Monday, December 31, 2012

Sen. Jeff Bingaman on The Colbert Report

Before South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley made the decision to pick Rep. Rick Scott to the Senate seat vacated by the resignation of Sen. Jim DeMint, comedian Stephen Colbert was lobbying (in his tongue-in-cheek manner) to be appointed to the post. He had a conversation with retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman about this topic. This is very funny!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen's Appointment with Destiny - Jeff Bingaman
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Mexico has a Voice on the House Agriculture Committee

Lujan Grisham meets with local adovcates
This week, Rep.-elect Michellle Lujan Grisham, announced that she earned an appointment to the House Agriculture Committee.

“I am excited and honored to serve on the House Committee on Agriculture, which allows me the opportunity to represent consumers on food safety and nutrition issues, advocate for small businesses and affordable housing, and pursue investments in renewable energy,” Rep.-elect Lujan Grisham said in a statement on her Web site.  “I look forward to representing constituents who need access to modern infrastructure and economic development opportunities.”

So why is this important to anti-hunger advocates in New Mexico (particularly her constituents in the First Congressional District)?  This is the same committee that makes decisions on the Farm Bill. And even in  years when there is no Farm Bill debate, the committee makes funding decisions on  programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).  The committee also looks at some international food assistance programs managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition    Much of our advocacy work involves preserving and enhancing these domestic and international programs. 

When was the last time that a member of Congress from New Mexico was involved in decisions affecting nutrition and food programs?  That was back in 2000, when Rep. Joe Skeen (who represented Southern New Mexico), chaired the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

The news release did not mention in which subcommittee Rep-elect Lujan Grisham would serve.  And that could be a key to what role she plays on the committee.  Perhaps she will earn an appointment to either the Nutrition and Horticulture or the Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture subcommittee. 

Local political blogger Joe Monahan has another suggestion about  Lujan Grisham's appointment to the committee.  "There is a lot of rural acreage in the district, including the ABQ South Valley and all of Torrance County. Maybe she can develop an interest in water--or the lack thereof--as she prepares to take the oath of office next week and begins her first term in the US House," said Monahan.  Read his full Dec. 28 post.

If this is the case, then Lujan Grisham could best serve this purpose on the Conservation, Energy, and Forestry subcommittee.

Regardless of which subcommittee assignment she draws, it is great for us to have a voice in the full Agriculture Committee, which  is so important to our work on domestic nutrition and some international programs.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Reflection for the Day After Christmas

Two days ago, on December 26, people in  Britain and many current and former British colonies celebrated Boxing Day.  If you're not familiar with this tradition, here is an explanation from a popular online reference site:
Some historians say the holiday developed because servants were required to work on Christmas Day, but took the following day off. As servants prepared to leave to visit their families, their employers would present them with gift boxes. 

Another theory is that the boxes placed in churches where parishioners deposited coins for the poor were opened and the contents distributed on December 26, which is also the Feast of St. Stephen.   Read more
At a time when anti-hunger advocates are asking Congress and President Obama not to sacrifice programs for the poor and hungry in their negotiations on an emergency budget deal,  I think it is appropriate to share the reflections that Sojouners posted in Verse and Voice on December 26. 

Photo by Rene Ronquillo
Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor [God].
 -Proverbs 14:31

Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system. -Dorothy Day

Lord, your coming is still miraculous. Your joining the family of the poor and displaced still baffles and convicts us. Keep us by your manger until we learn the way of love. Amen. - From Common Prayer

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Covenant, Justice and the Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

As Congress and President Obama negotiate (or fail to negotiate) on a new budget deal that will keep our country from going over the fiscal cliff, I would like to reflect on Matthew 5:1-12, which is one of the Gospel versions of The Beatitudes. If you look closely at the wording, there is an emphasis on our covenant with God and with each other (manifested in our need to place a priority on those who are less fortunate). Here are notes from one Bible scholar, who consulted on the writings of other Bible scholars.  In scripture the word blessed or blest translates to fortunate.  Some translations use the word happy.

Fortunate are you if you recognize the poverty of your human condition and know your need for God and are open and loyal to him in your life, for you are in God's kingdom (or under his rule) and your Patron cares for you.

Fortunate are you if you're discouraged by the social injustices which dominate you and your society while you strive to behave in accord with the covenant demands of justice, for you live under God's leadership (in the "holy" land).  -Psalm 37

Fortunate are you if you are single-minded ("one-tracked") in your pursuit of righteousness, i.e. good relationships are your highest value and priority, for you stand in the presence of God and enjoy his patronage without having to make a pilgrimmage to the "Temple" -Psalm 24

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Time is Running Out! Our Congressional Leaders Need to Hear from You!

