of plenty, hunger is an outrage.

You have a chance to be part of the solution—to change history for hungry people. Don’t miss this opportunity to change our world, and yours.

Bread for the World is looking for the best and brightest 20- to 30-year-old advocates to join our next class of Hunger Justice Leaders.

Selected participants will attend an advocacy training workshop—all expenses paid—in Washington, D.C., June 12-15, 2010.

Do you have what it takes to be a Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader? Or do you know someone who does? Click here and also on video below

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Albuquerque Artists Invite You to Haiti Benefit Concert

                                                click on image to see full poster

An eclectic group of Albuquerque artists have united for a Haiti Benefit Concert to provide immediate disaster relief for earthquake survivors. Haitians from Albuquerque are on the ground in Haiti helping their communities and your support is needed! Racine Kreyol Cultural Arts, one of the sponsors of the concert, urges you to join them for an exciting night of music, dancing, delicious Caribbean food and solidarity!

What: Haiti Benefit Concert: Albuquerque Artists Unite for the Cause
When: Saturday, February 20, 2010. 7:00 PM – Midnight
Where: El Rey Theatre, 620 Central Ave. SW 87102
Cost: $20, $15 for students (with ID) and seniors

If you want tickets in advance, please contact Kiley Jeanelle Guyton or or visit the Racine Kreyol Cultural Arts website.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Coming Wednesday: A Movie about Organic Farming

On Wednesday, February 17, La Montañita Cooperative and Community Radio KUNM will show the movie, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.  Doors open at 6:00 p.m.   Suggested donation $5.00

Here is a description, followed by a trailer.
The epic tale of a maverick Midwestern farmer, THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN documents the dramatic failure of Farmer John's conventional farming operation and its resurrection into a thriving, organic Community Supported Agriculture farm. By Melding the traditions of family farming with the power of art and free expression, the quintessentially American story heralds a resurrection of farming in America.

Sharon Thornberry : Our Efforts Need to be Framed as Justice Work

Sharon Thornberry, a member of the Bread board who works for the Oregon Food Bank, reflected on the 2010 Offering of Letters.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lee de Leon: Advocacy Matters

Lee de Leon, from Templo Calvario in Santa Ana, Ca., talks about letters to Congress and how they make a huge difference.  Rev. de Leon made these comments in the context of Bread for the World's 2010 Offering of Letters, which focuses on changes to U.S. tax policy that will benefit low-income families.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Nancy Arnison: Putting Dollars in the Hands of Working Families

A handful of Bread staff and board members taped videos endorsing the 2010 Offering of Letters. Here is a reflection from Nancy Arnison from the ELCA World Hunger Program.

Can You Legislate Nutrition?

Food fight? Well, not exactly.

Fight against Food Tax.  More like it.

In fact, there was a tortilla rally at the New Mexico state capitol on Friday afternoon.  

Here's why.  Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee overwhelmingly approved SB 10, which reinstates a gross receipts tax for some grocery items, including processed foods. 

While this is not the all-encompassing food tax we feared, it does apply to some basic food items.

First, let me give a big hooray for the list of exempt items, which include fresh fruit, vegetables, cereal, tofu, beans, legumes, most types of cheese and whole-grain bread and tortillas.  But under the bill, items produced with white flour, like bread tortillas,  and noodles, would now be subject to a tax, along with junk food and soda pop. 

Sen. Bernadette Sanchez, a Democrat from Albuquerque who was the lead sponsor of the bill, says this initiative is designed to encourage healthy eating.  And her fellow Democrats and most of the Republicans in the Senate Finance Committee agree.   "This might be the auspices of getting eating habits changed," Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort, a Republican from Sandia Park, told the Albuquerque Journal.  Here is a link to the full story if you have a subscription to the Journal.

This is a very commendable goal.  But there is a major flaw with this thinking.  Everyone knows that whole-wheat and whole-grain breads and tortillas are more expensive (sometimes much more expensive) than their less nutritious counterparts.   So unless we bring down the price of those other products, the cost of eating is still going to go up for low-income families.  

Also, I am not confident that simply raising the price of these products will encourage better eating habits.  They must be accompanied by a major nutrition education initiative.  I do not see the Senate Finance Committee making this parallel move.  “We should not be having a debate between white bread and brown bread, Allen Sanchez of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops (NMCCB) said at the tortilla rally. (Read full story in New Mexico Independent, and see video from the Independent at the bottom of this post)

So this is more about raising the $138 million in revenues for the state treasury than it is about the nutritional needs of New Mexicans.   

