Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Prayer Vigil for a Faithful Budget

Last Friday, we were asked to spend the day in prayer and light a candle urging Congress to protect the need in ongoing budget talks. There were 616 who responded on Facebook and countless others who did so on Twitter (and many did both). And we're repeating the vigil on Monday.

There was also an actual vigil in Washington, which Bread helped organize. Here is a YouTube video.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

You are Invited to an Ecumenical Dialogue

Hosted by the New Mexico Conference of Churches. But please RSVP to if you're going.  They need a head count because lunch will be served. 
Click on image to enlarge

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Prayer Vigil: Turning Grace into Blades of Act

Teach me to take all grace
And spring it into blades of act,
Grow spears and sheaves of charity,
While each new instant, (new eternity)
Flowering with clean and individual circumstance,
Speaks me the whisper of [God's] consecrating Spirit.
Then will obedience bring forth new Incarnations
Shining to God with the features of [the Lord's] Christ."

- Thomas Merton

On Friday, July 29, Bread for the World is hosting a debt crisis prayer vigil.  Many of us are using Facebook and Twitter (great tools!) to connect with each other, to come together in one voice. But these earthly tools social media are just a beginning. The true communication is outside these tools. We must take a few moments to step outside ourselves and allow ourselves to be immersed in love of the one who is Love.  The First Great Commandment.

But our connection with the Creator does not come to true fulfillment if we don't find a way to share it with our neighbors.  That's why we pray with each other and for each other.  Not just the other that we know.  That's too easy. We pray for the other that we don't know.  We pray in solidarity with those who will be hurt by the pending decisions of our Congress.

But we are not called to put ourselves in an adversarial role with those who are making the decisions that will promote suffering.  We can and should lobby them with phone calls, and letters and e-mails and tweets. God calls us to speak for justice.  But our advocacy is not complete unless we also pray that the same spirit of compassion that permeates us also touches them in some way.  The Second Great Commandment.

We are called to spend this day in a vigil, with our lights flickering in the spirit of the Second Great Commandment.

Our prayer is very simple.  O God be present in my candle

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What's Better? An Empty Lot or an Urban Garden? You Know the Answer!

Urban farms and community gardens are growing all over our country, offering residents an opportunity to grow nutritious food during the summer months.  

The movement has become so strong that there is now a Web site dedicated entirely to urban farms.  The site offers blogs, videos and all sorts of tips to enhance the urban farming experience.

What about Albuquerque? In our fair city, we have some great community gardens, including Rio Grande Community Farm, Los Poblanos Organics and Dragon Farm at South Valley Academy.  These are all located along the most fertile section of our city, the North and South Valleys. But now there is a new site about to be developed in downtown Albuquerque.  This one, a true urban enterprise, will be called the Alvarado Urban Farm.

The Daily Lobo, the student newspaper at the University of New Mexico, published a great article about this new venture.

Here's an excerpt:
When Rick Rennie and Chris Goblet saw the dirt lot that sits west of the downtown Albuquerque Rail Runner Station, they said they cringed to think it would stay barren and undeveloped. 

So they decided to do something about it: That lot will become the Alvarado Urban Farm, which will feature 40 raised plant beds, a market and foreign sports courts.

Rennie, the Historic Downtown Improvement Committee (HDIC) asset manager, and Goblet, the deputy director for the Downtown Action Team (DAT), teamed up to improve downtown Albuquerque and promote culture and commerce.

“We didn’t want that space to remain a dirt lot until the economy got better, so we pulled together a bunch of people we know and made a proposal to the city,” he said.
Read full article, entitled If you build it they will eat it

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rethinking School Lunch Committee Plans Visioning Workshop for October

More than 40 community members and organizations attended the Rethinking School Lunch community discussion organized in February 2011 by ACHIEVE (Action Communities for Health Innovation and EnVironmental ChangE).

 As a result of the community discussion, those present were energized and committed to planning and participating in a visioning process to develop a Rethinking School Lunch New Mexico initiative (RSL New Mexico). The following organizations have acted as the core committee in beginning this visioning process:

Action Communities for Health Innovation and Environmental Change (ACHIEVE):
APS Physical Activity & Nutrition Advisory Council (PANAC)
Mid Region Council of Governments Agriculture Collaborative (MRCOG)
New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger
APS Growing Gardens Team

The RSL New Mexico committee is planning a visioning workshop for early Fall 2011.

DATE: October 22nd

WHERE: Harwood Art Center, Albuquerque

Please save the date. More details will be coming soon!
In the meantime, the committee has developed a community survey to collect information that will be used to help guide the visioning workshop and the overall goals of RSL New Mexico initiative. Parents, teachers, school administration, and community members are invited to complete this survey, which will take only between 5 to 15 minutes to complete.