This is serious! Our economy (and many vulnerable people) are in real danger if Congress and President Obama do not negotiate a budget deal by Dec. 31.  On that date, the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 go into effect, in what we've come to know as the "fiscal cliff"
Among the laws set to change at midnight on December 31, 2012, are the end of last year’s temporary payroll tax cuts (resulting in a 2% tax increase for workers), the end of certain tax breaks for businesses, shifts in the alternative minimum tax that would take a larger bite, a rollback of the "Bush tax cuts" from 2001-2003, and the beginning of taxes related to President Obama’s health care law. At the same time, the spending cuts agreed upon as part of the debt ceiling deal of 2011 will begin to go into effect. According to Barron's, over 1,000 government programs - including the defense budget and Medicare are in line for "deep, automatic cuts."
"What's at stake is our nation's ability to feed the hungry, care for the poor and less fortunate, heal the sick and tend to the elderly", says Eric Mitchell, director of government relations at Bread for the World. "Now, more than ever, is the time for us to pray for our leaders and ask that they fight for hungry and poor people." Read Eric's post in the Bread blog.

And Bread  organizer Robin Stephenson has these words of encouragement for us.
"Even if you have called, emailed, snail mailed or sent a message in a bottle, we need to keep the pressure on,  The Christmas season is about hope not hardship, so let's get noisy and remind our leadership to do the right thing."
Click on this link to send an e-mail message to
  • House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
  • Speaker of the House John Boehner
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Here is the wording of the message.  You can send these words and/or send personalized comments.

Praying For You As You Negotiate
Dear [Decision Maker],
As you work to find agreement on a path to avert the fiscal cliff and address the country's deficits, I urge you to "defend the cause of the poor and give deliverance to the needy." (Psalm 72:4) While members of Congress may hold very different ideas on various policy measures being discussed, protecting those struggling with hunger and poverty is a value we can all come together around.

Therefore, I ask that you work together towards a deal that provides a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people. Specifically:

1. Include explicit protections for the EITC, Child Tax Credit, and SNAP (formerly food stamps) in the deal.
2. Raise sufficient new revenue so our country can continue its commitment to addressing hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world. This will take a combination of raising tax rates and curbing tax loopholes.
3. Extend the EITC and Child Tax Credit benefit levels, including the 2009 improvements.
4. Prevent further cuts of the budget that annually funds international poverty-focused development assistance, international food aid, and WIC.

My prayers are with you, your staff, and your colleagues as you work to find common ground and reach an agreement. May God continue to bless you and your work.

New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps Invites you to a Hunger Banquet

Saturday, January 19 

St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church 
425 University Boulevard NE
6:00-8:00 p.m.

The Hunger Banquet can be very effective with groups of adults or children to simulate the imbalanced distribution of food in our world. Participants represent various countries around the globe and receive a meal that corresponds to that country’s economic status. 

At this interactive event, the place where you sit, and the meal that you eat, are determined by the luck of the draw-just as in real life some of us are born into relative prosperity and others into poverty.

(If you're interested in attending and want more information, contact  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Vespers and Advent Prayers for an End to Hunger

The Bread and Blessings ministry at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Albuquerque every Sunday afternoon hosts a community meal for people who are homeless. "Every Sunday afternoon at 12:45, we are grateful to be able to serve a sit down, hot lunch to our guests-in-need. This ministry is made possible by a faithful group of volunteers who prepare and serve the meal.  Many volunteers are from other Catholic parishes as well as from other churches."

 (If you would like to volunteer with the Sunday meal, please drop a note to

A handful of  those same volunteers  are doing something special during Advent.  They are composing a special set of prayers based on the O Antiphons and sharing them with the parish and the community at large in the week leading up to Christmas.

"Traditionally, on the last eight days of advent, during Vespers, we pray the O Antiphons before the Magnificat. This advent, we're going to make an email available to parishioners to pray the O Antiphons on Dec. 17-23, bringing this tradition into the context of Mary's thanksgiving for God's justice as she awaits the birth of Jesus."

This is what they ask those with whom they share the meditations: "Pray with us for an end to hunger!"

Here are three of those meditations:

December 17
O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.

O Wisdom, Hope of all mankind,

Your anticipated arrival gives solace to 
those experiencing homelessness and hunger 
and they are most deserving 
of dignity, respect and mercy.
Illuminate within us our compassion for our brothers and sisters.

