Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Celebrating an Anniversary with Red Barrels

By Victoria Tester

This April marked the first anniversary of the red non-perishable food barrels at both the Silver City and the Bayard Food Basket stores. The Food Basket store barrels played a large part this past year in local humanitarian aid to Palomas, Chihuahua.

We were thrilled when Food Basket’s corporate office quickly agreed to support the food barrel initiative last spring. It’s not easy to get permission to place a non-perishable food barrel at a grocery story, which is an ideal place for one, but Food Basket showed a wonderful compassion and willingness to support our closest Mexico border town during this time of crisis. I was deeply impressed with their concern for the Palomas community.

The large red plastic barrels are decorated with colorful drawings by the children of Palomas, and are placed just beyond the checkout stands at both Food Basket stores. They offer local residents of our communities a place and an opportunity to donate non-perishable food to the many families of Palomas who are served by the Palomas Outreach.

Need is dire. Many people are going for days without food. These barrels help relieve that situation.

The managers at both Food Baskets have worked to support the barrel initiative at their stores.

The Silver City Food Basket barrel, which fills about once a week (though up to once a day during the holidays), is located right at the exit door. “There are people,” says store manager Ray Marquez, “who come shopping just to put food in these barrels. It’s been real good. People buy flour and beans in the big bags. Customers are generous.”

Alan Walsmith, manager of the Bayard Food Basket, recently bought a twenty pound bag of beans for the non-perishable food barrel, and hung flyers to reinforce the beginning of the second year of the initiative.

Although the donations at the Bayard Food Basket barrel have been significantly less than those from the Silver City barrel, I am hopeful that with the hiring at the mines, more people who shop in Bayard will feel they can spare something for Palomas.

We appreciate each and every donation. There is no such thing, as a donation that’s too small – because a single pound of beans or pound of pasta could make a meal for a Palomas family who would otherwise not eat that day. These barrels support human dignity.

I’m the one responsible for picking up the food from the barrels and getting it to our Columbus office to get it ready to cross the border. It’s a great job. Seeing so much donated food is moving. It helps us all, spiritually. The food doesn’t really make me cry anymore, now that it’s been a whole year – except for those little iced Mexican cookies some donors put in for the kids. Those cookies still get to me.

I hope summer donations to the barrels will be generous, and that donors will think of donating child-friendly foods that can be opened and eaten without cooking, or simply heated. The Outreach plans a summer lunch program for the children of Palomas, many who will lose their daily meal when school ends.

A musical dance benefit to aid the Outreach summer meal program for Palomas children was hosted by Isaac’s Bar and Grill on Sunday May 15, featuring a wonderful mix of local, celebrated musicians.

(The author is U.S. Coordinator for La Luz de La Esperanza Palomas Outreach and poet, playwright and photographer)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bono, Aung San Suu Kyi toast Amnesty International & ONE

U2 joined the celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of Amnesty at the Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg, Canada last night (May 29th, 2011).

With a pint of Guinness in hand, Bono made a toast from the stage, “Tonight is Amnesty International’s 50th birthday. Fifty year’s ago Amnesty was formed because two Portuguese students were imprisoned for seven years for raising a toast to freedom… so in their honour - tonight we raise a toast to freedom and might you join us to sing happy birthday to Amnesty International”

The 50,000 strong Canadian crowd joined U2 in a rousing version of “Happy Birthday”.

Burmese pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi appeared on the cylindrical screen above the stage, with a video message for the crowd, “We are not bystanders in our own history, every one of us writes a story that is told… I see it through your support for Burma, for Amnesty International. Where basic human rights are denied or basic human needs are not met, the struggle may be hard, it make take time… but if we demand it, change will come.”

Preparing (a) Soup (Garden)

Stage 1 of  Soup Garden is underway at Smokey's Community Garden in Ruidoso
There's nothing like cooking with produce straight from the garden.  In Ruidoso, area children are growing the ingredients for soup in large vegetable garden supported by The New Mexico Alliance for Children and the USDA Forest Service. The first planting included several varieties of potatoes, onions, carrots, tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, peas, cabbage, herbs, and an assortment of greens, said NMAC director Julia Price.

The soup garden is one of several gardening ventures available to children (Read about the pizza garden),  incorporating raised beds, cold frames, and in-ground planting at the Smokey Bear Ranger Station.  Read about dedication ceremony on May 11.

