Saturday, June 30, 2012

Social Justice Ministry Promotes Offering of Letters at Immaculate Conception Church in Albuquerque

(Editor's Note: This is the fifth in a series of articles of how churches in New Mexico approached this year's Offering of Letters.  Other activities included a skit, a bulletin announcement, a meal/worship service, and children's events)  

By Joy E. Carroll 

As part of a project sponsored by the Social Justice Ministry at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Albuquerque, Mike Shawver and I  facilitated two letter-writing workshops during the week leading up to Bread for the World’s Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on June 12, 2012.

We had a small but faithful turnout at each of the workshops, and we even had a future letter writer in our midst! (Though, at this moment in time, she is happy to simply play with the paper and the pen!)
Mike and Rosie Shawver write letters (and Sofia Shawver gives them moral support)

At Immaculate Conception, we focused our letters on Sen. Tom Udall, asking him to protect funding for  Poverty-Focused Foreign Assistance, given that he is on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and so has the most influence over the budget.  Several people, who were generous with their time and energy, also wrote letters to Sen. Jeff Bingaman and  Rep. Martin Heinrich, as well as Sen. Udal. Some of the letters came from our JustFaith class.

The couple dozen letters that we wrote added to the totals that were sent from 12 churches in New Mexico to Congress.  But our efforts at Immaculate Conception also focused on education to our parish as a whole. Mike Shawver and other representatives from the Social Justice Ministry joined me after all the Masses the weekend prior to the workshops, to both invite people to the workshops, and also to educate parishioners on current issues that affect the poor and hungry both in the U.S. and abroad.

Taking part in 2012’s Offering of Letters through Bread for the World has been a really good experience. I had learned back in college the importance of advocacy and the personal necessity of advocating in the context of community that motivates and supports. I have found Bread for the World to be that community that not only educates and advocates, but also motivates and supports people in the process.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Nutrition and Fun

Santana Barreras
Volunteers for the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger  are doing a great job getting children involved in the Summer Challenge Program at their summer meal sites

Kelsey, who is working in Belen,reports a great response from both parents and children alike. Every Wednesday children come to Timan Park to eat a healthy meal while staying active and learning about nutrition, all with the added bonus of winning prizes. The first winner is Santana Barreras, who won the Fuel Up to Play 60 backpack!

Catholic Relief Services Regional Director for East Africa to Speak in Albuquerque

Water system in Ethopia (from
On Monday, July 9, David Orth Moore, regional director of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for East Africa, will speak in Albuquerque about current realities in the region (including hunger, poverty, and famine). 

Mr. Orth Moore is is responsible for regional oversight of CRS programs in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as for CRS support to partner agencies in Somalia.  He has led the regional office for East Africa since 2008.  Read article
The CRS regional director will also speak about the role Catholics in the United States have played in helping CRS fulfill its mission around the world. 

Mr. Orth Moore has connection to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.  From 1998-2002 he worked in Albuquerque as Assistant Director for Catholic Charities of Central New Mexico. Born and raised in Reading, Penn., he holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Juniata College in Huntington, Penn., a master’s degree in Development Management from the American University in Washington, D.C. 
When: Monday, July 9, 2012, 9:15 – 10:15 a.m. 

Where: Catholic Center, Sandia Room 4000 St. Joseph’s Place NW, Albuquerque NM

Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe Office of Social Justice and Respect  Life and Catholic Relief Services.  Fair Trade coffee will be served, along with donuts.  For more information, contact Anne Avellone, or 505-831-8167

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Cycle of Action and Reflection

By Larry Lindley

God no longer seems to part the seas or stop the sun so people can be slaughtered. God isn’t even needed any more to help us find a parking place. There’s an app for that.

So how does God work God’s will in the world today? Peter Hodgson suggests that it is through the praxis of believers. He writes that praxis is where God and history come together.

The concept is simple: praxis is a cycle of action and reflection. One acts, and then reflects on that action. If it is Christian praxis that we are talking about, the reflection is on both the effectiveness and the gospel faithfulness of the action. Then based on the reflection, new action is taken, which is again reflected upon, and so on.

Without action, reflection can be of little consequence in the real world, and without reflection, action can lead to burnout, or be misguided. We see everywhere today actions made in the name of Christianity that show evidence of little or no reflection.

The bible can be read as a set of dos and don’ts, but it is more accurately a book of stories, of the praxis of a people seeking God.

(The author  is a  Bread for the World advocate in Indianapolis.  He has a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Washington and a Master of Divinity from Christian Theological Seminary, where he is currently an adjunct faculty member. He is an ordained American Baptist minister and retired home missionary)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Inti Raymi: Purification, Dancing, Food and Gratitude

Ecuadoran students share the Inti Raymi at the University of New Mexico
Every year, around the summer solstice (June 21-24), the indigenous communities of the Andes go to sources of water--springs, waterfalls, rivers--to carry a communitarian ritual  known as the Inti Raymi.  The ritual includes a purification ceremony, a joyous dance, and plenty of food.  While the ceremony celebrates the sun (Inti) and Mother Earth (Pachamama), there is an overriding message: :gratitude and thanksgiving.  It is when we recognize that the food we receive does not depend entirely on our own efforts that we appreciate what we have and are more likely to share. Protection of the environment, particularly our sources of water, is also an important aspect of the ceremony.

This summer, a group of students from Universidad San Francisco de Quito shared theInti Raymi  ritual with members of the Albuquerque community (including staff from the Latin American and Iberian Institute).  We were purified with sage and shared water, and danced around in a circle to the sound of Andean musical instruments.  And then we shared a meal of chicken, potatoes, beans and fruit.  