Click Here to Participate in the survey.

The Rethinking School Lunch NM initiative is currently comprised of individuals and agencies in Albuquerque interested in improving options, programs, and educational opportunities related to food in New Mexico schools. The list of collaborators and links to their websites will be available at the end of the survey

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Palomas: The short- and the long-term picture

Summer Feeding Program
We have blogged about two organizations meeting the needs of the community of Palomas in Chihuahua, just across the border from Columbus, N.M. These efforts help the entire community, but the focus is on children and youth.

Palomas Outreach
Victoria Tester from Palomas Outreach offers this update about a summer feeding program that we blogged about a couple of weeks ago.
The Palomas Outreach child summer meal program goes into its fifth week today (July 18), thanks to the generosity and hard work of those on the U.S. side of the border that make it possible, and the hard work of Maria Sanchez Smith who is transporting the meals across the border and heading the distribution, aided by the wonderful Palomas Outreach and community volunteers on the Mexico side.

Between 400 and 500 children a day are served. The children are so thrilled to see the lunch truck arrive, where the meals are distributed in the Main Plaza! For many of these children, this is their only daily food.

Palomas Outreach director Esperanza Lozoya and community volunteers report widespread signs of malnutrition in the children. The three attached photographs were take during a child summer meal distribution in June.

The last day for this wonderful summer meal program is July 29th.
Please continue to aid the children of Palomas by supporting the Palomas Outreach monthly family food distributions. In both May and again June, an estimated fifteen pounds of dry and canned food was distributed to over 350 families each. We are still working on amassing food for a hoped-for July distribution. Please talk to your family, your church, your workplace, your community, and help us help the children of Palomas in any way you can. Diaz Farms in Deming takes orders of 100 lbs. of bulk grade beans for 22 dollars a bag to be picked up by Victoria Tester for the Palomas Outreach.
Stay tuned for news of the August 6, 10 to Noon Musical benefit in Bayard at A.I.R. Coffee Co. on behalf of the children of Palomas.
Our deepest thanks for your prayers and all you are doing to aid this work!
Palomas Education Center
Border Partners
Polly Edmunds from Border Partners offers this update on some long-term efforts in Palomas:
Greetings from the border! We want to fill you in on what we've been doing the last months. With your help and support, there are now:
  • TWO improved parks in Palomas
  • Plans for on-going education program coming to fruition
  • Beautiful gardens growing
  • Exciting summer plans
Together, we're creating a model for improving life in communities on the US-Mexico border by promoting cooperative efforts and sharing resources.

Border Partners has always wanted to start offering classes in Palomas. So many people had to quit school or were unable to get the training and skills they need. Now it looks like people in town are taking that dream and running with it! When they heard that Border Partners could help with getting some materials and donated computers, they formed a committee to find teachers and students.

Now town officials have offered to loan us a building to hold classes! It needs some renovations, so we’re seeking funding. But it looks like this will soon be a dream-come-true!

Moving forward in the coming months, we've got on the agenda that we'll
  • organize kids' soccer teams and exercise class,
  • continue Marisol's aerobics classes,
  • make regular visits to the gardens and solar cookers,
  • build another climber at the South Park with the neighborhood women.
Read Border Partners newsletter on a browser.

Here is contact information for you to help. (Unfortunately, the Web sites for both organizations are not working at present).

Border Partners
406 S. Granite St.
Deming, NM 88030
Tel: 575/546-1083

Palomas Outreach
c/o Victoria Tester at 575 536-9726

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Las Cruces Bishop Ramirez Joins Group Urging White House to Protect Programs for the Poor

A group of religious leaders was invited to the White House on Wednesday, July 20, to discuss efforts to protect programs for the poor.  Many of those in attendance had participated in the Circle of Protection effort.

As I perused the article from Politico newspaper, entitled Christian Coalition Asks Obama to Protect the Poor, I noticed some familiar names like Jim Wallis, Tony Hall and David Beckmann.  

Photo CNS/National Catholic Reporter
But another name stood out: our own Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of the Diocese of Las Cruces, who was selected to represent U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  This is very appropriate because Bishop Ramirez has been outspoken in stating that there must be an element of justice in all our efforts to address poverty.  Here is an  excerpt of a speech he gave on this issue.

And here is a statement from the USCCB
A veteran advocate of social justice issues, Bishop Ram'rez stressed the need for our nation's leaders to consider budgets as moral documents - documents that should be fashioned in ways that do not harm some of our society's most vulnerable members.
Read more in Las Cruces Sun-News article entitled, Ramirez, other religious leaders meet with Obama.