All produce will be donated to the Lincoln County Food Bank on a weekly basis through the summer.

Price said the NMAC is developing the educational components for the Forest Service garden.
  • A Garden Apprenticeship Program, with area middle and high school students helping to design and nurture the garden
  • Participation by 150 preschoolers, who will have the opportuntity to start seeds indoors in Head Start classrooms and transplant their seedlings to the garden in May
  • Training to teach low-income families how to manage small-plot gardens using available yard space and extend the growing season to increase community food security year-round
  • Summer classes open to area youth, teaching gardening, water conservation, and composting basics
  •  Area chefs will demonstrate healthy cooking methods for the produce, and healthy recipes will be included with the vegetable soup packages we put together for the food bank.

More updates coming this summer...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lobby Day (s) in New Mexico

Daniel Erdman, Graham Golden, Patricia Dominguez (Sen. Bingaman's office), Carlos Navarro, Suzanne Berman (CARE)

The cost of an airline ticket from Albuquerque to Washington, D.C., is not cheap.  There is also a time commitment involved and having to set aside other family or professional plans. This means that only two of us (Graham Golden and I) will be participating in Lobby Day on Capitol Hill on June 14, which comes on the final day of the National Gathering.
Pre-Lobby Day visits
But Lobby Day does not have to be confined to Washington. And it doesn't have to be confined to June 14. In fact, we have already had three "Lobby Days," and are planning more in the summer or fall.

Ellen Young and LaVerne Kaufman met with Xochitl Torres-Small of Sen. Tom Udall's staff in Las Cruces in early May.  

And at the end of May, CARE and Bread had joint meetings with staff members of Sen. Udall (Bill Woldman) and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (Patricia Dominguez).  Participating in the Albuquerque meetings were Daniel Erdman (pastor of Iglesia Congregacional Unida)  Graham Golden (a Norbertine brother who works in the social justice office of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe), Suzanne Berman (a regional organizer for CARE), and me.  It was great to have Suzanne along because she was once on the staff of Bread for the World!

In all three meetings, we asked for support from the senators for maintaining funding for programs related to poverty-focused development assistance.  We also asked the senators that Congress not balance the budget on the backs of the poor.  And in the Albuquerque meetings, Suzanne spoke about how CARE and Bread for the World often support some of the same issues.  Bread's broad efforts on foreign aid reform benefit CARE-sponsored programs on gender equity, education, microcredit/micosavings.

Post-Lobby Day Meetings
On Lobby Day, Graham and I will try to visit the offices of both our senators and Reps. Martin Heinrich, Ben Ray Lujan and Steve Pearce.   After Lobby Day, we hope to try to arrange meetings to local offices of Rep. Heinrich (Albuquerque), Rep. Pearce (Las Cruces), and Rep. Lujan (Santa Fe and Rio Rancho) and Sen. Bingaman (Santa Fe).   

Please let us know if you would like to participate in any of those meetings. 

And in the meantime, watch this space for reports from Lobby Day!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Congratulations to Albuquerque RESULTS

Heidi Brooks on KUNM Radio
Our friends at RESULTS in Albuquerque are celebrating a great milestone: a silver anniversary.

We congratulate the local chapter for 25 years of faithful efforts to address poverty.  We collaborated on many occasions, including efforts to promote The ONE Campaign.  

So we raise a toast to Heidi Brooks, Roxanne Allen, Vicki Gottlieb, Sarah Keeney and many others for their great work.

To commemorate the occasion, Heidi Brooks is hosting a party/fundrasier tomorrow (Saturday) evening from 4:00-6:00 p.m.  The featured speaker is John Hatch, founder of the microcredit organization FINCA and Village Banking.  See the invitation below for details.  But if you're going, please be sure to RSVP to Heidi.

It's a 25th Birthday Party
Albuquerque RESULTS!
Join us on Saturday, May 28, 2011
4:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M.

at the home of Heidi Brooks
4280 Indian Springs Drive, NE

Invited Speaker: 
John Hatch, Founder of FINCA and Village Banking
Learn about recent progress toward ending poverty
 using RESULTS’ “recipes for success,” 
taste favorite recipes from members of Congress and others, 
and help support the work of RESULTS! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


We have been tracking the debate over the 2011 and 2012 budgets and watched with horror how Congress is proposing to slash the very programs that we as anti-hunger advocates consider essential to address domestic and global poverty. (These are the same programs we worked on as Bread for the World advocates for 30-plus years).