The students are at UNM for several weeks as part of a summer academic program.  They will also have an opportunity to spend some time in one or more of the Pueblo communities in New Mexico.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Benefit Concert for Project Share

Here is an opportunity to help Project Share,  an agency in Albuquerque that provides a hot, nutritious meal six evenings per week (closed Wednesday).

How Cuts in Food Stamps Could Affect New Mexico

Alexander Calder Sculpture, Hart Senate Office Building
So now we know that the Senate last week cut $4.5 billion in benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in its version of the Farm Bill, despite a heroic effort by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, to restore funding by shifting some funds from the crop insurance program.  The $4.5 billion would be cut over 10 years.

"That amount is a small fraction of the nation’s spending on food stamps, currently nearly $80 billion a year, but would, nevertheless, be devastating for nearly half-a-million households that would have their benefits sliced by an average of $90 per month, according to the Congressional Budget Office," The New York Times noted in an editorial.

“With these cuts, hungry Americans will find it more difficult to put food on their tables during this recession,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.  Read more 

The cuts in the Senate could have been more drastic. Earlier, that legislative body voted to table an amendment  that would have turned SNAP into a block grant. “We are disappointed that this happened," said Rev. Beckmann,  in reference to the $4.5 billion cut in the Senate version of the Farm Bill. "But we are grateful that the Senate voted down proposals that would cut SNAP benefits further,” said Rev. Beckmann.

This, by no means, is the end of the debate. The Senate measure must still be reconciled with the House version, which could be passed as early as this week.  The two chambers must settle on the new farm bill in the next few months, because the current one expires in September. And the picture does not look pretty. In the 2013 Budget Resolution, the House proposed $134 billion cuts to food stamps over 10 years.  The House Agriculture Committee's proposal for the farm bill would slash $33 billion in SNAP benefits over 10 years.

But let's assume that there are no further cuts, and the funding for SNAP in  the Senate in the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 (S.3240) holds. The cuts of  $4.5 billion impact 500,000 families and would reduce monthly SNAP benefits by $90.

Impact on New Mexico? 
Until we know the extent of the actual cuts, we won't know the full impact on New Mexico.  According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), an average of 179,000 households in New Mexico participated in SNAP each month in Fiscal Year 2011. The increase has been incremental over the past five years because of the severe economic downturn over the past several years.  The statistics show total for 2011 was almost twice as  high as the numbers recorded for 2007 (about 92,000 households).  Here are more SNAP breakdowns from USDA.

So, with our high rate of food insecurity, the potential is great for the cuts to increase the problem further. Not only would the recipients who are currently eligible see a reduction of their SNAP benefits, but it might be difficult to bring new folks into the program.  According to The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (NMCLP), nearly 30% of New Mexicans eligible to receive SNAP benefits are not participating in the program.

"The SNAP program has the most resources and the greatest potential to help get food to those who need it," said the NMCLP  "It helps more than one in six New Mexicans put food on the table. Most SNAP recipients are children."

Another concern is that the reduction in SNAP could cancel some of the progress our state has made in reducing food insecurity. "New Mexico has made great strides in alleviating hunger – moving from the state with the seconds highest rate of food insecurity in the nation to the fifth highest – yet, much work remains to be done," said the center on law and poverty.

The NMCLP points out that  SNAP benefits are 100% federally funded and represent one of the most effective economic stimulus tools available. "Every dollar of spending in SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in economic activity. Therefore, increasing access and participation in the program helps support the entire New Mexico economy while putting food on table of hungry New Mexicans," said the center.

Mark Winne, Food Policy Council Program Director at the Community Food Security Coalition, concurs that the cuts would  hurt New Mexico. "We have traditionally had high rates of hunger and food insecurity. New Mexico ranks 12th among all states in the country right now in terms of the levels of food insecurity and hunger," he said in an interview with Beth Blakeman of Public News Service

But Winne, a resident of Santa Fe, said  there are some positive aspects about the 2012 Farm Bill that could benefit New Mexico.  For example, he noted that some of the provisions contained in the legislation have potential to influence local food production by shifting some funding to smaller farmers, localizing or regionalizing the food system.

"It's going to mean more farmers' markets. It's going to make it easier for lower-income people to buy more locally produced food. We could be seeing more locally produced food going into our schools," said Winne.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sister Simone Campbell: 'We are Called to be the Burning Bush'

NETWORK Executive Director Sister Simone Campbell kicked off the nine-state "Nuns on the Bus" tour at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Des Moines, Iowa. She spoke on the pressing need for solidarity in our society and the harm the House Republican budget would bring the vulnerable families.

Sister Simone reports that the strength and courage to do so come from images in her prayers over this time:
The first is the Burning Bush and Moses.  Moses is told to take off his shoes because he is on sacred ground.   And God says, "I have heard the cry of my people.  They are enslaved and without hope.  I have heard their cry and he sends Moses to set them free.

I had this image that we are called to be this Bush where God can flame up in our lives and we can set our people free.  It is the work of God in us that can make the difference.   It's God flaming up and giving life, though with fire there is a little bit of destruction. 
You can watch her remarks below.
Sister Sister Simone said in a recent media interview that Catholic Sisters “know the real-life struggles of real-life Americans.” Click here to go to the official Web site of Nuns on the Bus

"It is this knowledge that impelled us to organize this bus trip. When the federal government cuts funding to programs that serve people in poverty, we see the effects in our daily work," said the organizers of the campaign. "Simply put, real people suffer. That is immoral."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Other Side of the Gillibrand Amendment

By now you probably heard that an amendment introduced that the Senate overwhelmingly defeated an amendment by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to preserve $4.5 billion in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by trimming the guaranteed profit for crop insurance companies to 12% from 14%.  The vote, which was part of the overall discussion on the Farm Bill, wasn't even close, and the amendment was defeated by a  66-33 margin.

