Friday, March 26, 2010

Lent: Grace and Prayer

Grace begins and ends prayer. Grace is what we call what is left over after the scouring of the self, the dying into self. Grace is what was there before we ever looked at ourselves in prayer. Grace gives us our initial impulse to pray.
- Ann Belford Ulanov, from her book Picturing God

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lent: Washing of Feet: A Community of Compassion

                            Click on image to see full flyer

Washing someone's feet is a traditional sign of hospitality in some ancient civilizations, particularly in areas like the Middle East, where people wore sandals.  Even in those occasions where people wore shoes, the water was offered as a courtesy.  The practice is mentioned several times in the Bible, including Genesis, 1 Samuel, and Timothy.

Here at home, the Albuquerque Rescue Mission has invited members of the local homeless community to have their feet washed on Saturday, March 27.  But that's not all. The treatment during this event begins with a warm soaking of their feet, followed by lotion and a new pair of socks. It also provides examinations and basic health care for the homeless and a nutritious meal to follow.
Washing the feet of the homeless is done for two reasons: it is something that Jesus Christ would do; it is something that Jesus Christ DID do. After that, Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:5  

Many who are homeless and on the streets seldom have normal loving human contact. This outreach of foot washing with podiatric care is a way of inviting the homeless to learn about the Missions services, including the New Life Program for men and women which gives them the ability to get off the streets permanently. 
-Albuquerque Rescue Mission

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dreaming New Mexico: Food Sustainability and a Fair Trade State

Many of us go to the supermarket without giving a thought about the origin of the food we buy.  Did you know that New Mexico imports 95 percent of the food we consume?   On top of that, we export 95 percent of the food we grow. What is wrong with this picture? 

This is one of the issues that was discussed at the Dreaming New Mexico Food System Summit on March 10-11 in Santa Fe.  The summit brought together food advocates with members of the private sector, government and Native American tribes.

Dreaming New Mexico is a Bioneers collaborative project that seeks to reconcile nature and cultures at a state level with visionary solutions.

The centerpiece of Dreaming New Mexico’s “Age of Localized Foodsheds and a Fair Trade State” is a “future map” and companion booklet that depict both the state of the State’s food system and the “dreams” of what it could be – positive scenarios for change. 

Chances are you didn't hear about the conference because there was very little coverage in the local media. I couldn't find anything about this in the New Mexican (Santa Fe). The Albuquerque Journal had a nice story, but it was buried in page 3 of the Wednesday Food Section. I gleaned some good information from the Journal's story.

Peter Warshall, co-director of Dreaming New Mexico, mentioned a couple of trends that could impact the state's food supply:

Loss of farms, farmers, ranches and ranchers
  • Midsize farms are becoming extinct across the country
  • In New Mexico, only 4 percent of farmers are under age 35
New Mexico has no program for saving farms.  If the state has a program, you can get matching federal funding, said Warshall.

Global climate change
  • Could affect growing cycles
  • Could give rise to new pathogens and pests
But the conference also addressed some solutions and positive trends and offered some recommendations.  One that I found especially interesting was the proposal to turn New Mexico into a "Fair Trade" state.  What does that mean?  According to the conference organizers, this means instituting policies that help poor New Mexico farmers.  

And there was also the plan to promote the concept of eating locally and seasonally by extending growing seasons with hoop houses and greenhouses.  Warshall said it would be reasonable for New Mexicans to set a goal of increasing the amount of local food they eat by 2 percent.

The dialogue will continue, and hopefully some actions will come soon.  But there is definitely a commitment in our state to make some changes.
New Mexico can be a national leader in advancing a far more localized, prosperous, equitable and environmentally resilient food system, said Bioneers Co-CEO and founder Kenny Ausubel, who is co-director of the project. We have a wealth of great people and groups working hard on these issues, and many very smart public officials who understand the importance of these issues – both on the ground and to voters.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

'A Right Relationship' (A Conversation about Justice in Las Cruces)

click on image to see full poster

In most languages, the word for “justice” is the same as the word for “righteousness.” This is true in both Hebrew and Greek languages, the languages from which our bible is translated. In Spanish, the word is “justicia.”

