Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Discofunkgrass Band to Hold Benefit for Taos Feeds Taos

Here is a great reason for you to travel to Taos next Friday.  

The Last to Know (LTK) discofunkgrass band will hold its fourth annual Holiday Benefit Show on Friday night, December 9, at 8:00 p.m. at the KTAOS Solar Center in Taos. This is a Food Drive to benefit Taos Feeds Taos.

The six-piece band blends the heartiest world rhythms with jam-band passion, while muddying the lines between Americana roots music, disco, funk and bluegrass.  (Read more about the band below).

KTAOS Solar Center is a nationally recognized live music venue that houses not only two of the region’s most popular radio stations but also a full service bar and restaurant called The Station Bar.

Admission is free if you bring five or more cans of food. All canned food will be donated to Taos Feeds Taos. Cover charge without canned goods is $7. The Station Bar opens at 4:00 pm.

Please bring items from the following list only...
Pumpkin - 15 oz
Pears - 15 oz
Peaches - 15 oz
Fruit Cocktail - 15 oz
Cranberries - 16 oz
Peas - 15 oz
Green Beans - 15 oz
Corn - 15 oz
Mixed Vegatables-15 oz
Yams - 29 oz
Beef Stew - 24 oz
Canned Tuna - 5 oz
Canned Chicken - 6 oz
Chicken Noodle Soup - 10 oz
Tomato Soup - 10 oz
Spaghetti Sauce
Evaporated Milk, Unsweetened

More about the Band
LTK has shared the bill with Hot Buttered Rum String Band, The Motet, Buckwheat Zydeco, Culture, The Vince Herman Trio, The Skatalites, and Leftover Salmon. They have played the Main Stage at the annual Taos Solar Music Festival - a stage graced by Los Lobos, Michael Franti and Spearhead, String Cheese Incident, Richard Thompson, New Monsoon, Michelle Shocked, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Harry Belafonte, and Leo Kottke, among others.

The band has performed at several other festivals including Silverton Jamboree, Crestone Music Festival, Alibi Spring Crawl in downtown Albuquerque, the Santa Fe Thirsty Ear Festival, and the Dreamtime Festival. Based in Taos, New Mexico, Last to Know has been together, writing and performing since 1999.

Thinking about Grants for Vegetable Gardens during the Holiday Season

With temperatures outside in the frigid zone and with the pending arrival of  Christmas, a vegetable garden is the last thing that comes to mind.  After all, it wasn't long ago that you cleared the frozen tomato and chile plants from the plot in the back yard and dumped those fallen leaves into the compost to give them a nice source of carbon.

Photo: NM Centennial Garden Program
But this is indeed the time to think about vegetable gardens if you are a school administrator or a teacher who would like to apply for a grant from the New Mexico Centennial Gardens Program. This because all applications must be received by  5:00 pm on January 13,2012.  And we all know that our schedules are going to be getting busier over the next few weeks.

Grants will be available at levels of $2,500, $5,000 and $10,000.

Eligibility and Selection Criteria

Applicants must:
• Be a nonprofit school or school district (public, private or charter elementary, middle or secondary) or a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working in partnership with a school or community garden.
• Have the capacity to manage grant funds responsibly and the skills and experience necessary to undertake a garden project.
• Demonstrate that the garden project has strong participation from stakeholders, including school or community leadership and volunteers.
• Demonstrate that thoughtful consideration is being given to the technical challenge of garden construction and maintenance: soil preparation, water availability, tool storage and municipal regulations.
• Articulate a plan for integrating the garden into the life of the school/community, including plan to put the garden's produce to good use. 

Here's more information on how to apply for the program.  The link includes an application form.