Those of us who participated in Bread for the World's Lobby Day on June 12, asked our senators to support the amendment.  Sen. Tom Udall was one of the 33 senators who voted yay, and Sen. Jeff Bingaman joined the majority who voted nay.  Here is the Roll Call vote.   (For Bread members in New Mexico, who would like to send  a note of thanks to Sen. Udall, click here.)

This was a missed opportunity to protect funding for a program that helps countless of our brothers and sisters put  meal on the table!

"Half of the food stamp beneficiaries are children, 17 percent are seniors, and unfortunately now 1.5 million households are veteran households that are receiving food stamps," Gillibrand said in a quote published in an article The Huffington Post.

But there is also the other aspect of Sen. Gillibrand's amendment: crop insurance.   Earlier this month, The New York Times published  piece entitled  Crop Insurance Proposal Could Cost U.S. Billions

To understand the issue better, it's important to know about crop insurance.  Here's how the Times describes it:

"Crop insurance has existed for decades, with the government now spending about $7 billion a year to pay about two-thirds of the cost of farmers’ premiums. Under the federal program, farmers can buy insurance that covers poor yields, declines in prices or both."

So how could it end up costing more to expand the crop insurance program?

"At the same time that high crop prices are prompting farmers to expand into millions of acres of land once considered unsuitable for farming, Congress is considering expanding a federal insurance program that reimburses farmers for most losses or drops in prices."

"The combination could cost the government billions of dollars if the newly farmed land does not yield enough crops and especially if crop prices fall."

And here is an important point made in the article:

"Even some farmers argue that the subsidies are already generous to agribusinesses, especially with the government facing large deficits. Jim Faulstich, a farmer and rancher in Highmore, S.D., said he was in favor of farmers having crop insurance, but added that the insurance should not be used to make money at taxpayer expense."

And mind you, the Gillibrand Amendment was not calling for a drastic reduction in crop insurance funding: only a limit on the guaranteed profit for insurance companies. 

This was a very viable way to ensure an adequate level of funding for SNAP, and the Senate dropped the ball.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Extravagantly Generous

Being extravagantly generous is an enchanting way to become holy and Godlike, for God is awesomely extravagant — as is revealed by even a casual glance at creation.

Edward Hays
The Great Escape Manual

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Advocacy Vignettes: Voices for Those Who Have Been Ignored

Here are some  more photos (courtesy of Ellen Buelow) from our visit with Sarah Cobb from Sen. Tom Udall's staff here in Albuquerque on June 4 as well as a couple of pictures from the Lobby Day reception in Washington on June 12.  (And here's my previous Lobby Day post).

Terese Rand Bridges

I am not a Christian activist because that is a redundancy. To be a Christian is to act in the world-to act with God 

- Rev. Gabriel Salguero
Lamb's Church, New York City
Sarah Cobb

In a slum that I visited in Jaipur, USAID workers were helping with prenatal visits for villagers, child health services, and developing creative ways to encourage healthy lifestyles for kids. Just like we focus on strengthening our communities at home, Gandhi called on India to focus on building self-sufficient villages. 

-Sen. Tom Udall 

We are not voices for the voiceless. We are voices for those who we have ignored. 

-Faustine Wabwire
foreign assistance policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute.

Keith West-Harrison (CARE Action Network), Carlos Navarro

If an elephant has its foot on a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

-Bishop Desmond Tutu

David Beckmann introduces Sen. Patty Murray

We should end the subsidies for yachts and boats before we cut prenatal care

 -Sen Patty Murray, D-WA
at Lobby Day Reception

David Beckmann and Rep. Jim McGovern
"...hunger costs at least $167.5 billion due to the combination of lost economic productivity per year, more expensive public education because of the rising costs of poor education outcomes, avoidable health care costs, and the cost of charity to keep families fed....We know that hunger would be even worse in the country if it weren’t for programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the school meal programs and other federal anti-hunger programs. These programs are literally a lifeline for millions of hungry children, parents and seniors." 

- Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Ma.  (from floor speech, April 17, 2012)
[Rep. McGovern made similar comments at Lobby Day Reception]

Sunday, June 17, 2012

An Invitiation to a Taizé Service at Santa María de la Vid Priory

Over Memorial Day weekend 2012 a group of 10 young adults from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, many of whom came from the local Norbertine parish Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, traveled on pilgrimage to Chicago. In Chicago they attended an international gathering, the "Pilgrimage of Trust", to experience the spirit of the Taizé community and the unique form of Christian prayer that has developed in this remote monastic community in France.

The young adults stayed at the Norbertine Holy Spirit House of Studies in Chicago and were hosted by Norbertine seminarians. (Graham Golden, who has been involved with Bread for the World in Albuquerque, is a member of the local Norbertine commmunity).

This group of pilgrims, upon returning to New Mexico, felt moved by the spirit to share their experience of solidarity, trust and hope in the contemplative atmosphere of prayer with their family of New Mexican Christians. The community is invited to join them at their Taizé service on Friday, June 29.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Bittersweet Lobby Day 2012

Virginia White
It was a bittersweet Lobby Day on Tuesday, June 12. Our National Gathering occurs every other year (and this was the off year), so our numbers at Capitol Hill were smaller this year. But we did have a group of very impressive and enthusiastic Hunger Justice Leaders, as well as board members like myself, Joe Martingale, Megan Marsh, Elizabeth Henry, Sharon Thornberry and others.

 And I was impressed that several long-time Bread advocates (Al and Ellen Fisher from Iowa, Phil Goerner from Colorado, and Bud and Barbara Miller from Michigan, to name a few) made it to Washington for Lobby Day on their own.

