Thursday, May 31, 2012

JustFaith and the Offering of Letters at Holy Rosary Catholic Community

(Editor's Note: This is the third in a series about Offerings of Letters in New Mexico.  Earlier, we shared a skit from All Saints Lutheran Church in Albuquerque and the bulletin announcement at Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces.  Now Ellen Buelow, who is part of our local leadership team, shares how various ministries from Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Community, led by two JustFaith facilitators, participated in this year's Offering of Letters on March 24-25). 

By Ellen Buelow

Alfonso and Janie Manzaneres, JustFaith facilitators at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Community in Albuquerque,, know how to engage parishioners in advocacy. Alfonso and Janie, leaders for Just Faith two years in a row, were inspired after reading Arthur Simon’s book, How Much is Enough?

When the social justice team reached out to include parish ministries in facilitating the Offering of Letters, the Just Faith participants said “Yes!” to a crossing of borders experience, going beyond reading to practicing legislative advocacy.

Alfonso and Janie’s team caught parishioners on their way from Mass to the parking lot. They encouraged fellow parishioners to write a personal message about how the budget cuts affected their daily lives.

This year’s Offering of Letters at Holy Rosary went beyond an action item by the Social Justice Committee to supportive ministry with Just Faith and the Norbertine pastors.

Father Gene Gries joins others in writing letters to Congress
On the Lenten Sunday preceding Passion Sunday, Father Joel Garner, O. Praem and Father Gene Gries, O. Praem spoke of the value of personal letters to Congress and noted that advocacy for the poor and vulnerable was central to the Gospel message.

Then both priests wrote messages side by side with parishioners at the tables. Parishioners, seeing their pastors and the new faces of Just Faith, were motivated to write a message to Congress.

Following the Offering of Letters, the Just Faith team joined with some members of ACTS Missions, a small church community, and the social justice committee for a Bread for the World Communal Dinner and Liturgy. Sharing the food of the poor (beans, rice, tortillas and chili) each table reflected on the impact of the budget cuts. This combined fellowship completed the Sunday Offering of Letters and presented a strong united front for Holy Rosary’s parishioners. Alfonso and Janie’s Just Faith team practiced that central Justice message at the core of many weeks of reading.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Adelante and Community Plates Involved in Food-Rescue Effforts in Albuquerque

 Let's face it.  We are are a wasteful society.  According to the US Department of Agriculture, we throw away about 25 percent of our food from restaurants, homes, stores and farms.  Other studies suggest that total could be as much as 40 percent.  

I don't know if there are any statistics for Albuquerque or for New Mexico, but I suspect we're somewhere in that 25 to 40 percent range.  What we know is that some of the food that would have gone to waste actually ends up at agencies and organizations that serve poor and hungry people in our community.  That's because Adelante's Desert Harvest has been collecting surplus food from restaurants for the past 11 years.  In 2011, Desert Harvest rescued an average of 122,000 pounds of food per month – a significant increase from the previous year. Over 70 restaurants, grocers, hotels, distributors, schools and caterers currently make donations and there are 19 recipient agencies who distribute the food to individuals and families.

Community Plates, a non-profit organization with a similar mission, recently established operations in Albuquerque.  The Duke City is one of three locations where Community Plates works to connect surplus food from restaurants and other sources to food-insecure households throughout the U.S.   The two other sites are Fairfield County in Connecticut, and Columbus, Ohio.  Here is a note from the Albuquerque page.
From NE Heights to the South Valley and Four Hills to Paradise Hills there is a group of passionate generous food-runners in Albuquerque ready to change the hunger reality of those in need. They are focused on rescuing food for the 85,000 people in ABQ (30,000 of which are children) classified as food-insecure. In addition to this amazing group of direct-transfer food heroes there are already many restaurants, grocers, bakers and other food-service organizations willing to allow CP food-runners to do what they do best and many creative hunger-relief agencies ready to distribute the rescued food.
Community Plates is using the Internet to connect food donors to agencies via local volunteers.  A page on its Web site offers the opportunity for local individuals and businesses to donate money, food and time.   And many of these connections will be made via smart phones and tablets.   Here's what the organization says about this process:   "After the [2010] earthquake in Haiti, fundraising for disaster relief seemed to be successful because all someone had to do was type five numbers into their cell phone and they donated. It was simple. If we could make it that simple for restaurants to participate, how could they say "no"?
Much of the food that is collected will go straight to some familiar agencies, such Albuquerque Rescue Mission, Noon Day Ministries, La Mesa Presbyterian Church's food pantry and St. Martin's Hospitality Center.   See full list