The New Mexico Centennial Garden Program is an initiative of the New Mexico Centennial Foundation, working in partnership with state agencies and private partners. Thanks to the generosity of the Coca Cola Foundation, the NM Centennial Foundation is able to provide grants to support school and community garden projects in New Mexico in 2012.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Grocery Shopping at Midnight

An increasing number of our neighbors are having to rely on food stamps to make ends meet to survive the economic downturn.  So what happens if funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is cut?  Read more from the Food Research and Action Center

The new NBC television show Rock Center with Brian Williams points out how the increased use of food stamps has changed the way Walmart, the largest retailer in our country, does business.
Carol Johnston, Walmart’s senior vice president of store development, said that store managers have seen an “enormous spike” in the number of consumers shopping at midnight on the first of the month. That’s typically when those receiving federal food assistance have their accounts refilled each month. 
Below is a clip from the show (pardon the commercials--they're part of the clip).  And here is an article by Jessica Hopper from the staff of Rock Center with Brian Williams

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Closing the Nutrition and Food Gap in Rural New Mexico

In 2009, the New Mexico Food Gap Task Force presented a report to the governor, lieutenant governor and state legislature that offered a picture of the types of challenges we face in our state to provide nutritious food to residents of rural areas.

The report, entitled Closing New Mexico's Food Gap, provided evidence that residents rural areas face greater challenges finding adequate sources of nutrition.  There are fewer grocery stores and less availability of fresh fruit and vegetables.  A growing body of evidence suggests, those with fewer food choices tend to eat less healthfully.

Case in point are Quay in eastern New Mexico and Grant County in southwestern in the southwestern part of the state.  According to New Mexico Department of Health statistics, Quay is the heaviest county in the state. Fully 71.5 percent of the county’s 10,155 residents are overweight or obese compared to the already high 59.7 percent rate for the state as a whole.

And here is a note about Grant County. 
In this region of southwestern New Mexico, residents have little access to fresh, healthy food due to communities’ isolation and limited infrastructure. Less and less food is grown locally, and trucking it in over long distances leads to higher costs—making fresh produce prohibitively expensive for many families hit hard by job losses in local industries. With one of the worst unemployment rates in New Mexico, families often stretch limited dollars by choosing high-calorie, low-nutrition processed foods.
Photo by Carlos Navarro
So how do you begin to address the problem? The Grant County Community Health Council and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation developed the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) program to reduce childhood obesity through healthy eating and active living policy, systems and environmental change. Under the four-year initiative that began in December 2009, HKHC partners with community organizations, schools, local government agencies and individuals to improve opportunities for regular exercise and good nutrition for residents.  

Here's what HKHC-Grant County says.
Only two towns in the county, Bayard and Silver City, have full-services grocery stores, but plans include increasing local agriculture, adding cold-storage facilities for growers and the local food pantry, and creating purchasing cooperatives among stores, restaurants and schools in order to decrease costs. The goal is to increase the supply of fresh foods so that families can easily incorporate fruit and vegetables into their diets.
Growers markets are a major part of this effort. This short film, created by Frank Drysdale and HKHC-Grant County, shows how local communities can become part of the solution. The film highlights local agriculture and farmer's markets in Southwest New Mexico.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Fair Friday!

The day after Thanksgiving offers us a great spiritual opportunity. We are given the chance of subtraction, and not the "addition" encouraged through Black Friday by the retail industry.  We can now start switching gears to begin immersing ourselves in the Advent season. 

The Advent/Christmas season also offers an opportunity to step outside ourselves.  Our loved ones are on our minds when we buy presents and when we plan our gatherings and celebrations.  And during this season, there is an effort to recognize the importance of the spirit of Shalom, a sense of well-being and prosperity throughout the Earth that comes with a right relationship with our Creator.

What better way to connect with this spirit of Shalom than through the practice of mindful purchases. Do our purchases in one way or another promote social justice? This could mean buying products from local merchants, which in many ways promotes the sense of community that we seem to have lost.

And it could also mean buying fair-trade products.  Last December I posted a list of merchants that offer a wide range of goods that are fairly traded.  Click here to see the list. 