A visit to 703 Hart Senate Office Building
Why do I say that this was a bittersweet experience?  One of my three scheduled visits was to Sen. Jeff Bingaman's office.  I have fond memories of my first visit to that office nearly two decades ago because I was greeted very warmly by the staff, especially Sen. Bingaman's administrative assistant Virginia White, who immediately informed me that I should feel free to take off my coat so I could be comfortable.  I don't remember how many times I've visited Sen. Bingaman's office in Washington since that day 18 years ago, but Virginia White has always been there to greet me before I started my business with Sen. Bingaman's legislative aide. There were a couple of times when Sen. Bingaman himself sat in the meeting.

Like every congressional office on Capitol Hill, Sen. Bingaman's legislative staff has had a little bit of turnover since that first visit. Every staffer has treated us with courtesy and taken our requests very seriously over the years.  In the past three or four visits, I've met with Jeffry Phan, who has come to know me by name.

Sen. Bingaman is retiring at the end of the current term, so I'll miss both Virginia and Jeffry when I go on future trips to Capitol Hill.

With Rep. Heinrich's aides Tony Samp & Elizabeth Hill
We have started to build a relationship with Sen. Tom Udall's staff both locally and in Washington.  It was good to finally sit down with Matt Padilla, who reassured us that the senator is on board with us in our efforts to create a circle of protection around programs that help poor and vulnerable people.

Mr. Padilla also asked me about my work at the Latin America Data Base, since Sen. Udall is very interested in keeping up with Latin America.

I must confess, I had been invited to a constituent coffee with Sen. Udall on Wednesday, and I had intended to go.  But in the end, logistics became too difficult for me to attend.

'We are hearing from consitutents'
One of the highlights of my visit to Rep. Martin Heinrich's office in Cannon House Building was when aide Elizabeth Hill mentioned that the congressman had been receiving many letters about protecting funding for domestic nutrition programs, tax credits for working families, and poverty focused foreign assistance.  In particular, she mentioned a group of messages hand-written on post cards. (And I immediately thought, those came for Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary parish.  Thanks Ellen Buelow!)  Both Ms. Hill and legislative aide Tony Samp were very cordial.

I did not have visits scheduled with the offices of Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and Rep. Steve Pearce, but I did drop by a packet of information about our Offering of Letters campaign and petitions (which many of you signed) indicating that churches cannot make up for the void if nutrition programs were to be cut drastically.  Those petitions were also given to Sens. Bingaman, Udall, and Rep. Heinrich.

A difficult political climate on the Hill
In some ways, I had it easy with my three visits.  My representative in the First Congressional District and  my two US Senators are generally on board with our efforts to protect funding for these very needed programs. But make no mistake, there is strong sentiment on Capitol Hill to make deep cuts.  Here is what fellow advocate and board member Megan Marsh wrote about her experience during a visit with an aide to Rep. Doug Lamborn.
I had an awful meeting on the Hill with my representative's staff, where I was belittled and berated for suggesting that the cuts we need to make to pay down our deficit should not be born by the the people who can afford it the least. He's not a bad person. I'm sure he cares about poor people in his own way. He has different ideas about how to balance the budget. But the way he conducted our meeting was another example of everything that is wrong with this country: we don't see each other as people on two sides of an issue. We see each other as politician and special interest group. We don't begin with dialogue, we begin with defensiveness. There is no where to go from there.
Megan wrote a very passionate piece on her blog about her entire Lobby Day experience, entitled Why We Run.  It's worth  a read.

And click here if you want to read other accounts (sent via Twitter) and from Bread advocates, Hunger Justice Leaders and staff about Lobby Day.

But despite our setbacks, we have a responsibility as Christians and people of conscience to remain faithful to God's call for social justice.  And there are times when we can tangibly see our efforts bear fruit.  Two days after Lobby Day, we heard the news that the Senate voted to table an amendment that would dramatically cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). If passed, the amendment proposed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) would have turned SNAP into a block grant, permanently freezing annual funding levels at $45 billion per year—$37 billion less than the projected funding needs for the program for fiscal year 2013.  Many of the senators who voted to table the amendment heard from Lobby Day participants the day before.

Bread Cupcakes

(Photo courtesy of regional organizer Jen Fraser)
Bread for the World's Organizing Coordinator Marion Jasin had these cupcakes made to thank the Administration staff for their hard work on the Hunger Justice Leaders program this summer.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Palomas Summer Feeding Program Starts Third Year

By Victoria Tester

On Monday, June 13, Esperanza Lozoya and  volunteers distributed 500 meals to children in the Main Plaza in Palomas, Chihuahua, on the first day of what will be a four-week summer meal program. This is the third year Lozoya has distributed child summer meals in Palomas.

Many of the children remaining in Palomas are extremely thin, and the need for food in what Lozoya has called “a true humanitarian crisis” in Chihuahua, remains dire.
So far this spring 2012, she and volunteers not only held the huge annual Easter egg hunt in the Main Plaza, but thanks to the generosity of a donor church in Las Cruces, have fitted more than 600 children in Palomas and Colonia Modelo and other areas of rural Chihuahua with new shoes. Lozoya will soon take shoes to nearby Colonia Guadalupe Victoria to serve children there, and to other places in rural Chihuahua as well, until all 1000 pairs of donated shoes have been distributed.

At Western New Mexico University this spring, a successful school supply drive on behalf of Lozoya’s work in Palomas was held again by Dr. Alexandra Neves in the School of Education. Other schools and universities are urged to host drives. All school supplies and registrations gathered will aid Palomas children to attend school. Eight basic first aid kits are also needed for women who have been trained to aid their extremely poor rural communities in health care in rural Chihuahua. In the La Luz de La Esperanza Palomas Outreach building on Buenaventura street in Palomas, a daily meal continues to be offered to those aged 60 and over, and to the disabled. For most of the elderly served, this is their only meal of the day.