Here's evidence that it's all about revenues and not nutrition (from the Journal story):
The food tax measure is the largest revenue-generator of a budget package on its way to the Senate floor. The Senate Finance Committee overhauled the House-approved $5.6 billion budget, which featured smaller spending cuts and larger tax increases.
Don't get me wrong, most of us are willing to start paying taxes on soda pop, the occasional bag of chips, ketchup, mustard, some canned goods and other products to help create new revenues for the state.  But I don't think  half-hearted efforts at promoting nutrition will do anyone any good. 

And fortunately, this fight is not over.   While SB 10 has a chance of passing in the full Senate, the House is on record as opposing the type of tax proposed by the Senate Finance Committee.   The House would increase the gross receipts tax by 1/2 cent across the board instead of the selective food tax.  

But I think there is a compromise (possibly in conference committee). Sodas and junk food and some processed items should still be taxed, but white bread, macaroni and cheese, and other similar items should also be exempt.   And maybe a gross receipts tax of 1/4 cent could also be imposed.

Stay tuned.   Meantime, here is a video of the Tortilla Rally

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mark Your Calendars: 2010 Offering of Letters Workshop

Advocating Loaves & Fishes
Helping Families Make Ends Meet

2010 Offering of Letters Workshop
Saturday, March  13
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
5301 Ponderosa Ave. NE 
(one block east of San Mateo, across from Montgomery Park)

Learn about the 2010 Offering of Letters, which will urge Congress to adopt changes to U.S. tax policy that will benefit low-income families, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Credit Read More

Click here to access the special 2010 Offering of Letters website.

We will view the video, discuss strategies and details about this year's campaign.  (Click here to see blog post with video from this year's campaign).

Guest Speaker:
Expert from the New Mexico Voices for Children

The organization has been a leading advocate for expanding the EITC in New Mexico through the Working Poor Families Project.

Read the the organization's 2005 WPFP report, The Path to a High Road Economy: Investing in People, Creating Opportunity (pdf file), which details how work supports would benefit New Mexico's working families.

New Mexico Voices for Children is well known throughout the state for its Kids Count report, which identifies and tracks indicators of Child Well Being. 

In 2009, some 20 churches participated in our Offering of Letters campaign, generating more than 2,000 letters.  Please join us this year.
More Background

Many low income-workers live on the edge of a financial cliff. Bridging the gap between low-income pay and life’s basic necessities is a struggle for many hard working parents.   

Bread for the Worlds 2010 Offering of Letters will focus on the erosion of income by supporting tax credits that help millions of American workers support themselves and their families.    

The call to seek justice for hungry and poor people requires the Christian voice to move compassion to a level beyond charity; we must advocate for better government policies that help more families put sufficient food on their tables.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Help Us Celebrate International Women's Day with "Half the Sky "

Join the New Mexico chapter of the Care Action Network  (CAN) in celebrating International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 4, featuring the movie Half the Sky (see trailer below).

Be inspired to help women and girls everywhere turn oppression into opportunity. 

The movie will be shown at theaters nationwide.  In Albuquerque, join us at:
Regal Cottonwood 
10000 Coors Blvd NW
7:30 p.m.
The movie will also be shown at Century 24 Theaters and at Century 14 Theaters downtown.  Those shows also start at 7:30. (Thanks to Michelle Meaders for the tip)
Tickets can be purchased online or at the Theater Box Office

Inspired by the bestselling book from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, this will be an exciting night of musical performances, celebrity commentary and uplifting stories about women and girls overcoming tremendous obstacles.

Hosted by Andrea Mitchell and featuring musical performances, celebrity commentary and the world premiere of “Woineshet,” a short film by Academy Award® winner Marisa Tomei and Lisa Leone.
Woineshet is a new film about a poor Ethiopian girl who ultimately triumphs over sexual violence and discrimination. As a teenager from a small village in Ethiopia, Woineshet and her family bravely fought against brutal local traditions of rape and forced marriage. The co-directorial debut of Marisa Tomei and Lisa Leone, “Woineshet” is an adaptation of this brave and inspirational true story. 
Also with appearances from, India.Arie, Maria Bello, Diane Birch, Michael Franti, Dr. Helene Gayle, Angelique Kidjo, Nicholas Kristof, Marisa Tomei, Melanne Verveer, Sarah, Duchess of York and others.