The video below gives you a good idea of how the program has worked in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

While we must continue efforts to save the federal safety-net programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Community Plates and Desert Harvest provide a valuable service at a time when food insecurity is so high in  New Mexico and across the country.  Click here If you want to get involved with Community Plates,  Or if you want to help with Desert Harvest's ongoing efforts, contact Jim Knutson, or505.341.7186

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Breakfast After the Bell: A Short Film by New Mexico Appleseed

New Mexico Appleseed, recently put together a report and a short film about its successful efforts via the New Mexico State Legislature to ensure that all children in our state have access to school breakfast.  But there's a catch: the breakfast must be served after the first bell has rung, ensuring that the largest number of children have access to a nutritional meal. 

The nonprofit and nonpartisan organization is part of the national Appleseed Network of 17 centers in the U.S. and in Mexico.  It's mission is to advocate for high- impact policy solutions  to the problems impacting the poor and the underserved,

"This film is part of the implementation process of our historic mandatory breakfast bill. We didn’t want to leave it to chance that schools would take advantage of the new law," said New Mexico Appleseed.  "We want to make it easy for schools impacted by the law and schools with high numbers of free/reduced price eligible children to embrace Breakfast After the Bell and reap the benefits of offering it. Together with our Breakfast Toolkit, schools will have everything they need to start offering breakfast... after the bell."

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bulletin Announcement: 'As Christians we are Called to Contribute to a Just Society'

This year, we are featuring the various creative ways in which churches in New Mexico promote their Offerings of Letters to members of the congregation.   Our first piece featured the skit that Bread members at at All Saints Lutheran Church in Albuquerque presented to the congregation.

Many churches use a bulletin announcement to provide information about the Offering of Letters a week or two before the letter-writing Sunday as well as the day when parishioners are writing letters.  Here is a great bulletin announcement from Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces. Thank you Ellen Young for sharing this with us.

Peace Lutheran Church Our Offering of Letters Begins April 15 Why do we write letters to our representatives in Congress? We speak out because: - as Christians we are called to contribute to a just society. - as citizens, we have the right and responsibility to advise our elected representatives as to what we think they should do on our behalf. - as children of God we have seven billion brothers and sisters in this world, many of whom have no chance to be heard as we can. 

We will ask our Congressional representatives to work for a Circle of Protection around programs that reduce poverty both in the U.S. and abroad. These programs are at risk of cuts beyond their proportion of the budget. What would you put in that circle? Nutrition assistance programs like SNAP (food stamps) and WIC? Tax credits for the working poor? Foreign Assistance which treats HIV and provides clean water? International food aid programs? 

This year’s offering of letters is an opportunity to tell Congress what matters most to you. Here at Peace, information will be available April 15, with letter writing on April 22 and 29, and dedication of our letters – of our exercise in Christian citizenship – on May 6. You can learn more about Bread for the World at, and about the New Mexico perspective at

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mobile Summer Meals Come to Torrence County

In New Mexico, 1 in 5 children don't know where their next meal is coming from. In rural areas, like Torrence County, transportation is a barrier to accessing food, especially in the summer. To solve this problem, the Moriarty Edgewood School District, the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger and DairyMax have embarked on an innovative solution: A Mobile Summer Meal Program. You're invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, June 11. Below is the official invitation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Voting to Plant an Orchard in Hondo

Hondo Garden
By Julia Price
Executive Director, New Mexico Alliance for Children

This spring, our non-profit, New Mexico Alliance for Children, applied for a grant to plant a public fruit orchard in the Hondo Valley at the Hondo Community Garden. We've made it to the final round of the competition, and now it's up to all of us to vote.

Can you please help us create a healthier environment, increase the local organic food supply, and build a wonderful outdoor learning space for our children?

Anyone, anywhere, any age can vote once per day! Just go to Communities Take Root and vote YES to planting a fruit orchard in Hondo.

There is a short sign-in process, but it only takes a moment to complete.

More project details follow. We have also included photos of Lincoln County Head Start children taking part in the harvest at Hondo Community Garden last fall.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Case for Poverty Focused Foreign Assistance

Some Bread for the World members around the country (including New Mexico) are urging Congress this year to protect funding for poverty-focused foreign assistance. This effort is one of four mini campaigns connected with the 2012 Offering of Letters.