Visitors to the Outreach building are welcome, and donations for the senior meal are badly needed. Individuals, organizations and churches interested in sponsoring a senior meal at 10 dollars a month, or who can donate fresh or preserved food, are urged to come forward. Donations are also accepted at Diaz Farms in Deming, and at the Food Basket stores in Silver City and in Bayard. This spring marks the second anniversary of all three donation barrels.

Lozoya, who is glad to be in the ninth year of her humanitarian work in Palomas, is also in emergency need of a “new” used truck or van, to keep her work going optimally.

 I act as a U.S. coordinator on behalf of the work of Esperanza Hope Lozoya, who is often travelng in rural Chihuahua. I hope you will come forward to aid the work of this remarkable woman whose strength, courage and dedication to the poor are bringing hope to the crisis situation at the Mexico border.

Non-Perishable Food Drop Off Locations in Southwest New Mexico:

In Deming: at DIAZ FARMS. 

In Silver City:  at both FOOD BASKET grocery stores, the one in Silver City and the one in Bayard.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

To the Principal's Office

[Reprinted from the blog Megan's Sabbath Year (s)]
By Megan Marsh

Over pie and coffee one Wednesday evening, my cousin Jamie told me about the school she teaches at. Queen Palmer Elementary, named after the wife of our city's founder, is located in a pretty rough neighborhood in the central part of Colorado Springs. She told me about the challenges of teaching lower-income students, especially those whose families struggle to put food on the table every day.

Queen Palmer is a title school - 94% of the students there qualify for free or reduced school lunch. Jamie told me that they have also recently begun a free breakfast program and that the school is also a feeding site during the summers. 

Knowing that I was headed to DC in a few weeks to talk about this very subject, I timidly asked if it would be possible for me to come talk to her principal. She said yes and graciously set up a meeting.

It'd been a while since I had stepped inside an elementary school, and even longer since I'd been in a principal's office. We sat outside, waiting for a meeting to finish up, and I felt myself get a little nervous.

Julie Fahey has been the principal at Queen Palmer for two years. Last April (2011), through a grant from Hunger Free Colorado, they began a free breakfast program. Because their title rate is so high and because the grant is not a federal one, they are able to provide breakfast for 100% of the students, regardless of status. 

Initially, Julie said, there were some concerns. Kitchen and custodial staff were worried about messes and spills. But a representative from Hunger Free Colorado explained that the food would be quick and hand-held. No trays or plates. No messy syrups or sauces. A breakfast burrito, for example. Julie said that spills are rare, and that staff are equipped to take care of them when they do, so it hasn't turned out to be that big of a deal.

Of greater concern was perhaps the loss of instruction time. The kids eat at the beginning of the school day, not before school, and this in a district that already has the shortest classroom time in the city. But they decided the kids could do their morning work while they eat in the classroom, and teachers responded that as a result of the informal "kitchen table-like setting" they were able to learn more about their kids' families and home-lives in two weeks then they had all year. 

I've long believed that there is something about sharing a meal together that allows people to open up and you can get a greater sense of their lives. It seems that kids are no exception.

Adequate nutrition helps student achievement
I asked Julie about student achievement and whether she thinks these programs are benefiting the children academically. She said Queen Palmer is doing many things to increase student performance, so it will be difficult to isolate the factors contributing to success, but she believes it is definitely one piece of the puzzle. "If our kids have the proper fuel, they can engage. We've seen less bellyaches and headaches coming down to the office. Kids are getting to school on time more than in the past. They know they're going to miss breakfast if they're late. It's kind of become the culture here." 

As for lunches, Julie said that children have a choice between a hot lunch, a sandwich or a salad bar. District 11 has a chef who develops the recipes. He experiments with things like whole wheat noodles and tortillas, always trying to squeeze just a little bit more nutrition into meals. He has federal nutrition guidelines to meet for sure, but she said it's become a pride and joy for District 11 to be doing so well when it comes to nutrition.

I asked Julie about some of the challenges her school sees. She said Mondays are difficult. Often children go for two days without eating much, so when they come back to school, it can be difficult for the teachers to get them under control. She said the kids don't look forward to breaks or holidays. Structure is not there and they may not know when or what they will eat. Though she does not know how many children receive SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits at home, you can draw some conclusions based on who signs up to receive food whenever they tell the parents about donations.

School nutrition programs could bear burden of cuts in SNAP benefits
The burden on school nutrition programs to now make up  for cuts Congress is proposing to SNAP benefits will definitely be felt in schools like Julie's. My cousin Jamie's church distributed 100 complete turkey meals to Queen Palmer families last Thanksgiving. There are 266 students at Queen Palmer. 

Before I left, I told Julie that I would be going to Capitol Hill in June to talk with my senators and representative. If there was a message I could bring them from her about the school nutrition programs, knowing that Congress is eyeing them for cuts, what would she have me say? She replied: 
"It's essential for kids to have good nutrition in order to function. We've got obesity happening with our kids. This [pointing to a McDonald's bag on her desk] is what I call the poverty lunch. It's fast food, it's convenience store food. Kids have to have a place where they can receive good nutrition. For their overall health as well as their mental health. Our kids are sharper and are able to articulate more when they have the right fuel in them. Cutting programs like that is a huge step in the wrong direction. There is so much about education that is going in the wrong direction anyway, but we've got to feed our kids." 
For more on the issue of School Nutrition Programs and SNAP benefits, visit
[The author is an anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocate advocate in Colorado Springs and a fellow member of the Bread board of directors.  She is also very involved with The ONE Campaign in Colorado]

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Join Us for Lobby Day in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces (or Wherever You Are)

Today on Lobby Day, Bread for the World members will personally deliver petitions to Congress that oppose the view that churches are solely responsible for feeding hungry and poor people. More than 30,000 people of faith signed these petitions.