These words all mean "right relationship" -- right relationship with God (righteousness) and right relationship with people (justice). Jesus summarized this as “Loving God” and “Loving neighbor.”

Come join Bread for the World organizer Robin Stephenson for an evening of exploration and discussion on how the idea of “right relationship” can influence the world we live in today. 

We will also look at this year’s Offering of Letters video and discuss how helping low-income families make ends meet can be a reflection of God’s love for all.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 

7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. 
 Peace Lutheran Church
1701 E. Missouri Ave.
Las Cruces

For more information and to reserve space, contact:
LaVerne Kaufman, 382-7430
Jessie Bullock Bread Western Region Office

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lent: Responding to the Need

Rosie Chinea, the campus minister at Aquinas Newman Center at the University of New Mexico, wrote a very touching piece about Thomas Awiapo in her blog.  Mr. Awiapo is going around the country to promote Operation Rice Bowl, a program sponsored by Catholic Relief Services during the Lenten season (and beyond the Lenten season). He was in Albuquerque just last week. His presentations are especially powerful because Operation Rice Bowl actually helped him when he was growing up as an orphan in Ghana. Here is an excerpt from Rosie's piece.
One day he smelled some food being cooked not too far away. He walked to the food and it was a school that was built by CRS. They were enticing kids to come to school by giving them a snack and a hot lunch; both of which were provided by the project Operation Rice Bowl. He went to school not because he wanted to learn but because he wanted to eat. Thomas stated that he would sometimes try and trick the teachers in giving him the snack without having to learn. But CRS and the teachers they hired were too smart. 
But I especially like the way in which Rosie described how she was touched by the talk.
Working in the Church, I don't make a salary that gives me a lot of flexibility in how I spend. However, hearing the story of Thomas today has empowered me to give out of what I don't have. I don't mean that I am going to go in debt giving to people who need it. What I mean is that I will give up something I want to give to someone who needs. I am living in wealth, whether I realize it or not, and others are barely living. Giving from a place where it might hurt a little bit for me will help someone eat and survive.
Read Rosie's complete piece

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"The Best Anti-Poverty Program We've Had"

It was one of those beautiful Saturday mornings in Albuquerque.  This was the type of early-Spring day when locals usually start yard work or go on bike rides or hikes or take the kids or grandkids to a soccer game.  But how many Albuquerqueans spend the morning indoors learning about the Earned Income Tax Credit?

Believe it or not, 25 people gave up their Saturday morning to attend the 2010 Offering of Letters workshop at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church. 

There were representatives from Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Unitarian, United Methodist, Mennonite, United Church of Christ, and Presbyterian congregations.  One person even drove about 2 1/2 hours from Gallup to attend the workshop!

They listened to a University of New Mexico economist and the communications director for the New Mexico Voices for Children speak to us about the issue.

Our speakers were very informative, and their presentations sparked much discussion.  Rather than publish a full summary of their comments, I just want to share a couple of highlights.

Why the EITC is so popular in Congress

Melissa Binder (pictured at left with a conference participant), a labor economist at the University of New Mexico, enlightened us with background information about the Earned Income Tax Credit, and why it gets so much support from members of both parties. 

Why does [the Earned Income Tax Credit] get so much bipartisan support?  What this does, it makes minimum-wage jobs pay 40 percent more. So if a minimum wage job is $7.25/an hour...that makes the minimum wage actually about $10 hour, she said.

Dr. Binder pointed out that another reason why the EITC gets so much support, as opposed to direct assistance programs like TANF, is that it rewards people who work.  But she also suggested that our country lags far behind other wealthy nations in providing for the overall well-being of their citizens. 
If a minimum wage job is $7.25/an hour...the Earned Income Tax Credit makes the minimum wage actually about $10 hour.  
 -Melissa Binder, Associate Professor of Economics, UNM 
How New Mexico came to have a state-level EITC

New Mexico is one of 23 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have enacted their own state-level Earned Income Tax Credit.  The state EITC is applied on top of the federal credit.

The New Mexico Voices for Children played a significant role in getting our state to adopt an EITC.  Here is an account from Sharon Kayne (pictured below), the organization's communications director.