Kelli Fischer
The latest outrage is a proposal by Republicans in Congress to cut $832 million from the supplemental program for Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and they are proposing $2 billion in Food Stamps below what President Barack Obama's administration estimates would be necessary for next year. 

On the international front, they are proposing a 31-percent reduction, $457 million, from a food assistance program that provides emergency aid and agricultural development dollars to poor countries. 

An article in The Huffington Post provides more details. And here is a summary from Bread for the World.

For many months, we in the anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocacy community have been urging Congress not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.  To make this point, Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Bread for the World President David Beckmann and former U.S. Representative Tony Hall of the Alliance to End Hunger led us in a fast. The fast led to the Circle of Protection for the Poor.

The one thing to remember is that this is only a budget proposal, and that the numbers are not final.  This is the time to contact Congress, Democrats, Republicans and independents, to express our view that the budget cuts should not target the poor.  Bread for the World, the Food Research and Action Center and dozens of other organizations offer sample letters and action alerts.

Here's where we can find money to balance the budget...
All along, we have been leaving it to Congress to find the the cuts elsewhere.  Now, I'm going to be bold and propose one place where we can find money to balance the budget. The five biggest U.S. oil companies are getting $2 billion in tax breaks.  They claim that such breaks are needed to grow domestic energy supplies and create jobs. But critics argue otherwise.
Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Royal Dutch Shell, BP and ConocoPhillips have poured millions in recent years into share repurchase programs, which help increase the value of the companies' stock.
Stock buybacks are perfectly legal, and investors can benefit. But critics say the practice undermines industry arguments that doing away with $21 billion in federal tax incentives over the next decade will jeopardize energy production and jobs.
Read more in The Houston Chronicle

Monday, May 23, 2011

An Author Among Us

Did you know that we have a published author among us in our Bread for the World community in New Mexico?

Lucretia Tippit, a Bread  member who has faithfully organized Offerings of Letters at All Saints Lutheran Church for several years, invites you to attend signing for her book Miracle in Chicavasco.

Lucretia will be on hand to sign her book on Friday, May 27, 5:00-7:00 p.m.,  at Bookworks, the independent bookstore at 4022 Rio Grande Blvd NW (next to Flying Star in northwest Albuquerque).

According to the schedule on her Web site, she is also scheduled to appear at Hastings on Lomas and Juan Tabo on Friday, June 3, 5:00-9:00 p.m.

Here is her description of the book:
Maybe you would just like to curl up with my book and read about my stupendous adventure in 1960 when I joined 12 other college students from all over the US and traveled to Mexico for the first time. There we participated in a church-sponsored work camp for 8 weeks in a tiny Otomí Indian villagein the state of Hidalgo. We worked together with the villagers to help improve conditions in the impoverished community.
I learned much from this life-changing experience--both about myself and about my faith. We left at the end of the summer, hoping we had made some difference and praying that the wonderful faith-filled villagers would someday have a better life. To my surprise, since the book has come out, I have heard from Victor Hernández who was born in Chicavasco in 1964 and now lives in California. He tells me that the village is now a flourishing town with paved streets, electricity and a growing textile industry. It's a small world!
Lucretia has written one other book entitled The Pageant Unveiled,which explores the life of Kathy Neuhardt Whitford, first as a child who is fascinated by the pageantry of church and later as a student, wife and mother whose Christian faith develops and matures.

Her books are available at several local book stores, or you can order on-line from Infinity Publishing or call toll-free 877-289-2665.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Carol Meyer: 10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Farmers Markets

Photo by Carlos Navarro
Sipping coffee and leisurely reading the paper are nice, but what’s a Saturday morning without a visit to the local farmers’ market? It is THE place to be these days. If you aren’t in the habit of regular shopping at a farmers’ market, here’s a reminder of why as an ecologically minded Catholic you might want to do so. 
-Columnist Carol Meyer in NCR OnLine

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Hunger Justice Leader Featured in Kansas Magazine

Kristin Wetzler, one of Bread for the World's Hunger Justice Leaders in 2008, was featured in 435 South: The Magazine of South Johnson County, a magazine that serves some of the communities in suburban Kansas City.  (We've blogged about Kristin before, and we are happy to have this new opportunity to brag about our niece.)