Funding for poverty-focused foreign assistance programs comprises only 0.6 percent of the U.S. federal budget. Yet this small amount of money is crucial. Each year, U.S. poverty-focused assistance:
  • can save more than 1 million lives by focusing on adequate nutrition during the 1,000-day window from pregnancy to age 2.
  • provides medications that prevent more than 114,000 infants from being born with HIV, and provides counseling to more than 33 million people affected with HIV since 2004.
  • saves 3 million lives through immunization.
  • helps bring safe drinking water sources to poor communities, impacting 1.3 billion people over the last decade.   
Support from USAID
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) also developed a very useful chart that lists advances in the fight against global hunger and poverty, as well as useful statistics and definitions that put the situation into perspective. The US and other countries have provided support that have made many of the advances listed below possible.

There is a snapshot of the chart on the left, but to appreciate the full graphic, click on this link.

Here are examples contained in the chart:
Poverty is a principal cause of hunger – it prevents people from having access to food and the tools they need to grow it. Natural disasters, conflict, lack of infrastructure, and poor farming practices also contribute to the growing problem of hunger as the world population increases. But simple, smart investments in agriculture have saved lives in the past, and today we have the science, innovation, and technology to create sustainable solutions that will Feed the Future.

What Hunger Means
  • Children suffering from malnutrition are 9% more likely to die
  • Hunger costs developing countries approximately $450 billion per year in lost GDP 
  • Hunger increases a country's risk of democratic failure, protests, rioting and civil conflict

Breakthroughs in the Fight Against Hunger

Cassava: A program to develop high-yield vitamin-enriched  varieties of cassava helped cut undernourishment in Ghana by half over a 20-year period.

Rice: Between 1965 and 2007, semi-dwarf rice helped expand global rice production from 256 to over 635 million metric tons. 

Wheat: Adoption of short-stature wheat beginning in the 1950s, along with other transformative Green Revolution technologies, are credited with saving an estimated one million lives.

Corn: In Rwanda, a crop intensification initiative that made fertilizer and higher-quality seeds available to farmers produced four times the annual corn output than was harvested in years past.

Tilapia: The Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia strain developed by the WorldFish Center helped over 300,000 people in The Philippines alone.

Investments to Fight Hunger
  • Growth in agriculture is on average at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other areas.
  • A vaccine to prevent cattle disease in Africa would increase milk production by at least 240 million liters annually.
  • Investments that provide women equal access to land, water, seeds, training, and funding in agriculture could increase farm yields by 20-30%.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

'You've Convinced Me. I'll Definitely Stay to Write a Letter..."

Sample letter to Sen. Jeff Bingaman (Holy Rosary Parish)
One of the tools that Bread for the World provides for advocates to introduce the Offering of Letters to their congregations is a handy powerpoint, along with tips and suggestions on how to best use this great resource.

An Offering of Letters is also effective when you get an endorsement from the pulpit, especially a thumbs up from the pastor.  In fact, having the pastor preach on the topic of the Offering of Letters would be ideal, especially if the theme fits nicely with the scripture readings for that Sunday (or weekend).

But it doesn't have to be the pastor the folks in the pew to write letters.  Dedicated lay persons can also perform this task.  This is exactly what Crish Tippit and Rita Harris did at All Saints Lutheran Church in Albuquerque did when offered the opportunity to do a presentation to the congregation.  They decided to provide the information with a simple, but very effective, skit.  (Incidentally, the OL committee at All Saints Lutheran decided to focus on the mini campaign dealing with Tax Credits for Low-Income Families.  The 75 letters that came from the church's OL were sent primarily to  Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who sits on the Senate Finance Committee and has a key role in legislation to renew these important tax credits).

Here is the script for the skit:

Crish: sh: Hey Rita. Are you going in Fellowship Hall to write a letter to Senator Bingaman? It’s Offering of Letters day. 

Rita: Uh….I really have a lot to do right now. I was going straight home. 

C: Come on, Rita. This is important. How long is it going to take you to write one letter? We even have a sample letter with talking points if you want to use it. 
R: Well…I guess I could. I really haven’t been paying much attention. What are we writing about this year?

C: Senator Bingaman is on the Finance Committee. We want him to support making the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) permanent. Those programs are expiring this year and we want to be sure and protect working poor people who don’t make enough to support their families. These tax credits really help. For instance, in 2010 the EITC lifted 5.4 million people out of poverty—including 3 million children.

R: Wow. I know a woman who received that tax credit. She was able to pay for car repair so that she could get to work. Without that extra money, she would have been stuck. She has all she can do just to feed her 2 kids.