Since Century Theaters is only allowing CAN to speak at the Cottonwood location, please join us there if you can. Keith West-Harrison, CAN's volunteer state coordinator in New Mexico, will also speak briefly about the work of CARE and hand out information about the organization's projects.  He will also mention the local work of other organizations. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Phoenix City Council Approves Tax on Meat, Vegetables and Milk

Remember how we appear to be rebuffing efforts in New Mexico to reinstate a tax on basic groceries?  

That doesn't seem to be the case in the largest city in our neighhboring state of Arizona.  According to the Arizona Republic, the Phoenix City Council approved a 2% sales tax on basic groceries for a period of five years.  The tax is due to take effect on April 1 and expire after five years. 

Phoenix has not taxed food items since the 1960s. But authorities claim the revenues from the tax are needed to fund police, firefighters and other city operations.

Here's an excerpt from a recent article
The tax on milk, meat, vegetables and other food purchased by shoppers will generate an estimated $12.5 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30. It will raise another $50 million for fiscal 2011.
Read full article

The proponents attempted to reduce public opposition to the tax by including a clause that exempts food purchased with food stamps.

And there is still a small chance that the Phoenix food tax could still be reversed.  Mayor Phil Gordon said the City Council has the option of reversing its decision after it hears from the public during 15 budget hearings planned for February.

Thanks to Cathy Brechtelsbauer of Sioux Falls, S.D.,for the heads up on this article.  Cathy has been a leading voice in the effort to repeal the food tax in South Dakota.

Cathy doesn't think there should be a food tax anywhere because it has a disproportionate impact on low-income families.  Here's what she says about the Phoenix effort. 
Please urge people to contact folks they know in Phoenix and ask them to speak up at the public meetings and to the city council asking for a reversal of this decision to tax food. They could ask for tax on non-essentials.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Photo from Marge Williams Farewell


Dozens of friends and activists showed up on Sunday, February 7, to the farewell party for Marge Williams, one of our most loyal Bread members in Albuquerque.  Marge is moving to Florida at the end of the month.  See previous post.

Photo courtesy of Gay Dybwad

Saturday, February 06, 2010

In Case You Needed More Evidence

How many times around the block would a line of 40,000 people go?  That's a hypothetical question, of course.  But that figure of 40,000 is real.

An article in this morning's Albuquerque Journal, which quotes the New Mexico Association of Food Banks, reports that 40,000 people rely on the local community or church pantry to get food assistance each week.  (If you have an online or a delivered subscription to the Journal, you can access the article with this link). 
That's more than the population of some cities in New Mexico.  Imagine if the entire population of Farmington or Alamogordo required food assistance every week!

NMAFB director Kathy Komoll said the figures are especially worrisome because an increasing number of children and elderly in our state are requiring food assistance.

Furthermore, she noted, the figure of 40,000 may not reflect the full extent of emergency food needs in our state.  Even though 40,000 people are being served, there are others who are going to be turned away. There are pantries that run out of food halfway through the month, said Ms. Komoll.

On top of that, the New Mexico Human Services Department said more than 142,000 New Mexicans were using food stamps in December 2009, a 30 percent increase from December 2008. 

The NMAFB arrived at the figure of 40,000 based on interviews with 450 people seeking food assistance and 450 food providers.   The association compiled the statistics as part of its contribution to the Hunger in America 2010 report, published by Feeding America (formerly known as America's Second Harvest). 

Here's a short description:
Hunger in America 2010 is the largest study of domestic hunger, providing comprehensive and statistically-valid data on our emergency food distribution system and the people Feeding America serves. Hunger in America 2010 is extremely detailed, drawing on data from more than 61,000 interviews with clients and surveys of 37,000 feeding agencies.

The report shows that hunger is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States, and our network is expanding its reach in response
The problem is staggering, and we can help by contributing time or money to our local food banks.  But perhaps you already volunteer many hours and already give a significant donation.

There are other systemic ways to address hunger and poverty in our country.  One such way is the 2010 Bread for the World Offering of Letters, which seeks to expand tax breaks for the working poor, especially the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit.  Changes in these programs could make huge difference in the amount of money that low-income people have available to meet their basic needs.   (Check out a previous post in the Bread for the World New Mexico blog, which contains a couple of videos)

Taize Community: Prayers for Haiti on the 12th of the Month

Echoing a suggestion made by a youth from Haiti, the Taizé Community invites everyone who is able to pray for the people of Haiti, either singly or in a group, the 12th of each month for 12 months following the earthquake of January 12.