The article, entitled Hope By Design, describes Kristin's work with Swaziland Arts for Education (S.A.F.E.), the nonprofit organization she built upon her return from serving with the Peace Corps in Swaziland.  S.A.F.E. provides opportunities for Swazi women (and some men) to sell handmade crafts (including batiks, paintings and bowls) and home accents in the U.S., and the proceeds are used to provide educational opportunities for Swazi children.  Click here for examples of the art for sale.

Here are some excerpts of the article:
Some people look at art and see beauty, form and function. Kristin Wetzler, founder of Swaziland Arts for Education (S.A.F.E.), sees art as a currency to purchase a chance at life for impoverished children.

Wetzler’s voice grows impassioned as she describes how most families cannot afford the school fees, since the annual income is less than $2,500 per year. Without education, Wetzler says Swaziland will continue its vicious-circle struggle with poverty, disease and hopelessness.

“I’d go to the local market while I was in the Peace Corps and see all the art,” Wetzler explains. “I thought the batiks were beautiful, inexpensive and easy to ship. So I thought ‘what if,’ started dreaming out loud to friends, and decided to send them home to sell.
Read full piece
(The author of the piece is Britt Frank. And that great photograph was taken by Paul Versluis)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New Mexico Appleseed Launches Campaign to Promote Breakfast for Every School Child

New Mexico Appleseed, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that crafts and advocates for high impact policy solutions that impact poor and underserved residents of our state, recently launched its Breakfast After the Bell campaign to promote efforts to ensure that every school in our state offers breakfasts to its students.  The organization is part of a national network of 17 Appleseed centers in the U.S.

Here are a couple of paragraphs about the campaign:
When we talk about the “education gap” New Mexico’s children struggle to close, poverty is the common denominator most of our children share. With poverty comes malnutrition, undernutrition and even hunger. While we cannot control the chaos in children’s lives caused by being poor, there is one thing we can control: ensuring children who need it can eat up to three meals per day five days per week at their school.

Breakfast is the most important of these meals, because children who eat it do far better in school than those who do not. And we know, with so many families struggling to make ends meet, that many children come to school without having eaten breakfast. With the new breakfast law passed in the 2011 New Mexico legislature, schools can now ensure that every child in their school gets the solid nutrition provided by breakfast every single morning by serving it during the first few minutes of class. There are three main evidence-based reasons that New Mexico schools should offer breakfast to their students during the first few minutes of class, after the school day begins.
And below is a great 9-minute video.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It's Not Candid Camera. Just Candid Letters to Congress!

Many Bread members around the country take great pictures of their Offerings of Letters with their digital camera. But until now, I had not seen a video. (And it makes total sense to record the occasion on video).

This video, courtesy of Pastor Jim Anderson, shows members of  St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Portland, Ore., participating in that congregation's Offering of Letters on May 15.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Smokey Urges You to Plant a Seed to End Childhood Hunger in New Mexico

By Julia Price

Smokey interacts with the children
The dedication of the new Children's Garden took place on May 11 at the Lincoln County Ranger Station in Ruidoso. About 140 Lincoln County Head Start students from Nob Hill, Capitan, and Hondo Valley made the trip by bus to plant seedlings and seeds there. 

The garden symbolizes the the vision of ending childhood hunger in New Mexico. All produce will be donated to the Lincoln County Food Bank.

The New Mexico Alliance for Children had the pleasure of planning and coordinating this joint venture among our non-profit, Lincoln County Head Start, and the US Forest Service. All of the participating children will be a part of ISFP this summer, receiving supplementary food from the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger.

Roger Allen, our head gardener, was kept busy helping young hands plant the seedlings they had started in their classrooms several weeks ago. The children planted squash, peas, bush and pole beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, and carrots.

Rafael "Rifle" Salas, Ruidoso City Councilman, presided over the ceremonies and also talked to the kids about the importance of including lots of fruits and vegetables in their diet and drinking plenty of water. Rifle showed the youth the newly planted onion and potato beds and assisted Roger Allen with soil preparation.