Here is an excerpt from an Advent reflection the Pax Christi Web site.
"Thankfully we are blessed with a loving Creator who gives us the freedom to meet God doing right. We make choices. Some choices lead us to mistakes: some we learn from, others we don’t. At other times, our choices are life-giving. And we are the owners of these choices, however they turn out."   
Read full reflection by Diane Lopez Hughes

While the purchase of  fair-trade products is certainly a good thing from a practical standpoint, there is also a strong spiritual connection. Rev. Judy Hoffhine and Ruth Farrell of the Presbyterian Hunger Program (and fellow Bread for the World board member) have created a Bible study entitled Fair Trade: Using our Purchasing Power for Justice and Hope. The 40-page booklet offers six sessions on the principles of Fair Trade, direct connections to scripture, and a reference section on Fair Trade that includes resources and ways to get involved.  Here is a Sample Session   The study is available via Partners for Just Trade

Happy Fair Friday!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Nourishment as a Gift

When we receive nourishment as a gift, our eating is transfigured from an act of consumption to an act of consecration. When we share God’s abundance with warm hospitality, a meal becomes a healing communion.

When we acknowledge the care, the cost and the hands that bring us this sustenance, sharing food becomes a radical act of redress, our resistance to the cynicism that takes life for granted.

When we give thanks, our gratitude inoculates us against the gloating entitlements of self righteousness. And when we are mindful of the Source and myriad connections that bring us to this table, our time together becomes a blessing, a taste of the Reign of Restoration right here, right now. AMEN, let it be so.

-Excerpts from Behold Thanksgiving by Joe Grant, StillPOINT blog

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Growing Hope Against Hunger

The advertisement said "Don't miss this fun and educational kids event!!!  And guess what?  I not only missed the special screening of Sesame Street's Growing Hope Against Hunger last Saturday, Nov. 19, but also missed posting a blog to get people there.  (And it showed on KNME back in October!)  

So this is a belated thank you to KNME-TV, Kids Cook! and the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger for having sponsored this event.

And I want to take this opportunity to highlight this program in case you are able to get a copy of a DVD or if KNME or your local PBS station shows it again.

Here's a promo:
Growing Hope Against Hunger speaks to both children and adults with a story that celebrates community as everyone works to help one another — including Brad Paisley, Kimberly Williams Paisley and their Sesame Street friends. Our Sesame friends are collecting foods at a food drive and meet Lily, a new character whose family has an ongoing struggle with hunger. The Sesame characters learn how their simple actions can make a world of difference. Finally, documentary stories present children’s perspectives on food insecurity and illuminate the impact hunger has on families.

Thanksgiving: Bearing Fruit in the Fight Against Hunger

Tom Eagan
By Jane Remson, O. Carm

Our local Bread for the World chapter planted trees for World Food Day several years ago.  We thought it would be a good idea to plant fruit trees in neighborhoods for people to eat fresh fruit. 
We chose pear trees because they are hardy and native to New Orleans.  

We selected two sites: a child care facility in the Lakefront area, and an Uptown church with an active food bank. Hurricane Katrina destroyed the trees on the Lakefront, but the Uptown trees are producing fruit and neighbors  enjoy eating the pears.  The neighbors, in fact, are the ones who take care of the trees.

Trees have long been a part of our efforts to address the root causes of hunger.  Several years before planting the two pear trees locally, the Bread for the World New Orleans chapter sent a donation to purchase trees in Haiti as a way to stop or slow down soil erosion for small farmers in Haiti.  Trees for Haiti was also a project we sponsored in observance of World Food Day.  

Blessings and gratitude at this time of Thanksgiving.

(The author is director of Bread for the World New Orleans)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bread for the World's 2012 Hunger Report Features Small Farmers

Bread for the World released its 2012 Hunger Report, "In Short Supply: Small Farmers and the Struggle to Deliver Healthy Food to Your Plate."  Great work from the staff at the Bread for the World Institute! Here is a great video that accompanied the release. Please share this widely. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Interfaith Prayer for a Compassionate Budget, Sunday, November 20, 2011 (Bataan Park, Albuquerque)

Click here for Channel 4 Coverage (including video report)

As we gather today our hearts ache with the suffering of brothers and sisters who are hungry, and suffering from unemployment, or lack of health care.  Many of us carry concerns for the future generations, for education and a healthy environment with clean air, water and food.

As people of various beliefs, we all know our connection as brothers and sisters to everyone and that we are all one within the web of life of the Creator.  Out of  a deep and responsible Love we gather today to pray for a just and compassionate federal budget.