Grant, we implore You, to allow us 
the capacity to carry on together in harmony; 
clothing the cold, 
feeding the hungry 
and comforting the distressed. 
Come alive in us as we hold on
 to the promise of Your advent.

Prayer by Abraham Placencio 

December 20
O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.

O Key of David,
by Your humble birth in a stable
teach us to recognize those in need, to be givers,
to reach out to our less fortunate brothers and sisters.
Give us the strength and courage
to always meet their fundamental needs.

Merciful Savior,
never allow our giving spirit to weaken,
strengthen our awareness of those in need
that we may give with an open heart,
never expecting anything in return.

Let us be comforted by knowing that we are doing Your will.

Prayer by Roberta Montoya 

December 22
O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

Dear Blessed Mother Mary,

As Jesus' birth drew near,
you were prepared to provide your son
nourishment, protection, and security
at a time when he was so vulnerable.

Grant us your grace as we provide
physical and spiritual nourishment
to the many men, women, and children
that search for shelter and security every day.

Let us be nourished and strengthened
by following the example that your son,
the King of the Nations,
set for all of humanity.

Prayer by Maya Suazo

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Each Loved by Someone

Several communities across the nation took time this past Thursday, December 20,  to remember those who passed away in 2012 while homeless. 

In Albuquerque, 56 men and women  were remembered at a local ceremony, which included a commemoration at the Memorial Wall at Health Care for the Homeless, a procession through the streets of downtown Albuquerque and a memorial service at Health Care for the Homeless.

Rev. Susan Allison-Hatch--who is Missioner to the Poor and People Living on the Street for the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande and also chaplain at St. Martin's Hospitality Center--wrote this piece to go along with the vigil:

Deaths Remembered: An Obituary for the Homeless and the Recently Homeless of Albuquerque Who Have Died in 2012

One came from the Baralas neighborhood. Another from Ohio. Yet another from New York. A mother, a brother, a father, a daughter, a neighbor, a friend. Each loved by someone. Each mourned by many. Their children, their friends, their brothers and sisters, their mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles and cousins survive them.

Gypsy was known for her warm smile and big hugs. Mike for his zest for life. Bonnie would greet you with a loud “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” and then pull you into her orbit. Duane was minister to the people of the streets. You’d see him walking down the street, engaged in animated conversation about a particularly challenging Bible passage or sitting at a table at St. Martin’s listening deeply to a troubled friend. He had a stabling way to him.

While one was murdered and another died as a result of injuries sustained in a bicycle accident, most died of natural causes. Surely the experience of homelessness was a contributory cause of death for many of the people who died this year after experiencing homelessness. Their lives were celebrated at a silent march and vigil on Thursday, December 20.

The Albuquerque Journal  published an article about the March and the vigil.  Here is an excerpt:

Carrying signs that read “Please Keep Us Safe” and “Please Don’t Judge Us,” homeless individuals, advocates, friends and relatives marched to the First United Methodist Church Downtown.
There, people sang songs, read poems and shared memories of the dead. Participants lit candles as 56 names were read aloud. The crowd murmured, “We remember,” after each name.
If you have a delivery or online subscription to the Journal, you can see the full article online.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sojourners: Top Five Ways to Get Into the Christmas Spirit

The Sojourners God's Politics blog  offers us  a great piece entitled  The Top 5 Ways to Get into the Christmas Spirit

Here is how the piece, written and edited by Sandi Villarreal, is introduced:
Have you burned out on fiscal cliff debate yet? Depressed that our Congress has still failed to renew the incredibly noncontroversial Violence Against Women Act? Well, while Sojourners cares deeply about both of the issues, we’re also very ready to celebrate this season of Advent, our Savior’s birth, and all of the family time and Christmas cookies that come with it.
This is a great read!  Enjoy the five ways to get into Christmas Spirit!

1.  What Are You Singing: Putting Christmas Carols in Perspective
2.  Be Kind, Rewind.  10 Best Spiritual TV Series to Gift This Christmas
Some might surprise you.  (Hint: Remember the TV Show Northern Exposure?)
Except, like, not really, right? While Fox News pundits love to resurrect the fight every year — and Jon Stewart loves to make fun of them for it — as Christians, we know the kingdom of our God is not dependent on government-funded nativity scenes. And as you trip over tinsel on the way to feed Christmas-based consumerism, check out these thoughtful pieces.
4 Advent Reflections
  Lisa Sharon Harper and Rev. Beau Underwood. Take a break from the craziness of the season to reflect and rejoice.
5.   Christmas Music That Isn’t Horrible
Here's one example:
For the past few years, a group of friends also known as The Reindeer Tribe have holed up for a weekend and recorded their favorite holidays songs live to analog tape. This year’s results, The Last Days of the Year, is a collection of intimate, mostly original Christmas songs blending a variety of instruments into a folky Conor Oberst-esque set of songs that occasionally ventures into the land of garage rock.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cutting Life-Saving Foreign Aid? That's Lame!