Display, Aquinas Newman Center
C: Exactly. And there are other programs that protect poor and hungry people that are in danger of being cut. Congress is so worried about cutting the budget that they seem willing to do it on the backs of the poor.

R: What kind of programs?

C: Two that I know of are the Food Stamp program (SNAP) and WIC—Women and Infant Children. These are funded through the Farm Bill which is also up for renewal this year. Over 40 million Americans used Food Stamps last year. These are mainly people living below the poverty line. And WIC served more than 9 million women and children in 2010. We should urge Congress to continue these programs.

R: I’m amazed that there are that many people on these programs. What I mean is I’m amazed that there are so many poor and hungry citizens in this country. It’s a shame. 

C: One thing we know. These programs really work. Even through all the financial problems and unemployment of the past 3 years, these programs have kept household hunger rates from increasing further.

R: Well, I’ll definitely stay and write a letter. In fact, I’ll see if my 2 kids in Sunday School can write one, too. It won’t hurt them to be aware of how many people in this country go hungry. 

C: Thanks, Rita. And you can enjoy a cup of coffee and some snacks while you are writing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Native Seeds, Healthy Green Chile Enchiladas, and a Rainwater Catchment System

By Julia Price

Staff and volunteers for the New Mexico Alliance for Children (Patsy Blasdell, Roger Allen, and Angie Fernandez) joined me in conducting weekly classes in gardening, composting, and healthy food preparation at the Mescalero Apache Middle School during January-May 2012.
The students learned about home gardening methods, planting with Native Seeds, and how to make healthy versions of traditional dishes, like Indian tacos, salsa, and green chile enchiladas. They studied whole vs. processed foods, and learned how to read food labels and understand the impact of food miles on our health and the environment.
This Spring, at Lincoln County Head Start, we built and painted a rainwater catchment system with the help of Ecoservants. Recycled items were used in the construction resulting in a more eco-friendly model.  We relocated the existing raised garden beds and filled them with soil and compost, so that students can experience growing their own food from seeds.

Together with Ecoservants and the US Forest Service, NMAC prepared and planted the gardens at the Mescalero Community Center, Head Start, and Smokey's Garden, adjacent to the Ranger Station on Mechem Drive in Ruidoso.  We have also led activities at Smokey's for Ruidoso Public School students and other community groups.  

This summer, we will again be working with the Boys and Girls Club (BGC) of Mescalero to bring them healthy snacks and enrichment activities of art, music/movement, and gardening events, in partnership with the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger, NMAC programs have been implemented at the BGC since 2007.

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chef Knockout Returns for Round 5

Perhaps you've seen a cooking competition on The Food Network called Iron Chef.  I must confess that I've only seen bits and pieces of the program while grazing with my remote.  These types of competitions can be quite fun if you're watching them live. And you have a chance to do so here in Albuquerque.  This is the fifth year that Chef Knockout will be held in Albuquerque. (The above video is from Round 3 in 2010)

The event, sponsored by Albuquerque The Magazine and a handful of other sponsors will be held at the Albuquerque Convention Center on Sunday, June 3, Noon to 5:00 p.m.  Tickets are only $25. By now you probably know that this competition is a benefit for The Storehouse, New Mexico’s largest food pantry which has been providing needy Albuquerqueans with food and clothing since 1969.
A day of fun and food, unlike any event Albuquerque has ever seen! Last year eight restaurants met the challenge in this “Iron Chef-style” competition, and this year will be even bigger with more food, more drinks and more fun! The Main Event features 8 restaurants in four head-to-head cooking challenges. Winners from last year will return to defend their crown in Chef Knockout 2012 .   
Tickets are available at Sandia Area Federal Credit Union, All local Albertson's Stores, and online on The Storehouse Web site.

The New Mexico Conference of Churches 867-2956, also has a limited number of tickets. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Convenient Civic Duty

I'm willing to bet that most of the readers of this blog who live in New Mexico intend to vote in the upcoming primary election.  We will be electing local, state and federal officials.

In a Primary election, each political party has its own slate of candidates and ballot. In New Mexico, you can only vote on the ballot of the political party that you are registered under. If you have not declared a party or are "Independent", you cannot vote.
The League of Women Voters of Central New Mexico has more information about voting eligibility.

But you don't have to wait until the designated day to vote (June 5) to cast you ballot.  County clerks around New Mexico have made it easy for us to either send in an absentee ballot or participate in the election via early in-person voting. 