Visiting Haïti in 1983, Brother Roger (founder of the Taizé community) stayed at Cité-Soleil, a slum in Port-au-Prince.  (Photo from Taizé website)

The Taize community has developed a wonderful sequence of prayers and songs for Feb.12, ending with this closing prayer:
God our hope, we entrust to you the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Dismayed by the incomprehensible suffering of the innocent, we ask you to inspire the hearts of those who are trying to provide the aid which is so indispensable. We know how deep the faith of the Haitian people is. Strengthen the downhearted; console those who are weeping; send your Spirit of compassion on this people which has been so sorely tried.
Click here to see full sequence of prayers and songs for Feb. 12

Friday, February 05, 2010

All the Resources You Need for the 2010 Offering of Letters

Bread for the World has created a special website dealing just with the 2010 Offering of Letters.  The campaign urges Congress to adopt changes to U.S. tax policy, particularly the Earned Income Tax Credit, that will benefit low-income families.

Click here to access the special 2010 Offering of Letters website.

And here are a couple of videos related to the letter-writing campaign. The first 8-minute video is the one that comes with your Offering of Letters packet.   In the second video, Deborah Blue, from the Evangelical Covenant Church, talks about the Offering of Letters.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

When Robin Speaks, People Listen

Remember that old TV commercial where a brokerage company was promoting itself saying, "when [our company] speaks, people listen..."

Well, I've got a great listen for you.  Our western regional field organizer Robin Stephenson was featured in the February edition of Breadcast.

Robin was joined by fellow organzer LaVida Davis, who is based in Chicago, in telling us how activists in their regions are mobilizing to end hunger.

(O.K, Robin, you made me blush in a bright intense red. She mentions me a couple of times).

Says LaVida:
It’s about people power. It’s about the work of everyday folks.

LaVida mentioned a couple of people for whom I have great respect
  • Derick Dailey, an impressive young man who has done a great job organizing at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo.  Derick, Rebecca Van Der Muelen and I had the privilege of offering reflections at the 2009 National Gathering in Washington around the theme of our 35th anniversary: Rejoice (me), Hope (Derick) and Act (Rebecca).  Derick was featured in a previous Breadcast.
  • Cindy Changyit Levin, a fellow anti-hunger and anti-poverty blogger and an activist extraordinaire in the Chicago area
The Breadcast also includes an update from Monica Mills, Bread’s director of government relations, about the progress of foreign aid reform on Capitol Hill, and Joy Ike, a Nigerian-born singer-songwriter, gives us music for the journey with her smooth jazz sounds

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

You Go Rochelle!

Check out this cool promo from The ONE Campaign, featuring my friend Rochelle Gibbs from Minnesota.  This 1-minute message below is part of ONE's initiative called  "Women ONE2ONE" 
Here is what it's all about:
It's all about women taking action and connecting with each other to fight poverty. With every voice we add, we can help send another young girl to school, help an HIV-positive expecting mother keep from passing the virus on to her baby, and help another woman find the courage to speak out against oppression and corruption.
The concept is simple. Join one million women (and men) to raise our voices and demand the things we know make a difference: putting kids in schools, enabling women entrepreneurs, allowing women to run for office.   

Click here to take the pledge
(And you don't have to be a woman to take this pledge.  Men AND Women can support the empowerment of women).

Here is why Rochelle strongly supports this initiative:
I joined ONE because I'm a mom. I saw what other mothers go through in developing countries, the difficult decisions they have to make and their incredible strength. I could only imagine how I'd feel in one of their place

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Thomas Awaiapo to Speak About his Journey

Catholic Relief Services Presents
The Story of Ghana’s THOMAS AWIAPO: How Operation Rice Bowl Saved a Life

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Archdiocese of Santa Fe Catholic Center, Sandia Room
4000 St. Joseph Place NW, Albuquerque
This free program will include information about using Operation Rice Bowl in your family and parish.
Thomas Awiapo has a truly inspiring story of survival and success. Orphaned before the age of ten, Thomas endured bleak poverty and hunger in his small African village in Ghana until Operation Rice Bowl saved his life through a food program at a school started by CRS. He eventually won scholarships to attend college and later earned a Master's degree from California State University.

His story of initiative and his joyful presence has brought inspiration to thousands of people in the U.S. Thomas is in the U.S. visiting schools and parishes during Lent to thank U.S. Catholics for participating in Operation Rice Bowl.
Read more in Empowered for Life: The Thomas Awiapo Story  and/or watch this great video