By the way, here is Jim Wallis' blog post about the White House meeting, entitled Obama meets with Faith Leaders

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blogging Mommas in Kenya

African women are leading a movement. They are the driving force behind Africa's economy, and mothers in particular have an enormous impact on the future of Africa.  Therefore, it is appropriate that ONE has recruited 10 mom bloggers, including my Facebook friend Shayne Moore (author of the Global Soccer Mom blog), to travel to Kenya and write about their experiences.

The campaign is called It Takes Only ONE Mom
ONE Week" is a weeklong social media event following 10 bloggers making their way through Kenya with ONE from July 25th-30th to see what life is really like for moms in the developing world. While in Kenya, the 10 bloggers will be checking in regularly with accounts of what they're seeing and hearing, as well as daily actions tied to their trips and access to experts who can explain the key issues these women will see firsthand. So join us! Get educated, engaged, and activated, and use your voice on behalf of the world's poorest. It just takes ONE mom. 
 Stay tuned for updates.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Interfaith Leaders Speak with One Voice on Poverty

Concerned that the Administration and Congress are working on a budget deal that will place an undue burden on the poor “while shielding the wealthiest from any additional sacrifice,” leaders representing the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths on July 14 launched a new campaign to encourage policymakers to maintain a robust U.S. commitment to domestic and international poverty programs.
“We share our grave concern and dismay that the ongoing conversations and negotiations regarding our nation’s budget may yield an outcome that places individuals and families struggling with poverty at risk of even further hardship while shielding the wealthiest in our nation from any additional sacrifice.”
Read more via Presbyterian Church U.S.A, the Islamic Society of North America, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Church of the Brethren, and the National Council of Churches

There were also more than 4,000 pastors around the country who signed a letter urging Congress and President Obama not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. The letter was published in the political and electoral affairs publication Politico.


"[The Creator] gives you the mountains and the valleys for your refuge, and the tall trees wherein to build your nests, and as you can neither spin nor sew God clothes you, you and your children.

Your Creator loves you much, since [the Creator] has dealt so bounteously with you: and so beware, little sisters of mine, of the sin of ingratitude, but ever strive to praise God."

- St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, July 18, 2011

Traveling 250 Miles to find Nutrition for an Infant!

CARE photo
There is an emergency in East Africa (primarily Somalia), and it's possible that the situation is on some of our radar screens.  But for many of us, the dire situation halfway across the globe is lost in our daily routine. Here is an excerpt form a heartbreaking note I received from Doctors without Borders (Medicins sans Frontiers) the other day:
MSF Galcayo staff reports mothers travelling up to 250 miles to bring weakened children to the therapeutic feeding center. One 19 year old mother of 11 month old Najmo, told MSF nurses that the journey had almost been too late and too long and, with no support in Galcayo, the only way she will be able to return is to sell her child's exit ration given on discharge.

The situation is equally dramatic in other areas in Somalia. In the town of Marere [Lower Juba] the MSF team has seen a sharp increase in cases of severe malnourishment among people coming from all over the Juba valley. “The majority of the hospital beds in Marere are currently occupied by malnourished children in need of intensive care, and additional staff has been recruited to assist.”
And the situation is very much a priority for CARE.
Think about having to walk for days in the scorching heat with little water and food. Think about who you may lose along the way — maybe the newborn you cannot feed because you don't have enough nourishment to produce milk or your infirm parents who cannot complete the journey. Picture yourself finally arriving at the camps to discover that food, water and shelter are scarce there, too.

Out of the 1,300 people arriving at the camps every day, 800 are children who are exhausted, weak and extremely hungry from their long trek.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
In Guri El in Galgaduud region new admissions to the MSF therapeutic feeding center are almost triple those at the same time last year.

Over the border Dadaab, Kenya, where tens of thousands of Somalis continue to flee in search of assistance, camps meant for 90,000 people are fast approaching half a million people, with often 1000 or more people crossing per day. Assessing in the outskirts of one of Dadaab’s camp sites, MSF teams found extremely high malnutrition rates amongst the new arrivals - a global malnutrition (GAM) rate of 38% and 17.5% of severe acute malnutrition (SAM)].
Here is the full letter 

MSF has worked continuously in Somalia since 1991 and currently provides free medical care in eight regions of southern Somalia. Over 1,400 Somali staff, supported by approximately 100 staff in Nairobi, provide free primary and secondary healthcare, malnutrition treatment, support to displaced people, surgery, water and relief supply distributions. MSF does not accept any government funding for its projects in Somalia: all its funding comes from private donors.  Here is more background  Read Bread for the World's account

Somali physician  Dr Hussein Sheikh Qassim, describes the life-saving role of the MSF clinics.
As a Somali myself, I can say that if MSF was not here, we would be like a boat that has run out of fuel in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Without MSF’s help, thousands would have died. Somalia needs your help now more than at any other time. MSF saves countless lives and, with your help, will continue to save many more. Thank you
Read article entitled Somalia: ‘The malnutrition ward is beyond full’

So what can we do?  We can continue our advocacy efforts through Bread for the World or other organizations to save the poverty-focused development assistance programs that will help provide a lasting solution to the problem.  And we can also support the work of organizations like CARE or MSF.