Since most people in New Mexico who read this blog reside in Bernalillo county, I'm posting information in this space.  But I also want to provide links to voting information in adjacent Sandoval and Valencia Counties, and Santa Fe and Doña Ana Counties.  Information for other areas of the state is available from the New Mexico Secretary of State

Sandoval County:  Rio Rancho, Corrales, Zia Pueblo, Cochiti Pueblo, San Felipe Pueblo, Santo Domingo Pueblo, Tesuque Pueblo   Click here for more information 
Sandoval County Bureau of Elections

Valencia County:  Los Lunas and Belen.  Click here for more information
Valencia County Web Page

Santa Fe County;  There are five early voting sites available throughout the county. In general, early sites are located at the Santa Fe Rodeo Grounds, Pojoaque Satellite Office, in El Dorado, Española, and Edgewood. The exact locations and hours will be posted and advertised.  Click here for more information
Santa Fe County Clerk

Doña Ana County: Las Cruces, Hatch, Anthony, Sunland Park,Chaparral    Click here for more information 

Bernalillo County:
Sample ballots are available by visiting "My voter information", entering a voter’s information, and clicking on any of the informational bars regarding voting at the bottom of the voter record, or by calling 243-VOTE. Bernalillo County Clerk

A list of early voting sites in Albuquerque  follows:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fighting Senior Hunger in Valencia County

Did you know that May is Older Americans Month?  I know, we all want to be young at heart.  And commemorating this month is equivalent of getting that first mailing from AARP, right? 

The focus of Older Americans Month, which has been in place since 1963, is to to honor and recognize older Americans for the contributions they make to our families, communities and society.  But here is an important reason why President John F. Kennedy established this commemoration.  "About a third of older Americans lived in poverty and there were few programs to meet their needs."
According to Feeding America, nearly 3 million elderly persons are served by one of its food bank affiliates each year. 18.6 percent of client households have at least one member who is age 65 or over, and 52 percent of these households are food insecure - an estimated 1.2 million households.

"Food insecurity among this vulnerable population is especially troublesome because they have unique nutritional needs and may require special diets for medical conditions," said Feeding America. "Additionally, older Americans have a continuum of need based on their mobility and ability to prepare meals."

Valencia County  (just south of Albuquerque) has joined forces with the home-care company Comfort Keepers to collect non-perishable food items to distribute among low-income seniors within the county borders, and more importantly to raise awareness that many seniors suffer from food insecurity. 

So what is your local or state government to commemorate Older Americans Month? And more importantly, what is being done locally to help raise awareness about senior hunger?  At the federal level, we can make sure that SNAP and other assistance programs are not reduced, because seniors would definitely be affected.

Here is a portion of a flyer that Valencia County developed for this occasion.

Join Comfort Keepers and Valencia County Older
Americans Program Today to Fight Senior Malnutrition!

Hunger is a serious threat facing millions of seniors in the United States. It is estimated that one in nine seniors experience some form of hunger or food insecurity. Join us in support of Comfort Keepers® and the Valencia County Older American’s Program campaign to STOP Senior Hunger by making a donation of senior–friendly food at any of the following locations throughout May in recognition of National Older Americans Month

Belen Senior Center Comfort Keepers, 1202 Main St. (by appt. only)
Los Lunas Senior Center Los Lunas Village Hall
Old County Courthouse Los Lunas RSVP Office, 100 Main St., Belen
School of Dreams Academy, Los Lunas Center for Ageless Living, Los Lunas
Youth Center Goldie’s Café, Rio Communities

To speak with us about improving nutrition through our homecare services,
please call Comfort Keepers: 505.515.0001

 See original flyer  in PDF format (scroll down for list of recommended food donations)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Scent of Curry Leaves in the Air

"Long day today...but sharing a sweet moment from today--a guy on his scooter carrying umpteen bags of curry leaves. As he rode past, the fragrance was overwhelming!!!"  -Bhavana Nissima Upadhyaya

How may of us can say that our day has been graced by an overwhelming fragrance of curry?  Perhaps you need to be in southern India to have this experience. Bhavana Upadyaya, who taught some courses through the University of New Mexico's Service Learning Program on communications and hunger, shared this picture.  She was standing in a corner in the city of Chennai in the state of Tamil Nadu in India, when a gentleman in a scooter drove by with the bunch of curry leaves, probably on the way to one of the local markets.

But just as she did in her courses at UNM, Bhavana likes to tell us the whole story.  Here's what she says about curry  "Curry leaves are often sprayed heavily by chemicals and in fact, the extent to which they are used in cooking in South India, they are quite harmful," said Bhavana, who now works as program director at SSF Global Foudation in Chennai. "Organic curry leaves are actually not very easily available in the market."