We firmly believe that God, the Holy One of many names calls us to protect and promote the dignity of all people and the earth.  We also believe that the basic values and principles of our country acknowledge our responsibility to provide for the neediest among us and to make structural connections of why people are poor and why the earth is being devastated.

Religious leaders have called on the Deficit Super Committee members and Congress, as they consider our nation's fiscal health, to focus on job creation, revenue increases, and reduction of military spending that is unnecessary and/or duplicative.

As we gather here, we are joined by thousands of women and men of faith across the United States who are praying to support a federal budget that lifts burdens of poverty, homelessness, hunger and unemployment and raises the moral concerns of justice, equitable economy and care for creation throughout the world.

Pray together
May God, the Holy One and Creator bless us with discomfort
At easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships 
So that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger
At Injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people and the earth
So that we may work for justice, freedom, peace and integrity of creation.

May God bless us with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, freedom, peace and integrity of creation.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness
To believe that we can make a difference in the world,
So that we can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all children and people 
Who are poor and oppressed
And bring healing to the Earth.

We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act.  One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly be beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway.  True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial.  Compassion sees that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring.  A true revolution of values will look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.   From Jericho Road  -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Spirit of God, renew the hearts of all of us who are gathered here.  Inspire Congress and the administration to act justly and to protect our most vulnerable brothers and sisters, here and around the world. Reinvigorate our nations' vision of the common good.

 May God, our Creator and parent, breathe into us new life and new meaning.  May the Wisdom of God
breathe into us new hope and new awareness. May the Spirit of God breathe into a new spirit and new understanding of the world in which we live.  AMEN.

(Vigil script put together by Joan Brown, OSF, Executive Director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light.  Bread New Mexico and New Mexico Conference of Churches cosponsored the vigil).

Empowerment During a Time of Budget Cuts

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I want to take this opportunity to give thanks for the efforts of Bread for the World activists Cathy Brechtelsbauer in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Donna Neste in the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

They offer us a great story of how they have worked to empower some of the low-income people they encounter on a daily basis. Most of these folks receive public assistance and are vulnerable to the draconian cuts that Congress is considering.

Like many Bread activists around the country, Cathy and Donna are both deeply involved in direct service and in personal advocacy.  But they feel there should be a third element to their anti-hunger strategy: offering a tool for folks that they serve to participate in advocacy.  

At a time when Bread was mobilizing advocates around the country to call legislators in Washington to oppose budget cuts and create a Circle of Protection for programs that help poor and hungry people, Cathy and Donna did the same with some of the clients who are vulnerable to these cuts.

"Most of them are so caught up in surviving that they are not political," said Donna. "They will not know what hit them if these cuts become law."

At one of the meetings of the Bread coordinating committee in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, Donna had suggested a call-in campaign for the low-income people she sees on a daily basis.  "I would write something with some simple talking points, asking representatives called, to not cut SNAP and WIC because I depend upon it for the health of my children."

Cathy adapted Donna's idea in Sioux Falls.  She put together a handout for people lining up to receive food at Faith Temple Church.

"Faith Temple church has a big food giveaway every Friday. Hundreds of people come, like 300-400. It is very good that people can get needed food, and an amazing effort of the church to give it out, but this situation is just awful!! This is no way to run a country!! It reminds me of the food lines you see in photos of the Great Depression. All sorts of folks need food and come, lining up hours ahead," said Cathy.

Here is the plan she used: "I stood where i could talk to 3-5 folks and, holding out the flier, asked Would anyone like to help keep Congress from reducing food stamps and WIC. Here's a free phone number."

By now people are taking the fliers. As they start to look at them, I say, "You call the number and ask for Senator Johnson. Then call the number again and ask for Thune. Then call the number again and ask for Noem. If they are not answering tonight, call next week. Then give the flier to your friends and neighbors and ask them to call. Keep the calls going in all next week."

Here is a copy of the handout, contained in one-third of a letter-sized sheet.