By Kalen Olsen
(Reprinted from the Oxfam Action Corps New Mexico blog)

The days are winding down as Congress members exit office and we usher in new political leaders.

Yes, it’s the lame-duck session. “Lame-duck” originally referred to bankrupt businessmen in Britain who were considered “lame” because their position rendered them as vulnerable as injured birds.

The term lame-duck describes the 112th Congress, which is on its way out of office, but which still has unfinished business (namely ensuring that we have a budget) before giving way to the 113th Congress in January. That’s why the lame-duck session is an important time to push for policy changes.  The elections are behind us, and reelection is not an immediate issue, so why not try and push policy the legislators might have been hesitant to consider before?

Oxfam America has a clear agenda this lame-duck session: no more cuts to foreign aid. Over the past year, voters lobbied on Capitol Hill, wrote letters to Congress, and signed petitions to illustrate why foreign aid is important to thousands of people around the country.

With just under 1% of the federal budget going toward foreign aid, it seems reasonable that Congress would approve this request. Not only has foreign aid helped eradicate polio, but, according to Gregory Adams, Director of Aid Effectiveness for Oxfam America, it has also fueled the Green Revolution and rebuilt shattered economies. In the process, we’ve strengthened alliances with Turkey, South Korea, and Poland.

Further cuts to life-saving programs would represent a step backwards, and mean the difference between life and death for many of the world’s poor. Since it’s a small investment with a large return, Congress would have to be quackers to cut aid. 

Volunteers visit Sen. Udall's office in downtown Albuquerque
Local Lobby Visit
Community members of New Mexico petitioned, wrote letters, and visited Senators Bingaman and Udall. Co-organizer Jasmine McBeath and I stopped by Senator Bingaman and Udall’s office with foreign aid info in hand.

What I’d pictured about lobbying was quite different from what actually took place. The illusion of corporate deals transpiring behind closed doors was shattered when we met with staff members. Sharing why investment in foreign aid is necessary allowed crucial information to get into the hands of decision makers. 

(The author is volunteer co-organizer for Oxfam Action Corps in New Mexico)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Joyous Sounds from a Landfill in Paraguay

The Advent season is filled with the sweet sounds of stringed instruments. A harp, a cello, a violin. The wind and brass and percussion instruments also become a part of the mix. But it always comes back to the string instruments. They provide the mild background as we wait in joyful silence and anticipation. It is in that context that I share this uplifting video on the Third Sunday of Advent.  This is the trailer for the documentary Landfill Harmonic, which tells us about a remarkable musical orchestra in Paraguay, where young musicians play instruments made from trash.

Landfill Harmonic movie teaser from Landfill Harmonic on Vimeo.
Here is more information about the documentary from the producers:

Cateura, Paraguay is a town essentially built on top of a landfill,\.  Garbage collectors browse the trash for sellable goods, and children are often at risk of getting involved with drugs and gangs. When orchestra director Szaran and music teacher Favio set up a music program for the kids of Cateura, they soon have more students than they have instruments.

That changed when Szaran and Favio were brought something they had never seen before: a violin made out of garbage. Today, there’s an entire orchestra of assembled instruments, now called The Recycled Orchestra.

The film shows how trash and recycled materials can be transformed into beautiful sounding musical instruments, but more importantly, it brings witness to the transformation of precious human beings.         

Check out the official Web site for Landfull Harmonic

The Associated Press also did a feature on the orchestra.  Here is an excerpt"
"The sounds of a classical guitar come from two big jelly cans. Used X-rays serve as the skins of a thumping drum set. A battered aluminum salad bowl and strings tuned with forks from what must have been an elegant table make a violin. Bottle caps work perfectly well as keys for a saxophone," said The AP (via The Denver Post).  Read More

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why Sen. Tom Udall's Appointment to Appropriations Committee is Important for Anti-Hunger Advocates in New Mexico

Bread advocates meet with then Rep. Udall
Sen. Tom Udall is becoming increasingly important for our anti-hunger efforts.  He was already a key legislator because of his position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That committee plays a key role in decisions regarding poverty-related foreign assistance and transparency of foreign aid.  Here is a note in Bread for the World's Web site about an important vote that the committee took in September.