Most of you cannot t join us in person, but you can participate in our virtual Lobby Day. Here’s how:
  • Call your members of Congress using our special toll-free number: 1-800-826-3688.
  • Tell them you’re a Bread for the World member.
  • Ask them to create a circle of protection around funding for programs vital for hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.
Here’s what else you can say:
  • Form a circle of protection around the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) as you work on the farm bill. (The Senate will vote on the farm bill this week, and the House will soon follow).
  • Protect domestic and international anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs by supporting the Senate’s overall discretionary funding level for fiscal year 2013. Members of Congress agreed to this number last summer, and they must stick to this deal to prevent harmful cuts to these programs.
  • Take a comprehensive approach to deficit reduction, including revenues in addition to spending cuts. Without a comprehensive deficit-reduction package that includes revenues, programs for hungry and poor people will face severe cuts.
The timing of your call and our visits to Congress couldn’t be more critical. The budget decisions before Congress this year will severely impact our efforts to end hunger and poverty. Please call Congress today at 1-800-826-3688!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Lobby Day 2005: Senator Domenici and Senator Lugar

Tuesday is Lobby Day, and I will be on Capitol Hill with dozens of other Bread for the World advocates to urge our legislators to form a Circle of Protection around programs that help poor and vulnerable people here in the U.S. and overseas.

As I prepare to visit the offices of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Martin Heinrich, I reminisce on similar experiences over the past several years.  I don't remember how many Lobby Days I've actually attended, but there have been some memorable moments.  There was the year when Rep. Steve Schiff and Sen Bingaman both came to the post-Lobby Day reception.  And there was the year when Rep. Heather Wilson congratulated me for my Hunger Hero award (and I hadn't even mentioned it to her).  And it was great to have Graham Golden around last year because he came on our Lobby visits wearing his Norbertine habit.

I would like to share another experience that occurred seven years ago.  In June 2005, a group of Bread advocates from New Mexico (including then board member Ann Sims) were gathered in the office of Sen. Pete Domenici in the Hart Senate Office Building. We were scheduled to meet with a legislative aide who worked with nutrition issues to ask that Sen. Domenici sign on to an initiative supporting the Hunger-Free Communities Act.

The aide with whom we were originally scheduled to meet had a last-minute conflict, so we ended up meeting with a junior staff member in the lobby of Sen. Domenici's office.  As we were talking to the young man, Sen. Domenici happened to walk by and casually asked what it was that we were requesting.  We were able to give him the pitch directly!  One of the questions he asked us was who the lead sponsors were.  Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, we said.  And Sen. Domenici responded (and I paraphrase), "If Sen. Lugar is on board, then I'm on board."   .

Sen. Lugar poses withBread advocates from Indiana after a recent Lobby Day
I relate this story as we offer our gratitude to Sen. Lugar, who  joined one other Republican and two Democrats as lead sponsors of the Hunger-Free Communities Act. Sen. Lugar was a consistently strong anti-hunger advocate and a dedicated bipartisan legislator.  His initiatives usually carried titles like the Global Food Security Act and the Good Samaritan Hunger Relief Act.

Sen. Lugar''s was defeated in the Indiana Republican primary on May 8.  We will miss him in Congress, but we will continue our strong  to work closely with members of both major parties as well as independents.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Psalm 23 for Busy People

God is my pace-setter, I shall not rush;
God makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals,
God provides me with images of stillness,
which restore my serenity.
God leads me in the way of efficiency,
through calmness of mind;
and God’s Guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things
to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for God’s presence is here.
God’s timelessness, God’s all-importance
will keep me in balance.
God prepares refreshment and renewal
in the midst of activity,
by anointing my mind with oils of tranquility;
my cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness
shall be the fruits of my hours
and I shall walk in the pace of my God,
and dwell in God’s house forever.

Adapted from the King James version by Tecki Miyashima published in Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers:

Thursday, June 07, 2012

That Box of Chocolates is Delicious, Unique, and Also Fair Trade!

 The Sugar-coated Radical

I admit it, I watch the Cooking Channel.  I especially love watching the creative recipes that are share on Eat Street, Unique Eats, and Food(ography) with Mo Rocca.  The programs not only show you the final product, but background on the creative process and the motivation and history of the cooks and chefs.

One episode of  Food(ography) about sugar caught my attention. Several confections were featured, but the one that was especially interesting to me was the fair trade-sweetened Candied Serrano Peppers by Taria Camerino. This creative combination of hot and spicy was very attractive to me, but even more importantly was the creator's dedication to the concept of fair trade.  (And note: The candied serrano pepper was just the topping for a Cuban-inspired dessert that included guava and other ingredients).

Ms. Camerino owns a confectioner in Atlanta called  The Sugar-coated Radical
And the candy company has a wonderful slogan: Encouraging the notion that taking responsibility can be a whole lot of fun

"Camerino will deal only with Fair Trade suppliers that receive certification for practicing sustainability, provide organic alternatives and pay a living wage," said an article in Creative Loafing Atlanta  "She noted that a lot of restaurant and bakery people pay lip service to these principles but ditch them in the interest of protecting profits."