Did you know…
that your WIC and SNAP (food stamps) are in danger of being cut by Congress in Washington? Times are hard enough without more cuts to the programs you need in order to survive.

Call your two Senators and your Representative in Washington and tell them to keep a circle of protection around programs that help low-income people. Tell them not to cut WIC and SNAP for the health and well being of your children. Tell them how important these programs are to you and people you know.

Use this temporary toll-free # 1-800-826-3688, donated by Bread for the World, to get you to the Capitol switch board. That’s where you ask to be connected to your
Senators: Senator Tim Johnson and Senator John Thune
And Representative Kristi Noem

By speaking up, you can help a great many people keep food on the table.
Thanks from Bread for the World. 11-11-11

Donna also created a handout for residents of Minnesota, changing the names to Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Rep. Norm Ellison

Cathy said the effort could easily extend beyond South Dakota and Minnesota. "You could copy it, insert names of your own members of Congress, change the date at the bottom, and take it to your local food pantry, WIC office, Salvation Army, and other places where people come looking for help with basic needs like food," she said.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Honoring Bread Activist Mike Hiland: A Pilot Light in Portland

Mike Hiland & Matt Newell-Ching
Mike Hiland and I served together on the Bread for the World board for a couple of years back in the 1990s.  But beyond the board service, I came to know Mike as an activist extraordinaire, a kindred spirit. (We Bread grassroots kindred spirits tend to hang out!)

I was really pleased to learn that Mike was recently honored as a corecipient of the Harvest of Hope award, given annually by the Oregon Faith Roundtable Against Hunger (OFRAH).  The award was presented at the OFRAH's Annual Harvest of Hope Breakfast (9th annual) at Congregation Beth Israel in Portland on November 8. The keynote speaker was U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader from the Fifth Congressional District in Oregon.

OFRAH also honored Farmers Ending Hunger, HomePlate Youth Services, and Portland First United Methodist Church. 

Mike received the award for his decades of advocacy work with Bread and for his role as the lead organizer for a recent Circle of Protection conference in Portland, which brought together many different groups around the issue of protecting the most vulnerable from deep budget cuts.

Matt Newell-Ching, Bread's western regional organizer, introduced Mike, comparing his work and the work of Bread activists to a pilot light, which stands steady and ready to serve, igniting a larger response, and does not flash bright then fade like a firework. The work to end hunger is something that continues over the long run. It combines the work of advocates for public policy with that of direct action, to do more than either can do alone.

And here's what the OFRAH web site says about Mike:
Over the years, Mike Hiland has dedicated thousands of volunteer hours to Bread for the World. (Frankly, we all thought he worked for Bread!) He has organized countless offerings of letters in churches throughout the region. Most recently, Mike spearheaded the event Hunger and the Budget Crisis: A Faith-based Call to Action, which was attended by nearly 100 people from a wide variety of religious groups.
Mike is in good company. Here is information about the three other recipients:
Farmers Ending Hunger: begins with Oregon farmers and ranchers who raise hundreds of acres of produce, grain and cattle. With a little extra effort, each farmer donates an acre or two to feed the hungry and suddenly their network had thousands of tons of fresh food!

HomePlate Youth Services: supports the positive development of young people experiencing homelessness or housing instability through community building, education, access to services and resources, and youth empowerment. They do this primarily through a drop-in every Monday and Thursday, which includes a free weekly meal and access to a variety of resources.

For as long as any of those involved in serving the hungry, the poor or the vulnerable can remember, Portland First United Methodist has reached out and served other faith communities and not for profits with the same compassion and dedication as it has in its direct service. If the interfaith community needs a place to celebrate, to mourn, or to learn together, they welcome us. Their welcoming community extends beyond bricks. Their pastors, their staff, and their community make space in their building and space in their hearts.

The Oregon Faith Roundtable Against Hunger seeks to engage diverse religious communities throughout the state, including direct service agencies, in order to develop solutions to the root causes of hunger through education and public policy advocacy

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What Does it Take for Congress to Pass a Compassionate Budget?