Smokey Bear made a special guest appearance at the ceremony to the delight of all the children, providing them with someone to hug.

The Head Start teachers painted and decorated their classroom row signs for the Children's Garden. Megan Rabourn and her middle school art classes designed and painted amazing signs for the Children's Garden area, as well as the Soup Garden, Butterfly Habitat, Three Sisters native seeds garden, and for the individual vegetables that will be growing in the different garden areas.

The garden will be tended over the summer by NMAC's youth garden apprentice group.

The author is executive director of the executive director of the New Mexico Alliance for Children

Monday, May 16, 2011

Stamp Out Hunger Raises 116,350 Pounds of Food

By Sonya Warwick
Communications Officer, Roadrunner Food Bank

With your help, the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive on Saturday, May 14, was a success! This year the annual food drive raised 116,350 pounds of food! Thank you so much for all those who took a moment to collect food and leave it out for your letter carrier to pick up. Your gift touches the lives of nearly 40,000 hungry New Mexicans every week! Thank you!

If you missed your letter carrier, but still want to contribute, you can take your food donation to your local post office.

Or, click here for a list of locations around town where you can leave non-perishable food. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

¡Qué Viva Bread in Las Cruces!

Members of JustFaith class write letters.  Photo by LaVerne Kaufman
More often than not, whenever we write about Bread for the World activities in this space, we tend to focus on Albuquerque and sometimes Santa Fe. I want to take this opportunity to celebrate some great efforts by Bread members in Las Cruces. These include a visit to Sen. Tom Udall's office, led by Ellen Young of Peace Lutheran Church, and an Offering of Letters in a JustFaith class at the cathedral parish (Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church).

The Lobby Visit
A five member delegation (Ellen Young, Carol Eggers, Clarice Irons, LaVerne Kaufman, Nadine Salak) met with Xochitl Torres-Small, field representative for Sen. Udall in Las Cruces. By all accounts, the visit was a success because the delegation (also members the Peace Lutheran Church Hunger and Justice Committee), very successfully brought up two issues that are very important to Bread this year. First, we don't want to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, and secondly, we must preserve foreign aid and make it more effective. More importantly, they emphasized that foreign aid programs benefit children around the world, and making cuts would be detrimental in the long run.

The delegation also brought up related comments and questions, such as urging Sen. Udall not to turn important federal programs into block grants for states. The group also spoke about the budget as a moral document and the recent fast by Bread President David Beckmann and others, including some members of Congress. "We all felt this was a good beginning in our efforts to be more proactive with our Congressional delegation," said Ellen Young.

Letters at JustFaith Class
The JustFaith class at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish decided to make Bread for the World and our Offering of Letters the focus of one of its last meetings of the year. Many of the members did not know much about Bread except in the context of the materials provided through the class. So they invited LaVerne Kaufman to speak to them on May 4. In her presentation, she mentioned that Bread is one of six full members of JustFaith, she gave the class basic information about Bread and mentioned some of our legislative victories. And finally, she gave them information about this year's Offering of Letters, including the video.

The class concluded by writing letters to Congress around our OL. The class ended up writing a total of 40 letters, includng 13 each to Rep. Steve Pearce and Sen. Tom Udall and 14 to Sen. Jeff Bingman.  "Most people were enthused about writing the letters," said  Marcy García, a facilitator for the JustFaith class.  But many wrote them at home rather than during the class.  "Because we were writing them in the class (timeframe) they felt rushed. So they took the letters home," she said.

As of today, May 15, three Offerings of Letters had been completed.  Of that total of 158 letters, 99 letters came from Las Cruces!  That is about to change, since four churches in Albuquerque were scheduled to write letters today.  One of those churches was continuing its OL next week.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Networking on Foreign Aid

Have you ever met anyone who has preached at the National Cathedral in Washington?  I have. And she's coming to New Mexico at the end of May. 

Meet Suzanne Berman, a regional organizer for CARE and the CARE Action Network (CAN).  Suzanne, who once worked in the Bread offices in Atlanta and Austin, offered a very nice reflection at the huge Interfaith Convocation sponsored by Bread and several other religious and anti-hunger organizations in 2007.  