Promoting organic agriculture is, in fact, is part of Bhavana's work at SF Global Foundation  "Our main development program is called Gramothan," she said. "We set up resource centres in villages in remote areas which provide training in organic agriculture and vocational skills like mobile/electrical/electronic repairs and computer training besides providing a host of support services like networks and knowledge support for village microenterprises and market linkages of farm produce and village products."

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Mother's Day Reflection

Here are excerpts of an Op-Ed Piece that Bread advocate Elaine VanCleave wrote in the Nashville-based newspaper The Tennessean.
CARE provided some information for this Op-Ed
Celebrate mothers around the world

With Mother’s Day only days away, I find myself reflecting on my own experience as a mother and the challenges and opportunities my daughters face as they begin families of their own. I gave birth to three beautiful, healthy daughters, who are now strong, empowered women. During my pregnancies, I had access to prenatal care and nutritious food. My girls were able to go to school and to follow their dreams.

I know all too well that not all mothers are so lucky. In many places in the developing world, women are not empowered to take control of their health or finances. Many struggle to provide basic necessities for their children. Young girls are forced to get married and have children before their bodies are physically ready.

Sixty-six percent of girls in Bangladesh are married before their 18th birthday, and over one third of girls are married before they are 15, according to UNICEF. Many of these girls have children shortly after marriage, before their bodies are fully developed to support a healthy pregnancy. The organization also found that girls ages 10-14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than those ages 20-24. In addition to the health risks to the mother, infants who are born to young mothers are more vulnerable to malnourishment and as a result, often suffer from stunting, a measure of the shortfall in a child’s growth due to malnutrition.

But innovative programs are changing the future for some of the world’s poorest women and girls. Programs funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) are making a difference.   Read Full Op-Ed

Emerging Sense of Optimism in Africa

Lisa Dreier. director of Food Security and Development Initiatives at the World Economic Forum USA, wrote a very interesting piece about the Grow Africa summit in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa this week.

"African and global leaders will take a step toward ensuring that Africans are in the driver’s seat when it comes to bringing sustainable investment to agriculture," said Ms. Dreier. "At the Grow Africa Investment Forum, jointly hosted by the African Union, NEPAD and the World Economic Forum, nearly 250 investors, government leaders and other stakeholders (including civil society and farmer leaders) will convene to discuss specific investment priorities in seven African countries. Delegations from Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Ghana and Burkina Faso will present their top investment priorities."

Photo from World Economic Forum USA
 Here is more background in Ms. Dreier's piece.

"A quarter of a century ago, Africa was seen as a land of famine. And while much has improved, hunger crises continue to haunt the continent, emerging most recently in the Sahel region and East Africa. As global food prices have spiked repeatedly over the past five years, the resulting rise in hunger, poverty and political instability have reminded us how many African families live close to the edge of food insecurity.

With agriculture providing 70% of employment and 30% of GDP in Africa, on average, Africa’s well-being is closely tied to its agriculture sector – for better or worse.

Now, however, a new sense of optimism is emerging. The rapid growth of African economies and growing global demand for food is bringing new focus and momentum into African agriculture. Helping Africa to grow more food won’t solve the immediate crises but it can reduce the likelihood of future ones."

Read full  post  on the World Economic Forum's Blog  and the Global Food for Thought blog

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Saturday is Grocery Day

When the mail carrier arrives at your mail box, he or she leaves a bill (yuck!), a letter from a friend, advertisements (yuck again!), or a check (yay!).  This week, you probably noticed that your friendly letter carrier left a brown paper sack with the inscription FILL A BAG WITH FOOD.  BRING HOPE TO SOMEONE IN NEED.  

So this Saturday, May 12, 2012, we are asked to help the National Association of Letter Carriers will be celebrate its 20th year of Stamp Out Hunger!  Not that we should celebrate hunger.  This effort by NALC is worthy of recognition, and we can help by filling the bag with non-perishable food items and leave it by your mail box. Peanut butter, tuna, canned vegetables, and other items are always welcome.   (Here's a thought: Maybe you can purchase these items on Thursday or Friday). 

“For two decades now, our annual national drive has proved critical in helping millions of American families—our customers—who are struggling to make ends meet during this continuing recession," said NALC President Fredric Rolando.

The NALC is grateful for all the support that postal customers have given to the food drive over the years.  But the needs are greater than ever this year. “Sixteen percent of all Americans are at risk of hunger—uncertain where their next meal may be coming from. That includes 1 in 5 children under the age of 18, plus 4 million seniors who are forced every day to choose between paying a utility bill and buying food,” Rolando said.