Committee assignments for the new Congress were announced this past week, and you might have read in the Albuquerque Journal or a political blog or heard on the TV news that Sen. Udall  has also landed on the Senate Appropriations Committeee.  The committee ( on which former Sen. Pete Domenici also served), plays a major role on spending decisions.  Remember that action alert from May 2011, when Bread members were asked to call the Senate Appropriations Committee in support of full funding for International Affairs?

Here is a description of the committee's role from its official Senate Web site.
 Its role is defined by the U.S. Constitution, which requires "appropriations made by law" prior to the expenditure of any money from the Federal treasury. The Committee writes the legislation that allocates federal funds to the numerous government agencies,
With Sen. Udall on both the Foreign Relations and Appropriations committees, it's very possible that that you will get an action alert to contact him when legislation is at the committee level.  Stay tuned.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Remember Those Who Passed Away While Homeless

2012 Albuquerque Homeless Persons’ Memorial Vigil

 Thursday, December 20th

click here to download flier

Albuquerque will join  communities across the nation to remember those who passed away in 2012 while homeless.

12:00–12:45 p.m. – Gather at the Memorial Wall at Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless (NW corner of Mountain & 1st). Joy Junction will be providing lunch
12:45–1 p.m. – Short ceremony at the AHCH Memorial Wall.
1:00 p.m. – Begin march through downtown to First United Methodist Church
2:00–3:30 p.m. – Memorial Vigil at First United Methodist Church (SE corner of 4th & Lead)

For more information, please contact Lisa at the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness at (505) 217-9570 or

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Making a Difference in Small Ways

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily difference we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee. 

-Marion Wright Edelman

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Great Interview with Sen. Jeff Bingaman in Politico Magazine

At Bread reception in the 1990s
The politics-oriented news magazine Politico this week published a great interview with retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman.  According to the article, entitled "Jeff Bingaman lets his work define Senate legacy," our senator from New Mexico stood out in the increasingly polarized political environment.. 

Here is an excerpt.
Over his career, Bingaman has witnessed a dramatic shift in political dynamics. Where once lawmakers from both parties collaborated on major pieces of legislation that could dramatically change the policy landscape, now every bill is a knock-down, drag-out fight. In that respect, Bingaman is the last of a dying breed.
The New Mexico Democrat, in two recent sit-down interviews with POLITICO, expressed frustration with the state of the Senate while stressing that his decision to retire, which he announced in February 2011, was a personal one that stemmed in part out of a desire to move back to Santa Fe with his wife.
“I’ve been here 30 years. It’s time to do something else. I never considered the move to Washington to be a permanent move,” he said, sitting in his spacious office in the Hart office building — a perk of being one of the Senate’s most senior members.
 Read Full Article

Sen. Bingaman only has a few days in office before he retires to Santa Fe.  He will be replaced by former Rep. Martin Heinrich, who was elected to the Senate in November.  With Sen. Bingaman's retirement, Sen. Tom Udall becomes our state's senior senator.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Josette Sheeran Offers Strategy for Ending Hunger Now

Stephen Groth, a Bread for the World member from New York, wanted to share this great video with comments from Josette Sheeran, former executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme.
In 20 minutes, Josette Sheeran describes the close up and effective measures instituted to help people, especially children, who would otherwise be hungry get some food. She describes simple innovative measures that help communities become self sufficient and secure in their food resources.

She concludes by saying that we may look back in 50 years and view hunger of today as we now view small pox. Now we can say that there used to be a time when people got small pox. Then we will say that there used to be a time when people starved. Having reviewed the work of the World Food Program, I believe her. What a message of hope!

Monday, December 10, 2012

You Are Invited to a Discussion of Sustainability, Organic Farming and Food Justice in Santa Fe on Saturday

An interesting forum on the future of sustainable farming, food justice and related topics is scheduled this coming  Saturday, December 15, in Santa Fe.

Organizers invite you to join them for a free, open and thought-provoking conversation with leading advocates.  The dialogue will take place at The Lucky Bean Cafe, 500 Montezuma Ave., 1:00-3:00 p.m. (within walking distance from and immediately following the Santa Fe farmers market at the Railyard,  If you live in Albuquerque, Belen or Los Lunas, that means you can easily take the Rail Runner to the meeting). 
Speakers are expected / invited from groups including La Montanita Co-op, Santa Fe Community Gardens, Carbon Economy Series, Earth Care, Farm to Table, Four Bridges Permaculture Institute, New Mexico Acequia Association, Occupy Santa Fe and more.