Finally, we can hold the people of Somalia and East Africa and the workers in the clinics in our prayers. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Vintage Photos: New Mexico Legislators at Post-Lobby Day Reception

It's always a thrill to have our own members of Congress attend the reception that follows Lobby Day. In the nearly dozen National Gatherings that I attended, this has happened only once. The year was 1993 (or was it 1994?). And Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Rep. Steve Schiff both came to the reception.

Here are a couple of photographs of our two legislators at the podium. Maria Otero, who was then chair of the Bread board (and is now Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs), is pictured with both Sen. Bingaman and Rep. Schiff.  Also pictured with Sen. Bingaman is Canon Burgess Carr, who was then the board's vice chair.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Café Citadelle: Fair Trade Coffee from Haiti

In a recent visit to Sen. Tom Udall's office in Albuquerque, we conveyed to the aide, field representative Bill Woldman, our request that the senator join in the effort to support programs that help the most vulnerable in our society.  The request was accompanied by a petition signed by dozens of New Mexicans. And of course, we already knew Sen. Udall was solidly in our camp.

The conversation then turned to fair trade, after Bread member Ellen Buelow mentioned how her social justice group at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church had set up a display at the Growers Market in Los Ranchos.

At that point, Mr. Woldman said he had something to show us and left the room.  He returned with a package of Café Citadelle coffee, a fair trade offering from Haiti.  A constituent who was very much a promoter of fair trade and econcomic development opportunities for Haiti had given the coffee to Sen. Udall's office.

This fair trade coffee is offered by Alltech, a company whose focus is promoting products that support animal health and human nutrition.  So how does a company like this become involved in fair-trade coffee? 
Finding a way to support existing Haitian enterprise was top of mind when we first visited the country. We believed that buying Haitian coffee was one of the best ways that we could have an immediate impact. We decided to launch our own brand of Haitian coffee and to incorporate this coffee into existing Alltech products.
After several trips to Haiti, we found the perfect partner: Cacgava is a 900 member coffee co-op located in Dondon, a small village in the mountains in northern Haiti. It is Haiti’s oldest coffee co-op and is fair-trade certified by FLO-CERT, an independent International Certification company.

The coffee’s name was derived from the Citadelle Laferrière, the largest fortress in the Americas, next to which Cacgava and its member farms are located. Alltech Café Citadelle is a high quality, mild, mountain-grown Arabica. It is naturally shade-grown and is fair-trade.
 Buy coffee online.

The effort to promote Café Citadelle is only a small part of the Haiti Project, sponsored by Alltech.
Sustainable economic growth is the only thing that will make a long term difference in Haiti. Alleviating poverty, changing agricultural and forestry practices, providing new energy sources; these are the things that must occur to make Haiti less vulnerable.
Check out this video about Café Citadelle.

Friday, July 15, 2011

New Mexico Pastors Join Campaign Calling for Circle of Protection for Programs that Help the Poor

A group of more than 4,000 pastors around the country joined their voices to speak out against the potential cuts in programs for the most vulnerable members of our society. With the help of Sojourners, the pastors offered their concerns via an advertisement published in Politico newspaper on July 13.

Sojourners' God's Politics blog offered some background on the ad, in a piece entitled Listen to Your Pastors: 4,000 of Them Want a Moral Budget.  Rev. Jim Wallis later offered an expanded view in a piece entitled Will Politicians Listen to Pastors?  Here is an excerpt from both versions: 
Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado, did a great job summing up what this debate is at its heart. She said, “As a member of the clergy and a mother of 2 children with strong minds and bodies — minds and bodies which benefited for 3 years from WIC — I stand with all Christians in America who believe the cries of the poor and the cries of the children are not only the very voice of Christ, but are indeed the sound of our future waiting for a response. How shall we answer?”
There were 42 pastors from New Mexico who signed the Open Letter, which was the basis for the ad.  Among them are clergy who are either Bread members or have led churches that have participated in our Offering of Letters, or have been on our Bread mailing list.  They include Anne Morawski; Rafael Garcia, S.J.; Earl Rohleder; David Okerberg; Wayne Hawkins; and Anita Amstutz. Another familiar name was Steve Garnaas-Holmes of Massachusetts, whose reflections we have posted on this blog. 
Click on image to enlarge
Click here to view the advertisement in .PDF or read the text below.