On Tuesday, November 8, members of the Bread for the World board of directors took time from our meetings in Washington to visit our senators to urge them to form a Circle of Protection around programs that help the most vulnerable in our country and overseas.  This was both for the 2012 budget and for the longer term. 

From the God's Politics blog
I had very good meetings with the aides to Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, who seem very supportive of this effort.  Other members met with the staffs of Sens. Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Bob Corker, Lamar Alexander, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer and others. 

The board member who had one of the most important meetings was from Washington state. Her senator  Patty Murray, plays a key role in the budget debate.  She is co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, more commonly known as the Super Committee. 

The Super Committee is nearing the Nov. 23 deadline to put forth a plan that will cut the deficit, whether it is through budget cuts or revenue enhancement. The committee, comprised of House and Senate members, is charged with issuing a recommendation for at least $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction steps to be undertaken over a ten‐year period.  

Most of the proposals are looking at budget cuts, and the programs that are most vulnerable to cuts are those that provide food and nutrition assistance (WIC, SNAP), job training, energy assistance, child care. 

From National Council of Churches Super Vigil site
"Many of their proposed cuts the Super Committee is contemplating strike fear in my soul -- a visceral forboding of injustice," Karla T. Vasquez wrote in a piece entitled Human Circles of Protection: 16, 23, 24 is the Combination to Guard the Needy Against Budget Cuts, published in  Sojourners' God's Politics blog.

According to Ms. Vasquez, there are three key numbers (or dates): 16,  23, and  24.  I would add 20 (or November 20), and I'll tell you why in a second. 

On November 16, communities around the country will gather at noon to form human circles of protection around the buildings of organizations and agencies that have dedicated their lives to helping the poor and are in jeopardy of losing essential funding from the federal government. 

November 23 is the Super Committee deadline.

On November 24, we all will be thankful for the hands that joined together in order to take a stand for their community, for justice and for hope," said Ms. Vasquez.

Join us for Vigil at Bataan Park on November 20

As far as I know, no event has been planned in Albuquerque for Nov. 16, but the New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, Bread New Mexico, and other members of the local faith community have put together An Interfaith Vigil for a Compassionate Budget on Sunday, November 20, at 3:00 p.m. at Bataan Park (on the corner of Lomas and Girard).  Read more on Facebook.

Our event is tied to the Super Vigil promoted by the National Council of Churches for that date.  We will be using a version of this budget litany.  I'm sure many communities around the country will organized vigils and rallies around both the Sojourners and the NCC events.

We began the dialogue here in Albuquerque with Joining Hands in a Circle of Protection, a prayer vigil that we organized at Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Saturday, Oct. 22.  

We are following up on that vigil by meeting with five candidates seeking the open seat in the First Congressional District: Michelle Lujan Grisham (Nov. 16); Dan Lewis, Janice Arnold-Jones and Martin Chavez (all on Nov. 18); and Eric Griego (Nov. 19). If you want to participate in the congressional visits, please drop me a note at  

And if you can't come for any of those meetings, please join us on November 20 for the vigil at Bataan Park.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rabbi Steve Gutow: Hunger is a Form of Slavery

Rabbi  Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, recently took the Food Stamp Challenge, which gives participants a view of what life can be like for millions of low-income Americans.

Most participants take the Challenge for one week, living on about $4 per day worth of food – the average food stamp benefit. Challenge participants are forced to make difficult food shopping choices, and often realize how difficult it is to avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy.

While the challenge is primarily a practical exercise, there is a spiritual element in stepping back and living life with less.  

The difference between people like me  and those with limited means is that after taking the challenge we can go back to our middle-class lifestyle.  Rabbi Gutow offers his experiences in an article he wrote  in The Huffington Post

Here are the first two paragraphs
Looking at my dwindling stash of food the last few days caused me strange sensations of fear, fragility, and questions about the world. I admit I was a little dizzy at times and euphoric at other times. I was bored with what I was eating, concentrating on husbanding my last drops of yoghurt, milk, and corn flakes. Eating my first non-food stamp meal yesterday at a New York Indian restaurant with my good friend, John Ruskay, where the meal itself cost close to $25.00, showed me in high relief what the challenge could not allow.