In December 2005, our policy director Bill Jordan went up to Santa Fe and spent five minutes with Gov. Bill Richardson, and said, "You know, it would be really great it we had a state-level Earned Income Tax Credit that returns some state money to the people that qualify for the federal program..."

Gov. Richardson knows all about the federal Earned Income Tax Credit because he had been a member of the U.S. Congress. He knew that it had a lot bipartisan support, so he got that right away.  And he said, that's one of the best anti-poverty programs we've ever had.  And he asked, "Do other states do this on this same level?"  And Bill Jordan said, "Yeah they do."  And the governor turns to his assistants and says "Go talk to Bill and work this out.  Get some legislation typed up for me."   And that's what happened. 
The [federal] Earned Income Tax Credit is one of the best anti-poverty programs we've had.  -Gov. Bill Richardson 
Initially it was worth 8% of the federal tax credit, but when oil and gas prices were up in 2007 or 2008, and we were awash in money, they raised it to 10%

The presentations from our two guest speakers sparked very informed questions and also lively discussion among participants, as evidenced by the photos posted below.


Pat Sheely, Alicia Sedillo, Cristal Aresola,
Mike Shawver, Cristal Aresola  
Betsy Diaz, Terese Rand Bridges, Anne Bushnell
Else Tasseron, Bob Riley

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lent: The Mystery of Grace

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace -- only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.

- Anne Lamott, from her book, Traveling Mercies

Monday, March 08, 2010

Congratulations Jeff Bridges!

Our warmest congratulations to Jeff Bridges for winning the Best Male Lead  Oscar for his role in the movie Crazy Heart (which by the way was filmed in New Mexico).

A lot will be written about Jeff Bridges' skill as an actor and his great performance in the movie.  But I want to talk about his other passion. He and his brother Beau are strong advocates of ending childhood hunger and poverty in general in our country.  As a vehicle to channel that passion, Jeff created The End Hunger Network

Here's a blurb from its website:
Founded by actor Jeff Bridges in 1983, the End Hunger Network works with the entertainment industry and other partners to create and support media projects, programs and events to raise awareness and generate action to end U.S. child hunger.
And Jeff and Beau played a large role in the widely acclaimed movie Hidden in America, which addressed the problems of hidden poverty in our country.  Beau was the lead actor, and Jeff helped produce it through his company Asis Productions. Read comments from then Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman at Washington Premiere of the movie.

And how many of us can say we have actually participated in Bread for the World's  Lobby Day with an Academy Award winner! Actually, he hadn't yet won an Oscar when he and Beau accompanied us on a visit to then Rep. Joe Skeen's office in 1997.   (In fact, Jeff and Beau joined us for a part of our National Gathering that year).

Why Rep. Skeen?  At that time he held a very important position in Congress, as chair of the subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that dealt with agricultural expenditures.  That subcommittee had a large say on how money was allocated for nutrition programs.

What do I remember from that visit with Rep. Skeen? Actually not much.  Except that the congressman at the last minute shuffled his schedule around just so he could meet with us. Originally, we were scheduled to meet with a low-level aide.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Rebuilding Haiti One Pepper at a Time

I will be the first to admit I am a "chile-head.'  I am person who enjoys great hot and spicy sauces (and foods), grows my own chile peppers, and at one time was even part of a chile-head listserve.  One of my favorite activities is to attend the Fiery Foods & BBQ Foods Show every year.

This year, there was a very pleasant surprise at the show: a nice convergence with one of my other interests, addressing global poverty.  As I navigated my way through the crowded aisles, I came across a booth (or a part of a booth) dedicated to Haiti, the piman bouk pepper and the Haiti is Hot chile-pepper sauce.

As part of a fundraiser, there was a beautiful t-shirt for sale, with some of the proceeds going to redevelopment efforts in Haiti.  I was enticed by literature about a pepper sauce called Haiti is Hot or Nap Boule! (We are on Fire) in Creole.
Alas, the sauce is still in the development stages and is not yet widely available for distribution.  So there were no samples there. (Darn!)

But the sauce, which is made with piman bouk peppers (a member of the habanero/scotch bonnet family), sounds wonderful. "When the peppers are harvested, they are combined with Haitian papaya, and Haitian grapefruit (called Chadeque), plus carrots, onions, limes and other special ingredients in a traditional Haitian recipe."