We are local pastors. We work, pray, and do whatever we can to remain faithful to the responsibility of every Christian to help the poor. Still, we can’t meet the crushing needs by ourselves.  Programs like SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, and Head Start aren't just abstract concepts to us; they serve the same people we serve.  There are changes that can be made or efficiencies that can be found, but every day we see what government can do. 

We have seen government support allow young people to be the first members of their families to get college degrees, ensure mothers can feed their children a healthy diet, enable those with disabilities to live fulfilling lives, give much-needed medical care to those who can't afford it, support seniors, provide housing for families, and help people in finding a job.

As Christians,  we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable fare.  We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up--how it treats those Jesus called "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45).  They do not have powerful lobbies, but they have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources. 

As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We want to support you in reducing the deficit.  There is more need today than churches can meet by themselves.  This is why we join in a "Circle of Protection" around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New Mexico Petitions Delivered

Our heartfelt THANKS! to the 151 New Mexicans who signed the Bread for the World petition online asking our congressional representatives not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. (See text of petition below)

On Tuesday, July 12, Ellen Buelow and I delivered petitions to the Albuquerque offices of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Martin Heinrich, and Bro. Jim Brown brought a petition to the Santa Fe office of Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. Alicia Sedillo will be bringing petitions to Rep. Steve Pearce's office in Los Lunas.

"I was able to meet with his Constituent Liaison, Eliza Sultan, and pass on information to her as well as letting her know that we are aware that Rep. Lujan has been very supportive of our issues," said Bro. Jim. "We had a very good meeting."

Sen. Bingaman and Sen. Udall each received all 151 signatures. Reps. Heinrich (63), Pearce (29) and Lujan (59) each received the signatures of their constituents.

The petition we presented to legislative aides is marked URGENT.  This is because the White House and Congress are making crucial decisions on the budget and the debt ceiling in the next week,and we wanted to make sure that programs for the most vulnerable receive the most protection possible under these circumstances. See proposed cuts.

Bill Woldman (Sen. Tom Udall)
Matthew Zidovsky (Rep. Martin Heinrich)
Jessica Perez (Sen. Jeff Bingaman)

TO: Our Senator or Representative

FROM: Your Constituents (enclosed)

RE: Things to Consider Before You Vote

As you work to balance the federal budget and reduce the deficit, I want to make sure you know my priorities. The economic recovery is still too slow. One in six families in the United States struggles to put food on the table. And one in five people around the world lives on less than $1.25 a day.

I agree that we need to substantially reduce future deficits, but not at the expense of hungry and poor people. You must create a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people. As you debate how to balance our budget, I want you to keep the following questions in mind:

• Did I vote to protect vital programs needed by the most vulnerable people here and abroad in these difficult times?
• If I did not, what do I tell the men, women, and children who have been hit hardest?

Or ask yourself, “What would Jesus cut?”

I'm counting on you as my representative in Congress to do the right thing. As a voter, I care deeply about the 26,000 kids abroad who die daily because they are simply too poor to survive, and about the millions of people here at home looking for work and trying to make ends meet.

Hunger has never been a partisan issue. Now is not the time to make it one. I'm interested in protecting hungry and poor people in these difficult times.

Thank you for listening.

Monday, July 11, 2011

This is a Crucial Week for Programs to Protect the Poor

This is a crucial week in Congress.  Negotiations are under way on the 2012 federal budget, and you're hearing terms like debt ceiling and deficit.  There is pressure for legislators from both sides of the aisle and the White House to reach an agreement.  At risk are many programs that serve as a lifeline for many people in our country and around the world, and we are urging our representatives and senators to do everything they can to preserve these programs.

Bread for the World has put together Hunger and the U.S. Budget,  a handy guide entitled that offers clear explanations of the issues under discussion.  Here's why it's important that we know what this debate is all about.
"Members of Congress are currently debating budget bills and deficit reduction proposals that will have major consequences for hungry and poor people. The debate can be confusing—how can we cut through the rhetoric and decide who’s right about which budget decisions?"
So what can we as citizens do about this?  Many of us have already asked our members of Congress not to sacrifice crucial nutrition and anti-poverty programs.   Some of us have mentioned this in the letters we have written to Congress in our churches as part of our Offerings of Letters.  Others have responded by sending e-mails or by signing the recent petition to Congress.