Ms. Camerino describes her mission in her own words in the Sugar-Coated Radical's Web site.
radicals & revolutionaries-we are artists

Sugar-Coated Radical is a community supported libertine confection shop that uses only direct and fair trade-organic-post-consumer recycled & locally sourced materials. it is our aim to change the way cacao is farmed and chocolate is made and consumed.

when creating unconventional hand-crafted chocolates and candies we have the unique ability to push boundaries-by relying on each ingredient's distinctive flavor profile-we formulate harmony within contrast.

every sale of our chocolate and candy paves the way to the purchase of our first cacao farm. when you support us in buying Sugar-Coated, you take part in the process of making the growing and processing of cacoa more humane, ethical, and fair.
Thai Curry Chocolate
You can buy a box of chocolates with a dozen unique offerings,  Here are six of the choices:

PARMESAN: toasted semolina blended in white chocolate-enrobed in 65%-topped with parmesan
CALENDULA & URBAN HONEY: 41% milk & 84% dark-infused with calendula flower-creamed with local urban honey
SUGAR CANE:  73% venezuelan creamed with raw sugar cane syrup
ANISETTE: 73% chocolate-creamed with anise oil
THAI CURRY: white chocolate ganache-blended with thai curry spice-enrobed in 65% sitting on toasted coconut & cilantro
CANDIED ORANGE: white chocolate ganache-in-house candied orange-cointreau-enrobed in 65%

Saffron-Rose-Pistachio White Bar
But you can also buy chocolate bars, assorted carmels, a saffron-rose-pistachio white bar, hot chocolate, and much more.  Click here to shop. 

It all sounds SO DELICIOUS!  And it's also made with Fair-Trade ingredients!

(The photos are from The Sugar-Coated Radical Web site)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

On Lobby Day 2013, Albuquerque Bread Members Will Meet With...

Imagine you're on Capitol Hill for Lobby Day in June 2013 after spending several exciting days at the National Gathering.  You have been asked to set up an appointment with your member of the US House of Representatives.  You traveled from Albuquerque and you're anxious to see an aide to your congressperson or the representative herself....Then you remember that Bread members in Albuquerque actually met with your new representative a while back.  Perhaps you were part of the delegation that had a nice dialogue with Michelle Lujan Grisham and/or Janice-Arnold Jones last November  about Bread for the World, hunger issues, and The Circle of Protection.  Having that relationship with your congressperson, the Lobby Day conversation comes naturally.....

Michelle Lujan Grisham won the Democratic primary last night in a hard-fought battle with Eric Griego and Marty Chavez (and we also met with them last November).  Janice Arnold-Jones got the Republican nomination by default after Dan Lewis dropped out (and we met with both him and Ms. Arnold Jones), and Gary Smith was disqualified.

So,either Michelle Lujan  Grisham or Janice-Arnold Jones is going to be representing the New Mexico First Congressional District in November. 
Rev. Donna McNiel, Janice Arnold-Jones, Carlos Navarro, Ellen Buelow, Ester Griego
Mary Quinalty, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rene Ronquillo
The New Mexico Senate Race
Bread members from New Mexico are also likely to have appointments with aides to Reps. Ben Ray Lujan and Steve Pearce, since both are heavily favored to win in November.  Neither had opposition in yesterday's primary.  

Moving over to the Senate, there will be a visit to the Hart Senate Office Building and Sen. Tom Udall's  offiice.  Sen. Udall is in the fourth year of his six-year term and was not on the ballot yesterday.

And then there is the other Senate seat, which will be occupied by a familiar face.  Both Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican Heather Wilson have represented the First Congressional District, and each won yesterday's primary handily. Heinrich defeated State Auditor Hector Balderas and Wilson was the victor over Las Cruces businessman Greg Sowards.

So it's Heinrich vs. Wilson for the right to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman.

Debbie Ruiz, Rep. Martin Heinrich, Alicia Sedillo

Rep. Heather Wilson, Carlos Navarro
Okay, we got way ahead of ourselves.  We still have Lobby Day 2012, and I will be on Capitol Hill on June 12.  I have meetings at the offices of Sens. Udall and Bingaman and Rep. Heinrich.  We're also hoping to at least drop by the offices of Reps. Steve Pearce and Ben Ray Lujan.  Stay tuned.....

Monday, June 04, 2012

A Meeting at Sen. Tom Udall's Office in Albuquerque

Carlos Navarro, Keith West-Harrison, Terese Rand-Bridges, and Ellen Buelow met with Sarah Cobb (in front with the red top) field representative for Sen. Tom Udall.  Among other things, we asked that Sen. Udall protect funding for poverty-focused foreign assistance.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Greenbelt Festival, Wild Goose Festival and Bread for the World

The Greenbelt festival in England and Bread for the World came on the scene at about the same time in the mid-1970s to reinforce the message that faith and social justice are very closely linked.

I would venture to guess that most of you reading this blog post know that  Bread for the World  has worked primarily through advocacy, education and networking.

But what do we know about Greenbelt? For the past 40 years, Greenbelt has spread the message by linking the arts, faith and justice through a three-day festival in August at the Cheltenham Racecourse in Gloucestershire in southwestern England. This year, the festival will be held on Aug. 24-27, featuring a varied lineup of music, speakers, literature, visual arts, comedy, and children's events--all related to faith and justice. One of the speakers is Shane Claiborne, a presenter at the Emerging Church Conference in Albuquerque in March 2009.

Second Year for Wild Goose Festival
Now we have another common thread: The Wild Goose Festival, a three-day event that brings together justice, spirituality, music and art.  Sound familiar?

Here's a note from the Wild Goose Festival Web site:
"Many people from the US have returned from Greenbelt wanting to see a festival like this emerge here. Greenbelt has served as a source of inspiration to our team in many ways. It manages to embody creativity and social action, launching some important initiatives like the One Campaign in Europe and the Jubilee 2000 campaign to end Third World debt. We also love how Greenbelt brings people together from different Christian traditions and also welcomes people who don’t identify as Christian."
Wild Goose draws inspiration from other  events that feature a connection between the arts, and/or justice, and/or ecumenical traditions, such as Burning Man, the Iona Community, and SXSW.