A flier I picked up had a great recipe for a traditional dish called Pikliz

So who is behind this operation?  It is a Haitian company called Bel Soley,  which imports and distributes affordable organic products in the U.S. and Canada.

The company is not only part of redevelopment efforts in Haiti, but has a history of organic farming and employs some fair trade practices, including working with small farmers and cooperatives. See photos from CEO Patrick Lucien in Haiti.

The Haiti is Hot sauce is its newest creation.  In an interview with Fiery Foods magazine in January, two weeks after a devastating earthquake Haiti, chairman Brian Hays talked about the company's plan for the hot sauce,
Because of the earthquake, we would like to accelerate our move into the sauce business. By making sauce or mash from the peppers, we will be able to save our crops and also begin to provide edible foodstuffs to the domestic market, which is already showing signs of food shortages. As I mentioned, mangos, papayas, bananas and pineapples are readily available as a base and we can easily grow carrots. We have or can grow a range of more exotic tropical fruits as well, including passion fruit, soursop, sapote, acerola (Barbados Cherry), tamarind and more as flavorings.

The t-shirt I bought is part of a redevelopment program created by Bel Soley.

And the Fiery Foods and BBQ Show not only provided space for the company at its 22nd annual show but has helped in many other ways, including publishing the article in January. "The hot and fiery foods industry is rallying to help this small Haitian company by providing supplies, advice, and support," said Dave DeWitt, the show's producer. 

At the wholesale level, the company is seeking to develop a distribution network in the U.S. and Canada.  
But there are two burning questions (and pardon the pun).
Where can I get one of those beautiful t-shirts?
Watch this space for more information.
A temporary contact e-mail address is:
And is the sauce available in the U.S.?
It might be available at the retail level one day soon.
Here is a link to e-mail addresses where you might inquire about its availability in the U.S.  (And stay tuned, I'll publish that information as soon as I find out)

Pikiz (Traditional Hatian dish)

1/4 cup of Haiti is Hot sauce
2 cups thinly sliced or shredded cabbage
1/2 cup thinly sliced or shredded carrots
1/4 cup thinly sliced or shredded onions
4 whole cloves
1 tsp salt
8-10 peppercorns (optional)
3 cups vinegar

Place Haiti is Hot papaya pepper sauce, cabbage, carrots, onion, cloves, salt and peppercorns in quart size jar. Stir vigorously.  Add vinegar.  Close jar tightly and let it sit for at least 24-48 hours before serving.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

A Fair-Trade Sunday at Scalo

What do the Fiery Foods Show, St. Patrick's Day and the Peacecraft fundraiser have in common?  They all usually occur during the Lenten season.  

While the former two events may not necessarily do much to address global poverty, the latter provides a source of income for coffee growers, artisans, cooperatives in developing countries.  So go ahead.  Attend/commemorate all three events.  

But if you're only going to one of these, be sure that it is the Peacecraft fundraiser! 

click on image to see full poster

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Sen. Jeff Bingaman & Tax Cuts for Low- and Middle Income Families

If you receive Sen. Jeff Bingaman's monthly newsletter by e-mail, you probably noticed that the latest issue deals a lot with tax breaks--and specifically those that were implemented as part of the economic stimulus package promoted by the Obama administration and approved by Congress.  

The tax breaks benefit a large segment of the population, but many are targeted to middle- and lower-income families and individuals.  They deal with renewable energy and efficiency, education and home purchases.  

Sen. Bingaman's newsletter points out specifically how all of these breaks help families in New Mexico.

I think it's great that Sen. Bingaman has chosen to put focus on tax breaks for low income families and the middle class as a vehicle for economic development.  That's exactly what our 2010 Offering of Letters is all about.  By expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Credit, many lower-income families would benefit greatly.  And in the process, we would be stimulating consumer spending, which helps the economy in the long run.

By the way, there is support from the administration for the EITC.  The White House Budget for 2011 contains an increase in funding for this tax break.

And even though Sen. Bingaman does not mention the EITC in his newsletter, he does allude to other helpful tax incentives.  Here are a couple of excerpts:
One of the most important tax cuts has been the Making Work Pay tax credit, which gave 95% of working Americans an automatic tax break on every paycheck last year by reducing the taxes they pay every month.  This cut has, on average, provided families with roughly $400 in tax breaks, and I hope this has helped them meet some part of their budgets.