Jonathan Shuffield (Rep. Steve Pearce)
Rep. Heinrich was present briefly at our meeting

Terri Nikole Baca (Rep. Ben Ray Lujan)

We have also had direct contact with our congressional offices.  On Lobby Day (June 14), Graham Golden and I met with aides to Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall and Reps. Martin Heinrich, Steve Pearce and Ben Ray Lujan in Washington.  There were also meetings with aides to Sen. Udall in Albuquerque and Las Cruces and Sen. Bingaman in Albuquerque. Thanks to Bread members Ellen Young, LaVerne Kaufman, Daniel Erdman and Graham Golden for participating in these meetings.

And those petitions that several dozen of us signed are being delivered this week to our legislators (thanks to Ellen Buelow, Alicia Sedillo and Jim Brown for taking this on).

Our petitions are accompanied by this memo:
TO:    Our Senator or Representative

FROM:    Your Constituents (enclosed) 

RE:     Things to Consider Before You Vote
As you work to balance the federal budget and reduce the deficit, I want to make  sure you know my priorities. The economic recovery is still too slow. One in six  families in the United States struggles to put food on the table. And one in five  people around the world lives on less than $1.25 a day.

I agree that we need to substantially reduce future deficits, but not at the expense of hungry and poor people. You must create a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people. As you debate how to balance our budget, I want you to keep the following questions in mind:

• Did I vote to protect vital programs needed by the most vulnerable people here and abroad in these difficult times?
• If I did not, what do I tell the men, women, and children who have been hit hardest?

Or ask yourself, “What would Jesus cut?”

I'm counting on you as my representative in Congress to do the right thing. As a voter, I care deeply about the 26,000 kids abroad who die daily because they are simply too poor to survive, and about the millions of people here at home looking for work and trying to make ends meet.

Hunger has never been a partisan issue. Now is not the time to make it one. I'm interested in protecting hungry and poor people in these difficult times.

Thank you for listening.

Please remember that there are others who doing the same thing.  Lydia Pendley from Santa Fe informed me that our friends from RESULTS brought the same message to Washington the week after our Lobby Day.  And  the New Mexico Food Stamp Working Group recently urged anti-hunger advocates in our state to call the White House with the following message (provided by the Food Research and Action Center):
Any deficit reduction plan must protect programs for low-income families and individuals – particularly key supports like SNAP/Food Stamps and Child Nutrition -- and must also include new revenues. The plan should reduce poverty and help disadvantaged people, even as it attempts to shrink the deficit.  Low-income assistance programs, like SNAP/Food Stamps and Child Nutrition, must be exempt from any caps and automatic across-the-board cuts which could be triggered when budget targets or fiscal restraint targets are missed.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Thank You for Your Anti-Hunger Work

Ex-Rep. Alan Wheat (left) receives a recognition from Charlie Lackamp, volunteer coordinator in the Missouri Fifth District
Lobby Day provides a great opportunity to recognize members of Congress who have made a strong commitment to address hunger and poverty.  This year it was Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan and Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana who received a recognition from Bread at a reception after Lobby Day.

But it doesn't always have to be on Lobby Day when a legislator is recognized for his or her anti-hunger work.  In the 1980s,  our group of Bread members in the Missouri Fifth Congressional District in Kansas City gave this recognition to Rep. Alan Wheat for his consistent support of Bread's position on anti-hunger and anti-poverty initiatives.  Incidentally, Rep. Wheat was on the now-defunct House Select Committee on Hunger, founded by his friend, then Rep. Tony Hall.

Tony Hall is now executive director of The Alliance to End Hunger.

Alan Wheat left the House for an unsuccesful run for the U.S. Senate.  After that, he spent a couple of years as vice president of public policy and Government Relations for the international relief organization CARE. ( I still have the necktie that Alan Wheat gave me when he worked at CARE,  We were both on the Bread board at that time).  In 1998, he formed  Wheat Government Relations, a political consultancy firm.

(Photo from Carlos Navarro's collection of Bread pictures)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Before the Days of Powerpoint

Paul Nelson --now Dr. Paul Nelson-- leads a discussion on foreign aid at a Bread for the World workshop for the Kansas City metro area in the mid-1980s.  He is now a Professor of International Development at the University of Pittsburgh. (Thanks to former Bread organizer Todd Dietterle for filling in some blanks).

Here are more photos from that workshop:

(Photos from Carlos Navarro's collection of Bread pictures)

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Common Good and the Defense of Good Government

In Abraham Lincoln's words, our government was instituted "of the people, by the people, and for the people." Government is not them. It is us. Government is not inherently good or evil; it's how people choose to govern themselves.