So why the name Wild Goose?
The Wild Goose is a Celtic spirituality metaphor that evokes unpredictability, beauty, and grace. The festival resonates with this image because we recognize that in the current climate of religious and political division and lack of civility, embracing the creative and open nature of our faith is perhaps our greatest asset for re-building and strengthening our relationships with each other, with our enemies, with our stories, our questions, and the other. In that spirit, in an informal setting, and in the context of creative and respectful relationships, we invite you to imagine a new world with us.
The Wild Goose Festival is fairly young,but is growing in popularity.  The event will be held for the second year  at Shakori Hills Farm, near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on  June 21-24.  The festival has a great lineup of musicians and speakers. There are many things in common with Greenbelt: a justice theme, a focus on worship and sacred space, children's activities, and an opportunity for art and expression. 

Here is a promo for this year's festival (including Bread member Lynn Hybels and Bread board member Gabriel Salguero).

Bread for the World at Wild Goose
So where does Bread come in?  This year, the organization is a sponsor of  the festival and will host a "Concert for Justice" on Friday, June 22, at 10:00 p.m. This concert, which will be held at The Coffee Barn venue, will feature Bread member Bryan Field McFarland and his band Jacob's Join, as well as members of The Collection and Songs of Water.

Bread for the World President David Beckmann is one of the speakers on Saturday, June 23. He will offer a presentation entitled Imagine an Exodus from Hunger at 5:00 p.m. at the Exodus venue.  (Hmmm....David is author of a book with a similar title).

Here is part of his bio on the festival Web site.
World Food Prize laureate David Beckmann is one of the foremost U.S. advocates for hungry and poor people.  He has been president of Bread for the World since 1991, leading large-scale and successful campaigns to strengthen U.S. political commitment to overcome in the poverty in the USA and globally.
Some of the other speakers have a Bread connection. Seth Wispelway, a former Bread for the World organizer (back when we had an office in Austin), is now field organizer for Justice Campaigns with International Justice Mission. Lisa Sharon Harper, executive director of New York Faith and Justice, was a featured speaker at the Bread national gathering in 2009 in Washington.  Rev. Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners, helped launch the Circle of Protection campaign along with David Beckmann, Tony Hall and others.

(Note: This year there is a Wild Goose West planned for Benton County, Oregon, on Labor Day Weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 2.  Will Bread be there too? Stay tuned for details).

Saturday, June 02, 2012

A Circle of Protection for Healthy Foods

(Editor's note:  This is the fourth in a series about Offerings of Letters in New Mexico.  Earlier, we shared a skit from All Saints Lutheran Church in Albuquerque, bulletin announcement at Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces and the involvement of the JustFaith class in letter-writing efforts at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Community.  Here is what First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe did ahead of its Offering of Letters tomorrow, June 3).

Bobby Rugg, said the OL organizers at First Presbyterian Churchtt,found the activity  provided as part of the Offering of Letters resources materials very useful.  If you go the link you'll find an empty circle and instructions asking you to write or draw what you would like to see protected in the “circle of protection,”
"Iit can be a specific program (such as the Food for Peace Program) or person (a friend who relies on SNAP or the Earned Income Tax Credit, for example). Who are you particularly concerned about? How will proposed cuts hurt people in your church or community or around the world? How can you join with others to form a circle of protection around programs that meet the needs of hungry and poor people in the United States and abroad?:"
"In preparation for our letter campaign, the kids in First Presbyterian Church's Worship Workshop used copies of the Activities sheet to draw their idea of what would be protected by the Tax Credits and Foreign Assistance programs – mostly healthy kinds of food. We’ll display their art Sunday."   Below is the illustration from a young lady named Sara.
Bobby said her committee is also planning to show one or more of the OL videos in the Parish Hall during coffee/letter writing time. The committee also t we also had notices in the monthly church newsletter and the weekly email post, the latter giving directions to the Bread website for anyone who might prefer to write letters from home instead of at church.

Friday, June 01, 2012

AARP Foundation Seeks Input in Grant County

U.S. Census Current Population Survey shows that the number of people age 50-59 living below the official poverty is growing. We also know that food insecurity rates for the 50-59 cohort have increased substantially. This information leads the AARP Foundation to believe that the rise in food insecurity rates among this population can be explained by their lack of enrollment in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps).  Read about the AARP Foundation's Anti-Hunger efforts as well as the AARP's Drive to End Hunger  campaign.

Hiram Lopez-Landin is a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow, working for the Hunger Impact Program at the AARP foundation and will be conducting focus groups in the Mining District and Silver City on June 6, 2012.

The goal of this project is to attempt to identify reasons for nonparticipation in SNAP among people ages 50-59.

Criteria for participants are that they must be between the ages of50-59 years old and have a low income.Also, they must have not received benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in the last 5 years.

Confidentiality will be protected;the names of participants will not be linked to voices, responses, or identities. Participants will receive a cash gift $20.00 at the conclusion of the focus group session.

Please call Alicia or Mindy at The Volunteer Center  of Grant County, 575-388-2988, to register for the focus groups.

Where Can a Child in New Mexico Go to Find a Meal During the Summer?

Food insecurity is a real problem for many families in New Mexico during the summer, especially the rural areas. The children are done with the school year, so they have no school lunch or breakfast. New Mexico Appleseed has put together a short video about the problem, and how the situation can be addressed through a USDA program. 

"Too many New Mexican children struggle with hunger, with nearly 30% of New Mexican families with children facing hardship in buying food that they need.," said a report published by New Mexico Applessed. "Hunger rises in the summer as children lose access to school meals. Hungry children cannot maintain the strong and healthy bodies and minds they need to return to school ready to learn. Hungry children have behavior problems and cannot get the most out of summer programming."

According to the organization, what is needed now are sites to serve as meal sites during the summer. "Schools, nonprofits (including religious organizations) and units of local government can all help to end child hunger during the summer by serving Summer Food. The federal Summer Food programs provide substantial reimbursement to ensure organizations have the funds they need to limit the impact of child hunger on their communities." 
The report  lists three different options for schools and organizations to serve food to children during the summer.  For more information on how to become a summer food stein contact Ruth Stein,