As a Jew I remember that in Egypt my people were enslaved thousands of years ago. Hunger is a form of slavery and my mind kept focusing on the time in Egypt. On Passover we say that we were slaves in Egypt intending to show that we are part of an ongoing recollection of that period in the history of my people. The end of the food stamp challenge filled me with a deeper capacity to empathize. I felt that not only were we slaves but as I stared at the attrition of my food supply, I felt like I understood the Israelite condition more than I had ever understood it before. We were slaves as the liturgy taught but I felt like I was a slave and that I will now be even more a slave to the ongoing need to stop hunger among my people all through the world.

People from all walks of life have taken the challenge: social workers, anti-hunger activists, students accountants, lawyers, clergy and many others. Proponents are especially interested in participation from members of Congress. That's why they created this handy toolkit.   Reps. Barbara Lee of California, Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts have taken the challenge. In this time of difficult budget decisions, wouldn't it be great if all members of Congress took the challenge? 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Albuquerque Mennonite Church Invites You to Presentation on East Africa

Photo from Mennonite Central Committee
Pastor Anita Amstutz of Albuquerque Mennonite Church and her brother Doug Amstutz invite you to learn about the work of the Mennonite Central Committee in East Africa. Images from Ethiopia and Kenya will be presented.  This informal evening will also feature a taste of Ethiopian culture, including coffee and snacks. 

Here are the details:
Saturday, November 19, 7:00-8:30pm
1300 Girard Ave. NE  (between Lomas and Indian School)
Call Anita at 250-7151 if you have questions.

Here is an excerpt from the Mennonite Central Committee's East Africa drought response.
The drought and food crisis remain at emergency levels in many regions in East Africa with over 13 million people now affected.

"This is a long-term crisis,” said Bruce Guenther, program coordinator, Food, Disaster and Material Resources department. “Many of the people affected depend on agriculture and livestock activities for their livelihoods. The severity of this humanitarian crisis will affect these families for years to come.”

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Sartans for St. Martin’s Fun Run/Walk on November 13 in Albuquerque

Photo Courtesy of St. Martin's Hospitality Center
By Karen Navarro

As we begin the holiday season, our awareness of “the poorest of the poor,” the “homeless,” is heightened as each one of us looks for ways we can help out. One opportunity to make a real difference is to respond to this invitation to run, walk or cheer on event participants in a 5K Run/Walk (+ 1K kid run/walk) on Sunday, November 13th at 10:00 am at St. Pius X High School, 5301 St. Joseph’s Drive, NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120. This fun event has been organized by the Notre Dame Club of New Mexico (Fighting Irish) and the St. Pius X High School Cross Country Team (Sartans). 100% of the proceeds will go to St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, a large homeless services agency in Albuquerque that offers a drop-in center and behavioral health supportive housing programs for individuals and families who are homeless.

You can register on race day at St. Pius, or register online through the site or New Mexico Sports Online Entry fees for the 5K run/walk: $20 for 18-year-olds or over; $10 under 18 years of age; for the 1K kid run/walk: $10 (ages 12 and under). For more info, visit “Sartans for St. Martin’s” on Facebook, or contact Tom Mescall,, 765-5548.

Participants (and cheerleaders) are encouraged to bring donations for the 300-400+ homeless individuals who visit St. Martin’s Day Shelter each day: coats (large & extra-large sizes most needed), black or navy blue beanies, gloves & scarves, blankets & sleeping bags, backpacks, socks, men’s warm clothing & jeans (we have enough women’s), shampoo/conditioner.  Blog readers outside of the Albuquerque area can donate directly to St. Martin’s by clicking on the Donate button (PayPal) or other ways provided on the Donation page of our website, including mailing a check to: St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, Attn: Administration, P.O. Box 27258, Albuquerque, NM 87125; St. Martin’s is a 501(c)(3) non-profit agency

As I write this, I am listening to wonderful Irish music on KUNM’s “Folk Roots” while I sit at the computer sipping green mint tea, cozy inside our warm casita. Outside a storm is blowing through Albuquerque, with sleet, rain and “spitting” snow accompanied by sustained 30 mph winds gusting to 40 mph all morning. It is not sentimentalizing “the homeless” to be wondering what this must feel like to the thousands of men, women and children who are out and about right now on Albuquerque streets.