The NALC hopes to build on last year's success.   “Last year, despite many obstacles, letter carriers proudly collected 70.2 million pounds of food, raising the total amount of donations picked up over the history of the drive to more than 1.1 billion pounds,” Rolando said. “With help from our brothers and sisters in the rural craft, alongside other postal employees and volunteers, letter carriers will do what we can again.

The Prayer of St. Francis with the Bodhisattva Vow

Image in Palomas, Mexico
Francis X. Clooney, S.J., was recently asked to offer the closing prayer at a parish event in Cambridge, Ma., featuring distinguished Catholic theologian Paul Knitter, author of Without Buddha I Could not be a Christian (One World, 2009).

"Given the interfaith and exploratory nature of the event, I thought that in the closing prayer for this ecumenical and interfaith gathering, I would bring together, in one utterance, the Christian and Buddhist streams of prayer," said Rev. Clooney.  "I did so by weaving together a famous prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi with a version of the vow of the Bodhisattva (a kind of Buddhist saint who vows the protection of all beings, and delays her or his own liberation until all beings have been liberated)."

Read more in Buddhist Christian Prayer/s in the In All Things blog (America Magazine)

The Prayer of St. Francis with the Bodhisattva Vow


Make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

May I be a safeguard for those who have no protection,
A guide for those who journey along the way;
For those who wish to go across the water,
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.
May I be a home port for those who yearn for landfall,
And a lamp for those who long for the light;
For those who are tired, may I be a resting place,
For all who need help, their servant.

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled, as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved, as to love.

Like the great earth itself and other eternal things,
Enduring as the sky itself endures,
For the boundless multitude of living beings,
May I be the ground and vessel of their lives.

For every single thing that lives,
In number like the boundless reaches of the sky,
May I be their sustenance and nourishment
Until they pass beyond the bounds of suffering.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

It is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Does Your Senator Tweet?

Senator Jeff Bingaman's office uses Facebook, YouTube and RSS feeds to communicate with constituents, but not Twitter or Flickr.  Sen. Tom Udall uses all five types of social media.  How do we know this?  The Senate offers a great resource showing what types of social media each of the 50 senators uses.    

The page also tells you whether a Senator uses Klout and Twitalyzer (which measures his or her impact on the social web).  Neither Sen. Bingaman nor Sen. Udall use these two tools. 

While these are the most popular social networking tools, others new ones are gaining in popularity, such as Linked In and Pinterest. (And there are dozens of others that are not used as extensively but are an option to share information).

So perhaps this Senate page will be updated in the very near future to reflect other types of social media.  (It will certainly have another type of update in November, since one-third of the Senate is up for reelection, and a number of Senators--including Sen. Bingaman--are retiring).
Of the established social media, Twitter seems to be gaining strong popularity in the congressional campaigns. Many candidates view Twitter as a medium to get out their message (and also to follow what their rivals are saying).

For example, all three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the First Congressional District in New Mexico are using Twitter: , and   I could not find a Twitter account for Republican candidate Janice Arnold-Jones. 

But Republican Senate candidates  and are making extensive use of Twitter, as are their Democratic counterparts , and

And of course, Twitter is a two-way street for anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocates. Not only do we know what the staff of a congressional office is thinking, but we can also use the medium to set up an action alert of sorts to communicate with elected officials.  For example, The ONE Campaign recently mobilized activists to contact the chair and the minority leader of the Senate Agriculture Committee via Twitter on the eve of a key vote on the Farm Bill. The tweet was supplemented with a short link to a blog post that contained much more information about the issue.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Nerds Against Hunger, Atheists Giving Aid and Christians Fighting World Hunger Join in a Common Purpose

One of the things that I always admired about The ONE Campaign was its ability to attract a wide range of groups interested in placing a high priority on addressing global hunger.  This was a space where the Mennonite Central Committee, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, Islamic World Relief and National Association of Social Workers could come together with a single purpose.  While the number of groups supporting ONE has shrunk a little, the list is still quite extensive and varied.
I came across another effort to address global hunger called Free Rice, and I marveled at the even greater range and disparity of participants.  This non-profit Web site run by the United Nations World Food Programme (WPF) offers an innovative to rally people around the world to provide free rice to communities throughout the globe that suffer hunger.