Congress has also provided a variety of other tax cuts and credits, including a suspension of the federal income tax on the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits per recipient in taxable year 2009.  And to help spur a rebound in housing, Congress has created a refundable homebuyer tax credit equal to 10 percent of the purchase of a home (up to $7,500) by certain home buyers.  Congress also included an expansion of the child tax credit in last year’s ARRA, which will especially help lower-income New Mexican families provide for their children.
If you didn't receive the newsletter by e-mail, it is available on the senator's website.  Click here to read it.

With Sen. Bingaman on board with these types of tax cuts, perhaps we can convince him to support our efforts regarding the EITC and other tax incentives that will benefit lower income families.  

Thank you Sen. Bingaman.  And watch your mail box for our letters.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

UNM Forum: Women and Climate Change

To celebrate International Women's Week, the New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps is co-sponsoring a panel discussion during which experts in the areas of human rights and climate justice, women's studies, environmental sustainability, and faith will explore the local and international implications of the Gender Gap in climate change. Questions and discussion will follow the presentations.

Sisters on the Planet: Exploring the Gender Gap in Climate Change
Thursday, March 11, 2010
UNM Student Union Building Lobo A&B

Free Event

Climate change disproportionately affects women. At the same time, women's voices are the least represented in policy decisions and climate change debate at local, regional, national, and international levels. Can women's voices play a more significant role in addressing climate change and sustainability? What is our call locally in New Mexico and in solidarity with women throughout the planet?

Moderated Panel addressing:
Human Rights, Women and Climate Justice -- June Lorenzo, lawyer for Laguna Pueblo
Women and Climate Change: Are we the answer? -- JoDee Powers, Climate Consultant
Sustainability and Women -- Fiona Sinclair, former UNM Sustainability Studies Professor
How do we respond? The ethics of climate change and our responsibilities -- Rev. Elizabeth Lyman, Volunteer Coordinator for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance following Katrina

Event co-sponsored by New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps, Church Women United, League of Women Voters, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, UNM Women Studies, and Clean Energy Works of New Mexico.

Lent: A Meal for Everyone

For me the thing that is so deep and profound and radical about communion—even the cheesiest communion in the church that I have the least in common with—is that it is a meal you can’t buy. In the world, you can buy fifty different kinds of artisanal bread and fancy vintage wine if you have the money. Or you can’t, if you don’t have the money. But at this table nobody can buy the bread and wine. It’s just given away.

And so that is how we run the [St. Gregory] food pantry. You can’t buy it, you can’t earn it, you can’t deserve it.
-Sara Miles
author of Jesus Freak: Feeding, Healing, Raising the Dead and
Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion

She also wrote a great reflection in Nyssa News entitled Notes from the Pantry 

(Read a fascinating interview with Ms. Miles in Religion Dispatches)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Legislative Alert on Food Tax

Think New Mexico sent out the Following Legislative alert on the proposed food tax.
When last we left the New Mexico Legislature, the Senate had passed a bill that would have taxed not only tortillas but more than half the food sold in New Mexico - including chile powder, Spanish rice, spaghetti and spaghetti sauce, potatoes, yogurt, honey, nuts, soup, and all other foods not included on the WIC list (a list that is so specific that, for example, a 64-ounce container of fruit juice would not be taxed, while a 32-ounce container of the same juice would be taxed).

Thanks to the thousands of emails and letters that New Mexicans, like you, sent in to legislators asking them to oppose the food tax, the House unanimously killed that bill in its first committee.

Now, Monday's Albuquerque Journal reports that, after secret closed door budget negotiations, legislative leaders have developed a budget plan that would have New Mexico's cities reimpose taxes on all food items - no exceptions - which they will seek to enact during the special legislative session that begins today.

Please contact your legislators and the Governor and ask them to oppose this new effort to tax New Mexicans' food. Remind them that there are far more sensible alternatives to addressing the budget deficit than reimposing the food tax.

Thank you again for your help! 
Fred, Kristina, Jason, and Lynne
Think New Mexico