Each weekday in my office I hear more than one account by a homeless person voicing his or her anguish after being unable to sleep the night before because of being so cold, enduring the long hours huddled next to a building, in a camp, under a bridge or in a vehicle. When it rains overnight, those who sleep outside are likely to wake up with blankets and belongings soaked.

There is a false sense of complacency among those of us who are “housed” when we think that people are protected from “the elements” all day and night by staying in shelters. Even if there were enough shelter beds to accommodate everyone (the winter overflow shelters don’t open until November 15th — and the expected lows Nov. 5-12 will hover around 30º), the reality is that people have to leave the shelters early each morning to stand in the cold waiting for the day centers, clinics and other places to open. I sometimes think of this when my alarm jolts me awake at 6:45 am, and again in the late afternoon before the night shelters take people in. Maybe it’s just “Murphy’s Law," but in Albuquerque it always seems that these are the times of day we are most likely to experience the hardest falling precip and bone-chilling winds.

So I will be at the 5K fun run/walk and 1K kid run/walk on Sunday, November 13th, enthusiastically accepting donations of warm articles of clothing, coats, blankets, sleeping bags, and socks (a very prized possession!) Let me also extend the invitation year-round to drop off items at St. Martin’s during the hours we are open: Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, and Sundays, 7:30 to 10:00 am. Our street address is 1201 3rd St. NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102.

As postulated in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, basic human needs (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) are and always will be essential to address. Self-esteem and spiritual well-being are fed in no small part by meeting these needs. Also by looking each person in the eye whom you pass on the street and offering a simple warm greeting.

Thank you for any and all expressions of your compassionate heart!

Karen Navarro,
Client Advocate at St. Martin’s Hospitality Center,
and spouse of Carlos Navarro

Friday, November 04, 2011

Steve Garnaas-Holmes: November Blessing

May the nakedness of trees
expose within you strength and beauty.

May deepening darkness
draw you into a richer mystery.

May frost on grasses
edge your life,
speak to you of limits.

May the first snow change your plans,
and get to used to that.

May changing climate
give you courage for a new journey.

May every day be a day of giving

And for you in the Southern Hemisphere,
as others enter one season,
may you always have faith
to go in another direction.

From Unfolding Light blog

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Green Fire in Espańola

The Associated Students of Northern New Mexico College invite you to Espańola Valley’s first public screening of the new documentary film Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for our Time.

The screening is free for students and the community and will feature an address by New Mexico  Land Commissioner Ray Powell. This is the first event in our 2011-12 "Land Ethic Series." 

Here are the details:

Monday, November 7 · 5:30pm - 8:00pm
Fine Arts Theater, Northern NM College
921 N. Paseo de Oñate
Espanola, New Mexico
Tickets Free -No Reservations Required -Donations Accepted
Best known as author of the classic book A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold is also renowned for his work as an educator, philosopher, forester, ecologist, and wilderness advocate. Green Fire shares highlights from his extraordinary career, including his work in Northern New Mexico, explaining how he shaped conservation and the modern environmental movement. Green Fire illustrates Leopold’s continuing influence by exploring current projects that connect people and land at the local level.

Viewers will meet urban children in Chicago learning about local foods and ecological restoration, and wildlife biologists who are bringing back threatened and endangered species, from cranes to Mexican wolves, to the landscapes where they once thrived. They’ll learn about ranchers in Arizona and New Mexico who maintain healthy landscapes by working on their own properties and with their neighbors, in cooperative community conservation efforts. 

Green Fire portrays how Leopold’s call for a land ethic ties all of these stories together and offers inspiration and insight for the future. Special guest Ray Powell, New Mexico’s elected Land Commissioner, will introduce the film and discuss opportunities for students and the public to be involved with State Land Office initiatives. 

NNMC history professor Hilario Romero will also discuss Hispanic and Native American influences on the land ethics, career and environmental legacy of Aldo Leopold.