As society and the economy become more complex, we need government to create the infrastructure to establish justice and to promote the general welfare. In primitive societies, with smaller communities and simpler lives, government was also much smaller. Food and necessities were produced locally; labor was done by family or neighbors. There was no Wall Street. No corporate boards made decisions affecting the lives of truly anonymous workers and consumers. No need for air traffic control or a pollution control agency.

In our increasingly complex society, we need to work together to give all children access to quality education, to ensure that products we buy are safe, to pay for roads and bridges and public safety, to protect the environment, and to help those who are sick and vulnerable and unable to fend for themselves.

It is through government that we can effectively address these needs. It is also, almost always, less expensive to do so collectively – it's far cheaper to pay for a clean public water supply than to have each household drill their own well, and test and purify their own water. Yet right-wing politicians across the country have been signing (Grover) Norquist's No New Taxes pledge; a pledge that allows no exceptions, whether for growing needs, for emergencies, or natural disasters.

Under the anti-tax ideology, if children go hungry, that's tough. If bridges collapse, too bad.

-Minnesota State Sen. John Marty
Read full piece entitled  In Defense of Good Government, published by the Apple Pie Alliance in its bulletin To the Point!

A New Restaurant HelpsTackle Food Inscurity in Santa Fe

Imagine if a restaurant designates one of the offerings from its regular lunch menu as donation, "pay what you wish" item.  

A new restaurant in Santa Fe, The Community Table Café, will make it part of its mission to draw awareness to food insecurity in the City Different.  For sure, a free or low-cost meal a day to low-income customers won't end hunger in Santa Fe.  But the fact is that this meal makes hunger awareness very much a part of the operation.

In announcing their grand opening, the owners of the restaurant, Christopher Kolon and Reingard Kolon, included the following statement.
New Mexico is ranked 2nd in the nation for food insecurity. 15% of Santa Fe residents are considered food insecure. Food Security exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.
Speaking of the grand opening, the owners invite everyone to an opening party  on Friday, July 15 at The Community Table Café, in Santa Fe at the Design Center, 418 Cerrillos Road, 5 – 7 PM . The featured speaker is Denise Cerreta of the One World Everybody Eats Foundation.  The restaurant is part of this movement, which among other things promotes the creation of community kitchens.  You might recall that the foundation held  its 2011 gathering in Santa Fe in January.

About the new restaurant

The Community Table Café will feature a menu inspired by the seasons and will draw on traditional dishes from around the world, with an emphasis on Mediterranean cuisine.

The Community Table Café will focus on issues of food insecurity in the local community by offering one plate from the regular lunch menu each day on a donation basis, strictly pay-what-you-wish.

In addition, the restaurant will institute a volunteer program where anyone may volunteer in exchange for a meal or a meal token.

The Community Table subscribes to the vision statement of the One World Everybody Eats Foundation:

* We are dedicated to eliminating world hunger.
* We are dedicated to serving local ,organic, unprocessed food.
* We are dedicated to feeding and including all members of our community.
* We are dedicated to eliminating waste in the food industry.
* We believe that we can trust our customers to be inspired, honest and fair in their exchange of money and/or time for the fresh, local, organic food we prepare both mindfully and in a heartfelt way each day.
* We will keep believing ...

The Menu
The Community Table Café will be open for breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday. Breakfast will consist of fresh pastries and made-to-order breakfast burritos.

The lunch menu will change each week. The menu’s basic structure will be composed of: 2 soups, 6 salads, 2 entrees, a vegetarian green chile burrito, a beet burger, Small Planet Plate and desserts.

Soups and salad and entrée plates come with a slice of house-made, whole grain, organic bread.

This type of changing menu will allow the owners to keep prices as low as possible and to source many local, seasonal ingredients.

Examples of dishes are: Mushroom risotto, Cheese Spaetzle, Pasta Arrabiatta, Morrocan carrot salad, Rosti with roasted veggies, Asian pasta salad, marinated beet salad, polenta gratin, fennel salad, and veggie enchiladas.

About the owners
Christopher and Reingard Kolon, have long and varied careers in the food service industry.

Christopher Kolon has lived in Santa Fe for 25 years, working as a chef, culinary instructor and food writer.

He created the vegetarian food program at the Nizhoni International Boarding School in 1989 and entered seminars and workshops for its parent organization, The Light Institute in Galisteo. He wrote a vegetarian cookbook for the organization entitled The Global Gourmet.

He was instrumental in opening Café Escalera, working with Chez Panisse chef, David Tanis and acclaimed vegetarian cookbook writer, Deborah Madison.

Mr. Kolon taught in the culinary program at Santa Fe Community College throughout the 1990s, founded Localflavor Magazine, and has operated several catering companies and coffee shops.