Speakers and participants will discuss efforts to support school gardens, expand community farms, protect New Mexico farmers from the threat of genetically engineered (GMO) crops, establish a GMO food labeling policy in New Mexico, safeguard traditional New Mexico chile from GMO contamination, and much more.

"This event will help set the stage for deeper collaboration and unity in New Mexico's grassroots local / sustainable food movement -- leading into a stronger push together for passage of sustainable food policy in the 2013 NM legislative session and beyond," said event organizers  Ethan Au Green and Marjiel Danse.

For those planning to attend, organizers offer this food for thought:

What’s Next For The Food Movement?
In the last decade, the movement for healthy, sustainable food has been growing exponentially, with consumption of organic foods growing nationwide from $8 billion in 2000 to $31 billion in 2011. We’ve seen an equally dramatic rise in the number of farmer’s markets and CSAs. Still, it’s a big jump to move from 4
percent market share, to changing national food policy.

The food movement is growing fast, but as a political force, it’s still in its infancy. Big agribusiness still controls the purse strings in Congress, and runs the show at the FDA. At least for now.

An ABC News poll found that 93 percent of Americans want to know if their food is genetically engineered. Even after a narrow loss in California against a heavily financed and deeply entrenched food industry, the rapidly growing food movement may be just getting started.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent: A Joyful, Simple Life

Grant me daily the grace of gratitude, to be thankful for all my many gifts, and so be freed from artificial needs, that I might lead a joyful, simple life. 

-Edward Hays (from A Book of Wonders)

Saturday, December 08, 2012

A Goat for Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, you can give your love a partridge in a pear tree... or you can give a goat to a needy family...

How about two chicks (not quite-a-laying) on the second day of Christmas?

Bad puns aside, the goats and the chicks are available via the Church World Service and the Heifer International gift catalogs.. (And Heifer also offers water buffaloes and sheep and CWS provides you the opportunity to give a well).

And you don't even have to wrap them,  They won't be going to any of your loved ones, but you will be giving them on behalf of them.  (But you're welcome to wrap the gift card that informs your loved ones of your donation on their behalf).

There.  That solves a Christmas shopping dilemma.
Here is a nice video from CWS telling you more about its gift catalog.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Case for Tax Credits for Working Families

Graphic from Center for Budget and Policy Priorities
(Reprinted from the December edition of the Bread for the World Louisiana newsletter, Volume 31 Number 8, Editor: Sister Jane Remson, O. Carm)

Struggling To Put Food On The Table
In a low-income budget, food is often the most flexible item. Rent, transportation, child care, utilities—these are fixed expenses. Food is one place a struggling family cuts corners. President Obama and others have set a goal of ending childhood hunger in the United States by 2015. One component needed to achieve this goal is strong child nutrition programs, like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the school meal programs.

Food assistance to hungry and poor people is vital, but it is not enough. Progress against hunger and poverty requires broader efforts.

Causes of Hunger: The causes of child hunger in the United States are rooted in poverty.

Parents earning low wages struggle to make ends meet and feed their children. Low-income families live on the edge of a financial precipice. If the car breaks down, a child gets sick, the furnace goes on the blink, or a parent is laid off a job, a low-income family is in trouble. Any one of these things could mean the difference between having enough food on the table and not.

Poverty forces drastic choices, like watering down a baby’s formula to make it last longer.

In 2010, Bread for the World members successfully urged Congress to adopt changes to U.S. tax policy that benefit low-income families.

Taxes are often near the top of the agenda in Congress. In the midst of the debate over which taxes to change and which to renew, the needs of low-income people could easily be lost. Bread for the World asked Congress to protect and strengthen key tax credits that can make a big difference for low-income workers and their families. Bread for the World was successful, and in December of 2010, Congress passed a bill that extended tax credits for low income families through 2012. Now, Bread for the World will ask Congress to continue to protect these critical tax credits.
“A faithful advocate is different than a Washington insider. A faithful advocate is more than just a lobbyist. A faithful advocate is a moral compass for elected officials.” Eric Mitchell (Bread for the World's Director of Government Relations

Thursday, December 06, 2012

An Invitation to Lobo Worship Night this Friday

A group of students from the University of New Mexico are looking into the possibility of opening an orphanage in India via The Angel House. The efforts to promote this project are planned in conjunction with Lobo Worship Night this Friday, December 7, at the UNM Student Union Building, Ballrooms A and B, 7:00 p.m.