We have organized a great networking event around Suzanne's visit.  Join us at La Mesa Presbyterian Church on Thursday, May 26, at 7:00 p.m.  Suzanne will tell us all about the work of CARE and recent CAN efforts.  Keith West-Harrison is the local volunteer coordinator for CAN.

We will also take the opportunity to hold a conversation about global poverty, foreign aid and the impact of recent and proposed budget cuts on development assistance.  Joining us in this conversation will be Maria Franco Tapia, a local staffer from Heifer International.  We have also invited representatives from the Oxfam Action Corps and RESULTS Albuquerque.

[Suzanne, Bread member Ellen Buelow and I  (and possibly a couple other people) are planning to visit the offices of Sens. Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman on Friday, May 27, to encourage them, among other things, to keep poverty-focused development assistance adequately funded].

So mark your calendars, and I Hope to see you on May 26!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pan para El Mundo Participa en la Conferenca ‘No Más Hambre’

Community leaders, hunger relief advocates, and government officials will share ideas and develop a Latino anti-hunger agenda at next Tuesday’s No Más Hambre summit in Washington, DC. Ricardo Moreno, Bread’s national organizer for Latino relations, will be among the panelists, as will Tony Hall, executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger, a Bread partner.

Read more in the Bread blog

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Conference Looks at Future of Food

The Nourishing the Planet blog, which is affiliated with the Worldwatch Institute has a great account of a very interesting conference that recently took place in our nation's capital regarding the future of food. 

Here are some quotes from a blog post entitled Conference Asks What the Future of  Food Should Look Like. The event was organized by Washington Post Live.
  • “We need to look at nature as the model for how we produce our food,” Fred Kirschenmann, a farmer and President of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.
  • “If we want to have sustainable food that respects the environment and the rights of animals, we also have to hold up human rights for workers and for small farmers. And this I think we can do by addressing the consolidation of power in the market by the biggest buyers of food.” Lucas Benitez, co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers
  • "...the need for organics isn’t an academic issue and it has nothing to do with the latest trends. It is literally a matter of life and death.” Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation
  • “We’ve got to reclaim food as nourishment,” not as a commodity. Dr. Vandana Shiva, Director of Navdanya
  • “The thing about food policy is, if you eat, you’re affected by it.” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thomas Merton: The Depth of Prayer

We do not pray for the sake of praying, but for the sake of being heard. We do not pray in order to listen to ourselves praying but in order that God may hear us and answer us. Also, we do not pray in order to receive just any answer: it must be God's answer.

Thomas Merton. Thoughts in Solitude

(From The Merton Institute on the 60th National Day of Prayer on May 5, 2011)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sacre Bleu! C'est un Collecteur de Fonds pour le Magasin Peacecraft!

Please join Peacecraft for this very special fundraiser at Brasserie La Provence, one of Nob Hill's most loved restaurants.

Enjoy delicious French food and wine, modern and ballet dance selections from Maple Street Dance Space teachers and performers, and be a part of an event that helps many global fair trade producers. Be a part of the solution to poverty.

Large and enticing silent auction including gift certificates from local hotels, restaurants, and gift stores--another way to benefit Peacecraft!

Fair Trade speakers to share the importance of supporting Peacecraft and Fair Trade!

Invite all of your friends!

Saturday, May 21 

11:00 am to 3:00 pm

Brasserie La Provence Restaurant, 3001 Central Ave., NE, Albuquerque, NM

Ticket Information: $30.00 per ticket 
available at Peacecraft, 3215 Central Ave., NE, by phone with a credit card, (505)255-5229, or at the door. 
Limited seating, reserve NOW!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Congress Overwhelmingly Approves Constitutional Right to Food

Wait a minute?!!!!  Did Congress really do that?!!!!

Unfortunately, that vote did not take place in Washington...

...but in Mexico City.

Or should we say that the glass is half full.  Fortunately, the legislative body in one country decided that the right to food is so important that they made it part of the law of the land.  In April, the Mexican Senate and Chamber of  Deputies overwhelmingly approved amendments to Articles 3, 4, and 27 of the Mexican Constitution that would enact a Right to Food in Mexico. (If you don't read Spanish, here is a link to an English-language version of an article).