If you want to talk about disparity consider this list of informal groups participating in this effort. Can you say Atheists Giving Aid, Buddhists Fighing World Hunger, Muslims Fighting World Hunger, Christians Fighting World Hunger and Catholics Against Hunger in the same breath?

How about German Free Ricers, Pro-Marijuana Helpers, and Nerds against hunger working together?

And then there's Steeler Nation Feeds the World and New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees (watch his video on behalf of the WFP). There are very many, many groups from all walks of life participating in this effort.

You probably know that these are all informal groups participating in the contest created by the Free Rice program.  The concept is simple. Play a vocabulary game, and for every correct answer, 10 grains of rice is donated by the WFP to feed people in areas of need around the globe. You can play the game as an individual by simply going to the home page, and the game appears before you. In a single day (May 4), 7,898,460 grains of rice donated. Over 95 billion grains have been donated to date (see totals).

But often people who form groups to participate use some with very creative approaches. One group at Auburn University created a campaign called "Six Degrees of Freerice," to engage folks not only at the university but at universities around the country. The effort was launched on World Freerice Week on Feb. 6-12.  "It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity for young people to get their friends on board in the fight against hunger and tap into a global community engaged in changing the world for the better," said organizer Jayne Kucera.

But wait a minute. Isn't the mission of the WFP to donate commodities to areas of need?  The answer is "of course." But the mission of the WFP is also to create awareness about global hunger?  The Free Rice Program seems to meet both goals. A third goal, according to the organizers of Free Rice, is to stimulate the minds of players.  

Second question, where does the rice go? The WFP works around the globe, but certain countries have been frequent recipients. The list includes dozens of countries in Africa (such as Sierra Leone, Djibouti, Senegal, and Algeria), a few others in Latin America (such as Nicaragua, Cuba, Peru), another handful in Asia (including North Korea, the Philippines and India), and the Middle East (Iraq, Yemen, and others). See the Full List 

So go ahead and play and contribute to the WFP's efforts to address global hunger (which along with your advocacy efforts here at home), could make a big difference. You could form your own group, called Readers of the Bread New Mexico Blog Fight World Hunger.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Our Work on Earth

Drawing by a child in Palomas, Mexico

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

-The Talmud

Friday, May 04, 2012

Big Gaping Holes in the Safety Net in New Mexico

Some politicians in Washington are talking about reducing the budget deficit by cutting big holes in our safety net.  So what happens if Congress gets its way, and many eligible people are dropped from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)?   How would this affect New Mexicans?

Let's ask the folks in Luna County (Deming), where food insecurity is a whopping 28.5%. And in neighboring Grant County (and Silver City),  where food insecurity is 20%.  The rate is close to  18% in Catron County and Hidalgo County. Food insecurity is high in southwestern New Mexico.  And it does not get any better as you go east.  The 18% rate applies to Sierra, Doña Ana (Las Cruces), Otero Counties.  So we can say food insecurity is high in southern New Mexico. 

But wait a minute. Guadalupe County (Santa Rosa) in eastern New Mexico also has a food insecurity rate of 20%, and McKinley county (Gallup) almost 23%. And in San Miguel (Las Vegas), Taos, and San Juan (Farmington) Counties, the rate is at about  18%.  The rate is only slightly better in Bernalillo County at 16% and in Santa Fe County at about 15%.  In fact,  the only county in New Mexico where food insecurity is not above 14% is Los Alamos County, home to the city in the US with the most millionnaires per capita. (Even so, Los Alamos County has a food insecurity rate of 9%).

So just how do you measure food insecurity? 
The term refers to the USDA's measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate food.

Food insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household's need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.

These percentages come from the Map the Meal Gap project conducted by Feeding America, an organization that supports a nationwide network of food banks, including Roadrunner Food Bank.  The map reflects 2009 and 2010 data for every county in the United States, including child food insecurity.  The map will be updated every year with new data.

Feeding America put together a great Executive Summary to accompany Map the Meal Gap 2012 
As the dynamics of the economy shift and Congress makes policy decisions affecting the nutrition safety net, it becomes increasingly important to understand the picture of food insecurity in the diverse communities across the country. Feeding America believes that addressing the problem of hunger requires a thorough understanding of the problem itself. For the second consecutive year, Feeding America has undertaken the Map the Meal Gap project to continue learning about the face of hunger at the local level. By understanding the population in need, communities can better identify strategies for reaching the people who most need food assistance.
So how are we to address these dire needs during a time of economic slowdown? Please ask our elected representatives in Washington and Santa Fe and those who seek to represent us to strengthen, not reduce, the safety net.