The evening will feature a short reflection by speaker John Brown, worship, and music by a couple of worship bands. "The purpose of this event is to unite the Body of Christ on UNM campus to worship the Amazing God that we serve with our voices and actions," said Lauren McAuley, one of the event's organizers. 

For more information contact Lauren,, or visit the Facebook page for the event

Fiscal Cliff: "Cutting off Your Nose to Spite Your Face'

Father Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA, recently wrote a great piece in the blog Think and Act Anew about the impact that the fiscal cliff would have on non-profit organizations that serve the poor and vulnerable. 

Here is an excerpt:
As discussions to address the impending “fiscal cliff” continue, Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) is working to ensure that policymakers are aware of how their federal spending decisions have the potential to significantly impact the more than 46 million individuals that are living in poverty in this country.

As I stated during a recent interview I had with a reporter at Time, “If we have to cut back our services, then the government is just going to have more people at their door. It really is one of those things where you cut off your nose to spite your face.”

While we realize that tough choices will be made as part of this country’s difficult economic situation, we reject the notion that those most vulnerable among us should feel the biggest impact.
Through visits with Congressional staff and letters such as this one, CCUSA has been actively calling on Congress to prioritize investment in initiatives that have proven to be efficient and effective, ensuring taxpayer dollars are being spent not on government bureaucracy, but on the people in communities across the country who continue to struggle.
Read full piece CCUSA and Fiscal Cliff

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

You are Invited to Paritcipate in Conference Call on Faithful Advocacy and the Fiscal Cliff (Wednesday, December 5)

The Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs (DHN) is planning a conference call on Wednesday, December 5, on Faithful Advocacy and the Fiscal Cliff. (Details Below)

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK and lead organizer of Nuns on the Bus; Ambassador Tony Hall, executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger; and Amelia Kegan, senior policy analyst at Bread for the World, will talk about the latest on the fiscal cliff negotiations, how the fiscal cliff affects the issues we care about, and why your voice as a faithful advocate matters. Rabbi Steve Gutow, president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, will moderate the discussion. 

The call begins at 4 p.m. Eastern Time, 2 p.m. Mountain Time, and will last approximately one hour. To participate, call the Conference Number: (605) 475-4000 

Monday, December 03, 2012

Indianapolis Anti-Hunger Advocates Organize "Hunger is Not a Foreign Concept"

A coalition of anti-hunger advocates in Indianapolis has organized an impressive networking and information event forTuesday. December 4,  6:00 p.m. entitled Hunger is Not a Foreign Concept

This event offers a platform in which experts from a variety of local organizations will share what they are doing to address food needs of the hungry throughout the world. 

(For those readers who live in Indianapolis, the event will be held at Big Car Service Center, 3819 Lafayette Rd.)

Here is what organizers say about the event:

"Indianapolis is the host of an impressive network of organizations that are making pronounced and creative impacts on the hunger and food needs of people both locally and globally. 

In planning this event, we have garnered an extensive awareness of how much is being done in our own community that we would have not otherwise been aware of. It is the mission of this event to share that awareness to others who find Hunger a compelling and important issue to empower them to participate in the challenge of making food readily available to all." 

Global Indy offers some details of what the forum will address:

The Big Questions
  • What are the hunger issues facing Indianapolis?
  • Who are the organizations working on hunger issues, and what are they doing?
  • What are Hoosiers doing globally to address hunger issues?
Why Should You Go?
  • It’s an opportunity to gain knowledge and participate in the fight against hunger
  • Exposure to experts with diverse ranges of experiences and focused efforts (e.g. advocacy, lobbying, service delivery, research)
  • Connect and network with organizations doing great work
Why It's Important
  • Making connections for organizations and students, and building relations
  • Awareness of how hunger plagues our communities
  • Chance to strengthen advocacy, knowledge and resources

The List Should Be "45 Things You Can Do to Help Fight Hunger"

Many of us like to put together lists.  It's fun to find a common thread in activities, subjects or places that have something in common.  (Anyone for the Top 10 Lamest Members of the Justice League,  the Top 10 Uses for Hot Peppers or the Top 25 Urban Legends?)