Reingard Kolon grew up in her family’s pub and restaurant in Graz, Austria. She is certified in Aryuvedic cooking and has owned several coffee shops both in Austria and the United States. She and her husband most recently operated Latitudes Espresso and Ice Cream in downtown Santa Fe.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

My Very First National Gathering

My friend Kimberly Burge was asked to write a piece about the recent National Gathering 2011, based on some interviews with folks attending the event. She needed someone who had gone to many national gatherings, so she chose to interview me. One of the questions she asked was how many national gatherings I had attended. I responded that I didn't remember exactly, but I thought it was perhaps 10 or 12. 

This got me thinking about the first national gathering I had ever attended. So I went back to my photo albums. I think it was 1983 or 1984 (or 1985?). I had recently moved to Kansas City and had at that point recently joined Bread. The National Gathering that year was at Catholic University and not our recent usual venue of American University. There was no blogging or twitter or Facebook. (These were the days when we still did the bulk of our grassroots organizing by telephone.) 

Lobby Day with Gloria Lohrmann from St. Louis
On Lobby Day, there were just two of us from Missouri, Gloria Lohrman from St. Louis and myself. I was in the Missouri Fifth Congressional District, so my member of Congress was Rep. Alan Wheat.

I remember going into Rep. Wheat's office and meeting with the congressman himself.  He actually thought he would be meeting with a staff member, but when I told him I was a constitutent, his eyes lit up. I was wearing one of those early Bread for the World buttons with a yellow background and the emblem of the loaves and fishes. He asked where he could get one of those buttons. That was a great opening for me to give him my button!

I can't remember what the ask was, but a couple of days after the National Gathering, I got a call from one of his aides telling me that the congressman had cosponsored. (Incidentally, Alan went on to join the Select Committee on Hunger, created by his friend Rep. Tony Hall).

I don't remember much more from the gathering,  I think Todd Dietterle was my regional organizer,Art Simon was the president of Bread for the World and Kim Bobo was director of organizing.  I also know I met some great people! I am amazed that I still remember the names of two of the three people in the photograph below.  I'm sorry I can't remember the name of the person in the middle.  What I know is that Lisa Washington from northern California is on the left and Will Howie from Mississippi is on the right.  (In fact, I still have Will's business card!)

Incidentally, I found a lot of great photos in that old album, which I will scan and share them along with more stories about Bread during my days in Kansas City. So watch this space for those updates!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Fair Trade at the Farmers Market

Virginia Pitts
By Ellen Buelow
Last Saturday Virginia Pitts, Ann Doyle and I had a table at the Los Ranchos Farmers Market. Our location was in front of two musicians singing about Ireland. Their lively music kept folks coming right past us.

We were active evangelists for Fair Trade. One request was to sell Fair Trade coffee and tea when a new bookstore opened. Another was for a "Spirit Center" with a simple mandate to "do good".

I offered a starter kit. We netted about $90.00 (deducting our change and not deducting cost of product) 
Ann Doyle & Holy Rosary parishioner

Perhaps we'll try this venue again. We were there around 6:15 a.m.-- up at sunrise with the rest of the farmers and packed up around 10 a.m. We had requests for Fair Trade literature too. This was Social Justice in the Market Place!

(The author is a member of the Social Justice Committee at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church and also a Bread for the World activist).

A Message from the Food Depot on Las Conchas Fire

The Las Conchas fire is the largest in state history, burning more than 61,000 acres and displacing many people in northern New Mexico, mostly residents of Los Alamos.  The fire has also affected Santa Clara Pueblo, burning an estimated 6,000 acres of its watershed and cultural sites.
Even though the fire is still underway and first responders are working to put it out, The Food Depot food bank in Santa Fe, which to hunger needs in northern New Mexico, requests that food collections and food donations begin to slow.
“The wonderful response of the community both in the Santa Fe area and Albuquerque has been absolutely tremendous and appreciated.  From individuals to food and retail donors, we are thankful to be is such a generous community and state.”

“At this point, we are asking for the community to focus on monetary donations.  We have enough non-perishable food and water at The Food Depot to carry us through this disaster. However, we are asking the community to consider continuing to give monetary donations. We may need to purchase perishable items once our existing perishables are depleted.  Having access to funds will help us purchase perishable food items requested by the feeding sites for fire fighters.”
Sherry Hooper, executive director of the Food Depot

There are three ways for you to donate money:

1) Santa Fe Food Depot’s Web site, Donations link
2) Through Roadrunner Food Bank’s website Donations link (be sure to check the box labeled “Las Conchas Fire”)
3) Text to Donate $10 – Text RRFB FIRE to 20222 (must include the space between RRFB and FIRE).