This is not a new concept.  The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) embraces the Right to Food and has even developed a Web site to promote the concept.  The FAO offers a handbook that reviews the legal protection of the right to food at national level, through constitutional provisions, national legislation and the direct applicability of international law. 

The FAO also offers the Brazilian study Exigibildade, an advocacy tool that provides practical examples on how to implement the right to food at country level.

This vote in Mexico and the FAO program are very much in line with Goal 1 of the UN Millennium Development Goals, which is to Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty.

Granted, the vote is mostly symbolic.  Now comes the hard work. Mexico is going to have to spend the money and implement policies that will give poor people access to nutritious food.  That is going to be a tall order in a country where 40 million people suffer from malnutrition.  But legislators are on the right track.  They have proposed a special commission to discuss steps on how to proceed. There will be tough questions, such as determining whether treaties like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other international agreements are obstacles to the ability of citizens to feed themselves.  (Mexico used to be self-sufficient in corn production before joining the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which is the predecessor of the World Trade Organization.)

And yet, the very presence of language of the Right to Food in the Constitution lets people in Mexico know that they have a right to demand that their government take the steps necessary to ensure everyone in the country is offered access to basic nutrition.  That's a good start and a commitment that we lack in the United States.

But let's for a moment imagine that a vote on the Right to Food took place on Capitol Hill.  Could we make promote access to food with the same passion that we defend freedom of speech and religion, the right to bear arms and the right not to incriminate ourselves?  

A vote on the Right to Food would indeed  be the opposite of what is taking place now, where legislators, on the pretense of balancing the budget, are going after the programs that affect the most vulnerable, including nutrition and food assistance.  Now, don't get me wrong. I think balancing the budget is noble goal.  But they're doing it at the expense of the programs that affect the most vulnerable populations in our country.  

Think about it. Wouldn't iit be magnificent if we had a Right to Food in our Constitution?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

FRAC: Albuquerque Ranks 19th among Cities with Highest Rates of Food Hardship

The Food Research and Action Center recently released a study with different measures of food hardship in the United States.  The study, released in March 2011, is entitled Food Hardship in America -2010

Food hardship is defined as answering “yes” to the question posed by the Gallup organization to hundreds of thousands of people: “Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”
The national data show that the struggle of tens of millions of American households to afford adequate food did not, by and large, get easier in 2010. While the nation’s Great Recession technically ended in mid-2009 (measured by growth in the Gross Domestic Product), it has not yet ended for most of the nation’s households. For them, 2010 was the third year of a recession that continues to have severe adverse impact on their well-being.

Here are some telling statistics:

New Mexico ranked 14th among the 50 US states
In 21 states in 2010, one in five or more respondents answered the food hardship question in the affirmative; in 45 states, 15 percent or more answered the question “yes.” The states with the highest rates were overwhelmingly from the Southeast, Southwest and West
Albuquerque ranked 19th among the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs)
Of the 100 largest MSAs in 2010, 40 saw 20 percent or more of respondents answer the question in the affirmative, and 85 saw 15 percent or more answer “yes.
Interestingly Enough...
the New Mexico First Congressional District (which includes Albuquerque) was not among the top 40 congressional districts with the highest rates of food hardship.  Why the discrepancy?  While Albuquerque comprises a large portion of the First Congressional District, the boundaries also include communities like Edgewood, Mountainair, Estancia, Placitas and Bernalillo.  What this probably means is that food insecurity in the First District is concentrated in Albuquerque.

Here are some conclusions from the report:
Food hardship rates are too high in every corner of the nation. It is crucial that the nation rebuild its economy, strengthen employment and wages, and develop public supports that will dramatically decrease these food hardship numbers and do so quickly. Essential steps include: a growing economy that provides jobs at decent wages, shares prosperity and pulls households out of hunger and poverty; improved income supports (e.g., unemployment insurance, refundable tax credits) that help struggling workers and families; and strengthened – not reduced, as some in Congress are proposing – federal nutrition programs (SNAP/Food Stamps, school meals, WIC, summer, afterschool, and child care food) that reach more households – seniors, children, and working-age adults alike – in need and do so with more robust benefits.
But as a nation, even in difficult times, we have the resources to eliminate hunger for everyone, regardless of age or family configuration. The cost of not doing so – in terms of damage to health, education, early childhood development and productivity – is just too high. The moral cost of not doing so is even higher.