The culinary site, The Daily Meal, has created a list entitled 44 Things You Can Do to Help Fight Hunger in America.  The list is comprehensive, but is lacking one very important action: Speaking Out for those who are hungry.  There is no suggestion that we engage in advocacy, and this is a major oversight.   Really, we should change the list to 45 Things You Can Do to Help Fight Hunger.

I also want to suggest a modification for the number 1 suggestion, which is "Skip a Meal" an action proposed by the New York City-wide Skip Lunch Fight Hunger Initiative.  You're asked to bring a sack lunch one day a year (instead of going out for lunch), and then donating the proceeds to City Harvest in New York City (or the appropriate organization in your community).  A better suggestion, in my opinion, would be to skip lunch altogether (more than once a year) and then donate the proceeds.  The hunger pains would put you, even for a short period, in solidarity with someone who has to go without food.  That would be a true fast.

Still, there are many very good suggestions about various activities that a person could take.  Here is a  slide show

Here are three that apply directly to me:

29. Buy Fair Trade Stuff
The Hunger Site is an online activism website that sells fair trade items, including seasonal home décor, African products, and everyday goods, to benefit participating charities like Feeding America, Millennium Promise, and Mercy Corps. Proceeds are split between the organizations and go toward fighting hunger in more than 74 countries around the world.

20. Blog About Hunger
WhyHunger just launched a new partnership this year with a group of food bloggers committed to the fight against hunger. The program, called Bloggers Without Borders, supports organizations that work to address the injustices of our food system. The team uses their ability to raise awareness in the blogging community to help further the goals of food-related organizations. Read more about what part you can play here.

5. Take a Walk
Some 2,000 communities across the country participate in CROP Hunger Walks each year, raising funds for local hunger-fighting organizations and agencies, as well as international relief efforts. With more than 1,600 walks a year, there are plenty of chances to get involved and work toward their cause of "Ending Hunger One Step at a Time." Credit: CROPHungerWalks

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Hope for All the Earth: Advent Devotions

During the Advent season, the San Francisco Theological Seminary is offering a series of devotions written by students, alumni, faculty, staff, and trustees. The Advent series is entitled "Hope for All the Earth," based on the Advent hymn "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus." The hymn's composer Charles Wesley was inspired by Haggai 2:7 and Isaiah 9:6.

These devotions, which are also made available through the Bread blog, "collectively serve as our gift to the SFTS community, our family and friends, and the larger church. Many people find that devotions are a great way to begin each day during the holiday season," said the SFTS.

Click here to sign up to receive the daily devotions on Dec. 2-25  via email, Facebook & Twitter, or check the Bread blog daily. 

The San Francisco Theological Seminary is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Established in 1871, it is the only PC(USA) seminary on the West Coast.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

On World AIDS Day, the Goal is to "Get to Zero"

On the top of its World AIDS Day Web site, the United Nations has a very clear message.  The goal of the ongoing efforts to combat HIV/AIDS is to Get to Zero.

As we observe World AIDS Day today, Dec. 1, there is good news.  A new World AIDS Day report:, Results, by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), shows that unprecedented acceleration in the AIDS response is producing results for people.

Here are some milestones from the UN site.
Declining new HIV infections in children The area where perhaps most progress is being made is in reducing new HIV infections in children.

Half of the global reductions in new HIV infections in the last two years have been among newborn children.

Fewer AIDS-related deaths
The report shows that antiretroviral therapy has emerged as a powerful force for saving lives. In the last 24 months the number of people accessing treatment has increased by 63% globally.

More investments
The report shows that countries are increasing investments in the AIDS response despite a difficult economic climate. The global gap in resources needed annually by 2015 is now at 30%. In 2011, US$ 16.8 billion was available and the need for 2015 is between US$ 22-24 billion.

U.S.  Government Site
The U.S. government has also created a site to observe World AIDS Day, including a proclamation,a statement by President Barack Obama and information on the National HIV/AIDS strategy. There is also an update on the impact of President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a program created under ex-President George W. Bush.   And if you want to get involved, there is an opportunity to join  the 2012 Facing AIDS campaign.

Two Great Op-Ed Pieces
Finally, I would like to point to a couple of great pieces about World AIDS Day.
In The Huffington Post, contributor Michael Seo writes about how creative investments can make a big difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  Read. The 25th Anniversary of World AIDS Day: How Water Filters and Bed Nets Can Help Fight HIV.

And check out this opinion piece posted in the Nashville newspaper The Tennessean by RESULTS advocates about the impact of PEPFAR and the importance of preventing transmission.  The article is entitled  Let's help prevent HIV transmission.